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Grant Morrison’s Batman Epic Part 7: The Devil’s Daughter

It’s taken me many months, but I have at last arrived at the end of my project re-reading Grant Morrison’s seven-year-long Batman epic.

You can follow these links to read my previous reviews of the last several years of Batman stories: Part 1 of Grant Morrison’s run on Batman, part 2 of Grant Morrison’s run on Batman, Batman: The Animated series’ Paul Dini’s run on Detective Comics, the post-death-of-Bruce-Wayne stories that culminated in Neil Gaiman’s Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?, the re-launch of the Bat-books under the Batman: Reborn bannerPart 3 of Grant Morrison’s run, the launch of the new Batman and Robin seriesPart 4 of Grant Morrison’s run, Time and the Batman, Part 5 of Grant Morrison’s run, The Return of Bruce Wayne, The Long Road Home, the story of the return of Bruce Wayne to life and the DCU, and Part 6 of Grant Morrison’s run, Batman Incorporated.

I am excited to dive into an analysis of the end of Mr. Morison’s story, issues #1-13 of Batman Incorporated volume 2.  But first, a warning: there are spoilers ahead.  There is just no way to discuss this final run of issues without talking about some of the major plot twists.  I will try not to spoil every single twist and turn of the stories, but I’m going to have to mention a few of the big events.  These developments are, I think, pretty well known to comic book fans, even if they didn’t read these specific issues.  But still, fair warning: SPOILERS ahead, so proceed at your own risk.

In the middle of the final arc of Grant Morrison’s storyline, the DC Comics universe was completely rebooted, re-starting all of its series back at issue #1 and re-starting all of its characters and their story-lines.  This “New 52” universe-wide reboot was intended to be a massive blank slate for all of DC’s characters, so that they could tell new stories, unburdened by decades of continuity.  Unfortunately, Grant Morrison’s long-running story was just nearing its conclusion!  What would happen?

Well, his Batman Incorporated series was cancelled and re-started with a new #1.  Fortunately, DC editorial seems to have been willing to turn a blind eye to what Mr. Morrison was doing in his series, and while this new Batman Incorporated title was theoretically set in the “New 52” rebooted continuity, it’s actually way more complicated than that.  The most major plot twist in the story, the death of Damian Wayne, was referenced in all of the other “New 52” Bat-books, which dealt with the impact on the Bat-family on Robin’s death.  So, in that respect, the events … [continued]

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Grant Morrison’s Batman Epic Part 6: Batman Incorporated

Back in 2006, Grant Morrison began writing DC Comics’ flagship Batman title.  Now, seven years (and two title changes) later, Mr. Morrison’s epic Batman saga has concluded.  Over the past six months I have had a heck of a time re-reading Mr. Morrison’s story from start to finish, along with a lot of the other Batman comics written in the past few years before the DC Comics universe-wide reboot called “The New 52.”

You can follow these links to read my previous reviews of the last several years of Batman stories: Part 1 of Grant Morrison’s run on Batman, part 2 of Grant Morrison’s run on Batman, Batman: The Animated series’ Paul Dini’s run on Detective Comics, the post-death-of-Bruce-Wayne stories that culminated in Neil Gaiman’s Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?, the re-launch of the Bat-books under the Batman: Reborn bannerPart 3 of Grant Morrison’s run, the launch of the new Batman and Robin seriesPart 4 of Grant Morrison’s run, Time and the Batman, Part 5 of Grant Morrison’s run, The Return of Bruce Wayneand The Long Road Home, the story of the return of Bruce Wayne to life and the DCU.

