Tuesday, May 19, 2015

"The Anatomy Of Zur-En-Arrh: Understanding Grant Morrison's Batman" by Cody Walker

It's the CliffsNotes to Grant Morrison's take on Batman, everyone...and it's a very useful book. It answers a lot of questions as to what it was all about and digs around for ingenious insights into the imagery given. Morrison's Batman tenure was ground-breaking and ambitious - every story mattered - which meant stories about Batman chasing drug dealers down alleyways and through warehouses simply wouldn't do; the Dark Knight Detective became acutely self-aware - 70+ years of incarnations were now meant to represent a single decade & a 1/2 in the crazy life of a very busy tycoon, the wealthiest man on Earth, a playboy/philanthropist/detective who beats up people dressed in a costume vaguely resembling a bat...and how he achieved godhood on the whim of the most-powerful embodiment of evil in the DC Comics Universe..

Cody Walker, to his credit, doesn't shy away from the weaknesses of Morrison's storylines. In my opinion, there were many concepts and story elements throughout that read as though Morrison was in a deadline crunch and lacked time to present his ideas with better care and organization. His plot twists also required skill at writing detective stories, which turned out to not be his strong suit. His characterization of the villain Darkseid and his Earth avatar, the "Bat-God" Barbatos/Dr. Simon Hurt might be more varied and colorful than any incarnation we've seen before or after, but this was lost by woefully underdeveloped scripting. At the time, only the main points of each issue registered, not the themes or characters, which may explain why it was so easy for fans to embrace Scott Snyder's back-to-basics approach.

And yet, this book came to the rescue. I have a newfound appreciation for what Morrison was doing and would like to go back and revisit those storylines again, particularly The Return of Bruce Wayne arc, with Batman hopping through different time periods. The section covering Batman Inc. was kind of dull, though..perhaps reflecting that Morrison's run was winding up and had fewer points to make about Batman, aside from the power of the character's totem-like symbolism as a corporate brand..which reminds me of a non-fiction book of criticism about Batman from 2000 titled Batman Unmasked, which was the first I had read argue the same points that Morrison was making throughout..It may have been a source of inspiration for what he would do...I need to look for that book..

Not all questions were answered, however. I remember searching for answers about that goblin creature looming behind Bat-Mite in Batman R.I.P. and finding it in a transcript of a Q&A, where Morrison revealed his take on the imp ( that the creature was the imp's true form, a kindly-yet-grotesque-to-us being, offering what he believed to be a pleasing avatar to appear in his stead , kind of the opposite number to Darkseid appearing by proxy as Barbatos/Dr. Hurt ), so now you know, and can thank me...but we'll never know if there was any significance in Alfred the butler reading a copy of Eoin Colfer's Artemis Fowl: The Eternity Code...

..maybe Walker has a Volume 2 planned...

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