Friday, April 3, 2009

The Grant Morrison Batman Trilogy

When you say something is a Trilogy, it implies that there is a series of 3 consecutive stories in a row, all that have a beginning, middle and end within each other, but still connect as their different stories but a consecutive story as well. Probably the best example is the Star Wars trilogy, sure, together all 3 are a single ongoing story, but each movie is where you can watch part 1 and feel satisfied before you have to watch part 2. Nowadays people don’t try to pull of a trilogy like that anymore as it’s either a scary idea that could flop and lose money, or it just doesn’t work as well. Though really you don’t hear the term trilogy as much when it comes to comics and the obvious reason is that comics are a constant series, often, of books coming out month to month then being collected. Though when I refer to a trilogy of comics I mean the books themselves as the collection books. Such as if there was a series called “Man-man” that had 3 volumes of stories that, while different, built to a conclusion in the third volume from events from the first 2 volumes.

Here we’re going to look at the 3 volumes of what I call the Grant Morrison Batman Trilogy. Now you could also call this the Grant Morrison Batman Saga but you get the point, I’m referring to it as a trilogy since to the main story, starting with Batman and Son, continues in The Black Glove and into Batman: R.I.P. as a full saga but also a trilogy of these three collection books.

Now I’ve already reviewed Batman and Son way back in August, so while I won’t be taking that entire Collection Spotlight and reposting it I will be taking some paragraphs from that and adding new material to the review of it. I will then review the other two volume in order and finally give my overall opinion of the Trilogy, how it all played out, you get the point.

Part 1: Batman and Son

With Art by Andy Kubert.

The opening here is what really set the stage in the long run as Joker is shot in the face by an imposter Batman, point blank just as the real Batman arrives. It was a superb way to open up this entire trilogy really seeing as this had an intense effect on the Joker.

Talia poisons the wife of the original Manbat (his name escapes me right now) and tells him to make more of the serum, or his wife dies. This was a quick and interesting thing that had me gripped to the story, even if it was fairly short.

Speaking of Talia, I think this is the most villainous she’s ever been. She’s been a mixture of anti-hero and villain, but here she is just downright evil. Makes me wonder if Morrison forgot how she acts. Despite this, she still has her few, and yes, there are very few, good moments.

Now the main point to Batman and Son isn’t Talia or Batman being Bruce Wayne again, it’s about Batman meeting his son for the first time. One would thing this is a huge turning point in the batman comics, but really…it doesn’t seem to shake things up much, if at all, really. Like a whisper in a hurricane maybe.

Damian is immediately cold, calculating, murderous, violent, the ultimate brat. Morrison does a good job of showing us that this is not a good child, this is, in every sense of the world, an evil little child. Though he gives Damian a moment or two to try and show he isn’t pure evil, it fails to take away the image of this cruel and hateful person.

While it is great to see Damian clamor for his father’s attention and love, at the same time, it’s so absurdly futile that it gets frustrating fast. Damian and Batman’s interactions rarely are good, if interesting, and for a story called Batman and Son, one would hope for better interaction than this. What few times they do speak they are fairly hostile towards each other. I almost wonder if Morrison decided to take the completely opposite way of how a father meeting his son for the first time was his main idea to that.

I applaud Morrison for not going the simple route of loving father and perfect son, but this extreme is just too far to the other side of the spectrum. Cold and vicious doesn’t make for an interesting read. Though at the same time it was a great change of pace but yes I feel he hammered in the point that these two do not get along and do not like each other just a bit too much. After a while it became obvious overkill.

The Clown at Midnight was a fairly good, but odd, story and it really just amounts to Morrison getting Joker all ****ed up and ready for his appearance during R.I.P.

The second half of this storyline might as well have merged with the second half of The Black Glove collection as it sets things up right away with the Three Batman created by Dr. Hurt. We see the first of the three as Bane like Batman and he’s using Hookers left and right, supplied by the police, the first piece of the puzzle is given here.

Batman gets knocked around quite a bit, but later on is able to defeat him only to be forced to stand down as he is seen to be meddling in something that is deemed not his business and the book concludes shortly after that.

