Jun
3

Batman and Robin #1 – “Batman Reborn Part 1: Domino Effect”

Posted by David Uzumeri on Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009 at 05:30:29 PM
Batman and Robin #1
Batman and Robin #1

And we’re back after those messages! Finally, the main narrative line of the Batman books returns with Grant Morrison at the wheel aided by the ever-incredible Frank Quitely. And, in an all-new team-up, Alex Sinclair on colors, which leads to such interesting effects as the sky behind Wayne Tower looking like a badly compressed .GIF. While this issue is significantly more straightforward than the past few issues of Morrison’s Batman run, I have no doubt that things will get complex and trippy eventually, and until then it’s probably best to keep up continuity with these annotations, no? Besides, they’re fun.

Page 1: And Morrison goes for the in media res opening, as we’re introduced to the crime gang of Toad, Niko and Lev. I can’t take credit for this – so I’m linking to the Comic Bloc post that clued me in, and kudos to Ed Garland – but the Toad is a pretty clear reference to the Frog, nemesis of Courageous Cat and Minute Mouse, an anthromorphic animal variant on Batman and Robin who had a flying car and were created by… Bob Kane. Cute. “Minger” is British circus slang for cop.

Pages 2-3: This is a car chase in a tunnel. Check out that engine through the grill of Toad’s car, though – holy shit!

Pages 4-5: The blueprints Damian is referring to probably have something to do with the gyroscopes mentioned later – the blueprints for maintaining balance that Damian hopes to perfect, an idea I’m sure has multiple meanings. I’m fairly certain Dick’s apology there is dripping with sarcasm.

Page 6: Toad seems pretty welcoming of death here, a trait that might extend to the rest of the Circus of Strange.

Page 7: “Josser” is, once again, British circus slang for non-circus people. The “Pyg” he references is Professor Pyg, a new villain who we’ve previously seen in the future crucified by Michael Lane in his Third Batman outfit, all the way back in Batman #666, starring Damian as Batman.

Page 8: The synchronized, symmetrical punches to Toad’s face are evocative of the ’60s Batman TV show, which is cited as an influence.

The last time around, we had roulette wheels and playing cards repping for red and black at the battle to dominate the “villain’s game metaphor” proceedings, what with the Black Glove and the Joker’s Dead Man’s Hand. Now, those colors mostly form the signature colors of Batman and Robin themselves (especially with the flying Batmobile), while these dominoes are WHITE and black – and, despite still having an element of chance, more of a skill-based game. Could this signify that Gotham’s “game” has changed itself, from life vs. death and random acts of violence to good vs. evil and considered planning? Or do I just have apophenia?

Page 9: “Nanti” and “dinari” are, again, British circus slang for “nothing” and “money.”

Page 10: “Goodnight, mechanical dinosaur.” The wrecked old Batcave, along with Wayne Manor above it, is abandoned. The dog in the picture of Bruce, Dick and Alfred in better days is almost definitely faithful old Ace the Bat-Hound, who I guess had to get Aced at the Bat-Pound at some point (his Post-First Crisis version disappeared after No Man’s Land). I’m surprised Morrison hasn’t done that story yet, actually, considering his affection for animals.

Page 11: I’m guessing the unmarked grave next to Thomas and Martha (who I didn’t think were buried on Wayne Manor territory but what do I know, apparently) is Bruce’s, especially with the little bat-symbol-esque flourish on the top. This is the body that was left in the wake of Darkseid’s Omega Beam attack in Final Crisis #6, which has also recently shown up again in Blackest Night #0. I don’t know if we should consider the revelation of Bruce’s last wishes to Dick, that he not become Batman, in Battle for the Cowl #3 as canon, but if we do then Alfred’s statement regarding Bruce’s pride becomes pretty curious as I continue to hang on to my suspicion that Alfred is playing a sinister role in this entire affair.

Page 12: That said, I really can’t in any way argue with the return of the downtown penthouse Batcave (previously used pre-Crisis by Bruce), introduced in classic new-Batcave cut-away style. It’s definitely more befitting a man of Dick Grayson’s youth and vitality, and also nicely lines up with The Dark Knight, which Morrison expressed considerable fondness for. I have to admire Alfred’s ability to carry a tray of drinks and sandwiches while climbing down a ladder, as well. Dick’s using the new Batcomputer, looking up dominoes; the fact that Morrison goes out of his way in the script to equate them with bones will probably have some sort of future significance. Much like his father, Damian is immediately dismissive of Alfred’s food.

