Wednesday, November 26, 2008

"Batman R.I.P." Part VI: Batman #681 Annotations

I've been annotating "Batman R.I.P." and discussing Morrison's Batman run nearly issue-by-issue since his "Clown at Midnight" story. Click HERE for all my relevant Morrison Batman posts, and comment below to tell me everything I missed. (Also, this issue seemed even more straightforward than the last issue, but I guess I might as well comment on this one just for the sake of symmetry.)

Batman #681: The Annotations

Cover: Doesn't this Alex Ross cover look like a Matt Wagner composition? It does to me, although I can't come up with a specific reference. Can you?

Page 1: This is the last entry from the Black Casebook, and not only does Batman write about himself in the third person, but he underlines his own name. Thus, he reinforces the notion that Batman is just a persona, perhaps one of many inside the mind of Bruce Wayne.

Pages 2-3: The old hero-buried-alive trope. "Batman thinks of everything," becomes a recurring pattern as we learn more and more about the foresight Batman has -- he plans for eventualities that would never occur to your average fly-by-night superhero.

Also, there's an I Ching "Book of Changes" reference here which relates to the Denny O'Neal-created character (for the mod Wonder Woman era) who popped up in Morrison's "Batman" during the "Resurrection of Ra's al Ghul" crossover.

Page 4: My guess is that this flashback scene takes place sometime during the events of 52, after the Batman-cleanse of issue #30. Not the red and black coloring, which turns out to relate to a Joker-devised pattern (if he is to be believed later on), but also evokes the notion of the Devil as I've been saying for a while.

Page 5: I'm not sure what the "hole in [Bruce's] mind" refers to, exactly. Is it a reference to the Dr. Hurt sensory-deprivation experiments, when Hurt tampered with Batman's brain and inserted stuff that didn't belong? That's what I assume. [Although, Hurt refers himself as the "hole" in things. So there's that.]

But couldn't it also refer to some deeper, more primal psychic scar caused at the moment of Batman's origin?

I think it's too ambiguous to make a positive assertion, but it may not ultimately matter as the important part is the notion that Batman has planned way ahead, and created the Zur En Arrh Batman as an OS reboot for his brain.

Also, the monk apparently works for the Black Glove, or the Devil, or whoever you think is "the Master."

Pages 6-7: Robin vs. Pierrot Lunaire and the Swagman.

Dark Ranger, from the Club of Heroes, shows up. He says, "formerly the Scout," who I assume used to be the Ranger's sidekick, and since the original Dark Ranger died in the story arc running through Batman #667-669, the Scout must have taken his place. Note that this pattern, of the former sidekick taking on the mantle of the hero, is part of Club of Heroes history, as it happened with the Knight and now with Dark Ranger.

Will the same thing happen as a former sidekick (like, say, Nightwing) adopts the role of Batman? One assumes so.

Page 8:Do you think Tony Daniel drew this page and then thought, "geez, I guess I'd better Photoshop some kind of hideous, blurry buildings behind the characters now?" or do you think editorial called up Daniel and said, "geez, Tony, we like the poses here, but could you add something really distracting and out-of-place in the background? Cool. Thanks." Or maybe Guy Major did it.

Anyway, the Club of Heroes has shown up just in time to fight some low-level minions!

From left-to-right, top-to-bottom, we have the Squire, Little Raven (or Red Raven), Man-of-Bats, the Musketeer, the Knight, Dark Ranger, and the Gaucho.

Page 9: More red and black flashback action as we find out that Bruce Wayne has -- aha -- switched the poison goblets because he planned ahead! Or, as he calls it, "force of habit." Or maybe it's because of that Princess Bride marathon he has every year with his best pal Alfred.

Page 10: Dr. Hurt and the members of the Black Glove pay their respects to the buried Batman. Note that he has a purposefully shallow grave because Hurt's plan is to un-bury Batman just after brain-damage sets in. Why? Because.

Jezebel Jet, who has turned out to be EVIL Jezebel Jet, wants to disfigure him. Why? Because.

Pages 11: The Joker reveals that he's not a mere pawn of the Black Glove, as we all suspected, and then revels in actually betting on Batman to take these chumps down. That's the Joker for you -- when the chips are down, he's always going to bet on black.

Page 12: That bat-radia was more than just a crazyperson radio. It was a secret transmitter. Suckers!

