Thursday, May 08, 2008

A Few Thoughts on Morrison's Batman

I took my kids to the park on Tuesday--the park right which happens to be right across the street from the local comic shop. So, how could I resist stopping there on the way home? (Especially because it's usually closed on Tuesday, but it was secretly open this week.) I don't really need any more comics, obviously, and I buy all of my stuff every Wednesday, but on impulse I picked up the Batman and Son hardcover. I've written a lot about Morrison's Batman run, but I haven't gone back to reread any of the issues. I've just been commenting upon them as they come out.

So here are my recent, not-in-any-particular-order, observations about Morrison's first story arc and the prose issue:

1) Andy Kubert's art is great in the first story arc. I didn't appreciate him at the time, but he stages some brilliant fight scenes with the Man-Bats. His Damian is kind of strange-looking, with too much muscle definition for a little kid, but his work is better than I remembered it being.

2) What is Talia up to? She seemed to have big plans in the first story arc, but she has just kind of lurked in the background ever since. Yet she clearly has a plan.

3) I've had debates with Thom Young (formerly of Silver Bullets, now with Comic Bulletin) about the quality of "The Clown at Midnight." He has massive problems with the narration, and I don't. Rereading the story, I still don't see what his concerns are (the narrator pretty clearly uses free indirect discourse to adopt a faux-first person POV at times, but that's a common technique in literary fiction) and it's pretty clear to me that the unnamed narrator is the Black Glove.

4) If the omniscient voice belongs to the Black Glove, and I think it does, then it's yet another indicator that Alfred is the Black Glove. Morrison goes out of his way to show that Alfred has relatively trashy taste in literature. Hence the overwrought narration of "The Clown at Midnight." It's Alfred's Batman fan-fic.

5) The red and black patterns, so emphatic in "The Clown at Midnight" and highlighted again in DC Universe #0, not only recall the colors of the playing card suits, but they also remind us that there's probably a link between the Joker (who was once known as the Red Hood) and the Black Glove. I don't know what that connection is, but I'm sure the Red Hood/Black Glove relationship means something.

Rereading these earlier issues made me rethink my recent discussion with Chad Nevett. I might have ranked Batman higher on the list of Morrison work. It still has a long way to go, but these early issues started strong.

(By the way, have you seen the new house ads for "Batman R.I.P."? It's crossing over into a bunch of titles--Detective, Nightwing, Robin--this summer. That makes me nervous. I was kind of hoping that Morrison could do his own thing, because if it turns out anything like that Ra's al Ghul crossover, it will be a disaster.)


Chad Nevett said...

I saw that Robin gets a crossover issue or two--the solicit mentioned Tim taking over as Batman for a little bit.

I haven't reread the run since I did my giant post on it, so I think I'll keep it where I ranked it.

Good call on the Red Hood/Black Glove stuff, too. Although, I'm not necessarily convinced that the narrator of "The Clown at Midnight" is the Black Glove... but I would have to reread it with that in mind to see it works. Actually, since the emphasis on the Black Glove happened mostly in the issues that have come out since my reread, I probably missed a lot of that stuff. Sure, he showed up in the Batman of Many Nations issues, but it seemed like a one-off at the time. Hmm. But, yeah, if the narrator IS the Black Glove, then that definitely points to Alfred since it is written in that style that he so loves--as referenced at least twice now (the recent one to his books and when Batman's journal mentioned practicing that pulp voice for Alfred's benefit).

Marc Caputo said...

I'm thinking - OK, praying on bended knee - that the other Bat-books will just be responding/reacting to the changes made by "Batman R.I.P."

Between this post and Klock's latest (on Casanova), you guys are mucking with my reading projects.

Like John Lennon said,"Klock and Callahan are what happens when you're reading other books."

Anonymous said...

Tim, I admit that I'm going to have to re-read BATMAN #663 at some point with an open mind that will allow me to consider other possibilities for the narrative POV. However, that time has not yet arrived.

I do recall, though, that the narrator in the first chapter refers to the Joker as "the boss," and so I'm going to have to have some indication why Black Glove would refer to him in that way if Black Glove is the narrator.

I actually floated a possible explanation on the Comics Bulletin message boards a few weeks back, and I will re-read that story at some point--but probably not until the Black Glove arc is concluded and I can more clearly see the pieces of the puzzle.

Timothy Callahan said...

The narrator refers to Joker as "The Boss" because he's using his omniscient voice to weave in and out of people's heads.

It's a mash-up of first person and third person throughout, but that's what Free Indirect Discourse is all about.

Timothy Callahan said...

Also, Klock is absolutely right about Casanova #14! It's great stuff. And, you will need to get your iPods ready for the soundtrack.

Marc Caputo said...

I have my iPod ready and I pulled out my Watchmen tpb. Any other hints?

Anonymous said...

"It's a mash-up of first person and third person throughout, but that's what Free Indirect Discourse is all about."

Yep, that's what Free Indirect Discourse is about. However, that's not how it struck me when I first read it. I will, though, keep this in mind when I get around to reading it again.

Thom said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Tim, I've now re-read it and re-evaluated it. I retract my earlier view of it as being bad.

Here's the review: