Written by Grant Morrison
Art by Cameron Stewart, Chris Burnham and Frazer Irving
Bruce Wayne returns home to his family just in time to find the trash needing to be taken out.
Morrison wraps up his latest chapter in his epic Batman saga, ending his run on Batman and Robin before moving on to Batman, Inc. After a flashback to the essential birth of Morrison’s villainous Doctor Hurt, this issue, “Black Mass,” picks up when Bruce, back in Bat gear, returns to Wayne manor in the middle of a standoff between Batman and Robin and Hurt and his cronies. Needless to say, Bruce isn’t all too happy to see the guy who caused “Batman RIP” back in his house and making a mess of it. Bruce takes Hurt while Dick and Damian go after Professor Pyg’s parade in downtown Gotham.
This issue is a fulfilling ending to the prior story arc “Batman and Robin Must die” and to Morrison’s Batman and Robin chapter in his long-weaving Bat-story. Bruce, Dick and Damian all get a chance to show off their skill in climatic show offs. Professor Pyg, the title’s first main villain, is dealt with. Hurt’s reign of terror on the Wayne name seems to be catching a break. It all ties together nicely.
But probably the most satisfying thing about this issue is simply that Bruce is back. He gets a thrilling showdown with Hurt (as does the Joker) and takes the Batman concept one step further, which while controversial to some, I actually believe will prove interesting and well developed in the next chapter of Morrison’s tale in Batman, Inc.
Most importantly though, the family is back together and as Bruce puts it, “Batman and Robin will never die.”
For Morrison’s final issue of this run, he enlists three artists with widely different styles: Cameron Stewart, Chris Burnham and Frazer Irving. Stewart opens the book with bright and vivid colors, clean and muscular characters and very bland backgrounds. Traditional superhero designs, if you will. Burnham has a great attention to detail, from grainy wood and rough rocks in the backgrounds to all the scuffs, wrinkles and rolls in clothing. Irving continues his dark, detailed and almost whimsical gothic style he used in “Batman and Robin Must Die,” which is still fine work, although the last two pages do feature an awkward-looking Tim Drake.
All three are very unique, with Burnham and Irving doing some top notch work. Stewart, however, is just more or less decent. His work is good, but his style is fairly simple and unremarkable compared to Burnham and Irving.
However, the problem lies not with any particular artist, but with visual shock. Irving did a fine job on the previous “Batman and Robin Must Die” arc with his darker, gothic art style, which is fairly distinctive. Issue 15 ends with a chilling image of Batman in the dark, staring down Hurt. Picking up at that scene in this issue is Stewart’s brighter, vibrant superhero look, with Batman and Hurt about to go at it (well lit as opposed to previously in the dark, I might add). It’s the same scene, the same story, but the art difference is so visually jarring that it takes you aback.
The transition through the book is better handled, as going Stewart-to-Burnham-to-Irving flows much better. Still, going from Irving at the end of #15 to #16 is somewhat off-putting. A minor issue for most, and a minor problem for an issue that is otherwise a nice showcase of three artists’ works generally flowing together.
In all honestly, this ends Batman and Robin just as the end of Joss Whedon’s run is the actual ending of Astonishing X-Men. The book will go on, and I’m sure Batman and Robin (still Dick and Damien) will continue to have great adventures. But just as this book started to be a vehicle for Morrison’s Batman epic, this comes to a gratifying ending and just won’t be the same without him. Definitely worthwhile.
Overall (Not an Average) 9/10