(Bonus) Graphic Novel Review: Batman and Robin: Batman Reborn

Batman & Robin: Batman RebornBatman & Robin: Batman Reborn (The Deluxe Edition)
Written by Grant Morrison
Art by Frank Quitely & Philip Tan with Jonathan Glapion
Colors by Alex Sinclair & Pete Pantazis
Letters by Patrick Brosseau
Cover by Frank Quitely

$24.99 / 160 Pages / Color / Hardcover

DC Comics

 

Batman & Robin: Batman Reborn (The Deluxe Edition) collects the first six issues of the series, and since three of those six were Picks of the Week, I don’t need to tell you how good this series is, and I’m not going to rehash all of the reasons why it’s so fantastic. You’ve heard me (and the rest of the guys) talk enough about that.

When I got my hands on this collection, what I was most interested in was (a) Being able to reread the best issues of my favorite book, something I’d not be able to do otherwise, and (b) Seeing how the entire six issue run read all together. Grant Morrison had plotted his books rather intricately — his entire run with Bruce Wayne was interconnected, though not always in obvious ways — and now that we are up to Batman & Robin #11, I waned to see what kind of ground work had been laid in the early issues and what has paid off so far.

I am very happy to report that, story-wise, Batman & Robin tracks all the way through all six issues. The first three issues are even better than I remember them, and I remember them being the three best super hero comics that I read last year. The second arc, which featured Jason Todd as the villain, is also excellent, story-wise. There is a real progression in the characters, particularly Dick Grayson and Damian Wayne, their relationships with each other, and their conformability in their roles as Batman and Robin. I’ve talked a lot about the art in the second arc, and I’m not going to get into it here, suffice it to say I’m not a big fan of Philip Tan’s work. But one thing I realized upon rereading the second arc was that I really let the art get in the way of my enjoyment of a really great story. There are some really wonderful moments in the second arc that I had almost completely forgotten about because usually when I thought back to Batman & Robin #46 all I thought about was the art.Batman & Robin: Batman Reborn Backmatter

What I really enjoyed the most about rereading the second arc was seeing the seeding of story points that I am enjoying in the current arc. One of the running gags in the background of the second arc is that Lucius Fox is constantly trying to get Dick Grayson to come in to deal with the business of Wayne Enterprises, something that Dick has less than zero interest in. At one point there is a total throwaway line from Damian about business just being numbers and he would look into it. This, of course, led to the fantastic “Damian terrorizes the boardroom” scene in the current arc. There is also a lot in the second arc about Oberon “The Gravedigger” Sexton, who is playing a major role in the current story. These are all things that I appreciate more now having reread the stories all together. And that’s one of the reasons why I love trades so much.

The collection itself is rather gorgeous. It’s slightly bigger than issue sized and the printing on art is top notch. They have also included all of the variant covers, which appear alongside the regular covers as chapter breaks. And finally, there is a short but interesting backmatter section in which Grant Morrison takes us through the creation of the book: from the overall tone, to the character designs, and to the cover designs.

Batman & Robin: Batman Reborn (The Deluxe Edition) is a wonderful collection and a must-have for any big fan of the series.

 

Comments

  1. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    Man, that’s a gorgeous cover treatment. 

  2. Nice review.  I definitely want to page through this again for the same reasons you wanted to re-read it all, but I’ll probably wait for the trade. I do love the aesthetic of the design for the trade.

    Also, not to nitpick, but the bad Tan in question was Phillip not Billy.  

  3. @Neb: They’re both equally pretty bad, which is why we’re always mixing their names up.

  4. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    I’m so conflicted in buying this collection (If I do, it’ll be the softcover) simply because that second arc is so ugly. Having Quitely and Tan together in a book is like going out on a double date and your buddy’s with Marion Cotillard and you’re with a decomposing elephant seal. 

  5. "(a) Being able to reread the best issues of my favorite book, something I’d not be able to do otherwise, and (b) Seeing how the entire six issue run read all together."

    ??????

    You could do that by re-reading the 6 single issues in a row.  I’m sure you’ve stored them away in a vault somewhere due to having too many comics, but the singles read just fine I’m sure.

  6. @KickAss: That’s the point – I can’t reread the issues whenever I want. They are stored about a mile from where i can get to them. This trade I can just pull of my bookcase whenever i want.

  7. @Conor:  I figured that was the case.  I’m not all that familiar with Billy Tan’s work, but I recall from the shows that you (and I think the other guys) are not big fans of either brother.

    @Paul:  You are filled with marine life comparisons today. Are you as excited for Aquaman’s return as I am? 🙂

  8. @Neb: They’re not actually related. In fact Billy is Malaysian and Philip is Filipino.

  9. Great review. I do love that cover design as well, in fact all the cover designs for this series has been great.

    I’m not gonna start a Tan debate again; but if I can say…..Anyone iffy about #4-6 shouldn’t be worried. It isn’t as bad as a lot of people will tell you it is. All of the Tan hate was pretty much over the top in the first place. 

  10. The Tan art is still so jarring to me that I couldn’t possibly see myself buying this when half of it is art that I dislike so much. Depending on the end of the series though, I’d be down for an Absolute (I manage to deal with the Igor Kordey art in Morrison’s New X-Men Omnibus).

  11. What a fresh contemporary look for a trade.

  12. I love that alternate black and yellow Robin outfit. Sort of a shame they didn’t use it, but his current one is fun too.

