“Down to the last stone, down to my last breath”: Damian’s future is written in Morrison’s amazing BATMAN INC 5

Batman Inc-Zone-021It’s interesting watching the Batman line lose it’s way. In a veritable mess of non-stop crossovers, DC has made sure that readers are bound to lose track of the characters under the cowls. Why care about the risks if every thing’s just a series of mounting tensions with inevitable climaxes that come far too late?

That’s only one of the many, many reasons why Grant Morrsion’s Batman Incorporated has been the premier Bat-title DC has been releasing, if not the best title DC has produced in 3 years.

Part of that’s because of the relentless focus on tension. Morrison began with the end in mind. The finale of Batman Incorporated will be the end of Morrison’s collaboration with DC, exception of course for the upcoming Multiversity. As such, he’s decided to play with any of the toys he wants to, not caring what anyone else is waiting to use them for. Barbara Gordon’s in a wheel-chair! Jason Todd’s (maybe) wearing a more heroic costume! The Joker will end Gotham!

batman-inc-221Batman Inc. 5 reveals one answer that Morrison’s been holding out on for years, the future Bruce saw was of what happens when Damian takes over the Cowl. It’s a sinister world, with zombified-Joker ghouls burning Gotham to ashes, a cannibal Gorilla Grodd-esque super villain preaching the end of days, and Babs Gordon shooting Damian in the spine.

It’s an exhilarating issue. From Bruce, Dick and Jason surrounding a breaking down Damain, the new Batman’s dedication to the cause, the nuke or Leviathan’s second wave, it’s an action packed issue in a series that’s become one of the best for it.

Batman-and-Robin-0-Damian-first-Robin-CostumeDamian will remain Morrison’s finest contribution to the Bat-mythos for years to come and this is clearly him building to a new status queue for the character. The question that has loomed over the series since issue 3 has been whether Damian was ever suited to being Robin. He’s violent, self-centered and wants little more than to prove himself.

Damian’s a character that has consciously been designed to recall Jason Todd. Morrison (like me, although that sounds often pretentious of me) has long recognized that Jason has gotten a bad rap as Robin. He was a strong, interesting character, one that clearly wanted to do what was best for Gotham and for the Family. Jason’s death was one of the legitimately tragic moments of the Batman mythology, read separately from the phone line incident, and the character’s parallels to Damian are clear. Both are less focused on saving the city than proving themselves to the Knight in black armor.

tumblr_mcjdvoOplu1qhxx6do2_1280With seven issues left, and some preview images avaliable of issues to come, it’s pretty clear Batman Incorporated will be defined by Damian’s decisions. Can he control his own impulses and prove himself to Bruce? Will Talia push her beloved too far? Will Gotham be proven to be the Hell it was promised to be? Will Barbara end up back in a wheel chair? That one is probably less important.

“I Do” – Wonder Woman #10 delivers a wonderfully heartfelt escape from Hell

Even as a long time fan of the character, I never expected to be this floored by a Wonder Woman book. I’ve loved the relaunched series, particularly Cliff Chiang’s near perfect representation of the Amazon and great design work of her enemies and allies, but its been light on what makes Diana the heroine she is. For the first 9 issues, she’s been making deals with gods, throwing down with the servants of Hera and finding out new things about herself but we haven’t really gotten to see a lot of how Wonder Woman feels about her place in the world.

Wonder Woman #10 gave me everything I wanted from the series and it might be the best script Brian Azzarello has turned in all year. For followers of the series, Diana entered Hell in an attempt to rescue Zola, a woman pregnant with Zeus’ child, where she was betrayed by Hades and forced into marriage. After the fantastic cliffhanger (pardon the absolutely awful but sort of necessary pun), we knew that she was at an impasse. For the first time since the second issue, it was inevitable that blood would flow.

What makes Wonder Woman 10 work so well where books like, say, Nightwing 8-9 failed is that it stayed true to the character but managed to do it in unexpected ways. Let’s digress to the recent revelation during the lead up to Night of the Owls that Dick Grayson was meant to be a Talon. While I generally liked this pair of issues for sheer entertainment value, they weren’t anything that I would need to read again. The Talon shows up. Nightwing fights it. Nightwing beats it. Nightwing walks away.

There’s nothing wrong with this approach per-say. The thing is that with a character with a background and personality as well established and far reaching as Dick Grayson’s we can expect more. Dick’s a relentlessly positive guy, one that’s fighting more for the heart and soul of Gotham than for justice in the streets. He wants to inspire people. He wants to show them that they can change. Instead, what we get is him nearly kicking a Talon’s head off and carrying a battered and bleeding body out of a subway station.

Wonder Woman 10 doesn’t play the same game. We expect that Diana is going to have to lie to Hades and then start a fight. That seems to be the only option. Instead, Azzarello surprises the audience by doing the least expected thing, playing to the character’s personality. Wonder Woman doesn’t bend for Hades and her escape, her rage at being interrupted by her half-sister Strife and her ultimate confession that she loves Hades just as she loves all life is a great reminder of what a positive, respected and iconic character Diana is.

Going well with Azzarello’s script is a variety of artists turning in solid work. The three different credits usually don’t bode well, generally being a statement that the book may have been rushed, but the character designs, particularly Hades’ blood creature, are well done and I always love to see Strife get involved in the fray. Even the ending is done with a suitable mix of finality and the need to create a cliffhanger as Diana and company return to Earth.

Wonder Woman 10 delivers the sense of breathless action and heartfelt character moments that fans have been waiting months for and it makes it all worthwhile. For those not picking up the book, it might be worth adding the Amazon to your pull list after this exemplary issue.