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!

33 comments:

  1. Great list Rikdad. As it is all in collected editions now I've often recommended the following reading order of the deluxe editions:

    Batman and the Black Glove
    Batman RIP
    Final Crisis
    Batman & Robin Vol 1
    Batman & Robin Vol 2
    Time and the Batman
    Return of Bruce Wayne
    Batman & Robin Vol 3
    Batman Inc Vol 1
    Batman Inc Vol 2 (yet to be released)

    While this isn't perfect due to the intercutting stories around the return of Bruce Wayne and the annoying collection of the last rites in RIP, I think this order keeps it simple without suggesting people stop part way through a book to read a few pages of another book.

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    1. Very practical list. I hate having to jump between trades.

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  2. I like Rikdad's list. If one wants a "literal" timeline as it occurs in the story arc, you could cram Batman 682-683 in between Final crisis #2 and #6 somewhere since that's when he's in the clutches of Darkseid and battling the Lump in his mind.

    For my money, 682 & 683 are two of my favorite issues in the entire run. Lots of filling in the gaps pre-R.I.P. as well as a good deal of foreshadowing what is to come post-Final Crisis. I also agree that the entire 673 confrontation between Batman and Chill is great -- I especially love the retro-look Tony Daniel gives him (purple gloves and all) as well as the appearance of the Whirly-Bat!

    As for specific scenes, I'd add in the entire Professor Pyg/Damian showdown in Batman & Robin #3. Pyg's monologue about his "Mommy Made of Nails," as well as the perverted "lap dance" that he gives Damian is one of the craziest/wrongest things I've ever seen in a mainstream superhero comic. I remember laughing incredibly hard. In fact, pretty much any scene involving Pyg is awesome. His appearances in Batman and Robin 13-16 are great, too, especially when he's overcome by the crowd of hallucinating Gothamites as he screams about not "wearing protection" -- and then we just don't see him again.

    666 is an incredible one-off issue. While I'm glad they did tell some more stories from the 666 "universe" (in 700 and Inc. v.2 #5), I actually would have been fine if they had left it as a stand-alone story simply because it was so bad-ass: "The apocalypse is cancelled. Until I say so." Great ending.

    Other highlights: The entire Club of Heroes 3-issue arc from 667-669, Chris Burnham's retro look back at Batman and Batwoman's relationship in Batman Inc. v.1 #4, all depictions of the Batman of Zur En Arrh, and the Joker casually offing one of the Black Glove members in R.I.P. -- I just remember it as a dark and subversively funny scene.

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    1. And I'll add that the number of stories collected in "The Black Casebook" trade do not encompass all the "classic" stories that Morrison has referenced, most prominently the story from Batman 153 where Batman and Kathy Kane are trapped on an alien planet and Kathy says, "Dying wouldn't be so bad if I knew you loved me too."

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  3. Brad, that's definitely a useful form to have this in, because tracking down all of the issues is a challenge.

    Nairu, you're right. I found the most interesting references that I had to look up were the individual Club of Hero stories, but there are so many that I didn't have to look up (but in many cases did) that listing them all would almost boil down to: "Read every good Batman story from before Morrison's run." I could post again trying to make a list of the key ones, but it would be huge, and really more about a lifetime Batman study than just prepping for reading Morrison's work.

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    1. Absolutely. Candidly, I'm impressed at the depth of research the likes of you and others put into digging up and explaining all of Morrison's "Easter eggs." It really enriches this lay-reader's understanding and interpretation of what's going on, and will make the entire run so much more "re-readable" in the future.

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  4. Here's mine:

    Black Glove Deluxe
    RIP (minus Last Rites)
    Absolute Final Crisis (which includes Last Rites in Grant's preferred place)

    And then from Chris Burnham's CBR post:
    BR 1-9
    B700
    BR 10
    ROBW 1
    BR11
    ROBW2
    BR12
    ROBW3
    B701
    B702
    BR13
    ROBW4
    BR14
    ROBW5
    BR15
    ROBW6
    BR16

    (I think its too bad Absolute B&R includes Batman: The Return, they should have saved that for an Inc Absolute!)

    Like Grant said in a recent interview: "Bring on the Omnibus!"
    Can't wait to see what order they use when they're eventually released in that format.
    (Which I'll happily buy, even though I own the floppies, deluxes, and absolutes that have been released.)

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  5. Hey Rik, just have 2 questions, why put DC Universe #0 after issue #676? And why Batman Inc. #0 in between 3 and 4? The new hardcover has it before issues 1-6. And the RIP hardcover has the 3 Batman pages from DCU 0 before RIP. Just wondering what you're reasoning is. Thanks.

