Hey, who woke me?

*Boy did I collapse in a heap last night. Anyway, there’s this post, then one later on tonight, so stay tuned to your internet machines, True Believers! And we’ll never know there'd been a delay once the trade is out.

Batman #657


Marc Singer has an interesting take on this one, the third part of four in writer Grant Morrison’s Batman & Son storyline; basically, Batman’s apparent biological child Damian (*groan*) is acting as a cruel mirror to our current Caped Crusader, all angst and venom and restlessness and cruelty and pure infernal drive. Basically, he’s a vision of Batman’s past, and not just ‘our Batman when he was a boy,’ as Alfred seems to suggest, but the grim, angry, sociopath Batman that once ran rampant through the comics; indeed, Damian is thus the Batman that Morrison, by his own assertion, set out to satirize in Arkham Asylum (obviously the success of that effort is up for grabs - to my mind, Morrison’s storytelling obfuscations served more to bolster the characterization he apparently loathed, and heaven knows Dave McKean’s artwork didn’t help the message, even as it rescued the aesthetics). An interesting take, and I’d add that Morrison is also inserting a bit of himself: Damian proves in this issue that he’s just as resourceful a plan-ahead type as the Morrisonian Batman from the pages of JLA.

Thus, while Damian’s boyish enthusiasm threatens to push Batman right back into the pit of anger (love that bit with Batman, having finally lost his patience, roaring “PATIENCE IS A VIRTUE!”), tying the conflict smoothly into Morrison’s opening everything-must-change volley of headshots and dumpster-diving, the possibility is left open that the young man might also grow up into something better. He won‘t just yet, what with dumping poor Robin off right off the head of a dinosaur in the Batcave, sending him tumbling into the glass case housing Jason Todd’s old costume, then prancing around in the top half of Jason’s old uniform, just in case things were getting too subtle. Will it take a new Joker to challenge this little hellion (hmmm), or will Batman put to rest another dark bit of the past? Now that most of the old villains are gone, it’s time to battle tougher things. Plus, I really hope that this means the only established villains Morrison is planning to use are D-listers like the Spook, whose villainous opposition to urban development is pretty hilarious, even as the conversation between his ‘henchmen’ seems old hat.

And on that note, it’s kind of unfortunate that this isn’t all that well executed a comic, truth be told. It’s not just penciller Andy Kubert (inked by Jesse Delperdang), though I did have to read through this issue's confrontation in the underground more than once just to fathom the mechanics of it; I guess the henchmen were following slowly behind the Spook while chatting, then trouble happened while they were in the antechamber to the hostage room, then Batman burst out of the hostage room to the rescue, though somehow Damian arrived between the time the goons lost sight of the Spook and Batman arrived to find the hostages? Suffice to say, all of this isn’t very well conveyed by the visuals, which make it look like Batman is sauntering in out of nowhere to develop a crucial kick. I did get the gist of the sequence, at least. On a more surface level, I’m just not a fan of Kubert’s character designs, which I expect colors some of my reaction.

But Morrison’s page-by-page plotting is also jumpy in a way that suggests it’s probably attempting to provide a compressed, speedy experience, though it feels a bit more like about half an issue’s worth of augmenting sequences have somehow gone missing. Sure, we don’t have to have an All Star Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder style ride to the Batcave in which Our Hero and his new charge shoot the breeze for a long while, but veering wildly from ‘Batman and Damian have met’ to ‘trouble with Robin and Alfred’ to ‘oh man, maybe I do respect father after all’ to ‘that boy is too rough with crime’ to ‘time to replace you, Boy Blunder’ (not actual line) to an inferred ‘oh god please daddy accept me as yours’ makes it seem like we’re getting more of a comics-format outline or perhaps an extensive series of excerpts than a fleshed-out story. Hopefully everyone’s not going to confront Talia next issue; I can see this being a genuinely nice hook for Morrison to hang his entire run on, and the basics of Damian’s characterization are pretty good.

It gets better as it goes along, that’s for sure. Morrison’s Batman is steadily getting interesting, and surely I prefer Morrison’s grasp of superhero soap opera to the laborious, soggy approach of Brad Meltzer over in Justice League of America, but it’s still a bit haphazard for my taste.