Though the series suffered a bit with Tan’s too-dark art, Batman and Robin makes a relatively strong return to form this month, now with talented Seaguy artist and past Morrison collaborator Cameron Stewart on art duties. Morrison doesn’t quite manage to hit the highs that the book’s first issue delivered, but it nonetheless seems to be a return to the kind of gorgeous, rousing adventure for which the book quickly developed a reputation. Damian is out of the picture, either from his injuries in the previous issue or a Blackest Night related injury with which I’m unfamiliar, so Batman has a new pair of partners in this issue: Knight and Squire, the Dynamic Duo of the UK.
Morrison uses this opportunity in a number of ways. The dynamic between the jaded, cocky Damian and the warm, professional Squire was a welcome change of pace, and the easy camaraderie and unwavering trust between the pair only served to illustrate how much further Damian really needs to come. At least one comparison is drawn between legacy Knight Cyril and legacy Batman Dick, and I suspect we’ll see that played with more throughout the arc. Batwoman’s presence, meanwhile, is a little bit harder to explain, and while I relish anything that spreads the profile of the current, stellar Detective Comics run, she seems a bit out of place here, at least right now.
Stewart’s art is as smooth and comfortable as ever. Though he isn’t given anything as strange and memorable as Quitely or Tan, at least not yet, he performs competently and keeps the eye moving. A glaring error partway through the book when Batman and Batwoman accidentally swap lines will confuse some readers, but otherwise, the creative team seems much closer together than they did during Tan’s sometimes confused arc.
Morrison tosses in new villains and half-cocked mythologies with a great deal of ease, something I hope other writers follow up on at some point, but while the issue is jam-packed with creativity, it’s a little light on the excitement. This set-up heavy issue may not be among the book’s best, but it’s well-made on all fronts and a pleasure to read.
– Cal Cleary