Grant Morrison, when he sets his mind to it, can really tell a humdinger of an epic story. And I don't mean "epic" in the same sense as "tubular" or "gnarly" or whatever words kids these days use when watching broadcasting spectacusodes on their televisual radios and chewing clove gum and listening to Duane Eddy on the Victrola. No, I mean "epic" in a similar vein to Beowulf, the Aeneid, and all the other poem nonsense we had to stuff down in high school or the more boring college English classes. Of course, Morrison's current tale of the death of the God of Evil and how an escape artist and his friend the bat-millionaire restarted reality with the help of an Alien Sun God using his sweet whistlin' powers on the THEREMIN COSMIC is anything but dry and stuffy. Partly because that whole convoluted mess of a sentence is in fact only a small part of a larger story about Batman making sure his nemesis' daughter-cum-baby momma isn't about to undo life as we know it with her army of ninja man-bats.
Suffice to say, sometimes comics can be a mite complicated. And 6 1/2 years in to a 7-year story, it can be daunting to see the myriad volumes and issues one is told to read to even gain the barest glimmer of comprehension of what's going on. Never fear, though! I'm here, in conjunction with Star Comics of Lubbock, Texas, to offer not just one giant guide to what you need to read to make sure you're caught up before Morrison's Batman mega-opus finishes, but several options on what you can do to make sure you're up to speed. That way, you aren't burdened with massive expenditure when trying to collect these tales if your budget is on the thrifty side, AND you're not feeling like you missed a step if you feel the bite of a Completionist Bug (multapecinuamus acervulibrorii) compelling you to read every divergence, side story, and tangent to make sure you get the whole enchilada!
All of that said, here's the Basic Version of Morrison's Batman saga, for those of us with constraints on our free time or our wallets (I'm not going out of my way to spoil stories, but be warned, there will be 6-year-old plot points touched upon, so skip the summaries if you just want a title list):
- Batman: Batman & Son (Batman #655-658, #663-666) - This is where it all begins. This is when Morrison hit fast and hard back in 2006, telling us he was here to shake up what we thought we knew about the Caped Crusader. Batman has a son! With Talia al-Ghul! Ninja Man-Bat army!!
- The Resurrection of Ra's al-Ghul (Batman #670-671) - I know, I know, this looks like some kind of cop-out two issue fluff thing, but here's the deal: this storyline is actually part of a larger crossover with a couple of the other Batman books running at the time. However, it's still firmly in Morrison's storyline, dealing specifically with exactly why Damien was dropped off at Batman's house: spare parts for grandad!!!
- The Black Glove (Batman #667-669, #672-675) - Picking up the pieces after Ra's al-Ghul's return, we now get to see Batman operating on a global scale, meeting other heroes he may have inspired, either directly or indirectly, or heroes that he directly helped get set up at crime-fighters. The seeds of later stories are sewed here as well: international conspiracy, a league of Batmen, and an amorphous, invisible and international villain organization!!
- Batman R.I.P. (Batman #676-683) - We see the Black Glove and Jezebel Jet make their move against Bruce and Damian! Batman and the Black Glove square off for their final showdown! The mysterious Doctor Hurt (Who is he?! Read the previous chapters to find out!) makes his final ploy against Batman! All is lost! Or is it?!
- Final Crisis (Final Crisis #1-7, Superman: Beyond #1-2) - In my opinion, the finest event comic ever created past, present, or future, in this and all heretofore discovered and undiscovered realities. Why do I include this on the list? It deals very heavily with what comes next, which is:
- Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne (Batman: the Return of Bruce Wayne #1-6) - OK, I'll grant you that it looks like I'm deviating wildly from my original intent, but I promise, this one is bare-bones essential. And the best part is, we're almost done!
- Batman Inc. vol. 1 (Batman Incorporated #1-8, Batman: Leviathan Strikes! One-Shot) - Here's where we're almost in the home stretch of this reading list! Batman unveils a new plan for Gotham and the planet, offering up a codified, regulated Batman Defense Corps of sorts. Nightrunner! Batwing! Knight and Squire! The gang's all here!
- Batman Inc. vol. 2 (Batman Incorporated #1-12) - Now, finally, the end of the reading list for basic essentials. This is part of the New 52 relaunch continuity from September 2011, with this title starting about 8 months ago. Talia returns, mad as ever! Damian Wayne has a vital choice laid out in front of him! What is Leviathan?! How will it all end? We find out in issue 12, which gives you at least six months to catch up and find out!