Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Batman and Robin 2

Big brawl this time out, so let's get to it.

Cover: The dead man's hand clutches the mysterious double dozen domino from the teaser in Batman and Robin #1. We learned in the last issue of a colloquial linkage between domino blocks and bones. Let's how that plays out this goaround.

Page 1: The pencils for this page have been floating around the DCNation column for a while, but they look even better in color. Note the "R" patch on the ground, fulfilling one fourth of the teaser last issue, wherein Damian storms out the of the cave while stripping off his costume.

Page 2: The Dynamic Duo have been falling for a month straight! High skies in Gotham City, dontchaknow? I like the way this page is laid out, the reader allowed only a glimpse at the heroes cloaked faces and figures, the atmosphere thick with inhuman mystery.

I'm not sure whether Morrison intended this or not, but Dick's salutation to the Commissoner sounds a bit unnatural - "You called, Commissioner Gordon?" - sort of like a hangover from his Boy Wonder days where he would've addressed Jim Gordon by his full title out of respect for his elders. For a great discussion, among other things, of unnatural dialogue in the first issue, trail the link over to the SavageCritic podcast on G Mo's most recent output.

Page 3: The Caped Crusaders captured Mr. Toad in the previous issue and now his pals from the Circus of the Strange have arrived to spring him (yes pun).

Check out this second panel. Now, pardon me for a moment while I rail against my favorite writer in comics. So, how does this panel go? "Sir, it's Casey at the desk... Something's up! Trouble." These guys are communicating by RADIO. Why aren't we "hearing" it? Any other writer worth his salt (in this case, the difference isn't a good thing) would script this scene in the following fashion:

Spikey Electronic Dialogue Box: Bobbo, grab the Commish quick! We got big trouble down here! *BANG* *BANG* Agggh!"
and then Batman and Robin would come swooping to the rescue. This way comes across so much more naturally, and won't give the reader pause to recognize that he's reading such a heavily "authored" work.

I know, I know, it sounds like I'm caviling, but it's so evocative of Morrison's recent narrative impatience, the whole mantra of "This isn't the part of the story that I'm excited about, so I'll just cram it through with dialogue and voiceover," that I just can't dismiss it as a one-off fuck-up. We saw this a ton towards the end of Final Crisis too - "Hey guys, here's some animal characters! Btw, Aquaman's back!" - and reading the finished product, it just feels so awkward and mechanical, even if the story itself is rolling evenly along. It's something like watching clockwork but from INSIDE the clock.

Okay, well, rant over. Back in annotation land, Commissioner Gordon "saw that kid before" in Batman RIP, I think it was 680, when Talia and Damian rescued him from a shishkebobing on the barbed traps of El Sombrero.

Page 4: Really cool stuff, a little bit reminiscent of Batman Begins (the stairwell diving, that is), the film being a confessed favorite of Morrison's.

Page 5: The hotheaded Rex picks up his thread from last issue, blazing a trail to his captive comrade Mr. Toad. We meet another of the troupe here, Big Top, a sumo-statured bearded lady who finds the prospect of killing cops quite "kushti" or "nice." For a great reference in deciphering all this circus gibber gabber, follow the link over to goodmagic's Carny-English dictionary.

Also, I missed it last issue, but doesn't this car looks suspiciously like the Batmobile? No, not that one, this one:

The 30s Batmobile, shown above in Batman 682, drawn by Lee Garbett. We've already seen a nod to The Killing Joke in the form of the "Ghost Train" sign, might this be another reach into the past? Hmmm, maybe this run is more like the last than I first supposed.

Page 6: If you look carefully, you can make out another onomatopoeia in the gunsmoke.

Page 7: Panel 2 - SMASH

Page 9: "Flick flacking" = "Hand-Springing'"

Page 10: A "raklo" is a non-Gypsy.

Page 11: Big Top is attacking Robin with circus-tent spikes (they appear in the ground on page 20).

Page 13: In this fifth panel, Batman is telling the siamese triplets that he understands their language and in it demands they surrender the name of their boss. They laugh that their boss is still on the loose, but offer some information, off-panel apparently, indicating that the Dollotrons are Russian slaves under the influence of mind control. Recall last issue, "Sasha" and "Niko," Russian names both, underwent the gruesome Dollifying procedure.

Page 14: "Gallopers" are carousels. I don't think I've ever seen a wooden one before, though.

Page 15: Note the double twelve domino resting in the deceased's palm. To be honest, Mr. Toad probably ran through all the mileage Morrison or anyone else was ever going to squeeze out of his thin gimmick last issue, so his "croaking" here in Issue 2 works for me.

Page 17: The Quad-Bat appears for the first time on the last page of the issue.

Page 19: Alfred "Beagle" performed and directed for the stage. His Hamlet, you'll recall from Batman 675, was panned by critics in "some of the cruellest reviews in the history of the English stage." He ponders the cowl here perhaps in tribute to "poor Yorick" of the famed

Page 20: The second panel on this page conceals the aforementioned "wooden gallopers." The weeping Dollo on the bottom most likely cries over her lost life as "Sasha," the young captive from BatRob #1.


  1. There's some Morrison stuff I've decided to call "stupidly clever" ... but I think the meaning ends up being the same thing as when you say "overly authored".

    For instance ... the Dollotrons proceed to "PIG" pile on Damian. Fancy that.

    Quad-Bat reminds me of Batman & Son. Stair leap reminds me of Begins. Carny speak reminds me of Snatch. What were the names of the dwarves Joker wanted killed in The Man Who Laughs? Solomon and Sheba? Old Testament names bring to mind Jewish and Gypsy culture ... I'm curious if there's a connection (especially given the familiarity of the old amusement park headquarters and The Killing Joke possible tie).

    Quick flipthrough of "Batman in Bethlehem" turns up the names of a few more "not yet seen" villains. Candyman. Loveless. Each possibly the "domino killer".

    Seems more and more like "Batman in Bethlehem" could be Damian's imagination running wild some time toward the end of "Batman and Robin" (most likely after Doctor Hurt reappears in the final arc), as he fantasizes about Dick dying, and wanting to take over, and all the new characters we meet in the next ten issues being killed in an ultimate showdown between Damian and the people who hurt Bruce Wayne.

  2. Not "The Man Who Laughs" ... "The Clown at Midnight" ... sheesh.