Batman hits the ghosts of our past.

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Batman #666

I liked the "After Grant Morrison" on the cover.

If I was 12, I'd have liked everything about this comic more than any other Batman comic ever. I liked it as an adult too. It's seriously one of the best evocations of the bad ol' early Image style I've seen that still manages to sort of hold itself together as a story - it's also, fittingly, the only issue of the Morrison run where Andy Kubert has seemed entirely appropriate, although I'd have rathered if Grant could have somehow borrowed Jim Lee from the other Batman book. Comparisons to Morrison's superficially-similar New X-Men storyline Here Comes Tomorrow are easy, what with the doomy future setting and the... vintage art style and all, but this is actually a much more interesting thing.

Despite the jokey one-off hellish future setting (for issue #666, ho ho), I suggest reading this together with the last two issues, since it follows up directly on some of the ideas from those present-day stories. And I'm not just talking story ideas, although Bruce's issue #665 mention of the three alternate versions of himself is obviously important. But far more vital is his mention that "I was sure they were hallucinations, cautionary tales, visions of what I might have become in other lives." Sure enough, this issue's future depicts a Batman who's sold his soul to the devil, but which Batman is it? The maniac villain of the piece, or Batman's errant son Damian, who's taken up the cowl and gotten very extreme, in a very '90s, somewhat Knightfall manner.

If Morrison's run on this book seems to be about Batman trying to wipe away the past and move forward, only to be constantly haunted by stuff from years ago that he can't quite get rid of, these last few issues come off a lot like a dark version of what Morrison's doing with DC's other big icon on All Star Superman: pitting him against visions of himself. Hell, it even fits in the Joker's self-conscious awareness of all his prior characterizations from that infamous prose issue, as only the madman can see the whole picture behind the universe, and cruelly throw away everything just to be new. Batman doesn't have it as easy as Superman; his visions are all bad, including a gun-toting nut (like the earliest incarnation of the character), a drugged-out he-man (very Bane - maybe it's a symbol of the Azrael version?), and a devilish force of ruin.

Indeed, Damian (god, that fucking name) surely brings a type of ruin to Gotham, at least as we can presume Morrison sees it - he's the greatest cheater, so sure that he can never equal a real Batman that he booby-traps every single major building in Gotham, just in case he might happen to have to fight a villain indoors. He snaps necks with his fist! Covers himself in blood! Rips a guy's guts open and twists his head and sets him on fire and throws him out a skyscraper and skewers him on a pointy thing!!! Yow!

Like, I think it's supposed to be both fun and revolting at the same time. A nightmare and a party at the same time, playing off cherished notions of 'Batman' and what would be ugly for him to do. I don't cherish Batman as much as Morrison does, so I thought it leaned heavily toward fun, but I admit Batman would get pretty grating if this is what he'd really be like all the time. Is it all a criticism of where the genre is going? Maybe, in that the genre chases nostalgia for too few years ago. It's a bad dream, steeped in a bad past, which, like Dick Hyacinth muses, more people enjoyed at the time than they'd care to admit. This is Morrison's caution, a big, Satanic pigging out on cotton candy, one that'll hopefully leave us all a little sick by the end.

I could have eaten it forever, when I was a kid.