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  6. Rikdad -- Great list. My questions about it:
    -- Why not include Batman #664 and #665? The scene where Bruce meets Jezebel on the ski slope is classic, and the three Batmen concept really takes hold.
    -- Why Batman #700 where you have it? It's an example of a story that fits the narrative, yet is also outside of it.
    -- I wonder if Batman #702 should go in between FC #1 and #2?

    Finally, I agree with most of your Top 10 list. I would add Inc. V2 #5, however, which had some of the most powerful sequences in Morrison's entire run.

    Thanks again.

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  7. Nairu, personal favorites are always personal and subjective. I have to say, with Morrison, my enjoyment has had a lot to do with whether or not I "get" what he's trying to do, and I frequently haven't. I actually quit reading his run right around #670, not having enjoyed much that came before that. Then I picked up #672 in a comic book store, read the first few pages, and a light bulb went on over my head: I saw he was doing something much bigger and better than I'd previously perceived.

    Something like that happened with Final Crisis: I didn't much enjoy it issue-by-issue as the first six came out. Then after reading FC #7, I felt like I "got" what he was actually trying to do, and since then FC has been one of my favorite things to re-read.

    I suspect something similar has been felt by other fans, to various degrees.

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  8. Noxex, Burnham's list looks like the publication order with a couple of tweaks, notably putting the two finales in the right logical order. I left ROBW and B&R as "blocks" instead of interleaving them, as much as I could, almost out of a personal sense of tedium in switching back and forth. I also recall the Dick-and-Damian scene in ROBW which makes almost no sense if it happens during regular events in B&R: it implies that they dropped everything and went to do a chore in Blüdhaven, then went back to their B&R business. But there is actually some very strained logic in the timeline no matter how you handle it (eg, Damian's return from Gibraltar happened so long after the events at Gibraltar that Bruce and Jezebel had time to start dating, but it should have been hours at most), so you just have to accept some conflicts.

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    1. I feel the same way about Dick and Damien, however I think that Damien actually brings that up. Something like "shouldn't we be getting back the joker?" Which implies that they do in fact drop everything and go to blued haven.

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    2. Noxex, you're right, which comes across either as justification for the awkward plotting or even a joke. (As when Damian asks if Bruce, upon is return, is a clone or a robot. That made me laugh out loud.)

      Another awkward explanation was in ROBW for the bat/super/wonder symbols having been found in a cave in Mesopotamia (in Red Robin), and ROBW said that it was because the symbols migrated culturally across the land bridge, which would be pretty remarkable given that such inventions as the wheel and writing did not.

      The clues about Bruce's time in the past and old Thomas Wayne are interlocked between B&R and ROBW (and Batman #701-702) in an issue-by-issue fashion, but these often interact so slightly, it felt a bit tedious to me to suggest interleaving the issues one by one, as in Burnham's order. It's correct, but I think it plays out better when you read two comics a month, versus sit down with all the material at once.

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  9. Bones,
    Great questions. The "cards" scene, I think, almost _has_ to go after #676, because the Joker has knowledge of the Black Glove plot by the time it happens. The end of #676 shows (or, actually, doesn't show, because the lights are out) Le Bossu telling the Joker about the plan, and pointedly indicates that that's the first the Joker is hearing about it. We can imagine that additional conversations took place off-panel before that, but it's simpler to imagine that the scene should go after #676.

    I put Inc (vol 2) #0 in the publication order. Truthfully, you could put it much earlier, before Inc (vol 1) #1. It includes many scenes scattered through time, so it doesn't actually fit anywhere perfectly, so I just left it in the publication order. No matter where you put it, it's a series of flashbacks (and/or flash forwards).

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  10. ManWithTenEyes,
    Those issues were good. In fact, that's almost where we first saw Bruce through Morrison's eyes because there was something funny going on in every other scene, either the influence of Zur En Arrh graffiti or he was playing a part. Also, it was the second time narration showed us Bruce's thoughts, something Morrison usually didn't do.

    I put #700 where I did (after #701 and #702) for two reasons:

    (1) Because it felt to me like an encapsulation of the Dick-and-Damian Batman and Robin, and then a transition to Damian's future.
    (2) It had Professor Nichols' time machine, and ROBW #5 showed us Nichols at an earlier point.

    So I wanted to put it definitely after ROBW #5, to keep his timeline intact, and soon before ROBW #6, where Nichols' time machine was given huge significance. Of course, it could be put in many places, but I definitely wanted it between the last two issues of ROBW.

