Thursday, 24 May 2012

On Batman Incorporated #1: Reader's Roulette Round 2:1

      
There’s so much to admire about the first issue of Grant Morrison and Chris Burnham’s Batman Incorporated, so why does it ultimately feel like such an uninvolving experience? Perhaps it’s because Morrison’s script is so conspicuously technically accomplished that the artifice of it all overshadows the story itself. When a reader ends up noticing the deliberate structure of each page rather than losing themselves in the comic’s contents, there’s the strongest of senses that craft has very much won out over feeling. And so, each page that isn’t a splash contains at the very least two visually compelling, talk-about-it-on-the-blogosphere moments, while the folding of A, B, and C plots one into the other as Demon Star progresses is undoubtedly cleverly done. Who else but Morrison would have joyfully seized at the dramatic potential of a throwdown in a stockyard, who else would have a clearly dysfunctional hit-man name himself after Bill Hick's Goatboy.? And yet, there’s so little of feeling in this virtuosic performance that the whole process feels far more mechanical than moving, far less heartfelt and far more affectation.

        
With Morrison’s tale taking it for granted that the reader is fascinated in this particular take on the Batman’s world and its characters, it’s hard to care about the various punch-ups with ram-headed thugs and drug dealing mutants. They’re the reprobates and he’s The Batman, and that’s where the business of conflict and character begins and ends. Underneath the wonderful control of the material is, unfortunately, conspicuously run-of-the-mill content. We've seen it all a thousand times before, although we haven't seen it played out with such a hyper-realistic swagger. Even the most apparently touching of scenes starts to tarnish when a second thought's given to it. Damian’s declaration that the animal he’s rescued from a slaughterhouse should now be known as “Bat-Cow” is initially as endearing as it's touching, and Chris Burnham’s art delivers the punch line with a haughty Robin and a strangely masked-by-nature bovine companion that it’s hard to imagine anyone bettering. And yet, the whole scene feels so perfunctory that any chuckling’s short-lived. Damian may be announcing that his evening fighting knee-deep in offal and blood has turned him into a vegetarian, and yet that pronouncement comes right out of the blue. It might actually have told us something about the character if we’d known that he’d previously been a meat-eater, or if we’d been shown some small hint of his thoughts and emotions as they changed from one set of principles to another. Instead, the scene's all about the pay-off and little about the character that's being used to deliver it. It's a flippantly effective page-closer to make any script-doctor feel that they've earned their parachuted-in paycheck, but that's really all that it is.

       
For  Batman Incorporated is all about a blur of eye-catching scenes and grin-popping gag-closers. It's certainly little to do with Morrison's characters in anything other than the broadest sense. As such, we watch as a mobster's informed that he's just eaten his own brother, and yet it’s horror for the sake of horror, action for the sake of a jolly-big set-piece, tell instead of show. Morrison, it seems, just isn't interested in how anyone involved feels about the plight of this latter-day Thyestes, and so it's hard to care as he's hauled off by fan-thrilling Man-Bats while his colleagues continue their meal.


That Chris Burnham’s pages don’t move the reader so much as propel them speedily and impressively through the plot is no fault of his own. The challenges which Morrison has set him are often exceptionally demanding, with scenes which are regularly crowded and action which is complicated and purposeful. Yet Burnham consistently produces artwork which is both admirably eye-catching and transparent. His innovative use of a fish-eye lens design for the establishing shot of the brawl in the abattoir; the vertiginous detail of an assassin’s plummet from a roof-top in a tiny panel which few others would’ve taken such care with; the low-angle shot which shows us Damian’s daring, insouciant leap from the Bat-Plane down to a speeding meat-wagon; Burnham’s invention and achievement lends the comic a sense of momentum and substance which the mutton-dressed-as-ram story consistently undercuts. Similarly, the clarity of expression which he empathetically brings to his characters lends the book a suggestion of emotional weight which the script was never concerned to establish.

 
Grant Morrison’s work on Demon Star is a mostly hollow wonder. It’s incredibly smart on the level of keeping things moving and holding the eye, but it’s as flat as any knock-it-out-for-the-multiplexes actioneer franchise when it comes to anything of the slightest depth beyond a few one-note panels of Damian sulking at his father. Why Morrison should want to produce work which is both structurally brilliant and all-too-often emotionally facile is more than just something of a mystery. It’s not as if the summer popcorn movie experience is incompatible with material which expresses feelings and ideas which can touch as well as excite. After all, fun doesn't have to mean an absence of depth, as any fan of Morrison's Zenith, Animal Man or the Justice League might agree. Batman Incorporated #1 constantly insists that we’re looking at characters who deserve our attention, but look again and it's all bustle and water-cooler fan-pleasing moments and little else. An assassin seeking to prevent his daughter from being forced into a care home, a demanding father attempting to show faith in his son without being able to express tenderness; Morrison throws up the character descriptions but chooses not to give us very much of the characters themselves. When he does, the moment sparks up and quickly disappears, and the reader's left wishing that far more had been made of, for example, Damian's panic at the idea of being blamed by Batman for a thug's death. It's easy enough to see the themes of parental love and responsibility that Morrison's establishing, but since they're so under-developed, they remain structural conceits rather than genuinely moving aspects of the narrative. And so the dazzling set-pieces pile up, one upon the other, and in the end, there’s the oddest feeling of wanting to applaud a brilliant example of storytelling bravado which also seems distractingly cold and unsatisfying. Where Grant Morrison's work used to regularly move the reader in ways which few other writers could match, now it's far more likely to just impress us. This is not, despite appearances, progress in anything other than technique.

Reader's Roulette Rating: A must-read comic, but one to treasure for its form rather than its content.

       
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57 comments:

  1. Marvelous review, Colin! Although I did enjoy this comic, it was mostly for the reasons you picked out--the frenzied pace and the water-cooler shots and lines--through which I hardly noticed the lack of character moments (other than the issue of killing between Bruce and Damian). But that may be chalked up to having given up, personally, on seeing depth of character in the DC New 52, where most of the the people (heroes, villians, and supporting cast alike) seem to be members of the Tabula Rasa League.

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    1. Hello Mark:- Thank your generous words. You are a great splendid egg of a man. And thank you for nailing straight away that we weren't disagreeing about the blockbuster aspects of the issue. They are well worth experiencing, and extremely well done, as your review at http://www.comicsprofessor.com/2012/05/batman-incorporated-1-grant-morrison-brings-the-fun-to-the-dc-new-52.html argues.