Page 13: Gyroscopes maintain balance, and I can’t imagine a man who found maintaining balance a “source of endless frustration” more than Bruce Wayne. Damian again seems almost dismissive of Alfred, while the statement “I promised I’d finish what he started” certainly seems rather more loaded than its immediate meaning. Dick brings up the circus slang, which he’d of course know from his days as a boy acrobat in the circus, as a clue to his organizational origin.

And, in a development that certainly provides further credence to Chris’s food theory, Dick absolutely loves Alfred’s sandwiches – which could be taken as Dick buying what Alfred’s selling (if, indeed, Alfred is in any way sinister) or simply the fact that Dick is, like Tim Drake, more of a normal human being. Damian’s used *TT* as a sort of more dismissive variant of Bruce’s traditional *HH* a few times now, dating back to Batman #658; I can only assume Morrison’s setting it up as a Thing.

Page 15: The red-haired dolls are Dollotrons, introduced along with Professor Pyg in Batman #666 – they basically act as his apparently mind-controlled automatons. The friends Toad is referring to in his cell are the Circus of Strange in the following panel; it’s possible, if totally unconfirmed, that they are in some way related with Bruce’s first major villain evil-psychologist Hugo Strange. Commenter FMguru correctly points out that the Ghost Train entrance indicates this is the same place as the abandoned circus the Joker bought and tortured Commissioner Gordon in all the way back in Batman: The Killing Joke.

Page 16: The neon lights of the Gotham cityscape in the first panel echo the colors mentioned in the prose issue of Batman #663 and the colors of Bruce’s Zur En Arrh personality. It’s widely speculated that Tim Drake’s become the new Red Robin, off searching for Bruce in his own title, but that’s unlikely to affect this.

Page 19: We saw this guy earlier in the Circus of Strange’s car, so I assume he’s the distraction so the rest of the gang can break Toad out.

Page 20: Niko seems to be stuffing parts of Dollotrons into his duffel bag.

Page 22: After Pyg’s rant hinting at the kind of fucked-up worldview that provides the backbone for most of the best Batman villains, the three preview panels seem to consist of Batman and Robin fighting Dollotrons and, interestingly, a double-twelve domino, as opposed to the dominoes throughout the rest of the issue that only went up to six per side. It’s also covered in blood, adding the familiar color red to what’s apparently now a black/red/white triptych – assuming the colors still hold meaning in relation to these games.

Page 23: Grant Morrison steals a page from the Geoff Johns Playbook with the “coming this year!” preview page, providing four interesting-looking little teasers:

  1. Damian ripping off his Robin badge and quitting like the petulant child he… well, he is.
  2. A new Red Hood, possibly Jason Todd, with a shadowed female sidekick who, as commenter Mike Barrett points out, is probably Sasha, Niko’s daughter from this issue, based on the hairstyle and her appearance in future solicitations – she’s mentioned as breaking out from Professor Pyg in issue 2, and issue 3 mentions “the origin of Scarlet” as related to a “mysterious red-hooded vigilante.”
  3. Dick Grayson (presumably) fighting Kate Kane Batwoman as, it appears, Bruce Wayne rises from a Lazarus Pit. This might be the body left behind in Final Crisis, and it comes out a soulless automaton, providing evidence that Bruce was not truly dead.
  4. Dr. Simon Hurt with the keys to Wayne Manor, signifying a return to the dangling mysteries from Batman R.I.P. – dangling like the keys in Hurt’s hand.

See you next month!

Posted in Annotations · Read more by David Uzumeri

35 Responses

  1. I don’t think you can get away without at least mentioning Mr. Toad from Wind in the Willows as another inspiration for Morrison’s Mr. Toad. For God’s sake, he even has a wild ride.

    Also, the woman in the Red Hood panel seems to have the same haircut as Sasha, Niko’s daughter. From solicits, we know she comes back in some way or another.

  2. Shit!!!! Good call, Mike.

  3. Excellent stuff, great to see you continuing with these. Some more notes:

    Could the wrecked gyrocopter underneath the mechanical dinosaur be a nod to Heart of Hush? It’s not the same design, but who knows how specific Morrison was in his script.

