Or – “We Interrupt My Lateness To Bring You Something…  Completely Different.”


A recent pre-podcast discussion, rambling in nature (like the podcast itself, really) led me to reveal to Stephen that I had read this issue of Batman in my ongoing attempt to jump aboard ongoing titles for comprehension and review purposes, and I opined something to the effect that I was not going to review this issue because of it’s obvious strengths.  I was stunned to hear (as I always am) that my opinion was not universal, and that Stephen himself did NOT see the awesome in this issue of Batman.  Thus it came to pass that I, the soothsayer of something or other, must now tell you about goings on in “Batman RIP.”  Fasten your seatbelts, faithful spoilerites, ’cause it’s going to be a thrillride…

Previously, on Batman: Many years ago, in a dirty back alley behind a theatre, Thomas and Martha Wayne were murdered over a cheap strand of pearls, and their son Bruce traumatized for life and galvanized into BM2.jpgspending his life destroying the kind of crimes that cost him his childhood.  Problem is, the whole thing seems to have been a lie.  When a villain known only as “The Black Glove” sets the International Club of Heroes (all inspired by Batman) against themselves in an attempt to get them to off the big Bat goes afoul, the Black Glove gets personal.  Bruce Wayne thinks the Glove is out to strike at him through his new main squeeze, Jezebel Jet, while Commissioner Gordon tries to keep the Gotham press from getting wind of a story that implies that Thomas Wayne was not only a drug addict, a philanderer, and an all-around sumbiotch, but that he faked his own death in a plot to rid himself of his albatross of a wife and son.  Batman is overwhelmed emotionally, and then drugged into a stupor, then forced to deal with the revelation that one of the villains of the piece may actually BE his long-lost father, who believes that ALFRED is actually Bruce’s real father!  It’s enough to make even the Bat snap, and he wanders into the Gotham night.  But the Batman plans for every contingency, and even managed to create a backup personality in his mind, ‘The Batman of Zur-En-Arrh’ and return to action, albeit in a less-than-ideal state.  Thomas Wayne (if that IS his real name) has taken up residence in Arkham, captured Jezebel, and freed the inmates, including a certain white skinned psycho-nutjob who wants Batman all to himself.  The question is, is there really any Batman left?

The first impression I have of this issue is how ugly the cover is.  DC has a tendency to trot out Alex Ross and his faithful photo-realism any time there’s an event comic, and this cover features an unpleasant blue-green tint to simulate darkness and, as always, the model that Alex uses for Batman has a wider jaw than he does forehead, leading to a stangely shaped Bat-head.  Tony Daniel’s interiors, thankfully, are somewhat more to my liking as we see Thomas, as Doctor Hurt, welcoming his unseen guests to an evening of revelry.  “We gamble on games of life and death.  All the ingredients are here for a spectacular evening…  Is ANYONE willing to be on the triumph of good over evil?”  Elsewhere in Arkham, a neurosurgeon named Guy Dax monologues to a seemingly-brain damaged Joker about his own evil urges, about the horrible things he wants to do, and how the JOker is the inspiration for it all.  He dresses in his own villain costume, monologueing endlessly about the beauty of evil blah blah blah fishcakes, and ends with “Choose your partners, m’sieur!  The dance of death begins.”  The Joker summarizes the entire interaction hilariously…  “yawn…”

Outside the asylum, in the night, Batman arives… but things aren’t always what they seem.  He wears a costume of red and yellow, stitched together from rags, and pretty much out of his gourd.  Bat-Mite (!) appears over his shoulder, warning him of making a target of himself, and Batman grunts, “The colors demonstrate total confidence.  Robin dressed this way for years and survived.”  He leaps into action, and El Sombrero (one of Black Glove’s club of villains) orders his men to prepare, just as The Joker arrives.  “What is is about the sombrero?  Some things are just naturally funny,” mumbles Joker, a pretty fresh bullet wound still showing in his head.  Batman and Bat-Mite discuss strategy, and Batman agrees with his conscience that he needs to move quickly and get inside, the better to find out who the Black Glove is.  He cuts through the guards like a sharp thing through a squishy thing, and prepares to enter.  “I’m sorry, Batman,” says the Mite.  “I don’t think I can help anymore…  I’m the last fading echo of the voice of reason, Batman.  And reason won’t fit through this door.”  Batman asks if Bat-Mite is for real, or just a figment of his imagination, and Bat-Mite leaves him with a single word of warning.  “Beware!”