      But I have been troubled - if 'troubled' is the right word - by that emptiness at the heart of Morrison's work in recent years. There are places where the heart which used to be expressed in his work flames up - the 'Obama' Superman and the Man-O-Bats issues of BI were engaged if still not as moving as the Doom Patrol and Animal Man runs regularly were. That's a long time ago, and artists have every right to change direction, and I'm not claiming that my analysis has any objective worth anyway. But for me, it's all clever stuff that's only partially in touch with its heart, whereas that heart used to be what was important about his work.

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  2. Hi Colin:

    I wrote a much longer response to this but then lost it due to Stupid Computers.

    Basically the post went like this:

    1) Thanks Colin! Love your blog.
    2) Agree with you about issue despite my love of Morrison's Batman run. Last issue likewise over-busy yet still deeply affecting.
    3) Artificiality of Goatboy's story due to the fact that it will be revealed to be an artificial story. Goatboy is either Bruce in disguise or paid by Bruce to tell his story. Dude didn't shoot Robin cause he's a noob. Robin joins club of dead heroes. It will be clever.
    4) Emotional shallowness of the issue primarily due to the fact that Leviathan is not SHOWN to be (spoilers?) Talia al Ghul. The central tension of the entire drama is covered over with action, action, action. When the drama is referred to it is either comical or through gritted teeth. Very strange choice on Morrison's part.

    That is all. Again, thanks for writing this review. Have a good day!

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    1. Hello Zig Zag Zig:- I was very much hoping that fans of Morrison's Bat-books wouldn't mistake the review for a lack of respect for the comic's virtues or, indeed, those of its writer. I do appreciate the fact that you've popped over & responded in such a generous way. So, hats off to your good self, and thanks for persevering sfter the 'puter trouble.

      On your points; I'm scrambling to find the time to re-read the BI collection. As I'm sure you'll agree, one read through is never enough with GM, so I hopeful that, with the time spent on this issue, I'll find the earlier ones easier to get to grips with. I entirely agree with you about the "who is Goatboy" issue, which the comic works laudably hard NOT to raise :) It'd be a shame if that story was designed to be, as you say, "artificial", because that would mean that a smart idea was conspiring with other aspects of the story to create a flat effect. (I should say, I am defintely on board for next issue to see how things pan out!) Yep, I'm expecting that Robin isn't hurt at all, or Bruce for that matter.

      I was baffled by the lack of mention of Talia, beyond the "your mother is trying to get my attention line". And though it's certainly no fault of Morrison's at all, the fact that both the Owls and Leviathan are starring in Bat-Books at the same time is more than just unfortunate. It strains credibility to have two all-powerful beastly-organisations taking on Gotham at the same time; I know that's an illusion created by the publishing schedule, but it still hurts the story. As of course does the fact that Damian is still in the New DC supposed to be Bruce's son, which means that the chronology is simply impossible. (Bruce would have to be 17 at the oldest when he sirred Damian, unless we're looking at cloning/advance tech/blah-blah/the will dies .... Still, none of that is GM's fault, as I say, so I kept it well away from the review.

      Thank you for your insightful and generous words.

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    2. Yes, I did mean to mention the Leviathan/Court of Owls conflict somewhere--glad you mentioned it here!

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    3. Hello Mark:- Isn't that always the way? I wish there was a technique for ensuring that everything that was meant to be in a review actually appeared there. I even get thrown when material I've deliberately left out comes up. I left as much of the plot itself out of the review, from the bounty on Robin to the absence of Talia, and yet, thinking about it now, I should've included all of that.

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  3. Definitely. I praised the clever art in this issue above anything else, and like you, I miss the heart Morrison used to bring to the table. He still does sometimes, I guess, most recently in Joe the Barbarian.

    A lot of his work has strong ideas, and work on that basis alone. High concept drives the story rather than character. What his Batman work has shown, in this regard, is how important the art becomes to this approach. Here, the issue is of interest despite the emotionally barren script, and the Williams III issues early in Morrison's Batman were quite brilliant. And then you had the Tony Daniel stuff in RIP that just made the book unreadable. A better script might have overcome bad art, probably. Morrison may be expecting too much from some artists, or the workload required of popular writers these days has made them go the Marvel method route, with more of the storytelling load on the artist's shoulders.

    It's true of Morrison whose recent work has been uneven almost entirely based on which artist he's been paired up with. And it's true of someone like Geoff Johns whose books are splash-happy silent movies with next to nothing happening. Or am I wrong?

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    1. Hello Siskoid:- That's a very interesting point you make about the importance of the artist to GM'S work. As you say, any writer will suffer when paired with a less-able or unfortunately incompatible artist, but GM's work really does seem to rely on having a particular quality of artist working with him. And - also - as you say, the work in RIP often holed the comic entirely, and it does raise the question of whether Morrison is - for want of a better term - idiot-proofing his scripts. (I don't mean 'idiot', of course; perhaps artist-proof would be the better phrase.)

      I don't think you're wrong about the importance of art to a great deal of modern-era scripts. The last Aquaman and JLA issues I read, for example, were so thin on text and content that it hardly seemed worth there being a writer credit at all. But then, to my mind, it hardly seemed worth being a reader of those books at all. A summary of the three or so plot-points that were to be covered and a pin-up would do the job just as well. Of course, GM's never been guilty of presenting books which are in any way as insultingly sparse as GJ has obviously decided to. But there are strange, strange attitudes which have taken hold with many of the creators of the mainstream super-book when it comes to storytelling. The story's so often just a peg to hang a shock or two and a punch-up on. I wonder how that culture affects what how GM chooses to write, since he's always been - and remains - a writer of considerable quality rather than just a generator of surrpises and advance-listings copy.

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    2. I can't remember where I read it, but someone said after the 90's, Morrison changed from full script, to just writing out panel descriptions (perhaps also giving leeway for any interpretation by the artist) with a vague idea of dialogue. After the artist drew the book then Morrison would go in and add finalized dialogue. In such a process, the book would live or die based on the artist's ability to convey the story convincingly.

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    3. Hello There:- You know, that does ring a bell with me too, although, Supergods apart, I've not tended to read interviews with GM in any great denial. But thank you for such an elegant and valid answer. My memory is that the interview which I seem to remember reading discussed this business in connection with New 52 books. Now I wish I'd read more carefully. If anyone stumbles upon my response here and has a link to help sort this out in detail, I'd be grateful.

      Thank you :)

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  4. "emptiness at the heart" (as you said in your reply to Mark D. White above) - sadly that's about as apt a description of much of Morrison's New52 Action Comics run as I've seen, with the notable exception of #1, #9 (the "'Obama' Superman" issue) and some touching moments of #5, where we're told the story of the rocket/manger, and #6, where Superman remembers some of his youth. the 'technical' story beats are all there, but it often feels like something less tangible is lacking from it.

