May 7, 2016

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 438: Batman #656, October 2006

I read a really great review of this particular issue many moons ago, commenting on the wonderful metatextual commentary as Batman fights a flock (pack? gaggle?) of Man-Bats in a London art museum. Bedecking the walls are Lichtenstein-esque "Pop Art" pictures, isolated and enlarged panels from old 50s romance and war comics. The panels within panels provide a commentary, almost a chorus, in the background of Batman's battle. These background panels also include some onomatopoeic "POW"s and "WHAM"s, reminiscent of nothing less than the infamous 60s Batman television show.

All of which, coupled with the hearkening back to Mike Barr and Jerry Bingham's Son of the Demon, lets us know that Morrison knows his Bat-history, a fact that is reinforced time and again across the course of his run.

I had an interesting experience reading this comic. As I mentioned for yesterday's comic, Batman is trying to relearn how to be Bruce. In the opening pages of this issue, Bruce is flirting, socializing, and it's very awkward. Though, not for Bruce, but more for the reader. This is an aspect of the character that we're not used to seeing for more than a page, perhaps, and here he's got a fair chunk of the opening pages. And then, as the Man-Bats crash through skylights and attack the museum-goers, the caption boxes become Batman caption boxes. Clipped. Sure of themselves. Analytical. And the comic returns to being comfortable for us to read as the Bat and the Man Bats enter combat. It speaks to the notion that not only is Batman relearning how to be Bruce Wayne, but we are relearning how to see Batman as Bruce Wayne.

And, of course, this issue introduces a character who easily out-obnoxiouses Jason Todd as Robin, Damian Wayne, the Son of the Bat. 10 years later, Damian is still a going concern in the DCU, no small feat for a character created within the last 30 years or so. Not many of them have that kind of longevity. Though Damian's road is certainly not an easy one. As we'll see.


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