Here we have a massive 384 pager that features the opening chapters of Grant Morrison’s Batman epic and presents them in the beautiful DELUXE format that’s not only easier to read, but it really shows off the art in a way the monthly issues couldn’t.
Like I said, there’s 384 pages of Grant Morrison’s “Batman” run here. And since it’s Grant Morrison’s show, the Grotesk storyline written by John Ostrander that came after “Batman & Son” isn’t collected and neither is the cross-over event “The Resurrection of Ra’s Al Ghul” which was written by Morrison, Dini, and a few other authors across “Robin”, “Nightwing”, “Batman”, and “Detective Comics”. I couldn’t be happier that the Ra’s Al Ghul tale was left out, it was absolutely horrible and it’s best to forget it ever even happened. What we do have collected, however, are some of the best Batman stories that Morrison has ever done.
Batman & Son
We meet Damian for the first time and witness the rise of Talia’s man-bat army. When this was first published I didn’t like Damian at all. There were too many side-kicks already and Damian just felt like another, younger version of Jason Todd. Now that Damian’s Robin has been around for about 6 years and I’m used to him, the story is far less annoying. Having Talia turn her ninjas into man-bats is a fun twist, a cool visual, and let’s face it–Kirk Langstrom’s sympathetic story was pretty one note so it’s good to see this man-bat idea evolve in some form. And Kubert’s art is fantastic, especially at a scene that takes place at a gala/art show setting where he’s able to illustrate a variety of different styles. There’s a lot of great energy in this story and it’s a great way to kick things off. And just when your energy is up, the book hits you in the gut with something very dark.
The Clown at Midnight
My favorite Joker story in a decade. Perhaps longer. The art by John Van Fleet is absolutely horrible computer generated imagery and it almost hurts to look at it, but thankfully there is very little of it. This was a unique one-shot issue that was almost entirely prose. I wouldn’t even consider it a comic, honestly. But it is quite good and the descriptions of Joker’s inner thoughts and the idea of him as a “walking holocaust” are phenomenal and will stick with you for years after reading it. Even Heath Ledger was greatly influenced by this work when creating his portrayal of the Joker for “The Dark Knight”– if what Grant Morrison says is true (I can’t help but wonder why he would have been given access to Ledger’s diary). This is a great, dark tale that hits even harder following the pop-corn action movie feel of “Batman & Son”.
The Three Ghosts
This section begins with a fun little nod to the ski chase from Bond film “The Spy Who Loved Me” before heading back to Gotham where Batman must dig into the Black Case Book and uncover why three former Gotham police officers have taken up Bat-suits of their own and are terrorizing Gotham. It’s brilliantly drawn and colored by Andy Kubert, more than enough hints are laid for the future “Batman: R.I.P.” storyline and there is no shortage of action as Batman brawls with a venom enhanced foe. There’s more detective work here and it’s darker than “Batman & Son” for sure but it’s also just as fun.
Batman in Bethlehem
Batman #666 is here as well. This is an odd issue that’s a bit jarring here, honestly. It’s a look to a future in which Damian Wayne is serving as Gotham’s Dark Knight when the third and most demonic “ghost” of Batman from the previous tale has returned once again to torment the city. Damian’s Batman Beyond isn’t something I would want to read as an ongoing series. I didn’t care for the world this showed or its characters and view it as a future I definitely wouldn’t want Gotham to have. By the time you get to this chapter, you’re halfway through this massive book so I just think of it as intermission before something much bigger and more interesting.
Club of Heroes
This is the first time in his epic that Morrison really dives into the old Batman mythology. If you have an encyclopedic knowledge of the silver age then you’re going to bust a nut when you read this. I wish I could think of a prettier way of saying that but I can’t right now. It’s too hot. This is where the Black Glove tale really begins and it also plants the seeds for Batman Incorporated which will come much, much later. J.H. Williams’ art is as phenomenal as always and as usual he does some pretty inventive things with page layout. I’m a sucker for creative layouts even if they don’t always work and the way he colors flashbacks to match the style of early silver age comics is even more delightful. The tone of this story is pretty weird though, much like how it is in “Batman Incorporated” Volume One. You have these silly and outright wacky moments between the most flamboyant characters you’ve seen in a Batman comic in ages and then the next moment there’s a guy wearing a severed human face as a mask. Essentially, “Club of Heroes” is where Grant Morrison made the dark and gritty modern Batman and the fun and lighthearted Batman of the silver age collide.