The assembled Club of villains watches as the colorful figure arrives, and the begin protesting that this isn’t Batman at all (protests that I’m sure some fans are echoing, word for word.)  “Batman is cool!  Batman wea’rs Black!  That’s not Batman!”  It’s a weirdly meta statement in the middle of the plot, and I find myself liking it immediately.  Joker suddenly bursts into the room, shambling and covered in blood, and the villains gape at the face of real evil.  Dr. Wayne, however, bids him a hearty welcome.  Across town at Wayne Manor, Commissioner Gordon tries to make his way inside, only to find himself facing a series of death traps, and succeeding.  But a booby-trapped telephone proves his undoing, as he trips a sensor that would lead to his death, only to catch a last minute save from Damian, Son of the Bat!  Stephen pointed out to me the awkwardness of this whole sequence, and while I agree with him, I still attribute it all to failings of the art, as there’s no clear understanding of why the whole manor didn’t blow up until Talia Al Ghul appears, with henchman Ubu at her side, and offers to assist the Commissioner.  “Mother,” whines Damian, “I want a Batmobile.”  HA!

At the asylum, Batman continues advancing, only to be confronted with the voice of his most dangerous foe.  “Some very rich people went to a lot of trouble to throw you a farewell party.  And you turn up dressed like a clown…”  Batman screams that Joker gave the whole thing away months ago, when he hinted to Batman about a “dead man’s hand” and for a couple of pages, two loonies scream unending vagaries at one another.  Batman realizes that his beloved Jezebel is still in danger and leaps down a stairwell directly into danger.  Joker confronts him, and I have to say that this is one of the most imbalanced and dangerous Jokers I’ve read in years.  “You and I, ” he babbles to Bats, “We had a special arrangement.  A yin/yang thing.  Holmes and Moriarty, Tweety and Sylvester, hats and gloves, but you… you shot me in the face!”

He did?  Wow, I’m sorry I missed that.  Joker slices his tongue in two with a straight razor (a shot that might have been more horrible if Tony Daniel has a more realistic art style) and chides the Batman that he cannot understand the whole Joker experience with a couple days of drug binging.  Batman attacks, but is confronted by the screaming, begging image of Jezebel.  Her cries for help breaks him out of his Zur-En-Arrh fantasies, and he breaks through the safety glass to get to his girl, as Joker continues his monologue.  “You really want to know how it feels to be the clown at midnight?  Where there’s only ever one joke, and it’s always on you?” he asks, as Batman breaks in and seemingly fails to save Jezebel from certain death.  Batman collapses on the floor, laughing, and I can’t be sure what’s happening for a minute, as Jezebel stands, smiles… and PULLS ON A LONG BLACK GLOVE.  “NOW DO YOU GET IT?” screams the Joker as we fade to black…

It’s a powerful ending for me, and works on a number of levels, as it seems that the Batman’s life has been systematically picked apart by the woman he loves.  Joker is particularly effective in this issue, with his lowercase word balloons and lack of basic punctuation giving us the impression that he’s really, truly, crazy as a football bat.

The downsides?  There’s too many villains here for any of them to really get their due, and it definitely has the feel of a story full of overkill, with fillip upon fillip upon twist upon something or other to try and top the last.  This has been written, obviously, as a turning point, a story that will (at least for a while) give us a character other than the “give him half an hour to prepare and he’ll pull a deus ex machina out of his ass to defeat Darkseid” Batman that I’ve come to dislike in recent years.  I find that a good thing.  I can also see how Bat-fans wouldn’t.