    #702 skips through time also, so there's no perfect place for it. The first part of it fits before Bruce's capture in FC #2. The ending of it definitely goes after FC #6.

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  11. Batman #700 goes at the end of B&R #16 for me. It's a celebration of Batman across all time, a capstone of Dick/Damian B&R era, and themetically fits with the "Batman everywhere!" idea of Batman Inc.

    As for the favorites list, mine would probably be very different, lol. The more metaphysical issues of Morrison's run like the two-parter with the fake Batman and the RIP run are interesting, but they're always brought down by some poor dramatics and storytelling of Tony Daniel. My favorite issues all have great artists to go along with them, where big ideas are backed by rollicking Batman adventures. The Club of Heroes arc, in particular, is my absolute favorite. Would've killed to see JH Williams III on RIP(or Quitely...or Stewart...or Burnham...or Irving...)

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  12. Jeremy,

    There were definitely some weak links in Tony Daniel's work, not just a bad panel here and there, but some frayed logic: The kind of building where the Mayor and Gordon were talking changed between panels, for one. The first look at Hurt and the Club of Villains was also confusing to me, as to whether the eye in the close-up was the same person seen at the center of the group in panorama.

    His overall style has changed more than I can remember off the top of my head seeing for any artist in such a short time. (Carmine Infantino certainly changed his style a lot over a longer span.) But I loved the overall trend, and I felt like #678-681 were good to great, with general improvement. (And FWIW, his two issues of Action have been amazing.) I have a nostalgia for his work on RIP that could never fade. But then he seems to have slipped or tried something new that I didn't like when he drew #701-702. (Others seemed to like it just fine.)

    All of those you name have done some exceptional work. I need to re-read some of these stories just to see that art again.

    My biggest disappointments have been when the art had to change mid-story, such as in Batman and Robin #16, and Final Crisis. If two artists have similar styles, I don't mind, but some of those adjustments, forced by scheduling, were jarring. I'd love to have Final Crisis as drawn all by one artist.

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  13. I don't tend to mind too terribly much if the art changes mid comic if the artists are all good, like B&R 16. One thing that really impressed me though was that for ROBW #15 Ryan Sook (one of my favorites) only did about half of that issue and the inker filled in for the rest, and to my eyes, really mimicked Sook's style very well.

    Problems that I've had with the art were issues like ROBW #4 where Cameron Stewart was supposed to be the artist but they instead had to get whoever the fill in was and he produced the worst looking issue of Morrison's run. Also, Frank Quitely is my all time favorite artist and for issue #700 he wasn't able to finish all of his pages, Scott Kollins is a fine artist but he all of a sudden switched his style up for this worse and finished Quielys section. That was definitely jarring. I'm also not a big fan of whoever it is that has been filling in for Burnham recently, big down grade on those pages.

    As far as Tony Daniel's goes I actually pretty much loved his Batman work all through to issue #681. Then he, like Kollins, switched his style and hasn't looked as good since (haven't looked at his Action stuff yet). Maybe that has something to do with his doing a lot of writing now, though.

    At the end of the day though I'd say Morrison's run has looked pretty stellar, a lot of great artists have worked on these issues.

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  14. Good stuff Rikdad. I gotta make a best of list of my own soon.

    There were just too many great moments already to list here, but I will say that my favorite single issue of the run to date was the latter part of Leviathan Strikes, the issue that should have been #10 in volume 1, featuring Incorporated in the labyrinth of Dr.Dedalus.


    If you haven't already, check out this thread on the DCU message board:

    http://new.dcuwiki.net/forums/viewtopic.php?f=95&t=8181



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  15. Boston, that's a nice aggregation of ideas, and the Morrison interview on MTV, aside from its high overlap with several of his other recent interviews, has that nice tidbit about Doctor Hurt.

    Three thoughts on that exceedingly brief tidbit on a "coda" for Doctor Hurt:

    1) There is considerable tension invested in the resolution of the FUTURE plot, if Gotham's destruction will take place or not. In the three future Damian stories, as well as in Bruce's comment way back in #665. Morrison seemingly has to weigh in on how that threat will resolve, whether it be this week or fifteen years from now. We know that Hurt is part of that future in how it was described in #665, in #666, and in Inc #5.

    2) Morrison has said that the ending would be "operatic." Hurt's final threats in RIP, with his hand outstretched, was overtly operatic. Morrison had an opera at the center of "Gothic" which had numerous elements used also in the Doctor Hurt/RIP story. And "coda", like "opera", is musical term from Italian.

    3) How big will Hurt's role be? As brief as it was in Inc #5 and in ROBW #6, or will he thunder in and completely take over the plot? For a while, or like Mandrakk in Final Crisis, with importance, but briefly?

