Having been sick for over a week and being placed in Hospital I took the opportunity to read through Grant Morrison’s entire Batman Run. These can be purchased as a three volume affair (links below on where to find them) and the experience could be summed us as the most captivating but at times confusing read.
In my experience, the very best Batman stories tend to be one shot stories or the singular grouped narratives of the graphic novels. These are isolated in continuity, there may be a nod to a past event for fans or some clever foreshadowing, but for all purposes are self contained events. Looking at titles such as Year One, The Dark Knight Returns, The Killing Joke and Morrison’s work, Arkham Asylum – which was the first comic book I reviewed on this site, these all offer different takes on the role and character of The Batman – because of the freedom that their isolation from continuity gives.
Grant Morrison’s long tenure as DC’s Batman writer (a little over six years) gave him the space to create events in the characters life which would alter and reshape the established continuity and breath much needed new life into the established and revered mythology. In this article, I want to review some of the best moments of this series and why that, although aspects are confusing, Grant Morrision might just be one of the best writers for Batman in the last three decades.
Batman and Son (2006)
This is the springboard which Morrision used to create Bruce and Talia’s son Damian (whom my wonderful brother in law named his son after – so I had a vested interest in this series of storyline already!). Through this creation, Morrison begins to take a unique approach to Batman’s timeline, instead of looking at the various ages of Batman’s immense comic book run as isolated moments – he incorporates them all as element’s of Batman’s evolution – as real events which have happened to shape Bruce Wayne through the years. So throughout this series we see Batmite, Ace the Bat House, explanations of the alien encounters and supernatural tales prevalent in the 1960’s, this is an attempt to reconcile and encompass every era of Batman’s history in an unprecedented ambitious body of work.
The character of Damian, having been brought up by Talia in isolation from his father, is introduced as a ruthless, arrogant brat – trained by the League of Assassins and sent to disrupt his father’s work, fighting crime in Gotham City. Interestingly enough, back in 1996’s Alex Ross’s Kingdom Come foreshadowed this event with the son of Bruce and Talia being named ‘Son of the Bat’ and joining Luthor’s Super-criminal organisation.
Eventually Damian begins to respect his fathers methods, his fellow crime fighters and even elements of his ideology, travelling from someone who kills with no moral qualms into a young man with ability and restraint. He is later regarded as one of the best Robin’s in the history of Batman’s run and a fan favourite, this is possibly the most memorable of Morrison’s characters to date.
The Dark Image of Batman / Freud’s Weapon
As stated before, one of the elements that defined Grant Morrision’s work on Batman was his ability to bring back characters and story arcs from the 50’s and 60’s and inject new meaning into them, these were all long dormant plot lines and Morrison infused them with post modern twists and integrated them fully within his Batman canon.
This was integral to being able to highlight that all these wacky events through the Batman history were real, they were all established elements in Batman’s personal timeline. One of the post modern twists is the re-emergence of the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh. A character who originally appeared in the comics in 1958
Morrision recreated this character as a repressed personality that Batman created within his own mind to combat psychological shutdown. This came into play when Doctor Hurt damaged Bruce Wayne’s mind so badly that he forgot who he was – when the Zur – En -Arrh personality assumed control, he created a make shift costume and became that pure form of Batman again.
A few pages into his first Batman story, Morrison has the Joker shot at point blank range, in the head, by a Gotham Police officer who is dressed in a Batman costume. This generally goes against all the establish rules of Batman narratives, but it an ingenious way to both grab your attention and let the reader know that his narrative path is going to differ from what has been established both.
Morrison brings a new, creative cycle to the Joker (who is unable to speak due to this injury and massive amounts of facial reconstructive surgery). The Joker even goes as far as to eliminate old allies so he could completely recreate himself as The Clown at Midnight.
In the RIP Batman storyline, the Joker returns and is a now terrifying figure, his face covered in scarring and his tongue now fashioned into a snake like slit, this is the redefining of a character who had been trotted out so much that he felt stale. But Morrison uses him to incredible effect – this is the evolution of his idea first penned in Arkham Asylum that the Joker isn’t mad, rather that he is suffering from a form of ‘super sanity’ which causes him to shift into different personalities, explaining why at times, he was a harmless clown and then a merciless killer
Those are just some of the fantastic elements of this epic series which I enjoyed. As stated in my introduction to this article, the complete Run of Grant Morrision’s Batman stories can be found in three published volumes.