A few years ago, Grant Morrison did a somewhat controversial run on X-Men for Marvel, which hardcore fans like my friend Tom Grice (gone, but not forgotten, and still WRONG, sir! WRONG!) hated a lot.  I maintain the same thing about this story that I do about that one:  It’s good comics.  But it wasn’t, for most readers, good X-MEN comics, and this probably isn’t a great Batman comic if you’ve loved recent Batman comics, like Stephen.  But when I look at what this issue DOES have: A strong hero, reduced to nothing, who still finds hidden resources.  A shocking (to me) reveal.  A clear sense of danger and forboding.  A well-written scary Joker.  Bat-Mite.  References to continuity that even *I* had forgotten.  And don’t forget the Thomas Wayne revelations which, if true, change the VERY NATURE of the Batman and will force him to re-examine what he does from top to bottom, which should make for some interesting stories.

Visually, Tony Daniel isn’t the best storyteller around, but he gets the job done, and while the coloring is somewhat muddy in the middle, the high contrast red and black ending of the book and the Batman’s-eye-view as he collapses are very well done.  It’s a strong issue, and I wasn’t lost by it, even having only a vague idea of what went on before.  Batman #680 ranks a very impressive probably-Stephen-infuriating 4 out of 5 stars, because it made me care about a character I’m not emotionally invested in anymore, and made me remember what’s really fun about comics…


The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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  1. October 9, 2008 at 1:43 pm — Reply

    Onth the Joker sthpit hith tongue in half, how ith it that he managed to continue to pronounth aww of hith wordth cowectwy?

  2. Lifeisaglitch
    October 9, 2008 at 2:07 pm — Reply

    Thomas Wayne dii.. dii did wh.. whaa whaat !?! And hes wh. wha ioHSJNDBHsvghsg

  3. October 9, 2008 at 2:37 pm — Reply

    I probably wouldn’t hate Morrison’s run on Batman had A) not made us wait for over a year for the story to make any sense, and B) Didn’t trot out that whole “continuity doesn’t matter” bullshit he’s been spouting to anyone who will listen. This leads me to believe that while he may kill Batman, Batman won’t be dead in six months.

    And while I may be the lone voice decrying the Morrison Batman, I will also be the lone voice, when I review ASB&R and tell you how good it is. :D

  4. October 9, 2008 at 3:40 pm — Reply

    I hate Morrison’s run on Batman.

    I was iffy on it when he started off with Damien and the ninja manbats and stuff, but I figured I’d read Batman for almost 20 years at that point, so I’d stick with it.

    Then, he pitched Batman R.I.P. and I hated everything about the entire premise of it. The poor execution — from the story hints he’d dropped, to his not even bothering to tell other Bat-book writers what he intended to do so that their stories could make sense in context with his, and with the aforemetioned ‘Continuity doesn’t really matter!’ crap he’s been peddling — has only made it worse.

    If you take more than a year to tell a story, it’d better be a damn good story and there ought to be a lot of good pay-offs along the way. Unfortunately, Batman R.I.P. is a massive pile of suck that has only occasionally managed to even cross the threshold into mediocre, and it’s still at least three connecting flights from ‘good’ with only one more issue to go …

    Ninja manbats? Dumb.

    Damien? Stupid.

    Potentially resurrecting Thomas Wayne as an jackhole criminal mastermind? Assinine.

    Hinting that mother Wayne was a drug addict and that Alfred might actually be Bruce’s father? Insultingly idiotic.

    Introducing a love interest that we’d never heard of before and having her gain such significance in Bruce’s life over the course of just a handful of issues that she can manage to not only break Bruce’s psyche but hide the fact that she’s been the main villain all along? … well, I’ve run out of synonyms.

    I remember vaguely something about Morrison claiming this would be the ‘last Batman story’. Even if it isn’t, I’m feeling more and more like it’ll be my last Batman story.