    The grave definitely belongs to Bruce, as its design and the design and location of his parents’ grave are exactly the same as they were in Blackest Night #0. Barry even mentions that Bruce’s grave is unmarked.

    The members of the Circus of Strange in the car have all been named by Morrison in his IGN interview: The guy on fire is called Phosphorus Rex, the fat lady driving is Big Top, and the three heads in the back probably belong to Siam, the Siamese triplet.

    I don’t think those are Dollotron parts Niko is stuffing his bag with. Why would he have those? From the gun on the table I assume they’re a shitload of bullets that he’s topping with regular clothes.

    Also interesting that Pyg’s Dollotron’s are so different and much cruder looking from the one we saw in Batman #666. Obviously he hasn’t perfected his techniques yet. Brrr.

  4. That last shot of Hurt with the keys to Wayne Manor seriously made me shiver. I wish this comic came out daily.

    I feel like I say this every time I read a Quitely comic, but he knocked this one out of the park. The in-world sound effects were fantastic. I know they were Grant’s idea (right? I read that somewhere?) but Frank just does it *so well*.

  5. Two points to add:

    1) “Pyg” has a lot in common with Pygmalion.
    2) Pyg’s hideout is in the abandoned circus that Joker used in “The Killing Joke”. Check out the face on the entrance door for the Ghost Train – straight out of TKJ.

  6. Shit, I don’t know how I missed the Ghost Train thing – I think I even flashed on that but lost that train (ha!) of thought. Thanks. And good catch with the Pygmalion reference, I wonder how that’ll tie in later, especially once we find out more of how Pyg sees the world…

  7. Quick note about the final page: everyone seems to be thinking the red domed figure is the new Red Hood, but am I alone in thinking he looks remarkably like the Red Mask from Morrison’s Animal Man?

  8. [...] Comics | David Uzumeri provides annotations for Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s Batman and Robin #1. [Funnybook Babylon] [...]

  9. how’d you find out all these british circus slang words?

  10. Google. Just searched “minger circus slang” based on Toad’s dialogue on Dick’s comment about knowing European circus slang.

  11. This comic is one of the best #1′s I have ever read. What is it about Quietly & Morrison that they get the best out of each other?

  12. They’re close friends and collaborate with each other to a much larger degree than Morrison usually does/is able to do with his other artists.

  13. Dr. Simon Hurt – I was hoping we were done with him. Can’t we just pretend that he never happened? You know, like the Troika storyline?

  14. Morrison has an interview on Batman and Robin up atNewsarama. And I have a question for the Editors here at FBB. Is Morrison being flip with his mention of the Black Glove’s identity?

  15. I’ve always been under the impression that the Black Glove isn’t just one person, it was the whole group. That’s why Joker kills one, syas they’re short a finger, and then refuses to join. Hurt is still the leader but it’s not just one guy.

  16. True, the Black Glove is a criminal organization. But the head of the group, who has portrayed or represented himself as Simon Hurt/Thomas Wayne throughout Batman RIP, was never explicitly identified in RIP’s conclusion. There have been allusions to the notion that the villain is in fact, the Devil himself. But this is the first time I have heard explicitly from Morrison himself (whether in the text or in interviews) that Simon Hurt is the Devil. Do you guys take this as confirmation of Hurt’s true identity, or as Morrison stirring the pot?

  17. Actually, in a previous interview (I can’t recall where, though – it might have been IGN), he mentioned that he intended RIP to end with the question being in the air whether Simon Hurt was Thomas Wayne, the Devil, or both. He’s just continuing to play on that ambiguity.

  18. Dirty, Scottish pool. I love it.

  19. He actually came out and said in an earlier interview for those that didn’t want to think about it that Dr. Hurt was the devil. Whether he was also Thomas Wayne or not remains up for interpretation.

  20. I noticed that there aren’t any comments on Page 14. Is there any special significance to Dick’s last line there: “Crime is doomed.”?

    I figure this was either a meaningless afterthought or a meaningful callback of some kind. In my state of ignorance, I’ll assume the latter.

    For the record, I don’t even know whether to read Dick as speaking the line seriously or sarcastically.

  21. Morrison states that the name “Professor Pyg” comes from a song entitled “Pygmalism” by a group called Momus.

    But also acknowledges the Pygmalion connection.

