Batman and Robin #14
by Grant Morrison and Frazer Irving
In this issue, at long last, the real battle of the Batman and Robin series is finally defined. And it's not Joker vs Batman, or Batman vs Dr. Hurt, oh no. Batman, really, is only peripherally connected to things here in his own book. Because, from day one, this series has been all about Joker vs Hurt. Oh, sure. There were Batman-centric stories along the way. And, granted, the series has also been about Dick Grayson learning Batman, and Damian Wayne learning Robin. But the contest that's tied it all together, the competition going on in the background of all that, has been Dr. Hurt and the Joker preparing to fight over Gotham City's soul.
Hurt's been trying to usurp the role of Batman for quite a while now, and so the Joker's quite naturally risen to oppose him. Except... I don't think that's what's happening at all. Hurt can't open the Bat-Casket that contains the Myth of the Bat (being created over in the pages of Return of Bruce Wayne), and until he does, he's not Batman. Which raises two questions for me, if that's the case: who is Batman if it's not Hurt, and whose action is Hurt really horning in on here? The answers to these questions, I also think, are probably the most obvious ones. The Batman is Dick Grayson, embraced by the same bat-demon-vision-thing that embraced Bruce Wayne in the dark caves beneath Wayne Manor when he was five years old. And Hurt? Well, in trying to become Batman, he's really only becoming Batman's number one villain. And that's a role traditionally filled... by the Joker. And the Joker ain't having it.
But I get too easily side-tracked by all of Morrison's meta-themes. This was a damn fine Batman comic besides, filled with wall-to-wall excitement and beautiful artwork from Frazer Irving (the issue was late, but holy crap it was worth the wait!). It's got Commissioner Gordon in peril!
Robin taken captive by the Joker!
The Joker unveiling a diabolical plan!
Batman fighting his way through a horde of scary henchmen!
Joker Venom, in new popcorn flavor!
And Professor Pyg relaxing at home!
Heh. Sorry I had to do that to you. But holy crap!
At any rate. All the themes and symbolism and deeper meanings aside, this was just great comics. Among the best issues of a stellar run.
But, hey! I didn't just buy a Batman comic last week! There was also...
Iron Man #30
by Matt Fraction and Salvador Larocca
A really fine, fun issue, and the sort of thing I've been wanting to see more of from Fraction's run on this book. It had all the complexity and depth of character I've come to expect, plus the flash the series has all too often been lacking. It's the first time I've really gotten that "Tony Stark: Billionaire Playboy" feel, and it was nice to see. Stylishly done.
Thor: The Mighty Avenger
by Roger Langridge and Chris Samnee
Another fun issue of what's shaping up to be one of Marvel's best series. This time out, the Warriors Three come to visit Thor on Earth, go bar-hopping on a flying goat-driven chariot, and get in a drunken brawl with Captain Britain. Better viking action you couldn't hope for!
by Dave Sim
Sim's cold-case detective work on the last days of Alex Raymond continues this issue, and as usual when he diverges from artistic/historical analysis and into the realm of pure supposition about events he has no way of actually knowing anything about... It's a bit disappointing. Lots of nice drawings, though, and a funnier-than-usual comedy segment: Glamourpuss' Guide to Bagging a Billionaire. The humor hits just the right tone, making fun of the shallow while not coming off as an attack on women in general, something Sim has strayed a little too close to for my taste in recent issues.
The final issue of Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba's Daytripper hit last week, as well, but I haven't been able to bring myself to read it yet. I'll miss that book too much when it's gone...