The Great Morrison Bat Study #13: Batman 700

Batman 700

Batman #700 isn’t exactly what I’d call consequential when it comes to the rest of Grant Morrison’s Bat-story. A standalone time-warping jaunt — much like #666 but containing less portent for the future — #700 celebrates the Dark Knight but does little to shed any light on his trials against Dr. Hurt. Why end with it, then? Because Batman #700′s all about looking forward. As Morrison has enjoyed reminding us over his past few years on the title, “Batman and Robin will never die.” #700′s the proof.

An ingeniously structured story, #700 splits itself into three segments, each dedicated to a different Batman — Bruce Wayne, Dick Grayson and Damian Wayne. Though each segment’s ostensibly about something different, all three share some commonalities. Chief among them: Dr. Carter Nichols, who you’ll remember as the time-travel pioneer from Return of Bruce Wayne #5. Nichols ties these three stories together in various capacities, whether he’s the plaything of the Joker, an apparent murder/suicide victim or the captive of the insane 2-Face-2.

Simply put, Batman #700′s a masterful book. Unlike the recently released Action Comics #900, Morrison gives us a milestone issue that truly celebrates the Dark Knight via his many iterations. Though a fair number of Morrison’s Bat-books would confound new readers (or even old ones!), I think #700 stands alone as a brilliant one-shot story that truly illustrates the greatness of Batman as a hero and as a character.

Even given its relatively isolated nature, I still found some interesting connections to note in Batman #700. But mostly I’m sticking it at the end of my GMBS so we can leave it on a note of hope. Readers currently engaged with Morrison’s work on Batman, Inc. know that everything’s far from rosy for the Caped Crusader. But if you look at #700 as a break between Batman & Robin #16 and Batman: The Return, you can give Bruce Wayne a nice break, if only for 32 pages.

The past (Bruce Wayne):
-Joker’s time-travel plan should sound familiar to readers of this column: “I’m going to send Batman back to the day, the very moment Batman was born!” Much like Morrison himself, Joker seems to want to make us revisit Batman’s creation.
-Another common thread between these three stories is Joker’s joke book. I don’t think I’m too out in left field to suggest it’s kind of Joker’s equivalent of Batman’s black casebook.
-When Bruce smashes some technology down on Joker’s head, he ends up looking a lot like the 10-Eyed Men from 52. It’s probably accidental, but maybe Morrison’s trying to say something about the Joker’s keen perception (remember, he saw Hurt coming ages before Bruce did).
-We get a great reference to Batman’s real-world past here with the inclusion of a police officer named O’Hara.
-Bruce, to Dick, on becoming Batman: “Robin. There was never a choice.” Turns out that’s kind of true…

The present (Dick Grayson):
-Here we see Dick interacting friendlily with Gotham’s cops. That’s something Bruce probably wouldn’t do, and it explains why in Batman & Robin Commissioner Gordon says to Dick “they prefer you to him.”
-Again another reference to Batman’s birth; this story takes place on the anniversary of the night Bruce’s parents were murdered. As a memorial, Dick and Damian vow to keep the city clean for one night.
-Thugs that Dick and Damian beat up here are the Mutants, ripped from Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns. That’s another nice little nod to the past/future of Batman.
-Another tactic of Dick’s Bruce may not agree with: he makes deals with dealers and pimps.
-Here the Joker’s joke book appears as part of a metacriminal auction.
-The last scene of this vignette is great. Damian tells Dick he thinks he’d make a better Batman (which we’re about to see). Dick says he won’t be ready until he can make crazy deductions and random leaps in illogic. In his words, “it’ll all make sense one day.” Perhaps that’s another meta-message from Morrison to his readers.

The future (Damian Wayne):
-This segment basically functions as a sequel to Batman #666.
-In this segment, Joker’s joke book is being demanded by a madman named January, who’s used Joker toxin to poison the city. Even in the future, it seems Gotham can’t get away from being sick.
-Notice how Damian adapts yet alters the techniques of his father, for instance by using a version of Bruce’s Brother-I satellite that got him into big trouble during The OMAC Project.
-Here Damian fights cops that’ve been bulked up by Joker venom, kind of making them the dark mirror of one of the Three Ghosts of Batmen.
-The villain of this segment, 2-Face-2, is a nice callback to Morrison’s own DC 1,000,000. How’s that for nepotistic continuity?
-We find out that Joker’s joke book has nothing discernible written in it. It’s said “only the insane could read it.” Is this some kind of parody of Batman’s methodical cataloging?
-The epigraph of this issue, first brought up by Riddler in the opening segment and recalled here: “What can we beat but never defeat?” As other awesome commenters on the Internet have pointed out, the answer is the title of this issue: “Time and the Batman.”
-Side note: there’s a wonderful use of Batman: Beyond in the epilogue.

Up next: That’s it! I’ll be posting some final thoughts and then it’s finito for the GMBS.

tags: batman, gmbs, grant morrison

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