Grant Morrison’s “Batman”: 7 perfect, epic, masterful years…?

dkr 10 Before you contact me about this article – or go buy any book by Grant Morrison, be sure to check the end of this text. Thanks!

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I understand what people didn’t like about Grant Morrison’s run, but a lot of those things are exactly why it was so special to me. I understand why some people were put off by the obscure references, labyrinthine structure, meta themes, and ambiguity but all those elements made for a unique, unforgettable experience. I absolutely LOVE the entire epic, and found it so satisfying to read the whole thing.

I’ve eagerly awaited each issue since ’06. I’ve spent the past several days re-reading the entire run, leading up to Batman, Incorporated 13, and I feel it worked as a satisfying conclusion. I thought it was a fantastic ending. Jesus, these panels and images looked so awesome and interesting!

Grant Morrison really likes to incorporate philosophy and other ideas into his writing. It’s not so much about the story, but the idea of the character. His Batman run is really about the spirit of Batman – which is a man overcoming grief to fight death and chaos. The main theme of his Bat-work has been performance, costume and alterations of identity. It’s like Bruce said, everything between him and Talia, him and Hurt, even him and Darkseid is just Grand Opera, petty people/gods/people infected by gods hurting others immorally to bring some relevance to their lives, acting out their feelings on the world like it is a stage.

As the finale of his Batman epic, I thought it hit all the right notes. There are differences between the different arcs as Morrison explores different aspects of Batman, but I can’t recommend it enough, especially if you’re interested in Morrison in general. The last volume, Batman Inc vol2, has been the story of one fucked up divorce. I’ve never had one of those. I think for people who have had nasty breaks, this story might be extremely potent, the same way I’ve seen people who have struggled with depression respond to The Filth and Final Crisis.

If you managed to stay on board you got to enjoy the greatest modern Batman run. Maybe the greatest ever! I don’t think this run will ever be topped by another Batman writer. It was absolutely genius, and sadly it took me forever to realize that. So many great moments and absolutely mind-blowing for what I think of the character. Highly enjoyable story arcs and wonderful art!

Zur-En-Arrh was one of my favorite comics moments of all time. Even when he’s batshit-off-the-wall-crazy, homeless, and amnesiac, Batman is still Batman. Oh, you broke his mind and will? He had a BACKUP PERSONALITY ready to roll because he’s Batman. You CANNOT stop him. Zur-En-Arrh was also a great silver age reference. All the silver-age referential stuff is awesome, but it’s just icing on the cake.

Morrison always sums up his references in a quaint, awesome manner right before they come into play. I adore most of his work. But it really rustles my jimmies when people say he sucks, or he tries too hard. Because no. I can understand not liking a dense, labyrinthian work of fiction like “House of Leaves” or “One Hundred Years of Solitude.” But to say a writer isn’t good because he challenges readers to backtrack and re-read and unpack and dig is weak. The guy may not appeal to everyone, he may be egotistical, he may be bonkers, but he’s produced some incredible work:

I’m reading his JLA run right now, I’ll be honest I hated his writing and really didn’t get Final Crisis – but now that i’m halfway through his JLA run, I gave Final Crisis a second try and it makes so much more sense now. Also Rock of Ages is one of the greatest story arcs I’ve ever read. It helps to read Grant’s work all the way through. Now, I love Final Crisis so much, it blew my mind, I read it all in on sitting… I just wish I had any idea what the hell all of it meant. One of the most bizarrely dazzling graphic novels of the past decade.

Also, his All Star Superman remains one of my favorite books of all time. It is the greatest Superman story ever written (all I could think about watching Man Of Steel is I wanted to see a Superman movie written by Grant Morrison not Jerry Bruckheimer). It’s a masterpiece. I don’t think a movie could ever do justice to AS-Superman. Jesus, these panels and images look so awesome and interesting.

With Grant Morrison I like the weirdness and having to check out other things to get the full picture. For a superhero book it comes off weird simply because no one has done that before. His writing made me go seek out things and learn more things I otherwise would have never thought about. Morrison has a very deep understanding of the stories and characters he writes, but he doesn’t understand that his readers inherently don’t. Fortunately, if you’re willing to do your homework you can open up the lotus blossom here and it’s well worth the effort.

I am a huge fan; he is the sole reason I started reading in the first place.

