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Batman #700 Review

Anniversary issues (at least the ones ending in double zeroes) tend to be a bit of a crap shoot, quality-wise. Luckily, this week’s Batman #700 is a good one. Grant Morrison provides a densely told story that manages to be pretty much one cohesive tale while spanning three Batmen and four artists (plus an intriguing epilogue with four more Batmen and one more artist). It’s a delightful total package and a worthy celebration of seven hundred issues of Batman.

As Morrison takes us through Batman’s history, he also makes sure to include a little bit of DC’s comic history, as well, like this opening, which references the Hawkman/Ancient Egypt connection.

Tony Daniel does very impressive work with the artwork of the opening to this time-spanning tale, which Morrison places in an intriguing time in Batman’s life, the period between the campy Batman TV series and the grittier Denny O’Neil/Neal Adams’ Batman. It’s interesting to see characters practically evolve in front of your eyes, as Joker, in particular, seems to turn from Cesar Romero into the dark villain he would become in the 1970s.

This part of the story introduces three major parts of the story – Professor Charles Nichols (a real life Golden Age Batman supporting cast member who would send Batman and Robin to the past for adventures), the Joker’s joke book (which, naturally, is itself a joke!) and the riddle/joke whose answer makes up the title of the story, “Time and the Batman.”

The second part of the tale is perhaps the most disappointing, since this tale of modern Batman (Dick Grayson) and Robin (Damian Wayne) is not completely drawn by Frank Quitely, as originally advertised, but but by Quitely with Scott Kolins finishing off the last few page (here’s hoping all is all right with Quitely, health-wise!). Morrison continues with his little trip through comic book history by having Dick (who, along with Damian, is celebrating a Batman comic book tradition – no crime allowed on the night Batman’s parents were killed) using sticks similar to those he used to wield as Nightwing. Morrison follows up that blast from the past (which Quitely draws beautifully, always on the prowl for a stunning page of choreographed fighting) with a look to the future/past (continuity-wise future, actual comic release date-wise past) with the introduction of the Mutant gang that will later develop to become a major problem in Dark Knight Returns.

There is an exchange in this part of the story that I found especially impressive. When arriving on the scene of a “locked door” murder (the murder that ties together the first, second and third parts of the story), Dick encounters a police officer and enquires about the officer’s child.

This scene is especially impressive because it achieves two things at once, both important…

1. It establishes what kind of Batman Dick Grayson is – he’s the friendly Batman, the guy who’ll remember that a cop’s kid is in a wheelchair and ask about it.

2. It likely (and very subtly) gives the background for a villain who shows up in the third part of the story (a villain who is making his second appearance after first showing up in Batman #666).

The third part of the story is Damian Wayne’s future Batman (which also debuted in Batman #666). This is an over-the-top and manic look at the crazy world of Gotham City in the future. Andy Kubert does strong work, although he appears to have made a major artistic error (well, I suppose it’s not HIS fault as someone should have noticed it) as a character has a hole in their chest in the artwork BEFORE they are SUPPOSED to get a hole in the chest (and the dialogue makes it pretty clear that the hole is not meant to be there yet). It’s an odd little error.

After bringing back Chief O’Hara to the comics in the first part (his first appearance in comics in years), Morrison follows that up with giving Terry McGinnis his first in-continuity comic book appearance, as well.

The story ends with a mysterious four-page epilogue by new DC Comics artist Dave Finch, who draws four future Batmen, beginning with Batman Beyond and ending with the Batman from Morrison’s DC One Million storyline, with two other Batmen characters mixed in between (a page for each Batman) – this leads into the tagline for the ending – “No matter when, no matter where, no matter how dark” – that evokes the awesome ending to Last Rites, where Alfred relates his take on the power of Batman.

The always helpful Omar Karindu supplies who the middle two Batmen are. Here’s Omar Karindu…

The DKR-esque Batman is a riff on the 1945 Batman story in Batman #26, where Brane (no last name) battles the armies of Saturnian warlord Fura in the year 3000 C.E. after being inspired by the legend of Batman and a time capsule containing the Declaration of Independence. The original story eventually reveals that Fura’s armies are robot double sof the real Saturnians Batman/Brane behaves rather like a resistance fighter in the story, violating curfew and leaving taunting notes for Fura. Eventually, humanity is rallied and invades Saturn, freeing the real Saturnians and defeating Fura. The story makes Fura a Hitler analogue of sorts, even calling his original invasion a “blitzkrieg.” Incidentally, Fura perishes when Brane blasts him in a man-on-man duel in space with spacesuits and jetpacks, sending Fura’s frozen corpse hurtling off into the void.

