I haven’t followed Grant Morrison’s Batman beyond the first few issues. The bare-chested, love god approach that Morrison used in those issues were novel but nothing new or ground breaking. It wasn’t that those issues were bad but they were more normal than I’d expect out of Morrison. Along with artist Andy Kubert, those issues were solid, good but not the spectacular fireworks or mind-bending stuff that I have come to expect in a Morrison book. Maybe I went in with my expectations too high but his first four issues lacked something.
Batman #667 is my first foray back into Morrison’s Batman work. Admittedly, the selling factor was J.H. Williams’ artwork and Dave Stewart’s colors. Over the last seven or eight years, Williams has become on of the most innovative artist working. I guess working with Alan Moore and Morrison will do that to an artist; stretching and pushing them to produce work far above the average superhero comic book. Williams pulls out a trick that he did in Seven Soldiers #0, mimicking other artists as a visual shorthand to establish setting, mood or character. It is a trick other artists have been doing lately in one form or another (such as Salvador Larocca’s use of celebrities on newuniversal) but Williams’ use of it here is far more subtle and probably more insiderish information for readers more familiar with other comic book artists and their styles.
Dave Stewart’s colors remind me of Frazer Irving’s lush colored art from Seven Soldiers: Klarion, producing a cool, moody, modeled look without appearing too ornate or unrealistic. He even plays around with the colors a bit throughout the book. The first two page spread is subtle but when the story begins introducing the other superheroes, the colors become a bit more flat and traditional. Visually, Batman #667 is one of the best looking books of the year, experimental without getting too unreadable.
I think this issue may show Morrison actually trying to bring Batman out from under the shadow of Frank Miller. Reclaiming lost silver age characters, Morrison revitalizes “The International Club of Heroes,” a group of costumed crime fighters from different countries. Pulled together for a murder mystery, these various characters show just how far comics have gotten away from the Silver Age as these characters seem subtly and oddly updated for a new audience. Morrison isn’t poking fun at these characters but he is showing just how goofy and out of place they are compared to the current Batman and his stories.
Morrison even includes characters from the JLA Classified storyline he did, reinforcing a theory that I have. Going back to Morrison’s run on JLA, I think you can segregate all of his work from anything else going on in a DC book and have your own little Morrison-verse; the DC world according to Grant Morrison. Thematically, artistically and even through the characters, this book hearkens back to his recent Seven Soldiers series. And in a world that can contain characters like Eagle, Dark Ranger (at least that’s what he’s called now,) Wingman and Gaucho, I can easily believe that it can contain Morrison’s recent All-Star Superman characters.
“The Island of Mister Mayhew”
Written by: Grant Morrison
Drawn by: J.H. Williams
Colored by: Dave Stewart
Lettered by: Ken Lopez