All right, folks, it’s Thursday night, and while this is normally the spot where you’d find a list of this week’s releases and what I thought about them, the fact that we’re coming off of a shipping delay means that this week, we’re going to be doing things a little differently.
…things aren’t going to be that different.
But, since comics shipped late and I haven’t actually read most of the ones from this week, I’m going to switch things up and do this week’s reviews a little more freeform.
Really though, there’s only one comic that I’m really interested in talkinga about, and the one that everybody’s been talking about: Batman #681. Needless to say, spoilers below.
I gotta say, I loved this issue. Loved it to pieces. Loved almost everything about it, and while I’m not crazy about Tony Daniel, I don’t have the hate for his art that a lot of other folks do, and I think he does all right for himself. Of course, as my pal Chad said, if you can’t make Batman clawing his way out of his own grave while lightning crashes in the background look good, then you should probably just quit comics entirely.
Would it have looked better if Cliff Chiang or JH Williams III drew it? Well, yeah, but so would 90% of the comics coming out today, and while I’ll admit that Daniel’s not spectacular, he’s not horrible either, and there’s something vaguely Aparoesque about the leaner form that he gives to Batman that appeals to me, even if his action scenes are a heck of a lot clunkier than the ol’ favorite.
The story, though, I had no problem with whatsoever, to the point where I was actually surprised that there were a lot of people out there who did. From what I understand, their main problem stems from the vagueness surrounding Dr. Hurt’s identity–which may be Thomas Wayne, Bruce Wayne, an actor that we’ve never actually seen before, or the fucking Devil–and the lack of a big dramatic reveal, but that didn’t bother me at all.
Sure, there was an interview where we were promised the biggest reveal in 70 years, but, well, let’s not forget that there was a time when Ten Nights of the Beast was going to be the next Dark Knight Returns, so I tend to take promises like that with a golf ball-sized grain of salt.
Beyond that, though, there are two key points: One, in as much as it matters, we do know who Dr. Hurt is. The entire story is about Batman is always one step ahead of everyone, whether he’s “drawing another box” around the Joker, second-guessing his own emotions when he’s falling in love, planning to escape from every conceivable deathtrap and so on, so when Batman says it’s Mangrove Pierce, there’s no reason we shouldn’t believe him. He’s certainly theatrical enough to be an actor–check out his pose on the page where he delivers the scenery-chewing speech “The BLACK GLOVE, at great expense, has made certain SHOCKING documents and photographs available to Gotham City’s MEDIA!”–and as Batman says, he certainly had motive, method and opportunity. Sure, he rants about being the Devil, but, well, that’s what crazy people do.
Secondly, for all intents and purposes, it doesn’t matter who Dr. Hurt is. All you need to know for the purposes of the story is that he’s someone that a sinister organization called the Black Glove put in charge of a plot to destroy Batman. And in the story, we’re all but told flat out that this is the biggest and best plot to destroy Batman ever, attacking Bruce Wayne on both levels, spending years developing a psychological attack that’ll turn off Batman, blunting his edge by softening criminals… it’s some far-reaching stuff, designed to bring down one man. And yet it fails, because he’s Batman, and the Batman thinks of everything.
For me, that’s damn near perfect.
The second–and far, far more stupid–problem a couple of people had was that Batman didn’t really die, or that his “death” wasn’t convincing, and… Cripes, man. Really?
Even putting aside that this is comics and that “death” in super-hero books is less than meaningless thanks to a litany of miraculous recoveries that I could spend all night listing, did any of you out there really think that Batman was going to in a story that opened with this page?
If you did, then I’m sorry: You are dumb.
There’s been a rumor floating around that DC Editorial made Morrison change the ending of RIP (a completely separate and distinct rumor from the one where DC Editorial made Morrison change the ending of Final Crisis, I assure you), and while I suppose it might be true, I’m pretty sure that I don’t buy it. The far more likely version, I think, is that Morrison wanted to do a story where he shows why Batman always wins–along the lines of his All-Star Superman, wherein the title character defeats his own prophesied Certain Death in a rather familiar fashion–and DC editorial, in their inimitable “let’s never leave well enough alone” fashion, saw it, remembered how much money they made when they temporarily offed Superman back in ’94, and then decided to bill it as the story where they No Seriously We Really Mean It For Reals This Time Kill Batman and tie it into a bunch of bullshit crossovers that don’t matter and aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on.
Yeah. I’m looking at you, “Heart of Hush.”
It’s the same thing they did to Final Crisis with the twin trainwrecks that were Death of the New Gods and Countdown, wherein Morrison specifically asked DC to stay away from the New Gods and they instead passed them around–and I’m quoting G-Mo here–“like Hepatitis B.” And it’s not like you can really blame them for that. I mean, it’s not Dan Didio’s job to tell good stories; it’s Dan Didio’s job to make money, and we all know that if DC swears up and down that something’s going to “matter,” whether it’s Death of the New Gods or a story in Robin with an “RIP” banner slapped on it where Tim Drake vows to take Batman down if he has to, they’re going to sell more comics. Especially if it’s a slow news day that comes while the mainstream media’s trying to fill the void left by the Election and Batman’s No Seriously You Guys I Know We Did An Event Called “This Issue Batman Dies” Like Six Years Ago But We Mean It This Time “death” gets onto the radio somewhere.
But all of this distracts from the real issue here, which is… well, the issue itself. Even if Morrison did rewrite the ending to make it more palatable to his corporate paymasters, there’s no point in discussing what else it might’ve been, any more than there’s a point in wishing that Jim Aparo came back from the dead to draw it: The Batman: RIP that we have is what we have, and I think it came out great.
Last year at HeroesCon, I had a conversation with Josh Elder–of Mail Order Ninja fame–and when I asked him about his approach to writing The Batman Strikes, he told me that there are really only three Batman stories that you can tell: The First One, the Last One, and the One in the Middle, and the two on the outside have already been done. It’s a simplified take on making every story count, but when it comes to a character that there’s been so much done with already, it makes a lot of sense. And if Batman: RIP is the one that happens in the middle, then I’m perfectly fine with that.
Also, this week’s issue was fantastic as well, if for no other reason than the Hamlet Scene. Cracked me right up.
As for the other comics of the past couple of weeks, let’s see here… Thor: Man of War was even more metal than its namesake, Wolverine: Manifest Destiny is Big Trouble in Little China with Wolverine as Jack Burton (which is totally awesome), Marvel Zombies 3 had one of the most hilariously awesome sequences since Nextwave ended, and Tarot #53 is not only the worst comic I own, but may in fact be the worst comic book I have ever read in my life.
But I’ll get to that another time.
Oh hey! I almost forgot: The second chapter of Chad Bowers and Chris Nye’s Impossible! is now up for your reading pleasure at the Action Age of Comics! Click here to head over there, give it a read, and let us know what you think, won’t you?