The End… or, The Ouroboros Finally Swallows its’ Tail

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With today’s release of Batman Incorporated, Volume II, #13, Grant Morrison has officially ended his long, seven year(!) tenure on Batman. It has been an incredible ride and for my money, it still stands as the greatest, most intricate, thoughtful and subversive story the character has ever been proxy for.

The real question on everyone’s mind though – did this final ‘double-sized’ issue deliver the payoff that those seven years rightfully deserve? Well…

That’s impossible, right?

I mean, no matter what, people will be disappointed. This is probably especially unavoidable as Morrison has taken a rather subtle, non-bombastic approach to delivering the final blows of this strong story.

Instead of the huge, violent battle royale between the remaining Leviathan forces and the big cathartic one-on-one Talia Vs. Bruce fight, we get a medium-paced, cross-cutting meditation narrated by Jim Gordon. Gordon muses on Bruce, Gotham, Batman and the violence which the city was/is enduring. While this is fine and works well enough (even though certain parts do come off purely as forced exposition), it still feels out of context and slightly out of rhythm with the rest of the story. Something this last quarter of the arc has definitely suffered from overall.

What remains and how it is presented are two different things though – here Morrison still manages to tie up the story in a satisfying, albeit completely obvious and unsurprising way. It all feels rather banal to me because, in my mind, and in every other sharp reader’s mind, we already knew the answer to all the scant few dangling threads Morrison had left to tie up in this final issue. Nothing came off as surprising, but rather just par for the course as we gently tic off boxes and close everything out in rote, mechanized fashion – Of course the Oroboro trigger and ring of death were disarmed, of course Kathy Kane is revealed as the Spyral headmistress and swoops in at the last second to dispatch Talia. Of course Bruce Wayne is released from police custody suddenly and his name is cleared. Of course Gordon knows Batman is not dead and will return stronger and better than ever before.

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It just feels a bit weak; Talia even mentions how the rules are ‘cartoonish’ and the stakes are clear; we’re seeing the meta-commentary run its course and there is nowhere left to take it except squarely on the nose because there isn’t time left to weave it into any more layered plotting and imbue it with more delicate textures. It just is; it’s stated directly and plainly and then we see a concrete example immediately following; deadly nightshade lipstick, the poisoned sword tip, the last-second swoop in rescue and the antidote applied to the hero… Then the femme fatale, like in all good genre stories, is shot down. A revolver pointing right at her from off-screen surprises the audience with its bloody, sudden bang.

This final chapter simply came off as somewhat maudlin and turgid, but perhaps that’s due to me projecting my own anxieties and feelings about the series’ end onto it instead of my truly objective opinion of the work divorced from my personal emotional context. But perhaps not…

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after all, all of the action to close out this story appeared in what amounted to a few montages and it honestly all felt a bit anti-climactic because of it. Add to that, the rather trite way all the loose ends were wrapped up and I’m thinking it isn’t just me. I think it may just be a rather transparent and boring conclusion – a conclusion which seems almost defiantly at odds with Morrison’s usual flair for the clever and elegant.

Gordon’s line about how ‘it’s like “zero year” all over again’ stinks of forced editorial glad-handing, trying to gild over all the nastiness and bitter, dissonant chaos that should be left in the wake of Morrison’s story. Leaving a fragile segue open for the golden boy, Scott Snyder to come in and politely pull out and finish all over Morrison’s sweaty, shaky readers. Ewwww. Okay, I apologize for that metaphor, but you get the idea.

To see the Ra’s reveal at the end is fun, but not exactly coherent since when we last saw Ra’s he was telling Talia, somewhat jovially, that he knew she would lose anyway… yet all the same, the turn is still fun. It just doesn’t seem smart and fun like the rest of the work. I have the lingering feeling that Morrison was obliged to play to the pre-ordained trope of everything having an easy reset button firmly attached to its neat little ending of soft scares full of future plots involving nefarious madmen (and women). A backdoor safety net to make up for Lazarus Pits being non-functional is forced into place right as the story closes, leaving all the possibilities that existed before Morrison started toppling walls over, right back where they were. It is as if everyone was afraid of allowing any significant changes to the inner-workings of the Batman mythos. Talia can now safely return to continuity, hell… now even Damian can return (and he will if we are to believe Ra’s will follow through with his “sons of Batman” anti-Batman army – which echo’s Morrison’s Action Comics mythos).

Sigh…

Yet, despite all the above, it still feels satisfying overall. Seven years of great writing cannot be ruined, no matter how you place the period at the end. We must remember the strength of the wok as a whole. Morrison redefined Batman and codified the purity of the adventurous pleasure and complex depth inherent to the character like no other writer has done. He successfully revitalized and informed the next generation of writers which will work off of the warm clay he left on the work bench. His ideas, stories and characterizations will stand the test of time and seep into all future renditions of the character in all mediums it enters into, and for that, we have to hold the work in the highest regard, no matter what we may think of the final step.

