28 Nov, 2008
Batman #681 (RIP Finale) Review
By: Jon Haehnle
The following review is excerpted from Comic Book Revolution — click here to read CBR’s full recap & review
At first blush, I thought that this issue delivered an incredibly anti-climactic ending. However, after the third reading I have to say that my opinion has changed drastically. Practically every line of dialogue and narration has a meaning that requires the reader to carefully navigate the story and stop to investigate the clues from each line.
Morrison finally reveals how all of his stories on Batman beginning with Morrison’s Batman story in 52 all tie together. All the previous plotlines and story arcs slide together in a pleasant fashion as everything finally makes sense. Morrison is actually rather straight forward in his explanations in this issue compared to some of his other work.
Morrison reveals the reason why Bruce wanted to undergo the Thorgal ritual during 52: to savor death so that he could experience every eventuality. This fits in with Morrison’s take on Batman in that he is a man driven beyond all sanity in order to be able to handle anything that might come his way. And death was about the only last experience that Bruce had not prepared for so the Thorgal ritual was a logical final step by Bruce to experience everything that a human possibly can. Also, by having Bruce experience death during the Thorgal ritual and then eliminate all of his fear and doubt Morrison prepared the way for Bruce to “die” in this RIP story and still find a way to survive.
I continue to enjoy how Morrison writes the Joker. This is one of my favorite versions of the Joker. Morrison reveals that the Joker has been literally driven insane by Batman in the Joker’s attempt to get the Batman to loosen up. Normally, writers show how the Joker’s madness has impacted Batman’s psyche. This scene offers the reader a unique look at the psychological war between Joker and Batman from the other perspective as we see how Batman has driven Joker crazy. This scene shows that Batman is as adept at psychological wars as the Joker.
Batman #681 was basically the thesis statement on Morrison’s view of Batman’s character. Morrison has always presented Batman as a force of will personified. Morrison’s Batman is always in control and plans for absolutely anything and everything.
This take on Batman’s character is clearly presented in the scene with Batman in the coffin and in the flashback scene. The way that Batman so calmly extricates himself from the shallow grave was vintage Morrison Batman. And the way that Bruce, out of a force of habit, switches the cups of tea in the flashback scene and then reveals that he carries antidotes for any toxins that he is not immune to was also typical Morrison.
Now, Dr. Hurt is either simply the doctor who “became” the hole in Bruce’s memory due to the psychic implants. Or Dr. Hurt is literally the Devil. In Bruce’s final entry into the black casebook he admits that his attempt to see into the deepest dark and into the heart of the storm of madness that he discovered some pure source of evil. That he found the Devil himself.
The Devil also appears in the plotline involving the Black Glove movie made by John Mayhew. It seems that Morrison might have been inspired by David Lynch’s Inland Empire where Lynch deals with a movie where all the actors and the director were all killed and that the movie itself was said to be cursed by the Devil. We learn that the actors and the director of Mayhew’s movie are all either dead, missing or insane. We also learn that it is said that the Devil himself cursed the movie. This points to the possibility that the Devil is indeed either Dr. Hurt or that the Black Glove works for the Devil.
In the final moment of the scene with Hurt and Bruce we see Bruce’s black glove smashing through the helicopter window just before the helicopter crashes. I have to wonder if maybe Morrison is alluding to the fact that by coming into contact with a pure source of evil that Bruce has become his own greatest enemy. That Bruce is somehow connected to the Black Glove. After all, Bruce does wonder in the flashback scene if in his attempt to do only good that he has only managed to make things worse. Bruce wonders that maybe unconsciously he has been his own worst enemy.
Now I do have a really insane idea that maybe the Devil is Darkseid. After all, Darkseid is considered to be a pure source of evil. And the monk’s eyes turn red which suggests that he is under the control of Darkseid. That would open the possibility for Dr. Hurt to be Desaad in human form.
Maybe Darkseid has targeted Batman as a serious threat in his ability to take over Earth during Final Crisis. That Bruce’s knowledge of death and pure evil from the Thogul ritual would allow him to come up with a way to defeat the Anti-life equation and Darkseid’s effort to make Earth into a new Apokolips. That would explain why Bruce said that when he saw the Devil that there was fear in his eyes. This could be a hint that Darkseid is afraid of Batman ruining his plans over in Final Crisis.