Mr. Morrison had killed of Bruce Wayne in Final Crisis, the DC-wide crossover miniseries he masterminded, settling off a major re-shuffling of all of DC Comics’ Batman books.  In the newly-launched Batman and Robin title, Mr. Morrison chronicled the exploits of the new Batman-and-Robin team: Dick Grayson (the former Robin who had become his own solo super-hero Nightwing, before assuming the mantle of the Bat following Bruce Wayne’s death) and Damian Wayne (the son of Bruce Wayne and Talia — the daughter of Ra’s al Ghul — from the 1987 graphic novel Son of the Demon by Mike W. Barr and Jeremy Bingham, a tale that had been considered out-of-continuity until Mr. Morrison’s story).  But, of course, it wasn’t likely that Bruce Wayne would stay dead for long, and sure enough, after just a little over a year, Mr. Morrison wrote the return of Bruce Wayne in the mini-series titled, creatively, The Return of Bruce Wayne.  Published simultaneously, Mr. Morrison brought many of his long-running story-lines to a head in the pages of Batman and Robin, as Dick Grayson and Damian confronted the villainous Dr. Hurt (a silly villain from the ’60s who Mr. Morrison brought to prominence in his story-line, making him a credible threat to our heroes despite his goofy name) and were reunited with Bruce Wayne.  In the final pages of Mr. Morrison’s last issue of Batman and Robin, we see Bruce Wayne call a press conference to reveal that he has … [continued]

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Grant Morrison’s Batman Epic Part 3: Batman & Robin

Grant Morrison began spinning an epic Batman story, back in 2006, one that is only now, in mid-2013, wrapping up.

You can follow these links to read my previous reviews of the last several years of Batman continuity: Part 1 of Grant Morrison’s run on Batman, part 2 of Grant Morrison’s run on Batman, Batman: The Animated series’ Paul Dini’s run on Detective Comics, the post-death-of-Bruce-Wayne stories that culminated in Neil Gaiman’s Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?, and the re-launch of the Bat-books under the Batman: Reborn banner.

Now, after some digressions reading the various other Batman series of the time, written by other authors, it is time at last to return to Grant Morrison’s story.

Following Batman: R.I.P. and his killing-off of Batman in Final Crisis, Mr. Morrison launched a brand-new Batman book: Batman and Robin.  This book would follow the new Batman, former Robin and former Nightwing Dick Grayson, partnered up with the new Robin, Damian Wayne (the son of Bruce Wayne from the 1987 graphic novel Son of the Demon, a story long-considered to be out of continuity until Mr. Morrison included the character in his run on Batman).

Batman Reborn (Batman and Robin #1-3) — The new series launched in fantastic style as Mr. Morrison was reunited with his frequent collaborator, Frank Quitely.  Mr. Quitely is an artistic genius, and he is able to draw some of the most fantastic super-hero comics that I have ever seen.  His super-detailed but slightly off-kilter design work is the perfect complement to Mr. Morrison’s stories. Together they are able to create a book filled to the brim with almost unparalleled weirdness, but also one that is fiercely compelling.  I love Mr. Quitely’s redesigned flying Batmobile (introduced in spectacular style in the double-page splash at the start of issue #1).  I love the way he incorporated his sound effects into his artwork.  I love the “Next in Batman and Robin” panels on the last page of each issue that preview the following issue.

Grant Morrison’s story is at once more fun than any of the other stories being told in the Bat-books of the time, and also far more serious.  I have often commented on Mr. Morrison’s ability to bring a true sense of danger into his super-hero comics.  He is able to create a world in which terrible things can and do happen, and that gives his stories a sense of tension that most other super-hero comics lack.  The last two pages of issue #1 are a great example of this.  In this terrifying two-page sequence, we see the horrific Mr. Pyg burn a pig-mask onto the face of a … [continued]

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“He’ll Do it Because it’s Impossible” — Grant Morrison’s Superman in the New 52!

I’ve been re-reading Grant Morrison’s long run on Batman (click here for part one, and here for part two of my notes on my re-reading project), and I will be back soon with my next installment of commentary on that complex, years-long run.  But last year, while winding down his run on Batman, Grant Morrison also began writing DC Comics’ other biggest hero: Superman.

In late 2011, DC Comics rebooted their entire universe, ending all of their comic-book series and re-launching 52 titles with new #1 issues, in what they called “The New 52.”  (The number 52 has significance in the DC Universe, too complicated to go into here, but suffice it to say that number wasn’t chosen by accident.)  I’ve written about this universe-wide re-launch before (click here and here for some of my comments from last year).  The re-boot of the universe was a little bit uneven.  The Batman and Green Lantern books, though they re-started from new issue number one’s just like all the other DC titles, picked up their storylines seemingly uninterrupted from the pre-“New 52” re-launch.  Other series more dramatically wiped away all of the previous years’ worth of story-lines and continuity.  Most dramatically, this was done with Superman.