    Which leads me to wonder: is Morisson's work suffering under DC's New52 editorial approach? Is he saving his best for the new creator-owned series (with Darick Robertson illustrating) 'Happy!' that's due for release later this year (from Image)? Or is it simply that I'm reading too much into all this, as speculating fans often do?

    I think in the case of Batman Inc #1 there's a pressure to hit the ground running and create as much impact as possible with the first issue. I wouldn't be at all surprised to see the series slow down a bit and become more thoughtful (Morrison-esque?) from issue #2 onwards.

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    1. Hello Ed:- It's really odd how Morrison's work for DC has become more and more dependent on show and far less marked by matters such as characterisation and heart. It's not that ideas and emotions are missing in his work; you can see that in the Superman issues you mention. And yet those Superman issues are so much more show than tell, and they feel far more hollow than I can't help but feel that they should. Even the Obama Superman issue was pleasing because of its inclusive politics rather than because of the story itself. I can't help but wonder whether Morrison has decided to structure his stories in such a way as to avoid hitting those heart-arming beats which he once played with. Perhaps he's trying to fix the emotion of a piece far more in the sub-text, perhaps he's thinking that the reader can, in a psot-modern sense, bring their own feeling to the page; the possibilities roll on, but whatever his deliberate strategy is, it's not working for me on the level of anything other than bread and circuses. As with you, I find it hard not to wonder why this has become so.

      I get your point about hitting the ground running with the first issue. And yet, that does say something terrible about the attitude to the reader if that's so. After all, it seems to say that action and emotion are incompatible, and implies that the reader wants the first and not the second in anything other than broad and infrequent stripes.

      Something's up. Morrison has been, and remains, one of the best, one of the most important, of the his time. There were years in the nineties when he was one of only a handful of writers on the superbook producing anything of emotional worth at all. The list of creators who fought through the 90s on the super-hero book with real and lasting conviction can be reduced to Morrison, Waid and very few others indeed. I wonder what's up?

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    2. I strongly suspect Morrison is on his way out the door at DC. Action #9 is unmistakably a criticism of DC's current policies, and I know he's got at least one project starting up at Image this year. I think he wants to finish Batman Inc. (or at least say all that he was planning to say with it before handing it off) and I guess that Wonder Woman graphic novel (which I'm honestly excited about), but I can't imagine there's much keeping him there otherwise.

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    3. Morrison's work at DC is clearly untouched by editorial, because no one else would get away with what he did in either Batman Inc #1 or the most recent issue of Action.

      This issue of Batman, for instance, clearly ignores the "new 52" completely, picking up right where he left off. The only difference is Batman's costume. It openly contradicts Batwing, does it not?

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    4. Hello Prankster:- The whole content of Action #9 was shocking, wasn't it? I actually find it hard to process just how deliberately it took on DC, now as well as then. Even the statement that Obama-Superman was - to paraphrase from memory - how the Man of Steel should be indicated a sense that the reboot lacked conviction on an artistic and ethical level. Astonishing.

      The terrific thing about the situation if GM does leave is that it'll be impossible to predict what he produces. Which suits me :) It'd be a fascinating story in itself, the tale of what Grant Did Next.

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    5. Hello Bill:- All good stories throw up enigmas which keep the audience involved, and the story of Grant Morrison At DC is full of them, isn't it? Did anyone at DC get what that Action tale was saying, or do his stories just sail through as written? Did he speak to the brass about what he was going to say, were they happy for him to say it? There's certainly something going on there. Morrison has often said that he wishes the trouble which accompanied his leaving of Marvel could've been avoided, so perhaps this is as far above the radar as he'll be flying for awhile. It would be fascinating to know what's going on.

      I don't know about the Batwing continuity. I just couldn't read the book after the first two issues. It got an incredible free pass from the comics press, and yet it was about as much a comic which reflected anything of Africa - let alone a specific area of Africa - as it was a densely-packed thriller. It was simply so embarrassingly lightweight that I had to opt out. One more bleached-out panel of a scene that might as well have been set in New York, or anywhere else, and comic pages were going to be shredded. But then, I'm of a mind that if DC was going to fill column-inches with its brave new inclusive 52, they might at least have produced an African hero who wasn't effectively a side-kick of an American billionaire.

      I must say, I'm looking forward to seeing where Grant Morrison The Loose Cannon goes from here.

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    6. Prankster, Bill and Colin - you've all raised some great points.

      It's hard to dispute the assertion that GM has far more power than any other writer in the DC stable. I love the idea that he's a loose canon within their establishment, writing stories which openly contradict the editorially dictated New52 aesthetic; my only concern with it is that we're attributing everything we dislike to the editors and everything we like on the writing staff without fully knowing the inner workings of DC. I'd love to know more about the subject, to hear Dan DiDio speak frankly to a critical interviewer about the decisions they've made and why instead of the sales pitch spiel or company line we always get.

      I'm keenly anticipating the release of 'Happy!', which (I think) is Morisson's first comic at Image, if only because it's the first chance we've had for a long while to see him play with his very own sandbox zero editorial control. Will we see the 'real' Morrison? Or will we get something wholly unexpected? The pairing with Darick Robertson is particularly intriguing, since his most prominent works - Transmetropolitan and The Boys - were so distinctly not Morrison-esque.

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    7. Hello Ed:- (I hope what follows doesn't read as if I'm gribbling at you. It was just me taking the chance to think through the issue you raised.)

      I certainly never intended to suggest that the editorial staff, and in particular the bods at the top of the tree, were responsible for everything that it might be claimed is wrong with the New 52. Nope, I blame them for allowing the predominantly poor fare which makes up the 52 to reach the stands and digital distribution points. There's absolutely no doubt that there's a great deal of imput in the New 52 from a whole source of sources, or at least the evidence we have suggests strongly that that's so. How much power creators and editors and publishers have and how it's used in particular situations is of course impossible for us to say, although there are examples - such as Static :( - where we know a little more of what goes on behind the curtain. Furthermore, there's examples of creators who are really getting behind the project and producing admirable material. So it's of course a complicated process. But my - entirely unimportant - take on the matter is that the folks at the top ARE responsible for focusing on hype and spectacle when they could have concentrated on storytelling and quality, and for forcing through absolutely fundamental changes with comparatively little forethought. I can recall talking to the Splendid Wife about the New 52 as it was launched and predicting that we'd end up in exactly the mess we're in, because it was immediately obvious in the first week's product that nobody had decided to focus across the board on the mechanics of how to achieve excellence in terms of storytelling. And so, for every interesting/successful book, there were half-a dozen comics which were obviously going to sink. There was just no way that they could survive, they were so obviously incompetent. And that's where I guess my problem with the New 52's corporate masterminds is. They opted for show and flash, and they frittered away all that money and attention on something which was inevitably going to end up where it has.

