Thursday, April 24, 2008

Batman #675 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Batman #675, in which I write the following sentences: "Morrison's Batman is a madman, not in the fascist Frank Miller way so often replicated in the post-'Dark Knight Returns' days, but in the way of a man whose already damaged psyche becomes fractured beyond all reason. If Batman has lived through every single story ever presented in a Batman comic, as Morrison posits he has, how can he not go mad?"

Read the entire review HERE.


matt st. pierre said...

Really, really good review, Tim. To be honest, all of them are really good, even if we don't agree, but this one was double, hence the extra really.

Please don't punch me in the face.

It's nice to see Morrison's work on Batman getting due attention and analysis, unlike the general internet fans' reaction of boohissclaw that I seem to see.

RAB said...

What Matt said.

Kris Krause said...

First let me say it was nice meeting you at New York Comic Con, and as promised I'm going to start commenting every now and then.

This issue personally got me really excited for RIP. It was a calm before the storm issue. I could tell that from the solicits, so I went in expecting that.

The art did leave a little to be desired, but some of those panels at the end were iconic, even if the art was a bit rough. The last panel Dick and Tim appear in is some awesome potential foreshadowing.

But, as always, a solid review on your part. The only thing I disagree with is that I like Tony Daniel's art, but I can see why you don't and that's irrelevant to the content of this particular issue.

Timothy Callahan said...

Hey Kris, glad to have you providing some comment action!

I think Tony Daniel's a perfectly competent artist, and from what I've seen of his pencils, he's actually better than what we see on the printed page. But I don't think he's evolved out of that Image house style he's been using for years. Someone like Jae Lee, for example, has.

The Satrap said...

I was initially quite critical of Morrison's run on Batman, but the last issues have been coming together very nicely.

One of the "classic" GM themes which is finding its way into this run is the whole "dialogue between the body and the mind/soul" thing. Morrison seems to think that both domains are interdependent, refusing the Cartesian notion that they are diametrically opposed substances and the implied "superiority" of mind over matter. However, the alienation of the former from the latter is a constant motif (which crops up whenever the drabness of everyday life is shown, etc.), and Descartes' influence is openly acknowledged throughout GM's work.

Where am I getting at with this? Well, I think that GM is making Batman confront the ultimate villain: Descartes' Evil Genius.

Like the Evil Genius, the King of Crime/Black Glove/Hurt/whoever has been pulling the strings in the story is filling the hero's mind with uncertainty and error. In particular, the reality of Batman's "physical reality" i.e. his continuity is thrown into question. Descartes credits the Evil Genius with even greater "powers", since he is potentially capable to cast doubt on even the most basic of logical and mathematical truths, and in this storyline the most sacred Batman trope of all --the Batman/Wayne double identity-- is falling apart.

Furthermore (and this is what made me think of a nod to Descartes in the first place), in #674, Batman says that for years he's been fearing the kind of mastermind he's dealing with now, one capable to counter anything Batman might throw at him, simply because such a villain might conceivably exist. This is not merely meta-commentary (Batman is self-aware enough to suspect at this point in his career that if there's a good high-concept for a villain, he or she will eventually pop up in the flesh), it's basically Descartes' "Methodical Doubt" in action.

I still haven't got my copy of #675, but I can easily imagine that the Ten-Eyed man can be read on a level as an avatar of "Pure Mind" or Mind-over-Body, perhaps like the Bat-Mite.

GM is signalling very clearly that Batman can only get out of this fix through a process of reintegration of the different facets of his person. On a level, this is a typical Jungian accept-your-own-daemons thing. On another, it's a commentary on Batman's history. On yet another, it's a typical Cartesian narrative of doubt and alienation, followed by the recovery of a measure of certainty based on a core sense of self, and culminating in a reconciliation of that self with all other remaining aspects of the individual.

There are other comics where GM's obsession with sensory deprivation and brains in vats take centre stage, like Fantastic Four 1234. Of course, that issue of Doom Patrol with the Brain and Monsieur Mallah is particularly explicit about GM's interest in sort-of-Cartesian accounts of mind/body dualism.