Final score for this final issue:

 Three out of Five

The final score for the Morrison epic as a whole:

 Six out of Five.

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16 responses »

  1. Overall I agree with your review here, the ending fit but was ultimately pretty much everything we were expecting. Slight let down, yes, but I’m still quite happy with the way Morrison has handled the run in its entirety. Anyway- great review, Matches!

  2. My expectations were through the roof on this so I was let down a little bit. I think it was a great conclusion to the end of the Oroboro/Talia/Damian arc, but the little quips by Gordon wasn’t enough to put a nice bow on Morrison’s amazing run. I feel like Morrison’s run was broken into two stories, the lengthy RIP storyline and then the Batman Inc storyline. I would say RIP was a 10 while the Batman Inc stuff was a 7.5.
    Always loved your reviews and look forward to what you post next!

    • Yeah, I’d still put Inc. at a higher point overall because it was a hell of a lot of fun and had some truly great moments. Although, I agree, the whole RIP arc was just outstanding.

      Thanks for stopping by – I’ll be posting some more Morrison related stuff soon enough, then changing gears a bit…

  3. The conclusion felt like a cheap promo for zero year and a flaccid attempt to lure GrantMo fans over. Well I have a story pitch for DC. It’s called Batman Root Two. It features the origin of Two Face because that is an origin story that hasn’t been rehashed enough. It occurs in between Batman Zero Year and Year One. Since root two is irrational it could also feature all the crazy villains. Irrational numbers go on forever so the story will never end. Plot lines will reach their finales when everything is reset so nothing actually happens and the entire experience will feel like masturbating in front of a mirror with your off hand. Needless to say Rob Liefield will do the variant covers.

  4. Great review as always, and I agree yet disagree with you, but I’m still forming my thoughts about it.

    Overall I loved the issue..I thought the ‘Lazarus blood’ bit at the end was great: it allowe restoring of the status quo (which was the message of this issue overall) but brought in a coda for MIGHTY LORD DEATH MAN which I was hoping for and fearing we wouldn’t get. Morrisons tied back into his own work but also put the toys in the box. Kathy Kane was predictable -but I think I said something to you last month along the lines that this series is designed to have ‘non-mysteries’. – but I loved her golden gun, her 60s spy vibe…she was the final goodbye to pre-new 52 ‘don’t look for me. I don’t exist’ the rich history of batman which morrison has mined for seven years goes with Kathy Kane. New 52 universe has no history, so Morrison has to say goodbye to it.
    I see what morrison was trying to say about the concept of batman and superheroes in general, but it goes against his fairly celebratory examination of the character thus far (see Last Rites and ROBW #6). However, that was the old Batman, pre new 52.

    The big irk for me was Bruce’s bashed up face..yet in issue 1 it was smooth. Plus as Bruce leaves the station it seems that it is the first time he has seen Alfred since sending him on vacation, yet this is Obviously not the case.

    Overall I enjoyed it a lot, and as you say the entire run is one f the best things in comics ever…I don’t agree with a lot of the vitriol the issue has already gotten online from others .

    I loved Jason’s moment; It seemed clear to me on first read but unclear on 2nd what Talia ‘really wanted’ as Bruce said while poisoned.

    • That’s a nice take on things.

      There were definitely some continuity snafus, which is odd considering Morrison has always been so tight with them generally speaking, but a few of them in this volume were able to pull me out of the story a bit.

    • Honestly, I’m glad to see it end as well – just so Morrison can get back to focusing on some of his independent books – aaaaand, of course his shorter mainstream stuff like WW.

  5. I don’t agree with the review. I really loved the issue. The chess game Ra’s was playing with himself implied what was going to happen. Anyway, have you thought of making a “Best Moments of Grant Morrison’s Batman Run” list? Or even a best arcs in the run list? Are you going to post on this site regularly now that the run is finished? I would like to know that. This is my favorite comic book website.

    • I think I loved the issue too – it just all seemed a bit off to me for the reasons detailed above. Still, what I consider a “3” from Morrison’s pen is still close to a 5 from most other contemporary authors. We’re the hardest on those we love… :)

      Thank you for reading and the kind words! I’m definitely planning a few things and have something in the works for more Morrison articles/lists.

      The site tends to take a backseat to real life things (I’m ridiculously busy), so bear with me if you can… but I’m definitely going to try my damnedest to keep things fresh with at least monthly updates. I still have a lot to say about comics in general so I’m kind of relieved the Batman run has come to an end an I can start to re-calibrate my thoughts onto other areas.

      Cheers!

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