Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Batman: The Resurrection of Ra's Al Ghul

With the release of ‘The Black Glove’ in hardcover, and the buzz surrounding RIP, I figured it was time to catch up on Morrison’s Batman run. That started with a reread of Batman and Son, then segued into a trip through the crossover, “The Resurrection of Ra’s Al Ghul,” a storyline that was justifiably ignored or panned by most of the comics world. Reading this hardcover is like tripping through a myriad of bad art and writing styles, all struggling to mold some decent ideas into a coherent narrative. Coming from Morrison and Peter Milligan, among others, it’s pretty disappointing. By no means is this their mythical collaboration “Bizarre Boys,” promised in the intro to the first Invisibles trade, instead it’s a bunch of workmanlike issues that don’t build to much.

I wasn’t a huge fan of the first Morrison Batman trade. I liked sections of the Damian storyline, the Joker prose story and the weird Bane Batman stuff, but for every good part, there was an underwhelming one. But, at least that felt like a Morrison book, this crossover has very few moments that capture his voice, and the spark that makes his work so special. With 52, it seemed like all the writers made each other up their game to try to keep up, here it’s like everyone’s sinking to the same weak level. It boggles the mind that the same guy who wrote something as brilliant as X-Force could write the Robin issues in this crossover. Morrison’s issues aren’t as outright bad, but they’re not particularly good either.

The biggest disappointment for me is the total mishandling of Damien. Morrison’s characterization there was one of the high points of his initial run of issues, managing to filter the petulant selfishness of a spoiled thirteen year old through the skillset and worldview of someone who’s been raised by a League of Assassins. Damien wouldn’t just throw a fit when he didn’t get what he wanted, he’d go out and kill someone. Here, Damien’s mannered way of speaking is replaced with a generic teen voice, which pretty much kills any interest I had in the character.

Also troubling is the rambling bad joke laden inner monologues that underlie both Robin and Nightwing. Is this the way these comics are always written? Maybe I’ve stuck to Morrison and other great books lately that I’ve got a skewed view, but seriously, aren’t comics better than this? The most interesting character dynamic is the love/hate relationship between Bruce and Talia, Talia’s ambiguity makes her the most interesting character here, but she gets too little time in the spotlight.

The most interesting moments for me were the Seven Soldiersesque reinvention of a group of three bad girl henchwomen. These characters are all past their prime and know it, but deliberately take on the role of henchwomen to Talia to try to get back in the game. That storyline doesn’t really go anywhere, but it has some interesting moments along the way.

The story is perhaps fundamentally flawed for me because I can’t take seriously a guy with the first name Ra’s. There must have been five or six panels with Batman shouting RA’S! and everyone took me out of the story pondering why this guy doesn’t have a more regular name. I suppose he is meant to be from far in the past, but still, the apostrophe in a character’s name always comes off as a bit ridiculous.

So, this story was pretty much a dud, and it seemingly had very few ties to the rest of Morrison’s run, so it would be pretty easily skippable should you choose to do so. Hopefully the Black Glove and RIP will treat me better.


Troy said...

Patrick -- forget Batman -- we are all waiting for you to tackle All-Star Superman!!

Patrick said...

I'm definitely going to get to the last couple of issues soon. I did write up my favorite issue of the series, and in my opinion, the greatest Superman story of all time, issue #10 when it came out. But, 12 has a ton of interesting stuff, well worth considering too.