Prior to starting this trade, Mistah J recommended I go back and flip through The Black Casebook to familiarize myself with the stories therein. I’m glad I did, because Grant Morrison’s story draws so heavily upon those earlier issues, so much so that I almost think it’s required reading in order to fully appreciate the many references to earlier continuity within Morrison’s issue’s. I knew going in that Morrison would be drawing heavily upon many of Batman’s earlier, more eccentric tales. What surprised me though was just how seamlessly he managed to do so.
One of the most impressive stories happens early on, when Batman travels to a remote island to be reunited with the other “Batmen of the World”.
A brief explanation is given as to why we haven’t seen Batman interact with these fellow heroes, while also showing that Batman is the only one who ever went on to the big leagues; these other guys followed suit as far as donning costumes and fighting crime, but Batman was the first, and remains, to this day, the best.
While at this reunion, Batman and friends realize that something nefarious is going on, with someone murdering each person off one at a time. The murders are well-planned, and unique for each victim. Batman soon realizes the culprit, but is he really the criminal mastermind behind it all?
The story continues with Batman fearing that a larger, more threatening presence may exist – someone or something who’s been responsible for so many of the seminal moments in Batman’s life. We’re graced with visits from many obscure characters, including Bat-Mite (who’s sheer inclusion in a serious-minded comic speaks volumes towards Morrison’s brilliance as a writer). As more and more becomes clear, Batman begins to wonder who is behind this hidden force trying to bring him down.
This faceless entity, dubbed The Black Glove, continues to evade Batman. He’s slowly closing in, threatening Batman, implying that there are other dark knights waiting in the wing to take his place, yet we’re not told who he is or what his ultimate goal is. I like the air of mystery about it; Grant Morrison creates a looming presence that never feels contrived, nor obvious who it really is.
The comic closes with Bruce Wayne and his current paramour Jezebel Jet being captured. As they try to escape, Bruce is forced to reveal his secret identity.
First off, I love the imagery of her hands helping form the outline of Batman’s cowl in the shadow. That’s just great in my book. Second, I never viewed Jezebel as much of anything other than another one of Bruce’s flings, and yet here she is, learning his true identity. Does this mean she’ll be playing a larger part in the story down the road? Or does it just mean that she’s doomed to die? I’m hoping Morrison doesn’t take the latter path, that feeling way too played out at this point. Either way, it’s surprising that Bruce’s identity has been discovered, and given that Morrison never seems to do anything randomly, I’m curious to see where it’ll lead.
This story is a great set-up for whatever showdown is going to occur in the next storyline. I love that Morrison draws upon so many random silver age stories, reincorporating them into mainstream continuity. I never would have thought so many of these earlier stories could ever fit into the darker, grittier world of Batman that’s been evolving over the past twenty years, yet somehow Morrison manages to bring them all into the modern era while still remaining true to their original stories. I was suitably impressed with how seamlessly these stories tie together. While I don’t have any spoilers, I know enough to know that Morrison’s run on Batman is pretty epic, so I’m sure the ride is just beginning here. Mistah J keeps informing me that “the devil’s in the details” with these stories, and that I need to pay attention to everything in order to get the most out of it. Sometimes it’s a little tough to do that, just because there’s so much going on. I have a feeling I’m going to have to return to these trades at a later date and reread the entire run, just to fully appreciate everything I’m seeing. For now though, I’m content to just sit back and enjoy watching the story unfold.