      By which I mean, the Captain and his officers may not be directly responsible for everything that's gone on. But they are responsible for opting for pap above pop as a general principle.

      Yes, bring on Happy! There's SO many great books out at the moment and every new one strengthens the industry. It's just a shame that so little of what DC produces can be included in the category of "great books".

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    8. "This issue of Batman, for instance, clearly ignores the "new 52" completely,"

      Not completely. In a line of dialogue, Batman acknowledges that Damian killed Nobody, which happened in Tomasi's first new 52 Batman and Robin arc. Others are more cosmetic such as Gordon's hair and Batman's costume, but that's about it.

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    9. Hello there:- Ah, that's my fault for not picking up on those details, and thank you for doing so, and for doing so in a way that involves no crowing at all. It's odd, isn't it, that those - as you imply - minor aspects of continuity are present, and yet the basic problem that Bruce would've still been a school-kid and anything but the Batman when Damian was conceived is ignored. Tells a truth, I suspect ...

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    10. I don't think GM ignores New52 continuity in regards to the Batman books, but when talking about the rest of the DCU... There's a place where it's inferred that Metamorpho was once a member of the Justice League, while in JL, they've NEVER had a new member.

      But that's the new DCU all over. No one seems to be reading anyone else's books.

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    11. Hello Siskoid:- That's a good point, and I wish that I had BI at hand to read the D-plot where the various Bat-allies deliver their expositionary dialogue. It's by far the weakest part of the book, and the only section which isn't integrated into the wider plot as is done so effectively with the A, B and C strands of the tale. And, as you say, it's a part which doesn't make sense in the broader scheme of things. But then, there isn't a broader scheme of things which works even on the level of simple questions such as "How is it possible to have had four Robins in four or so years?". Smoke and mirrors, snakeoil salesmen and hype. A shame, because there are parts of the New 52 where good work is being done.

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    12. Hello again Colin,

      I couldn't agree more with your assessment of DC's scatter-gun approach to managing the New 52. There's very little I could add to it from my budget-restricted experiences of the comics, so instead I'll ask you a question: what New 52 do you rate highly?

      In my experience the line-leading comics aren't the best, I've really enjoyed the few issues I picked up of 'Frankenstein: Agent of SHADE' as well as 'Animal Man' (both written by Lemire). Beyond those two (and the likes of Action Comics which I mentioned before) I tried out a lot of the New 52 comics in my bargain-bin raids and didn't find too much to my liking.

      F:AoS was a complete surprise to me. It's full of zany sci-fi/supernatural concepts and compared to other New52 comics I've read it's good fun. I really enjoy the artwork too, I wouldn't be surprised to see Alberto Ponticelli (and the excellent colourist who I can't remember) working on a 'big' DC book very soon.

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    13. Hello Ed:- I've not a high opinion of the new 52, as I suppose is obvious. On the whole, I think the quality of the work is very poor. There are interesting and enjoyable scripts, such as in Batgirl and Demon Knights, matched with work but hard-working and yet less-than-draw artists. There are books with smart ideas, such as Action and Batman and Wonder Woman, and yet a lack of heart, as well as often logic. And those are the better books. My take on Mr Lemire's work that I've seen - such as 3 or 4 issues of Frankenstein - is that he's got great ideas but sadly they're embedded in stories which it takes about 3 minutes to read. At most. (I agree with you about Mr Ponticelli's talent.)

      I do sound like a dreadful old bloke, I know. But if DC wants to pursue a company policy of slack storytelling, then a great many of us are going to shrug and move on to all those fine comicbooks being published elsewhere in the marketplace. Hurrah! for them.

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  5. Hi Colin. Fine review, as ever. (You may know that) I loved this issue to bits - I think of Batman Inc as the James Bond Batman book, with breakneck action, Byzantine plotting and the occasional evil mastermind. To be honest, I've long since stopped expecting a rich brew of emotions in Batman - the popularity of the miserabilist Nolan films has seen the comics original become increasingly one-note. He's obsessed, and goes Hh a lot. His allies are soldiers who tolerate his dictatorial ways,

    Now I'm thinking, that's not enough. Hh.

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    1. Hello Martin:- That's too perfect a comment for me to spoil with a cack-handed response. But here I go anyway :)

      I certainly wouldn't want to be giving the impression that I was hoping for Ibsenesque characterisation for the various Bats. But a little can go a long way, and the absence of that little can really hurt the Bat-Books. I think back to the Batman books that I most value and they're neither excessively bleak'n'gritty or overly-touchy-feely. I think of The Engelhart/Rogers version, or Chuck Dixon's Zero Hour Batman tales, and it's the emotions which actually make those stories.

      I'm glad to know that you share my opinion of the Nolan films. Slow and boring, pretentious and joyless, I struggle to keep watching them when they're by accident on. And that stupid growling voice ... I realise this puts me beyond the pale, but I don't even think that those are good movies, let alone good Batman films. This is of course an unacceptable opinion, and I shall go set light to my head in shame. But honestly, what a crock of boy's own cack.

      Of course, technically very good ...

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  6. Well if one thing has marked GM's career, it's a willingness to experiment. No, not a willingness, a NEED.

    Each of his superhero books have taken flight from a particular experimental premise. The superhero as celebrity. Characters who know they are in comics. Surrealism in superheroics. Superhero team as Camelot/myth. Silver Age madness played straight. Particular story arcs or single issues may have their own experiments brewing as well.

    Morrison TRIES things - sometimes they wort, sometimes they don't - but at some point, what is left to try in the superhero genre? Perhaps he's hit a wall, or perhaps the experiment has yet to reveal itself, or is too intellectual to grab the reader viscerally. I don't know yet with either of his New52 books.

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    1. Hello Siskoid:- Yep, you're right, Morrison has always wanted to experiment, and there's few folks who could like all of the things he tries, and often succeeds, in doing. Yet the wheel turns and there's always been more material which I've enjoyed. I expect that it's really tough to keep ahead of the game and keep the enthusiasm going too without being willing to take chances. I might not be able to warm with what GM's turning out at the moment, but I retain my respect and admiration for his work as a whole.

      My feeling about the sub-genre itself is that there's as much life left in it as there is in just about fictional form. Given how hard many creators seem to find it just to tell a straight-forward, moving story, I'd say that there's quite a few challenges left even where it comes to basic competencies. Beyond that, as long as there's people, there's stories. I think at the heart of the problem is - and here I'm talking in general rather than about GM specifically - the sub-genre isn't very interested in people, and their psychologies and politics and so on, very much at all.

