This week marks the final final issue of Grant Morrison’s large scale Batman Epic. This is a comic that has been in the works for quite some time. Since September of 2006, Morrison has been slowly building a large scale confrontation between the Dark Knight and one of the most powerful villains in the entirety of the DCU. While this story has been building for certainly quite a long time in his idea space, it’s only finally come to it’s close now, four years later.
With a brand new story and era on the way with Batman Inc. #1 and Batman: The Return #1 in stores this coming week, ringing the bell for this new adventure, regular ACOC star Walt and I sat down to map out the logical path any fan would need in order to understand Morrison’s Bat-epic in it’s entire broad scope.
So sit back, relax, and prepare for your journey in to the 5th world – after the cut.
Batman is a character has existed since 1939, which for the math inclined equates to 79 years. That is a lot of history to a character, one which neither I nor anyone else would expect anyone to know all of. Obviously going into working on Batman, Morrison had his own knowledge of the character from when he was a child as well as growing up, and all of this plus his own work tied into the mythology that Morrison brought with him when he took over writing the main title.
So with that in mind, are there any particular books you could read that would tie into his story that could possibly help? Yes. For starters, DC released The Black Casebook, a collection of old Batman stories that heavily influenced Morrison’s writing in a “unified Batman history”, with these stories having pay offs specifically Batman RIP. While this certainly isn’t required knowledge, it does help some of the more esoteric references within Batman RIP. The next story you could try and find is Batman #452-454, or “Dark Knight, Dark City” – a story which might seem out of place at first, but will make perfect sense by the time you finish reading.
Following these, there are several books that Grant Morrison has written/co-written which tie into his writing. Morrison fans will often notice that all of his works tie together, albeit loosely, with little references in place for longtime fans. For his Batman, start with Arkham Asylum: A Serious House On Serious Earth, which will explain how Morrison chooses to write the Joker (especially with issue #663). Next on the list would be Grant Morrison’s JLA, which is a much looser tie-in. It features Batman’s first fight against Darkseid under Morrison’s pen as well as the first thematic placement of Superheroes being the New Gods of the 5th Dimension, which ties into Morrison’s finale. Next on the list is DC’s ongoing series 52, which follows Infinite Crisis and sees Batman expunging his demons as well as taking a sabbatical from being Batman and involving himself in isolation experiences as well as locking himself in a cave in Nanda Parabat – all of which become heavily important during RIP. The last book to look at would be Seven Soldiers of Victory, which will help with Darseid and Final Crisis, which ties heavily with Batman RIP.
Batman and Son and The Black Glove
Morrison’s first two major stories on Batman were “Batman and Son” and “The Island of Mister Mayhew.” The first introduced Damian Wayne, the son of Batman and Talia al Ghul, who started off Morrison’s run with quite a jolt. The character arrived to mixed reviews initially, but Damian has slowly grown into a beloved member of the DCU. With the second, Morrison introduced the man who would ultimately become the Big Bad of Morrison’s story: Dr. Simon Hurt. Hurt attacked Batman and the Club of Heroes on a secluded island, which allowed Morrison to begin to bring old stories to life as well as breathe more life into characters he had introduced in JLA Classified – the now ever-so-popular Knight and Squire.Continued below
Also, within the two trades for both these books are additional stories that act as “one-shots” to a certain degree and help set up of the various players that will become important over the course of Morrison’s story. This includes Morrison’s change to the Joker, the introduction of the Three Ghosts, and Jezebel Jet – all of which would see ultimate pay-offs within Batman RIP.
At this point, you can also read The Resurrection of Ra’s al Ghul. Walt describes this book as optional if only because it deals more with story elements going on with other writers. Damian’s character is developed a bit more, but the book’s pay-offs are more involved with the Nightwing and Robin/Red Robin ongoings.
