Over the years I have not always been the most attentive superhero fan. I came to those books when I was older, after reading a great deal of Vertigo and alternative comics, and they were really hard to connect with. The main exception to this was with Batman books, which always stand out among mainstream superhero titles because of its darker tone and often groundbreaking premises. From Frank Miller to Jeph Loeb to Grant Morrison, major creators have brought an entirely unique vision to the character, exploring storylines and themes that normally would be associated with a much more “adult”(whatever the hell that means) books. Grant Morrison’s most recent run on Batman, which ran through the regular Batman titles then through Final Crisis, Batman and Robin, and Batman Incorporated, forced Batman back into the front of people’s minds during the mid 2000s, and is an argument in and of itself for superhero books being seriously considered. I am using the complete Grant Morrison’s Batman reading order from Comics That Astonish, which is amazingly crafted and includes all of the single issue covers. This is a great way for people to follow a complete reading order for Grant Morrison’s run without just being trade-centric.
1: “Batman and Son”
The real start of the run begins in Batman #655 – #658 then takes a short break and picks back up in Batman #663 – #666. This first part of the arc is generally referred to as Batman and Son, even though the only issues to carry that name in original print were the first four issues. Regardless all issues above can also be found compiled in the TPB known as Batman and Son. Batman #666 should be considered notable as it takes place in a “possible” future – and as such, may be full of red herrings… or maybe not.
The newly released Batman and Son – Deluxe Edition contains all of the Batman & Son issues AND the entire Black Glove run, which is the next entry on this list – so if you’d like both runs collected in one volume, opt for the Deluxe Edition of Batman and Son.
2: “The Black Glove”
This chapter consists of the issues Batman #667 – #675, and it would be a pretty straight forward jaunt, if not for two issues right in the middle of the chapter that take a break to act as the bookends for another arc: The Resurrection of Ra’s al Ghul. Batman #670 and #671 are chapters in the Ra’s story, which continues outside of the main Batman book and is handled by writers other than Morrison. The two issues certainly fit in well enough without reading the missing pieces between 670 & 671 – but if you want the whole story on Ra’s resurrection you will, unfortunately, have to hunt down the various issues which make up the crossover, or just buy the trade. Once again, the only parts that are considered pertinent to Morrison’s story are the ones listed here, so you will not miss anything by not reading the entire “resurrection” arc by itself.
The Black Glove is available as a TPB in a normal edition and also, now in a Deluxe Edition which includes all the Batman & Son issues AND the entire Black Glove story line, so if you opt for the Deluxe Edition of the Black Glove trade, then you can skip purchasing the Batman & Son TPB listed above, as it is now combined into one book.
3: “Batman R.I.P.”
R.I.P. actually begins with a prologue that is found in a book outside of the normal Batman issues: DC Universe #0, the prologue is actually only three pages long and is just a short conversation between Bats and Joker – it is pretty great though, for only being three pages you’d think they’d have just stuck it in with the first issue of the arc proper, which would be Batman #676 – #681. If you read the trade collection, the DCU #0 prologue is included.
3a: “Last Rights” and “R.I.P. The Missing Chapters” – the bridge to Final Crisis
This is where things begin to get a bit confusing. Batman #682 and #683 are meant to bridge the gap between R.I.P. and Final Crisis – then Batman #700- #702 jump back in time, before Final Crisis to fill in the “Missing Chapters” betwixt the two. Oddly though, Batman #701 & #702 spoil events from FC, so it is best to consider reading Final Crisis after you finish Batman #683 and before you read #701. I think… you see you don’t really need to read Final Crisis to understand Morrison’s Batman arc, but it does enhance it. All you really need to know about FC to follow along with Morrison’s main Bat-arc, is that Bruce “Kills” Darkseid, but in the process “dies” himself and is sent skipping through time, fighting his way back to the present, as seen in the coming series The Return of Bruce Wayne. The trade titled Time And The Batman contains Batman #700-#703 and the Batman R.I.P. TPB contains the Last Rites issues.
4: “Batman and Robin”
Bruce is dead/missing and Dick Grayson is now Batman, while Damian is Robin. If you want to know how this came about, read Battle for the Cowl – which is not written by Morrison and has no real bearing on his story. The most important thing to keep in mind is that Batman and Robin #1 – #16 take place at the same time as The Return of Bruce Wayne #1 – #6 . If you’re reading them “together” the only thing to remember is that TRoBW #6 is meant to synch into the big reveal on the last page of B&R #15, so as long as you read TRoBW #1-#6 before you reach the end of B&R #15 you’re golden. The Morrison run through the first sixteen issues of Batman and Robin has been released in various trade volumes: Vol. 1: Batman Reborn – Vol. 2: Batman vs. Robin – Vol. 3: Batman & Robin Must Die!
4a: “The Return Of Bruce Wayne” and “Batman: The Return (One Shot)”
Bruce Wayne is skipping through time and if you synchronize reading issue six of TRoBW , with reading issue #15 of Batman and Robin you’ll be perfectly caught up. After you make your way through all of that, you will read what is essentially the first issue of Batman Incorporated, Batman: The Return, a one shot that will lead us to the actual first issue of Batman Inc. The Trade contains all six issues.
5: “Batman Incorporated”, “Leviathan Strikes” and “Batman Incorporated Volume 2″ (The end)
Batman Incorporated is the globetrotting adventures of The Goddamned Batman as he recruits “Batmen” all over the world, while simultaneously hunting down – and being hunted by– “Leviathan” – a shadowy person and/or group embroiling the Dark Knight in a complex, systematic and long-term attack. This is actually the most straightforward chapter out of the arc so far, it follows along easily from Batman Inc. #1 – #8 then ends with the double-sized one-shot, Batman Inc. Leviathan Strikes! Leviathan Strikes is DC editorial’s hasty attempt to wrap things up to fit more nicely in with their absurd New 52 structure; it basically consists of what would have been issues #9 and #10 of the regular Batman Inc. series.
Volume II begins
Though I have “read Grant Morrison’s run,” there are still a lot of titles I haven’t gone through yet. I have not yet read Return of Bruce Wayne, and am just getting ready to read Final Crisis. I started with Batman and Son, which was a little confusing to jump into at first, but I quickly got the hang of it. If you are a little confused by the beginning of Grant Morrison’s Batman run then it can be a good idea to watch the DC animated movie of this volume. Batman R.I.P. is great, though really tied in with Final Crisis. Batman and Robin has a wonderful feel to it, that he mentioned was like “David Lynch doing the 1960s Batman television show.” This all leads up to Batman Incorporated, which is a logical conclusion for Morrison, and the kind of way he usually tries to solve problems for the DCU. I am looking forward to going through the disparate Final Crisis and tie-ins, as well as going back to read Return of Bruce Wayne. This entire run really will stand as a Bat-classic, and we cannot underestimate the place this will have in the canon.