The Comic Book Club: Batman & Robin #16 and Strange Tales II #2

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This is what happens when Techland goes to the comic book store: we end up discussing what we picked up. This week, Douglas Wolk, Graeme McMillan, Mike Williams and Evan Narcisse discuss Grant Morrison’s final issue of Batman & Robin and Strange Tales II #2. WARNING: Bat-spoilers lurk below.

DOUGLAS: The more I think about the Big Reveal at the end of Batman & Robin #16–which I was genuinely not expecting, even given all the advance press about the forthcoming Bat-titles–the more I like it. I don’t object automatically to changes in the premise of a long-running franchise, as long as they open up more story possibilities than they close off. And really, this one does exactly that–I actually can’t think of any Batman stories from the past few decades that it would’ve made impossible (other than the “Bruce Wayne: Murderer?/Fugitive” business, which I didn’t love), and it totally makes sense as a springboard for more stories.

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MIKE: This, of course, makes me think of “I am Iron Man” straight away. If this is all handled–well, I agree, there are a good deal of stories to be told about a Batman franchise system. However, I have been opposed to the widening network of Bat-people for some time. It seems to go against the strengths of Batman. I suppose he has held many roles over the years, intimidator, JLA tactician, detective, legend, leader of men. This incorporation is taking Batman as a symbol and pushing it too far. If I’m committing crime in Gotham I’m scared of a giant guy dressed like a bat that’s going to break my arm. I don’t think I’m scared of copyrighted corporate Bat logo and what it represents. This all sounds like something Booster Gold would think up.

DOUGLAS: I don’t know, there’s been a big ol’ Bat-network for a very long time–remember, there was a Batman Family series in the ’70s!

GRAEME: I like the idea of Batman, Inc. in theory – And you’re right, Mike, the last scene is very reminiscent of the end of the Iron Man movie. I wonder if it’s intentional? – but the more I think about it, the less sense it makes. If Bruce Wayne wants to take the war on crime global, why doesn’t he just shift from being Batman to funding the JLA or the JSA or the Global Guardians or whatever? Why make it all about the Batman brand, instead of the, you know, ACTUAL war on crime? Maybe this is some larger point about Bruce Wayne’s egotism at play, but right now, it feels like a smart idea that’s come about to justify Grant’s new Bat-Status Quo. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing, just that I’m not sure it’s strong enough to withstand more than a couple of years’ worth of stories before becoming another suspension of disbelief thing that readers have to work around.

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EVAN: Y’know, that scene feels like closure to me. Both for Morrison and for Bruce. Bruce saying that he’s been funding Batman approaches the idea of an emotionally healthy disclosure. Of course, he could never say outright that he’s Batman, but the press conference is still a way for him to publicly acknowledge his legacy. The dude’s been “dead,” bounced around through time, had the memory of his dad sullied and come back to find his sons carrying on in his footsteps.

So, it seems, I dunno, natural and well-adjusted (at least in Bat-psychology) to take a step back and declare “I made this. It may not always be pretty but it does what I want and I’m proud of it.” Again, you could apply that to both Bruce and Grant. But, I don’t think the scene is perfect in any way. To add my gripe to the rest of yours: could anyone in Gotham look at three athletically-built guys and a snarly kid standing on a Bat-podium with Bat-signals flying overhead and NOT peg them as members in good standing of the Bat-family? Batsolutely not, I say.

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