Jun 23, 2016
The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 485: Batman and Robin #4, November 2009
In case you hadn't gleaned it from that yellow writing plastered against the cover, the current story arc in Batman and Robin, "The Revenge of the Red Hood," is all about the propensity in the 80s and 90s to have comics "grow up." Consider that the Red Hood's associate in this arc is a red-headed young lady, rescued from the depths of crime by a brutal crimefighter. Shades of Dark Knight, anyone? What this story arc offers us is the question of whether or not growing up necessarily has to mean becoming more brutal. As someone who has, at the very least, gotten older, I've never felt that propensity toward extremity in my social interactions (just in my personal ones, really). I do see it occasionally in people I know, the movement toward a more black and white world view, toward a conservatism that I find quite disturbing. But the other side of the argument is that growing up should be a broadening, a lessening of brutality and a widening of compassion. While there's definitely arguments to be made about the role that vengeance or punishment play in Batman's identity, this presupposes a focus on the perpetrator of crimes, rather than the victims. And, more often than not, the perpetrators themselves are also victims. Batman is, as are the best of the superheroes, about helping victims rather than punishing perpetrators. And this is the difference, in this story, between Batman and Robin, and Red Hood and Scarlet, the difference between a mission that grows from love and one that grows from anger.
And, as usual, Morrison (aided by Philip Tan) gives us a wonderful meditation on this aspect of the superhero.