Drew: What do we need to talk about when discussing a work of art? Obviously, the answer will vary quite a bit depending on the art in question, but in the abstract, virtually every discussion needs to touch on the art itself, the artist(s) that created it, and the audience that observes it. We tend to focus on the relationship between the art and the audience here, believing that meaning arises when art is consumed, and that interpretation is the most important end-product of art. It’s an approach that keeps us from getting too mired in concerns over what the artist meant or what they might believe, but it might also prevent us from fully appreciating the art itself. The Unwritten Apocalypse 4, raises some interesting questions about the relationship between art and the artist that creates it, presenting it in the much more alluring (and knowingly meta) form of a story ripe for interpretation.
Do you find me sadistic? You know, I bet I could fry an egg on your head if I wanted to right now. No, Kiddo, I’d like to believe that you’re aware enough, even now, to know there’s nothing sadistic about my actions. Maybe toward those other jokers — but not you. No Kiddo. This moment? This is me at my most masochistic.
Bill, Kill Bill
Patrick: People often accuse storytellers of being sadistic. How else could they put the characters we love through such torment over and over again? That’s a weirdly archaic question — one that you’d think readers would be over by now, but not caring about characters is a charge that’s still leveled against writers on a nearly constant basis. George R. R. Martin gets an absolute mountain shit for so liberally (and gruesomely) torturing and killing his characters, and Dan Slott spent the last year receiving death threats and fielding questions like “why does Marvel hate Spider-Man?” The not-so-secret secret is that Martin and Slott actually love their characters, and putting them through the wringer probably hurts the author more than the reader could possibly imagine. It’s a sacrifice to behead the noble lord you’ve invented, it’s a sacrifice to override a hero’s good essential nature when you’ve worked so hard to cultivate it. In the world of The Unwritten, where fictions are made reality (or… maybe the other way ’round…), that sadomasochist is right there in the narrative, and he refuses to let the suffering end.
Today, Drew and Patrick are discussing Batman Incorporated 13, originally released July 31st, 2013.
It never ends. It probably never will.
Drew: What does it mean to end a run writing Batman? How do you “end” a story featuring a character that has been published in perpetuity for over 70 years with no signs of slowing down? Sure, Grant Morrison “killed” Bruce Wayne, but that was back at the close of his epic’s second act. No, the ending here had to be something much grander, something much truer to the unrelenting nature of Batman. The sheer scope of Morrison’s epic is deserving of the same pomp and circumstance of “the definitive end” of Geoff Johns’ Green Lantern, but Morrison manages to approach that same grandiosity with modest deference, keeping in mind that, while the he may be done, Batman will keep on going. That simple nod turns his elaborate love letter to Batman’s past into an equally impassioned love letter to Batman’s future, and gracefully shifts Morrison from center stage to the audience. Continue reading
Today, Drew and Patrick are discussing Batman Incorporated 12, originally released July 3rd, 2013.
Drew: I don’t know when exactly I learned the phrase “grand finale,” but for much of my childhood, I only associated it with Fourth of July fireworks shows. I don’t know if it was just youthful impatience, or just excitement over getting to use those special words, but that was the only part of the show I ever cared about — who wants to see brilliant explosions paced out slowly when they can all go off in rapid succession? To some degree, I think there’s still an expectation for finales to be grand — remember everyone’s reaction to The Sopranos finale? — even if that ignores that narratives aren’t the same thing as fireworks shows. A satisfying conclusion to a narrative features consequents to the antecedents set up throughout the story, effectively closing all of the open parentheses. That job is already tough (think of how many otherwise decent stories have been totally ruined by a botched ending), but becomes exponentially tougher as the antecedents and open parens pile up over the years — especially when Grant Morrison is writing. His Batman Epic has been truly epic — it features both a global scope and a historical perspective, and has introduced countless characters, relationships, and histories — all of which require additional consideration as the story winds to its close. This entire final chapter of Batman Incorporated has been about starting that process, but issue 12 suggests that Morrison might actually intend to close ALL of his open parentheses AND give us the grand finale our inner child has been begging for for the past seven years. Continue reading
Today, Drew and guest writer Tyler are discussing Batman Incorporated 11, originally released May 22nd, 2013.
