Sunday, January 4, 2009

Pseudo-Live-Blogging: Grant Morrison's Batman Run - The Clown At Midnight

Now I come to it... the infamous prose issue. Posing as a regular comic book, this verbal bomb nestled amongst my regular week's comics, waiting to ambush me with text. my recollection was that I had trouble reading this issue, but that's probably because I wasn't expecting it. This is from a time not long ago that I didn't follow solicitations months in advance. And as a prose piece, it's a bit more dense than typical comic fare. So now, as we approach the second anniversary of it's release, here are my thoughts as I read the issue.
  • I like the quote it starts with - "There's something about clowns at a funeral and it's hard to say if it's sad or if it's funny." I wonder if Grant wrote that, or if it came from something else. If so, major props to Grant. I have to think that quotes about clowns and funerals would generally be in short supply.
  • Two pages in, and here's a reference to black and red flowers. More foreshadowing for Batman R.I.P.
  • Are the doctors in Arkham ever going to realize that the Joker is just too bugnuts crazy to write off? Oh, we know he's the Joker... but he's too frail to be any threat to anybody this time. Pff.
  • I'm not quite half-way through, and there's a third reference to red and black. I just didn't catch on that these color references were going to be at all important. And once again, it's red and black flower petals mixing to form a toxin.
  • And there's a reference to the Killing Joke, during the Joker's 'Circus Ringmaster' phase, when all of his henchman seemed to be carnival sideshow performers.
  • I like the mosquito poisoned by the Joker's blood, that the very essence of the Joker is toxic.
  • There've been constant references to checkerboards, which alternate red and black. The 'reborn' Joker views Harley as a checkerboard, but this 'new' Joker loathes 'board games'. Morrison's intention here seems to be to split Harley from the Joker. She's fine for the animated series, but not for the Joker he wants to write. Heck, imagine the Joker from The Dark Knight with Harley. She doesn't work there.

That's a meaty read for something that looks like a comic book. But it's a good one. Morrison waxes a bit prosaic early on in his descriptions, but it's a good story. It ties together all of the various changes in the Joker from camp to psychopath. But make no mistake, this is definitely more of a Joker story than a Batman story.

I can't help but wonder if Morrison has specific plans for the Joker. Through most of the rest of his run thus far, the Joker stays locked up in Arkham as Batman begins to wrestle with the Black Glove. But he foreshadows the doom coming to Gotham if the Joker does escape... and he walked out of Batman R.I.P. with his freedom.

I have to confess, I'd been a little nervous about reading this one, specifically because I remember it as such a weighty, heavy read. I'm not saying that it wasn't, but it's definitely a good read as well. And it continues to foreshadow elements that Grant Morrison would use over the course of his run on the book. There's all the red and black, of course, and a mention of Nanda Parbat. It's neat to pick up on these things now, even if I didn't realize their significance initially.

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