Batman RIP/Final Crisis/Last Rites
Batman RIP was, as told in interviews, one of Morrison’s big pitches when he came to write Batman. He took DC’s last member of the Trinity and put him in the ground in a way only Morrison would and could in an elaborate story featuring thousands of callbacks to both stories Morrison had written and issues contained within the Black Casebook. RIP would also see Morrison begin to elaborate on Batman’s mythos in it’s entirety, tying in Batman’s demise to Batman’s “creation”, which would become an extremely important theme and story element throughout the rest of Morrison’s Batman.
Intertwined with RIP was Final Crisis, DC’s big event at the time that Morrison wrote. It tied heavily together with RIP, although the two could somewhat exist without one another. However, for those following Morrison’s Batman story, it was Final Crisis that truly featured Batman’s death, whereas Batman RIP simply resolved around the death of the idea of Batman. Final Crisis’ own timeline became a bit disfigured as it came out, and for the proper reading order of the event see the final list at the bottom of the post (as explained by Morrison himself in an interview), which also feature Morrison’s last two issues of Batman.
It should be noted that, at the time that this came out, Final Crisis and RIP perplexed many fans and became a very “love it/hate it” story. Some fans thought the storytelling was far too esoteric, and others assumed that RIP was merely Morrison “pulling a Dallas” on the fan community. However, for those who were patient, the loose ends of Batman’s involvement in both stories became more clear later.
As an additional note, Final Crisis is it’s own big barrel of worms. Many people have found Final Crisis frustrating with it’s story telling, as it requires a rather heavy knowledge of the DC Universe and is not really for the average reader. We could do a whole Crisis of Chronology based around Final Crisis, to be honest.
Battle for the Cowl
Battle for the Cowl is not an event that Morrison wrote. It was instead a mini-event written by the artist of Batman RIP, Tony Daniel. In it, Daniel wrote and drew the days of Gotham post-Batman’s death before Dick Grayson would eventually take up the mantle and become the new Batman with Damian as Robin. While the story is not written by Morrison, it is important into the shift between Bruce Wayne’s Batman and Dick Grayson’s.
Batman and Robin: Batman Reborn/Revenge of the Red Hood
Following RIP, Final Crisis, and the Battle for the Cowl, Morrison returned with a brand new ongoing: Batman and Robin. In this, Morrison began telling short stories in arcs of three with different artists, the first two of which were Frank Quitely and Philip Tan. Fans of Morrison’s Batman were now more prepared, and began noticing clues right from the beginning, with the identity’s of characters such as the Domino Killer and El Penitente being large mysteries throughout the entire book. The book is also much more light hearted in tone, because with a new man under the cowl, the new Batman surely needed a different approach.Continued below
The first arc introduced Professor Pyg, a now infamous character within the Batman mythology, who is arguably the creepiest character in the whole DCU. The second arc featured Jason Todd’s role post-BFTC, as well as began to pay off ideas from Batman #666, which featured a future Damian as Batman.
I should also note that Walt insists I mention Chris Yost’s first arc in Red Robin, “The Holy Grail,” as it ties in with the Return of Bruce Wayne and is the only other Batman story that Morrison actively acknowledges during his story.
At this point, you can also read Blackest Night. The third arc in Batman and Robin acted as a “loose tie-in” to the event (as described by Grant Morrison), and was the first sign that the body buried in Bruce Wayne’s grave was not actually Bruce Wayne.
Blackest Knight was the “loose tie-in” to DC’s big event, featuring Cameron Stewart on art and Morrison giving fans the first sign that Bruce Wayne was not in fact dead. One of the big mysteries of RIP was what exactly happened to Bruce Wayne, and Blackest Knight began to explain this, as well as dealt once again with the lurking villains El Penitente and the Domino Killer. The book tied-in thematically with Red Robin as well, finally declaring what most fans already knew: Bruce Wayne was not dead.
