Friday, April 16, 2010

Review: Batman and Son

Written by Grant Morrison; art by Andy Kubert

When I started reading Batman and Robin, the idea was to jump right in and not get bogged down trying to catch up to current continuity. It's always a losing battle, because by the time you make your way through all the trades, more issues have come out and you're still not up to date, and before you know it everyone's halfway through a major crossover event and you've been left behind. That's exactly what happened to me when I was trying to catch up on Green Lantern so I could read Blackest Night. I ended up reading a shit-ton of Green Lantern trades and by the time I was done, Blackest Night was almost over and I was sick of Green Lantern (and Geoff Johns).

So I read the first 11 issues of Batman and Robin without having read any of Grant Morrison's previous Batman work. And for the most part, it's been fine – I'm enjoying the books and the mystery that Morrison is setting up. But the more I get into it, the more I realize that I'm missing some very important parts of the puzzle and it would probably be more rewarding to read the whole story.

So I got the Batman and Son collection and read it fairly quickly. It's a good read, although it's kind of jarring to see what an annoying little brat Damian was when he was first introduced. His character has changed so much since then – and I mean that in a good way, not in the sense that Grant Morrison is writing him differently, but in the sense that the character himself has grown and matured.

I don't know what it is with me and the batkids, but they always turn out to be my favourite characters. Dick Grayson, Tim Drake and even Jason Todd are all very interesting, multi-faceted characters that I care about deeply. And now Damian has taken his place in that lineage and he's no exception. It'll be interesting to see what DC does with him after Grant Morrison stops writing Batman. I hope they find a way to keep using him.

But back to this book: I love Grant Morrison's frenetic pacing in these stories, and nowhere is that more apparent than in the opening story. How crazy is it that he started his Batman run with a scene featuring Jim Gordon gone insane from the Joker's toxin, followed by Batman shooting the Joker in the face?! Fans must have lost their shit the first time they read those pages. And Andy Kubert's art is brilliant and dynamic, and it perfectly suits the wild pacing of the storytelling.

Unfortunately, I thought the "interlude" written in prose was absolutely unreadable. And when I say "unreadable," that's exactly what I mean. I was unable to finish it. It's the worst prose I've ever read in my life, and although I suspect that part of it is intentionally bad, it's inexcusable. (I've read other prose pieces by Grant Morrison and they didn't suck like this.) Fittingly, John Van Fleet's artwork is terribly ugly and amateurish. This chapter feels completely out of place in the collection and I had to skip it entirely. I don't care if it contains important story points that I'm missing. I just want to pretend it doesn't exist.

The final chapter in the book is from Batman #666 and features a hellish "possible future" where Batman has died (but is it Dick Grayson or Bruce Wayne?), and Damian has apparently made a deal with the devil and is now Batman. It's appropriately demented and it ends with what must be one of the best lines of dialogue that Grant Morrison has ever written. How this nightmare future fits into the big story is still unclear. Are we heading toward that possible future, or have things deviated enough that it has been averted by now?


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