Comics: “Happy” #1, “Batman Incorporated” #0 and the Weekend I Didn’t Spend in Las Vegas
So, how many of you were in Las Vegas this weekend? Probably not many. Personally, I spent my weekend in sunny Glasgow; tidying comics, serving customers and picking Batman toys off the floor. As glamourous as my weekend was, I’m sure Morrison Con was okay too.
Morrison Con! An entire weekend starring Grant Morrison, a convention promising to be less of a convention and more of a life-changing experience. For those of us whose overdrafts could not extend to a long weekend in Nevada – despite the promise of having our lives forever altered – we had to rely on the lucky few who were there to broadcast the important bits. It has to be said, coverage from the convention seems to be overwhelmingly positive. There are a few videos starting to emerge from panels, including a clip from Grant Morrison and Gerard Way’s spoken word performance (sorry, it doesn’t allow embedding, very annoyingly – you can see it here). While Morrison Con followed a typical convention structure, guests have reported that it felt much more relaxed than your average comic convention – and far less of a commercial affair than its larger counter-parts.
Much to my delight and, I’m sure, to the delight of my fellow Scots too, Dundee Comic Book day is offering a slightly more cost effective way to see Morrison and friends at the end of the month. With the guest list including Frank Quietly, Fraser Irving, Jill Thompson and the man himself, it’s set to be a great one. You can click here for more information and to purchase tickets. I’ll certainly be there!
This past week was a great time to be a Morrison fan and so I’ve decided to dedicate this week’s attempt at writing about two new releases from the man himself. Here’s reviews of Happy #1 and Batman Incorporated #0… and pretending that I didn’t spent any of my weekend shifts refreshing certain websites for coverage from Las Vegas.
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Darick Robertson
We open on a snowy evening in a bad neighbourhood. Cue a conversation from the Fratelli brothers, tough guys who make a comfortable living by killing other tough guys. A drugged-up Santa stumbles past, muttering obscenities – he earns himself a swift warning not to attempt scaling any chimneys in the Fratelli household. Meanwhile, in an apartment in the same neighbourhood, a sociopathic loner has hired a girl for an hour. It is in this psycotic individual’s residence that we first meet Nick Sax: who wastes no time putting a bullet in his head.
So, Sax is a man with a plan. Lying in wait, the Fratelli brothers eventually arrive at their destination – it turns out, their latest job is take out Nik Sax. But who would hire them to do that? Sax smirks. He sheds more bullets on the brothers. The last brother warns Sax about a secret bank account with a password that now only he knows but Sax isn’t much of a listener and the last brother doesn’t stay standing for much longer.
Hang on, you might be thinking, doesn’t Morrison hate needlessly violent comics; ones that feature punch up after punch but never really go anywhere? Well, you’d be right about that. So here’s where he takes the story and does what arguably only Morrison can get away with. He adds a little blue talking horse, names it Happy and revolves the entire series around it.
Back out in the snow and – having been shot at and presumably suffering from some sort of withdrawl – feeling a litle worse for wear, Sax passes out in the snow. The police find him and he is rushed to hospital, along with the last Fratelli brother – who is hanging on in there by the skin on his teeth. He stays conscious just long enough to pass on the message that Sax has the key to the Fratelli fortune. If Sax thought he had problems before, he certainly has now – especially now that he’s being rushed to a mob hospital.
Doused in morphine, Sax begins to regain consciousness. He suddenly aware of something sitting on his stomach. Bright blue and bearing a sort of resemblence to a unicorn, only Sax can see his new companion – which is alright, as it only seems interested in talking to him. As he comes around, he realises where he is – doped up and about to have vital information “extracted” from him. How does he plan to get out of this one without any weapons.
So now Nick Sax has no choice but to take orders from an imaginary little blue horse. Not so big now, huh, tough guy?
Batman Incorporated #0
Writer: Grant Morrison and Chris Burnham
Artist: Fraser Irving
Following the delayed release of Batman Incorporated #3, readers might be a little disappointed to see this month’s issue being #0 – as opposed to the highly-anticipated #4. With a terrifying twinkle in Morrison’s eye every time he talks about the climax of Batman Incorpoated, you can forgive us for craving the story a lot more often than it is being fed to us.
However it is an origin issue that we’re treated and, frankly, it’s still very good. Opening with a board meeting where Bruce Wayne pitches “Batman Incorporated” to the board of directors at Wayne Enterprises. Some seem sceptical, one guilt-ridden employee barely has time to break a sweat before Batman and Robin arrive to hand him over the police – proof of Batman Incorporated’s valuable work in action.
So begins the global recruitment. As we travel around the world, there are a few lighter jibes at cultural stereotypes. Arriving in London, Batman jokes, “Every time I come to England it’s raining and someone’s dead”, while his potential British recruits are “bloody mad for it”. In Australia, “mate” is chucked on to the end of every sentence and in Russia, of course, there is mention of vodka.
“Batman Incorporated” #0 is good-humoured, which is partly why I love about it. While Nolan’s trilogy built intensity and suspense, “Batman Incorporated” manages to build a gripping plot – while allowing the reader to smirk to themselves throughout the entire book. Alfred quips about Dark Ranger and The Squire “inseparable on Skype” and that Wayne may have overlooked the potential of Batman Incorporated as a dating service, in a gentle mocking of 21st Century culture and how superheroes exist within it.
With the #0 origin stories, there always runs the risk of exploring the same stories that we’ve seen before. This story sees Bruce Wayne building an army and, humour aside, the looming threat of Levithan is still in the back of everyone’s minds. Here we are watching prepare for that final battle.
Fraser Irving assumes art duty for this issue, which looks fantastic which fits perfectly for the origin issue, changing the pace of the artwork as we remove ourselves from the current storyline and journey back to see how it all began. Burnham part shines in this issue, despite the fact that his art is nowhere to be found inside the book itself (it does, however, shine on the cover). While Morrison’s name might be the one on everyone’s lips, Burnham’s imagination and contribution to this book should not be underestimated – and deserves credit for helping to create one of the most enjoyable issue zeros.