  22. Nobody has mentioned yet how Morrison said in the Newsarama interview that Frazer Irving will be the third artist on Batman and Robin. I don’t think that had been announced previously, had it? Not so excited about Philip Tan, but it’s about time Frazer Irving got some high profile work. He’s the kind of artist that can do a Morrison story proud. Really looking forward to it!

  23. Momus is just the one dude. Interesting that Morrison likes him, though I guess it’s not all that surprising that one iconic Scottish weirdo likes another.

  24. Thanks for mentioning the Damian-hates-food-Dick-loves-the-Sammiches angle, because that really jumped out at me and it’s a perfect, and perfectly silly way of showing us the New Batman And Robin.

  25. Hi David. Great article.

    Here in the UK, Thursday is New Comic Book Day so I completed my annotations of Batman and Robin #1 on Thursday.

    Link to my annotations of the issue is http://bit.ly/fAN7s

    I’m going to try for monthly annotations too, but I will continue to read yours after I complete mine, it’s more fun that way.

    Here are even more annotations!

    As Morrison mentioned the ’60 Batman TV show as an inspiration I was trying to think of any ’60s Batman TV show references when reading.

    Page 1:

    European Circus Slang, Minger – Policeman. However, as a Scot, Morrison will be aware that “minging” is also Scots for disgusting, which has mutated into regular UK slang – “Minger” meaning an unattractive person.

    “Batman’s as dead as the sky is black!” A black sky or a black sun is a recurring symbol for hopelessness in Morrison’s work e.g. Zenith Phase II – “I wish the sun would only rise. And then I realise that it has risen. And the sun is black.”

    Pages 2&3:

    Hopelessness? Nope – Batman and Robin are back!

    Pages 4&5:

    This start of Phase II of Morrison’s Batman saga is highly reminiscent of the start of Phase II of the Daniel Craig Bond films – the start of Quantum Of Solace, a kinetic carchase in a tunnel.

    Page 13:

    Damian is building a better Batmobile. “I promised I’d finish what he started”. Morrison’s first issue of Batman was #655 – Batman & Son Part 1: Building a Better Batmobile.

    Richard mentions “Justic League, Titans, International Club of Heroes”. The latter is another title of the “Batmen of All Nations” who featured in Morrison’s Batman run.

    Page 14:

    Damian wants to be Batman not Robin. Foreshadowing of the “dream future” of Morrison’s Batman #666, where Damian is Batman #3 with #2 explained as Richard and #1 being Bruce.

    “Don’t forget your mask”. This has the effect of prompting Damian to being Robin rather than continue to dream of being Batman. As Robin, Damian wears a domino mask. A “Domino Effect” as the multi-layered title?

    The last three panels as the Batmobile emerges from the hidden exit from Wayne Tower and onto the city streets (via the tunnel illustrated on page 12 in cross section) are Morrison’s version of the ’60s Batman TV show sequence of the Batmobile emerging from the hidden exit from Wayne Manor!

    Page 17:

    Officer Bronstein is drawn to resemble Chief O’Hara of the ’60s Batman TV show.

  26. When I see Mr. Toad, I also can’t help thinking of “The Frog”, from the Courageous Cat cartoon, also created by Bob Kane.

  27. Rand,

    It’s not a callback to anything in particular I can remember in my years of Batman readership. It rings particularly Morrisonian as a somewhat generically heroic, cinematic, badass thing to say. I don’t think he’s being sarcastic. Dick, as the much more upbeat of the new duo, is probably considerably more optimistic that they actually can royally fuck up Gotham’s underground. Morrison mentions in the Newsarama interview that this Batman/Robin is the best pair yet in terms of pure fighting style and I’m sure that once they can get a more cohesive sense of teamwork down, they’ll excel in all sorts of other ways.

  28. The ending felt right out of Dr. Who. Authoritarian figure, a doctor or professor, and faceless henchmen break in & perform some sort of transformative surgery on a victim.

    Namely dropping an identical mask on them creating more henchmen, destroying any sort of individual identity or humanity. Something along the lines of the Cybermen or those kids with the gas masks. I know there have been more along those lines, but I am blanking.

    Switching the POV at the end to Pyg approaching Lev’s wife, closing in on her mouth then to black, you can almost hear her scream fade into the roar of the Dr. Who theme music.