Okay, enough of my crazy speculating. Let’s talk about the most “stunning” revelation in Batman’s 70 year history. And that is that Morrison has Hurt state that Thomas and Martha Wayne were not a victim of some random street crime. That instead, that Thomas and Martha Wayne were the target of a hit. Morrison suggests that the Black Glove hired Joe Chill to kill Thomas, Martha and Bruce. And that, evidently, Joe Chill lost his nerve that night and was unable to kill Bruce.
It is likely that the Black Glove invited Thomas and Martha Wayne to join them. And it follows that when Thomas Wayne rejected their offer that the Black Glove decided to kill him, his wife and his son. Therefore, it follows that the Black Glove created the Batman. And now the Black Glove wants their creation for themselves. And that if they cannot have the Batman then they will destroy him.
Hurt makes a point of asking Bruce to swear to serve the Black Glove in return for Hurt not distributing the lies about Thomas, Martha and Alfred to the Gotham media. And once Bruce spurns Hurt’s offer, Hurt then curses Bruce’s cape and cowl and states that the last time that Bruce wears them will be his last. And of course, earlier in this scene we saw Hurt trying to activate one of his last implants in Bruce’s mind by commanding Bruce to give up being Batman. Clearly, the Black Glove feels that Batman is their weapon and that if they cannot control him then they want him destroyed.
I enjoyed how Morrison had all of Batman’s allies rushing to his aide. And the best part was that Morrison had Dick being the first ally to arrive at Bruce’s side. The first Robin deserves that honor. And I liked how Batman acknowledges how Dick never lets him down. There is no doubt that Batman has plenty of faith in Tim, but Dick will always be the son that he expects the most from.
Morrison ends Batman #681 with a nice lead in to the Battle for the Cowl story arc. We see Nightwing physically removed from the rest of Bruce’s allies and holding Bruce’s cape and cowl. This was a powerful image that seems to suggest that Dick will be the winner in the Battle for the Cowl story. The six month later scene with Le Bossu also hints to the reader that whoever wins the battle for the cowl carries on the mantle of the Batman.
I loved how Talia uses her ninja Man-Bats to take out Jezebel. You just do not mess with Talia’s man!
Finally, I liked the epilogue at the end of this issue. We see how Bruce is inspired at a young age by Zorro, a crime-fighter clad in black. Bruce’s wondering about a modern day Zorro in Gotham prompts Thomas Wayne to state that “The sad thing is that they’d probably throw someone like Zorro in Arkham.” We then see a black panel with the word “Zur-En-Arrh” in red and backwards. Now, this might sound crazy, but is it possible that Zur-En-Arrh means Zorro in Arkham?
Again, the same criticisms of earlier issues of RIP will apply to Batman #681 as well. If you do not enjoy Morrison’s style of writing then there is little chance that you will dig Batman #681. This is another issue full of Morrison’s typical metaphysical musings.
Many readers will also find the ending to Batman #681 to be incredibly anti-climactic and disappointing. I certainly had much higher expectations for this finale that what Morrison delivered. Instead of getting the most “shocking” reveal in 70 years on Batman the reader got the most over-hyped reveal in 70 years on Batman.
And some readers will likely feel cheated that the real conclusion to what happens to Batman will occur in Final Crisis and not RIP. Many readers will probably feel that the conclusion to Batman’s fate should have been carried out during RIP itself.
Another criticism of the ending is that Morrison employed a common and recycled ending by having the helicopter explode and no bodies being found. This is such a predictable and often used type of ending that the reader has seen so many times before. The ending to this issue simply felt a bit weak compared to the rest of RIP.
Another problem with RIP is that the general basis for the story of having Bruce retire from being Batman is repetitious and unoriginal. At the end of RIP I got a feeling that was too similar to what I got at the end of Knightfall. The fact is that DC is not doing anything new with Bruce’s character by making him “die” or “retire” from being Batman. We have been down this road before.
Another concern that I have with Batman RIP is if other writers will actually acknowledge what Morrison has done during his time on Batman. Or will writers that follow Morrison simply ignore all that Morrison has given us on Batman?
No, Batman RIP is not the greatest Batman story ever told. And yes, there are some weaknesses to this ending. But, all in all, this was a creative and intriguing Batman tale that captivated my mind and held my interest from start to finish.
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