Fura is mentioned by name in Batman #700, and the robots there resemble his Saturnian robots from the first Brane story.

The Euro-style Batman is the very similar character Brane Taylor, the Batman of the year 3051 from a 1951 story in Batman #67. Brane Taylor travels back to recruit Robin because his own era’s Robin is injured. Taylor’s lair in that tale is also “The Belfry,” and sits atop a gleaming Buck Rogers sort of tower. (This was published some time ahead of Batman’s 1960s and 1970s-era penthouse base.) In the story Taylor defeats crimelord Yerxa and his telepathic henchman the Dome, after which the original Batman travels through time to confuse Yerxa and keep Taylor’s identity a secret. Taylor was also seen in Detective Comics #216. In this second tale, Taylor travels back from the year 3054 and returns the favor by posing as the original Batman to keep a visibly injured Bruce Wayne’s secret safe from Vicki Vale.

Morrison and Finch have updated the aesthetics to a Phillip K. Dick-inspired bande dessinee.

Thanks for that!

The book then has a bunch of pin-ups and a look at the Bat-Cave courtesy of Freddie Williams III.

This was anniversary issue worth the wait!

Recommended.

34 Comments

I won’t be going to the comic shop till next week, so I’ll have to wait for this, but it sounds good.

I can’t wait to reread Morrison’s whole Batman run once he’s done. I hope more people will come to appreciate how good he’s actually been all the way through (though of course the stuff with JH Williams and Frank Quitely stands out).

It was a great story but I felt a bit jipped by paying $5 for a 5-page story compared to Amazing Spider-Man #600 where I paid the same about for what was a massive Slott/Romita Jr main plus a bunch of back-ups.

I’m a bit surprised to see a positive review. I flipped through it at the shop, and noticed that the “bonus material” (pinups, probably the hundredth Batcave map, etc.) starts at page 33. Essentially, this is a $4.99 regular-length issue. Six pages by Daniel, six by Quitely (or five and one by Kolins), six by Kubert, and four by Finch? Sure, the name value of the book is there, and Morrison’s writing might structure it to be something of a milestone issue, but it seems like this could’ve just been a regular-sized comic book. I’d have rather seen one of these artists do a full-length story, and the rest pitch in back-ups like an old annual might have done.

i used to be a very in-continuity reader, but i’ve lessened that tendency almost completely over the past year. that’s why i love over-sized issues like, because i can get a big chunk of story that’s not some sort of multi-part epic (in the immediate sense). i wasn’t gonna pick this up, but the reviews have changed my mind.

or scratch that. now that i’m reading the comments, this issue doesn’t sound so over-sized after all…

Sounds like fun.

Crap! It seems like just last week I picked up Batman #300 at the newsstand! Where did those 400 months go so fast? Oh, well, this sounds pretty good, I may pick it up. Maybe at that same newsstand.

There’s an interesting contrast between this and Mr. Nevett’s review on the main page. I tend to agree with Brian – I thought the book to be of very high quality, and will surely be reading it again multiple times. It is kind of skimpy content-wise for a milestone issue, especially when considering the amount of material Marvel has been packing into their “big number” anniversary books lately.

Based on the story and art alone, though, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this book. If people are willing to buy a run-of-the-mill, regular sized issue of “New Avengers” for $3.99, paying $4.99 for a book this good (and which does have some extra content and features – the main story does have about 31 actual story pages, longer than the average 22-pager) isn’t that much of a stretch.

Those couple pages look like Tony Daniel’s best work on the book yet.

This was a great issue, although I really wish Quitely has finished his ten fricken’ pages, and the art error on Kubert’s old Nichols is annoying. DC Editors are soooo bad.

Morrison’s Batman brought me back to comics hardcore after a decade reprieve…staggering. With each issue the whole Morrison run becomes more complex, layered with detail, and makes for a satisfying re-read. Those read eyes from early in Batman RIP when Bruce switches the tea cups—nice play Darkseid.

Omar Karindu, with the power of SUPER-hypocrisy!

June 10, 2010 at 9:16 am

“Time and the Batman” also seems to be a reference to the classic Doctor Who serial “Time and the Rani,” especially since Morrison’s Batman apparently fought the “Metaleks” alongside the Knight and Squire….