Drew: I love one-offs. I don’t know if it’s the satisfaction of a self-contained narrative, or just their relative rarity in modern comics, but I’m always excited to jump into a single-serving adventure. Unless, of course, it falls in the middle of the closing arc of an Epic I’ve been reading for years. I don’t want to hold the placement of this issue against it — especially since it likely afforded the creative team time to craft an incredible close to this arc — so I’ll do my best to put my expectations aside, but it’s a strange uphill battle that very few issues in comicdom are subject to. Continue reading
Today, Drew and Patrick are discussing Batman Incorporated 10, originally released April 25th, 2013.
Drew: One of the defining characteristics of Batman is his relative plausibility. Fictional technology aside, he’s basically an extremely wealthy, extremely determined individual — no alien DNA, no radioactive animal bites, no magic. Writers will vary in just how plausible they want their version of Batman to be, but most respect that believability as one of the character’s biggest draws. Every so often, writers will break that rule — Jason will be resurrected via magic, or Bruce might call in a favor from Superman — to show you just how big the stakes are. In this issue, the situation is so dire, Bruce turns to not one, but several such outlandish solutions, tapping into every corner of Batman-exess he can. Continue reading
Today, Drew and Patrick are discussing Batman Incorporated 9, originally released March 27th, 2013.
Drew: In Batman Incorporated 0, Grant Morrison asserted that “the first truth of Batman” was that he was never alone, and backs it up with the fact that Alfred was there from the start. But is that the first truth of Batman? If Batman was born that night in his father’s study, he was surely conceived 18 years earlier as Thomas an Martha died, making loss the first truth of Batman. With that loss comes the loneliness that Morrison’s “first truth” was reacting to. Sure, Bruce sought comfort in his friends and wards, but every moment of his life was shaped by the crushing loneliness he felt watching his parents die. The death of Damian reemphasizes that point, distancing Bruce even from Alfred, who — as Morrison asserted — was always there. The result is a uniquely lonely Batman, spinning another take on the character into the tapestry of Morrison’s epic. Continue reading
Today, Mikyzptlk and Drew are discussing the Batman Incorporated 8, originally released February 27th, 2013.
Mikyzptlk: Spoiler Alert. Hahaha, just kidding. Fuck you very much, internet. Alright, now that I’ve gotten that out of my system–Seriously, couldn’t you have just kept your mouth shut for a few more days?!? Okay, it’s okay, I’m all better now. As I write this, I’ve just finished reading issue 8 of Grant Morrison’s Batman, Inc. and I’m still not quite sure what to make of things. We all know by now that Damian “The Boy Wonder” is dead. And though I have some wild theories that say he’s not actually dead, the issue leaves us with that conclusion. Grant Morrison has stated (a bit earlier than he should have mind you) what the death of Damian means in the greater sense of the themes he was presenting us with, but I’d like to focus on the character of young Damian and what his death means in the context of the world in which these characters live. I’ll leave the heavy lifting to Drew. Continue reading
Today, Patrick and Drew are discussing the Batman Incorporated 7, originally released January 30th, 2013.
Patrick: If the last issue of Batman Incorporated was a little heavy on the heady themes and explicit symbolism (it was), then issue 7 is the antidote. The issue starts with Batman in free fall, then zips ably through surprise reveals, heartwrenching goodbyes, booby-traps and betrayals. As Talia calls the members of Leviathan into action — be they security guards or children — it’s immediately clear that The Plan is in motion, and Damian is uniquely positioned to put a stop to his mother’s attacks and save his father.
Today, Patrick and Drew are discussing the Batman Incorporated 6, originally released January 2nd, 2013.
Patrick: There’s a moment early in this issue when Batman realizes that Talia is going to put him through the Ten Ox Herding Pictures before being able to confront her directly. Batman asks, “Can’t we just have a conversation, like normal people?” to which, Talia replies, “We’re not ‘normal people.’ We’re special.” Batman’s got a point: Batman Incorporated is in ruins and Leviathan is everywhere. To make matters worse, Talia is moments away from making Bruce choose between his city and his son — with conflict so clear and so immediate, what room is there for a Zen parable about the process of becoming enlightened? Continue reading