And I wonder if Jet's line, "an old broken radio he found in a derelict's abandoned shopping cart," is verification that Honor Jackson was merely a figment of Bruce Wayne's mind (like Bat-Mite). I say, yes.

Page 13: Back at Arkham, Le Bossu (now with a broken nose and/or disfigured face) prepares to lobotomize Dick Grayson as Scorpiana assists. But, silly Le Bossu, Dick Grayson was trained by BATMAN. He's not going to lie back and let you pound a spike into his frontal lobe without a fight.

Page 14: Flashback again. Bruce Wayne saves the life of the monk just so he can tell the bad guy that Batman is ready for him. Also, Bruce Wayne apparently "killed and ate the last traces of fear and doubt," which is nice. And here we were all worried, back when we read 52 #30, that he was going to stop being Batman or something. Ha, that would never happen. Never ever, ever ever.

Except maybe at the end of this issue, because he is dead.

Page 15: I like this silhouette of bustin-out Batman. Nicely done, Tony Daniel.

But when exactly did Batman write this Black Casebook entry? He dies at the end of the issue, and by "dies" I mean, we all know he's not really dead, but he's "dead" for now. But this Black Casebook entry describes everything up through the final confrontation between him and Hurt. So is this him writing about the visions of his future? Or is this him writing about his adventure after he "died"? I say it's a forgery, written by the Richard Gere character.

Page 16: Is Batman hunched a bit awkwardly? Does the shape of the figure and the basic musculature evoke Jim Lee? Is the image not quite as iconic as it should be?

Check. Check. And check.

Then it must be a Tony Daniel splash page!

Pages 17: The Joker takes credit for the red and black motif, referring to the 1980s phone-in death of Robin story. This page makes it seem as if Joker played a much more significant role as a puppet master -- perhaps something even the Black Glove members aren't aware of.

"Apophenia" is when you see symbols and patterns in random and meaningless data. Which is what critics accuse me of doing all the time. And readers accuse Morrison of doing all the time. And it's been part of the Joker's whole deal for the past several issues, implying that Batman sees patterns which aren't even there. Yet, Batman's pattern recognition has been pretty accurate, so what does that mean? It means the Joker is the crazy one.

And here the Joker explicitly calls Dr. Hurt the "devil," and says the the Joker trumps him.

What is beyond Good and Evil? The Joker.

Page 18: Tony Daniel reaches into his bag of tricks and pulls out another Batman pose much like the one a couple of pages ago, except with less shadow!

Jezebel Jet says, "I though I smelled dirt," but, amazingly, Batman has no trace of dirt on him at all. Must be that teflon fabric he started using in preparation for the burial alive he knew was coming.

All of which begs the question: if Batman has such foresight, why does he wait until things look to be at their worst before he reveals his plan? Why not just nip it in the bud like two years ago? I guess Batman likes dramatic tension as much as the next guy.

Pages 19: Batman reveals that he did fall for bad girl Jezebel Jet, but he suspected she was part of the trap from the "second after" he realized he had feelings for her. He's been acting the part of the love interest all along. Sure he has. This was ALL part of his plan.

Page 20: Batman knows everything about Jet's history all of a sudden, which is nice. And he gives props to Alfred for passing along some acting skills to young Master Wayne.

If the Black Glove was around 20 years ago, what does that mean? Does that tell us anything we didn't already know? I don't think so. (Other than the notion that the Black Glove is an organization that wasn't created just to mess with Batman.)

Page 21: Nightwing to the rescue, to which Batman says, "I heart you Dick Grayson with all my hearty heart."

Also, in his Black Casebook entry, he reveals that he couldn't nip the plan in the bud, because he didn't know which bud would blossom into EVIL. A flowering evil of flowery flora. I'm pushing this metaphor too far, and I will stop.

Pages 22: Apparently Robin saved the city while Batman dealt with his own issues.

I don't know how he saved the city, besides punching a few costumed bad guys with the help of Batmen International, but the Squire says he did, so he did.

Robin pulls a wicked sweet wheelie as he races off to Batman's aid. Showboat.

Page 23:
The final fate of Joker and an appearance by Damian and Alfred, all in a one-page scene. Talk about compression!

Is there a pattern to the fact that Damian is the one who sends the Joker over the bridge, or is it all randomness? Depends on whether you're Batman or the Joker, I guess.

