BUILDING A BETTER BATSON

REVIEW

DC Comics 2006

Batman #655, 656, 657, 658
Four-part series "Batman and Son"
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artwork: Andy Kubert
Colors: Dave Stewart

BATMAN GUN

The premise of this four-part series is that in the past a drugged-up Batman imprisoned by Ras Al Ghul copulated with his daughter Talia (none of which Bats remembers) and Talia shows up much later with an army of manbats (serum swiped from Professor Langstrom, aka 'The Manbat') and a little tyke in tow who she introduces as Batson. It sounds like the King Arthur legend, with Talia as Morgana (true, she calls Bats "beloved" but it hardly seems like affection from her behavior, but more a berserk passive-aggresive mental state); and the little Batson (actual name "Damian") is a dangerous and homicidal kid armed with Roman cestus (Bats calls them brass knuckles - - they don't look like brass knuckles!)

Kubert Batman

In the old Denny O'Neil tales of Ras Al Ghul and Talia, there was a great deal of pity for Talia who obviously suffered from a rather eccentric upbringing, to say the least. In the Grant Morrison version, though, she is a manipulative and tyrannical crazy person more or less like Ras Al Ghul. She crashes a swanky Gotham party (how does a high society party in Gotham ever get thrown? They seem to always be invaded by supervillains. I'd think the wealthy would view an invitation to one of these events with terror) and with an army of manbats under her command, she seizes the wife of the British Prime Minister as a hostage. She also captures Batman, only to introduce him to Batson and then leaves them together, declaring "He's been trained by the masters of the League of Assassins, but the boy is growing even beyond my control now. He lacks discipline and the guiding hand of a great man. I will return to the mountains with my captive and rebuild my army of man-bats!" The boy takes one look at Dad who is being held by manbats, pokes a samurai sword at him and declares "I imagined you taller!" (This reminds me of what everyone says to Snake Plissken in the Escape from L.A. movie: 'I thought you'd be taller.')

Promptly in the next scene (issue #657) Batman and the kid are at the Batcave, where the kid attacks Batman ("Fight crime, hah! Fight me!") Andy Kubert's art is mostly very nicely composed superhero artwork - - there are dozens of really fine moments in these pages. However, in the scene where the kid attacks Bats (page 5), in the first panel the kid looks like he comes up to about Batman's belt, i.e., around six or seven years old. In the next panel he takes a swing at Bats and his head comes up to his chest, i.e., as if the kid is 12 or so years old. But my real question is: Is this really a genuine Batson? They're right there in the cave, but Batman doesn't even take a blood test, but rather operates on the assumption that a congenital liar like Ras Al Ghul's daughter has told him the truth. Al Ghul was/is such a demonic character, you would think he would personally insist upon being the father of any offspring.

When Robin and the kid meet, Batson declares Robin an interloper at the side of Batman, a place he deserves to have by blood. Shortly thereafter, in an attempt to prove he can do as Batman wants, Batson goes off to 'fight crime' and beheads longtime Batman criminal The Spook.

He returns with the head, which he throws into the air with a grenade in it's mouth, and then tries to slaughter Robin. They converse briefly (Robin to Batson: "Get a grip!" no mention is made of the nuisance of the murder) and by the end of issue #657, Robin is unconscious laying in a pool of shattered glass from one of those display cases kept in the Batcave full of souvenirs. Robin fell what looks like 150 feet onto the hard surface of the highly-polished Batfloor, but is able to tie a tourniquet around an arm. In issue #658, when Alfred is released (Batson locked him up in a closet) and performs services in the medical wing of the Cave on the prone figure of Robin, the only effect we see is a little blood smear on the lips from where Batson whacked him across the mouth with the Cesti glove of spikes. Forget the blood, I would have thought Robin's bones might've shattered from such a long fall - - maybe the display case was only plexiglass and it broke the fall? Maybe the Batfloor is rubberized? And why didn't Damian finish Robin off when he had the chance?

When Batman confronts Batson later about the beheading, he says "The Spook is dead! You murdered him! Damian, it's clear your mother sent you here to disrupt my work."

Poor Spook, not much of an eulogy, is it?

What to do about Batson? Punishment? Reform school? Maybe careful attention and constant, unrelenting supervision so no more spurious beheadings happen? Time-out in the bat-corner? No - Batman takes him to Gibraltar to confront Talia, riding a ballistic missile which fires from off the Wayne estate (probably alerting the United States Air Force that they're not the only ones in America with a missile silo).

Interestingly, Batman only tells Batson to buckle a seat belt after the missile has launched. Also, while in flight, Batman asks him if he can handle the landing, since (as we see shortly thereafter) they're not going to use a capsule or messy parachutes to land, but just their capes! If the kid suddenly came to his senses and told Batdad "No thanks, I'll pass on the cape landing plan" does Damian then go down with the rocket into the Mediterranean?

Meanwhile, Talia is lambasting Gibraltar with rocket fire from a submarine, followed by a swarm of sword-wielding manbats flying onto the island, beheading fleeing people who seem to have gathered in the streets for that very purpose. At least they don't have grenades in their mouths!

Batman, falling from literally miles from out of the sky, lands on a manbat right next to Talia, followed by Damian who has on both a crash helmet and a parachute for one panel (he lacked these in the silhouette panel before which showed them miles above the Gibraltar land mass like a crazed satellite photo one might find on Google Earth). (Or maybe that's what a Bat-parachute looks like in silhouette?) And in Batman's case, a manbat landing pad is probably better than, say, a display case from the Batcave. Damian (no longer wearing the parachute gear and helmet) battles the manbats with his Dad, who disappear from the panels as they are dispelled. Did they sink into the water? Fly away? Vanish like pixies?

In only one case does writer Grant Morrison indicate that these manbats were actually human beings prior to the transformation wrought by Langstrom's stolen 'serum" - - Talia henchman "Bulu" injects himself, turns into a monstrously large manbat, fights and gets clobbered and then kneed in the groin by Batman - - Bulu/manbat then flies away in pain. (Question: is "Bulu" the brother of old-time Ras Al Ghul henchman "Ubu" from the original 1971 Denny O 'Neil/Neal Adam's stories?)

Mom, Dad and Son then face off over all the bloodshed and murder, and Batman tells Talia to flee with Damian before the British navy shows up. What's a few dozen murders (or hundreds? It's hard to say!), beheadings, extreme child endangerment? Incomprehensible: Batman sends the poor kid off with Talia! He should be kidnapping the little punk from her influence! Given half a chance, this lady would train a puppy to be a sword-swinging killer.

Bat Family with Batman and Talia

Related:

Damian Wayne - Batson

Grant Morrison to Kill Batman!

Batman #681 - Grant Morrison

Batman main index page


Original Page November 16, 2006 | Updated Sept 2014