    Morrison's stories sometimes tangle menaces together into an ending that involves multiple parties, particularly in his more cosmic stories. We may see a flurry of faces and cameos and impressions a la the endings of Final Crisis or ROBW.

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  16. well, no batman inc issue in june, so we'll have to wait until july to see how this ends. good thing is there's plenty of time of read and re-read.

    pablo

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  17. with the delay of #12, this means burnham art should be on all pages and i even asked him about #13 on twitter if it was going to be more than 20 pages and he said "Yup" even though i don't know if that means 22 pages or maybe if we are really lucky maybe 30 pages. - @kukheart

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  18. Most of Morrison's series in the past few years have ended with an issue which was extra-length and delayed. In the case of Final Crisis and RIP, the solicits deviated notably from the content. Overall, we see a process where more creative zeal gets focused at the end, and at least in the case of Batman #681 and Return of Bruce Wayne #6, I feel like the result has been worth the wait.

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  19. Rikdad, apologies about the overly long delay in responding, I haven't had time to scratch lately.

    Anyway, on your 3 thoughts above:

    1-We now know for certain that Hurt will appear again before this story ends. The use of "coda" from Morrison certainly implies to me that Hurt will resurface some time (perhaps even years) after Batman defeats Talia's Leviathan, one final and CRUCIAL loose end to be tied up in order to prevent the apocolypse. I honestly don't think the "when" of the confrontation is hugely important, but it would be the most fitting note to end on IMO.

    2-My first thought when you mentioned an "operatic" ending was that of a Greek/Shakespearean tragedy, after all, someone will be joining Damian 6 feet under soon.

    As you rightly point out though, Hurt has been a very "operatic" character thus far...

    3-I suspect Hurt's upcoming role will be of the "Mandrakk" variety, brief but important.


    Yes, these last 2 issues will HAVE to be dense, if Grant hopes to tie up all the threads he's left dangling.

    Bring on #12!


    Something else just occurred to me today when DS over at the DC boards noticed Talia's absence from a solicit for Ra's Al Ghul's upcoming villains month feature.

    http://new.dcuwiki.net/forums/viewtopic.php?f=95&t=8053&start=15

    Talia ending up as her fathers prisoner at the end of this story.

    It's based on nothing solid whatsoever, I just thought it would fit in nicely with the oroboro theme, returning the status quo to the way it was pre Morrison, and would be one way to deal with Talia without having Batman lock her up (where Ra's is sure to retaliate and attempt to free her, despite all that she has done) or kill her.

    This plot could still go in many different directions. Batman could deal with both Talia and Ra's in one swoop, removing the need to worry about retaliation from Ra's, time will tell.

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  20. Boston,
    Interesting on the notion of what Talia's status may be after this story. We've never seen Morrison have to pass the baton on Batman before, so who knows what he may do to set up future plots. I really see no doubt that Talia's going to regret the next two issues' events.

    Unfortunately, I will be traveling and may have to wait to comment on #12. Given the tremendous number of loose ends, I can hardly imagine how the breakdown between #12 and #13 will go, but I look forward to the three-week interim between them for more discussion.

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  21. Good luck with the travelling, I'm taking a holiday on the 12th of July myself, and I might actually miss the release of issue 13 in a tragic turn of events :)

    http://new.dcuwiki.net/forums/viewtopic.php?f=95&t=8638

    I recently posted my interpretation of ROBW on the DC boards, and I'd like to hear your view on something Rikdad.

    Did the Hyper Adapter bond with Thomas Wayne while pursuing Batman through time?, did it encounter Thomas after being sent back in time by the Justice League?, or was it in fact a separate entity from the Hyper Adapter entirely?, the Omega Adapter.





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  22. Boston, I'm not sure that Morrison put great importance into the fine details of the time pursuit, but to me one clear clue is the giant bat appearance that the Hyper Adapter shows after fighting the JLA, but not at any other time that Bruce encounters it. So I think the Hyper Adapter's local timeline is:

    1) Released from box in 2008.
    2) Pursues Bruce back to Anthro's time.
    3) Pursue Bruce forward through ROBW to the end of time.
    4) Bonded with Bruce jumps back to 2010.
    5) Sent back by JLA: Encounters Dick Grayson and Old Thomas Wayne.
    6) Killed by Vandal Savage shortly before (2).

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  23. You could be right about the fine details, ROBW was a monthly after all, and time constraints may have put paid to making the details of the time pursuit air tight.

    Never the less, here my take on it:

    1) Released from box by Darkseid.

