Batman #663 Sucks REALLY badly!

DC is trying their darndest to make me hate them again.
For those of you who didn’t have the extreme displeasure of reading Batman #663, don’t bother. It is not a comic book, it is a novella, and a badly written one at that. Yep, that’s right I said it: Grant Morrison wrote a terrible short story and it got shoved in to the pages of Batman #663 with some horrible art by John Van Fleet (it looks like badly done CG).

Please take note of this DC: I buy books to read books. I buy comic books to read comic books. I don’t buy comic book based novels, and I certainly don’t want to buy novellas disguised as comic books.

This story features the return of the Joker, who was shot in the face and seemingly blown to bits in the midst of last year’s Infinite Crisis (Note: Jason corrected me here. The Joker was shot after the events of Infinite Crisis and wasn’t seemingly blown to bits. I was remembering things wrong!). #663 was supposed to be a very big deal… the return of the Clown Prince. Instead it’s a wordy, boring, cliche NOVELLA for god’s sake! I don’t read books with super hero themes because I always figured they would suck. This issue confirmed my suspicions.

The whole thing opens with a clown funeral. Several clowns are carrying a casket in the cemetery. One of them loses his grip on the casket and the rest of them are crushed and killed. It turns out that the Joker arranged this and other deaths of his former associates from his cell in Arkham Asylum. Batman discovers this and pays the Joker a visit.
Later the Joker escapes.

Batman’s first encounter with the Joker since his “death” is pretty lame. The Joker can’t talk because his face is all wrapped in gauze, so instead, he blinks in Morse code to Batman. I would imagine that he would say something pretty ominous to Bats… but no. His message? “H.A.H.A.D.E.A.T.H.A.H.A.H.A.D.E.A.T.H.H.A.H.A.H.A.”
So the Joker actually blinks onomatopoeias? That’s just ridiculous.

Morrison: were you simply trying to see how many similes you could pack in to this story? Among my “favorites” were:

“… bony graveyard elms, the kind that stand as if ashamed, like strippers past their best…”


“Like a grub growing all wrong in a tiled cocoon, like a caterpillar liquefying to filth in it’s own nightmares, or a fetus dissolving in sewage and sour milk, the joker dreams, awake.”

Holy crap, that’s a mouthful! Why not just pick one? I guess Grant is trying to drive home the point that the Joker is a complete psychotic. Using three different similes in a row wouldn’t be so bad, if the rest of the “comic” used them more sparingly.
After I noticed the simile overkill I wanted to actually count them up, but that would require going back and reading this story again and that just isn’t going to happen.

In his first reappearance, what would you expect the Joker’s first spoken words to be? Something grand? Something vile?
After he very slowly peals off the gauze which covers his mouth (nice overused cliche Morrison), he dances about and says:

“I’m a cockroach! La Cucaracha! La Cucaracha! The pain is terrible! I want morphine! I’m having a baby!”

Morrison describes the strange dance that the Joker here performs as “… jazzing like a showgirl delivering a donkey onstage”. Uh… what does that even mean??

Things get really disjointed at the end of this comic. The Joker wants to kill Harley Quinn, to which she protests. Then he claims he’s just going to carve her face up a bit, to which she complies. So the story goes like this:

Harley closes her eyes and bites her trembling lip as it turns to jelly. “Do it,” she whispers “If that’s what you want…”
The Joker hits a hospital gurney in a tangle of bones, then collects himself together the way a mantis might and springs at Batman…

So from this incredibly confusing way of telling the story, all I could figure is that Batman tackles the Joker. Did he get a chance to cut up Harley? I guess not… or maybe he did and that’s why her lip was turned to jelly? It’s hard to say because we couldn’t see it and the writing was too crappy to describe it with words!

Later Batman punches the Joker in the face and Harley Quinn shoots him… I think:

He runs at Batman, shrieking like an animal in a trap, and Batman silences the awful sound with a single punch that turns cartilage to shrapnel.
The Joker just smiles. He’s way too busy blowing blood bubbles from his nose, so he doesn’t even hear the gunshot’s punctuation. Or the girl, claiming the last word like she always does.

So did she shoot the Joker, or just fire the gun in to the air? The last page of the comic offers very little in the way of explanations as it’s just a big page of junky art. Observe a piece of it:

Batman #663 final page

This crappy novela might have made for an interesting comic book, but we’ll never know. Instead it will rot in our comic book boxes only to be discovered a few years later, like a hooker giving birth to a dead rat onstage.

12 responses to “Batman #663 Sucks REALLY badly!”

  1. Kevin: Thanks for your opinion, however I’m not a fan. I’m a critic. Have you ever read a book or short story? That’s what Batman #663 was: an illustrated novella, not a comic, and it was horribly written.

  2. dam, i dont even collect comics nomore but was planning on picking this 1 up……..i can understand by the review it sounds like crap, and man wut a dissapointment im in so much pain…IM HAVING A BABY!

  3. this was a good book. from a critic standpoint, it adds to a canon while accenting features that we are all familiar with. It would just seem that you prefer pictures to thought.

  4. Yeah, it was weird, eh? Makes sense in the grand scheme of things. Lots of imagery and allusions and what not.

    Also, the writing style is hard-boiled pulp noir, like Alfred the Butler enjoys…there’s a reason for that.

  5. Lai-Lai: I am not sure if you are making a joke, but if not, are you saying you disagree because a fan girls club rated it in the top 5? You do realize you don’t have to go along with hive-logic, don’t you?

  6. I’m a tad late to the discussion, but I want to respond anyway. Your first point is that it’s not actually a “comic book.” A comic book is a narrative sustained by images and text. It doesn’t have to be serialized in a strip with speech bubbles. This is just a wordy comic book. It wasn’t disguised as anything either- you have the option to flip through it before you before you purchase it. You also complain about Morrison’s descriptive story telling style. In this case, I think it’s used masterfully. He has substituted exaggerated illustrations and absurd, outlandish backdrops with absurd and outlandish descriptions. It still embodies everything that comics are about, but in a different way. The Joker’s return itself was handled well. You may have been looking forward to gratuitous blood and violence, but instead we have a new way to look at the joker- a new way that embodies old continuities that authors usually choose to ignore. It’s more of a psychological thriller (a Hitchcock film instead of Saw IV). Describing the art as “junky” is just wrong. Children’s comic books are junky- terrible anatomy and non descriptive art. This art (and writing) is veiled to create a multifaceted experience. If something isn’t explicitly stated, it’s because the narrator doesn’t want you know. That make it worth rereading after R.I.P. It’s more indelible that your average monthly. I’m not a huge Morrison fan in general, but I think this issue is particularly good. I’m sorry for the wordy response, but I had to be clear as to why I disagree with you. I would recommend this issue to anyone who enjoys a more complex look at hero/ anti hero dynamic.

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