Tuesday, January 4, 2011

#4 for 2010

Grant Morrison’s Batman

It doesn’t matter if it was Batman & Robin, Batman Inc. or the Return of Bruce Wayne, it was all the same story. Some say this is a bad thing, and that all of Grant Morrison’s comics are about the same things over and over again, but I don’t mind. It’s a story that I never get sick of hearing, it’s a song I’ll always dance to.

Morrison’s work on Batman over the past year has been loudly praised (and occasionally derided) for its complexity and cleverness, especially with all the time travel shenanigans and emergence of ultimate evil. But while that’s certainly been enjoyable, the best thing about Grant Morrison’s current Batman comics is how much fun they all are.

The amount of fun found in each individual issue relies heavily on a decent artist, and Morrison has had a mixed group of collaborators over the past year. There have been some real (if expected) brilliance from the likes of Frazer Irving and Cameron Stewart, but the energy in the last few issues of the Return of Bruce Wayne was sapped away by some terribly bland art.

Still, you’ve got to laugh.

It’s a comic where vast and terrible conspiracies from the dawn of man are objects of ridicule and easily defeated by superpeople who don’t have time to waste. It’s one where anybody who takes themselves too seriously – such as the odious Dr Hurt – is relentlessly mocked by the plot and characters.

There were several times when Morrison’s Batman was in extreme danger of going too far up his own arse, but it had such a deceptively light touch that it was able to skate along the edge of pretension with apparent ease.

It’s as disposable as a three minute pop song with a catchy melody and a pulsating bass. It’s in one ear and out the other and tries not to outstay it’s welcome with loads of deft touches.

After all, it had plenty of ‘Gotcha!’ moments, some incredibly well-choreographed fighting and a genuinely novel Batman and Robin relationship, with a lighter Batman barely suppressing a smirk as a young and angry Robin tries to beat up the world.

The obligatory delays that saw issues coming out months late – almost expected in any Morrison project with a bit of ambition – also managed to hide the fact that the storyline zips along at a terrific pace. While Bruce Wayne is bouncing around in time, those who follow in his footsteps are barely given a moment to breathe before some swine comes along and shoots them in the back of the skull.

There have been riots and face-offs and revelations and mysteries in the dark. The Joker has shown up to liven everything up with his fatal charm, and proven to be beyond all these silly little games of good and evil by trumping everybody, even if he still doesn’t avoid the odd kicking.

The relationship between Batman and the Joker has always seen the hero play the straight man to this particular brand of homicidal humour, but he’s always been in on the joke and this time he even gets the punchline.

Like all of Morrison’s comics, it’s extraordinarily tempting to go on and on about the brilliance of the dialogue and the ambiguous plot and everything else, but the thing I always liked about reading Batman comics this year is that they came, they kicked arse, and then they pissed off again.

That’s always a song worth listening to.

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