Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Batman #681 Review

Written by Grant Morrison
Art by Tony Daniel and Sandu Florea

Disappointing non-conclusion (no, not just the lack of any deaths or resting in peace), but satisfying issue nonetheless would be the best way to describe the final chapter to Batman RIP.

To be honest, I loved the opening pages of this issue. It was like a different Grant Morrison was writing this compared to earlier issues with how it flowed. That's not to say it's been 'dumb downed' or whatever generic Morrison fanboy derogatory remark is being tossed about at detractors for this storyline, as it still very much maintains that Morrisonian style we've all grown to love, but it is a noticeable change from the jarring scene changes and obscure references mashed together in previous issues.

As I said, though, the opening was great. It features Batman trapped in a coffin and buried in a shallow grave by the Black Glove as we see them gloating over their victory, Joker coming back to bite them in the ass and the eventual return of Batman, 'back from the dead', all intermixed with a flashback to 52, which added a little more depth to the story and should have been revealed to the readers months ago, preferably back when he first started seeding the whole Black Glove storyline. I was also a little confused as to how Batman got back in his normal costume when he was in the hobo costume and maskless at the end of the last issue.

Regardless, these few inconsistencies only really came up on my second read through for this review and they didn't even register the first time through, making them only footnotes and non-factors in my opinion.

After the stirring opening, I was a little let down by the rather dull final act. It simply consists of Batman beating up random Black Glove goons while Dr Hurt spouts off about how he's really Bruce's father, Thomas Wayne, and Batman rebutting him the whole way. In the end, it didn't feel like there was any closure as to who Dr Hurt was, which I assume was the intent, and the whole speech about how 'he's the piece that doesn't fit', etc, just seems to be Morrison's way of telling fans he doesn't even know or care who Hurt is and won't be explaining it, so we shouldn't care either.

Finally, the storyline wraps up with Batman pursuing Hurt, who was escaping in a helicopter piloted by the 'evil Batman' from earlier issues, and it crashes, 'killing' everyone on board, including Batman. This lead to a rather breath taking splashpage of Nightwing holding the tattered cape and cowl, which I assume means he'll be taking it up in a few months time. Well, I suppose they weren't really killed, but everyone aboard disappears and we get an epilogue with Batman missing for several months, which I guess is supposed to be the RIP part of the story.

I wasn't expecting a death or the Batman persona to be killed off or anything drastic as such, but the entire Black Glove storyline felt forced to begin with and then, to have Morrison just wash the whole organization away with nary an explanation felt cheap and unfulfilling to me and I felt a bit cheated after waiting for answers to the numerous questions posed by their appearance and intimate knowledge of Batman and Bruce Wayne.

Also, many of the cameos by people from previous storylines over the past year of Morrison's run felt forced and offered little to the actual story. Talia's only point to this story, who's arrival seemed important a few issues ago, was to unleash the ninja Man-Bat's on Jezebel Jet during the epilogue. That evil third Batman also comes out of nowhere as the helicopter pilot and does nothing for the story. Damian driving the Batmobile and running down the Joker-driven ambulance was another, as was the one or two page appearance of the League of Batmen. It was as if Morrison was pandering to his fans with these wasted pages, which didn't really add anything to this story or conclusion. This is doubly so when you consider several pages from earlier issues were wasted on some of these characters in a faux build up that was never delivered on.

Verdict - Must Read. As a single issue, I think this was the strongest in the Batman RIP storyline and, combined with the last issue, redeems a story I had almost written off. However, as a concluding chapter to a story promising the death of Batman, with mountains of hype surrounding it, I think it fails to deliver any kind of definitive ending, good or bad, which is rather disappointing in the grand scheme of things. Mostly a Must Read for the impact it will have on the coming months, but a good issue on its own, as well.

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