I’m not a huge Grant Morrison fan, but I don’t hate him either. To me if you can tell a good story that has me eagerly turning from one page to the next in anticipation, then the writer has done a great job. But in the case of Morrison’s debut on the Batman title, I have to say I’m truly conflicted.
Batman 655: Batman & Son: Building a Better Batmobile
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Andy Kubert
I don’t mind being dropped into the middle of a story, but it needs to be done with some finesse. In this case, we are plopped right in the middle of Commissioner Gordon falling from the top of a building, being caught, and discovering he has been poisoned by the Joker. Turn the page and we find the Joker over an unconscious and bloody Batman with a group of disabled kids tied up watching. As the Joker admires his work, he doesn’t quite notice Batman pointing a gun at his head. BLAM! Point blank to the face.
Only then do we discover that this Batman was a fake. Talk about a What The F*@$ moment! Had this been some weird trippy dream I might have forgiven Morrison, but in this case, it is a terrible way to start a run. I don’t mind the violence at all, but most of us who take a shot to the face point blank from a gun are going to be dead, yet the Joker survives. Even the resolution of who the Bat-imposter is at let down. By itself, this storyline could have fed at least a three issue arc.
This isn’t the first Batman issue of One Year Later, yet the first couple of pages make the reader think s/he’s missed something. Once I got past this intro, the issue does settle down a bit, and Morrison actually has some great moments.
I saw a couple of other commentaries on this issue where people were taken aback by Gordon’s “not so funny” comments while in the hospital recovering from Joker Juice. I was not surprised, as this is probably the exact reaction someone would have while coming down from the madman’s cocktail. It’s almost like he has Tourette’s syndrome, he can’t help spouting out these off comments in spite of himself.
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Apparently Batman has had so much energy since coming back from his excursion abroad that crime in Gotham in nonexistent. So what is a Batman to do? Apparently work out, eat, and tinker in the cave. Another great line from Morrison as Robin attempts to check out the new Batmobile.
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As Robin head’s out of town, Bruce Wayne is off to London to attend a fund raiser, but instead of a quiet moment of being Bruce Wayne he is interrupted by Kirk Langstrom (a.k.a. Man-Bat). Langstrom is apparently in a hurry to help his kidnapped wife, but it isn’t until the final page that we find out the Man-Bat/Batman connection. Some crazy chick – presumably Talia and a young Ibn are pointing at a photo of Wayne, with the kid saying, “That’s my father.” Above them are legions of Man-Bats (or are they Men-Bats??).
Regardless, all the stuff the reader has to endure to get to this point is really not worth it. A few good moments, but overall this issue is not the best one I’ve read – and I’ve read every Batman and Detective issue for the last 20 years. The only saving grace for Batman 655 is the art by Andy Kubert. His work is as solid as ever.
While I look forward to seeing more of Kubert’s work, I’m not so sure about Morrison. Morrison has written Batman before and did a good job of it. I loved his Gothic storyline from Legends of the Dark Knight, and was okay with Arkham Asylum, but in the 17 years since he first wrote the tales of Batman, it just feels like he stumbled.
Unless he can really turn the story around I have a feeling many readers are going to drift to something else, and for the flagship title in the DC universe that isn’t a good thing.
Batman 655 receives 2.5 stars out of 5.