Friday, May 17, 2013

Grant Morrison Batman Reading Order

Batman Run (21 issues +)
“52” #30 and #47
Batman and Son: #655-658
The Clown at Midnight: #663
Batman in Bethlehem: #666
Club of Heroes: #667-669
Resurrection of R’as al-Ghul: #670-671 (6 parts in other titles)
Three Ghosts of Batman: #672-675
Batman, R.I.P.: #676, DC Universe #0, #677-681

Lost in Time (32 issues+)
Last Rites: #682-683
Batman #701
Final Crisis #1-7 (especially #1, 2, 6)
Batman #702
Batman and Robin #1-9
Return of Bruce Wayne #1-5
Batman and Robin #10-15
Batman #700
Return of Bruce Wayne #6
Batman and Robin #16

Batman, Incorporated (24 issues)
Batman: The Return
Batman, Inc #1-8
Leviathan Strikes
Batman, Inc vol 2 #1-3, #0, #4-13

Here is my suggested reading order for the entire Grant Morrison Batman epic, 2006-2013. There's really no one right order, because when multiple series titles were telling the story at the same time, the publication order, the story logic, and the chronological time within the multiple series were mixed up three or four different ways. In at least two cases (the Arkham scene in DC Universe #0 and the respective order of the Batman and Robin and Return of Bruce Wayne finales), I think the publication schedule mixed up the intended logic. I think the transition from RIP to Final Crisis in particular makes more sense as I've offered it here, taking us through Bruce's experiences chronologically, instead of withholding the resolution to small mysteries for very long stretches of time.

Not mentioned here are the old stories that Morrison tied in, and the most important two were the Zur En Arrh story in Batman #113 and "Robin Dies at Dawn" in Batman #156. Others were reprinted in a trade paperback called The Black Casebook. However, while the small details of those stories were interesting reading while the Black Glove was an ongoing mystery, they aren't necessary to understanding Morrison's work. A rather large number of stories from 1939 through the Nineties are referenced by Morrison throughout his run, so the amount of background reading one could do would seriously add to the length of the list.

Finally, I'll make my best-of list-within-the-list. My favorite issues and scenes from the run.

1) Batman #680: Doctor Hurt's trap for Batman in Arkham.
2) Batman #674: Batman struggles to escape... and remember the past.
3) DC Universe #0: Batman and the Joker in Arkham.
4) Return of Bruce Wayne #6: Bruce ends the story of all time.
5) Batman and Robin #13: The Evil Thomas Wayne scene.
6) Batman #655: A replacement Batman shoots the Joker.
7) Batman #673: Batman's showdown with Joe Chill.
8) Batman #681: The RIP finale.
9) Batman and Robin #2: Frank Quitely draws Dick and Damian fighting the Circus of the Strange.
10) Batman #683: Batman escapes Darkseid's death trap.

If anyone reads this whole list in the order I suggested, I'd love to hear about it!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Batman Inc, The Path Ahead

With three issues to go in Batman, Inc., we see Batman utilizing at least three weapons of last resort as he charges into battle with Talia's forces. Clearly, he will gain at least a partial tactical victory in this battle. But where do things go? We know at least the following events must be visited:


T1) A second death of someone close to Batman will take place. Because the cover of #11 is still being withheld, it is likely to refer to this second death.
T2) Bruce reverts from man-bat form to his normal human appearance.
T3) At the funeral for this death, Bruce Wayne is arrested.
T4) An eventual resolution of all of these problems, except the two deaths.
T5) At least implicitly, the future timeline as seen in "666" may be referenced.

The solicits for the upcoming issues say:

#11 - Batman’s world has been devastated by his war against Talia, but is he willing to give up on his own humanity?
#12 - Leviathan and the Heretic are on the ropes...could Batman be on the verge of avenging all he’s lost?
#13 - Batman saves the world and loses everything.

As I mentioned in my last post, I believe the death will be that of Kathy Kane, the original Batwoman, who will first be revealed as the mysterious Headmistress from several brief appearances beginning with Leviathan Strikes, and we know to be a sexy brunette who is associated with Spyder, allied with Batman, and puts old-time Kathy Kane costumes on the agents she trains. For her to die now fits a theme of three-part family: the father, the wife, and the son. This is the family arrangement of the Waynes when Bruce was a boy, and now, although Kathy is of no relation to Damian, Bruce has a "good" wife and son in Kathy and Damian, and a "bad" wife and son in Talia and the Heretic. For the father to survive while the wife and son die is a theme also shown in the wonderfully enigmatic opening to Batman and Robin #13. Kathy's role in Batman's life has gotten significant attention earlier in the Inc story, with Bruce having told Dick Grayson, "We're going to be a Bat-Family!"

