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The Great Morrison Bat Study #2: Batman & Son | Comic Nothings | Nerdy Nothings

The Great Morrison Bat Study #2: Batman & Son

Batman and Son

Batman & Son marked the beginning of Grant Morrison‘s official tenure on the Batman titles. While plot-wise it doesn’t have as much of a connection with his larger Batman epic as later story arcs would, thematically it couldn’t be more significant. This four issue run (Batman #655-658) officially reintroduces to the world Damian Wayne, the illicit son of Bruce Wayne and Talia Al Ghul originally conceived in the Mike Barr/Jerry Bingham graphic novel Son of the Demon. For a long time that book had been considered out of continuity, but Morrison was drawn to the idea of Bruce having a son and made its events more or less official (which would only be the beginning of Morrison making strange old Bat-stories canonical).

Given that a huge thrust of Morrison’s Batman arc involves divesting Bruce of his traditional loner status, Batman & Son becomes of paramount importance. Here Morrison foists a literal Bat-family onto Bruce, and like it or not he has to learn how to cope with allowing others in his life. What may have become a silly sitcom in the hands of another writer instead stands as an important turning point for Bruce. While many of Morrison’s arcs feature Bruce battling Dr. Hurt or Darkseid–forces that would damn him–I think it’s fair to say that the introduction of Damian, although initially portrayed in a negative light, actually saves him. Think back to Return of Bruce Wayne #6. What is the “first truth of Batman”? “I was never alone.” Damian plays a crucial role in Bruce’s realization that he cannot operate by himself any longer; indeed, it may not be too crazy to suggest that Damian provides the impetus for Batman, Inc.

Let’s take that one step further: in a sense, Morrison’s whole run is about Damian’s maturation process. In Batman & Son he’s a holy terror with massive attention issues. He beats Robin to within an inch of his life, he kills villains without thought, and he locks Alfred in a pantry. But as Morrison’s story moves on we begin to see a whole different side to Damian as he grows into the Robin role. Although certainly Bruce is Morrison’s main character, I’d argue that Damian puts up a good fight for number two (even above Dick), and it’s truly interesting to watch him grow and change throughout the course of Morrison’s tenure (although The Return shows us that Damian’s not quite yet where he needs to be).

Below I’ve made some general notes on the content of Batman & Son. As usual, they’re arranged chronologically and were written down as I made my way through the issues.

- This story opens with Commissioner Gordon poisoned by the Joker. We’ll see this happen again at the end of Morrison’s story, although that time it won’t be the Joker’s fault.
- It’s interesting that the first Batman we see in this story isn’t actually Bruce Wayne, but a crazy impostor. Impostor Batmans become quite important later on.
- Joker is the first villain Morrison shows us in his run. Although he’s not present in all of Morrison’s issues, it seems he’s always lurking in the background, and he comes back in a big way towards the end of Batman & Robin. In this appearance, we strangely see Joker making a mistake when he captures a fake Batman, who proceeds to shoot him in the head.
- The Zurr-en-arrh graffiti starts early; check it out on page 6&7 of #655.
- A lot of the backgrounds in this arc, particularly the skies, are tinted red. DC Comics readers familiar with the various Crises might find significance in that.
- As Batman & Son opens Bruce has successfully cleaned up Gotham and doesn’t know what to do with himself. Tim even mentions their 52 vacation which, he says, energized Bruce to make his city safe again. Is it too cliché to suggest that’s the calm before the storm? Anyway, it’s basically just another illusion, like Bruce thinking the 10-Eyed Men excised his demons in 52. He thinks everything’s going smoothly, but in reality it’s just paved the way for his greatest enemy to strike.
- Alfred notes Bruce has lapsed into his Batman persona fully. The demons he thought were gone have in actuality overcome him, perhaps.
- Bruce’s new Batmobile, a key part of Batman & Robin, is first mentioned here.
- Nice reference to the Earl of Wordenshire, also known as the Knight, whom Bruce calls when he arrives in London.
- Bruce tries here to re-learn how to be Bruce, but that project’s pretty quickly abated.
- This issue establishes Alfred as the voice of reason in Morrison’s Bat-books, which leads to some amazing scenes in Batman & Robin.
- Not necessarily germane to anything else, but I love the pop-art background that permeates a couple of these issues. It leads to some brilliant choreography, and it may be Morrison’s way of reminding us we’re reading a comic, which he loves to do. Bruce has a few lines that suggest I may be right about the latter: “All this comic book stuff is way too highbrow for me.” “If there’s one thing I hate, it’s art with no context.” He also remarks that his plan to defeat the ninja Man-Bats “sounds great on paper,” which is a shout-out to the comic format if I ever heard one.
- This arc gives us Jezebel Jet’s first appearance. We know she later reveals herself to be an agent of the Black Glove. She gets a little ominous dialog in here, if you’re looking for it, as she creepily tells Bruce “I know where you live.”
- Bruce fights off the Man-Bats with bo staffs, weapons Dick would later adopt as Batman.
- Much of Batman & Son‘s second issue is occupied by an excellent fight scene. Besides being cool, it really lets Bruce open up and show readers what he’s capable of in top form, thereby establishing the action capacities of Morrison’s Batman.
- There’s a couple references peppered throughout this arc to Bruce’s many back-up plans. It comes up in the fight with the Man-Bats and later with the Bat-rocket. “I have a lot of stuff nobody knows about.” Although people who cried foul at Bruce’s backup personality in RIP may not be mollified by these lines, they can’t say they weren’t warned.
- Bruce tells Tim that Damian’s arrival “doesn’t change anything.” Hah! Denial much?
- The scene where Batman lays down the law with Damian is tremendous.
- There’re lots of signs in this first arc that Damian will become Robin… eventually.
- Bruce & Damian have a great conversation about Bruce’s father in the Bat-rocket. That seems like the scene that Damian finally begins to respect his father, and the much-touted goodness of Bruce’s dad becomes an important point later as well.
- At the end we learn that all the events of Batman & Son have been a massive scheme perpetrated by Talia to start a family with Bruce and Damian united. Those kind of long-term machinations show up again and again in Morrison’s run, although compared to what we get later Talia’s scheme seems mundane.
- Batman & Son ends with Talia and Damian supposedly being blown up. Of course we know they come back later. But the page of Bruce holding Damian’s cowl as he scans the water for any sign of the pair is very similarly constructed to the final page in RIP where Dick Grayson does the same for Bruce. It’s further proof that people who actually thought Batman died at the end of RIP just weren’t paying attention.

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tags: batman, gmbs, grant morrison

  • Rebel Rikki

    Okay, important addition: the VERY FIRST THING we see Batman do in this story is fire a gun. Granted, it’s not the real Batman, but that’s super interesting when you connect it to my claim that this whole Batman ordeal begins with him firing a gun on Darkseid.

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