    2) It first finds Bruce in the Puritan era, in what appears to be the same squid like form (probably its true form) that it was in when released.

    3) Follows Bruce as he escapes through the time portal just as the Black Glove are about to burn him to death. This time in the form of an ethereal Bat.

    4) Gets quarantined at the vanishing point, before bonding with the archivist, and a memory wiped Bruce.

    5) Follows the omega scent of the "relic" Bruce ensured would end up in the JLA's hands, back to the 21st century.

    6) Removed and sent skipping back through time, in the form of a giant bat, before eventually getting killed and skinned by Vandal savage.

    7) Find's Bruce's dark twin in the 18th century, again in its (weakened?)ethereal bat form. The spirit living on perhaps after its physical form was slaughtered. Bonds in an effort to incarnate Darkseid. Or perhaps the bat that emerged in the paleolithic era was its discarded shell, with the real deal having already bonded with Thomas.


    Its bond with Thomas couldn't have happened as it first pursued Bruce to the vanishing point, because it would have to separate from Hurt to follow Bruce, and act which would surely strip the doctor of his power and immortality.

    In essence I think you have the fresh Hyper Adapter following Bruce through time (finding him twice) during the story, and the once beaten Adapter, whose skin was worn by Bruce and whose spirit was inside Dr.Hurt.









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  24. Boston,

    Since we know that it was in a bat form in 2010 and then went to Anthro's time, and it also appeared as a bat form in 1765 and ~2009 (to Dick Grayson) it seems to me the simplest explanation is if that was all in one "path": 2010, then 2009, then 1765, then Anthro's time. I don't see any importance if it were more complicated, back and forth, but in the absence of any other evidence, a linear order seems simplest.

    A more curious point for me is the cause-and-effect of the Old Thomas Wayne - Hyperdapter encounter: OTW and his associates chose to summon a demon and the Hyperadapter showed up. Did the summoning actually attract it? Would it have been there anyway? Did it (and/or some Darkseid sort of vibe) actually architect the whole encounter?

    I'm not sure that Morrison has preformulated answers to these questions. Some of many that I would put to him in a post-Batman interview.

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  25. I think we can take it that the Adapters pursuit of Batman in ROBW culminated in it bonding with bad Thomas Wayne in an effort to incarnate Darkseid (after being outsmarted by Bruce).

    I can't really see the Adapter leaving Hurt in the 20th century to follow Bruce to the vanishing point before being sent back in time and joining with him again (I think Hurt's immortality and arcane powers would leave him along with the Adapter).

    The bat form that appeared to Grayson looked the same as the one speared by Savage to me, and different to the ethereal "Barbatos" form that appeared to Thomas.

    If it bonded with Hurt during a linear trip back to the paleolithic era, why would it appear differently to Thomas only?, and how could it move back again after bonding with Thomas anyway?......unless of course the bat speared by Savage was merely the Adapters discarded shell as mentioned above, and coincidentally similar in appearance to the bat form that attacked Dick.

    The theory of a linear order can't really be dis proven, but the 7 steps above are just a better fit to my mind.

    Whatever, the main point is that it carried on its pursuit of Batman in B&R #16, in the form of Dr.Hurt, and is likely still in Hurt (despite Talia's suspicious behavior) as intimated in Inc #5 vol.2.


    Did OTW summon the Adapter or did it orchestrate the encounter?

    I think (purely speculation) that the Adapter was searching for a host to incarnate Darkseid in at that point, and was drawn to OTW's Wayne blood and evil, willing nature.

    But yeah, there's a ton of ambiguity written into this run, Morrison does like to leave readers with the wriggle room to draw conclusion of their own. There's no way in hell he's going to answer every dangling question in the last issue, but he will of course answer the 'most important' ones...

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  26. I felt like adding, for the fan who wants to get the absolute closest thing to Batman's chronological experience, RIP-Final Crisis would go like this:

    Batman #676
    DC Universe #0 scene in Arkham
    Batman #677-681
    Batman #701 (first 16 pages)
    Final Crisis #1
    Batman #701 (remainder)
    Batman #702 (first third)
    Final Crisis #2
    Batman #702 (second third)
    Final Crisis #3-4 (relatively unimportant to Batman)
    Batman #681-682
    Final Crisis #5-6
    Batman #702 (final third)
    Final Crisis #7
    Return of Bruce Wayne #1-#6
    Batman and Robin #15-16

    That covers Bruce Wayne's adventures, almost completely (aside from minor flashbacks/flash forwards) in the order he experiences them. It does preserve the drama and surprises of Batman and Robin, etc.

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