Friday, November 28, 2008

Batman #681 Review

Creative Team
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Tony Daniel
Inker: Sandu Florea
Colorist: Guy Major

Story - Batman RIP Conclusion: Hearts in Darkness

Wow! Just wow! I'll give Morrison credit that he delivered in his promise of giving a "shocking" ending to Batman RIP. When it comes to Morrison's storytelling abilities fans will usually fall under one of two categories. On one end fans will berate Morrison for telling stories that are so complex that his stories end up becoming very convoluted. On the other end fans will praise Morrison for his ability to go against the norm and tell a story that is both smart and compelling. But while most fans will probably fall under one of these categories, from what I have already read on message boards, blogs, and comic book websites this is the case, I find myself right in the middle when it comes to "Batman RIP."

I'll admit that the first time I read this issue I probably had the same reaction many fans had and was pissed off with the ending. But to be fair to Morrison I read this issue about 20 minutes before I went to my last class of the day since I went to my comic shop right when it opened because I was to impatient to wait until I the end of the day to read the conclusion. But like most of Morrison's work I had to give a second and third read through since I probably missed something during the first read. So instead I decided to read this issue when I would have my mind most clear and read it after I finished filling my stomach with all my mom's Thanksgiving food. Now with my stomach filled I can say that while I still have some of the same complaints that I had in my first read through I found that I actual found this issue to be a compelling read and conclusion to such a big storyline.

One of the things I have enjoyed through Morrison's run on Batman is how he has been writing Bruce Wayne/Batman. Morrison clearly understands what makes Bruce tick. I love that Bruce was playing Jezebel since she said "I want you to know I understand." As with most fans I never really accepted the whole Bruce/Jezebel relationship and thought the whole relationship was rushed and not at all well developed. It is great that the only reason Bruce fell for Jezebel is that he wanted to get closer to Black Glove and you could tell that while Jezebel tried not to accept this as the truth the revelation clearly affected her.

I love that Morrison plays up the fact that Bruce has, and will, always be one step ahead of everyone else. Even when you think you have outsmarted Bruce it is at that moment were you realize that Bruce was one step ahead the whole time, as seen in the flashback scene in Thogal. The final scene were Bruce finally takes of the Batman cape and cowl, as well as what looks to be his death, made it feel like Batman was truly dead. While in the past Bruce has taken of his cowl and cape before, and has even had it remove or torn by his enemies, this time it feels a lot more symbolic to Bruce finally accepting that he does not need to be Batman anymore. This puts Bruce in an interesting position not if but when he comes back since it feels like Bruce has given up being Batman both physically and mentally.

For such a dark and somewhat depressing issue I will say that their was a moment in this issue that put a smile on my face. That moment was when Dick came to Batman's aid and help to defeat all of the Black Glove's men while Bruce went to take care of Dr. Hurt. Even though it was shown that Tim, Talia, Damien, and Jim Gordon were all heading to help Bruce out it was great that Dick was the first and only person their to help Bruce out it his battle. While it is true that Bruce is much more of a father to Tim in Bruce's eyes Dick will always be his succesor and one of his greatest accomplishments. While in the future we may get a new Batman and Robin their is no greater team than the original Batman and Robin. And the scene were Dick, who is all alone seperated from the rest of Batman's allies, with Bruce's cape and cowl may foreshadow his victory and taking up of the Batman mantle. I will have a post up on Sunday, if all goes well, talking about who I think will be Batman and what role each major Bat-character will have post-Batman RIP.

Now I have to also praise Morrison's portrayel of Joker. Morrison's Joker is one that is not only insane but one that is probably just as smart and may be even more vicious than Batman. I love how Joker mocks Dr. Hurt and all of the Black Glove members in their arrogance in defeating Batman. More than any other Batvillain Joker knows that their probably is no way in defeating Batman. The way he kills one of the Black Glove members before he leaves was great because it just shows how crazy he is and how he could care less about anyone, even himself. And throughout the Joker scene, especially after killing that guy, you can see how scared a lot of the Black Glove's members are of him.

With all that said there was this issue also shows the glaring weakness of this whole story: the villains Black Glove. While it is questionable who Dr. Hurt actually is: Thomas Wayne, Mangrove Pierce, or the Devil himself. The whole Black Glove turning out to be five people, who are extremely board with their rich lives, instead of one is a lack of plot development. Outside of Dr. Hurt and Jezebel we know practically nothing about these characters, and even Dr. Hurt and Jezebel weren't all that well developed.

A lot of Dr. Hurt's dialogue feels very forced. Throughout Batman RIP I felt Morrison was building up Dr. Hurt to be the final boss for Batman and that we would at least see him go one on one with Batman. But Dr. Hurt proves to be all talk and unlike his followers, who we at least see fight a little, he does nothing but stand around the whole time. He is even punked out by the Joker during Jokers big scene in this issue. I get that Dr. Hurt is suppose to be a psychological threat to Bruce but that is no excuse to for the main bad guy of such a huge storyline to look like a coward. Throughout this storyline and until the end Dr. Hurt never felt like a credible villain and it might have been better that their was a one true Black Glove and that he turned out either Joker, Tim, or Alfred (my pick) instead of someone that is still a mystery to the reader and probably even Morrison himself.

The other character that lacked any development in not only this storyline but also throughout Morrison's run is Jezebel Jet. While I loved that Morrison revealed that Bruce was using Jezebel this whole time that is no excuse for Morrison and the editor of the Batbooks to the lack of build up of the Jezebel character. And this reveal that she was just being used by Bruce to get closer to Black Glove feels like a cop out by Morrison. In my list of women that Bruce has ever loved their are three of them: Catwoman, Talia, and Zatanna. At no point in his run did I feel that Jezebel would be added to that list. This is much do to Morrison rushing from point A to point B with her character.

Now outside of the villains there was another moment in this issue that I question. This moment is when Damien at the wheel of the Batcar drives right into Jokers ambulance truck. It is hard for me to believe that not only would Alfred allow Damien to drive the Batcar but also that he is non-shalunt about what Damien just did. This scene just left me scratching my head and it feels that I missed something. I think that it would have been better that Morrison had a short scene at the beggining of the issue to show Talia, Damien, and Jim finding a beaten Alfred in the Batcave. But again this is just another example were Morrison leaves out a huge chunk of the story and expects the reader to accept that all these characters just show up in the moment they with no explanation, no matter how short, of their actions.

Much credit has to go to Tony Daniel and Sandu Florea artwork. Without Daniel's art, and Florea inking, this story might have proven to be much more worse since at times it is Daniel's artwork that distracts frpm some of Morrison's weak dialogue. I loved the flashback scene and the use of black, red, and grey that gives this scene a demonic feel to it. Also the scene were Dick is all alone with Bruce's cape and cowl really felt like an iconic moment similar to the ones given to Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman in the past.

Issue Rating
Story: 7.3/10 - This issue shows off both the strengths and weakness of Morrison's writing which keeps it from being as good as it should be.
Art: 9/10 - Daniel and Florea combine for some great artwork that helps distract from some of the weaker moments of this issue
Overall: 8.15/10 - No matter what you think of either Morrison's or Daniel's work this creative team combine to deliver a great story that leaves all the Batcharacters in an interesting position for future storylines.