Greg Hunter

Comic Review: Batman and Robin #3

In Comics on August 27, 2009 at 4:31 AM

BR3

Holy hell, this is a great comic.

Batman and Robin #3 concludes -well, kind of concludes- the title’s first story arc, with old-Robin-new-Batman Dick Grayson and new Robin Damian Wayne stopping Professor Pyg from spreading disease over Gotham. There are hints that Pyg is only part of a coordinated wave of attacks (“we’re only footsoldiers,” says one henchman), meaning it might take writer Grant Morrison twelve issues to complete the story he started with issue one. But as the end of an introductory arc, B&R #3 is still satisfying, and almost perfectly executed. Frank Quitely’s art is highly expressive, and in a quiet way very ambitious, while still advancing the story with every panel. Morrison’s attention to character is also apparent in every line from hyperviolent brat Damian.

Midway through B&R #3, Commissioner Gordon gives readers Professor Pyg’s backstory in two speech balloons. Morrison isn’t attempting to hastily tie up dangling plot threads here–he’s making an argument that the sensations villains like Pyg ought to provoke in readers are more important than the context these characters exist in. (Notably, there’s not even a grand unmasking moment with Pyg–his origin, his face, are incidential.) Nearer to the issue’s start, Pyg subjects Robin, who he has captured and bound, to what’s best described as a dance-rant. Damian knows next to nothing about Pyg. Readers more or less share Damian’s perspective here, and don’t know much more. Pyg prances and poses, spouting gibberish with vagrant’s conviction and brandishing a power tool.

The dance-rant, which is somewhere between the torture scenes in Reservior Dogs and Brazil, gives Morrison a chance to cut loose with the kind of psychedelic babble that filled some of his earlier works. More importantly, it makes an elliptical case to readers that Pyg is a serious threat–we’re exposed, head-on, to his psychosis but aren’t given tools to contextualize it. Morrison’s manner of presenting Pyg is maybe more of an innovation than the character himself. Pyg is nuts in a way that’s less narratively convenient than classic Batman villains (i.e., the Riddler’s compulsion to create puzzles for the law to solve) but is experienced more viscerally. Artist Quitely is, again, invaluable here, controlling the flow of Pyg’s monologue and providing the gestures that underscore his creepiness. Quitely won’t pencil the series again for several more issues, which is a serious bummer. Even so, it’ll be hard to wait for another month for the next Batman and Robin to arrive.

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