  29. Seth, I like your summation, but at exactly the same time, I really wanted there to be a voice over saying “Is this the end of larcenous Lev’s dutiful daughter? Will the Dynamic Duo reach the dastardly doctor’s sinister surgery in time? Tune in next time, Bat fans, same Bat Time, same Bat Channel!”

    Danadanadanadana Danadanadanadana Batman!
    Danadanadanadana Danadanadanadana Batman!

    (with the music over a photo of Laura Palmer,smiling and looking out at the audience, but never judging us)

  30. Perhaps it is to the ancient symbolism of the pig that we should look when attempting to decode Mr. Morrison’s latest Bat-offering and a certain Professor Pyg.

    According to W.B. Yeats,the pig was originally hailed as a supremely divine being – a “genius of the corn” – which, by virtue of its divinity made its flesh ‘dangerous’ for consumption amongst certain ancient peoples. Over time, the pig would be transfigured into something abhorrent. ‘Transfiguration’ is the salient term here as the modus operandi of the good professor in B&R is that of unnecessary surgery. In order to create his Dolltrons, his victims are remodeled or reborn as mute servants robbed of their individuality or soul.

    The pig is seen as a devourer – the equivalent of death in the symbology of some cultures. Interestingly, this also dovetails with the prevalence of food and consumption throughout Morrison’s run and Batman’s unwillingness to indulge. Is Batman the ultimate antithesis of death? In the Irish Celtic mythic tradition, the Black Pig is interpreted as the encroaching deadness of winter that does battle with the summer and its abundance of life. Within the context of B&R, we could infer the new youthful Dynamic Duo represent the sun, life and vitality. Indeed, this is typified by the snazzy yellow background of this issue’s cover!

    It is as though Morrison wants Batman emerge from the humus of the past – not as the Hades-like Dark Knight but inverted as the solar symbol that is the new Caped Crusader. In order to complete his rebirth cycle though, he must first vanquish the embodiment of death and darkness in the form of Pyg.

    As a sidenote, the significance of the colours red, white and black as mentioned in the above article may be connected to the pig also. The Celtic goddess Caridwen literally means ‘white sow’ and is a symbol of fertility, the red boar as depicted the coat-of-arms of certain Celtic families is a solar symbol of strength and ferocity while the black pig as discussed earlier represents death and the underworld. Is this all part of Mr. Morrison’s ruminations on life, death and rebirth?

  31. Idios Kosmos,

    New Batman & New Robin & New Batmobile = New Sun in other words?

    As I mentioned earlier in a comment here, page 1 has “Batman’s as dead as the sky is black!”

    Pages 2&3 = the New Sun.

    seth hurley,

    Yes, very Doctor Who. Some of the earliest comic books from G-Moz were Doctor Who for Marvel UK.

    Lee,

    I thought that on page 22, the “Next in Batman and Robin” panels were the equivalent of “Tune in next time, Bat fans etc” from the ’60s TV show.

  32. [...] I’ve never been sold on the first issue of any superhero series like I’ve been sold on this, it’s the dawn of a new Caped Crusader and Boy Wonder in this sibling rivalry of Bruce Wayne’s eldest son, Dick Grayson, and his youngest, the illegitimate assassin-trained spitfire, Damian Wayne. If this turns out to be half as good as the first issue indicates, I’ll be on this book until it transcends physical form. From the thrillride hilarity of car chases with Mr. Toad to the terrifying horrorshow surgery of Professor  Pyg, this is the Dark Knight in a completely new, strange, bold light. A+ (for more reading check out David Uzumeri’s Batman Reborn annotations!) [...]

  33. [...] Release Name : Batman.And.Robin.Reborn.Vol.1.No.2.Sep.2009.Comic.eBook-iNTENSiTY Release Date : 2009-07-06 Size : 20 mb Links : funnybookbabylon [...]

  34. [...] Release Name : Enders.Game.Recruiting.Valentine.Oneshot.Aug.2009.Comic.eBook-iNTENSiTY Release Date : 2009-07-06 Size : 17 mb Links : funnybookbabylon [...]

  35. [...] since mindless pal David Uzumeri compared the colouring of Batman & Robin #1 to a badly rendered GIF, I’ve been promising a response. I was troubled by David’s reaction because I thought the [...]

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