As Bruce Wayne returns to the present day fold in Batman and Robin #16, joining Dick Grayson and his son Damien for an epic battle with Doctor Hurt and Professor Pyg, you’ve got to wonder what the previous fifteen issues of Grant Morrison’s Batman and Robin have really been about? For the past year and a half, Morrison has developed this dual track narrative in his grander Batman story. One track as shown in Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne followed Bruce Wayne and his trials through time while the other in Batman and Robin concentrated on the preset with Dick Grayson as Batman and Damien Wayne as Robin, paving the way for the future and the upcoming Batman Incorporated.
Morrison had to make us believe that someone other than Bruce Wayne could be Batman for the next stage to have a chance of working. Morrison had to convince us that Batman is actually bigger than just Bruce Wayne alone and that’s what he did as Grayson picked up the cowl and gadgets to protect and serve Gotham City. It wasn’t Nightwing who fought Professor Pyg, the Red Hood or even who confronted the Joker in a Gotham City hotel room. It wasn’t Nightwing who took a brat of an assassin and made him into a super hero. It was Batman who did those.
But as much as this series has been about Dick Grayson and Damien Wayne, this issue is about the one real Batman, Bruce Wayne and his future. For that future to begin, the past has to be put to bed and Batman has to defeat Doctor Hurt. Or does he? Morrison doesn’t have Batman defeat Hurt but Morrison does remove Hurt from his larger story for a bit, giving the character an ambiguous ending similar to how he did in Batman: RIP. And in the process, Morrison gives the Joker maybe his most heroic moment as he’s the one who deals with Hurt, giving the jester his moment of victory over devil.
As the title indicates, this book has been about Robin as much as it’s about Batman. This series has been about the redemption of Damien Wayne as he learns to be a superhero. In this issue, Morrison shows how much Damien has learned and grown over the past year without losing any of the pride or arrogance the character originally had. When he first appeared, Damien tried to be Robin, believing that it was his birthright; he’s Batman’s son so of course he deserved to be Robin. Now he tries to show his father that he deserves to be Robin because he’s earned it and has learned how to be a hero. When he chastises his father, it’s not out of pride or arrogance but because he’s scared that Batman will take the Robin costume away from him as if he doesn’t deserve it.
And maybe that’s what Batman and Robin has been about; who deserves to be a hero? Is it the man who’s been trained since he was a child to be a hero? Is it the son who feels it’s his inheritance to be a hero? Is it the villain who couldn’t be a villain without his own hero to match wits with? That’s why Jason Todd was in an earlier arc of this series. He was the man who could fit into any of those roles and who wants to be the hep of his own story even as all of his acts are villainous.
So at the end of this issue, with Bruce Wayne returned, both Grayson and Damien are prepared to hang up their costumes, believing things will go back to how they were. After all, isn’t that the way these things work when characters return from the dead and the status quo is re-established? Well, maybe that will happen someday but Morrison isn’t ready to go back to the way things were.Maybe Morrison’s world is big enough for two or more Batmen and a couple of Robins. Grayson and Damien have clearly shown that they can fill those boots. Wayne defeated his own personal demons but Grayson and Damien saved Gotham City.