For the first “real” installment in the “Bat-Quest” series, I’ll be reviewing Grant Morrison’s ”Batman and Son”. This collection is odd, because it contains three main stories each around two issues long. The first one, “Batman and Son” is about an illegitimate son Batman sired after sleeping with his archenemy’s daughter, and his sometimes flame Talia al Ghul. This kid, Damian Wayne, is an annoying little bugger, whose whining and entitled rants about how he “should” be Robin instead of the current Robin, Tim Drake grated on my nerves, but this story was actually one of the freshest and fastest moving Batman stories I’ve read in quite some time. The goofy, but sinister “Ninja Man-Bats”, the irritating, but fascinating Damian Wayne, and Batman’s unusually glib interior monologue make this first plot a fun, action packed, detail-oriented adventure story worth rereading.
I can say less for the next two plots. The second one, “The Clown at Midnight” is about the resurrection of the Joker, who was shot in the face by a Bat-impostor. It is genuinely unsettling. Morrison depicts the Joker as a demon, a personification of immortal darkness. For a Gen-Y kid like me, who was raised on Mark Hamill’s zany voice-acting portrayal of the Crown Prince of Crime in TV shows like Batman: The Animated Series, this new, diabolic joker is frightening in a way that cannot be truly described, to say nothing of Morrison’s cheesily gruesome similes (“like a caterpillar liquefying to filth in its own nightmares” reads one of the tamest of these). It seems at times that Morrison is trying too hard, and half the sentences feel like they’re screaming “Look! I’m a serious writer, I’m DEEP”.
This plot does set up a metaphor that carries over into the more confusing installments of Morrison’s Batman saga, so I had to force myself to read it. But the most bizarre of these plots is the third one, “The Three Ghosts of Batman.” The basic premise is that three Bat-impostors are roaming Gotham City, and Batman has to figure out why they’re there. This plot is gruesome at points, and wacky at others, making it disorienting. One part of this plot, an issue depicting a possible future in which Damian inherits the role of Batman, is weird and depressing, and Damian as Batman isn’t developed enough to differentiate him from Bruce Wayne as Batman, and the other part, involving Bruce Wayne in the present, is just a whole lot of set-up.
The art in the main stories, by Andy Kubert, is stellar, and is pleasing to the eye, but the art in “The Clown at Midnight” is this weird, creepy, computer animated art, which I suppose suits its horrifying story. Other than that, I’d consider Batman and Son an entertaining romp, and a thrilling opening salvo to a very long saga.
“Batman and Son”: A-
“The Clown at Midnight”: C+
“The Three Ghosts of Batman”: B+