It’s that time again! Over the next ten days, we’ll be running through our ten favourite comics of 2013 – the first seven are in no particular order, followed by two individually-chosen runners-up, and a unanimous Best of the Year to be revealed on the 31st…
It’s fair to say that the high watermark of Grant Morrison’s epoch-making run on Batman was reached some time ago – although your own mileage may vary as to whether that happened around the time of the Black Glove storyline, Batman RIP, or the Dick Grayson-starring Batman & Robin (as far as I’m concerned it’s the middle one). The momentum of the whole thing was seriously hampered by the New 52 relaunch occurring slap bang in the middle of Batman Incorporated - partly as it meant Morrison seemed distracted by a disappointing Action Comics run, and partly because of the ridiculous continuity retcons that were never going to reconcile with this intricate and all-encompassing long-form story.
As Incorporated drew to its conclusion, however, some of the spark of the run’s better moments began to return – to the extent that despite an erratic shipping schedule, every issue (aside from the non-Morrison fill-ins) that came out in 2013 was individually fantastic. It helped that Morrison was working with a consistent artist once more – and, what’s more, an artist who had developed from being a reasonable substitute for Frank Quitely into a genuinely excellent and inventive superhero storyteller of his own. But it was also noticeable that, after a fair amount of meandering around the place (and despite the brilliance of the cliffhanger that first introduced it, the “round the world” concept of Incorporated had simply never resulted in any particularly compelling stories), the drama was back in full force. Kicking off with January’s issue #7, the stakes were raised, the human tragedy hit home (the impact of #8 managing to survive having the major plot point deliberately spoiled in the press in advance), and the story actually became about something again.
Crucially, Morrison was finally able to finish spelling out the second major message of his Batman run (the first, of course, being “every story is true”) – that as the most enduringly popular exponent of this most serial of storytelling forms, one thing that will always remain true is that Batman will keep coming back, the stories will keep going around on the same cycles, and that that’s actually kind of okay. Realising that his final issue was an opportunity to ease Batman into a new beginning (one that, in fact, had already overlapped with him) liberated Morrison from having to deliver the sort of truly satisfying, closure-laden and downright spectacular ending that it might have seemed like the seven-year run demanded. It was enough, simply, to remind us that whatever might happen, whatever might seem to be taken from him, and whatever anybody might attempt to change (whether that’s Talia showing up to wreck his life, or DC deciding to handwave away most of his backstory for the sake of a new banner to put on their books), the Batman abides.
I don’t know about you, but I take comfort in that.