I’m sure people were going to be disappointed no matter WHAT Morrison did. There is an epilogue issue still coming (I’ve heard, I have no real confirmation) so perhaps all of your questions/concerns will be addressed. Although it’s possible that they won’t, that’s Morrison for you. He does not hold your hand through his stories, and when the story does end, it is usually rather abruptly. I find his stuff to be the most slow burn enjoyment in comics.

My favorite part about Morrison’s run was how easily he created new and memorable villains for Batman. And the designs on these guys were fascinating. Professor Pyg and the Circus of Strange. The Flamingo. Oberon Sexton. Doctor Dedalus. El Sombrero. Scorpiana. Le Bossu and the rest of the Club of Villains. King Coal. Grant added 10-20 characters to the Batman mythos.

Honestly, making any sort of lasting villains in a rogue gallery as well loved as Batman is impressive. Professor Pyg is definitely sticking around. He fits in perfectly with the rest of the Arkham crazy. Even appearing in the new Batman show. That itself is an accomplishment I think. I’m going to miss his Batman.

My other favorite thing about it is that he left a ton or material for other people to roll with. Morrison REALLY did a favor to current and future story tellers of Batman. He gave them so many threads to work with, if they want to. He wrapped some of his stuff and made more for others to play with. That last page is great. It definitely has a Seven Soldiers feel, where he set up a bunch of stuff that other people can use.

I just really want a Spyral series now, where El Goucho and the Hood reluctantly team up and bicker while they solve global spy crime and learn important lessons about friendship. It read that. I’d read that so hard. It would be really cool for Batman Inc to continue as a concept, following Spyral, Nightrunner, Batman Japan, all those guys.

To me, this last issue was near perfect. It’s like Morrison is saying to just forget about the calm, zen, collected Batman he introduced. The super-hero that could beat even Darkseid is no-more and we are now left with Snyder’s rendition which appears almost brain dead by comparison and can’t even keep a flock of owls from roosting in his own home.

This ending kind of reminded of the ending to Arkham Asylum, how Batman is always on the watch, how he will always be watching over Gotham. Batman will never die. The final drawing of Batman really hit me hard, how he was swathed in darkness, how he can never escape.

Well done Mr. Morrison, and thank you.

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Spoiler / Disclaimer. Roll over to read:

I have not written this text. It’s a compilation of several user comments on Reddit, taken from THESE two threads:

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Why did I do this? Roll over to read:

I’m fine with Morrison, all in all, and I feel challenged and surprised by his work.

I’m super-exhausted, though, by the hyperbolic and boring texts ABOUT Morrison.

They all sound the same. They all blur together.

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Personally, I have read 24 of Grant Morrison’s trade paperbacks [Link].

I recommend:

I have written a long essay about “All-Star Superman”, in German, for the Berlin Tagesspiegel [German, Link].

Also, I’ve briefly talked about Grant Morrison here [English, Link].

Some other “Batman”-recommendations? Here:

4 für batman.

further reading / interviews:

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GERMAN: Journalismus / Comic-Artikel im Berliner Tagesspiegel:

2 comments

  1. How do you suggest preparing for Final Crisis to get the most out of it? I read JLA 1 and liked the first arc but not the rest, also loved All Star Superman but hated Flex Mentallo.

    1. hey there! thanks for the comment – and sorry for my late reply:

      “Final Crisis” is a hard one, because I spent a LOT of time preparing for it… and still went in under-prepared.

      It helps if you feel passionate about some characters that are involved: you should know who Darkseid and the New Gods are, Barda, Scott Free etc.

      It’s good that you love All-Star Superman because there are some big similar (Superman) moments in “Final Crisis”…

      …and tonally / writing-wise, it is very similar to Morrison’s “Seven Soldiers of Victory” mini-series. (the two of them. “Seven Soldiers” and “Final Crisis”, feature little DIRECT links, and you don’t NEED to read one to understand the other.)

      Don’t read “Countdown to Final Crisis”. Don’t read “Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds” in preparation (it is quite good… but it has little to do with “Final Crisis”). Maybe read Morrison’s “Batman” books, starting with “Batman: The Red Hand”.

      I hope this helps. I had trouble enjoying “Final Crisis” (I liked the other, earlier crises), and I still don’t quite know what to make of that book.

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