March 10, 2010

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Batman and Son

Written by Grant Morrison
Illustrated by Andy Kubert, John Van Fleet, and Jesse Delperdang
DC

Grant Morrison is many things as a writer. Shy is not one of them, especially when it comes to taking risks. When it works, he's brilliant. When he's not, it's a disaster. I can't tell which his Batman is going to be, but it's certainly risky. Give the man credit--handed the reigns of the biggest title in DC's family of comics, and he doesn't ease off the gas pedal of innovating storytelling.

Those of you who like your caped crusader simple, gritty and completely devoid of the weird should just acknowledge that most people will like this, you personally will hate it, and move on. For everyone else this is Batman through the Doom Patrol prism. How well that's going to work is anyone's guess. This is Batman written without worrying about continuity (though there's plenty of use of the backstory), desire to please the regular fan boys, or even keep a cohesive story in place.

We start off almost normally--Bats tries to ground himself after all the events of One Year Later and finds out that Talia drugged him and did him, and got a little baby killer out of the deal.

Yikes! Imagine the back child support on Wayne's income!

The baby Bats is a lot more vicious than anyone around him and soon Bruce must face both boy and mother. Talia really shines here in taking over for her criminal father and driving Bats batty. Morrison's writing is top notch, weaving references (even Aunt Harriot!) around his new plans. He also makes Talia feel dangerous in a way I don't think we've seen in her last decade or so of appearances, so if nothing else, he needs to get credit for that.

Then it all gets a little strange. John van Fleet illustrates a Batman text story versus the Joker (not kidding, one issue of Batman was basically a magazine article) and before we know it, we're into the weird. First, Bats faces off against a Bane wanna-be (with a reference to Matt Wagner's Year One work!) and we learn that there's some secrets he and Dick would prefer not to tell. Then an even stranger future with the Son-of-the-Bat facing off against yet another fake Batman with Commissioner (Babs) Gordon after him all the way. Strange allusions are all over the place, as are deals with the devil and futuristic villains.

Unfortunately, I have no idea where Morrison is going with any of this. It's well written, but even people with a tolerance for non-linear storytelling are going to have trouble keeping up. I fully admit that I did.

Hopefully, all will be explained. It's definitely a refreshing change of pace, but not for the feint hearted.