Batman: Time and the Batman

While I stated in my previous review for Messiah Complex that I was not a particular Marvel lover, over the last few months I’ve expanded my reading list somewhat. Thanks to the excellent recommendations given to me by various internet friends, I’ve now branched out into reading further Marvel properties like Iron Man and Captain America.
I used to say to people that it was a sign of the apocalypse if I read a Captain America story. It was a second sign if I enjoyed it.
Now we are two signs closer to the end of the world.
I was going to review Winter Soldier, the first part of what has been heralded as a groundbreaking Cap run by Ed Brubaker, but I’ve been looking over the scant few reviews I’ve imparted to all five of my readers and I realised I don’t shit on graphic novels enough. I read the good ones, the nice ones, the ones that leave me with the heady feeling one gets whenever they see a superhero beat the snot out of some communist/Nazi/morally evil character that’s been running around pulling all kinds of shit for the past twelve issues. Winter Soldier fits solidly into this category, and as such I cannot review it. Yet.
No, I need to do some more naysaying and negativity with my reviews, and to that end I’m taking on a recent Batman title that may not have been bad, per se, but was quite lacking especially in comparison to the other titles in its run.
The title to which I’m referring is Time and the Batman.
I have become, in essence, a Grant Morrison fanboy. I stood in line for hours to see him at Comic-Con last year (and was denied the chance by an asshole of a DC coordinator who was obviously going through menopause that very weekend) with a copy of Batman RIP clutched tightly in my sweaty paws, and afterwards when a kindly young lady in the line ahead of me got him to sign it for me anyway I looked lovingly at that black texta scrawl on the front page and felt hugely satisfied, like I’d just gotten a blowjob from Black Widow.
I love his Batman arc, even if it is a bit hard to follow at times, I love his X-Men run, and I really enjoyed Final Crisis after the fourth or fifth reading of it. Grant Morrison subverts and twists the superhero paradigm six ways to Sunday, and it works really well in everything of his that I’ve read.
In Time, though, he’s hit a bit of a snag. I feel like releasing this as a graphic novel, rather than as part of an omnibus or as an extra in The Return of Bruce Wayne, has really been to the detriment of the readers if, like me, they expect more from a Morrison trade.
Don’t get me wrong, the writing is still sharp as ever. The beginning with Issue 700, following a murder mystery that spans three generations of Batmen and beyond, is a solid opener and can be read as a standalone story. I’ve always enjoyed the little sojourns Morrison takes into the future with Damian Wayne, and the third act of the story is no exception – the dystopic backdrop of Gotham heightened by the presence of a Batman who will kill you if you fuck up his day just makes for an awesome, gritty read, and it shows that even the most annoying of characters can find a purpose, eventually, that makes them awesome.
Following this is the two-part instalment “RIP: The Missing Chapter”, which bridges the gap between Bruce Wayne’s disappearance in RIP and his capture by Darkseid in Final Crisis. While I really enjoyed seeing him traverse the 30 days to Omega, it felt like it was really only half a story when it was shoved in with issue 700 and the rest. Granted, it’s supposed to kind of be that way, but I found that sticking in what is ostensibly a vital component to the RIP storyline with a story that is months after the event is a little jarring.
The final section, focussing on a one-shot called The Great Escape, is superfluous. Entirely and utterly. I found that this story was just shoved in for no adequate reason, and I was left confused at the ending somewhat. In this myth arc that Morrison has crafted so well for Batman this was just a story that didn’t need to be shoved in for length’s sake in a trade that is ostensibly used to continue that arc. He could just as well have left it for a Batman and Robin trade, or the upcoming Road Home collected edition.
Overall, I’m unimpressed by the choices for this trade. What seems to be one of DC’s biggest flaws is that they’re releasing smaller and smaller collected editions for quicker cash, in comparison to Marvel who may take a bit longer on some titles but end up releasing a 20-issue omnibus for more storytelling flow. Time and the Batman could have easily been grafted in parts onto other upcoming releases without losing much of the momentum Morrison has been building on.
While it did disappoint me in comparison to his other titles, however, it’s still worth reading for the overall myth arc. It’ll give you a bit more context for Return of Bruce Wayne, at any rate.
6/10
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