Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Batman RIP

I haven't posted in superhero geek mode in quite a while, so here's my (somewhat spoilery) take on the controversial Batman RIP run in Batman # 676-681 and DC's big plans.

Obviously not "Rest in Peace," because if DC killed off Bruce Wayne, they'd have a massive fan revolt. I'm guessing it's more like "Respite in Peace." Of course, Batman spent most of the RIP storyline in a alternate state of consciousness, so maybe he's Really into Pretending. Then again, there was Bat-Mite in this storyline, so perhaps he's Running in a Parallel universe. Frankly, whatever DC's plans for Batman are in the coming months, the fans will need a Recipe including Patience.

A lot of comic book readers didn't like the Batman RIP run. Grant Morrison told the story in puzzle pieces that didn't completely fit until the end. He included pieces from older stories-- meaning the entire history--which I liked but others didn't. Pieces of this story were planted from the beginning of Morrison's run, which made it a little cumbersome to put together (I didn't buy all the crossover comics for the Ra's Al Ghul story, so there's probably a piece of the puzzle I missed). There was the introduction of Damien, Talia Al Ghul's genetically engineered "son-of-Batman." We revisit the Club of Superheroes--Batmen of all nations (from the 50s Detective #215). Fake Batmen (Batmans?) appear in Gotham. Batman actually really dies for 4 minutes and we get retellings of #47 and #156. All before the RIP run even starts. And then there's Jezebel Jet. Bruce falls enough in love her to reveal his alter-ego, but Morrison never made her likable enough to be worth Bruce thoroughly opening up. I suppose we were supposed to distrust her, but it would have been a better piece of the puzzle if she were a legitimate contender for Bruce's ironclad heart. My biggest beef would have to be that the pieces of this story were too spread out. But that's also somewhat the brilliance of Grant Morrison as a storywriter. The point of the story was to explore whether Batman is breakable. Is he? Is he truly insane? As insane as, say, the Joker? Did Dr. Hurt really start this process way back in the 60s #156? Batman seems to pull it together in the end. Allies rally to help. Damien shows back up. But it's pretty open-ended and didn't quite answer everything. Is the Black Glove (club of villains...bored rich people into murderous games) truly disbanded? Who is Dr. Hurt? And of course Batman is gone now.

No Batman in Batman or Detective comic books and by March those titles will be "on hiatus." (Likewise Superman's storyline ends up with no Superman in Superman or Action comics.) Nightwing, Robin and Birds of Prey will all be gone. Instead we'll have a Battle for the Cowl comic, and Barbara Gordon gets an Oracle title. I know DC has to shake things up every now and then, but messing with your major titles in such a drastic way might test readers' patience even more than crossovers do. I have to say, I will buy the Battle for the Cowl. Tony Daniel is writing and drawing it. Tony penciled the RIP run and I really like his art. I hope his writing talent matches his art talent. That's Tony's Batman above.

RIP was supposed to cross over to Detective, Robin, Nightwing, and Batman and the Outsiders. It didn't, which is a pretty dirty trick to play on your readers. But Detective and Batman are now intertwining as the title nears hiatus. Yay, Denny O'Neil!

1 comment:

Randall said...

Nice analysis. DC ought to listen to you. But O'Neil's been around a long time. I teach a 1970 issue of O'Neil/Adams's "Green Lantern/Green Arrow" to my summer Writers' Workshop class, and I ignore O'Neil's heavy-handedness in favor of his cutting edge/liberal reimagining of comics' raison d'etre -- the man is eminently capable of rebooting a lagging series. What's going on here seems to have a sound, if somewhat enigmatic, economic rationale, perhaps like the temporary introduction of New Coke or the temporary death of Superman. You should write more literary (comic) criticism.