Page 24: Exposition time. Note that between last issue and this one, Hurt and his cronies must have undressed Batman (who was wearing his purple, red, and yellow Zur En Arrh costume) and then dressed him in his more traditional costume. Then, on this page, he says he wants Batman to "put away the costume." Make up your mind, Dr. Hurt!

Hurt also gives Bats a verbal smackdown for being a trust fund orphan who "vents his rage and frustration on the poor," which is something I've heard Morrison say when he talks about the Marxist aspects of the Batman mythos.

Page 25: Dr. Hurt IS Thomas Wayne.

No, he's not.

He's Mangrove Pierce.

Um, no.

Okay, then he's "the hole in things."

Oh, "the hole." That wasn't on my list of suspects.

But you've gotta interpret "the hole in things...the enemy, the piece that can never fit, there since the beginning" to be the Devil, right?

Right? Just like I mentioned a few months ago.

Page 26: Hurt, or the Devil, or the metaphorical Devil, or whatever, offers Batman a Faustian Bargain: dedicate his life to the corruption of virtue and save the reputation of everyone he ever loved. "Nah," says Batman, before a 39-degree Lightning Dive! (Which he totally must have practiced for just such an eventuality. The old Satan in a helicopter scenario.)

Page 27:
The third evil Batman pilots the chopper, and if Hurt is the Devil for real, he doesn't show it by using his Devil powers in this scene. He just kind of whines about everything.

"The Black Glove always wins," Hurt says, as Batman's black gloved-fist makes the helicopter go all explodey.

Page 28:
Robin shows up a little too late (maybe if he wasn't hot-doggin' all the way here...)

Then Robin sums up the entire Morrison run in three word balloons, except he left out all the good bits.

Talia shows up, with her League of Assassins and their injections of -- one assumes -- Man-Bat formula.

Page 29:
It's a good thing Batman took off his cape and cowl before jumping onto the helicopter. Otherwise, Nightwing wouldn't have had anything cool to hold as he watched the flames from the rooftop. One wonders if he -- recognizing the symbolic importance of the moment -- would have swung by the Batcave, picked up a spare cape and cowl and come out to this spot to do the pose anyway. I can picture Dick Grayson doing that.

Obviously, this implies that Nightwing will become the next Batman until the real Batman inevitably returns (probably after a little bit of negotiation with the Devil -- maybe Batman will ride out of Hell on a flaming motorcycle! Cool idea, eh? What's Mark Texiera drawing next year?)

Page 30:
This page doesn't show Jezebel Jet die at the hands of Talia's Ninja Manbats, but I'm pretty sure they didn't fly by just to hang out. Still, I'm sure Jet will appear again sometime in the next ten years. Count on it.

Page 31:
Six months later, and no sight of Batman. That Battle for the Cowl thing must have kept him out of the limelight.

Le Bossu's "Even Batman and Robin are dead!" line on this page is answered way back in issue #676, as that Batman and Robin (who I guessed at the time -- and I stand by it -- to be Dick Grayson and Damian) shout "Batman and Robin will never die!"

I like how Morrison doesn't show that part again, but relies on the memories of the reader to connect the two pages -- separated by months and months of real time -- together.

Page 32: [Edited to add: Joe Chill pops up on this final page, foreshadowing the death scene to come. I presume his presence is merely ominous, but I think we can also assume that the Black Glove organization and/or the Devil was involved in Batman's origin. Or if we can't assume it, then we can guess at it.] We all know what happens to momma and poppa Wayne after that night at the movies, and the red and the black coloring ties it all back to the Joker and the Devil once again, but the cool part about this final page is when Thomas Wayne says, "they'd probably throw someone like Zorro in Arkham." To which little Bruce says, "what?"

Then, in backwards lettering "Zur En Arrh." As in a slurring of "Zorro in Arkham." That's what this whole thing has been about -- the crazed Zorro, aka Batman, and his adventures into madness. I like how Morrison turns a 1950s nonsense phrase into something meaningful to the Batman character.

Batman is "dead." The Black Glove defeated -- sort of. Dr. Hurt is exploded. The Devil may or may not have even been part of this. The Joker's in a flying ambulance, headed for the river. Plot threads still dangle, and I wonder how many answers we'll get in the next couple of Morrison issues, which are all about Alfred looking back at Batman's life.

Or maybe anyone looking for a plot in the life of a character merely suffers from apophenia.

56 comments:

Anonymous said...

I appreciate the effort here to give the issue its due, but it left me flat.

