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From the Hoss’ Mouth 02/14/07

Grant Morrison’s thesaurus explodes in the pages of Batman.  The Justice Society kicks it into gear.  The X-Men go genociding.  All in a week’s work for your faithful comic review crew (little old me).  Come check out the reviews for these books as well as the losers by clickity-clack-tacking the link below.

Batman #663
Writer: Grant Morrison
Art: John Van Fleet

Make no mistake when you pick this up, it’s not a comic book.  Morrison, who just may be on some sort of hallucinogenic, delivers us a short story under the guise of a comic book.  Twenty-two solid word-filled pages.

The story is entirely focused upon the Joker.  As we last saw him in Batman, he had been shot in the head by an imposter Batman and then dumped into a dumpster by the real thing.  Needless to say he’s pretty messed up when this one starts off.  The Joker, as described here, is a creature of resurrection but this is no mere revival.  The Joker’s re-awakenings are a sloughing of his former “dead” self coupled with a necessary metamorphosis into a horrific new persona.  But what of this new persona?  What does it mean for the Joker?  What does it mean for Batman? And most importantly: What does it mean for Gotham?

Like any new beginning, the past has to end first.  The Joker ensures his own past ends by making sure any and all former henchmen, lackeys, and freak show hangers-on are dealt with accordingly and by that I mean brutally.  But what of Harley Quinn you ask? That I won’t spoil but she plays a major role in the development of this story.  Once the past has been dealt with, the Joker proceeds to change himself.  Though the physical change is miniscule, the mental one is drastic.  Basically he takes his madness up a few notches.

As an experiment in the realm of comics, this book is great.  I don’t recommend it for the casual comic buyer but for those of you hardcore enough to travel to your LCS every week you owe it to yourself to check this out.  Be forewarned though, Morrison likes words.  Any and all things that might possibly be capable of having a description do in fact have one.  I imagine his thesaurus his thoroughly crinkled and smudged by all his thumbing through it.  His metaphors are thick, his prose is long, and all but the dialogue can be tedious.  For example:

“Deep in the dense architectural reefs of midtown, primary reds and yellows and the hot purples of gigantic moving advertising hoardings are turning the rain to something that might as well be liquid stained glass, braiding it through the wound-tight sinews of the Aparo Bridge, scything across the docks and railway sidings, then crowding into the narrow floodlit canyons of 8th avenue, Finger and Crescent, to rinse the lowlifes and the high rollers off the bustling streets and back into the bars, the theaters, the crack houses, restaurants and clip joints, as if the sky itself, in some spontaneous creative frenzy, has chosen to empty an ocean of raw printer’s ink on the gaudy, just and unjust citizens of Gotham alike.”

Did you notice any periods in that sentence?  Neither did I.  It’s a bit jarring at first but like anything in life after you wade into it and become acclimated it’s all downhill.  If you ever read Grant’s “Arkham Asylum” then you won’t have to worry.  Unlike Arkham this book requires no repeated readings to fully grasp it. 

As for the story itself, it becomes rather intensely immersive very quickly.  Once the clowns start dieing you’ll have a tough time turning away.  Also this is a story that goes a long way to develop the Joker.  Admittedly a character with little need for development, yet here Grant seeks and manages to do something new.  We go deep down into the Joker’s thoughts.  What makes him laugh?  It’s all exposed and wrenched out of him for us to gawk at, though in reality there’s nothing funny about it at all.  He’s a sick monster of a human being and Morrison breaks apart his psyche in a bare character study.

The art’s still here.  There are no word balloons.  It’s all computer animated.  It’s simply okay.  Not my style at all, but it seems Van Fleet did the best he could with the restrictions a story like this would set on him.

Verdict: For you comic aficionados, grab this book.  It’s a $2.99 Batman short story disguised as a comic.  For the casual readers I suggest sticking with the traditional. 

Quick Reviews:

Astonishing X-Men #20:  Continually the best X-Men title around.  It’s pretty much a standard title to review.  I’m sure you heard it before.  “Whedon writes great character moments”, “Whedon’s dialogue is wonderful”, “Whedon blows my geek skull open and then laps up the gray matter”.  You get it.  It’s good and already should have been on your pull list 19 issues ago.


Justice Society of America #3: Another high point for team books.  The mastermind behind the legacy executions is exposed.  I won’t spoil it, but it’s a long time JSA baddie who’s one of my all time favorite bad asses.  The art is spectacular, the action is grand, the characters are wonderful, etc.  If you’ve already read 1 & 2, then you should know what a great book this.  If you haven’t been reading JSA well then you don’t know what you’ve been missing.


The Loser(s) of the Week:

Ghost Rider #8:  Just like last week’s GR title, the book should bother to include the actual Ghost Rider in it.

Martian Manhunter #7:  All that work and build-up and J’onn deals with 3 White Martians like it was child’s play.