Batman #667–669, 672–675 by Grant Morrison, JH Williams III, Tony S Daniel
In the parlance of football commentary, this book is a game of two halves – one of quality and wit and imagination, the other is overblown and silly and lacking in art. While all comes from the imagination of Morrison, the first half is drawn by Williams whereas the second half is mostly drawn by Daniels.
The Williams-drawn story is a reunion of The International Club of Heroes, a society formed by heroes who were inspired by Batman – the Native American Man-of-Bats and his sidekick Little Raven, El Gaucho (Argentina), the Knight and his sidekick the Squire (UK), the Musketeer (France), the Legionary (Italy), the Dark Ranger and his sidekick the Scout (Australia), and Wingman (Sweden) – as well as Batman himself, on a private island in the Caribbean. And then somebody starts hunting ersatz Batmans …
Morrison takes a story from a Detective Comics from way back and plays it completely straight – the absurdity and Silver Age quality is absorbed into the story and told in the context of the Morrison Batman of today, who prepares for everything and is totally dedicated, and it completely works. It’s exciting, dramatic, engaging, with twists and turns and classic deductive reasoning.
Williams is fantastic – not only does he do his usual stellar job, he employs different art styles for the separate Batmen-alikes, which is amazing. Also, there is fantastic panel design, such as Batman entering the meeting room, with the other Batmen in headshot form within his body; or the glove image imposed over the exploding planes; or the batwing logo-style double-page spread when the sidekicks are captured – it’s a sheer delight to see such artistry that also tells the story.
The second tale also involves an old Batman story – about the Gotham City Police Department and military training replacement Batmen in case anything happened to the original – but it is bombastic and loud and unnecessary. Batman is given a cardiac arrest – one issue is his fevered recovery dreams involving Joe Chill – before he gets out of the death trap by dislocating his arm and removing it from his glove while leaving it completely intact: THIS IS VERY STUPID (even Grant has to over-explain this escape by having Batman say he runs through thousands of different scenarios and potential deathtraps to plot his escapes). If there is a point to this second story, it is about Batman deducing the idea of the Black Glove and the mastermind-out-to-get-him plot.
The story is not helped by Daniel’s art – it is not awful by any means but it is quite ordinary: muscular but too fast and flashy, all grimacing faces and not enough attention to detail. The only way it looks good is when compared with Ryan Benjamin’s art in the final chapter, which is even more Image-y (with a story hampered by the rather silly girlfriend of Bruce Wayne recognising him as Batman), but that’s not much of a compliment. When you have Williams’ dazzling art followed by Daniel’s ordinary work, it only enhances the gap between the two artists. But it does cause me to ask the important question: would the second half of this trade have been good if Williams had drawn it as well? I’m not so sure: this current Batman by Morrison doesn’t seem as absorbing as some of his older work – much like I felt about this first instalment of the storyline, Batman and Son.
And now, an alternative review of the same book, in the form of a football commentator discussing the match on the sofa in the studio afterwards:
The Morrison lad has done well, moving around the pitch, providing opportunities and opening up the opposition. He sets up the Williams boy for some marvellous strikes – inventive, hard working, dazzling footwork, some true scorchers. But Morrison loses some energy when Williams was substituted for the new signing, Daniels – the move hasn’t been a good one for the recent arrival to the Gotham pitch: he works hard around the field, getting into the open spaces and dribbling with the ball well, but his finishing is weak in the last third of the pitch. He gets plenty of chances to put them away, but he squanders them all by trying to be too flash on the ball. It’s such a disappointment and the fans weren’t too happy with his performance; Morrison couldn’t control him and it overpowered his game strategy, which began to look weakened. A great first half and turned into a damp squib for the fans out in the stands, who started leaving early to miss the traffic. A shame, Gary.