      I know how much you're an admirer of the best of Star Trek and Dr Who. I read your posts on those franchises. I can recall a time not so long ago when it was a commonplace to believe that both properties were mined out. I never believed that. The potential for stories is inexhaustible, if the craft and the ability is there. It's late at night, my head is muddy-headed with sleep, and I'm sure that all reads if it's bound for Pseud's Corner. But there you are. The day the super-book is out of stories is the day that we're all out of stories. Heavens, I think I'm being optimistic :)

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    2. The difference, of course, is that neither of those franchises have a single writer. I'm not saying there are no stories left to tell, certainly not in the genre, merely that Morrison himself may be finding it difficult to find inspiration or motivation for the type of stories he wants to tell (mytho-experimental ones).

      But the future will tell. Still better than a lot of dreck that's out there.

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    3. Hello Siskoid:- Absolutely! BI is better than just about all the books out there. And I mean what I say about the technical brilliance of it all. That IS worth the price of entry on its own, whether the reader can find themselves engaging with the material or not.

      You've really got me thinking about your line "neither of those franchises have a single writer". Well, they might not have, and the new Star Trek is even with the comic book a very young and tiny neck of the woods. But both DW and ST have been tightly marshaled by single figures who've had the final say as well as a huge degree of day-to-day imput into what's going on. With Dr Who, it's always been Russell T Davies and Stephen Moffat who've been in charge, although the contributions of many others have obviously been massive. (My favourite New Who is the Family Of Blood two-parter, so I'm hardly going to argue that individual writers weren't/aren't important.)

      But in that light, Dan Didio would be the controlling influence of the New 52, and the various creators working in the spaces which he chooses to allow. And, yep, it may well be that the context - the 52 set-up - and the content as determined elsewhere is limiting for GM's tastes. It's be interesting to read about this period if a Supergods II ever comes out.

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  7. Points:

    1. Burnham's art is a tour de force. I will brook no argument.

    2. The story is clearly insane, and I found this to be a tremendously refreshing comic, especially amid the soupy mediocrity of the rest of DC's new 52 (of which I still continue to buy a bunch of, for whatever reason).

    This was the most viscerally enjoyable comic I've read in ages. I was not taken by the violence, but I found it absurd in a sort of Clockwork Orange way, the antithesis of a Geoff Johns comic where the violence is so earnest and self-serious.

    The plot of this thing races a mile a minute, it doesn't entirely make sense, it's blatantly written in a vacuum, but it moves, it breathes, it explodes. I laughed, I cheered, I viddied it as a real horrorshow book.

    Is there emotional depth to it? Not really. Not yet, anyway. But we will get there yet, I am sure. And if not, I'm not sure I'll mind, because the ride is so enjoyably wild.

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    1. Hello Bill:- You'll get no argument from me about Burnham's art :) I will brook no perception of difference.

      You know, I too found the comic refreshing, and I find that I really am on-board for the next issue. We disagree about whether the book might have added another layer to what was going on, and at times we've disagreed about the need for any such thing, but we're of the same mind when it comes to sheer go-for-it mentality of the storytelling. One of the things which I didn't discuss was the use of violence/blood/cow's heads and so on, because I thought that was a quite separate argument to what I was trying to say. But I did refer to the audacity of the slaughterhouse scene, and I do think that audacity in that way is a Very Good Thing. I too find the way that violence is often used in GJ's work to be unsettling and alienating.

      My feeling about the book has changed a touch since working through it, which is part of the point with me. I'm one of those folks who don't tend to shift ground until they know where the ground is. And the wildness of the ride which you refer to is undoubtedly a significant plus. (When compared to most of the other books out there, including the bulk of the Flailing 52, it's a *1$* masterpiece.) As I said at the bottom of the piece, it's a must-read.

      But it's still missing most of the heart which could've been there, and, for my money, that's what has always made Morrison's work so important. He's so often been able to fuse the kinetic storytelling and the emotional aspects of his work. Quite frankly, his work is so good when it does that that I'm impatient to experience it again. An unfair personal expectation? Quite possibly. But I think of the revelation of the traitor in Zenith Book 3 or the simple scene of Cyclops and Wolverine flying together at the beginning of his X-Men run, and I realise that I FELT those scenes as well as experienced them as spectacle.

      More please!

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  8. If Damian Wayne follows through on his promise of working with his new partner, BAT-COW, I will not only start buying comics again, I will also evangelize for the wonders of Batman, Incorporated. The promise of a bovine crimefighter is limitless. Catchphrases alone, man:

    "The Gotham underworld fears to battle with this cattle!"

    "4 STOMACHS 4 JUSTICE!"

    "The Unconquerable Ungulate buries crime beneath cow patties of righteousness!"

    "Livestock as vigilante sidekick" is not without precedent. Quantum and Woody had Vincent van Goat, a goat that Woody costumed with a cape and a mask and named H.A.E.D.U.S. (Heavily Armored Espionage Deadly Uber-Sheep). The Goat was so popular he even had his own one-shot.

    Imagine a cover of Batman, Incorporated showing Robin riding into battle atop a masked cow. Now picture yourself not buying it. YOU CAN'T.

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    1. Hello Harvey:- I would buy a Bat-Cow book. I would buy a life-long subscription to an Ace/Bat-Cow team-up title that included the likes of Streaky, Beppo, Protty and so on. And by that, I don't mean such a title hived off into admittedly admirable kid's books. I want a Comet-led charge of Super-Pets kicking the living *!$% out of every grim'n'gritty *!$% in the New 52. Oh, be still my beating heart.

      And let's have guest appearances from H.A.E.D.U.S and Thor-Frog and every other animal character who can remind us how splendid comic books can be when they're not aimed solely at Rumpish Flakkers.

      Or, in brief: YES!!!!

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  9. Colin:

    Sorry to bother you again but it occurred to me that, as most hardcore Morrison readers will likely retort, much of the drama of BATMAN, INC. is embedded within the imagery and diction of the work, like in a poem. This first comic may not yet have 'heart', but it does provide readers with a number of things to ponder which will add resonance to the later (I hope) emotional punch.

    Whether or not there is a coherent symbology/iconography at work in this comic remains to be deduced (I'm looking at you Mindlessones...), but there must be something to say about the association of the industrialized murder of animals, pagan imagery, long-range (Kennedy-style bullet trajectory!) assassination attempts, and organized crime, as well as Greek tragedy in this comic. These things are all surely meant to reflect something about Leviathan as an entity.

    You've commented on the work's structural elements but not these more ephemeral formal elements. I'm wondering what you make of them. Too much made of too little?

    Thanks again for your time.

