The End of an Era

Well Batfans, the time has come at last to bid farewell to one of the most influential writers Batman has seen in recent history. With Batman Incorporated #13, released at the end of July, Grant Morrison’s epic Batman story has finally come to an end. Warning, friends, here there be spoilers!!

With Damian Wayne dead (leaving many fans in shock and mourning), Batman faces off against Talia as his associates bring down the remnants of Leviathan. Of course, as is usual in Morrison’s Batman, the fights take a back seat to the characterization, with the final pieces of the story being told in flashbacks while a very battered and bruised Bruce Wayne talks to Commissioner Gordon in the wake of Leviathan’s disastrous attack on Gotham City. It’s a rather jarring effect, bouncing between past and present like this; and, unfortunately, I’m not sure how well it works. I’m a huge fan of Morrison’s Batman, have been ever since I first read Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth something like 5 or 6 years ago now. But in #13, the culmination of almost a decade of buildup… well, to put it mildly, it was a bit of a let down.

Batman Incorporated #8 Cover
The fateful issue in which Damian Wayne meets his end.

Sure, there were plenty of exhilarating moments, and the last few pages shine as a particularly fine example of creating a sequel hook with a cliffhanger. But the final battle between Talia and Batman was over too soon, although the kiss was particularly powerful. The destruction of Leviathan at the hands of the other Batmen and their associates was rushed, with only a few panels dedicated to an event which is decidedly important. Talia’s death was not unexpected, though I was almost hoping Batman would finally break his ultimate rule — but on the other hand, there is brilliance in the fact that he didn’t. After all, that was the whole point. Talia’s whole plan was never about the unlimited power she promised with the Ouroboros device, and razing Gotham to the ground was just a bonus. She wanted to bring down Batman in a way he had never been brought down before. The Black Glove initiated a psychological attack, but never tried to force him to kill (mostly because they didn’t want him to kill them). Talia, however… well, when it comes down to it, Talia is the Shakespearean “woman scorned,” and her fury is greater than anything Batman has ever faced. Because “her Detective” refused to take over the world with her, she vowed to bring down everything he stood for. No matter what happened, she reasoned, her plan would result in a win for her. Either she would destroy Gotham and Batman and bring the world to its knees through Leviathan; or she would die at the hands of Batman, thus causing him to break his ultimate rule, leading to his ultimate downfall — because Batman can’t kill and still be Batman. He may be the Dark Knight, but to kill would take him down a path too dark for even him. He’s said himself that if he were to kill someone, he might not be able to control himself (and with foes like Talia, the Joker, and Mad Hatter, as seen in his latest story in Dark Knight #16-21, who could blame him?). But Talia didn’t count on Kathy Kane — the Silver Age Batwoman, who Morrison retcons as Bruce Wayne’s aunt, by marriage, as well as a former lover presumed dead and now an agent of Spyral, an international organization of spies — being alive and showing up at the Batcave with a gun to shoot Talia in the head.

Despite the role of the issue as a sort of anti-climax, it did, as I said, prove to be a definitive example of setting up plot threads for future authors. Ra’s al Ghul’s rage and hatred leading to his threat to bring an army of the “Sons of Batman” against Bruce is obviously intended as a primary direction for future exploration, but there’s also the mysterious pair of exhumed graves at the very end of the comic. Initially, I thought the graves were Bruce’s parents, as there was some dialogue that seemed to subtly imply in that direction. But there’s also the possibility that the graves belonged to Talia and Damian — both of whom have had a great deal of experience with the resurrection of the dead, with Damian having been saved from death more than once by Talia’s hyper-advanced medical labs, and Talia, of course, being the daughter of the most notorious immortal in all of Batman lore.

There was also, in Ra’s al Ghul’s final panels, another detail that could set up future plots, hinting in a direction that I honestly don’t quite grasp. Ra’s is revealed to have Lord Death Man in his lair, hooked up to some sort of devices. He makes some reference about extracting blood from him because of the lack of viable Lazarus Pits — presumably in an attempt to replicate Death Man’s regenerative powers. If this is the case, it seems likely that the graves were Talia and Damian’s, and that Ra’s is going to attempt to revive them.

Batman Incorporated #13
Ra’s al Ghul calls the army to war.

Overall, I enjoyed the series, despite the anti-climactic end, and I hope that the last threads Morrison left open are soon picked up and fleshed out. As for Morrison, who has — at least for now — decided to stop writing superhero-comics, save his (supposedly) forthcoming Wonder Woman: Earth One graphic novel — I wish him all the best in his future endeavors and look forward to a possible return to Batman in the future. Now all that remains to be seen is what will fill the void left by the discontinuation of Batman Incorporated. Perhaps a deus ex machina will bring Cyril back from the dead and DC will grace us with an ongoing Knight and Squire series? One can only hope…

Batman #18 Cover
To Damian Wayne — Gone but not forgotten.
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