"Now do you get it?!" screamed the end of 680. I didn't. And I still don't. And at this point, with the end of the "RIP" saga--it says "conclusion" on the cover--that's no longer my fault. It's Morrison's.

Who is/was the Black Glove? Hurt seems not to have been the Black Glove; it's all five of them. What was their involvement with the Waynes (wasn't everyone involved in the movie killed--weren't the Waynes/Alfred involved?)?

"Heart of Hush" may not have had the layers "RIP" did, but at least it worked as a story.

Specific question for you: What is the purpose of Chill in the last panel? You didn't mention it. I assume it is Chill--does this leave open a possible alternative? If Zur En Arrh is the trigger phrase Hurt devises, is Hurt there when the Waynes get shot?

Thanks for the efforts throughout Tim, it made me appreciate the journey more, but I'm just let down by where we ended up. Which I am not sure where that is.

monstermike said...

Compare page 16 to the cover and first couple pages of Miller's Dark Knight Strikes Again #1. Morrison's been doing this quite a bit - there's a silhouette panel in Final Crisis #1 or #2 (with Turpin running through Bludhaven with a stylized helicopter) that's straight out of Miller, and an earlier Tony Daniel drawn issue (#672) has a full-page splash that's practically the cover of The Dark Knight Returns unsilhouetted.

Bots'wana Beast said...

There are numerous mentions, I noticed on second-read to 'the Devil' (well, about 3x, and obviously the Joker's h/t) so I think he can be scored up as the ultimate manifestation of The Black Glove, such as it is - Hurt, otoh, could be any one of Thomas Sr., Jr. or - rather tediously - Mangrove Pierce. It's all a wee bit like Sublime at the end of NXM, really.

Greg said...

You write about Bat-Mite appearing on page 8. My copy does not have that page. What, indeed, the hell? Did anyone else have this problem? Considering what happened in Northlanders this week, DC had a bad day with the printing and stapling process.

Timothy Callahan said...

Ha--the Bat-Mite page does not exist!

It's a plot caused by the Devil!

(Actually, I'll fix it--It's just an incorrect cut-and-paste job from when I added the header. Oops!)

Greg said...

Phew! I thought I was in. sane. As the Joker might say.

David Uzumeri said...

I guess the only thing that bugged me about this issue, as great as it was, is that I don't really see any reason for Batman to give up the cowl after this. I mean, he just beat the Devil and seemingly died in a helicopter crash, but almost definitely didn't... why would he do anything other than swim to shore, go back to the Batcave and start repairing? Or is he like actively afraid of Hurt's curse? Or do I just need to see if I can take medication for my apophenia?

Jason D. Manger said...

Thanks once again for a great annotation to this excellent but wholly confusing storyline :-)

Jeff said...

Thanks for the annotations, but damn if someone isn't in a snarky mood.

Timothy Callahan said...

I know what you mean, David. And it's difficult to separate what you know about the future of the comic (and the character) from the story being told.

But if you hadn't heard about the Battle for the Cowl, and if you didn't see Batman in a zillion other forthcoming comics, would you have liked the ending of this issue more?

I think my disappointment -- even though I liked the issue -- is almost purely based on promises that this issue would explain everything and it would be the most shocking thing in the history of the Batman universe ever. You commented on that at FB already. But it is silly for us to judge the book based on what the solicitations promised, I think. Yet, it's hard not to.

Timothy Callahan said...

Snarky-tastic.

Jeff said...

Also, concerning the cowl...the artwork doesn't really make it clear how it gets removed from Bruce as he pursues the chopper...could Hurt somehow have "devil-magicked" it off?

Timothy Callahan said...

Bruce pulls it back in the final confrontation, pre-helicopter jump, with Hurt. Right when he calls him Mangrove Pierce.

David Uzumeri said...

There's actually a series of panels on Tony Daniel's blog labeled "alternate ending" that appears to be a version of the cowl-takeoff where he only pulls it down rather than throwing the whole thing away.

Regarding the solicitations, yeah, that's true, but the thing is also that I was sitting there at NYCC while Morrison told a huge panel that the end of Batman RIP would be the biggest shocker in seventy years. And while there's no doubt this was a fantastic issue as the culmination of Batman versus Douchebag Gamblers and Guy With Devil Motif, there's so much left unanswered - especially the Joker's line last issue about "who Doctor Hurt is and why he hates YOU" - that my initial reaction, and this was probably unfair on my part and largely informed by all the wailing about rewrites and editorial intervention on LITG lately, was that Morrison's big shock ending got excised because editorial got cold feet.