RIP: The Missing Chapter
While this book was published later, Walt and I agreed that it feels more at home here. The Missing Chapter of RIP is the gap between Batman RIP and Final Crisis that shows exactly how Bruce Wayne survived his helicopter crash and wound up in one of Darkseid’s torture devices. The issues also dealt with how the clone from Blackest Knight came to be, and ended right where Return of Bruce Wayne began, thus making a smooth segue into the upcoming storylines.
Batman vs. Robin/Return of Bruce Wayne
Batman vs. Robin was the third arc of Batman and Robin, featuring the return of Talia al Ghul and the beginning of the mystery of where Bruce Wayne went when Darkseid blasted him with the Omega Sanction. At this time, DC also started releasing a mini-series entitled the Return Of Bruce Wayne, which detailed the adventures of a time lost Batman. Initially, the idea was that the books would intertwine, with each issue of each book coming out one after the other, but delays prevented this from happening. However, the proper and more interesting way to read these issues would be B&R #13, ROBW #1, B&R #14, ROBW #2, B&R #15, and ROBW #3.
This is also the point where some of the larger elements of Morrison’s story come into play. We learn the identities of El Penitente, just what Oberon Sexton was up to the entire storyline, and begin to learn about the various Waynes throughout time as first seen in RIP. The entire book becomes one large scale mystery, and it’s the first time in Morrison’s Batman run that he begins giving solid answers to questions we’ve been asking.
Time and the Batmen
Batman #700 saw Morrison returning to write the main title for three issues, starting with the centennial as a one-shot. The story, able to stand on it’s own, tells a story of three different Batmen throughout time all dealing with the same mystery laid in place by the Joker. The issue mentioned the Joker being in custody at this point, thus placing it after Batman and Robin #15, and allowing some of the final pieces in Morrison’s epic chessboard to be placed. It would also bring back future Damian and pay tribute to alternate Batman storylines, including the recently launched Batman Beyond.
Batman and Robin Must Die/Return of Bruce Wayne
The final arc of Batman and Robin saw the return of our great villain from RIP: The Black Glove himself, Dr. Simon Hurt. Hurt’s origin had been wrapped in mystery throughout the entire series, and with this story Morrison finally gave us concrete answers about who he was, what his plans were, and why he was attacking the Waynes. The story is once again intertwined with Return of Bruce Wayne, which furthers the element of Simon Hurt as well as establishes exactly why Batman is so important to the DCU as a whole. In fact, after ROBW #6, it’s safe to say Batman is the single most important character in the entire DCU.Continued below
To put it lightly, the book is incredibly dense, mythic, and interconnected. It’s actually rather easy to get lost at this point, but for those in need there are annotations online of the references in place within all of ROBW. Suffice it to say, it is one of the most intense ideas Morrison has ever played with while using a mainstream comic book character as opposed to creator owned stories.
Batman and Robin Finale/the Return
Morrison’s finale to Batman and Robin as well as the Return ended his Batman Epic and allowed for the beginning of his new story, Batman Inc. While Batman Inc. is sure to tie in with all that he has worked on throughout with the character, it’s safe to say that the story of Batman versus Simon Hurt is over with the end of B&R #16.
The Return instead sees Bruce Wayne fixing himself into the new world after the final page of B&R #16, and it allows segue into the upcoming book: Batman Incorporated, in which Bruce Wayne once again dons his famous cowl and begins to travel the world, turning Batman’s war on crime in Gotham into a global war on crime.
