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Grant Morrison and Chris Burnham’s Run on Batman Incorporated – Demon Star & Gotham’s Most Wanted (Review/Retrospective)

23rd July is Batman Day, celebrating the character’s 75th anniversary. To celebrate, this July we’re taking a look at some new and classic Batman (and Batman related) stories. Check back daily for the latest review.

Between September 2006 and July 2013, Grant Morrison crafted his epic Batman saga from the ashes of Infinite Crisis. Over the course of seven years, the Scottish author re-worked and re-imagined the Caped Crusader, boldly trying to condense the character’s convoluted and sprawling history into a single narrative. Morrison pulled elements from across the character’s continuity – including stories believed wiped out by continuity reboots and existing as alternatives or “what-ifs.”

To describe Grant Morrison’s Batman epic as ambitious doesn’t begin to do it justice. It is a story that pushed the character out of what had been his comfort zone since the eighties and nineties. He made Bruce Wayne a father; he killed Bruce Wayne off; he banished Batman to the dawn of time and forced him to fight his way back to the present; he made Dick Grayson into Batman; he turned Batman into a franchise so that it might fight twenty-first century crime.

Beware the Batman...

Beware the Batman…

These are all seismic shifts to the status quo, and don’t necessarily conform to what people think about when they imagine a typical Batman story. The character of Bruce Wayne and his world changed dramatically. The very first issue of Morrison’s Batman run featured Batman capturing the last of his classic villains, allowing the Caped Crusader a change to face larger and more existential threats.

It is quite telling that Morrison’s storytelling became the driving force of Batman continuity, with DC spinning books and stories off from his central premise. Scott Snyder’s first Batman epic was The Black Mirror, a story featuring Dick Grayson as Batman, as part of Morrison’s status quo. When the company relaunched Batman & Robin as part of the “new 52”, it featured Damian Wayne as Robin, another innovation introduced by Morrison.

It's all connected...

It’s all connected…

Despite this sense that everything was changing, it seemed inevitable that everything would inevitably be reset. You can only change an iconic character like Batman so much, after all. If you bend Batman too far out of shape, he must inevitably snap back into his classic mould. It’s not inherently a bad thing – “Batman and Robin will never die!” to quote Batman R.I.P., and the characters endure because they revert to archetypes – but it does lend a sense of tragedy to everything.

Coming in the wake of the “new 52” reboot that represented an attempt to reset DC continuity back to its most archetypal configuration, it makes sense that Grant Morrison and Chris Burnham would write the second volume of Batman Incorporated as a tragedy. Morrison would announce his intention to step away from mainstream brand-name superhero stories in the wake of Batman Incorporated, and you can sense some of that fatigue in this story about how everything eventually gets set back to zero.

Everything falls apart...

Everything falls apart…

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – The Siege (Review)

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is twenty years old this year. To celebrate, I’m taking a look at the first and second seasons. Check back daily for the latest review or retrospective.

The Siege wraps up the first ever three-part episode of Star Trek in a surprisingly efficient manner. There are a few missteps, a lack of nuance and an over abundance of convenience and simplicity. However, it succeeds in doing what this opening three-parter set out to do. It tells a single story which could only ever have been told on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. It gives a sense of scale to the show which is unique to the series, and it creates a palpable sense of uncertainty about the Federation’s mission to Bajor.

"He's letting me know, he'll be back..."

“He’s letting me know, he’ll be back…”

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – The Circle (Review)

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is twenty years old this year. To celebrate, I’m taking a look at the first and second seasons. Check back daily for the latest review or retrospective.

Drama naturally lends itself to a neat three-act structure. At the most basic level, it’s as simple as beginning, middle and end. However, it’s also a format taught in just about every screenwriting course, and it’s even used as the conventional model for those with more innovative approaches. With that in mind, it’s interest that Star Trek has done relatively few three-part stories. The Circle sits in the middle of the first such attempt, in the second season of the second spin-off. The format would not see use again for over a decade, when it would become a feature of the final season of Star Trek to air on television.

Given the franchise is relatively fond of two-parters, it seems strange that there haven’t been more attempts to extend that out an episode. Perhaps the reason is obvious. Of the three acts, the beginning and the end are the most essential. Both come with a certain in-built amount of energy. The first part introduces the problem, while the conclusion deals with it. However, it’s the middle which proves problematic. It’s the point in the story after you’ve set up the conflict, but before you resolve it. Given how much difficulty Star Trek: The Next Generation had with conclusions, imagine how difficult the second part of a three-parter would be.

Even when Star Trek: Enterprise adopted the three-parter format it ran into basic structural difficulties, with a couple feeling like a two-part episode with an additional prologue or epilogue added on. The Circle isn’t a terribly flawed piece of television, but it suffers from the fact that Star Trek has never really tried storytelling in this mode before.

The writing's on the wall...

The writing’s on the wall…

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