Which was a pretty unrealistic thought in retrospect. I've got no problem with it if these questions, the ones raised in the text, get explained eventually. But if these are just going to be loose threads and this is the very last we'll ever hear of Simon Hurt and the Black Glove, then I really don't know why Morrison went to all the trouble of hinting at a major personal beef between Hurt and Bruce and then had it be a complete feint.

David Uzumeri said...

Sorry, those panels: http://tonydaniel.blogspot.com/2008_10_01_archive.html#8714306092243905564

Thiago said...

About the last page, could the fact that Thomas and Martha are wearing black gloves be a suggestion that they were part of the Black Glove, or do I suffer from Apophenia, too?.

Anonymous said...

Loved the book.

Grant is one f the few authors I never get sick of re-reading.

This issue was completely worth it. THe next two issues will probably clarify a lot of what has gone before. Great escapist fiction!

Jeff Cannell
(i have been loving these annotations!)

Anonymous said...

bruce wayne explicitly doesn't die in the helicopter explosion. How else is he writing the final black casebook entry in which he talks about seeing hurt's fear? it's not his internal monologue.

Mike C. said...

Tim,

Regarding the "hole in [Bruce's] head", I might be really stretching here, but considering the Biblical themes that seem to be running through this story and the fact the the ultimate antagonist may, in fact, be the Devil is it unreasonable to suggest that the line might be an allusion to Original Sin... the Christian one not the Marvel one. It's an idea I couldn't get out of my head when I read the line.

Chad Nevett said...

So THAT's what you sound like, Tim!

(I couldn't think of anything else to say--but, yeah, I listened.)

Anonymous said...

Brilliant post, love the annotations. I just don't get R.I.P. at all. This last issue killed me.

So who is Hurt after all? Why was Alfred with Damien? Where was the fate worse than death that Morrison said would befall Batman? Where is all this?

Timothy Callahan said...

Dr. Hurt is the Devil, by all indications. Damien rescued Alfred from the mansion, as he says.

Maybe next issue will answer more questions?

David Uzumeri said...

Hurt being the devil just -- I don't know, it really just rings so incredibly false to me, because the devil has no specific reason to hate Bruce Wayne, and the whole Hurt=devil thing was practically set up/revealed as early as #666 and 674. I was rereading this interview from May http://comics.ign.com/articles/876/876418p1.html, and the way Grant describes things is really different from the way they turned out.

"Well the whole story is built towards a very big peak, and the big reveal comes in the very last issue. There's a kind of pyramid of influence. At the bottom you have the Club of Villains who are working with the Black Glove. Then you have the Black Glove organization, which is a group of very wealthy people who we meet in the upcoming issue. And then above that you have the identity of the Black Glove, who is a person."

Andrew Moser said...

Great commentary, thanks!

Did anyone else notice Robin's reflection in the Dark Ranger's mask on page 8? Everyone (including myself) is expecting Dick to take over for Bruce, but don't rule Tim out just yet!

And of course there is Damian asking if he can keep the Batmobile. Count him in for the battle, too.

This issue wasn't so much a "conclusion" as it was a beginning.

Eric Garrison said...

This issue was utterly confusing. It seems that for each issue, we have to read annotations in order to properly understand what each issue was about.

I love the fact that Grant Morrison is referencing all points of the Batman comics history (the Jason Todd crowbar reference was nice).

But, I think we were all expecting a grand conclusion to the storyline. In the end, it seemed to fall flat. I think it was rewritten due to editorial mandate (and as mentioned in other comments, Tony Daniel's blog mentions an alternate ending.

Timothy Callahan said...

I'm working on this week's Splash Page column with Chad Nevett right now, and the more I discuss this issue, the more unresolved threads I find.

This R.I.P. conclusion feels like a false climax to me, and a bigger climax and resolution is on its way. But since we don't know if Morrison will indeed return to the series now, everything feels up in the air.

Pallas said...

I'll explain it all as I see it!

The Joker said last issue that the thing that cracks him up about Batman is that Batman thinks somehow that it all makes sense.

But it doesn't. That's the message in this story. Even at the last page Morrison's throwing out more clues (with the Wayne's wearing black gloves) but the clues don't go anywhere, there isn't some great pattern waiting to be discovered, as the Joker said, "that's not life, that's Wikipedia."