It is possible that the plot will also kill off the Heretic, although this seems less likely to produce the deep grieving that we saw in the flash-forward to the funeral at Wayne Manor.

The main battle, and thematic crescendo, in the next two issues will involve Batman and Talia. Morrison gave extensive interviews after Damian's death, and a selection of key quotations from those follows:

Q1: "the entire run is being based almost constantly on this sort of confrontation between parent and children."

Q2: "We want to make Batman driven by his vengeance again, and that drive to shoot him in to places where he does good for people, he helps people, he's a superhero and I think that can never be forgotten. Batman turns grief into something positive every time."

Q3: "These last four issues are kind of the vengeance of Batman and the iron fist of the Dark Knight."

Q4: "I always knew I was going to give Batman back kind of like, 'This is the way I found the guy.'"

Q5: "We deal with the Lazarus Pit in the very next issue."

Q6: "I just hope people like the end. It’s kind of a big end and obviously we’re dealing with big emotions now. And we’ll be dealing with the whole red-and-black thing that’s been in play since almost the very beginning and ultimately resolves with the Dark Knight versus the Red Queen. It all makes sense in the end! But I hope it’s got a big opera-like ending and that people get into it."

Q7: "The basic symbol of this story has been the serpent swallowing his own tail. And it was this idea of family destroying themselves, you know? And watching the kids having to deal with it.
And so because Damian is the child of Batman, Damian is killed by the child of Damian via Batman — this monster that Talia has grown and accelerated and turned into a monstrous warrior.
And so it just seemed right in the story of the serpent eating itself and families destroying themselves to take it from, you know, the little perfect child into this broken Frankenstein child who then destroys him. And obviously, Batman's going to have to deal with this thing."

Q8: "I could have written Batman and Robin a lot longer, and Damian could have had more of a life. I would have taken him up to the age of 14, where then he sells his soul to Dr. Hurt, or to the devil, and I'd play out that story. But you know... it just didn't play that way."

Q9: "The conclusion is finally here, with only four more issues to go. Four issues which take Batman to dark places he has never had to visit before. Four issues and I’m done, while Batman himself continues into as yet unimagined future adventures."

Q10: "Batman, Inc. is now the vengeance of Batman. This is what happens when you push him too far. He underestimated Talia, and now Talia has underestimated him.
But at the same time, Batman's dealing with something much bigger than he's ever had to deal with. Talia runs a gigantic, international criminal empire. She's no pushover. So it's kind of Batman going to places he's never been before.
But yeah, all the Batman, Incorporated characters come into it, and the world is threatened. Everyone's in trouble.
And find out where Batman goes when his son dies. What kind of Batman emerges from that?"

Q11: "A lot of stuff happens that you've never seen before in a Batman comic. The death of Damian is quite a big thing so I wanted to make sure all of the issues after have equally huge ramifications for Batman in the future." There will also be one final confrontation between Batman and Talia, where all the real drama lies, Morrison says. "It's not only what they've done to one another but what they've done to their son and what they've done to the world just over a misunderstanding, over a relationship gone wrong."

While this makes clear that a confrontation with Talia will dominate the final three issues, we also know that it will include some significant resolution after the battle, because at point T3 in the timeline, Bruce is ready to accept defeat, but he still has to deal with the arrest and then return to his war just like when Morrison "found the guy."

As I emphasized last time, Ra's speaks knowingly of a bigger picture, one which includes sacrifice and which pleases him more than it will Talia. How active his role in this plot turns out to be may be that of a puppet master controlling Talia, or a much more subtle and passive role behind the scenes, but we've seen that Talia regrets the death of Damian and that it took place when events slipped beyond her control, and yet Ra's seems completely pleased by these events. His reference to a "required sacrifice" has strangely religious, satanic overtones akin to the dark future seen in "666", and if Ra's is not working to achieve this end, he at least seems aware of it, and in favor of it. And his reference to one single detail that Talia forgot may be as simple as leaving Langstrom alive so that Batman could get a man-bat antidote, or it may be something bigger still.

Speaking with Michael Lane in #10, Batman says of the "666" plot, "My son is dead. The future I saw wasn't his, after all." The bolded "his" seems to indicate that someone else will take that place, either to save or destroy Gotham in the future, or to save it now. Perhaps Bruce will play that role now. Perhaps the Heretic will play it now or later. This higher level of plot, where Batman, as the solicit of #13 says, "saves the world" may concern the meta-bomb, playing a role like the Joker's nuclear weapon in Batman and Robin. And the final note of the plot is likely to be the final line of Damian in Batman #666: "The apocalypse is cancelled. Until I say so."