One of DC Comics longest running titles, Batman, is not only an iconic character but an instantly recognizable figure in comics. The cape, the cowl, batarangs, the Batmobile! Many writers have had the privilege of taking the reins of the franchise; some have done amazing jobs with it, some have fallen flat. Clearly, though, my love for the character has rarely waned as I read much of the Batman saga.
Grant Morrison is one of the most celebrated writers of our time (though he can be a might bit pretentious at times) has written his fair share of Batman stories. Earlier this year I reviewed Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne (2010), another Morrison work. It too was full of piss and vinegar.
His run on Batman ran 29 issues; here I will be discussing the first arc which introduced the world to Damian Wayne; the bastard offspring of Bruce and Talia al Ghul. The title of the story is aptly named Batman & Son and it is clear that Talia has a plan for both her boy and Bruce, but it remains hidden throughout.
Bruce, still recovering from the events of One Year Later, is prompted by Alfred to take a leave and attend a benefit in London. Talia, who has wealth and skill to rival the great detective, tracks his movement there and uses it as an opportunity to make her entrance. Doctor Kirk Langstrom makes a foretelling, if brief, appearance on his way to provide the serum of the Man-Bat to Talia in exchange for his wife (a common theme it seems in Talia’s dealings). Talia uses the serum to turn her agents of the League of Assassins into Man-Bat-Ninjas…a fairly lethal combination and, though Batman fights valiantly, they number too great, even for him, and he is captured.
Brought before Talia she introduces Bruce to his son, Damian. She takes another female hostage, this time the wife of the British Prime Minister, and leaves the boy. The scene is akin to something you might see on Maury Povich without the hair pulling and chair throwing. Once Bruce and Damian are back at Wayne Manner the boy’s destructive nature (which can only be described as the antithesis of fatalistic) comes out.
Damian has been trained by the League of Assassins and, as such, holds true to many of their credos. His instinct is to kill rather than jail his adversary. He scoffs at Bruce when prompted to “fight crime” alongside him. When introduced to Robin (Tim Drake) he sees him immediately as a threat and does his best to eliminate him, wounding him seriously but not fatally. Damian, though a fierce competitor, has truly never had a male influence which he respected and feared. His teachers were clearly seen as puppets working for his mother merely to mold him into the grand leader she hoped he would become; the man to succeed Ra’s al Ghul.
The arc reaches its penultimate moment when Bruce, with Damian in tow, tracks Talia and her force to Gibraltar. Their surprise attack allows the prime minister’s wife the chance to escape when British forces are moving in for an attack. As soon as she is secure the Royal Navy let loose missiles to destroy the submarine Talia was using as a mobile base. Batman jumps to safety in the water and washes up ashore but the whereabouts of Talia and Damian are left to another time.
Morrison makes a significant impression with this first set of issues. I’m definitely intrigued as to where he’ll take it.
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Till next Wednesday…