    Don’t get me wrong … I’ll still read whichever other Bat-titles remain unaffected by this (Detective, so long as Dini and Nguyen are on it) but, with the economy doing what it’s doing, I’ve been looking for books to cut back on and anything touched by this taint are quickly rising to the top of my cut list.

  5. Ricco
    October 9, 2008 at 4:12 pm — Reply

    The only thing I have against R.I.P. is “Heart of Hush” In Detective Comics, The Joker is so very, very tame in that one…

    P.S.- Since Hush just plasticaly remodeled his face to that of Bruce, could the “that’s not Batman” comment in this issue be true? Could Elliot convince himself he’s really Bruce Wayne and from the start this was never Bruce fighting the Black Glove?

  6. Randy B.
    October 9, 2008 at 4:12 pm — Reply

    I’m not sure how the ending could have been a surprise to anyone at all. And, well, I can’t be the only one who feels this way but I don’t get this.
    I keep on trying, month after month, but I don’t get it.
    And, after this month, I won’t get it anymore, either.

  7. Brother129
    October 9, 2008 at 4:27 pm — Reply

    Wow. If I hadn’t read your review, I would have had no idea what I just read. I’ve read every issue in this series and haven’t had a clue about what’s been going on. I feel the same way after reading a Final Crisis issue. Hm…I wonder what they have in common?

  8. Maximus Rift
    October 9, 2008 at 6:11 pm — Reply

    Mr. Peterson, do you need a hug? ;p

    I think this is an example of different viewpoints. For example: I despise the current Amazing Spider-Man book, but it always seems to sell out.

  9. ~wyntermute~
    October 9, 2008 at 7:58 pm — Reply

    Introducing a love interest that we’d never heard of before and having her gain such significance in Bruce’s life over the course of just a handful of issues that she can manage to not only break Bruce’s psyche but hide the fact that she’s been the main villain all along? … well, I’ve run out of synonyms.

    You, sir, win a cookie. I kept thinking that Jezebel Jet (a “jezebel” historically being a traitorous figure, and ‘”jet” black’ speaks for itself) would turn out to be SOMEBODY FAMILIAR in disguise. It was just too fake a name, even for a comic book. That, or that the gap in my memory had gotten really large and somehow I missed out on finding out that Bruce had his “Lois Lane”…. THAT would make the TV News I figured, so I was counting on the former…

  10. October 9, 2008 at 8:55 pm — Reply

    Stephen Schleicher, sir, you are absolutely correct about Batman. Trouble is that you’re also absolutely wrong about ASBAR.

  11. October 9, 2008 at 9:09 pm — Reply

    baal: Bwahahaha*2

  12. Stig
    October 10, 2008 at 6:46 am — Reply

    Eh, I could give as much of a damn about other people’s opinions as Morrison could about continuity: i.e., none at all. This has been one of the most consistently brilliant and inventive Batman stories in decades, and trumps the more mediocre efforts – ‘Face The Face’, for instance, or the yawn-worthy Adam-West-story-except-with-Catwoman-in-a-Refrigerator thing currently going on in ‘Detective Comics, Or How One Man Managed To Continue Writing The Spin-Off Of An Animated Series That Nobody Watched Anymore…And Got Away With It!’

    Oh, and Stephen…Batman will always come back, eh? Wasn’t everyone saying that Steve Rogers would be back in the suit in Brubaker’s Captain America title by now? I mean, what’s the holdup?

  13. applejack1310
    October 10, 2008 at 7:30 am — Reply

    Okay, this may sound confusing. I didn’t get the end, but I didn’t get it because I already knew it. I was trying to read into it too much. I’ve known for quite a while that Jezebel was evil, just maybe not THE evil. So, when this issue ended, I was asking myself “Do I get it?” when the Joker said “Do you get it?” I was thinking about the red and black, the tiles, etc. To read the review here, and read you putting the way you did, the big reveal was that Jezebel is bad. OH! So, because I already got it, I didn’t get it. So the big reveal is something not very reveal-y? Bummer. Now, there could be more in the last issue, so we’ll see.