So, in closing, here is the final list broken down by issue:
- (The Black Casebook)*
- (Dark Knight, Dark City (Batman #452-454))*
- (Arkham Asylum: A Serious House On Serious Earth)*
- (Grant Morrison’s JLA)*
- (Seven Soldiers of Victory)*
- Batman And Son (Batman #655 – 658)
- The Clown at Midnight (Batman #663)
- The Three Ghosts of Batman (Batman #664-665)
- Numbers of the Beast (Batman #666)
- The Island of Mister Mayhew (Batman #667-669)
- (Resurrection of Ra’s al Ghul (various))*
- Space Medicine (Batman #672)
- Joe Chill in Hell (Batman #673)
- Batman Dies at Dawn (Batman #674)
- The Fiend with Nine Eyes (Batman #675)
- DC Universe (#0)
- Batman RIP (Batman #676-681)
- Final Crisis (#1-3)
- Superman Beyond (#1-2)
- Final Crisis: Submit (#1)
- Final Crisis (#4-5)
- Last Rites (Batman #682-683)
- Final Crisis: Secret Files (#1)
- Final Crisis #6-7
- The Battle for the Cowl (#1-3)
- Batman Reborn (Batman & Robin #1-3)/The Grail (Red Robin #1-5)
- Revenge of the Red Hood (Batman & Robin #4-6)
- (Blackest Night (#1-8)/Blackest Night: Batman (#1-3))*
- Blackest Knight (Batman & Robin #7-9)
- RIP: The Missing Chapter (Batman #701-702)
- Batman vs. Robin (Batman & Robin #10-12)/Return of Bruce Wayne (#1-3)
- Time and the Batmen (Batman #700)
- Batman and Robin Must Die! (Batman & Robin #13-15)/Return of Bruce Wayne (#4-6)
- Batman and Robin Finale (#16)
- The Return (#1)
And in case you’re wondering what this epic look likes, it’s a little something like this:
More from Multiversity Comics
//TAGS | A Crisis Of Chronology
Well, not ALL of Grant Morrison’s Batman; his stand alone stories are not discussed here – only the currently in progress epic, which will continue on during 2012/2013’s relaunched Batman Inc.
If there is one question I’ve answered more than any other in the past few years in regards to Batman, it is “what is the reading order of Grant Morrison’s run”, or some variation thereof. So I have created this list as a permanent resource and answer to that question. I’ve also created this list for my own edification, to satiate my own disturbingly deep love for Morrison’s Bat tale.
This will hopefully be a straightforward, simple and easy to follow chronological list that will tell you the reading order and supply you with visual representations of all the comics that make up the run, to help the die hard, single issue collectors out there. (I’ve pictured all variant versions of issues below, but not all re-printings where the only thing that changed was a color tone shift and I’ve also put this list here as pure text, just in case you simply want to copypasta it onto your phone, etc. for use in comic shops.)
0: Background Material
This is completely unnecessary to understand the Morrison arc, but extremely enlightening nonetheless, think of it as extra credit.
Morrison’s arc has integrated, retconned, referenced and reinserted many silver age Batman moments in(to) it’s labyrinthine tale, so to see where some (but certainly not all) of these ideas originated, and to contextualize the contemporary references, you’d do yourself well to read the collection of stories re-released as the TPB, The Black Casebook
The Black Casebook
If you’re still hungry for context in regards to the other obscure references, you can always go read this wonderful article by John Wells over at ComicMix, which helps to highlight more of the callbacks present in Morrison’s arc.
The first bit of story that Morrison crafted for his Bat-epic actually appeared in small chunks in two different issues of 52 (not to be confused with the “new 52”). Fifty Two was a weekly comic series which ran from 2006-2007, the series’ concept was to fill in the missing year between Infinite Crisis and Countdown to Final Crisis.
In 52, Morrison gives us a few glimpses of Bruce wandering to Nanda Parbat where he would undergo the thögal ritual which is referenced later on during his proper Batman run. All in all the only two issues which contain pertinent details to Morrison’s story are Issues (“weeks”) #30 and #47. In TPB form 52, Vol. 3 collects weeks 27-39 and Vol. 4 collects the remainder of the series, and therein week #47. You could also just go all out and get the Omnibus collection, which collects all 52 weeks in one volume.
52, Week #30
52, Week #47
1: “Batman and Son”
The real start of the run begins in Batman #655 – #658 then takes a short break and picks back up in Batman #663 – #666. This first part of the arc is generally referred to as Batman and Son, even though the only issues to carry that name in original print were the first four issues. Regardless all issues above can also be found compiled in the TPB known as Batman and Son. Batman #666 should be considered notable as it takes place in a “possible” future – and as such, may be full of red herrings… or maybe not.
