The Grant Morrison Bat-Epic Part 1: Ninjas, Pop Art, And Building A Better Batmobile

Greetings Yetiheads! (Yetiheads is a term now, accept it)This is the start of an ongoing series where I take an in-depth look at my favorite comic-book run of all-time, Grant Morrison's enormous 7-year Batman story. Let's start at the very beginning (a very good place to start) with the opening storyline, the aptly titled Batman & Son.I want to see the Venn diagram of People who care about an article about a Batman run that ended 2 years ago vs. people who would get a Sound of Music reference. I'm going niche Baby!The arc starts with a bang in Batman #655. The commissioner has been poisoned by the Joker! Batman is helpless on the Rooftop of the GCPD!You think Leto will have a Jokercopter? Dumb question, of course he will Unfortunately for Puddin', this isn't Batman at all! It's actually a cop dressed as Batman who proceeds to pull a gun out of his utility belt and shoot Joker right between the eyes. Being the Joker and all, he doesn't die from this and  we get a great moment where the real Batman is carrying the Joker and upon discovering that he is still alive tosses him into the dumpster. Harsh, but  I mean it is the Joker. This cop seems unimportant initially but both he and the idea of "alternate Batmen" will continue to be important. More on that later.Next we learn that with the Joker now in custody, Bruce has effectively wiped out all of the supercriminals in Gotham. This is part of what I personally love about Grant Morrison, but also what can make him so divisive; he never writes a story without including some sort of meta-commentary about the story himself. Here it is the idea of recreating Batman in a way that makes him feel fresh and new without abandoning or ignoring his roots. This is idea represented throughout the series through Bruce's desire to build a better batmobile, which starts with the realization that Bruce has pretty much perfected the old way of doing things (gritty supercrime in Gotham) and it is time for him to try something new (colourful international supercrime)."Does it come in black?" - Bruce at the tarp storeThe interaction with the Joker is a perfect example of this. We open with a classic Joker/Batman scenario, poisoned commissioner, hostage kids, ect. and it is immediately flipped on its head as Batman does the unthinkable and tries to kill the Joker. I'm not giving too much away by saying that Joker won't exactly care that it wasn't the real Batman, and the relationship between the two characters will evolve as a result. Joker will still be in Batman's world, but it isn't the same old type of stories that we have come to expect.Another idea that is presented in this first issue is that Bruce has fallen so far into the Batman persona, that he has forgotten how to be Bruce Wayne. The next issue features Bruce expanding his horizons by attending a fundraiser in Africa where he really struts his playboy stuff. One of my favorite things about Morrison's run is the way he writes Bruce. I think he is one of those character that it can be difficult to make interesting, outside of the context of being Batman, and as a result either have the Bruce Wayne personality be either a paranoid lunatic or non-existent. Morrison instead chooses to make Bruce an interesting and enigmatic scoundrel, with a wry sense of humour and an air of self-awareness about the ridiculousness of the things he does and the world he lives in.Bruce talking with future-flame Jezebel Jet (her name is alliterative, so you know she's important)The fundraiser is actually an art show, featuring comic book art, which allows for a bit or meta-commentary on comic books as art. Batman himself states that if there is one thing he hates "... it's art with no content." Morrison argues that a book about ninja man-bats can still be high art and the dynamic action scene from Andy Kubert that follows, where Bruce fights the aforementioned Man-bats while the comic book panels in the background simulate old school sound effects and thought bubbles make it hard to argue with him. It's such a perfect blend of new and old as Bruce fights a fusion of two classic foes (Man-bat and the League of Assassins) while referencing silver age characters like Vicki Vale and Aunt Agatha.Aunt Agatha was introduced to help alleviate the rumours that Batman and Robin are lovers.We learn that Talia Al Ghul, daughter of Ra's, has set up this attack by forcing Kirk Langstrom, the original man-bat, to give her his formula. Talia is another classic Bat-character, and longtime love interest for Bruce, that Morrison is reinventing. Here she is less innocent bystander and more of an equal with Bruce, as she defeats him merely to get his attention. We end this issue with the reveal of what she wants his attention for: an introduction to his 10-year old son, Damian Wayne.What a delightful little scamp.We'll pick up here next time, as we learn why Bruce is such a deadbeat dad! Until next time, keep Zurr 'En Arrhing kids!