This storyline is the trippiest of the bunch. It’s loaded with hallucinations and although it does get a bit convoluted (like R.I.P. later does), most of the questions raised in “The Black Casebook” are answered and the whole thing is exceptionally drawn by Tony S. Daniel and inked by Jonathan Glapion (currently doing inks for Greg Capullo’s Batman). If you’re a big fan of Grant Morrison’s “R.I.P.” storyline that’s collected in a Deluxe edition following this one OR if you plan to read that tale in the future, “Space Medicine” is must-reading. It is a true prelude to “R.I.P.” that sets up everything and it’s a satisfying way to end this hardback collection…too bad this isn’t the last story collected here.
The Fiend with Nine Eyes
And here is the story that drags the whole book down. For such a thrilling experience as “Batman vs The Black Glove” is, it really goes out with a whimper rather than a bang. “The Fiend with Nine Eyes” is over-drawn by Ryan Benjamin who apparently comes from the 90s Liefeld school of drawing where characters have faces covered in lines no matter how old they are. Jezebel Jet is homely, Bruce Wayne looks like he’s 60, and Damian Wayne (who the story frequently cuts to for no real reason other than to disrupt the pacing) looks like he’s 40. Morrison continues to mix every era of Batman together by re-inventing the 1970s Batman foe The Ten Fingered Man (who doesn’t have much of a purpose) and having Dick Grayson talk about the silver age’s frequent monster and alien adventures as Batman’s bizarre hallucinations following his time in an experimental isolation chamber (or maybe it was the 49 days sealed in a cave). The silver-age hallucination write off is a creative way of merging the eras, the new “Nine-fingered man” isn’t threatening or entertaining in the slightest, and the chapter as a whole is ugly to look at and completely forgettable. If it wasn’t for the revelation on the final page, this story could be skipped entirely.
There isn’t any. Sure, you get the variant covers of some issues thrown in and there’s a sneak peek at “Batman: R.I.P.”, but you won’t get what you really want out of bonus material. There are no pages of the original script, early character designs and rough sketches, or even a forward or essay written by the author to give you insight. None of that. It’s the comics themselves and that’s it, which is pretty disappointing.
Even though you aren’t getting any bonus material, there’s oodles and oodles of value. Not only are you getting these stories in the much larger DELUXE size that’ll look great on your coffee table or shelf with your other hardback books, but let’s do the math here:
- The comics collected originally cost $2.99 each
- There are 15 comics total
- That’s a $44.85 value not counting taxes
- This deluxe sized, hardback collection is $29.99 (not counting taxes)
- You’re saving $14.86 and getting a bigger, more readable version of these comics!
- Lastly, you can buy this book on Amazon right now for $18.99, saving you an extra $11 bucks
Value? Yeah, there’s a lot of value here for your money. Oodles of it.
It’s a very fun read that showcases some of the most important moments of Batman’s recent history. The art is handled by some of the best in the business (Williams, Daniel, and Kubert) and their work looks incredible in the over-sized, deluxe format. It’s a beautiful way to present these stories and although there isn’t any supplemental material to brag about, you are definitely getting some of the best stuff from Morrison’s run at a great price. If you already have these stories collected in a soft trade paperback or maybe in the “Batman & Son vs. The Black Glove” hardback that came out a few months ago then you might not need to add this to your collection. But if you DON’T own any of those already– you need to go buy this book. It’s too good of a deal to pass up and even thought the final chapter is a weak one, there are enough other reasons to buy “Batman vs. The Black Glove” that I feel a 10/10 is in order.