Thursday, May 13, 2010

Book-A-Day 2010 # 99 (5/13) -- Batman & Robin: Batman Reborn by Morrison, Quitely & Tan

I read this book entirely under a misapprehension; I saw that my library system had a Batman & Robin book and thought it was the insane "I'm the goddamn Batman" Frank Miller trainwreck, so I got it. Sadly, this is not nearly that bizarre; it's yet another slab of Grant Morrison mainstream comics, tied to the tedious continuity questions of a year or so ago.

I said my piece about the Grant Morrison Batman about six months ago, in a baroque dual review I called "The Walrus Is Batman" over at the ComicMix. I won't repeat here what I said there, but this book -- which reprints the first six issues, and two stories, of the Batman & Robin comic of last year, one of the many shards of the big Dead-Batman story, which was itself a laughably transparent attempt to re-do "The Death of Superman" a decade and a half later, in nearly all its details -- shows all of the standard weaknesses of the modern Morrison mainstream superhero comic: a disdain for scenes or panels of linkage coupled with a tropism for the grandest possible gestures, an endless fecundity of silly ideas and an equally endless willingness to toss them away like confetti, and the lurking sense that Morrison is laughing at the reader and daring him to notice.

Bruce Wayne, the usual Batman, is dead at the moment, so his part is played in tonight's performance by his understudy, Dick Grayson (aka the original Robin, aka Nightwing, who also apparently found time to work as a beat cop in a city with a deeply silly name somewhere along the way). His sidekick is Wayne's previously unknown -- and, if I know comics, destined to be forgotten and never mentioned again within three years -- son Damian, whose name telegraphs his character. What do they do here? Why, they fight, of course. They fight a lot of people, and come thisclose to fighting each other -- the latter, I imagine, will be saved for a later issue.

Morrison, as usual, insists on showing off how quirky and weird and European his rote superhero concepts are, so we get both a troupe of evil extreme circus performers and a South American assassin modeled on a fey Prince Rogers Nelson. And then there's the Red Hood, who is the mirror image of Batman -- both Morrison and Batman stories in general are addicted to mirror stories like heroin -- which takes up yet more stylish pages.

Lots of people spent quite a lot of money, collectively, on this claptrap, and, by the Internet reaction, they feel quite thoroughly entertained. But Morrison is laughing at them, and he'll continue to do so for as long as those readers remain insensitive to anything more subtle than a punch in the face. I suppose I have to admire Morrison for making his living this way, but I do wonder how long anyone can rely on the stupidity of large numbers.
Book-A-Day 2010: The Epic Index
Listening to: Titus Andronicus - Titus Andronicus
via FoxyTunes

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