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    1. Hello Zig Zag Zig:- You're not being a bother at all. It's a relevant point you make, to say the least. And I know that many fans of Morrison's work would make the claims you present. The net has several sites where the meaning of Morrison's work is engaged with and played with, where symbols and references are decoded, where the broader sense of his art is discussed. I've no problem with folks approaching his creations in this way, and I'd be an idiot if I did. Art is there for folks to approach it as they see fit, as they most enjoy and benefit from. My feeling is that Morrison's work in recent years has often been extremely strong on the aspects which you mention, and yet often relatively weak on the kind of emotional depth which I touch upon in the post above. For me, a story without solid roots in the latter is one which works more as a talking shop than a story. Of course, those who've been moved by the past 5 or so years of GM's work would respond that (1) his work does indeed have profound emotional depths and (2) the "super-structure" of meaning feeds into that. More power to anyone who'd like to view GM's more recent fiction in that way. It's not my view. I think Morrison's work is certainly grounded and emotional at moments, but overall, it's clever rather than heart-felt. It's become a playground in which points are scored by creator and fans as they encode and decode the work. That's terrific, but it's not to my taste. All too often, I read Morrison's work and I can see something of the grand design and its markers. But I don't tend to feel a great deal about his work, because I'm not concerned with such game-playing, no matter how meaningful and rewarding it might be for some, when the tales are relatively isolated from the kind of clear, direct storytelling which I prefer.

      But on the whole, and accepting that this belief is nothing more valid than my own entirely subjective opinion, I prefer work where the cleverness is hidden so that it powers the narrative without making itself so obvious, without making an engagement with it so necessary. In truth, it's all abit Progressive Rock for me.

      This does of course leave me way out of step with a great deal of the critical consensus about GM's work, and I must admit that I'm keenly aware of that at times. Oh well. vive la différence, etc, etc ...

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  10. I like the issue just fine, but felt similar to you on many points. When reading Grant's work these days I try to keep in mind how it would make me feel if I were fifteen again (like when I first read his work). I think in that context I would be blown away. I can imagine kids running to Google to find out who Bill Hicks is and having their lives changed forever. One thing I found interesting was Batman's comment to Damian about removing his hood. I thought that was a clever reference to current events and totally outs Batman as the card carrying Republican you know he would be in real life.

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    1. Hello Hanuman Sun Wu Kong:- I would love to think that fifteen years old might find Batman Inc a gateway to both a comic-buying habit and a love of Bill Hicks' work. And by that, I don't mean to suggest any cynicism. If that's how it works, then it sounds like a splendid process indeed. I hope that that's what's happening, I really do.

      The hood line was certainly a clever way of making sure readers were aware of the point of the hood as well as emphasising something of the relationship between Bruce and Damian. But given that we all have our own ideas about the politics of the characters we read about, I find it hard to believe that Bruce Wayne is a Republican. To say that isn't to suggest that he's a Democrat. But the Batman's always been an empiricist, and I suspect that the mass of research on the effects of extremes of wealth inequality, the limitations of trickle down and so on would mean that he'd more than just struggle with a Republican agenda. But then, an empiricist would struggle with most any party's policies as a whole. I think Bruce is probably an issue-by-issue voter, and the flim-flam of modern-era spin politics would surely turn his stomach. I'd like to see a Batman v Mendacious & Corrupt Politicians title myself, but I suspect it wouldn't be the biggest selling comic in Bat-family of titles. (Mind you, it'd have Bats in it, so it'd outsell about 90% of the New 52.)

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  11. Haven't had a chance to catch up on a number of your recent pieces Colin, but couldn't resist looking up your Batman Inc.

    I am disappointed that you didn't dig it as much as me, but that's life.

    And it's already been brought up that Morrison engages with a sort of super-structure to his work (and no, I don't mean writing for the trade- in this case it means reading everything he's produced... so he's writing for ALL the trades? Well, it is the next logical step..) but I just wanted to give a shout out to the exultation I felt at the end of Return of Bruce Wayne, when Tim Drake is telling the Justice League what to do and to be ready because he knows and has faith that Batman is back and things will be alright! So, what I'm saying is Morrison's Batman work has SOME emotion, but mostly at the end of the various chapters- but more importantly I think if you're looking for emotion you're in the wrong place, because all of Morrison's emotion went into All Star Superman, and so now with Batman it's just a plain different story.

    Hopefully I made sense just now, but I'm racing the clock and have to toddle off- but I'll be sure to check back in later

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    1. Hello Isaac:- Thank you for popping over. I too regret our difference of opinion where aspects of Batman Inc are concerned. A consensus is a tremendously cheering thing, but a civil difference of opinion can be heartening too :)

      I actually didn't make it to the end of The Return Of Bruce Wayne, so I missed the scene with Tim and the Justice League. I've every intention of going back, of course. The collection is still there, waiting for me to have the sense to return.

      I take your point about looking for emotion in the wrong place, but I'm baffled why anyone would produce a story which isn't particularly interested in emotion. It's not that the actioneer and all of Morrison's inter-textuality are incompatible with emotion, so why ignore the depth which could be there? It's all an odd business to me. I wouldn't deny that "it's just a plain different story". I'm just baffled at why somebody would remove much of the intimacy of the tale. I can't imagine a story which is better for such a choice unless it's all a
      deliberate policy adopted to discuss an absence of humanity.

      But I really am repeating myself, aren't I? My apologies. I'm pleased as punch that you're really into the book, and that it's been such a pleasurable experience for you. Every comic that can do that is a blessing. What I feel about it, as I know we'd both agree :), is quite irrelevant.

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  12. I think you may have hit on something with the "deliberate policy adopted to discuss an absence of humanity".

    But you absolutely have to get back to Return of Bruce Wayne! Ah, I loved that conclusion!

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    1. Hello Isaac:- I will do. As always, and with everyone's work, I'm always keen to both think well of it and share the opinions of those who do. I have no idea what this blog would seem like if I didn't feel that way :) So, backwards towards Return Of Bruce Wayne ...

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  13. To NEIL:- Thank you for the warning about the very short piece that my incompetence had obviously somehow caused to be posted!!!!

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  14. Ah yes, I have all the Return of Bruce Wayne issues too. I think I managed the first two issues, but found them so unengaging that they kept going further and further down the reading pile. Knowing some kind of giant bat spirit was pivotal doesn't incline me to rush back to them. You read them first, Colin ...

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    1. Hello Martin:- I know, I know. That giant Bat spirit is undoubtedly - and I'm not being snarky - a brilliant idea, and I bet the stories draw off that idea in a way that's fascinating. But the story itself just seemed to be about a bloke who's harder than everyone else.

      At the moment, I'm reading and re-reading Martin Eden's Spandex for an article elsewhere and I'm captivated by how human and moving Eden's stories are. It's hard to put that aside to focus on tales which, for all their undoubted and considerable virtues, don't engage me in a similar fashion.

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  15. Thanks for a terrific review.

