Note: I am reprinting, without change, a series on Grant Morrison’s Batman work originally printed in 2013 on my old site.
Grant Morrison doesn’t keep us in suspense. We know already that the body Dick is putting in the Lazarus Pit can’t possibly be Bruce Wayne, and Morrison tells us: It’s a clone. This recalls the “three Batmen” story from before Batman RIP, an echoes Morrison’s continuing fascination with Batman-as-a-solo-act vs. Batman-as-a-clone. Throughout his entire epic, the idea of there being only one Batman, or of Batman working alone, is being revised and debunked.
Also revisited is the idea of Batman as an immortal. Because of his travels through time, Batman has been able to to plant himself throughout history.
Trains are the running theme in the first volume of Batman and Robin. The “Mexican Train” is a version of dominoes–and the enemy in this arc is the Domino Gang. And Morrison explains later that when you’re playing dominoes, you draw from the “boneyard.” Oberon Sexton’s nickname is The Gravedigger. Yes, it all comes together.
Damian Wayne is the first one to figure out that Oberon Sexton, The Gravedigger, is actually the Joker. But as readers, we’d already figured it out. Dominoes or cards, they’re both gambling games. And the red shades/black costume recalls the red-and-black motif from Batman RIP. No, the mystery of Sexton isn’t the really interesting thing about this part of the story…What’s so great here is the depths to which Morrison explores identity and continuity.
Morrison was always able to make the DCU’s extended, convoluted history make sense in a way noone else ever could. Here, Deathstroke works out his past conflicts with Dick Grayson through a remote control link with Damian. Later in the same story, Talia reveals that she has cloned Damian–and Damian’s clone will be exactly ten years younger than Damian when he is born–so now we wonder whether the future Batman from issue #666 was Damian…Or Damian’s clone?
There’s also a very cool sequence involving the portraits of the Wayne family throughout history, a series of pictures which we actually saw for the first time in the “Batman and Son” arc, only now each of the pictures fits into the Return of the Batman series. And then, Morrison stops on this one….
Dick notes the constellation Orion, and it was the murder of New God Orion that led to the Final Crisis, and the death of Batman.
And people say Jonathan Hickman is an intricate plotter!
The arc wraps with Damian finally choosing a side: Batman’s.