The newly released Batman and Son – Deluxe Edition contains all of the Batman & Son issues AND the entire Black Glove run, which is the next entry on this list – so if you’d like both runs collected in one volume, opt for the Deluxe Edition of Batman and Son.
Batman #655 Variant
2: “The Black Glove”
This chapter consists of the issues Batman #667 – #675, and it would be a pretty straight forward jaunt, if not for two issues right in the middle of the chapter that take a break to act as the bookends for another arc: The Resurrection of Ra’s al Ghul. Batman #670 and #671 are chapters in the Ra’s story, which continues outside of the main Batman book and is handled by writers other than Morrison. The two issues certainly fit in well enough without reading the missing pieces between 670 & 671 – but if you want the whole story on Ra’s resurrection you will, unfortunately, have to hunt down the various issues which make up the crossover, or just buy the trade. Once again, the only parts that are considered pertinent to Morrison’s story are the ones listed here, so you will not miss anything by not reading the entire “resurrection” arc by itself.
The Black Glove is available as a TPB in a normal edition and also, now in a Deluxe Edition which includes all the Batman & Son issues AND the entire Black Glove story line, so if you opt for the Deluxe Edition of the Black Glove trade, then you can skip purchasing the Batman & Son TPB listed above, as it is now combined into one book.
Batman #670 sketch variant
Batman #670 second print
Batman #671 second print
3: “Batman R.I.P.”
R.I.P. actually begins with a prologue that is found in a book outside of the normal Batman issues: DC Universe #0, the prologue is actually only three pages long and is just a short conversation between Bats and Joker – it is pretty great though, for only being three pages you’d think they’d have just stuck it in with the first issue of the arc proper, which would be Batman #676 – #681. If you read the trade collection, the DCU #0 prologue is included.
DC Universe 0
Batman #676 variant
Batman #677 variant
Batman #678 variant
Batman #679 variant
Batman #680 variant
Batman #681 variant
3a: “Last Rights” and “R.I.P. The Missing Chapters” – the bridge to Final Crisis
This is where things begin to get a bit confusing. Batman #682 and #683 are meant to bridge the gap between R.I.P. and Final Crisis – then Batman #700- #702 jump back in time, before Final Crisis to fill in the “Missing Chapters” betwixt the two. Oddly though, Batman #701 & #702 spoil events from FC, so it is best to consider reading Final Crisis after you finish Batman #683 and before you read #701. I think… you see you don’t really need to read Final Crisis to understand Morrison’s Batman arc, but it does enhance it. All you really need to know about FC to follow along with Morrison’s main Bat-arc, is that Bruce “Kills” Darkseid, but in the process “dies” himself and is sent skipping through time, fighting his way back to the present, as seen in the coming series The Return of Bruce Wayne. The tradetitled Time And The Batman contains Batman #700-#703 and theBatman R.I.P. TPB contains the Last Rites issues.
Batman #682 variant
Batman #683 variant
Batman #700 variant
Batman #700 sketch variant
4: “Batman and Robin”
Bruce is dead/missing and Dick Grayson is now Batman, while Damian is Robin. If you want to know how this came about, read Battle for the Cowl – which is not written by Morrison and has no real bearing on his story. The most important thing to keep in mind is that Batman and Robin #1 – #16 take place at the same time as The Return of Bruce Wayne #1 – #6 . If you’re reading them “together” the only thing to remember is that TRoBW #6 is meant to synch into the big reveal on the last page of B&R #15, so as long as you read TRoBW #1-#6 before you reach the end of B&R #15 you’re golden. The Morrison run through the first sixteen issues of Batman and Robin has been released in various trade volumes: Vol. 1: Batman Reborn – Vol. 2: Batman vs. Robin