Thursday, November 27, 2008

Batman #681 Review

Recently reviewed by me at CBR: Batman #681 about which I write the following sentences: "Is this issue a satisfying conclusion to 'Batman R.I.P.'? Yes, as the events of recent issues are explained and put into context more explicitly. But yet we're left with plenty of unanswered questions about the larger picture, and the final few sequences seem too abrupt, as if we're flashing toward too many previews of things to come even as some of the dangling threads have been left unresolved."

Read the entire review HERE.

Note: I stand by this spoiler-free review, even though I do say that the "true identity of Dr. Hurt" is revealed. I'm not sure I would say that anymore, because the more I've thought about it, the more I realize how ambiguous the reveal is. When I read it (twice) right before writing my review, it seemed pretty clear that Hurt was being revealed as the Devil. But as you can see even in the review, I conceded that we were left with many unanswered questions.

I do think Batman #681 is a three-and-a-half-star book, since it does plenty of things really well (basically all of the Joker stuff until his ambulance-fall-off-the bridge, the Club of Heroes arrival, the super-plans of the Batman, the flashback with the poison, the betting on Batman, the Zur En Arrh/Zorro in Arkham bit) and other things not so well (the rushed fragments of ending, the lack of a resolution or full explanation, some of the artwork). Still, as I mentioned in a comment on my annotations, I think Batman has been "by far" the best Marvel or DC ongoing series over the past six months. There's more to discuss in any single issue of this series than in a year's worth of other mainstream comics. And anything that provokes thought and discussion is better than something that doesn't as far as I'm concerned.


marcwrz said...

Eh best mainstream book? I'm going to have to respectfully disagree, I think Captain America is beating it by far. The quality has been more consistent, especially in part due to the art team. Tony Daniels isn't bad, but he's still got a long way to go.

David Uzumeri said...

"And anything that provokes thought and discussion is better than something that doesn't as far as I'm concerned."

Amen, Mr. Callahan.

Kris Krause said...

That was cool of you to update your take on the final issue and concede that the Black Glove reveal wasn't as solid as you originally posted. It shows you're still thinking about things, even after you've already formed and stated an opinion. Not that I thought less of you, it's just nice to see that in practice.

I agree that Batman is by far the best mainstream book running. Captain America is well written, entertaining, and carries great art, but thought provoking it is not. Don't get me wrong, I love that book, but what I love more is the experience Grant Morrison has given us with his run on Batman, from brushing up on old, forgotten Batman stories to finding a new, creative angle on a 70 year old and deeply explored icon of the comics industry.

As far as thought provoking goes, I've gone as far as to compare this run to a Thomas Pynchon book and despite my love for comics, I never expected to post that to the internet about a mainstream superhero book. Morrison didn't transcend the superhero genre, he elevated it and it's been nice to have places like this blog where elevated analysis has come hand in hand with this amazing run.

Shecky Shabazz said...

The main thing about Morrison's Batman and especially RIP has been the immense amount of excitement, theories and discussion it has generated. I can honestly say that I haven't been this caught up in a work of entertainment since I was a teen.

As a trade, RIP may not read all that great (we'll have to see, it's not really over yet), but, as Callahan pointed out in his recent Words Collide-column, it has been an immensely involving monthly comic (although the "monthliness" could be debated) . I think this has been a formidable success of this run, how it utilizes the wait between the issues. And really, that's the fun of reading monthly comics. The sense of being right there inside a story that's not finished, where the end really hasn't been concieved of.

As for artwork, I've never thought Tony Daniel was the right man for the job. He does well with the pin-ups, but he is just way to sloppy for such a detailed script. Just look at the run by JH Wiliams and imagine how precise RIP could have been. Or even Andy Kubert. Or any other of DC's more precise pencillers (why is an artist like Scott Hampton not put on a major book like Batman?).

Marvel has been stealing a lot of DC's best artist over the last few years, but few people seem to be going the other way. I myself am hoping for a post-all-the-mess Batman book by Grant Morrison and Alan Davis. I'm well aware that I must keep dreaming.

YoungDayofAllDays said...

Thanks so much for all of your RIP commentary (also pre-RIP, for that matter.) I've really loved Morrison's run on this book, and your analysis has only enhanced my enjoyment. Cheers!

Timothy Callahan said...

Yeah, you know Marc, I did consider Captain America as a contender for "best mainstream" book when I typed those lines about "Batman," but as much as I like Cap, and think Brubaker has produced a well-oiled machine of serialized storytelling, it's still just a really good Captain America story. "Batman" is something more.

Also--and I'll probably devote a blog post to this. Over the past couple of months, Brubaker's "Daredevil" has actually surpassed his recent "Captain America" issues. Check out the Lady Bullseye arc and see the reivigorated Daredevil!

Still not as thought-provoking as "Batman," though.

R said...

You know, all of these are good points but the end was definitely hurt by the fact that Morrison made a big deal out of the reveal of the Black Glove. Then he ends up not delivering on that promise at all. It's hard to enjoy the ambiguity if you're told it's going to be a definitive reveal. If Morrison had never made those comments, I think I would have loved it. As it stands, I'm annoyed. This may stand as the best argument for people to stop peeking behind the scenes so hard and grilling authors before their stories are even published. Let the work speak for itself, you know?

Anonymous said...

Just heard GM on UK BBC Radio 5. Just a 20 seconds bit, he said there were three issues of the story left and that this was the end of Bruce Wayne as Batman although he would be back. The presenter referred to GM killing off Bruce Wayne but GM didn't use this phrase. If only I didn't have children; I wpould have been able to listen to the spot and maybe even remember it!

Anonymous said...

All of the issues of Daredevil and Cap blur together. Each new issue is just more of the same. I like both of those series--though I think they're getting a little run-of-the-mill feeling--but they're not as unique, issue by issue, as Batman has been for the last year and a half or so.

I also agree that the reveal of the Devil is not very clear. But I think it works better this way than for the realistic mood to be shattered by a demon bursting out of Hurt's skin or whatever.

Anonymous said...

What was the phrase? "The biggest reveal" of however many years . . .

No reveal. Failure. Good moments, yes, but a letdown.

Pains me to say it--I've loved Morrison, especially his Batman work, since Gothic and Arkham Asylum. But a spade's a spade.

Is he going to give any interviews?

Zom said...

Marcwrz, I agree that Captain America is an excellent book, but it's basically comics aping telly. Admittedly telly with an enormous budget, but telly nonetheless. GM's Batman, on the other hand, is very definitely a comic revelling in its comicness, which, sadly, is increasingly rare in today's superhero market.

I feel guilty about spamming your thread up with a link to our site, Tim, but the Poodle has written a great deal of words about this issue, and I think your readers might be interested.

Amongst many, many others things, he gets into why Damien ramming the Joker off the bridge is actually more interesting than it might first appear. Sold it to this sceptic anyway.

Rath said...

I'm convinced that the full page shot of Nightwing holding the cowl & cape while surveying the destruction was a foreshadowing image. The way the cape is billowing out behind him, I instantly thought "this is the shape of things to come" - although, and here's the disclaimer, I am reminded at this point of the fact that virtually every prediction I have ever made has been wrong.

alex said...

Zom is correct--That's been the defining characteristic of Brubaker's comics: take a sweet story, and put in a familiar face. He's really good at taking typical genre stories and pasting a superhero into it, but that's less interesting than the experiments in form Morrison constantly provides.

Garland said...

not in his DNA, but in his mind.

like his mind has nothing to do with his DNA. Come on Morrison and/or Callahan, if you're going to sell us this kind of thing, at least try to keep some semblance of coherence.