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After fearing the worst when Grant Morrison and Frazer Irving were replaced in Batman and Robin I thought the series was in for a major downfall, but unlike the previous issue this story was pretty interesting. It can not really compare with the previous issues written by Grant Morrison and Frazer Irving – it tries to be dark like them by substituting Doctor Hurt with Una Nemo, but fails to reach that level. It all comes down to one major thing – the Absence. If you do not like her, you will not like this issue.
Previously, Batman and Robin started to unravel the mystery of the death of an old girlfriend of Bruce Wayne’s. By the end of the issue 17, however, his girlfriend Una Nemo was found very much alive, insane, and sporting a huge bullet hole in her head.
This new character created by Paul Cornell worried me at first – a bullet hole in the head? But in this issue Una Nemo explains her full origin story. While it takes time away from the dynamic duo most people want to see in a Batman and Robin story, Una Nemo’s story is interesting and tragic. Far from the point of tears, but tragic nonetheless. It is also nice to see another fresh face in the DC universe and have a story focus on Bruce’s past love life as a Wayne rather than as Batman. The story’s only real failure is trying to bring a scare into the audience at the end, which just seems weird and fails to deliver even half the level of creepiness Morrison and Irving had. It also focuses just on Una Nemo and less on Batman and Robin, which is great if you enjoy the character like I did, but if you don’t you will be easily bored with this issue and should probably just skip it and wait for the next story arc. And if you were just going to get it for the great art previously illustrated in past issues of Batman and Robin, you will also be majorly disappointed.
The art brings this issue down even more. I do not understand why they even needed two artists on this one issue. Frazer Irving is greatly missed in this series and could have made this story dark and eerie… instead two artists try to take his place and do a poor job. Scott McDaniel and Christopher Jones both have poor artwork running rampant in this issue. Sometimes it was detailed, but the faces of the character’s often looked weird and some panels were drawn poorly just so they could try to hurry readers along to the next panel with only a slightly better rendering. People are drawn constantly clenching their teeth which is a huge annoyance for me regarding comic book art.
The story of the Absence is interesting. I only say “interesting” because it does lack the surprise the first issue managed to have. By the end of this issue we know everything about Una Nemo and now Batman and Robin have to rescue a lead character from getting chopped into bits… which definitely has me coming back to read the conclusion of this story, even if I have to sit through such bad artwork. The series could definitely benefit, even more than it might if Morrison were to return as writer, if Frazer Irving could go back to doing the art. The storytelling is still solid.
Story – 9.0
Characters – 9.0
Art – 4.5
Overall – 7.5