Batman Annual #26, Robin Annual #7, Batman #670, #671, Robin #168, #169, Nightwing #138, #139, Detective Comics #838, #839; written by Grant Morrison, Paul Dini, Peter Milligan, Fabian Nicieza, Keith Champagne; art by Don Kramer, Jason Pearson, Tony Daniel, David Lopez, Freddie Williams II, Ryan Benjamin and others
I can’t remember the last time I read a trade paperback with so many people responsible for the story – I’m used to comics that have a small creative team producing a singular vision. This is because I tend towards writers rather than characters – I follow a creator (or creative team) onto a book, rather than stick with a book (or family of books, such as the Batman books in this case) through thick and thin. This works for me, and this book is evidence to make me feel comfortable in my choice.
Reading this story was actually distracting – wildly different art styles from issue to issue threw me out of the story, jumping from a snazzy artist like Pearson to a more usual DC artist like Kramer. The huge editorial task also led to errors, such as Batman saying ‘four of you’ when facing three ninjas (in the middle of Australia), or different clothes on the same character from one issue to the next. Some artists seemed to have rushed their art to meet their deadlines, always a problem with corporate comics on a tight schedule, while some seem obsessed with oversexing the female characters (cough, Daniel, cough), which isn’t something I expect from the Batman family of books.
At least with the well-oiled editorial machine means the plot holds together well over the course of so many books, keeping the story mechanics together, but – spoilers, of a sort – it’s all in service of reverting the status quo of Ra’s from dead to living (how long did they let him stay dead?) and nothing much else, so what’s the point? It’s a moderately impressive achievement for telling a coherent story over many books, but in the end it’s something for the Batman fans only, rather than fans of the individual writers, whose voices are subsumed in service to the mediocre story. It makes me feel sorry for the writers, who have to stop whatever stories they are doing for another narrative, and for the fans of the individual comic books, who have to suffer the disruption of a crossover.