Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Review - Batman and Robin Vol.1: Batman Reborn Deluxe HC

Titan Books do an amazing job and really don’t get enough credit for it. For many years now, they have been selflessly sticking impossible-to-remove price / barcode stickers on the backs of perfectly good American graphic novels and distributing them to UK book shops, and all they ask in return is that we pay several pounds more than the already-expensive RRP for these books. At one point, Titan used to publish their own editions of popular American graphic novels (Watchmen, Dark Knight Returns, various Love and Rockets books, etc.) but at some point they realised that defacing imported graphic novels and charging a premium for them was a better business model. Which is fair enough, I suppose. I mean, it must be working out for them. On the one hand, they are at least getting these books into high street book shops up and down the country and exposing them to a wider audience. On the other hand, who buys these things? Personally, I don’t think I have ever bought a graphic novel with a Titan Books sticker on the back cover from a book shop but I have flicked through quite a few and then gone home and ordered a cheaper copy online.

This particular book, which collects Batman and Robin issues 1-6 by Grant Morrison, Frank Quitely and Philip Tan, and already had a pretty high dollar price of $24.99, has a Titan Books price of £18.99. Yes, £18.99! For a book that only collects six comics and has a sticker on the back of the dust jacket! In the long run, these prices will probably kill off the comics industry, as most people who paid £18.99 for this in a book shop must have felt like twats afterwards, and are unlikely to buy another £18.99 graphic novel unless they are really rich or really stupid. In the short run, though, it means that there are plenty of disillusioned former comic readers selling off copies of books like this on eBay to recoup some of their losses, and I managed to pick up my copy of this book on eBay last year for just £6.00 (plus around £2.50 for P&P). Hoorah!

This is the first Batman book to feature Dick Grayson as Batman and Damian (Bruce Wayne’s bastard son from a fling with Talia, daughter of Ra’s Al Ghul) as Robin. The first three issues reprinted here are drawn by Frank Quitely and in these issues Batman and Robin go after Professor Pyg, a bit of a nutter who grafts odd faces onto his victims and wipes their identities with a powerful new drug that turns them into his henchmen / henchwomen. As is the case for me with a lot of Grant Morrison comics, I felt strangely detached from the proceedings – which wasn’t helped by Professor Pyg’s nonsensical jibber jabber – but Frank Quitely is a fantastic artist who always brings out the very best in Morrison’s scripts and draws some very exciting action scenes. Professor Pyg was a suitably creepy villain and I love over-confident Damian, who delivers my favourite line from this book towards the end of #3: ‘...so, we’re agreed. It’s Robin and Batman from now on’.

The next three issues were not as good, mainly because Philip Tan is nowhere near as good an artist as Frank Quitely, but also because I know nothing about the Red Hood, who was one of the main antagonists in this storyline. Until I discovered Grant Morrison’s ‘Batman’ run last year, I don’t think I had read a new Batman comic since the 1980s, so the last time I saw former-Robin Jason Todd he was being beaten to death by the Joker, but now he is back from the dead and killing criminals as the Red Hood. In Batman and Robin issues 4-6, he teams up with Scarlet, one of Professor Pyg’s face-grafting victims who managed to avoid having her identity wiped, and declares bloody war on Gotham’s criminals. This attracts the attention of Batman and Robin, of course, but also a psychopathic mob assassin called Flamingo – ‘eater of faces’ – who leaves Damian in a bit of a mess at the end of the book.

I’m not sure that I really needed to own this – certainly not in hardcover format – but I quite enjoyed reading it, particularly the first half of the book, and I will probably keep an eye out for (cheap) copies of the next couple of volumes in the series, if only because Damian makes me laugh. Also, although I don’t think Frank Quitely ever returned to the title after #3, there are a few issues drawn by Frazer Irving coming up – another artist who works very well with Morrison – and they should be worth buying for the art alone.



    ...so much so, look, I typed in capitals. Bugs me when you buy from Amazon or Book Depository you never quite know if you'll be sent the stickered or none sticker version. The methods I've tried (and failed) to cleanly remove those damned things.

    Still Morrison's Batman and Robin makes me happy. Swings and roundabouts huh!

  2. I used to buy and sell a lot of used graphic novels and I often found that lighter fluid (on some soft cloth) was quite good for getting the remnants of Titan Books stickers off the back of books. Sometimes it would take some of the colour out of the cover, particularly if you had a stubborn sticker and had to rub it a lot, so I wouldn't necessarily recommend that you try it, but most of the time it worked quite well. It was a lot of effort, though.

  3. Power of google told me that 'non-smelly' furniture polish was good for getting stickers off of books and I've subsequently had success with this - never tried it with a Titan book though.