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Decoding Grant Morrison’s Batman


Okay, again, these were taking from Comicvine. I haven’t really read it yet, and once i have i will post what i think of it and maybe simplify it for some parts that requires background knowledge. I have been reading some of Grant Morrison’s older works and it finally makes sense why he chose that new twist in Batman’s latest story arc.
Breaking Down the Secrets of Grant Morrison’s Batman, Part 1
This has been a long time coming. For the past four years we’ve watched Grant Morrison deconstruct Bruce Wayne, only to build him back up again–stronger and more determined than ever. And now that the entire saga of Batman versus the ultimate evil mastermind has wrapped–spanning over 50+ issues inBatmanFinal CrisisBatman & Robin and The Return of Bruce Wayne–it’s now time to revisit the entire epic run and see how all the pieces came together.

This is Part 1 of our comprehensive analysis of Grant Morrison’s Batman run, covering Batman #655-658, 663-681 and DC Universe #0. For the trade readers out there: Batman & Son, Batman: The Black Glove, and Batman RIP.  Spoilers ahead!

It’s not easy trying to analyze the work of comicdom’s mad genius. Coming up with a through-line to sum up Grant Morrison’s entire run on Batman has been a difficult challenge, but after racking my brain for what seems like days, I think I’ve got it: Morrison’s work on Batman has been an exercise by the writer to create a proactive reading experience for comic fans that mirrors Bruce Wayne’s quest to fill in the puzzle pieces and give explanation to the unexplainable.

The Hole in Things

It’s a phrase we see muttered numerous times throughout Morrison’s tenure on Batman. It’s everything that can’t fit. Everything that has no destined place in order or structure. The unexplainable. It’s also a phrase that sums up the reading experience of Morrison’s Batman, which at times can seem confusing, scattershot and without direction. But that’s exactly what Morrison wants you to think, that he has no grasp of his own story, that even he can’t handle the nature of spiraling events. Morrison’s approach to writing Batman–by making sense of so many loose threads in the character’s history and pulling them together into one cohesive narrative–mirrors Bruce Wayne’s drive to find reason and explanation for the contents of his “Black Casebook.” Therefore, in a creepy meta way–as only Grant Morrison can pull off–the writer has directly connected himself with our hero, Bruce Wayne. Both Morrison and Bruce Wayne share the same goal: give rhyme and reason where there otherwise is none.

This is why I believe so many people were confused or put off by Morrison’s approach to writing Batman, as the story jumped from Gotham, to London, to a tropical island, and finally back to Gotham for RIP. Morrison never stayed in one place for very long, and seeing the pieces start to fit together took a level of dedication to Morrison’s writing that not every reader can commit to. But Morrison was setting the stage.He was creating the holes for readers to fall into. Throwing so much at Batman meant there was a level of confusion being built that would be hard for readers to decipher what was actually significant and what was merely red herring. Therefore, Morrison could drop hints right under our noses without us ever picking up on them. Classic sleight of hand.

For example, look at the first few pages of Morrison’s first issue on Batman– issue #655. Morrison wants your attention drawn to the fact that Commissioner Gordon was poisoned and the Joker was shot in the face. We’ve been trained as comic readers to take what’s at face value as significant. But look at the graffiti on the walls during this opening sequence–Zur-En-Arrh. It’s the hypnotic trigger phase programmed into Bruce’s mind during the isolation experiments, supervised by Dr. Hurt years ago. Dr. Hurt even draws reference to this write-off artistic detail during the final confrontation ofBatman #681.

These types of winks and nods are littered throughout Grant Morrison’s run on Batman. The clues were always there from the very beginning. It’s just a matter of picking up on them and filling in the holes, because Morrison is not the type of writer to spoon feed his audience. In fact, the original mission statement of this article was to point out every breadcrumb Morrison left for us to pick up and chew on. Honestly, that would have been a disservice to the writer’s story. But believe me, you are rewarded for reading through the entirety of Morrison’s Batman work multiple times.

Now before moving on, I wanted to bring back up red herrings, specifically their importance to Morrison’s Batman. So let us look no further than the biggest red herring of Morrison’s run: the red and black Harlequin checkerboard pattern– symbolizing life and death, the joke and the punchline. This was Morrison’s ultimate gag on his audience. For readers following Morrison’s Batman on a monthly basis, they were lead to believe the red and black pattern played a significant role in the writer’s overall story. However, as we found out in RIP, the red and black checkerboard pattern was nothing more than a symbolic device used by the Joker to get inside Batman’s head and make him chase his own tail. In the context of the story, it was a wild goose chase concocted by the Joker to drive Batman mad by playing off his incessant need to give meaning where there otherwise isn’t. The same can be said for the readers of the comic, desperately searching the internet for hypotheses and plausible explanations behind the pattern, month after month. Morrison preyed on his audience’s need for explanation–in order to close the gap and fill the hole–and we played along like mice in a maze.

