In the swelling tide preceding Batman Incorporated #8, the promised death of the current Robin and the impending finale of Grant Morrison’s six-year opus, something jumped out at me about the writer’s previous work for hire: He has a propensity to kill the characters he introduces into the universes of Marvel and DC Comics before he leaves.
Think back to his first major mainstream superhero book, JLA. In it, Morrison and Howard Porter revived the team in a back-to-basics approach featuring the seven most popular and iconic members. But during that time Morrison also created (with Mark Millar and N. Steven Harris) the Mesoamerican hero Aztek. Launched in his own series — whose first issue teased his impending death — Aztek later joined Morrison’s JLA and was killed in JLA #41, the writer’s final issue.
Next came Morrison’s acclaimed (and sometimes criticized) run on Marvel’s New X-Men. In that, he created the introduced the helmeted Xorn, a Chinese mutant with a “star for a brain” who was one of the series’ most popular characters outside its longtime cast. However, Xorn was famously revealed in the writer’s penultimate arc to be a construct of Magneto, returning from the dead. Although Morrison effectively killed Xorn, Marvel quickly brought the character back in some conflicting stories that included twin brothers, clones and, most recently, ghost.
Not to diminish the death of Damian Wayne, but putting his death alongside Xorn’s and Aztek’s in a broader context of Morrison’s storytelling decisions within work-for-hire superhero comics raises an interesting question: Is it a coincidence, or is Morrison consciously trying to limit the use of characters he created? Or maybe, perhaps, it’s Morrison giving his creations something most work-for-hire characters never have: a genuine third act.