“The Resurrection of Ra’s al Ghul” (part four of seven)
Writer: Grant Morrison
Illustrator: Tony Daniel
Publisher: DC Comics
Batman #671 is called part four of “The Resurrection of Ra’s al Ghul.” However, it’s actually part five (if you count the “prelude” in Batman #670) or part six (if you count “The Origin of Ra’s al Ghul” in Batman Annual #26).
I’ve often said that it’s difficult to review a single chapter of a novel, which means that reviewing Batman #671 is akin to reviewing chapter 12 of Moby-Dick or the third act of Hamlet--except, of course, “The Resurrection of Ra’s al Ghul” isn’t as good as either Moby-Dick or Hamlet.
On the whole, though, the multi-issue crossover arc of the return of Ra’s al Ghul is an entertaining story. However, it’s not a classic Batman story that people will be recalling with admiration for decades to come--which is unfortunate because it should be that type of story.
“The Resurrection of Ra’s al Ghul” should be discussed 30 years from now in the same way that “The Joker’s Five-Way Revenge” from Batman #251 is now discussed by knowledgeable Batman readers. (Batman #251 was the classic issue from 1973 by Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams that brought back the Joker after an absence of almost four years, and it was the first Joker story since the Golden Age that presented the character as a homicidal maniac rather than as a clownish thief).
It’s obvious that the return of Ra’s al Ghul is intended to be “an event.” After all, it’s being published as a seven-part crossover story spread across four titles (five if you count Batman Annual #26 as a separate title). The marketing reason for this multi-series crossover approach is obvious--it forces some readers to buy issues of one or more series that they might not otherwise buy.
In my case the strategy has worked. I don’t buy Robin or Nightwing each month, and I stopped buying Detective Comics a few months ago. However, in order to get the entire “Resurrection of Ra’s al Ghul” story, I’m buying two issues of each of those three series.
Of course, DC would like at least a few readers like me to be so smitten with the writing and illustrations of the series that we don’t normally read that we will add those series to our regular monthly purchases.
However, that multi-series crossover approach is actually the main reason that this story is not going to be the type of memorable classic that it should be--and so it’s not likely to make me add three new titles to my list of monthly purchases.
Though there are exceptions, of course, the old adage that “too many cooks spoil the broth” is generally true. Aside from spontaneous jams in which artists improvise off each others work, a committee of creators rarely produces a product that is either equal or superior to a work produced by a single creator carrying out his or her artistic vision.
Many of my all-time favorite comics were written and illustrated (and perhaps also lettered and colored) by one individual (such as Will Eisner at his peak in the late 70s and early 80s, Art Spiegelman on Maus, Frank Miller on his first run on Daredevil, et cetera).
However, most comic books are actually produced by a committee of four or five creators--a writer, a penciler, an inker, a letterer, and a colorist--and many of my all-time favorite comics have also been created by such committees (such as The Watchmen, Batman: Year One, and Torpedo).
Despite such successful collaborative comics, the use of multiple writers and multiple illustrators who are not “jamming” or improvising on each others efforts tends to result in a mediocre story in which each writer-artist team must take their installment from point A to point B in a plot that is imposed upon them.
The fact that “The Resurrection of Ra’s al Ghul,” as a whole, is slightly better than mediocre is a tribute to the concept of the imposed plot. Despite its committee of creators, the arc is able to transcend the piecemeal execution of the story because of Grant Morrison’s concepts and the competence of the creators working on each installment.
However, if Morrison had been allowed to script the entire story, then “The Resurrection of Ra’s al Ghul” might have been the type of memorable arc that would be discussed with admiration in 2037. As it is, this “Batman event” is a slightly above average story. It’s entertaining and it’s not a waste of a reader’s money.
That claim is also true of this particular issue, not just of the arc as a whole. Morrison writes a slightly above average script that doesn’t contain any bad dialog or obvious flaws, and Tony Daniel illustrates the script adequately. At times, Daniel seems to be influenced by Neal Adams’s original designs for these characters that he and O’Neil created 35 years ago--Ra’s, the Sensei, and Talia--and that’s a good thing.
I only wish “The Resurrection of Ra’s al Ghul” could have been more than it will end up being.
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