Probably the biggest anomaly of Morrison’s over-aching Batman story is Doctor Hurt. Having read the entirety of Morrison’s work on Batman–through even Batman & Robin and The Return of Bruce Wayne–we now know who/what Doctor Hurt is. But for years we were kept in the dark. Many, including myself, speculated that Hurt was indeed the Devil, fitting in line with the whole “hole in things, the enemy, the piece that can never fit, there since the beginning” angle to the mystery character. The clues were even peppered throughout Morrison’s run that supported the theory, with many characters saying they sold their soul to Hurt or that he was the Devil, outright. But even if Hurt turned out to be something else–yet similar–the point of the character was to give living embodiment to the idea of “this hole.” Because when push comes to shove, there had to be a physical manifestation of the unexplainable for Batman to best and punch in the face. I mean, this is a superhero story after all.

The final major idea Morrison leaves us to chew on–playing off the running “hole in things” theme–is the true meaning behind the phrase “Zur-En-Arrh.” We know “Zur-En-Arrh” is the hypnotic trigger phrase programmed into Bruce’s mind by Dr. Hurt (as discussed previously), as well as the basis for Bruce’s “backup harddrive” persona created in case of psychological attack (read Batman RIP). But the true genesis of the phrase is far more interesting; a concept Morrison masterfully introduces to add a new unexpected layer to Batman’s origin, while also kick-starting the idea of a void, a hole in things that has picked at the back of Batman’s psyche since the very beginning.

Bruce never got an explanation for what his father meant by that.

Zorro inArkham. Zur-En-Arrh.

Mind.Blown.

 

The Secrets of Grant Morrison’s Batman, Part 2
Welcome back to our second, and final, installment of “The Secrets of Grant Morrison’s Batman.” In Part 1 of our Morrison Batman analysis we talked about “the hole in things” that has plagued Batman’s life and mind since the birth of the Batman mythos. For round two we plan to cover the important themes running through Morrison’s Batman work post R.I.P., while also finally defining what exactly is the true hole in things.

Part 2 of our analysis covers Final Crisis #1-7, Superman Beyond #1-2, Final Crisis: SubmitBatman #682-683, Batman & Robin #1-16, Batman #700-702 and Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #1-6. As was the case before, spoilers await below .

Defining The Hole

Immediately following the events of Batman R.I.P. are the events of Final Crisis. While this DC Universeevent series is not considered a Batman-centric story, per se, the events that transpire are instrumental in setting the stage for the next phase of Morrison’s Batman epic. Thematically–and most definitely purposefully–Final Crisis plays right into the idea of “the hole in things.” In fact, the plot of Final Crisis takes that concept quite literally with Darkseid ’s fall from a war in heaven creating a black hole singularity in the center of existence which is tearing down the walls of reality. It’s the ultimate hole for our heroes to fall into. Or as Batman puts it in the lost chapter of R.I.P. (Batman #702), “The hole in things is Darkseid-shaped.”

Now if Darkseid’s fall in Final Crisis is considered the ultimate unexplainable hole in things, where does that leave Doctor Hurt — the self-proclaimed definition of unexplainable? Well, by the end of The Return of Bruce Wayne we finally learn the truth behind Doctor Hurt’s mysterious prolonged existence: Dr. Hurt is Darkseid. Or more specifically, Dr. Hurt is a flesh and blood vessel for Darkseid to reincarnate into. Therefore, technically, Doctor Hurt is still the epicenter hole in things, as he describes himself.

But the hole in things expands outward beyond just an evil god who has fallen from heaven, a conclusion Batman reaches as he makes his escape from Darkseid’s Command D bunker with a god-killing Radion bullet in hand. As Batman says, “The hole is everywhere. It was there in every best laid plan.” There is always something that can’t be accounted for, no matter how well thought out the plan is. And after his climactic confrontation with the god of all evil, the latest hole Bruce Wayne falls into and has to work his way out from is how he plans to escape the Omega Sanction, “the death that is life.”

So with Bruce Wayne temporarily out of the picture, the torch is passed to a new Dark Knight, Bruce Wayne’s original ward and first Robin, Dick Grayson; an era that acts as a palette cleanser and fresh start, as well as shows us the true gravity of Batman’s legacy. This new era was officially ushered in on the final page of Final Crisis #7, where we see Bruce Wayne still alive — already hard at work on a plan home — complimented by the quote, “ But the fire burns forever,” perfectly summing up the fact that…

Batman & Robin Will Never Die!

