Grant Morrison’s “Batman & Robin” debuted last year after the death of Bruce Wayne, recasting former Robin Dick Grayson as the new Batman, and Wayne’s snotty son, Damian, as the new Robin. (Got that?) In “Batman & Robin: Batman vs Robin ” The Deluxe Edition,” the second collection of the series, they’re already trying to resurrect the original caped crusader.
This hardcover includes two complete story arcs, at three issues apiece. The first, “Blackest Knight,” represents a semi-loose tie-in to DC’s then-current “Blackest Night” event that saw dead heroes rising as zombified scourges. Here, Batman and Robin locate a so-called Lazarus Pit in the bowels of the UK underground in hopes of dumping Bruce Wayne’s corpse in so that he may live again. They succeed … or do they? And Batwoman dies … or does she?
Comprising the second half of the book is the titular “Batman vs. Robin” story line, which is a little problematic if you ask yourself, “Which Batman are we talking about? Which Robin?” We understand. Just know that this adventure involves the discovery of some secrets in the Wayne ancestry, including a heretofore unknown second Batcave, and some unintended help from a masked figure whose true identity provides a shocking conclusion.
While Morrison’s plotting isn’t always on the up-and-up (he fails at properly introducing characters to those readers who don’t think about comics 24/7), he takes the dynamic duo in the most interesting of directions, keeping things pretty much unpredictable. And while original artist Frank Quitely is now only providing the covers, his replacements of Cameron Stewart and Andy Clark turn in excellent work that makes me wish they were a part from the start.
As with the previous volume, “Batman Reborn,” the book is supplemented with a healthy smattering of sketch pages that better introduce the players Morrison does not, so you might want to read those first. Even better are the pages that show the various incarnations of the title’s striking logo, and outta-sight color usages thus far “ appreciated by the graphic designer in me. “ —Rod Lott