Thursday, June 17, 2010
Monster barbecue! Grant Morrison continues his Elvis Costello-esque track record of doing whatever the hell he wants with Batman, readers be damned. I really hope that no casual readers picked up this issue in hopes of getting into Batman, because a Morrison time travel story with several different artists can be difficult to follow. As a Batman/Morrison fan, I really enjoyed this issue, and the idea that "there will always be Batman" made me feel . . . safe.
I felt like Morrison didn't have as firm a grasp on Bruce/Dick as he did on Dick/Damain, and that's likely because he's used to writing for his current team. It was fun to see a lighter side of the Joker in the first "chapter" with the Batman of the past, and then watch the progression of Batman villains to more and more psychotic, like 2-Face-2. In the end, the mystery doesn't matter, because it's time travel, but this was a really fun milestone issue. A lot of the time, big-deal issues suck, because it seems like the writers know everyone will buy number 700 or whatever number they're up to, but I have a feeling this issue will be important later, especially the Damian Wayne future stuff. I could write more, but this is a round-table, so I defer to J-Gatts.
I have to agree with Alan that Batman #700 really works best when Morrison is writing his current team, or any scene featuring Damian. I'm beginning to believe that he's actually got a firmer grip on Damian than he does on Bruce, but it makes sense as Bruce is not his creation. If you would've told me even a few years ago that I'd think Batman having a son was not only a good idea, but that he'd be end up as one of the best characters in the DCU, I probably would've farted on your head.
(However, bringing Jason Todd back will always be a stupid idea).
Farts and Jason "who gives a shit" Todd aside, there's almost too much to love about Batman #700. I loved the '70s Batman opener. I love the classic Riddler costume, love old Catwoman costume (me-ow), and I love anything with a fun-lovin' Joker. I love that the Mutant Gang showed up to the party. The cover gallery in the back was incredible. But most of all, man do I ever love "Trenchcoat Future Batman." What I wouldn't give for that Batman to have his own series. Batman Beyond is fine and all, but holy shit Damian as Batman is a scary and awesome sight to behold. Ever since Batman #666, I've been dying to see more of that world. Just look at 2-Face-2!!! Kuato lives!
Morrison has totally redefined Batman much in the same way Frank Miller did with Dark Knight Returns. If it weren't clear enough before Batman #700, it sure as hell is now. Yet unlike Miller's four-issue sucker-punch, Morrison is changing Batman over the course of years and across at least three series. The differences hardly stop there. While Miller re-invented the bare-knuckle Batman, Morrison is more concerned with legitimizing the wildly weird sci-fi side of Batman, creating a continuity that is as colorful and bizarre as the '60s television show, minus the ridiculous idiocy. In many ways, Morrison's angle is a much more fun, albeit challenging, take on the caped crusader. While Miller's story did take Batman into the future, it was still a very grit-and-grisly Batman (not to mention he was a bit of a right-wing psycho). Despite all my Morrison v. Miller talk, there's that brief appearance of the Mutant Gang in Batman #700, which was one of my favorite parts of the issue. It was a stark reminder that even the briefest reference to the Miller's work brings back happy memories of reading DKR for the first time.
So before this devolves into another Damian-loving-lecture, I'll pass things over to the man in the ringmaster's hat, Mr. Mucci.
Despite how anyone might feel about Morrison's writing style, he's a risk taker. Instead of populating his stories with exposition to tell the reader what came before, he lets us infer from what's happening now-- which depends a lot on the abilities of the artist, and the artists show up in full force here. In lieu of exposition Morrison jam-packs his stories with ideas, like Batman throughout time (an idea he's exploring in the Return of Bruce Wayne series), how Batman's villains might evolve throughout time, and how the concept of Batman might change physically...but the core character is always the same.
As for the guts of Batman #700, I loved it. I didn't love it at first because Morrison did that thing he does where he tosses you in the middle of a story and leaves you to puzzle out the when, where and why of it all. Once it switched over from the Silver Age "Caped Crusader" to the modern day Dick Grayson Batman I figure out the hook and went along for the ride. Alan's right in that this isn't an issue for those old school collectors who want a big event storyline, but it's a great issue jam packed with Batman theory.
Batman theory? Did I just make up a new philosophy? Morrison made me do it!
Jonny Gatts brings up a good point with the Morrison v. Miller comparison. It seems like Morrison is working really hard to give the reader a new point of reference concerning Batman, closing the book on the Miller stuff that's been influencing the character for so many years and hybridizing the Dark Knight Detective, Martial Arts Master with the Silver Age weirdo science incarnation.
Anyway #700 is a great little Maybe-story featuring a Batman for everyone!