From A Library: Batman and Son

Batman And Son coverBatman #655–658, #663–666 by Grant Morrison and Andy Kubert

I’ve been reading quite a few Batman books recently (as subsequent posts will attest), including getting round to reading Batman: The Long Halloween (which was a mistake, but that’s not important). So, when the hardback of a new Batman story written Grant Morrison, I grabbed it off the shelves faster than Batman disappears when Jim Gordon turns his back.

Morrison has finally got his hands on the ‘Neal Adams hairy-chested love god’ version of Batman – and that’s as fun as that sounds. Grant writes characters as if he has always written them (the interplay between Bruce and Alfred is great – Morrison always seems to have not only thought a lot about the characters and the dynamics but also understands them and presents them afresh) but the first issue doesn’t really fizz with the usual Morrison Magic. Things sparkle in the second issue, when Batman fights a group of ninja Man-Bats in an art gallery fundraiser – the paintings in the background correspond to the action in the foreground, with artworks such as ‘Ouch!’ and ‘Blam!’ placed strategically.

The story turns towards the title when Talia Al Ghul, daughter of his enemy and head of the League of Assassins Ra’s Al Ghul, brings to Batman their son (apparently from their liaison in Mike W. Barr & Jerry Bingham’s Son of the Demon graphic novel) – Damian, who has been trained by the League of Assassins but is seemingly in need of a father figure. Damian is a vicious, spoilt brat – when Bruce brings him back to the manor to look after him and teach him some discipline, Damian locks up Alfred, goes out into Gotham to dispense justice, and beats up Robin because he believes that he (Damian) not Robin should be Batman’s adopted son.

Panel from Batman and SonAnd, now, an embarrassing admission – I didn’t read ‘The Clown At Midnight’. I started and just got bored. Not because it was prose – I read prose all the time, thank you very much – but just because it was too dull dreary. I just couldn’t manage it. Please don’t hate me.

Back in the world of traditional ‘words and pictures telling a story’ comic books in the next issue, things are still a little odd, such as Bruce wiping himself with the shirt he was wearing in a boardroom meeting so that he is covered with Alpha Male Plus scent, and you begin to wonder what Grant is up to with this book.

Panel from Batman And SonIt’s only in the final issue of this collection that things take flight into full Grant fancy – set in the future, Damian Wayne is the new Batman (and Commissioner Gordon is Jim’s daughter) in an even worse Gotham, taking down the criminals in a much more serious fashion than the original.

These stories are an odd mix. Kubert’s slick, muscular, dynamic style works well with the Dark Knight, especially in what is traditionally seen as the superhero book (Detective Comics naturally follows Batman’s crime-solving skills), and is more enjoyable to look at than Grant’s previous mainstream DC gig partner, Howard Porter. The connection back to the JLA days is a natural one, seeing as it was Grant’s last long-term run using Batman and it was a particularly enjoyable one – Batman was the ultimate man in all aspects, seeing as he was standing toe-to-toe with gods (literally, in the case of Orion and Barda) and looking good in the process. The contrast with Grant’s latest take on the character, albeit an evolution in his character after the events of 52, doesn’t seem to gel quite as well. As with all Grant books, it is never dull and always interesting, but it doesn’t achieve greatness, at least not yet.

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