Thursday, 5 September 2013

Batman: The Black Glove by Grant Morrison and JH Williams III Review

If Batman and Son was Revolver, The Black Glove is Sgt Pepper’s – Grant Morrison goes a bit off-reservation with his stories here, something his critics hate, but his fans love. Fortunately I’m a fan and I enjoyed this re-reading it as much as I did the first time around.

The first half of the book is Morrison rewriting Agatha Christie’s AMAZING novel …And Then There Were None, where a group of strangers go to an island to meet with a wealthy host and stay the weekend at his mansion – only to find the host missing. And then they start dying, one by one. If you haven’t read it, go check it out immediately, it is such a good read even though it’s 80+ years old at this point.

In The Island of Mister Mayhew we first see (most of) the members who would become Batman Incorporated: Knight and Squire, Gaucho, Wingman, Man of Bats and his son Raven Red, and who, in the 1950s, along with Batman and Robin, were part of the Club of Heroes. Morrison’s thesis in his Batman run is that everything counts – every story from Detective Comics #27 to the present day, including the 60s TV show, the movies, the Bat nipples, everything. It all counts, it all happened to one man: it all happened to Batman. So stuff like the 1950s Club of Heroes gets referenced and even zanier stuff gets pulled later on in the run. Bear that in mind when reading this – Morrison’s creating new stuff for the character, most notably Damian, but he’s also bringing back obscure Batman characters and referencing stuff even the most hardcore Batman fans will have trouble placing. This is basically the Batmaniest Batman series you’ll ever read!

Batman and Robin (Tim Drake) head to Mayhew’s island – the wealthy benefactor who wasn’t Bruce Wayne who funded the Club – to meet up with the other heroes for what they think is a fun get-together after years apart only to find Mayhew not there. And then they start dying, one by one.

It’s a great story with fantastic art from the JH Williams III who really knows how to lay out an interesting page, let alone draw a splash page like no other. Plus if you’re a big fan of Batman Incorporated like me, you’ll enjoy spending time once again with members like Knight and Squire and the mysterious Wingman.

The second part of the book is where things get a little psychedelic. Continuing the story from Batman and Son, the Batman replacements who’ve suddenly emerged in Gotham, show up again, this time holding the GCPD hostage and temporarily defeating Batman. Here we find out their dark origins and purpose just as Bruce descends into a coma-like state where he flashes back to a time when he took part in an isolation experiment in the Himalayas: a hallucination within a hallucination! Joe Chill in Hell is the storyline where things get really weird, heralded by the arrival of Batmite and the mysterious phrase: Zurr-En-Arrh.

Reading this second part the first time, I know I was damn confused. Returning to it now, I know it links with Batman RIP and later stories so it’s less confusing, but it’s still a very trippy read. Also, the book is called The Black Glove but this book only barely scratches the surface of that shadowy group so you finish the book still not knowing who the hell or what the hell the Black Glove is which is a little unsatisfying. And Jezebel Jet? She hasn’t really stood out much as an interesting character. Sure, she’s sexy as hell, but aren’t they all?

These are minor complaints though, if you’re a Batman fan, you’ll love this, especially if you enjoy being challenged and don’t mind a non-linear read. Which, by the way, in the biggest mainstream comic of them all? That’s pretty damn cool! Morrison continues his excellent Batman run in The Black Glove, telling new and exciting stories with one of the oldest characters of them all, and finding new things to say about him.

Batman: The Black Glove

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