I didn’t notice any hints at the third part villain or the mutant gang. I’ll have to read it again now.

Omar Karindu, with the power of SUPER-hypocrisy!

June 10, 2010 at 9:48 am

Because at the villain auction, the Joker’s jokebook is Lot 22, I assume.

And Dick names the street gang in Crime Alley as ‘the Mutants.” Their leader wears the same sunglasses the Mutant leader does in DKR.

Anyone else like the use of the Maybe Machine to suggest that all and none of the futures seen are true? Kind of a subtle callback to Alan Moore’s bit about “they’re all imaginary stories.”

LOVED the first part. Could practically hear the voices of the TV cast through the art and dialogue. While Morrison’s played with this idea that the TV show is in continuity now, this was the first time I could actually experience Adam West as a feasible part of today’s Batman.

Very intrigued by the way they not only continued to build Damian’s future Batman into DCU continuity, but also used him to reintroduce a new take on Batman Beyond’s Terry McGinnis. By having Damian call out that 2-Face-2 captured the “wrong ” Terry, whose parents were blue collar workers and not software magnates, we have an all-new Earth-0 origin to a popular character, now with Damian in the role Bruce played in the cartoon.

Also, by showing Dick’s Batman taking on the nascent Mutant Gang “today,” I like how Morrison honors Miller’s definitive “Dark Knight” storyline, while essentially preventing it from becoming the DCU’s official “future” on Earth-0. (Dark Knight and All Star batman all now take place in their own Miller-verse on Earth-31).

Only hope that Morrison’s Terry McGinnis (still Joker-faced under the batman Beyond cowl?) can get some legs of his own at a time when DC is also reintroducing the TV canonical version as well in his own miniseries and the recent Superman/Batman Annual (set firmly on earth-12?).

What about the four future Batmen?
We have…
-Batman Beyond (Morrison’s new Terry McGinnis of Earth-0)
-A Miller-esque Dark Knight Returns-style future urban commando Batman
-Batman One Million from Morrison’s JLA run, and…
-Who?

Let’s hope Quitely finishes all of B&R 16.

Omar Karindu, with the power of SUPER-hypocrisy!

June 10, 2010 at 11:01 am

Chris, you skipped the guy between DKR-Bat and One Million Batman, the one done in a European comics style (as opposed to the American styles before it and the Japanese style of DC 1M Bats). I’m pretty sure he’s from an elseworlds story somewhere, but there are allusions to Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? with all the stuff about synthetic emotion control. (He’s not One Million Bats: his chest emblem is the yellow oval and his chin is visible.)

Thanks Omar-

yeas, precisely: WHO is that? Or rather, who is it based on? Have we seen it (or it’s inspiration) somewhere before?

All of Morrison’s future Batmen are re-creating some established version of Batman seen before:
1) Batman Beyond (TV)
2) The Future Urban Commando Batman (NOT Miller, as I thought, but apparently Finch’s reinvention of some classic 1950s alternate future story now brought into DCU continuity: http://dcu.blog.dccomics.com/2010/06/10/david-finch-on-batman-and-700/#comments)
3) This Moebius/Phillip K. Dick Euro-Batman (?)
4) Batman One Million (from Morrison’s own JLA run)

Is there some precursor to #3? Forgotten 1950s story? Some forgotten DC annual from the UK? An Elseworlds? Or is it completely new for this?

In a time when, for instance, the nifty Wade Wilson’s War #1 by Duane Swierczynski and Jason Pearson plus the great PunisherMax #8 by Jason Aaron and Steve Dillon are both $4 for 22 story pages (23 if you count their recap pages), I can’t get too irked for $5 for 32 pages of story plus a pile of pin-ups.

Oddly, if Batman were normally $3.99, I wouldn’t mind this either… it’s the two dollar jump for only nine pages, a bunch of unused covers, and some shit about the Batcave that irks me…

To anyone who is unhappy paying whatever the cover price is, remember, you can order through comic services and pay 1/2 to 1/4 of the cover price. if you pay full price, you should be complaining about yourself, as you do have options.
DFTBA

My comment above is for any comic book, not just Bats #700.
DFTBA

But Dan, the complaint is one of contextual price, not actual price. Chad is complaining that it is too much in comparison to other comics, so even if you got your books discounted, Batman #700 would still be contextually too high in Chad’s opinion, so “Buy from a discount retailer!” is not really a retort to his point.