    I find Morrison's Batman project deeply frustrating. His ambition has been peerless. I doubt that any other modern writer would have the capacity to attempt a unification of all the various aspects of Batman. The amount of craft that he and JH Williams brought to the table in his Agatha Christie homage that reintroduced the Club of Heroes makes it one of the greatest Batman stories of all time. Morrison had plainly found something in the act of taking Silver Age elements and treating them with literary seriousness.

    Moreover, Morrison has been wonderfully inventive. The Black Glove mystery provided a terrific mainspring to BATMAN R.I.P. The Batmen of various eras during Bruce Wayne's trip through time were conceptually fun. Dick Grayson as Batman and Damian Wayne as Robin were a breath of fresh air. Batman, Inc. was a tremendous idea.

    Still, much of it has been a bit ... soggy.

    The references to obscure Batman stories have often added a layer of metaphorical richness. They have also made things pointlessly opaque at times. Morrisonian anti-climaxes are great endings for action stories, but are terrible endings for mysteries. His chemistry with his artists is often terrible. The larger dictates of the DCU seem to be working directly against his narrative more frequently than not.

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    1. Hello Dean:- Lovely to swap words with you again. And I find that, as far as my knowledge of the issues you mention stretches, I can disagree with a word you say. I'm actually committed to working my way through the GM run on Batman from the beginning, and I've got the first deluxe supposedly arriving from Amazon at the beginning of next month. So, on the one hand, I'm looking forward to reading every issue in sequence. On the other, I know that if it matches my own experience as well as what you've reported in the above, I'm going to feel that it is indeed, as you say, a bit .... soggy.

      There's so many things I would love to ask Morrison. How carefully is he edited? How challenging is DC editorial staff? What does he think about the audience which he thinks is buying his books? What are the reasons that have inspired him to adopt his current writerly MO?

      Of course, I'll never get the chance to ask such questions, and why should I? But there's so much about even his most frustrating work which is worth paying attention, and yet there's that flat effect which so often characterises his more recent work, under all the flashes and bangs ...

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  16. Small side comment here: I was delighted by Damian and Bat-cow because it meant that Morrison is/was reading Tiny Titans and obviously enjoyed it! I wondered what people who didn't know about Bat-cow thought of that.

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    1. Hello there:- I obviously had no idea, I will own up to having read but a single issue of Tiny Titans in my life. And, yes, it is a charming touch, but then, I guess that Morrison has always subscribed to the "all Bat-stories have in some way 'really' happened" p.o.v.

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    2. Well, here are the Tiny Titans scans I was talking about, in case you're wondering!http://holyismstogoddamn.tumblr.com/post/14116930579/go-go-go-damien-i-dont-think-thats-a-good

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    3. Hello there:- Yep, that's FANTASTIC! I'm very grateful to you for the link :)

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  17. Hi Colin

    You've laid out your reasons for your misgivings on this issue and I can see and understand them, but still... maybe a bit harsh? :-)

    I had fun reading it, and I didn't feel insulted at any point, which is often a definite possibility when reading modern superhero comics, as you know. It did zing along, and was mainly action, and fun moments, as you say.

    Still, I thought the sequence starting with the "listen, life is all about luck" panel that you include above had a certain amount of feeling. The cows getting an undeserved end, the loser, divorced, bereaved Dad worried about his child being taken from him, the feast of the undeservedly rewarded; it all comprised a single (sadly) clear-eyed view of how the world works. True, beyond the 'telling' and not 'showing' of Goatboy's monologue, we didn't get any indication in the panels themselves where/how human feelings should fit into all this, but it did convey in its cartoonish way that the world is a rough place for those who aren't at the top table. There's pathos in that.

    I know you meant that this particular comic didn't build up to, or give a context for Damien's conversion to vegetarianism, but it may be a staging post in Damian's long arc, where he originally thought nothing of killing dozens of Ninja assassins at a time, and had difficulty processing Batman's anger at what only came naturally to him as a trained killer. It takes him a long time to learn from Bruce and then Dick that 'life is sacred', but here he is extending out that lesson and taking it further himself. That's what I read into it anyway.

    The argument about the people Damian killed (possibly in Leviathan - I must go back to that book) is also an important beat in the longform story. Damian implies here that Dick was a great mentor to him, but of course, in those actual issues of Batman and Robin, Damian gave Dick an even harder time than he gives Batman here. In comparing how Damian actually related to Dick with how he says he related to him, a lot is revealed about how he tackles the world, and what it is like to be him. Damian is essentially a comicbook version of a deeply abused child.

    But appealing to how these moments have feeling and emotion when placed in the longer narrative possibly doesn't cut any ice with the specific criticisms you are directing towards this comic as a single issue. That's fair enough. I can see that.

    You are right that on the page we only had a sudden flash where Bruce rather surprisingly backs up his son's strange demand that Bat-cow be saved. It is a touching moment, and seems to say a lot about Bruce's respect for Damien and Bruce's need to show that he is on his side, but the instant disappears as soon as it arises on the page.

    I've been thinking lately about this aspect of Morrison's work. It would seem he is wary of mawkishness. We can pick up Bruce's love of the boy in how he reacts to Damian's request, or we can ignore it. It's up to us. Morrison doesn't want to seem to be doing something 'sentimental' or making the sentiment the point of his story. I think the point of the story is perhaps the "life is all about luck" thing, and what that means for those who don't have any of it. That's the theme, and Bruce and Damian's scenes intersect with that along the way.

    (cont)

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  18. OOps forgot the cont bit...

    Loved this bang-up-to-the-minute review of a Morrison comic, and I've been wondering what you might be thinking of Morrison's Bat-epic, too. I could talk about Morrison's work all day, but I'll leave it at that for now. Maybe we'll get some soundings back from you as you go through the longform story more systematically. The Club of Heroes with JH Williams art, as has already been said above, is outstanding. I can't open it without getting drawn into it. There's more in it every time I read it, and more feeling too, buried down in it.

    I love Morrison's work to bits, but something that might explain why the art is so often so poor on his work is that he has a reputation for providing his scripts very late. Thus even the best artist in the world doesn't have time to do justice to his work. I know Phil jimenez reluctantly refused to do any more monthly work with Morrison during the Invisibles, as he couldn't present his own work to best effect in those conditions. Thus much of the Batman-epic had to be done by get-the-work-in-on-schedule journeymen, rather than the very best in their field.

    Regarding Morrison's method of detailed outline-art-dialoging, look out for a scene in one of the early arcs where Talia al Ghul turns up and Dick or someone comments on her 'sexy secretary' look. I suspect that's Morrison ad-libbing and commenting on the art he's been given back. The line probably wasn't in his original script.