Dr. Hurt is maybe a evil psychologist who drives people into thinking he is the devil, or maybe is is a supernatural evil, or maybe he's a crazy gambler who likes to play people, or maybe he's Joe Chill's son or somebody with a beef about Thomas Wayne or maybe he's "Bruce's double" whatever the heck that means.

The clues are there, unsolved, or maybe there is nothing but coincidence and ambiguity. batman suggests that Hurt is really "Mangrove Pierce" but it seems like a crazy theory batman is putting out there, lost in the nonsense of life. Hurt refutes being Pierce, and Batman does not insist that Batman's theory was correct, Batman does not seem to know.

Hurt says he is the "Piece that can never fit."

He's the puzzle Batman can never solve. Batman writes down the adventure in the Black Case book, where he puts unsolved mysteries. There is no answer. Batman also says he feels he has discovered a limit to reason, he writes "Did I finally reach the limits of reason?" in the book.

But psychologically speaking, the Black Glove is of course Wayne's subconscous, which is why Batman in the meditation scene, asks 'Have I been, even subconsciously, my own worst enemy?" The image we see is of the Batman's BLACK GLOVE smashing through the window shield to finish off HURT. We also see Batman's BLACK GLOVE rising out of the coffin.

Batman worries about "A scar on my consciousness" and "a hole in my mind, waiting to open up and swallow me whole." during the Thogal scene.

The final scene in the epilogue gives a Thomas and Martha wearing black gloves, "zorro in Archam" slurred in Bruce's memory to "Zurr en arghh", a half remembered phrase raddlign in his mind. Red and black. Unseen figures in the background. Half forgotten facts in the back of Batman's mind which will never be put together into something that makes sense, no matter how much Batman tries to work the mysteries out.

Maybe Bruce created Batman as a way of coping with his parents death making the Zorro idea in the back of his mind merge into the Batman idea. But he needed an ultimate enemy to be behind the murder in order to make sense of the world, hence his imagination turned the black gloves his parents were wearing into the ultimate threat. This is, psychologically speaking, what is going on.

Preston said...

Oh snap, this annotation is full of snark and wit! And that's just how I like it, seriously Tim you left me chuckling a few times there.

BTW, was the Richard Gere a reference to the bland Nights in Rodanthe movie?

Rob Pugh said...

You'll have to count me in the disappointed category, despite my love of both the character and Morrison's writing.

It's all painfully anti-climactic, with so many unanswered questions and no real resolution. Which, you know, doesn't befit a conclusion.

I get that the reader is supposed to make his own connections and develop his own meanings to both literature and life, but I've really no interest in a tale that leaves *everything* ambiguous with me to put it all together. And ends with the author basically saying "Well, what did *you* think it was/meant?"

I'd write my own stories if I wanted to weave whole tales from cloth, or pick up an old "Choose Your Own Adventure" book.

Batman R.I.P. [and what the hell did that ever end up standing for, anyways?] turned into, for me, a lot of interesting and fascinating character and set pieces without a real plot. Or purpose.

R.I.P. doesn't mean anything [in comic book terms] since we know it's Wayne in Final Crisis and the story really gives no indication why the "Black Glove" was supposed to be so profound or full of impact, such an important test for him or the Batman persona. And he doesn't even seem any different in FC, despite being taken off the board early.

I think RIP kind of works an a psychological examination of Batman and his world, like "Arkham Asylum" for example, but fails as an in-continuity, monthly series, comic book story. And it really fails as any kind of "Conclusion."

Kris Krause said...

I'm going to have to disagree with your insistence on pinning the devil to this story. As Pallas went into above me, the story seemed to me to be all about Bruce's obsessive need to fit clues together to superhuman level when he is just a man. The closest thing to perfection any man can be, but a man, nonetheless.

All along I've considered Morrison's run to be reminiscent of Thomas Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49, and this ending continues to fit that pattern. Like Oedipa, Bruce is seeing clues where none exist, and we too, like Bruce, are desperately searching for an answer when we don't even fully understand the question.

Symbolically, Batman, born in the 1930's, is the ultimate Modernist ideal, and Morrison has deconstructed both Batman and that ideal into a swarm of chaos that looks like order, if you want it to. As stated in the text, Hurt is the hole, there from the beginning. He's the reality that despite Bruce's goal to understand every eventuality, it simply can't be done.

