BATMAN: R.I.P.-OFF

WARNING: SPOILERS

 

it’s been almost a week now since the release of Batman #681, and I think I have enough perspective to speak on it.

I call shenanigans.

I know that will probably make me unpopular, at least with the critical crowd, but it’s true.  Batman R.I.P. was bullshit.  Don’t get me wrong, it was a great arc from start to finish. Phenomenal even.  In fact, if J.H. Williams III was the artist it might have gone down as being the most successful Batman arc in recent history.  The problem is that it fails to deliver on what was promised by solicitations, Grant Morrison himself and even the title!

No, I’m not saying it was bullshit because Bruce Wayne is still alive.   I truly hope that no one was foolish enough to believe that Bruce Wayne would be killed.  Considering the fact that Batman currently brings in more cash (Dark Knight anyone?) than even Superman as a property, Warner Brothers would sooner gut Dan Didio like a Taun Taun and feast on his entrails at a church picnic than allow anyone to screw with their cash cow… err, bat.   In fact, I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to say that the end of Bruce’s reign as the Bat is temporary.  The only viable candidate for the mantle of the Bat is Nightwing, and he’s too valuable to the DC Universe to take on the cowl permanently (he was Batman briefly after Knight’s End).  Tim is way too young and inexperienced to handle Gotham on his own.   So yeah, Bruce will be back, and there really aren’t any lasting consequences to R.I.P. beyond Morrison’s current (and supposedly future) run on the book.

We were promised that this would be the worst day in Batman’s life.  That means it would go above the deaths of Jason and Thomas and Martha Wayne.  It would go beyond that ridiculous story arc where Leslie Tompkins was revealed as a killer (which I guess she’s not, because Spoiler is still running around).   At first it looked like Morrison would succeed.  But then something happened.  You see there are two types of Grant Morrison stories: standard (albeit brilliant and awesome) straightforward story-telling… and then there’s what I like to call the “this is your brain on drugs” stories.  Basically Grant gets higher than a giraffe’s nut sack, goes… AHEM… bat-shit insane and starts writing.   Oddly, many of his best stories fall in the latter category.   This isn’t one of them.  You see, the brain on drugs stories straddle the line between brilliant/ ephemoral and incoherent.  The issue where Batman was hopped up on cocaine worked admirably.  The final issue however was a mish mash of ideas that never got to any sort of point.

For one thing, does anyone remember the first panel of the arc?  It’s a fast forward where Batman and Robin leap into action to attack their enemies.  Well at what point did that happen?  Robin never showed up for the Arkham battle.  Also the crux of the ending is that Bruce knew it was coming. He didn’t know what would happen, so all he could do was prepare and hope his friends could keep up. — Okay, fair enough.  So why the frak couldn’t he give every a heads up? Poor Alfred got the crap kicked out of him.  That kind of makes Bruce a dick.  But beyond that, if he was prepared for the whole thing then at the end of the day, nothing important really happened.  This is just another case where Batman gets beat up for a little while and then ends up overcoming his enemies because he’s smarter than them.

Even worse is the sense that we’ve seen this kind of story before.  And technically we have.  I would argue that R.I.P. was a less successful version of Hush, all the way down to the fact that Tony Daniels is at times a Jim Lee Wanna-be.  Yes, I’m sure someone will read this and try to burn me at the stake.  But look at he facts.  A mysterious enemy from Bruce Wayne’s past comes back to haunt him, sending others to do his bidding and throwing Batman’s world into chaos.  There is a love interest he can’t really trust.  The villain uses subliminal hypnosis to affect his thoughts.  And it ends with both Batman and the reader unsure of just who the hell the villain really is.   And that is the real cardinal sin of this arc.  We were told over and over that we would find out who the Black Glove is.  And we didn’t.  I read various reviews that claimed we did. Well I’m not sure what book they were reading, but unless my copy was missing pages, there was no answer.   Doctor Hurt is not Thomas Wayne.  And even if he was, it’s already been stated that Doctor Hurt is not the Black Glove.  So who the hell is???  Why is the Black Glove so interested in taking down Batman?  Is he another Tommy Elliot (or perhaps the real thing taking a second shot?), or a member of Batman’s cast.  Based on Morrison’s statements, I thought it would be Alfred.  It still could be.

The thing is, the best stories never reveal their whole hand.  There will be questions left unanswered, but you have to answer at least a few of the questions!  That’s why Lost is faltering.  If you fail to give your audience any answers, they’re going to lose interest. When you name an arc Rest In Peace, you expect some sort of finality.   And that isn’t what we got.   What we got was a small piece of a larger puzzle.  And while that piece was admirably delivered, it’s ambiguous ending is ultimately unsatisfying.

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