Friday, October 05, 2007

Morrison's Batman: All irony, no heart

My mostly ambivalent observations about the rest of this story seem to hold true for its ending: I get what Williams' is doing in imping other artists but I still feel that it's more of a distraction than it is clever, and the murder mystery plot is a decent hook but turns out to be wholly unsurprising. Convention implied that the murderer (or murderers) would come from within and, predictably, the Agatha Christie model suggested that it would be masterminded by the patriarch. The Black Glove remains unrevealed, sure, but he seems almost incidental.

If the story fails, though - and I think it does - it fails for reasons having more to do with an aesthetic than Morrison's near-exact faithfulness to the genre. And its this aesthetic, actually, that makes Morrison's ostensible faithfulness seems disingenuous - in fact, a show of bad faith. Visually, Batman and Robin were never really a part of this 'Batmen of the World'. Though each of the various Batmen differ from one another, all of the others are nonetheless dated; Batman and Robin, on the other hand, are painted with a neo-noir brush that could only appear in a contemporary comic. Morrison echoes Williams (Or does Williams echo Morrison? Whichever.) by writing a quietly confident, if not smug, Batman who is almost never as concerned as the heroes around him, and certainly never as panicked. And while we're fairly certain that any of the other Batmen could die at any moment, we know with equal certainty that the title character can't.

Which is to say that, for all its seeming genre-playfulness, the story is impossible to actually submerge yourself within. As Batman remains critically, even patronizingly, distanced from the exercise of the story, it becomes difficult for us as readers to feel anything for - as Robin described them last issue - the 'league of Batman imposters'. It's an ironic revision of a terribly lame concept that supplies us with equally lame motivations for the villains and does little more than convince us that, yes, clich├ęs and Batman imposters are, as I said, terribly lame. Didn't we already know that?

No comments: