Last week, Grant Morrison’s epic seven year dance with the caped crusader ended. Some complained that the final issue ended with a whimper over the big bang they expected.
In a way that was true, but also ignored the fact that the issue capped a massive battle for Gotham that killed Robin, enslaved the city, and left Batman a broken husk. The action climax had already passed. All that was left were a few narrative conclusions and a final thematic flourish to bid farewell and tie Morrison’s tale into the New 52 future. It might not have felt like a grand issue on its own, but after everything that came before it was an emotional and resonant farewell. Morrison took Batman on a psychedelic head-trip through the character’s history over the last seven years. Through the writer’s own unique logic, he found a way to define a Batman who could have been born in Frank Miller’s grimy, gritty, and psychologically grounded Year One and still pal around with the Super Friends and Bat-Mite. It was a remarkable run, both deeply complex and goofily entertaining. A body of work that holds up to multiple readings and interpretations, while still offering glossy superhero entertainment on the surface. The author’s presence will be missed in Batlore, but as he so eloquently expressed in the final issue, Batman is bigger than Morrison or any single author. The character has become a myth and myths outlast mere mortals. We should all just be glad that the bald, mad Scottish genius got a chance to play with the most enduring and fascinating superhero in comics. He will be missed, but never forgotten.
Now that the whole tale has been told, it’s undeniably fascinating to step back and look at what Morrison accomplished as a whole. He opened with an image of Batman shooting the Joker in the head. A nightmare fantasy for every Bat-fan who enjoys Gotham’s Knight at his darkest. The dark, yet glossy artwork was true to DC’s house style in the 2000s and in the first run Batman And Son the spirit of Denny O’Neil was evoked to bring back Talia and Ra’s Al Ghul and give Batman a son of the demon with a name to evoke chills in any Omen fan. By the end, Morrison’s Batman books were filled with bold splashes of psychedelic, bright colors and the exaggerated cartoon style of Chris Burnham to complete the story of Bruce, Talia, and their son Damien. The story was the same, but the tone and style had shifted. Over the seven years, Morrison reclaimed the Silver Age goofball Batman and found a tone pitched somewhere between the character’s darkest nights and brightest days. That was no easy task given how loathed that forgotten Batman was, yet somehow Morrison did it. The fact that he managed to pull it off while Christopher Nolan was giving the darkest of knights to the masses on film says a great deal about how strong the author’s vision was. Morrison brought bright light back to Batman at a time when everyone wanted to forget that interpretation and proved that all ages of the Bat belong in his mythos.