The first major theme of Morrison’s Batman run post R.I.P. and Final Crisis is “rebirth.” The most obvious example of this is the new man behind the cape & cowl, Dick Grayson. This is a Batman we’ve never seen before, one that doesn’t sulk in the shadows and actually fights crime with a smile. There is also a new Robin in town, Bruce Wayne’s biological son, Damian. This new dynamic duo is far removed from what we’ve been accustomed to in the past. Instead of Batman being the overly serious and brooding ringmaster of the partnership, it is instead Robin carrying a grave demeanor into every scenario, while Dick Grayson’s Batman remains the more lighthearted, optimistic of the two.

But Batman & Robin aren’t the only characters with fresh beginnings. The Joker is also reborn in the pages of Batman & Robin. Ever since Grant Morrison wrote Arkham Asylum: Serious House on Serious Earth, he’s portrayed the Joker as a man with a severe case of multiple personality disorder, constantly shedding personas as if they were snakeskin. His latest identity is the British crime writer, Oberon Sexton. For most, the mystery of Sexton’s identity stayed hidden until his reveal at the end of Batman & Robin #12. However, the clues were laid out from the very beginning that Sexton was indeed the Clown Prince of Crime.

For starters, the red and black visual motif of Sexton’s clothing echoes back to the Joker’s red and black gag he played on Batman’s mind up through R.I.P.. Furthermore, we have a killer murdering the remaining members of The Black Glove and leaving behind dominoes as his calling card. We knew the Joker was pissed, to say the least, about his involvement as a pawn in Hurt’s game to kill Batman. So why not return the favor, turning Hurt’s own men into the pieces of a new game designed and moderated by the Joker? Dominoes are also known as “bones” is some circles, and Oberton Sexton is called “The Gravedigger.” It seems so obvious now. What’s that saying about hindsight…

Finally, not only are Batman, Robin and the Joker reborn in the pages of Batman & Robin, but Morrison’s latest bat-series also sees a tonal rebirth. It’s a fresh beginning that’s not plagued by years of Batman continuity. Batman & Robin is a series with a much lighter and easygoing quality — perfectly fitting the new Caped Crusader. Batman & Robin is a series that exists to prove Batman and Robin will never die. The legend lives eternal.

The Legacy

This leads us right into the most important theme of Morrison’s Batman post R.I.P. and Final Crisis: legacy.Morrison has always loved writing Batman as the ultimate human-being. The Omega Man. But here Morrison takes that concept one step further. Batman is more than man, he’s now officially a god on the same level as SupermanWonder Woman and even Darkseid. When talking about characters like Superman — characters who can fly, bend steel with a single flick of the wrist and hop over buildings in a single bound — Batman describes them as myth. Specifically, Batman says “everything they touch turns to myth.” But what Batman doesn’t comprehend just yet is that he, a mere mortal, has accomplished the same feat.

Because of Bruce’s travels through time, the legacy of Batman now dates back further than when a little boy’s parents where shot dead in front of him. Bruce Wayne’s legacy of fighting injustice can now be tracked back centuries within the mythology of the DC Universe — starting with a young cave-boy who was inspired by the heroism of a mysterious stranger leading to the formation of the Miagani tribe of “bat-people.” Morrison has not only moved Batman’s legacy forward in the present with Dick and Damian during Bruce Wayne’s absence, but he’s simultaneously created a bat-mythology stretching back to the dawn of man which stems from the worship of Bruce Wayne in the past. If that isn’t god status, I don’t know what is. When it comes to Batman, everything he touches turns to myth, understand that much.

The First Truth

Much like the end of R.I.P., this latest phase of Morrison’s Batman epic–spanning Final Crisis, Batman & Robin and The Return of Bruce Wayne–ends with the turning on the head of well-established cannon. Morrison leaves us with the first truth of Batman. We’ve always considered Batman to be a loner superhero. However, that is not the case. From the very first moment when he rang that service bell and Alfred came to stitch him up, Bruce Wayne has always had assistance. There has always been someone backing him up, whether it’s Alfred, Dick, Barbara, Tim, Superman, or the rest of the Justice League.Batman would not be Batman without his friends and family. This hearkens back to Batman #683 when Alfred recounts what Bruce told him to say in case someone ever asked for Batman’s obituary. “If anyone ever asks for an obituary, tell them Batman’s big secret was the classic whodunnit? Only it’s not about who killed Batman but who kept him alive all these years .”

Bruce Wayne’s epiphany at the end of The Return of Bruce Wayne leads us right into the next phase of Morrison’s continual Batman work: Batman, Incorporated. And with Batman’s war on crime going global it’s a sure bet that Batman’s legacy is in safe hands, that the fire will indeed burn forever…

 

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