  13. I’ll probably wait till softcover comes or whenever Borders sends me another one of those 30 percent off coupons.

    For the record, my RSS feeder can’t handle all these new stuff coming from iFanboy.

  14. I have the issues so I won’t get this. But if there is ever an absolute edition (probably in the year 2046 A.D.), I’ll be sure to get it. Why does it take DC so long to release HC/Trades when compared to everyone else (Marvel, Image, etc)?

  15. great review Conor! 

    always love seeing any positive talk about Morrison’s Batman run. 

    I have to say though it might be blasphemy to say but i think the Red Hood arc is my favorite of the run so far, story-wise at least. The art didn’t bother me as much as it did everyone else though.  

  16. Snazzy

  17. Great review. I preordered this on Amazon but it won’t ship till they get it in next week or so. Nice to hear something about the back-matter; I’ve been curious about what it would be.

    I agree that the second arc was nowhere near as bad as most people were saying at the time. And I do think that over-obsession with how bad the art was (in most people’s eyes) kinda made it hard to appreciate the good parts. In general, yeah, I think Pyg was a cooler antagonist than Red Hood…but not THAT much cooler. A lot of personal issues between the former Robins really made the second arc interesting, as did the foreshadowing about Oberon Sexton and El Penitente. Compared to that stuff, the first arc–although expertly drawn–seems a big less substantial in terms of the big plot Morrison’s working with. 

    And, Conor, I realize you gotta store your comics, but how can you deprive yourself of back issues of Morrison’s Batman? Without even wanting to, I find myself going back to random issues throughout the whole run all the time. With each new issue that comes out, I find that Morrison is making allusions to past issues, so I gotta have ’em on hand to check out exactly what happened before.

  18. I’m getting the paperback.  2012 baby!

  19. I wonder how my wife would feel about me spending $17 on this and then ripping out the entire second half?

    @Paul – Decomposing elephant seal… Somewhere Mr. Tan is crying himself to sleep.  That was harsh.

  20. @conor I’ve heard you talk about your comics being in a storage unit a few times now. You would think that someone out there would come up with an affordable box of some sort that goes on a book shelf. Well, there are those magazine boxes, but they’re to big and really ugly.

  21. @blulew23: I’ve got over 30 longboxes. I don’t have that kind of shelfspace.

  22. I’m in no hurry to get this because I keep all my Batman & Robin issues next to all my Irredeemable stuff that I keep in a shortbox by my bed just for short runs that I read frequently enough.  I think I got the current Northlanders arc and Hickman’s FF in there along with a couple trades I’m slow to catch up on too.  I am definitely putting this on my stuff I want my mom to buy me for my birthday list though…!!!

  23. Dude lives in New York City. Space is a premium.

  24. @Conor You are now my argument for day of release digital distribution. 

    Just out of curiosity,  about what do you pay in rent, in New York per square foot? I’m in Austin and pay about a buck per. I’m not downtown but I am central right next to UT campus.

    I guess that’s kind of off topic. 

  25. And not stuff you post on a public forum.

  26. Sometimes I wish DC would release their deathgrip on some of their mileston characters. That Batman cowl revision Quitely did is brilliant. Definitely would’ve been something for all other artists to draw Dick differently than Bruce.

     

    Oh, well. At least Quitely’s art is spectacular no matter what the character design is. 

  27. I was just curious about the average. Sorry.

     

  28. I honestly don’t even know the average. 

  29. Got the hardcover today too–oh so snazzy, I love it. 😀

    As for the Tan art…it’s not BAD bad, but maybe not a good fit for after Quitely, IMO. His art fits very well for the "90s-esque anti-hero killing crooks and saying he’s better then the old guard" story he was telling, but after Quitely, just about anyone would be considered a let-down.

    The backmatter was also really sweet–call me crazy, but I think I kinda like the design on the center-left of the designs page best. I’m not a hardcore "drop the undies" guy, but it is something I wouldn’t mind dropped and they had a golden opportunity to do so. Especially since Dick’s costume now reminds me a lot of Superman Returns. Oh wells.

  30. @blulew23 – It looks like the average rental rate per square foot in Manhattan is roughly $47.
    http://www.millersamuel.com/reports/ (don’t know how trustworthy that source is, but sounds reasonably accurate.)  I’m sure the average is considerably lower in the other boroughs, but still relatively high.

  31. @Dark: That basically what it boils down too. Because he was right after Quitely, the hate for him instantly got over the top. He didn’t have a chance by the time #3 hit the shelves.

    Again I was one of many people who thought it was gonna look bad. But I gave it a chance and in the end Tan did a very good job. Not perfect, some mistakes along the way, but overall a surprise for me in general.

  32. I was so adamant I wouldn’t buy this, despite the excellent review.  I have the issues I don’t need the hardcover, I don’t need this at all…and what happened today as I walked into my LCS, with the book staring at me the minute I walked in the door?  Damn you, Kilpatrick, damn you to hell!!!!!

  33. It was finally in my comicstore today(saturday). Something wrong with transportation. That said, I’m really glad I finally have it. It’s awesome, period.

  34. I got this today, it’s freakin’ awesome. quite pricy, but what the hey. I only started reading at #7 so missed quite a bit. the first 3 or 4 issues with quitely art are phenomenal. Tan’s not so bad – no quitely of course, but not half as bad as i was expecting considering all the bad press it gets. it’s not like that aweful scott kollins art in Batman700, that was hideous.