Batman and Robin: Blackest Knight (#7 – 9) – Grant Morrison

4 out of 5

Widescreen theatrics; grim and gritty Identity Crises; and now Grant gives us the first glimpses of the international team-ups of Batman, Inc. – smartly matched to Cameron Stewart’s buoyant, bright figurework – while continuing to wink at the (then) current DC mentality of resurrections and growling villains and general uber-seriousness.

Damian is out of commission; Drake partners with Knight & Squire for some London fun and sparkly-clad villains, multi-tasking to toss that Batman corpse they happened to have lying around into a discovered Lazarus pit.  Whoops – t’aint Bruce at all (which we kind of have to know, given that The Return of Bruce Wayne miniseries had yet to start at this point), and what emerges is a barely intelligible, slobbering mess of bad memories and anger.  Drawing a circle back around to using B&R to clear the slate for the next era of Batman, Grant has Stewart illustrate a lot of fun team-up punches, the fights eventually returning to the Batcave roost so Damian and Alfred can get in on the fun as well.  The look and feel of the issues is generally just much more upbeat; Drake works well with his British pals and also a guest-starring Batwoman, and even Damian’s snideness feels a bit more in line with comic book jocularity.  (Having his spine broken and repaired may have chilled him just a tad.)

Some callbacks to Final Crisis are cute but feel, I dunno, too cute, in a way – like was that the whole reason for that part of FC? – and though the madly short hopover from the UK to the US is explained with some classic nonsense of brushed off, made-up tech, it again feels maybe a bit too cheeky.

But this is a fantastic turnaround from the previous arc, and even in retrospect, is a really exciting buildup for the fun to come.