Saturday, August 25, 2007

Review - Batman 668

By Grant Morrison and JH Williams III
Colors by Dave Stewart, Letters by John J. Hill
Published by DC Comics, August 2007. $2.99

While Grant Morrison is raking in accolades (and rightfully so) for his work on ALL-STAR SUPERMAN, he’s also chugging along on some of the finest -- if also most nostalgic -- Batman stories to come along in some time. His premiere storyline, “Batman and Son” with Andy Kubert, swam the rivers of late-80s Batmen, revisiting Talia al Ghul and the events of BATMAN: SON OF THE DEMON. The current story, “The Island of Mister Mayhew,” revisits the Batmen of All Nations, an international club of Batman look-alikes first seen in DETECTIVE COMICS 215 from 1955.

In this second of three parts, “Now We Are Dead!,” the Batmen (now called “The Club of Heroes”) are having a rare reunion on the very Island of Mister Mayhew of the arc’s title -- only they’ve become trapped on the island and are being picked off one by one. Morrison does a very nice job building interesting and engaging personalities for each of the Batmen -- Man-of-Bats and Raven Red are a Native American father and son duo with a strained relationship, El Gaucho is an Argentine vigilante worth respecting, and the Legionary is an overweight Italian who revels in the stories of his youth -- while still moving the mystery along at a nice clip.

But what really makes this issue shine is JH Williams -- bar none, one of the finest artists making comics today. That he spends so much of his time working the superhero side of things is a one of the best reasons I can think of for superhero fans to get out of bed on Wednesday mornings. A flashback to the last Club of Heroes meeting, captioned “Eight Years Ago,” is playfully rendered in a six-panel grid colored with “comic book dots,” which I’m sure have a real name that simply escapes me tonight. When we’re blasted to the present day -- with the Club’s discovery of another of their murdered number -- we get some of the most sophisticated paneling I’ve seen outside of Frank Quitely. Even in splash pages, Williams employs a handy trick -- a thin black border around details worth our attention, with specific colors standing out of the otherwise gray background. I seem to remember him doing the same things in his run on DESOLATION JONES, and I’m happy to see him back in action here.

BATMAN under Morrison and Williams is, simply put, superior storytelling of trademarked characters. Batman might not be forever changed by the end of next issue, but some of these other characters will be -- if any of them survived -- and thanks to the storytellers involved, that will matter to me just as much.

Tell me more: JH Williams III, Grant Morrison.


AnnaGo said...

Your description of the art is so enticing! However, I am not familiar with any of the Bat backstory. (BatMEN?! Gadzooks!) Do you think I could enjoy this title without having to do some contextual catch-up reading?

Matthew Jent said...

Yeah, absolutely -- I'm only casually familiar with the story he's referencing here, and all you need to know is covered pretty effortlessly in these issues. 667 and 668 are the Morrison/Williams issues.

They worked together on the SEVEN SOLDIERS bookends, but I think this BATMAN story is more accessible than those are. It's some of the best art I've seen from JH Williams, who is already one of the finest artists doing superheroes right now.

GavinR said...

J.H. Williams is awesome. His work with Alan Moore is stunning.