Friday, 30 August 2013

Batman and Son by Grant Morrison and Andy Kubert Review


Grant Morrison's epic 7-year run on Batman ended last month with the brilliant Batman Incorporated #13, so what better time to revisit the book that kicked it all off: Batman and Son?

Batman discovers he has a son - Damian - following a druggy one-night stand years ago with Talia Al-Ghul who stole his DNA and combined it with hers to grow Damian in a lab. Jezebel Jet is introduced as Bruce's love interest, Joker pops up for his usual Joker shenanigans, and the book ends with a grown-up Damian in the future, now the Batman of Gotham City.

I forgot how much I enjoyed this book the first time around, but knowing all that happens down the line makes re-reading Batman and Son all the more fun and rewarding. For example, I didn't notice the graffiti featured in the background of the first issue - Zur-En-Arrh - which is relevant because Batman becomes the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh in the Batman RIP arc, a couple of years after this issue came out. It really shows the extensive planning and effort Morrison puts into his work.

The opening sequence set in London is a brilliant start. Here Talia doses a number of her assassins with Kurt Langstrom's Manbat serum while Bruce is attending a pop art exhibition in the National Gallery and meets Jezebel Jet. The pop art exhibition is a masterstroke by Morrison as the pieces look like Roy Lichtenstein's work so you get captions like "WOW!" in the background art when Jezebel is introduced - looking amazing of course - or "POW!" when Batman is fighting the Manbats. It reads like an episode of Adam West Batman! Incredible.

Damian, once he's introduced to Bruce, is a very different character to the one most readers will have gotten used to in recent years. Initially, he's basically a stone cold psycho. He beats the crap out of both Tim and Alfred, and decapitates a D-list villain before his father appears to stop him. Damian's character evolution over the series is brilliant. That he learns with his time as Robin and changes his attitude to fit to a more honourable code like Batman's than the bloodthirsty and inhumane one that he was indoctrinated with by Talia and Ra's, makes him that much more of a complex and involving character to the reader. It's the fact that we've seen him change over the years which goes some way to explaining why the reaction to his death earlier this year elicited such a strong reaction among the fans. But seeing him here at the start of his journey is quite striking in his brutality.

Morrison also begins experimenting with style immediately in this first book. I love that he doesn't even give the readers a grace period and starts playing with form and implementing his years-long story right off the bat (no pun intended). We get a prose issue starring the Joker, that I will say was the weakest part of the book - there is a reason why Morrison is an acclaimed comic book writer than a novelist - and then the book closes out by jumping ahead 20 years to Damian as Batman operating in a nightmarish Gotham City that's gone to hell. Incredibly, this issue would receive a second part 6 years later with New 52 Batman Incorporated #5 (and Andy Kubert is working on a miniseries out later this year as well)! This is also the start of Morrison's Bat menagerie with Alfred the Cat making his first appearance. Once more, Morrison impresses with his long-game approach to Batman.

The Damian-as-Batman issue and the opening Manbat sequence in the art gallery were my favourite parts of the book but I enjoyed all of it really. It's such a solid start to a legendary run that holds up on re-reads as much as it does reading it for the first time. Batman and Son is an outstanding Batman book that every fan will love. And the fact that Alfred reads Artemis Fowl means I might just have to pick up one of those books now!

Morrison's Batman begins with this book - and it rules!

Batman And Son

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