I’ve said before I don’t particularly care for the Ras al Ghul thread or his progeny, and it rather sickens me in fact to think Batman and Talia al Ghul ever could have had a child together, but that’s personal preference I suppose. Anyway, that’s the conceit at the heart of Grant Morrison’s Batman and Son, well-written and beautifully drawn by Andy Kubert and Jesse Delperdang.
Batman and Son is somewhere in the middle of a complicated Batman storyline vaguely in line with beginning at the beginning again, though it’s well into Batman’s career and Tim Drake is the second Robin. The Joker’s just been shot by a cop dressed up as Batman, and Commissioner Gordon has just succumbed to the Joker’s laughing gas (resulting in a fairly amusing scene of Gordon in the hospital telling everyone they need to lighten up) . The story sees the return of hordes of Man-Bats (I’ve never understood the fascination with that character, but there you go). Talia tells Batman he’s sired her son, Damian, who’s been raised by the League of Shadows and is one bratty individual who beats up Alfred! There’s a subplot to do with London but the setting is really never brought to its full potential, though there is a nice romance between Bruce Wayne and Jezebel Jet, a model.
Tim and Alfred are the winning slices of brightness and humor here, though a conversation between two “novelty crime act” goons is a hoot and also presages, slightly, the beginning of The Dark Knight. Speaking of which, I hope Grant Morrison got some money out of TDK, because “The Clown at Midnight,” over-the-top, gluttonous, disgusting prose-poem with art for the Joker foreshadows the Nolan!verse Joker. Morrison is either a very good writer or the world’s absolute worst. I can’t decide which, and I’m sure it’s deliberately been left that way. John Van Fleet’s art is totally unnerving and perfect, and hidden within the Joker’s tale of horror is a surprising conclusion for Harley Quinn. The Joker here is at home with knives and from the art it looks like he’s carved, or had carved for him, a Glasgow grin. (Also he appears to be dressed in a nurse’s outfit as in TDK!) I did chuckle morbidly at the thought the Joker’s toxic blood would kill a mosquito. Morrison has written Harley better than anyone since Paul Dini, and although she may at first look like a pathetic, psychotic weakling, she almost foils Batman with her lightning-fast gymnastics and grace. She’s the one who pulls the trigger and stops the Joker.
The last chapter of Batman and Son makes absolutely no sense to me. Great artwork, no idea what’s going on.