There’s no question: Quitely leaving hurts the title. While he isn’t the most popular artist on the planet, his work has an undeniably creative sense of energy and physicality that few other artists working today can match. Replaced for this arc by Philip Tan (Final Crisis: Revelations), his absence is felt. Thankfully, Morrison adapts the story to Tan’s talents. After a particularly wild first arc introducing the Circus of the Strange, we now meet the new Red Hood and his sidekick Scarlet, the Dollotron Damian failed to save, set up as Gotham’s dark new anti-heroes.
Red Hood’s writing is interesting. At times he seems almost sympathetic to Scarlet’s plight – not fatherly, but comforting nonetheless. At times, he’s written almost like a companion to the Super Young Team, more concerned with being the Next Big Thing in crimefighting. Still, with the focus more on him than on Batman and Robin in this issue, we definitely get to know him more than we did any of the Circus.
Tan’s art tends to be fairly dark, so giving him a couple new anti-heroes tearing through Gotham’s night seems to be the perfect story to put him on. His fights are quick and dirty, and he displays a talent for facial expressions I hadn’t before noticed: see Damian’s smug, mean facial expression as he endures the socialite dinner with Dick.
Batman and Robin remains one of DC’s strongest new titles as Morrison’s story continues to build off itself. Tan turns out to be a solid fit for the book, providing it with a gritty feel well-suited to the current story, but without abandoning the book’s peculiar streak of humanity. Batman and Robin hasn’t had a bad issue yet, and #4 continues the book’s trend of fast-paced, exciting action that manages to introduce some much-needed new blood to Gotham while fleshing out the dynamic between Dick and Damian.
– Cal Cleary