Friday, February 12, 2010

Weekly Haul: Batman and Robin #8

Batman and Robin #8, published by DC Comics, by Grant Morrison, Cameron Stewart, Tony Avila, Jared K. Fletcher.

The snippet of exuberant conversation I overheard between two kids in the Target toy aisle became an inadvertent prologue to a train of thought I rode last night on the heels of reading Batman and Robin #8. In the second of a presumably three-part story arc, Dick Grayson fights his crazed resurrected mentor, or at least a clone thereof, after discovering the existence of and immersing "Batman's" rotting corpse in the last Lazarus Pit.

If you don't know, for the better part of a year, Dick Grayson, the first Robin, has been Batman, as Bruce Wayne was supposedly killed by Darkseid during DC Comics' latest cosmic crisis. Wayne's son, Damion, has become the latest Robin, and the dynamic between Batman's surrogate and biological children has been an interesting relationship to witness. Basically, both proteges are trying to out bad ass each other in transparent homage to their father, and while Dick has the experience, Damion has the blood, so it's hard to tell who wins. Ironically, in this latest issue, writer Grant Morrison unravels those leaps forward in character to betray just how much all of us need the Batman.

See, Dick Grayson has adopted the Batman mantle before -- back in the '90s, when Bane broke Bruce Wayne's back -- so this direction isn't new and different, at all. Damion is the wild card, as the constant reminder that Dick is only Bruce's adopted son, and now another prince is the eventual rightful heir to the throne. If only Grayson had some guts to be a headlining hero rather than a sidekick with big boots to fill; his years as the defiant Nightwing are practically undone in these two sequences from Batman and Robin #7 and #8, respectively, depicting Dick in grief.

Admittedly, DC Comics's core characters are founded on grief and tragedy, from the destruction of Superman's homeworld, to the murder of the Waynes, to countless other atrocities that made would-be heroes vow the pursuit of justice. Dick's recklessness in the face of mourning show how emotionally stunted DC's heroes are, how none of them can live with change (like so many of the geeks that love them, but continuity is a topic for another day). When he realizes that this Batman clone isn't his resurrected mentor, will he actually take the time to grieve, or instead find some miracle cure for the apparently temporary condition that is death?

In the meantime, just like that action figure at Target yesterday, no child can pick up this issue of Batman and Robin and find the Dark Knight they know from mainstream media, assuming that Batman is much more than a costume, anyway. What makes a good Batman? Is it his tireless pursuit for justice? Is it fighting skills and immeasurable smarts? Is it just perpetual brokenhearted youth? If so, then maybe Dick Grayson isn't too far off after all.

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