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!

July Comic Roundup (Part 3)

Harley Quinn #18This is one of DC's best selling books right now and I'm giving it another chance after dropping it around issue 12. The book has gotten a lot tighter in the writing department. I never have trouble following the incredibly silly plots, which used to be a problem for me, and the supporting cast is much more memorable and likable. In the two new issue I have read, Poison Ivy has appeared in both. I really enjoy the pairing of those two. Not to mention that Conner and Palmiotti have to win the award for most explicit lesbian references between Ivy and Harley.That actually brings me to my next point, how surprisingly weird and occasionally filthy Harley Quinn is as a best-selling book. This issue features a sailor who looks exactly like Popeye eating alien seaweed that makes him super strong. Half way through the issue Harley has a multiple page pirate dream sequence featuring the Joker. And this is a top ten selling book!Conner and Palmiotti have really nailed the tone of exactly what a Harley Quinn book should be. It's a great example of artists doing what they want to do rather than trying to be popular and being rewarded for their efforts.Aquaman #42Cullen Bunn's run on Aquaman continues as we, very slowly and in a unnecessarily complicated fashion, are told how Arthur became the enemy of Atlantis that he is in the new status quo.It turns out another dimension is slowly infecting ours and to save the world Aquaman must destroy the world infecting ours. The problem is that the other world is inhabited by people that are somehow Atlantean. The specifics of this were not revealed in this issue, which only helped highlight the pacing problems. All of the exposition is given intermittently through flashbacks while we see Aquaman in the present doing his renegade thing as he fights to protect these other dimensional atlanteans. This is very jarring and a storytelling technique that I feel is used to create a false sense of complexity.The story itself is interesting enough once it gets underway as we meet the gang of underwater themed badasses that Mera has sent to bring Aquaman in. It seems like a change destined to be forgotten though, as there is nothing that feels distinctly "Aquaman" about it. I think this storyline could really be slapped on to any character, and actually feels similar to the incursion storyline from New Avengers. I do plan to continue reading though, and would love to be proven wrong.Hail Hydra #1 (Secret Wars)It was recently announced that Rick Remender was going to be leaving Marvel to focus on his numerous creator owned projects. This was bittersweet for me; while I prefer his independent work, his runs on Venom and Uncanny X-force were part of the reason I got into modern marvel comics. I'm glad to see that the series that might very well be his last work at Marvel is off to a good start.Hail Hydra follows Ian Rogers, Steve's adopted son, as he is transported to a domain in Battleworld where Hydra has taken over everything. I believe the idea here is that this is the regular universe Ian who has been transported forward in time to Battleworld, which is a neat idea from Remender. So far this book really feels like a denouement to Remender's Steve Rogers run and a time for Ian to finally get the spotlight.Lots of good action and interesting set-up. A quality first issue.

July Comic Roundup (Part 2)

Grayson #10My favorite book right now just keeps getting better. With his ex-partner Huntress running Spyral, you'd think things might get a little easier for former Robin Dick Grayson. But when he discovers that he is being framed for murder, Dick Grayson finds that he is on his own against whoever is out to get him. This issue he crosses paths with the always entertaining Lex Luthor. This book is full of amazing action, intrigue, humour and art. I'll probably never review an issue again since I have so little to say, but I just wanted to get the word out about how good Grayson is.Wonder Woman #42The reign of the Finches (husband and wife writer/artist team David and Meredith) continues as they begin their second arc on the book. This issue opens with a bit of a PSA about men being respectful to women in a club situation as a slimy guy tries to grope Wonder Woman and gets a judo flip for his efforts. Sometimes this sort of soapbox writing can be detrimental to the quality of a book, or can take the reader out of the story. It is very quick and honestly if any character should be allowed to get on a soapbox about woman's rights it is Wonder Woman, so I didn't mind it.We are introduced to our new villain: Aegeus, great-grandson of Theseus. He is a regular guy who wants to become the god of war and is being backed by an unseen party. The Finches have been sticking to the groundwork laid by Azzarello and Chiang in their well-beloved run that preceded this one. They are continuing to utilize the Greek Pantheon as a supporting cast and as plot points and I appreciate the continuity.For a book that I initially thought was very weak, I enjoyed this issue a lot. I think we are watching Meredith gradually become a better writer and this is the best art I've ever seen from David.Punisher #20Frank deals with the end of the old universe the only way he knows how, by murdering a whole bunch of people. While I have found Edmonson's Punisher run to be a bit on the boring side, this issue provides a possible ending to Frank's story an it's really a lot of fun. Frank is crossing any and all borders to punish as many people as he can before the universe ends (thanks a lot secret wars!) and he wages an all out assault on a terrorist compound.Definitely a must read for Frank fans. Lots of great action and character moments. Plus murder, lots and lots of murder.Magneto #20Magneto also faces the end of days in his second last issue of this volume. Writer Cullen Bunn really has a handle on just what makes Magneto tick as Eric rage against the machine in an attempt to stop the end of the universe (secret wars again). Most of the issue is told in flashback as we see Magneto preparing for what we learn is a suicidal attempt to save the world.I am really enjoying these last days tie-ins to secret wars and would have liked to have seen more of them. Being able to give an a-list character a definitive ending is pretty rare. Hopefully the last issue of Magneto is able to maintain this momentum.