To tell you the truth, I was expecting to miss Frank Quitely on the book. Morrison and Quitely made such a fine pair on All Star Superman and the beginning arc of this title, just how could Philip Tan compare?
Well, by stepping up and, in places, doing his best Frank Quitely impression in terms of storytelling. We have panels arranged like cards in different angles, each juxtaposing with the perspective on the scene. Lots of panels showing intricate scenes with just enough detail to show what’s going on, but no more. And a very strong sense of presence, of which objects carry weight, of how a world hangs together.
The only thing missing is the chins and the lips.
Of course Tan gives his own flourishes as well, especially in the explosions and a wonderful reinvention of The Penguin for us, as a truly horrific creature, with just enough humanity to stop us writing him off as a monster.
This book continues to have an “All Star Superman” feel to it, not just in visual, fleshing out Gotham, inhabitants old and new, each treated alike, feeding us just enough information with each issue, perfect for reader old and new as well, each issue a gem in and of itself, while still being part of a larger piece of sparkling jewelry. We have a new Batman training a new Robin, giving us flashbacks to earlier stories featuring the original dynamic duo, with a sense of complete freshness and an understanding that anything could happen.
As and the new Batman and Robin face an even newer counterparts in Red Hood and Scarlet (and pity the real owner of @scarlettraces as she starts to receive all sorts of odd messages on Twitter) so we see them actually fighting a grim and grittier version of themselves, with all the metatextuality that comes with it.
It’s also one of the few superhero comics to even mention the recession and the strain that brings on a city like Gotham. And it’s this kind of detail, and many other touches that make Batman And Robin the best superhero comic on the stands right now. I just hope its luck holds.
Batman And Robin #4 was published yesterday in the USA and today in the UK from DC Comics Entertainment.