There was a split second between pages in Batman and Robin #8 when I was expecting to see a horrible replay of the final scene that dare not not be named from Star Wars: Episode III. What happened instead felt much more like Batman, as did this entire issue, and I’m pleased to report back to any doubters who may have dropped this book during issue #’s 4-6 that the Grant Morrison series this should have become from the beginning has arrived, and Cameron Stewart may be to Batman and Robin what Frank Quitely was to New X-Men, even if his issues are few in number. I enjoy how Morrison can play with your expectations and still manage to surprise by offering scenes and moments that just plain resonate well with their characters and backstories.
There are numerous cliches in this issue, from the Lazarus Pit emergence to the twin-costumed hero fight in an instant of ambiguity and even Batwoman’s injuries. Morrison can pull you to the brink of groaning with disgust over a stale plot device and then jar the winged placental mammals out of you, though, both with humor and terror. Furthermore, the density of plot-relevant sequences this week almost made up for the entire last story arc that stretched awkwardly over its issues. And meanwhile you have the whole “Batman never fights to kill!” question hanging like a guillotine over the entire mythos, which is surely only for effect, but it does add another level of tension.
If every chapter of Batman and Robin produced these kinds of results, I’d be convinced we were looking at a game-changing classic, but instead it feels like the book is just now waking up. It was super-strong, but if I have one place to pick bones with it, it’s the weak, weak supporting cast, who all seem like rather bland placeholders who are British — and that’s about it. I’m not saying I need flashbacks or over-exposition in wordy asides, but they just seem hollow and reduced as people, which comes up short in terms of the expectations I have for a Morrison event comic. They have room to grow, though, and even if they don’t this series is standing on solid ground going into #9.