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Batman R.I.P.



The Black Glove has its hand firmly wrapped around Batman’s throat. But can they squeeze hard enough to crush him, and REALLY change Batman’s life forever?

It’s the week of Thanksgiving and, in the spirit of the season, we should all have something that we’re thankful for. For me, at least as of this past Wednesday, I was thankful that Grant Morrison’s scattershot, self-indulgent, overly confusing mess of the “R.I.P” storyline in Batman has come to a close with issue #681. It truly seems that every single major story arc in any of the Batman comics since Miller and Mazzuchelli’s instant classic “Year One” arc has been either a minor or massive disappointment. In the last twenty years, we’ve had “A Death in the Family”, which did change the tenor of Batman’s comics for quite some time until it was invalidated by Infinite Crisis, and we had “Knightfall”, which was more of an embarrassment for everyone involved, and then we had “Hush”, which, while looking pretty, was just another sleazy sales gimmick that introduced a new and boring villain. I’m not even going to bother talking about “No Man’s Land” or the Years Two and Three arcs or the “War Games” arc. I think that the trouble with Batman as a character is also his greatest strength, and that is that he is the greatest comic hero of all time. Writers and artists are dying to get their hands on him, and when they do, they treat him like an action figure that’s just been opened, and they end up playing so rough with the toy that they end up breaking it. Now in this particular arc, Morrison, who has obviously proven that he can do great work with Batman with his seminal graphic novel, Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth, has decided to throw in all of the most bizarre elements of Batman from his Silver Age days with the inclusion of the League of Batmen and the obscure “Robin Dies at Dawn” issue, add a new love interest/villainess, and a bunch of villainous freaks like a guy who dresses up as a hunchback, a killer mime, and the infamously and ridiculously-named Doctor Hurt who make up the uber-evil group calling themselves The Black Glove. And now, The Black Glove has its hand firmly wrapped around Batman’s throat. But can they squeeze hard enough to crush him, and REALLY change Batman’s life forever?

I’m not going to go into detail about the events of this final issue of the “R.I.P” arc, because they are varied, confusing, sometimes extremely cool, but ultimately all too convenient. It seems to end as quickly and as bizarre as it began. I can’t discount that it’s obvious that Morrison put an enormous amount of thought into the preparation and writing of his part of the “R.I.P” arc, but he just didn’t seem to put enough care to make the reader care about what was going to happen at certain points. Throughout the arc, and since his start on this comic, Tony Daniel’s art has ranged from pretty cool to super cool, and this issue, he outdid himself. There are truly great and iconic images in this book, and he does them with flare and gusto. But aside from the art, the arc just seems like another massive failure, but it’s not entirely a failure on the creative end of it. This seems to be more of a design failure. Morrison and Co. set out to make an arc that would ‘change The Dark Knight forever’, which is what so many creators want, but ultimately (more often than not) leave a bad taste in your mouth. It reminds me of how I felt watching “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull”: It’s not something totally pathetic, but when you look at the talent that’s involved, it just seems like even more of a waste if it had just been done by some hack. It seems truly that the only writer for the character of Batman who hasn’t wanted to totally change his life forever has been Paul Dini, and look how incredibly successful Detective Comics has been on a creative level. He loves the character and is ultimately satisfied by writing great little stories for him. Even the “R.I.P” arc in Detective was twice the story that this was, and that didn’t seem like it was going to turn out that good.

But maybe that’s it. Maybe right there is the answer: Lower your expectations. But that should neverever be the answer. We should and will continue to hold these stories to a higher standard because we, as an audience, deserve better. And Grant… we deserved better, pal.

Batman #681
“Batman R.I.P – The Conclusion: Hearts in Darkness”
Written by Grant Morrison
Pencils by Tony Daniel
Inks by Sandu Florea
Colors by Guy Major
Letters by Jared K. Fletcher


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