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August 27, 2007


Jason Tondro

Some of the best Fair Play mysteries in comics came out in Mike Barr's much-lamented (well, at least by me) Maze Agency. Originally the book was from Comico, and had art by as-yet-undiscovered Adam Hughes, if you can believe it. Adam went on to stardom, but Barr never really made the majors. Maze Agency recently had another go at IDW, but it was only a few issues and without costumes and two-fisted action a book like that really needs consummate art -- which it hasn't had.

All of which is my long way of saying, "Aren't mysteries fun, even if you get it wrong?"



Mike Barr not in the majors? Mike Barr, author of Camelot 3000? Creator (with Jim Aparo) of Batman and the Outsiders? That Mike Barr?


I'm more baffled by the idea that Adam Hughes IS in the majors.


Creator (with Jim Aparo) of Batman and the Outsiders? That Mike Barr?

Bear in mind that "let's team up Batman with a bunch of second and third-stringers" is not exactly GRAVITY'S RAINBOW, and Geo-Force may be the most boring superhero ever written.


Oh man, serendipity. Morrison himself has said in an interview that Mike W. Barr's Batman was a huge influence on his understanding of the character.


Mike W. Barr is a misunderstood outsider artist genius and none of you peons can appreciate the brilliance that is Geo-Force.

...I was going to link that last bit to a "Geo-Force is awesome!!!" fan page but I COULDN'T FIND ONE.

Jason Tondro

Don't get me wrong; I have written serious papers on Camelot 3000 and while I was not reading DC at the time of the original Outsiders, there's no question that Barr did something exceptional: create a team in the DC universe that outlived its initial story arc. Admittedly, he also did it by pioneering the "Let's slap a Bat symbol on it..." marketing approach.

I just mean that Barr has slid into obscurity while Hughes is making $3000 per page on eBay.

Matthew Rossi

At some point I will review Batman #666, or as I call it, "The worst Batman story Morrison has ever written."


It was the Yeats quote, wasn't it?

I thought the comic had a few cute ideas and some great interpolations of Damian's past/foreshadowings of future stories, and Jog came up with a nice reading (linked in my last post) that, like some literary-critical Lebowski rug, really tied the series together. (I guess that makes you a rug-peer.) But nineties nostalgia isn't anything I need to see right now, especially since so many superhero comics still have yet to grow out of the nineties.

It was a pretty subpar issue of Batman (in a run that varies so wildly in tone and quality that setting a par is almost impossible) but an above-average one of Aztek. Make of that what you will.

Matthew Rossi

No, it wasn't the Yeats quote.

Someone once accused Morrison of loving his own weird creations more than he has any right to: putting Aztek and Zauriel in the JLA is often seen as pandering to his babies, as was his attempt to raise Prometheus (who basically had the same origin story as a Mike Barr Batman villain named Wrath) to a Justice League defeating villain by means of his digital helmet, but none of that every seemed justified to me like the claim that Daimian Wayne has utterly failed to be an interesting character.

He should be one. He's the son of the greatest heroes in the world and the grandson of one of the most interesting villains, whose mother vacillates between her own brand of evil and attempting to be what she thinks her erstwhile lover wants her to be. But he's not. The idea that he's basically vat-grown, all his organs constantly being replaced as he nearly dies trying to live up to his mother's expectations (and, possibly his own) is a good one but it doesn't seem to go anywhere.

I think that's the biggest problem with Morrison's run on Batman. For every good, well executed issue like the ones you're reviewing there's a Joker issue that falls flat or a Damian story that seems to just sit there, inert, waiting for Morrison to get around to doing something with it. Batman #666 failed to be interesting, engaging or even exhilarating to read. It felt like a sub-par Goth reinterpretation of a Batman Beyond cartoon.


Even as an interesting failure, the Joker issue was GREAT. I will brook no sass.

Matthew Rossi

I'm sorry, but 'The Joker shows how evil he is by killing his own henchmen' has been done and done and done. Grant can do better, and has done better.

Jason Tondro

I dare say that once you've seen, "Bob? Gun. >BLAM<" the gag has about run its course.

Though, to be fair, we have had a whole generation of Batman readers grow up since then.


I found Damian much more interesting as an adult paying down the mistakes of his youth than I do as the callow, homicidal youth who's making those mistakes. Part of the problem may be the erratic jumps in subject matter and tone that have characterized Morrison's run--we keep leaping from hairy-chested lovegods to gritty streets to apocalyptic futures, and just when one of them gets interesting, we're on to something else. I like Morrison's combination of historical antecedents, but I'm not sure he can reference all of them at once--at least not until J.H. Williams III comes along to help the art shoulder the burden, which may be why this story has been the high point of the run.

To return to the idle speculation that started this post, I just noticed something odd about the Club of Heroes. Everybody who's been attacked or killed has been attacked by methods cribbed from their greatest foes, with two exceptions: the Wingman is burned and hanged with no mention of any villains (although next issue might well reveal that he had an archenemy who committed crimes based on Norse myths or Bergman films or something) and the Musketeer is menaced by a robot scorpion that comes from one of El Gaucho's foes.

Are these details supposed to be clues, or are they just incidental features that don't quite fit the pattern? With Morrison, it could go either way. He's capable of setting up elaborate patterns but just as willing to ignore them.

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