Now one thing I wanted to mention was all the Zur En Arh graffiti seen on the streets, similar to Batman having a dream of the third evil Batman, this was another small lead in to the events of Batman R.I.P. and it was nice work on Morrison’s part to start all the way from there.

Of course there was the 666 storyline which I absolutely loved, but really that doesn’t need to be re-commented on as for the current trilogy, it’s not quite as important.

Andy Kubert’s art was pretty good, he has some awkward and weird moments here and there but those aside, it’s great.

Overall I enjoyed Batman and Son quite a bit for a more unique and crazier take on the Dark Knight’s world and it was a great start to the trilogy. It’s not my favorite of the three books, as that is the Black Glove but for an opening book it does the job very well and is still a solid book on it’s own/

Part 2: Batman the Black Glove

With Art by J.H. Williams the 3rd, Tony Daniel and Ryan Benjamin

Similar to Batman and Son this book is divided into 2 stories that both are important in the long run to the trilogy. The first half is my favorite as it involves The League of Batmen getting together and being plotted against by The Black Glove as a murder mystery goes crazy.

For me this was the best part of the entire trilogy because this is a great mix of exactly what Batman is. Mystery, action, some horror, it’s gripping and as a Batman fan I really love it. The plot has many twists, none of which I want to spoil as every twist and turn will no doubt surprise you and excite you even if just a little.

The characters in the League of Batman are all great and are fleshed out very nicely through key moments of dialogue and character moments. My favorite being Cyril as he’s just cool as all hell, though just about all of them really are great characters with great moments. This is the closest the Trilogy ever comes to feeling like a real traditional Batman story though which is almost sad.

This story is what really introduces the Black Glove and the idea of this character’s presence which is furthered in the second half of the book where the third of the Evil Batmen shows up at the police station raising hell.

From here Batman soon gets captured and goes on a somewhat psychic trip through memories and it’s a little weird, though through it we find out the truth about how 3 Batmen where created should Batman ever die, all 3 created different ways by Dr. Hurt, the Third created the worst with satanic symbol torment that drove him insane. It’s incredibly interesting and I wish we’d spent more time on that then Batman’s memory lane stroll.

The conclusion is somewhat satisfying as Bat-Bane is killed but the Third escapes into the night leaving Batman to ponder of the Black Glove.

The final storyline to this volume in the Trilogy is as throwaway as it gets with a simple dinner between Bruce and his current love interest Jezebel Jet ending with them being taken hostage for all of 10 minutes. It basically ends with her discovering Bruce is Batman, leading into Batman R.I.P.

I decided not to mention about Jezebel yet because this is the only point her character earns even a small amount of worth as far as the Trilogy as concerned. Up to this point she’s another waste of space love interest with no real character importance and she is bland as all hell. Morrison is a talented writer but even talented writers can make uninteresting characters and Jezebel Jet was about as uninteresting as it gets until the final chapter of R.I.P. really.

The art here was an odd mix bag. Williams was absolutely brilliant and is one of the most unique and talented artists at DC today. His style just pops with an energetic life to it but also has a grim and creepy feel at all the right times. Daniel is a great artist, often great detail and a powerful energy though he’s not perfect he certainly does the job very well. Benjamin’s art…how to put this nicely…is like if there where a five year old’s drawing of a whale at the end of an elegant and beautiful panting of the sea and the creatures in it. It’s bland, it’s tasteless and it’s awful. Characters have no emotion and faces look like large volleyballs with circles made for eyes. He cuts it as far as making characters look halfway human, but that’s it.

Overall I love this book as it is my favorite of the trilogy. Sure, Morrison boringly drudged up old moments like Batman spooking Joe Chill and all that, rather boring, but he also implemented more of the Dr. Hurt aspect which came to full fruition in the final book of the Trilogy.

Part 3: Batman R.I.P.

With Art by Tony Daniel and Lee Garbett

This is what the two prior books have been leading up to, we know about Dr. Hurt, the isolation tank Batman used to try and understand the Joker, all of it that lead to now with what we all figured would be the revelation of the Black Glove. For some R.I.P. was nothing but empty promises and a lost trust in the storytelling of Grant Morrison, as really the story finally concludes in Final Crisis ,with Batman being desolated to back in Caveman times. While I hate how the title is false advertising, I can’t deny that R.I.P. had a lot of satisfying moments that made it a good conclusion to the trilogy.

The story picks up after Jezebel found out Bruce’s identity, it plays out very simple in the opening chapter. We’re introduced to the Club of Villains who turn out to be rather mediocre threats in the long run as the only true villain among them is the later joined Joker and Dr. Hurt.

The villains are really lacking and while it was great to have Joker return to full insanity and greatness this was about as good as it gets for villains. Also in my original review I stated that I was hopeful Joker was dead, as he’s been over used recently, I retract that statement as this storyline reminded me why I love the Joker.

The plot goes along just fine until Zur En Arh shows up and makes Batman lose his mind, only for him to come back after living a short while as a hobo as the Batman of Zur En Arh. People have criticized this constantly and really, even when you add in the rationality of how this is a mental back up for Batman it’s still a stupid thing no matter what. It’s something that will be forever criticized and well deserves it.

I feel that here is where Morrison sort of lost me, it’s clear he didn’t want to tell a direct story with all this build up he’d done but that rather he was striving to be as unique as he could be to try and really let this story stand out and get people’s attention. While I applaud him for not wanting to just do the same simple storyline I can’t deny that he sacrificed a more enjoyable reading experience for originality.

The conclusion is what really brought it home for me as the final chapter is what this story should have been the whole time, an epic clash of Batman and the forces of the Black Glove. It’s as if Morrison stuffed all we really needed into the final chapter which really is cool, but annoying at the same time. Batman is back to his old self, he digs himself out of his mini-grave and he kicks ass and takes name.

By now it is also revealed that Jezebel Jet was an ally of the Black Glove which finally gives her characters some credit and worth which surprised me and was a great twist. Also her final fate, while in the air, it’s pretty certain she was killed by Talia’s Ninja Manbats.

Dr. Hurt is thought to be Thomas Wayne, along with some bogus story about Alfred being Bruce’s biological father (paternal in that he raised Bruce but nothing more really) which was a really interesting point but we didn’t really see it go anywhere which was a shame.

Overall the final chapter to R.I.P was fantastic and really brought it home and I loved it. Though really, everything between the first and final chapter is just weird and doesn’t really do anything interesting or important as far as the actual conclusion and where it goes.

There’s also the Last Rites tie in where we see the captured Batman reflect on his life as he is being manipulated by the minions of Darksied. The first chapter was okay but the second was better as Batman turns his memories into an actual weapon to escape, which really was incredibly awesome to lead into Batman’s overall disappointing fate in Final Crisis.

The art here was great and Daniel really got to cute loose and get pretty wild with Batman as far as his Zur En Arh counterpart and all that fun stuff. It was great and very solid work, Garbett, while not at the same level as Daniel and definitely an artist who needs to sharpen his skills more did a commendable job and was passable.

Overall I enjoyed R.I.P. mostly for it’s phenomenal final chapter but that’s about it. Most of it was long, uninteresting and just shoveling towards the ending and wasting time. Still it was overall a good story though easily the weakest in the Trilogy, which is not a good thing since it’s the final book.

Final thoughts and Overall Opinion

My overall opinion on the Grant Morrison Batman trilogy is that it’s a strong saga with great build up and many awesome memorable moments and incredible art through it. While it will never be as legendary as Dark Knight Returns or leave as big of an impression as some of the other Batman stories over the years it still is done well with great twists and great characters as well. I highly recommend you check out all 3 books if interested, as together they tell a solid and cool saga and make for a great Trilogy.


BrikHed said...

He had me as a fan until the death of Batman or whatever happened... then he lost me. Grant Morrison and Batman are dead to me

Andrenn said...

I am the same way (sort of, going to get Batman and Robin) where it just really killed the momentum to stupidly put Batman in Caveman times.