    I have to also note that I am vehemently against the “Thomas Wayne is Evil” angle, as well as the “Martha Wayne is a coked-up sloot” angle. Let’s leave them alone, huh? You can write good storied with shocker moments and, my favorite, the “oh, snap!” final panel of an issue.

    Seriously, you can do it WITHOUT bastardizing the past and re-writing history so it fits your plans. You can make subtle changes to the past or, even better, just add EXTRA information to the past stories we all know and love to provide new backstory to pave the way for your new plotlines.

    Ask Geoff Johns.

  14. Maximus Rift
    October 10, 2008 at 8:24 am — Reply

    I just thought of this.

    I think what we’ve got here is somewhat similar to what’s happening/happened in Spider-Man. One side of fans embracing change while another can only see the bastardization of their favorite character. Just like some Spidey fans yelled “He made a deal with the devil for WHAT?”, some Bat fans will yell “Batman got taken down by WHO?”

  15. October 10, 2008 at 8:50 am — Reply

    Okay, this may sound confusing. I didn’t get the end, but I didn’t get it because I already knew it. I was trying to read into it too much. I’ve known for quite a while that Jezebel was evil, just maybe not THE evil. So, when this issue ended, I was asking myself “Do I get it?” when the Joker said “Do you get it?” I was thinking about the red and black, the tiles, etc.

    I, like you, can’t tell whether I really got it or not. Was Jezebel the main evil? Or, was the Joker?

    Did the Joker orchestrate everything with the Black Gloves little society of stupid supervillains? Because, I can’t believe Jezebel or the Sombrero or anyone else in that idiotic group of people I’ve never heard of and don’t care about at all because they’re pointless one-shot villains was smart enough to put it all together. And, the Joker’s suddenly alright with someone else killing / destroying Batman? When did that happen? Isn’t that what his whole issue with Hush was about?

    I got that the tiles and the rose petals — the mix of black and red — was a reference to something early in the series where the mixture of the two produced Joker’s neurotoxin. And, I think that Bruce was succumbing to it, based upon the twisted grin that I think was on his face.

    But, in actuality, the art was so bad, I couldn’t really tell at first glance if it was him, or Jezebel, or the Joker that was grinning in that panel and I’ve stopped caring enough to go back and try.

    And, honestly, I think that’s the major difference between Morrison ‘killing’ Batman and Brubaker killing Captain America: I cared when Cap died. Batman is my favorite character. He’s the character that I got into comics with. He’s the character that, even when I wasn’t reading any other comics, I continued to read. But, Morrison’s story has been so pointlessly bad that I’ve stopped caring whether or not Bruce died, or if he were simply ‘broken’ or whatever.

    And, that’s probably the most tragic part of this entire story.

  16. applejack1310
    October 10, 2008 at 6:12 pm — Reply

    Jacin, HANG IN THERE! Come off the ledge! I understand your pain. It took me a while to make up my mind on Morrison. I couldn’t tell if I liked him or not. I liked Seven Soldiers (I know, I know). But I had to read more to decide if I liked Morrison. I’ve finally come to the conclusion that I don’t. I don’t like his big ego retconning of the past. That just strikes me as someone who thinks they can re-write everything because they have all the answers and can do it better. Look at Geoff John (I know, I love the man. That’s why I cal him Comics Jesus). ADD to the past, don’t TEAR IT DOWN. I had to think back, and I remember that I ALSO hated Morrison’s run on X-Men (the god-awful art of Frank Quitely didn’t help there). So, yes, Morrison is ruining Batman for you. But stick with it, my friend. Don’t let one egomaniac of a writer ruin everything for you.

    Hell, maybe someone will take over for Morrison soon at retcon his retcon.

    Batman: Rebirth, anyone?

    OK, my Geoff johns love-fest is over.

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