Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Grant Morrison Era is Over

The Grant Morrison Era of Batman began through the eyes of Commissioner Gordon in an arc titled Batman & Son, which started in the 655th issue of the first volume of Batman. In other words, Grant Morrison's first issue of Batman in a long time, it was drawn to perfection by Andy Kubert. Now Batman, Incorporated 13 has come about and this time, drawn masterfully by Chris Burnham.

You see, Zur en Arhh appeared ever so vaguely around these issues on walls and such. A load of Golden Age and Silver Age concepts started to spring up in a new light in the subsequent arcs, detailing the Three Ghosts and the Black Glove. It was these first three arcs by Morrison that were to lead up to Batman R.I.P. (Rot in Purgatory). It was these three arcs that were so representative of Morrison: new concepts made brighter by a reinvention of what made Batman, well, Batman and how these new concepts, muddled in with the thought erased past, can show the simple truths of the Dark Knight. You see, these new concepts caved in around Batman, pushing him down into the Golden Age, the Silver Age and the early Bronze Age and brought back the concepts, in a sort of opaque way mind you, that actually made people love Batman. Suppose this, that if Morrison's arc had the simple purpose of showing why Batman was loved, would it be so good if it did not detail and enrich the new history with the old?

Batman R.I.P. showed the culmination of the First Act of Morrison's works with Batman. The ending of all this Black Glove business and the ending of all this early-Batman history. Morrison is not that kind of writer who sticks with one tone through the entire run, no, Morrison is the kind of writer who wants to give the reader something new, even if it means revisiting the old. But what happened after was bridging the gap to something completely new. Last Rites and the Final Crisis storyline involving Batman finally fully detailed these Golden Age issues and their relevance now, but allowed for the transition to be made into a completely new tone, the tone that would be used in the arcs of Batman and Robin, the comic book, not the m-m-m-(*cue Bat-Cow)-m-M-M-MOOOOO! When Time and the Batman was released, it was meant to simplify the events of Last Rites and Final Crisis and even though it was told in the same vein as the stories prior to Battle for the Cowl, it was written in a much more simple, yet crazy way, despite reusing several old dialogues. I suppose this first act was to show that Batman will never die.

These arcs of Morrison's managed to introduce the symbolism that he as a writer is most famous for and their significance. From small things like Zur en Arhh scrawled across a dumpster to underground films  having gonnegtions later on in the story, Morrison introduced several key symbols into the story with these first arcs. The only symbol he did not introduce was the Oroboro, because Oroboros worked with an entirely different theme altogether. Like I said, the tone Morrison used when he approached everything up until Batman and Robin was very typical Batman Begins. Due to this, the theme was much darker than anything Batman he had written since. These symbols worked because they showed the dark Batman, even in the looniest Zur en Arhh moments of the story. It was these small symbols and their significance that made the story complicated and hard to read for some, but it was these small symbols that enriched the tale.

Moving on to the Batman and Robin arcs, Grant dealt with issues in a whole new way. He gave a new Batman and a new Robin, both of whom approached a situation far differently than Bruce Wayne would. This changed tone and completely new light-hearted, although a bit gruff, theme opened up several new story telling possibilities for other books as well. It let Paul Dini tell some excellent stories and Tony Daniel prove his mettle as a writer. The first two arcs of Batman and Robin were stand alone, but the third arc, Batman vs. Robin was the beginning of a larger story Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne. The last two arcs dealt with this, all the while displaying the grimness of the first act in a whole new light (ironic, I know). The last issue was a mix of the first two acts completely, displayed by the varying art styles. This second act, however, was more than just this new series, it was also a self titled six issue miniseries that went under the Return title. This sent Bruce Wayne spiraling through time, from cavemen to the end of the world. This was not at all like the last act, which was wholly comprised of Bruce Wayne. Rather, the storytelling of the art made it seem as if we were reading a continuation of Batman and Robin. In the end, this second act was to show that Batman has never been alone.

Then came the third and final act and dare I say it, the best, yet most confusing act, out of all three.This act was fully comprised of a single series, Batman, Incorporated, yet, albeit unfortunately, split into two volumes by the arrival of the New 52. Lets talk about the first volume first, it introduced the idea of Batman Incorporated: a franchise of international Batmen who are in reality an army to prevent the apocalypse. The first couple of issues showed the recruitment process and those who would become the international Batmen, as well as introducing Spyral, Leviathan and the symbol of Ororboros. The beginning is the end is the beginning is Grant Morrison. This symbol stood out more as a way to expose Leviathan in the first volume than anything of really any significance. It also stood as a way to flesh out a few more details of the Dark Knight's past, involving Kathy Kane. Really, though, this volume was little more than something ended too quickly, because it had not even introduced all of the Batmen, truly, and explored all of the ideas I believe it needed to.

One could see that Grant Morrison was planning on working with the Dick Grayson Batman and the Stephanie Brown Batgirl for the last half, but after the New 52 reverted the former and retconned the latter, Dick Grayson appeared as Nightwing and Batgirl disappeared from the story. These were some unfortunate casualties, but their lack of mention more than made up for it. The final twelve issues by Morrison (not that one-off by Burnham) put a far greater emphasis on Oroboros and how the Oroboro was continually affecting Batman. It, unlike the first volume, did not put as much emphasis on Batman's past, a contrast. One may argue against this by the presence of Spyral and Kathy Kane, but all of her appearances were modern and new, based more off of the new of Batman than the old, despite respecting the past. This volume had it's share of dramatics, through Damian's death Jason's adoption of the Wingman title, but in the end, that final issue was magnificent. Grant Morrison said that he thought people would hate it, and many people did because it was not the ending they wanted, same reason why many hated Man of Steel. I digress, though, I loved the ending. It was a nice simple way to finish the story without going too overboard, with good dialogue from Gordon and nice art from Burnham. Some may be pissed that Morrison wrote a cliffhanger and is himself not continuing on it, but if you read comics, you'll know that Morrison wrote the teaser for the new writers like Tynion and Layman.

In the end, Grant Morrison's Batman run, 7 long years of Batman, has finally come to an end, not with a bang, not with a whimper, but rather with a solemn bow of the head, grabbing his umbrella, cap and bidding adieu. Morrison's run ranks amongst the highest of comic runs written, it is in the same category as Geoff John's Green Lantern, Frank Miller's Daredevil and John Byrne's Superman. The Grant Morrison Era is over, now we'll be in a null period again, waiting for Zero Year to finish and to see who out Layman, Hurwitz and Snyder leads Batman to his next great era.

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