By: Grant Morrison (writer), Frazer Irving (artist), Janelle Siegel (assistant editor), Mike Marts (editor)
The Story: Batman and Robin Must Die, Part 2: Robin is still locked up with the Joker. Batman and Commissioner Gordon are surrounded by the enemy. And the full-on war between the Joker and the Black Glove blows up.
What’s Good: Right off the bat, Batman and Robin under Frazer Irving is visually arresting. Irving does different things. Colors and light become watery and fluid. The camera shots shift disconcertingly (intentionally) between complete pictures and tight close ups that drive up the tension and add to the mood of dislocation. Backgrounds are uneven sprays of paint with no defined source of light, eerie and effective. The villains, psychologically distorted outside of moral boundaries, are chilling, alien, and disturbingly plausible. Irving is my new favorite Batman artist.
Morrison on scripts has moved the plot forward with events and reversals, but this is the least part of the satisfaction of this book. The moody and unhinged dialogue opens crooked windows onto the insides of Pyg, the Joker and Black Hand. The Joker gets some awesome moments against Robin, and says some very revealing things, but at every moment, the cagey look and the mask of his expression scream that he is unreliable and that everything he says is lie or manipulation. Pyg is an utter, utter whack job and the more he talks, the more creeped out I am. The action is intense and fast and tumbling in the confused way that hard-boiled fiction reflects the chaos of the world in its narrative style. The reader is deliberately exposed to a measured amount of confusion and disorientation to bring him closer to the psychological state of the heroes and the victims.
What’s Not So Good: Inserting disorientation to the narrative is always a risk. Some readers may not like it. Some may think he’s done it by accident and that he’s not that great a writer. I think the risk paid off here, but Morrison may push away some readers.
Conclusion: Morrison and Irving have offered a sophisticated, multi-layered episode in a promising arc. It is psychologically rich and filled with unhinged personalities at the thin edge of functionality. Batman and Robin #14 is well worth the price of admission and deserves to be on the top of anyone’s pull list.