Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Damian: Son of Batman

A significant postscript to the Grant Morrison Batman run, Damian: Son of Batman takes us deeper inside the world of one of the run's key creations. Set, like three other Damian stories, in an alternate future where he goes on to become Batman, DSOB offers a look at what might have been, but was apparently derailed by the death of Damian in Batman, Inc.

We've previously seen Damian as the future Batman in three stories: In Batman #666, Batman #700, and Batman, Inc. vol. 2, #5. These stories and DSOB occupy realities related to one another, but not the same reality. Counting the pre-Flashpoint DCU, and the post-Flashpoint DCU, it's even possible that we have six different continuities in play, seven if you count a brief mention by Morrison of plans he might have gotten around to down the road. This is quite a mess, potentially, that Kubert inherited, and he did nothing to make it neater, establishing several facts that distinguish this world from most of those other continuities, or at least bearing too little connection to dwell upon. Most strikingly, the central role of a deal with the Devil and regenerative powers that came along with that are nowhere to be seen here. There's one hint of the supernatural, but the reality or relevance of that remain unexplained by the end of the fourth issue. The death of Batman shown in the first issue bestows upon Damian a sense of guilt as indicated by Morrison's stories, but the details are apparently quite different.

The major dynamic playing out throughout the series is the question of whether or not Damian will kill his enemies, displeasing his father (again). His decision is made and unmade and made again, to no apparent illumination on his part or ours. Killing is bad, but it sure is handy sometimes. Yes, and?

There are some surprises, with three Batmen, two Jokers, and two Alfreds, with a priest who occupies a confessional booth sporting a secret identity of his own. Kubert's writing is quite strong in general; several scenes have an inventiveness typical of Morrison. As good as his writing is, his art is of course better, identical in every way to the original Damian-future scenario, which was also a Kubert-drawn story. The details in word and picture are both pleasing. What's unsatisfying is the lack of direction. It's hard to identify, besides Damian becoming Batman, where this story is even trying to go. Is there a big bad? Sort of. Is it about transformation? No, Damian is in the same place on the kill-or-not issue as he was at the beginning. Does he avenge the death of Batman? Yes, but there's no satisfaction as the scene plays out.

In fact, the story ends by opening up the possibility of a long run, which ironically does no service to making the run seem worth extending. Damian's an angsty killer of a hero. Yes, and?

Because DSOB occupies a different continuity than the other three future-Damian stories, there's no impact on the story we had been reading. It remains intriguing to imagine what the future interplay between Damian and Doctor Hurt might have been. DSOB shows us a different world, a pretty one of which we have probably seen the last.

5 comments:

  1. Peter Tomasi also wrote a Damian as Batman story in Batman and Robin Annual #1 in 2013 that serves as something of a foreshadowing of his potential future as Batman (mainly by introducing the trenchcoat costume). I assume when you say this story is a "different" Damian as Batman story, distinct from Morrison's, is that Damian isn't tempted by and turned by "The Devil" (Doctor Hurt). Batman (Dick Grayson in Kubert's story) still dies. In the Morrison 666 universe it was never made explicit which Batman dies "at the crossroads" on the night that Damian sells his soul. It was teased in Batman and Robin vol. 1 #s 13-16 that Damian would (and is) tempted by Dr. Hurt, and that Batman's (the in-continuity, DCU-proper Dick Grayson) life is truly in jeopardy in that arc -- particularly after Dr. Hurt theatrically shoots him in the head.

    Candidly, I'm not sure what to make of either the multiple Jokers or Alfred the cat's dialogue. I'm not sure if the latter was intended to imply some form of delusion/hallucination on Damian's part, or an actual transportation of Alfred the Butler's consciousness into Alfred the cat's body. Either way, these story elements were indeed interesting, if somewhat non-sequitur plot pieces. Curious if you think I'm reading them too literally or if I missed some other hints or even "meta-textual" references by Kubert.

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    1. The only other thing I would add is that it's becoming apparent that DC is in fact looking to resurrect the Damian/Robin character in some capacity, and Peter Tomasi (Morrison's editor for much of his Batman run) will be spearheading it. It seems more motivated by commercial and intellectual property interests than anything specifically related to Morrison's rendition of the character, but just thought I'd point it out.

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  2. Have you seen this Rikdad? Guess he may just be back or atleast Ra's will try to and may fail still.
    http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=52184

    Don't forget to stop by the dccomics.com's messageboard's new home. We want your input. This is my old thread's second incatnation. Please join in when times permits.
    http://new.dcuwiki.net/forums/viewtopic.php?f=17&t=3542&start=3780

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  3. Nairu, yes, it's the absence of the Hurt connection that makes this timeline seem different from those other futures. We could consider some details as minor slips from Morrison's account, although Damian was supposed to be Robin, aged 14, on the night of the devil-deal, and he seems clearly older than that in DSOB.

    I took the talking-cat as an open mystery whether it was possession or hallucination. Morrison's run had that sort of ambiguity with Bat-Mite and Honor Jackson, but I'm not sure what Kubert was thinking.

    Damian could well revive, Nairu and MikeandRaph: He's in Injustice: Gods Among Us, and a lucrative property isn't likely to vanish. We still have the messy continuity question as to how Bruce had a 10-year-old son who was conceived during his 5-to-6-year Batman career.

    And thank you for the invite... I'm juggling a lot of projects now, but I hope to visit the board soon!

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    1. I think the answer to how Bruce has a 10 year old son while Dick was in college at the time of his birth can be answered with two concepts.
      First of all Damian being a lab expereiment combining Bruce adn Ra's dna much like Connor in Clark and Lex's combined dna. That could lead to rapid aging caused by accelarated cells as the process to create Damian is experimental and not well defined. The other is the fact we can create our own timeline because DC's especially in a reboot is mess at best and we the fans can come up with a better one. Personally, I think its best to have Batman active for 13 years and condense it all that way but with the reboot its one of the things TPTB did not think through and I think with the messy timeline it give weight to my idea about age accelarted aging.

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