When Action Comics re-launched, we were presented with a young, inexperienced version of Superman, one who had just recently arrived in Metropolis.  This Superman was crafted, intentionally, to more closely resemble Superman as he was when he was originally created back in the ’30s.  Rather than the immensely super-powered Superman of recent years, this Superman — while still super-powered — is more limited.  He can leap tall buildings in a single bound, but he can’t fly.  He can be beaten and bloodied.  Young Clark Kent doesn’t work for the Daily Planet, he works for a much smaller newspaper called the Star.  The whole Superman story was re-started from the ground floor.

Grant Morrison took over Action Comics with the new issue #1, and proceeded to write the series for nineteen issues (issues #1-18, plus an issue #o that was published between #12 and #13).  Now, Grant Morrison had already written what I would consider to be possibly the greatest Superman story ever written: All Star Superman.  In that twelve-issue run from a decade ago, illustrated by Frank Quitely, Mr. Morrison told a tale set outside of the regular DC Universe continuity, cherry-picking various aspects of Superman’s presentation from the half-century of Superman stories that had been told, in order to present a sort of “ultimate” version of the Superman character.  This version of Superman contained aspects of the modern version of the character, mixed with some of the more far-out aspects of earlier … [continued]

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Re-Reading Batman the Animated Series’ Paul Dini’s Run on Detective Comics!

I am digging deep into some old Batman continuity, friends!  After starting a project to re-read Grant Morrison’s years-long run on Batman (click here for part one, and click here for part two), I decided to also re-read some of the other Batman comics of that era.  Parallel to the beginning of Mr. Morrison’s run on Batman, Paul Dini, one of the major creative forces behind Batman: The Animated Series (still my favorite non-comic book depiction of Batman), took over Detective Comics.  Right now I am having a heck of a time re-reading Mr. Dini’s run on Detective!

While most comic books of the day favored lengthy, multi-issue stories (something that is still the case today, a style which I quite enjoy when done well), Mr. Dini took the opposite approach.  In a deliberately retro choice, Mr. Dini decided to tell a series of done-in-one single issue stories.  This is a surprisingly difficult task to do well.  To introduce a compelling mystery and/or character story-line, provide several twists and turns for the reader and complications for our hero, and then to resolve everything in a satisfying conclusion, all within the span of just twenty-two pages is fiendishly difficult.  Mr. Dini, thankfully, proves a master at this form of story-telling.  Each issue is a little gem all of its own, an entertaining Batman short-story.

I was particularly heartened to see how seriously Mr. Dini took the comic book’s title.  This isn’t Batman, this is Detective Comics.  Almost every one of Mr. Dini’s stories has a mystery aspect, in which the Dark Knight Detective must use his brains, far more often than his fists, to solve the mystery and foil the villain’s plot.  I love this more cerebral take on Batman.  There are super-villains galore in Mr. Dini’s run, and there are certainly some great fight scenes.  But the joy of each issue is in the slow unraveling of each new mystery, as the reader races with Batman to solve the caper.

Mr. Dini’s run gets off to a terrific start in Detective #821, illustrated by the great J.H. Williams III.  In my post about Grant Morrison’s run on Batman, I commented that the Black Hand three-parter (in Batman #667-670) was my first exposure to Mr. Williams’ amazing art, but I now see that I was wrong, as I definitely read Detective #821 first.  All of the characteristics of Mr. Williams’ spectacular work is on display: the brilliant way he shifts his art style to differentiate different characters and different situations, his dynamic page-layouts (including some particularly jaw-dropping double-page spreads), and a gorgeous, lushly painted depiction of Batman himself.  I wish Mr. Williams had illustrated more than … [continued]

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Last week I wrote about some of the great comics I’ve read lately.  That list was just scratching the surface!  Here’s some more fantastic stuff that I’ve been enjoying recently:

Hellboy: The Wild Hunt and BPRD: 1947 – The Hellboy saga continues in these two new wonderful mini-series.  In Hellboy: The Wild Hunt, things are coming to a head for the big red guy.  Cut off from his old friends and comrades in the BPRD, and hunted by the newly-resurrected Queen of Blood, things are looking grim for our hero!  Last month’s issue (#6) was jam-packed with astonishing revelations about Hellboy’s origin that I never saw coming, but that I thought worked absolutely PERFECTLY.  Meanwhile, BPRD: 1947 takes us through a rollicking tale of the second year of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense as Professor Bruttenholm struggles against vampires and a lot of other weirdness.  The Hellboy universe has really richened and deepened over these last few years, and I am really excited to see where things go from here.

Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man — The relaunch of Brian Michael Bendis’ take on Spider-Man (three issues have been published as of this writing) continues just where the previous 133 issues (plus a handful of annuals and other specials) left off.  Young Peter Parker must juggle his, um, interesting love-life with a boring job at a fast-food joint (since he lost his job at the Daily Bugle following the devastation of NYC in the truly awful Ultimatum miniseries) with, oh yeah, his crime-fighting escapades as Spider-Man!  Mr. Bendis is well-known for his witty, true-to-teenaged-life dialogue, but I think his real strength is the depth of characterization he brings to Peter Parker and all the rest of the extraordinarily numerous cast of this comic.  Mary-Jane, Flash Thompson, Aunt May, “Kong,” Kitty Pryde from the X-Men, Johnny Storm from the Fantastic Four (and it is almost embarrassing how much more interesting Kitty and Johnny are here than in their “home” comics) and many more characters are all brought to amazingly real life in these pages.  I’ve been following Bendis’ run on “Ultimate” Spider-Man and I’ll be with the series until he leaves.  Spider-Man has never been done better (in my comic-reading life-time, at least!).  My only small complaint: I’m not quite taken with the overly stylized work of new series artist David Lafuente.  Let’s see if it grows on me any more after a few more issues…

Stephen King’s The Dark Tower — I fell way behind on this series of mini-series, adapting and expanding upon the back story of Stephen King’s seven-book The Dark Tower opus, but I was finally able to catch up last month.  Breathtakingly gorgeous art by … [continued]

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Well, I hope you enjoyed my lists of the Top 10 TV Shows and the Top 10 Movies 0f 2008.

But, you know, EVERYONE writes those sorts of top 10 lists!  So today, I wanted to send some love in the direction of the best comic books that I read in 2008.  2008 was a PHENOMENAL year for comics, with a lot of great material out there.  Here’s what I felt was the best of the best.

15.  Top 10: Season 2 (issues #1-3 published in 2008) — One of Alan Moore (Watchmen, V For Vendetta)’s greatest works of the past decade was the first “season” of Top 10, published between 1999 and 2001.  It chronicled the efforts of a police force in a bizarre city that seemed to be a meeting point for all sorts of fantasy characters from comics, TV shows, and movies.  Although Mr. Moore has not returned for this second installment, talented writer Zander Cannon along with returning artist Gene Ha have crafted a story every bit as weird, complex, and compelling as Mr. Moore’s original.  Ha’s art remains staggeringly complex and detailed, filled with lots of fun surprises in the background for an attentive reader.

14.  Detective Comics #846-850, “Heart of Hush” — Although Grant Morrison’s “Batman: R.I.P.” storyline over in Batman got all the attention this year, it was writer Paul Dini (one of the guiding forces behind the amazing Batman: The Animated Series) who was behind my favorite Batman story of 2008.  Enigmatic villain Hush returns with a complex scheme to take down the Dark Kight, while in a series of flashbacks we learn how the friendship between young Bruce Wayne and Tommy Elliott went wrong.  Throw in Catwoman and gorgeous art by Dustin Nguyen, and you have a classic.  (Collected edition available here.)

13.  Ultimate Spider-Man (issues 116-128 published in 2008) — I cannot believe how much I continue to enjoy this Spider-Man book.  Guided by the incredible writing of Brian Michael Bendis, who has been writing this reinvention of Spider-Man since issue #1, this is everything a super-hero comic book should be.  It is filled with great action, terrific humor, and incredible continuity and character development.  I don’t know of any comic that is consistently more fun, and the fact that such a high standard of quality has been maintained for 128 issues and counting is amazing.  (The entire run of USM is available in collected editions.  Here is the latest.)

12.  Stephen King’s The Dark Tower (issues 1-5 of “The Long Road Home” and 1-4 of “Treachery” published in 2008) — A complex but coherent story and absolutely gorgeous art by Jae Lae and Richard … [continued]