Exactly. I never complain about the price of comics. This was a case of context and in comparison to similar books put out.

Omar Karindu, with the power of SUPER-hypocrisy!

June 10, 2010 at 1:37 pm

Got ‘em!

The DKR-esque Batman is a riff on the 1945 Batman story in Batman #26, where Brane (no last name) battles the armies of Saturnian warlord Fura in the year 3000 C.E. after being inspired by the legend of Batman and a time capsule containing the Declaration of Independence. The original story eventually reveals that Fura’s armies are robot double sof the real Saturnians Batman/Brane behaves rather like a resistance fighter in the story, violating curfew and leaving taunting notes for Fura. Eventually, humanity is rallied and invades Saturn, freeing the real Saturnians and defeating Fura. The story makes Fura a Hitler analogue of sorts, even calling his original invasion a “blitzkrieg.” Incidentally, Fura perishes when Brane blasts him in a man-on-man duel in space with spacesuits and jetpacks, sending Fura’s frozen corpse hurtling off into the void.

Fura is mentioned by name in Batman #700, and the robots there resemble his Saturnian robots from the first Brane story.

The Euro-style Batman is the very similar character Brane Taylor, the Batman of the year 3051 from a 1951 story in Batman #67. Brane Taylor travels back to recruit Robin because his own era’s Robin is injured. Taylor’s lair in that tale is also “The Belfry,” and sits atop a gleaming Buck Rogers sort of tower. (This was published some time ahead of Batman’s 1960s and 1970s-era penthouse base.) In the story Taylor defeats crimelord Yerxa and his telepathic henchman the Dome, after which the original Batman travels through time to confuse Yerxa and keep Taylor’s identity a secret. Taylor was also seen in Detective Comics #216. In this second tale, Taylor travels back from the year 3054 and returns the favor by posing as the original Batman to keep a visibly injured Bruce Wayne’s secret safe from Vicki Vale.

Morrison and Finch have updated the aesthetics to a Phillip K. Dick-inspired bande dessinee.

Very cool. Thanks!

I’ll even edit that into the piece!

Absolutely awesome. Thank you!

Wow Omar, that’s good sleuthing!

@ Brian & Chad:

Why would you think that i was replying to Chad & not earlier posters?
DFTBA

Misterious Blue

June 10, 2010 at 8:33 pm

Great Review but Don´t Forget another Special Appearance in years: The Other Mad Hatter, Who is a Classic Enemy of the Dark Knight, who made unforgettable Appearance in the 60′s Tv Show.
Its Good to Batman History the Return of this classic Hatman who can made Good Stories, along with the Lewis Caroll’s Mad Hatter.

I feel that 4.99 is not too much to pay for this issue. When most marvel books are 3.99 for much smaller books, another dollar for an anniversary issue seems fair to me. Its great to have morrison back on batman this one issue was so awesome it really makes me look forward to the next batman issue when morrison is back in control. His batman stories are so much more complex and I love them and look forward to them more than any other book, besides morrisons batman and robin.

Rohan Williams

June 11, 2010 at 8:53 pm

I was disappointed with the issue, and with the willingness to give DC a pass for running a few unused Streets Of Gotham covers as ‘bonus’ material in the 700th issue of Batman.

It’s not even the price that bothers me, just that the bonus material didn’t rise to the occasion – arguably the entire company’s most important IP celebrates a milestone issue in DC’s 75th year, and we get a few rejected covers (one of which the Streets Of Gotham logo is clearly visible in) as bonus material? I love Dustin Nguyen, but c’mon.

I’ve greatly enjoyed Morrison’s run, but I found the story a little lacking here, too. Aside from a couple of cute references, it wasn’t particularly memorable and — as much as I normally hate hearing this in reviews of Morrison’s books — it didn’t make much sense (mostly because of the artistic slip-up you mentioned, Brian).

Those four Finch pages were brilliant, though, and who couldn’t love the Bat-Poles being connected to the West Library?

The milestone book was milestone garbage
YEAH …
it had good references from past characters
And yeah the artists were top notch
it started out pretty good but still this story was garbage and it was like
It just ended with no real ending ……….
I was like WHAT THE HELL!!!
Maybe I should read it again but it was not that great
I see why DC just completely restarted their whole universe

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