Shiny Shelf

Batman #655

By Mark Clapham on 27 July 2006

WARNING! Contains spoilers!

Following on from the launch of Paul Dini’s run on ‘Detective Comics’, here’s the new team on the other Batbook, writer Grant Morrison and second generation artist Andy Kubert.

It makes sense that ‘Tec’ should be the crime book while ‘Batman’ focuses more on the character as superhero, and this issue makes that distinction more clearly than most, taking Batman away from the muggers and back alleys of Gotham and into a wider, more heightened, more glamorous world. The underlying agenda is clear – after twenty years of Frank Miller-influenced angst and gritted teeth, its time for Batman to have, and be, fun again.

Morrison has been extolling the virtues of the sexier, more laidback Batman for many years, and has indeed dabbled with a wackier, more fantastical Batman in his various ‘JLA’ projects. Like ‘All-Star Superman’, this is a series Morrison has been preparing to write for his entire career, and it shows. The opening pages alone are something of an ultimate Batman story, a clearing-of-the-decks showdown with the Joker that most writers would consider an epic finale to a stint writing ‘Batman’ – for Morrison, its just the beginning.

With crime down in Gotham, Bruce Wayne can afford to spend more time being Bruce Wayne, and rediscover his own life. After two decades of Batman being predominantly written as a madman obsessed with his personal war on crime, it’s great to see this more relaxed and balanced version of the character, one who isn’t constantly pushing away his substitute family of Robin and Alfred, but actually seems to listen to and appreciate them. For once, Bruce takes their advice and goes on a holiday.

Of course, this would be a rubbish superhero comic if all Batman did was go to parties, and Morrison doesn’t write bad comics, so while Bruce Wayne is making his mark on London’s social scene, there’s a lot of plotting and scheming going on elsewhere. In keeping with the rest of the book, this isn’t another gangland turf war – rather this is big time B-movie villainy, where damsels are menaced with dayglo syringes, every villain has a map the size of a wall, and armies of monsters gather in the shadows.

Andy Kubert, in his first big gig since signing an exclusive deal with DC, has endless fun with such a packed script, out ‘Hush’-ing Jim Lee with some gorgeous opening pages, while also maintaining a classic, clear line that stops the pages getting overly busy. Morrison gives him numerous instantly-iconic images to draw, and Kubert rises to the occasion. Dave Stewart’s colours are as excellent as ever, giving the book a warmth and colour not always seen in gloomy streets of Gotham.

‘Batman’ is a hugely popular character for many reasons, but one of those is that he’s open to numerous interpretations and approaches, while also being wonderfully simple to understand. The character and his universe is a dream to writers, and indeed otherwise middling comics talents have found themselves churning out good Batman stories, taking advantage of the strengths and story possibilities of the concept. This has made the Bat-books DC’s most reliable franchise down the years – not only is he always popular, but you have to really do something very badly wrong to mess him up.

Morrison and Kubert’s ‘Batman’ takes a direction not seen in a while, reducing the melancholy and adding a bit more adventurous zip to proceedings. This is the first part of what promises to be an action-packed, big-ideas epic, which should nicely complement the one-issue crime stories Dini is writing for ‘Detective’. For as long as these two writers stick with their respective books, its going to be great to be a Batman fan.

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By Mark Clapham

Mark Clapham is a Devon-based writer and editor. You can find out more about him at the egotistically named

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