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Batman?Wha!?!

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Batman R.I.P. was supposed generate buzz about Batman. But fans spent too much time trying to figure out what was going on to talk about it.

The title for this event was a conversation starter. “Batman R.I.P.” Nothing gets fans’ tongues wagging like the threat of one of their beloved icons taking a dirt nap. I’d imagine that a lot of readers tuned in to the crossover to find out what will happen.

And I’d imagine that many readers are still not only wondering what will happen, but also what did happen in the series they read. Now, with the storyline entering its final chapter, fans are hoping for some answers.

The story so far is as follows. The Black Glove, an unknown individual who has complete and total knowledge of Batman and Bruce Wayne, has kicked his plan for destroying our hero into high gear. Batman is kidnapped, drugged and left for dead in an alley. Reeling from the punishment, Bats suffers an apparent psychotic break and a dormant personality—the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh—takes over.

This more vicious version of Batman tries to track down the Black Glove before he can kill Bruce Wayne’s paramour, Jezebel Jet. After a face off against the Black Glove hired Joker, Batman finally reaches Jezebel, only to find that she might have been allied with The Black Glove all along.

That seems to be fairly straight forward, right? Well, things are complicated by questions raised throughout the arc. Is Doctor Hurt really Thomas Wayne, back from his faked death and looking to destroy his son? Has Jezebel Jet really lived up to her name and betrayed Bruce’s trust? And who is the Black Glove anyway?

If this was a cut-and-dried mystery, these questions wouldn’t be much of a problem. After all, a mystery is basically a question that needs to be answered. But where the confusion comes in is the use of drugs as a plot element. The fact that Batman has been hallucinating through all, or most all of the arc, calls into question what, if any of these questions are real.

Adding to the confusion is the writing of Grant Morrison and the art of Tony Daniel. Grant Morrison is one of the best writers in comics today—when he is allowed to run free and do his own thing.  His writing here shows the strains of having his writing style writhe in the shackles of what is expected of a blockbuster event.

Plot points like the whole “Batman of Zur-En-Arrh” thing, which was taken from a silver age Batman comic (Batman #113 to be exact), is a Morrison trademark, but in this story it takes readers out of the narrative. We read that and we can almost see Morrison winking at us. And here, like in his Final Crisis, events that should have a major impact, like one of the villains supposedly being Bruce’s presumed dead father, are presented in a blasé fashion so their effect is diminished. This arc seems to show that Morrison is not the one to turn to for a status quo changing blockbuster where editorial mandate is to be satisfied before his creative muse.

Tony Daniel’s art doesn’t help. There are serious flaws in his story telling ability. Whether a design to try to sell the hallucinatory feel Morrison is trying to attain or not, the narrative flow of his art is choppy at best. And his use of shadows takes away from the story rather than adding to the mood.

The result is an event that feels like a non-event. If Bruce Wayne is to join the choir invisible at the end of this arc, no indication has been given in the story. If DC does intend to kill off its current Batman, it will be quite anticlimactic. Having Bruce giving up the cape and cowl? That seems logical from the story at this point. Having Bruce die? Not so much.

We can see some of the planned after effect of this storyline already. Batman is conspicuously absent in future DC solicitations. Bat-titles such as Robin, Nightwing and Birds of Prey are being cancelled. Batman  and Detective Comics are rumored to join them. I hope this Wednesday’s issue makes all these future changes worthwhile.

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