Tuesday, December 2, 2008


DOCTOR HURT:“Bruce! I am your father!”
DC EDITORIAL: “Not if we have anything to say about it.”

Grant Morrison’s run on Batman began back when the Cedar Tavern was still open, which means it’s taken more than 24 months to publish 17 issues and fulfill Morrison’s promise of an event that will shake Batman continuity to the core:

"When we begin to suspect the identity of the villain, I think it's the most, like I said the other day, it's possibly the most shocking Batman revelation in 70 years."

Sorry, Grant, but the only revelation in Batman 681 is that you need to read another bunch of comic books to find out how the story ends, which is so typically DC they ought to patent it. So why am I so cheesed off about this that I keep trying to think of a good image equating DC with the hooker who promises sex but never delivers, or the drug that never really gets you as high as your dealer says it will, or the event that never lives up to the promise of its advance billing? Why, with all of DC editor Dan DiDio’s relentless insistence on story and character whenever he’s interviewed, do story and character continually take second-place to a micro-managed, event-driven cross between continuity porn and fan fiction? Obvious answer: because it sells. Other obvious answer: because the so-called “characters” of the DC universe are properties first and people second. This means that they cannot change like real people, cannot grow old and die, cannot grow at all, because their existence is tied to a branded and marketable commodity whose recipe, like that of Coca-Cola, cannot be deviated from. It can only be refined. Which in character terms means that the same old stories get told in greater and greater detail, until continuity becomes an exercise in fractal mathematics.

Which is why there was probably no other way the RIP storyline could end except with a death that is so obviously not a death that only stupid people in a comic book universe will believe it. Like Dick (Nightwing) Grayson, for instance:

Hey! That full-pager reminds me of something. Something like this:

Right – the final page of Batman 658, which ended the Batman and Son arc. And killed a couple of people just as unlethally as Bruce Wayne gets killed in Batman 681. I’d like to think this echo is authorially deliberate, but with the delays and the artist shuffle, part of me believes that DC Editorial took Morrison’s original ending and tweaked it, or had Morrison tweak it. And isn't Batman supposed to get gunned down in front of Damien? That's the way it's told in Batman 666:

And yes, this is the legend of the Batman, but still -- a bloody death in Crime Alley sure makes for that circular the-end-is-the-beginning tale that clever authors love to try to pull off whenever they can. Possibly Morrison's original intention? Hard to say. But the fact that I'm continually reaching for the "editorial interference" card means that I can't help saying "Who dealt this mess?" Especially when I read the "I am Thomas Wayne" stuff.

I don't know about you, but there's something awkward about all that dialogue, like it was originally clear and then got rewritten to the point of being deliberately vague. "I am your father." "No you're not." "Then the only alternative is dot dot dot." Which is why a lot of people think that this guy is the devil incarnate. Which means the most shocking revelation in 70 years of Batman continuity is that Bruce Wayne is Jesus Christ. Which would explain the immortality angle in this full-pager, right?

Snark aside, I shouldn't have to feel like the kid who has to explain "No soap -- radio!" when I read a supposedly-self-contained comic book story. I have no idea who the villain really is, or what all the talk about wearing other people's skins is about except that Morrison used that in The Invisibles and maybe he's doing a Stephen King Dark Tower thing here, fitting all his disparate little floppy writings into a consistent universe. Good luck with that, Grant. But as someone who over-intellectualizes everything, when you've got me scratching my head? You've already lost the normal audience. And if it was DC Editorial and not you behind this train wreck helicopter crash of an ending, than all I can say is: why do you hire writers when all you end up doing is rewriting their work?

Malcolm in the Middle: The Adult Years

1 comment:

Horvendile said...

And that would be Dick.