Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Review # 139: "Batman and Son"

Grant Morrison is a mad genius. You're talking about a comic book writer who develops insane, complex backstories for characters who appear in only one panel. A writer known for dropping subtle hints outlining what is to come, and tiny elements that play a big part later.

But what if you missed that tuft of hair on someone's suitcollar? Well, bully for you as a major event takes place without explanation directly related to it. Guess you didn't do enough research or analyze every minute detail. Therein lies a problem with Grant Morrison as sometimes it seems like he expects too much attention from the reader. For me, his success is defined by how close he comes to that line without actually crossing it. It's no fun to see something great happen, then have to flip back several issues to figure out why it did.

Morrison's time on "Batman" is considered one of the greatest creative runs so far this century. One of the defining elements is its full acknowledgment of Batman's history. Everything that has happened to the character in any of the pages of his books is fair game. From pulp to camp, it could all be canon. Morrison uses this to bring back characters no one remembers and to introduce a new one that is instantly unforgettable.

Years ago there was an Elseworlds story called "Son of the Demon" where Batman slept with Ra's al Ghul's daughter Talia and she became pregnant, unbeknownst to Bruce. "Batman and Son" is where Damian Wayne finally meets Bat-Dad. Inheriting his father's tendency towards madness but not his self-control, the boy is a life-changing nightmare for his father.

As Damian debuts, Talia springs a nest of League of Assassin Man-Bats on a pop art gallery where Bruce is courting international model Jezebel Jett in an attempt to restore a lifestyle away from the cape and cowl. This is one of the most creative artistic sequences I think I've ever seen. Andy Kubert uses the setting - and the background pop art - to mix 60's-era Batman "sounds" with the modern-style action. It's a brilliant blend and a hell of a way for Morrison to set the pace for his time on the title.

Despite the vibrant work, there is a definite darkness to what is happening in these pages. Batman having an insane heir, a disturbing prose-style confrontation with the Joker, Alfred showing a new level of concern for Bruce's mental state, the emergence of the "Black Glove" which has a notable amount of info on Batman AND Bruce: it's clear that the Caped Crusader is about to go completely nuts or die. Or both. Or maybe neither. How convincing can Grant Morrison make it look?

It wouldn't be long until everyone got their answer.

Rating: 9.5/10

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