Tuesday 6 August 2013

It's The End, But... Batman Incorporated v.2

It seems odd to say this of the last hold over from the pre-Flashpoint DCU but it really was the perfect example of what a New 52 series should be.

Okay... back up... explain the assertion, James. To put it simply: compared to the rest of the New 52 this series was off in fairyland half the time. Try to reconcile half the characters in this with the rest of the present DCU and this is thrown into stark relief: Jason Todd as Wingman has nothing to do with events in Red Hood And The Outlaws; Red Robin is so much closer to the Bat-family than Teen Titans suggests; Batwing is from “Mtamba” not the Congo; and the Outsiders don't seem to exist at all outside this series.

And I couldn't care less. This series told a tight, self-contained and thoroughly entertaining story. Despite using a lot of iconography from Morrison's previous work on the franchise (Talia's Man-Bat Commandos; the apocalyptic future where Damian is Batman) and obscure relics from the past (the Kathy Kane Batwoman) it really didn't rely on continuity all that much. A doubly impressive feat since the series was consciously and explicitly the pay-off to all of Morrison's Batman series.

In effect this series was Grant Morrison writing the All-Star series Batman deserved instead of the insane trainwreck Frank Miller half-produced.

The series had some very cool nods to the past. My personal favourite was resurrecting Bruce Wayne's down-at-heel gangster alter ego Matches Malone. They were nods, though, and this wasn't a story about that past, as much nostalgia as Morrison clearly has for it. History here is a menu to choose from rather than a strict order of published events not to be contradicted.

It helps that this was probably the most linear and accessible series I've seen from Morrison since, well... All-Star Superman, I should think. Action Comics, Final Crisis and even the end of the first Batman, Inc. series all played around with complex and sometimes unreliable narrative structures. This was, beginning to end, the story of Batman having the final confrontation with Talia al Ghul that had been building since Morrison entered the scene with Batman And Son. It was a refreshing change of pace.

Given all this, it was right and proper that Morrison got to kill off Damian. Characters don't belong to people in work-for-hire comics but when he died it did feel like this was the pay-off to Damian's introduction and that all those other stories other writers told in the interim served their purpose in making us care all the more when the poor, ill-treated boy finally snuffed it.