Review: Robin becomes Batman and Batman's son becomes Robin in Batman and Robin #1

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Dec 14, 2012, 3:54 PM EST

So here's the bad news. Batman, whose funeral we covered a while back, is still missing and presumed dead. There's still no body, no death certificate and no absolute proof that the pump beneath that chest symbol has stopped beating, which wouldn't be a definitive demise anyway since he exists in a genre and a universe where folks frequently shrug off death the way we shrug off bad head colds; but for now and for the foreseeable future he's as dead as Thomas and Martha Wayne, which is bad news for a Gotham City still under regular assault by various arcane and demented bad guys.

There was a short-lived Battle for the Cowl, during which the various members of his extended family argued at length over who got to don his mantle, but now that's done, and we have Batman and Robin #1 (DC Comics, $2.99), the continuing adventures of the new caped crusader and the new Robin as they attempt to pick up the slack.

The good news is that the batsuit is now being worn by Dick Grayson, who has grown out of the Robin identity and (temporarily?) put aside the Nightwing in which he fought crime as a young adult. And much is being made of his unease in the role, which he's assumed before but which he now believes might be permanent. Less happy is the identity of his new Robin, one Damien Wayne, the son of Bruce Wayne and Ra's al Ghul's daughter, Talia. Damien has the chops, but he's also a cold and entitled little snot, dismissive toward Alfred and condescending toward the new caped crusader. He is, in short, one Robin whose attitude could only be improved by a few THOCKs and WHAMs.

And all of this is told by writer Grant Morrison and artist Frank Quitely, whose prior runs on X-Men and Superman were transcendently imaginative, with gosh-wow thrills and startling new twists doled out in equal measure. Their first outing on this new title doesn't burst out of the starting gate with all the power those earlier triumphs might lead readers to expect, but there's some terrific stuff: notably an opening chase in the Batmobile (which, we find out in one gorgeous two-page spread, now flies) and the closing introduction of a new villain named Pyg, whose gig seems to be turning people into obedient zombies by giving them new faces that look like Cabbage Patch dolls.

"I want you to know and feel every moment of your glorious transformation," he tells one immobilized victim. "Strange how the worst place in the world can be ... anywhere." It's a genuinely horrific moment, seen through the eyes of the young daughter who's next in line to be changed, and it has an impact on the page that's about a hundred times darker than simply, you know, trotting out the Joker one more time. Long live Pyg.

And may Bruce Wayne have a long rest before he ambles back into town.