Remember when Batman: R.I.P. jumped right into Final Crisis and there wasn’t a whole lot of explanation as to what happened when the helicopter went down? DC and Grant Morrison attempt to rectify that gap in storytelling with a two part story that fills in the missing chapter…
Previously in Batman: Well, you would probably need to go back a few years…While dating Jezebel Jet, the model discovers Bruce Wayne’s true identity and convinces Bruce that Batman is a fabrication created to deal with the death of his parents. Apparently this caused Bruce to snap, dress up as the Batman of Zur-en-arrh and roam the streets all drugged up and out of his mind.
The Black Glove, led by Dr. Hurt, had placed subliminal triggers around Gotham City to trigger Bruce Wayne’s psychosis, and when the final confrontation goes down, Dr. Hurt claims he is really Bruce’s father. It’s a lot to take in, especially when the Joker and Grant Morrison are involved. The climax of R.I.P. featured Dr. Hurt attempting to escape via helicopter, with Batman in tow, who causes the copter to crash in a fiery explosion.
Batman #701 is what happened immediately following that crash.
STEPHEN: To be honest, I’ve always wanted to tell a comic story where there was a huge gap in the story and in issue numbering that could then be visited at a later time, so I appreciate what DC and Morrison are doing. However, with Batman doing the Billy Pilgrim, and Dick always somewhere else doing Bat-things off panel, jumping back to the height of Grant Morrison’s crazy ass run on Batman seems a little odd to say the least. If this issue was really planned to follow #682 but got pushed thanks to the Final Crisis deal, I can understand, but two years later? That’s a big jump in comic book time, what with all the new readers DC is bringing in each and every day…
MATTHEW: Let me get this out right up front: I am very skeptical that this was the plan from day one. I honestly believe that there was enough, “Wait, WHUT?” going on in the world that DC turned that hue and cry into the latest big thing for Batman, allowing Grant to add depth and texture to the moments between RIP and Final Crisis, and then (AND ONLY THEN) was it decided to go with “I meant to do that. That’s exactly how I wanted that comic to look.”
STEPHEN: Yup, I think you are right on the money on that.
The biggest problem with jumping back to an old story is that we’ve already seen what happened next. The return of Dr. Hurt/Thomas Wayne does make this an issue that ties to current events, but otherwise, there really doesn’t seem to be a lot going on in this story. Maybe you’ve read into a lot more than I have?
MATTHEW: Not at all… In fact, it’s hard for me to reconcile the timeframe here, and the whole thing ends up feeling like a flashback for me. Much as with the Jason Todd reveal in #617 a few years ago, Doctor Hurt’s initial appearance was shocking, but once that wore off, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of novelty to the character, especially since there’s pretty much NO way that he is who he says he is.
STEPHEN: When it comes to the art, I like what Tony Daniel is offering up. The characters look good, the framing and composition is there. The one thing that does bother me about Daniel in this issue is that everyone who is talking does it through closed lips. How are they supposed to utter words when their mouths are closed?
MATTHEW: Daniel for me has the same issue as with Ed Benes. His individual images are pretty, but they don’t follow the rules of storytelling, they don’t add up when run back to back, and sometimes the panel progression just doesn’t flow. I hadn’t noticed the closed-mouth thing, but I had noticed that expressions don’t seem to fit the emotions and that everyone’s body language is wonky.
STEPHEN: There are a few things that have really screwed up Batman these last couple of years, but this does feel oddly right in a way. Still, I’m disappointed there’s a whole lot of nothing going on. I’d like to think this is a fast paced tale that moves and is incredibly engaging, but for me it read like all those people who Twitter what they had for lunch. It’s pretty to look at, and there is more than a passing curiosity in finding out what happens next, but at the end of the day, I think I can only give this issue 2 out of 5 Stars.
MATTHEW: I wasn’t reading Batman before RIP (unless you count the superlative ‘Club of Heroes’ arc) so I can’t really compare, but this issue is, as you say, much ado about not much at all. It felt like a trailer for a bigger Batman story, to me, and since it is ostensibly designed to fill in the gaps in a PREVIOUS story, that’s pretty much an unforgivable sin. Comic book timeframes are unstable enough (try and figure out Captain America’s post-resurrection activities some time… He’s been runnin’ like a constipated weiner dog!) without muddying the waters with time-travel and flashbacks (in EVERY sense of the word.) I normally love Grant, but this just didn’t do it for me, and earns a confused 1.5 out of 5 stars from me.