A time traveling murder mystery sprinkled with inclusions of Batman’s history, a possible future, and more new characters…did you expect anything less from a Grant Morrison anniversary issue?
The issue is broken into three segments with a fourth part acting as an epilogue. The first being a Bruce Wayne story, penciled by Tony Daniels and taking place in a much “lighter” time during Batman’s career. This is a perfect example of Morrison’s theory/attempt to make every Batman story ever told into continuity. Throughout the first segment we get a heavy dose of Batman’s Silver Age along with an even heavier influence from the old Adam West TV show. This makes for some very interesting dialogue and visuals, which I’m a big sucker for. A highlight of this first part is Morrison’s light-hearted Joker, something we haven’t seen much of from Morrison yet. I particularly enjoyed watching his transformation from goofy Joker to maniac Joker. He starts out hitting people with a rubber chicken and after a bit of a mental breakdown is getting ready to ‘put a smile’ on Robin’s face after smoking some fear gas. It’s worth noting here that again Morrison plays on the Joker knowing Bruce’s identity (we saw this in RIP also). I have to think this will come into play at some point down the road. I really enjoyed slowly going over Tony Daniel’s more modern take on some of the classic looks, a sort of “What would the 60′s TV show look like today;” however, I felt it missed a certain ambiance that should have made me feel more nostalgic. I’m not sure exactly what it was but it was present in Andy Kubert’s art for What Ever Happened To The Caped Crusader and I missed it here. And despite not seeming to be much of a story Morrison leads us into part 2, which introduced us to the murder twist and Quietly’s art.
Man it was nice to see Quietly back on Batman and Robin.
This story, titled “Today” was far and away my favorite of the three. The murder mystery of who killed Professor Carter Nichols is introduced, which brings in the first story a little more, but it will take back seat to visiting the “birthplace of Bruce” and breaking up an underground villain auction. My favorite treat from this story was seeing the mutants from Dark Knight Returns introduced and starting to cause a disturbance in Gotham. Perhaps this is just a tip of the hat to Frank Miller but perhaps they will showing up again in Morrison’s run (although I doubt it). Half way through the story though Quietly’s is replaced for Scott Kolins, who offered a completely different style and quite honestly really hurt the issue. I’ve heard that Quietly is dealing with health issues and I completely understand having someone else wrap up his work but to bring in someone so far from Quietly’s style (which admittingly is unique) really took me out of the story and stuck out as this issues biggest handicap.
The third story, or “Tomorrow” seems to take place shortly after the events of Batman #666 and belongs to Damian-Batman. Max Roboto (a villain first seen quickly in Batman #666) has poisoned climate control and it’s literally raining joker toxin, along with their being a kidnapped baby. I loved this. Morrison has created a really dark future for Gotham City and a Batman to match as Damian kills people without remorse. He finds the person responsible for the rain and the kidnapping, new villain 2-Face-2 (who literally has another face growing out of the left side of his face). This is Morrison at his finest, creating completely off-the-wall characters and even more off the wall story. The murder mystery of Professor Nichols is seemingly solved although it played such a minor role in this issue I hardly cared. What really threw me was the reveal of who the baby was, who’s essentially a baby joker, Terry McGinnis. Getting his official introduction into the DCU. Well, as canon as your can consider Morrison’s future of the DCU. It seems as if this will be his origin. No surprise that it differentiates from the one in the animated series. The story ends and in the final panel of this segment walks Damian-Batman holding baby joker. That panel…might be one of the creepiest things in Morrison’s entire run.
The fourth part, “And tomorrow.,..” acts more as an epilogue than any kind of story and shows Damian walking Terry though being Batman in the Batman Beyond costume. Interestingly enough he’s also fighting the crew from Return of the Joker, even going as far to actually show the Joker from the movie fighting Terry. I think this is more of a tip of the hat to the animated series and a call to the ‘There will always be Joker and Batman’ motif than any hint of future reading. Still though, VERY fun to see it in an actual Batman comic. We get more and more future Batman (one who looks exactly like Black Panther and fights with a robot Batmen, who looks like he was designed by Toy Man). Essentially, and as the issue states at the end, Morrison is reminding us that there will always be a Batman.
This was one heck of an issue; 3 stories, a fun potential future, and enough clues and hidden gems to make a second and third read well worth it. Again Morrison’s twisted mind makes for a story full of potentially confusing storytelling and sci-fi heavy plot points, along with the thick layer of creepy he loves to add; but I find it hard to believe that any Bat-fan wouldn’t find some enjoyment here and there. My biggest complaint, besides the Scott Kolins art, would be the misleading 56 page solicit and price tag. This is advertised as a special mega issue, which should justify the $4.99 price; however, what you end up with is 8 extra pages of Batman art and 5 extra pages of mapping out the Batcave. Granted it’s always fun to see Batcave maps but this art wasn’t anything special and neither were the designs. Give me a Jim Lee fold out (alla All Star Batman, and the $4.99 makes more sense), and as much as I enjoyed seeing some extra art I couldn’t help but wish I instead got 12 extra pages of story (which also included great art). Makes me a little sad that DC got artists like Tim Sale to make a 1-page art piece but they couldn’t get them to make some panels with extra story.
Taking this issue with a grain of salt, that the story may never be more than an anniversary issue and the art at times nothing more than fan fodder, it’s as good of an anniversary issue as I expected. We get nods to classic, current, and future Batman. And it was nice to see Andy Kubert and Frank Quietly back drawing Morrison’s Batman, even if it was for just a moment. Morrison is what he is, and if you hate him don’t buy his work, but I feel like he did a great job paying the appropriate homage and giving fans a fun Batman #700 issue.
Here’s to 700 more!
(To people wanting to dive a little deeper into the Morrison elements here is Comics Alliance annotation, going over the issue beat-by-beat: Batman #700 Annotation)
A COMIC BOOK BLOG RATING
|3 great Morrison artists & a story full of paying homage and laying out clues||Scott Kolins’s art sticks out (not in a good way) and as expected Morrison doesn’t hold off on the zaniness|