Written by Cody Walker
Famed Scottish comic writer Grant Morrison’s run with the Caped Crusader – spanning 2006-2013 with Batman, Final Crisis, Batman and Robin, and Batman Incorporated – definitely warrants detailed introspection. His run was rife with dramatic change and mythological symbolism that sought to combine every aspect of Batman’s history into one definitive epic. Author Cody Walker takes on the ambitious task of breaking down what every bit of that symbolism and change means, and he leaves no stone unturned.
Morrison introduced several controversial concepts into the Batman mythology. He killed off Bruce Wayne and somehow made us like a world where Dick Grayson is Batman. He had Batman break his long-accepted no-gun rule when he shot and killed a god. He revisited campy ‘50s and ‘60s story lines and made them matter. Morrison introduced the son of Batman to the scorn of fans across the world, only to have them grow to love him right as Morrison steals him away in a murder just as contentious as his birth. Like his run or not, it’s hard to argue that Morrison’s run wasn’t eventful.
Walker does an excellent job taking Morrison’s run apart piece by piece to examine what everything means. Was Batman fighting against the literal Devil? Did Bruce Wayne turn Batman from a terrifying boogie man for Gotham’s criminals into a mythological deity on a global scale? Was this always the case, and Morrison just wanted to bring all that to the forefront? Walker does a great job explaining every facet and backing it up with the source material in great detail, including an interview with Morrison himself at the end of the book.
Unfortunately, it’s the substantial detail that bogs the book down. Walker’s book visits Morrison’s run in two forms: exploring specific concepts (like Damian Wayne, Dick Grayson as Batman, and the Black Glove/Joker dynamic) and examining each individual issue from start to end. If that latter part sounds exceptionally tedious, that’s because it is. These portions feel more like a reference guide than a scholarly examination. This dual methodology of inspection also leads to Walker repeating his points and the reader retreading familiar territory, burying the reader in details already covered.
With that said, if you are already a fan of Morrison’s Batman run and of the writer in general, this is a great companion piece. You may get some new ways of thinking of this run of Batman that you hadn’t had before. There were definitely ideas I hadn’t considered in my initial reading, and it makes me appreciate that run more for it. It may be a slow read, but if you have those Batman issues handy, it would be interesting to read along side.
If you didn’t like Morrison’s Batman, if you just want your Batman to be the brooding detective sticking to the streets of Gotham, it’s possible that you may find a new way to look at Morrison’s adventures with the Caped Crusader. More than likely though, you’ll probably get mired in the minutiae of a story you already don’t care about. This is a book for believers, and they’ll be able to overlook the slow going for the additional insight into their beloved Batman.