Friday, December 17, 2010

Grant Morrison's Batman Returns/Incoportated - SPOILERS!!!

Recently I made a HUGE mistake.

In August I re-read all of Grant Morrison's Batman, Batman and Robin and The Return of Bruce Wayne – re-read up to that point anyway. So, you see the mistake of course was that I didn't wait the extra three or so months and re-read it after the arc arrived at its conclusion – a conclusion Morrison had been building to, in the Batman books, for close to five years (and arguably a lot longer if you take into account that all of his DC stuff since his JLA run in the mid-90's* has all been intertwined). So now the page has turned, Bruce Wayne is back and the "new era" has begun; one where apparently many people will wear a Batman or related suit, and I've realized I have most definitely missed something.


So I guess I'm just going to have to read it again. But not for a bit.

First – I am extremely happy to see that Dick Greyson and Damian Wayne are going to continue to be the Batman and Robin of Gotham. I'm not too happy that Morrison is leaving that title for Batman, Inc. but I'll stay on for a while**. Grant's Batman and Robin has been one of my favorite books each month – he's arguably redesigned and added to Batman's Rogues Gallery in such a way as to make it a little bit more modern and perhaps even usable for those great, dark and realistic Christopher Nolan films***, because really, other than those Nolan has already mined for the films, whose left that won't come across completely Schumacher-ish?

But I digress, whereas Batman and Robin has been lighting up my comics life every month Morrison's The Return of Bruce Wayne has been a bit of an 'Ohhhhhkkkaaaayyyy... I'll read this out of the obligation to the overall story arc but... I don't know. Each issue has felt a bit... unfulfilling? First of all, I have to believe that DC pushed Morrison into a storyline similar to the mega-successful Captain America death-time-travel-return storyline**** that was so successful for Marvel (because the big two just have to imitate each other still, in this day and age). And really, Morrison's doing a decent job with it, it's just that, well, every issue feels rushed and too concerned with showcasing a Batman re-imagining in key time eras (Prehistoric, Colonial, Pirate, Cowboy, etc). When I performed my marathon re-read ROBW was only up to issue three and since then I've let the next three collect in a pile. I guess I figured if I waited until the series had reached it's conclusion it would read better in one sitting.

Did it?

Yeah, a little bit.

The forced trappings of the storyline are still there, but Morrison exhibits some almost bafflingly esoteric and profound moments of exposition on what may indeed prove to be an even bigger, grander concept for The Dark Knight in the years to come. That's why I'm such a Morrison fan – it's not just the big picture that can take years of seeding and development, it's also his ability to transcend the actual pages he's writing on and turn over-used archetypes such as Golden Age superheroes into avenues by which the reader can access bigger, almost occult ideas from the wider, realer world around them. This was true of The Invisible, which Morrison has talked extensively about being not just a story or work of incredibly clever Meta-fiction but a "Spell" by which he Willed the world to grant him access and influence to certain things.

Batman is one of those things and, I think, a continuation of a modern wordsmith/philosopher/cultural engineer's Oath of Ipsissimis through his work.

And maybe more important, that work is DAMN entertaining to boot!!!


* Yeah, he's that good.

** In the realm of comics I follow a few key writers, not characters or titles.

*** Which I suppose I'm still interested in even though Mr. Nolan has stated he is not going to recast Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the Joker in the wake of Heath Ledger's unfortunate death. I understand this decision, but as I've posted about somewhere before I really feel as though Nolan's first two films were both set-ups to a much more important concept to be played out in the third and any subsequent films – the idea that once Rachel Dawes died, the only person who could complete Bruce Wayne, so did he. What would have been left of course was Batman and the only person who could complete him, and that would of course be The Joker.

Plus Levitt is freakin' awesome and apparently an uncanny mimic.

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