    All the best

    Figserello

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  19. Hello Figserello:- It’s an odd word, “harsh”. I say that not because I think you’ve unfair in using it. You’ve always been the most generous and welcome of visitors over this way. It’s just that it raises thoughts of something which I’ve been worrying a lot about recently. Namely that the blog has always been about me trying to explain my own thoughts and feelings to myself. I’ve wanted to grasp my own responses in a clearer fashion, and to do so in a way that helped me practise the writing while gathering whatever small insight I could acquire into how comics “work”. Yet as you say, a debate with myself in a public place becomes a judgment on the object rather than a wrestling with my own obtuse thinking. I’ve always known this, of course, but I’m uncomfortable with it. Because on the one hand, I don’t think that I was ‘harsh’ at all. I think I simply expressed as best I could my own opinions, and they’re neither harsh or not. They are what they are. And yet –of course, I know – all criticism, amateur-hour or not, carries with it a sense that it’s claiming to be objective, that it’s telling the “truth”. And I wouldn’t dream of doing that short of aspects such as, for example, the strange storytelling choices in the likes of Holy Terror.

    “I had fun reading it, and I didn't feel insulted at any point, which is often a definite possibility when reading modern superhero comics, as you know. It did zing along, and was mainly action, and fun moments, as you say.”

    Agreed. I hope I stated that, though perhaps my writing didn’t carry that idea of “fun” enough (he said in a VERY serious fashion).

    I think the truth is that we may just disagree on what’s a “necessary” degree of emotion and character in a comic book. Which is absolutely cool. As I’ve said before, one of the real pleasures and genuine privileges of the blog is learning about different ways to see a text about which I’ve a strong opinion. And so, when you say “True, beyond the 'telling' and not 'showing' of Goatboy's monologue, we didn't get any indication in the panels themselves where/how human feelings should fit into all this, but it did convey in its cartoonish way that the world is a rough place for those who aren't at the top table. There's pathos in that.” I agree entirely. Yet to me, what’s there isn’t enough. The hi-jinks have almost entirely swallowed the purpose of the tale. After all, there’s pathos in just about any story, and it’s hard to find a text- and especially such a purposeful and well-designed one – which doesn’t have moments of emotions. But underneath all that technique, it was an incredibly familiar and flat tale, wasn’t it? It was the surface of things which lifted it rather than the story itself. Yes, the Bat-Cow was sweet, and the technique was impressive, but I can’t help but feel, from my own entirely subjective perspective, that I’d seen it all before. That’s almost inevitable with genre fiction, but here the technique was so obvious that the lack of character and heart became even more obvious. Or rather “became more obvious according to my own entirely subjective opinions”.

    Yours is a fair point that this may well have been a marker in Damian’s future development. It would be a lovely business, and such would be in line with GM’s more recent style. It doesn’t make this particular issue, this discrete unit, any more in line with my own taste - and you were generous in mentioning the problem of comics taken as single issue :) - but it would be interesting and no-doubt touching in a collected edition. The problem is that if Damian’s emotional arc is a long-term business, whose emotions are we supposed to be engaged with here?

    cont;

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    1. cont;

      “Damian is essentially a comicbook version of a deeply abused child.”

      Oh, but you raise a real kettle of fish there that I’ve been trying to say away from until I’ve got an armour-plated response to the whole issue! For if Damian is abused, and it’s clear he is, then he’s been abused by his mentors in the Bat-Cave too. Fine if the comic exists in cartoon absurdity, problematical if he’s wading through offal and slashing criminal’s ham-strings. No, I’m not getting up on my high-horse, because I’ve not come to any fixed point in my own understanding of my thoughts and feelings here. Damian’s a great and compelling character. But when he’s presented in a story that’s marked by comics-realism, and indeed horror, then that creates tensions in the story between what’s been presented that’s “cool” and what’s being said about the characters themselves. Neither Wayne nor Grayson come out well from the whole process as far as my rational mind can see. The logic that you take a child soldier and help him by placing in an army fighting for a more ethical cause with more limited weapons isn’t exactly water-tight :)

      I’m not sure that Morrison’s wary of mawkish. The Return Of Bruce Wayne was as sentimental as it could be, albeit it in the context of superbook machismo. I think Morrison’s wary of emotion. I think – and its nothing but a suspicion – that he’s decided that emotions in the way of his Animal Man run, for example, aren’t something that’s appropriate to the current “era” of comics. (Whatever construct of the current era it is that’s he’s put together for himself, following the logic of his beliefs as laid out in Supergods.) It seems to me that he feels that this is a time for great kinetic set-pieces and fast moving, action-based narratives, with emotion and character taking second place to the thrill of it all. As you say, the heart of these stories is there if the reader cares to pick up the pieces and make something of them. But the writer’s that I warm to have that as the point of their work. As such, this Morrison for this epoch is someone I admire rather than warm to.

      Crikey Mr F. You’ve got me thinking. My apologies for going on.

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    2. 'I think the truth is that we may just disagree on what’s a “necessary” degree of emotion and character in a comic book.'

      To be fair I'd probably agree with you in most cases, but my objectivity goes out the window with Morrison. I've been enjoying his work so much for a long time, and reading it so intensly recently that I probably can`t see the woods for the trees any more. It`s also hard not to see each comic (practically each scene) as a facet of a huge multi-dimensional single work. I definitely don`t read his comics the same way I read other comics.

      He has been doing something with his whole body of work for which it`s hard to think of an equivalent of.

      That`s just to declare my bias. Hopefully we`ll hear back from you if you have any commentary on parts of the rest of the Bat-epic. I`ll definitely be looking out for them. I do see that there`s some kind of emotional disengagement in the Bat-comics particularly, compared to eg We3 or Doom Patrol. Final Crisis may be where he took that approach to the extreme.

      I`d also wonder if the later Morrison is using some kind of avent garde `distancing` and `estrangement` techniques that he earlier used experimentally but which have become more integral to his work somehow. To follow that line of thought, we`d have to go into why writers began to use them in the first place, and I`m not that qualified.

      (Your review was generous and fair - hence the little smiley face I put beside the word `harsh` :-) T`was only in jest.)

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    3. Hello Figserello:- And that lack of objectivity - which is of course no bad thing - also offers you returns from Morrison's work which I can't access. So what I'm seeing and what you are end up being really different things even when we mostly agree. I struggle to cope with the very idea of a "huge multi-dimensional single work", though I know quite a few folks who I like and respect who see it as one of Morrison's major virtues.

      I am fascinated to see where the story goes. I don't think that I could feel any other way after swapping ideas with the Morrison fans here :) And I'm looking forward to the new series of deluxe editions arriving so I can get stuck into his run from the beginning. If nothing else, and I hope there's alot more, he's such an important influence. To ignore it on a point of taste wouldn't make any sense, and, if I'm honest, I really want to be a Morrison enthusiast again.

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