Ironically the most shocking revelation in the history of Batman comics is something right there on the surface, but constantly forgotten. Batman is just a man. He isn't perfect, contrary to many depictions of him and his endless contingency plans. He's damn close to perfection, but like all humans, there will always a hole, a gap between their finite limitations as a human and the infinite possibilities the mind can detect.

Ronan said...

Why does the devil hate batman so much? Do-gooder etc.

How is the devil batman's father? He is the evil in all man, he is the guiding force in Chill's trigger finger. Thomas Wayne is Bruce's father (Pierce/Hurt is double of Thomas). Devil is batman's

He killed Pierce and wore his skin? Hurt was/is Pierce but at this point its the devil and he is only wearing his form or at least that is what he believes. If he is then....Pierce made faustian pact of some kind? For revenge?

Is Bruce dead...nope. Is Bruce dead as batman...yip

I liked it, its vague but I liked the last episode of the sopranos...

The joker apophenia thing is the best part of the book. Last ten pages should have been a whole issue...final crisis mode taking over? Man bats can fly really fast.

Anonymous said...

Now the story continues to Final Crisis where Bruce wears the cowl one last time. So he is clearly not meant to die here.

Jim said...

I think Dr Hurt is really just Judas Traveller.

Mic Bartz said...

It's lame ending. They advertised the whole thing is as "Batman's final fate!", so where is it, the bloddy final fate? A nw cape for the gallery?
I think it turns out this way: Morrisson, being a fan of Silver Age Batman, does surely know of a story, in which was revealed that Joe Chill actually was a hired killer in services of mobster Lew Moxon, Thpmas Wayne could testify againt him. So, he killed the Waynes, but not Bruce, so it would look like armed robbery.
Now it could be possible, that "The Black Glove" actually ist the person, who once gave assignment to kill the Waynes.
Once he brought in Bat-Mite, why not revise Lew Moxon?

Manolis Vamvounis said...

i think Pallas nailed the whole thing

I'm more inclined to believe Hurt is really Pierce who escaped prison and took on the fake Hurt identity, became obsessed with the Waynes and Batman and eventually came to believe he was more than a man, he was Thomas Wayne or he was really the devil wearing his once human husk...

Anonymous said...

Is Zorro in Arkham--"What?"--the trigger phrase, Zur en Arrh? Did the Black Glove go back that far?

I think the ending is purposefully vague: It doesn't rule out anyone from being the Black Glove, does it?

Jordan said...

...So did you like it? Your annotations seem very sarcastic and dissmissive, which leads me to believe you DIDN'T like it. But you're such a big Morrisson fan.

I am very, very disappointed and perplexed by this "conclusion."


-Jordan

The Crafty Trilobite said...

This is exactly the sort of thing that irritates me about The Great Grant Morrison -- he appears to have principled objections to ever having a story make sense. I'm with Steven Brust on this one: first and foremost, your story should work as a story. Then you can lard in all the clever symbolism, word games, layering, etc. that you like. But setting up a mystery and refusing to answer it is tedious and unfair to the readers who have been trying to make sense of it all.

Worse yet, there is no possible satisfactory answer. Not only would an explanation in a future issue be an anticlimax, but there are too many contradictions and random, unmotivated events.

Pallas is right -- it works as symbolism. The problem is, other people in the story see the events happening (well, most of them). So we're not just seeing Wayne's fantasy; the implicit bargain with the reader is that there will turn out to be some other explanation. But what? What could possibly make the real world reflect Wayne's own internal problems so well? The Devil? Come ON -- if you have to blame it all on the Devil, then you're a lousy writer. And even the Devil needs motivation. Think of the Book of Job: apparently arbitrary destruction of Job's life, but we the readers see the Adversary's motivation and it fits all of his acts. Or Othello -- Iago's motivation is deliberately obscured, but we know how he achieves his effects and we have a few possible motivations any of which could reasonably work. Here, it's just this great big void.

Sure, that makes an artistic statement: the world makes no sense and can't; if you want sense, go to Wikipedia, not real life. But, as Dustin Hoffman's agent in 'Tootsie' said, "People don't wanna go to the theater to see people living next to chemical waste! They can drive across the bridge to New Joisey to see that!"
We all know parts of life don't make perfect sense and aren't under our control -- and that's exactly WHY we go to art, to find ways to manage the chaos. Morrison refuses to make that attempt, and tells us the best the hero can do is go mad himself and die. That is not an artistic statement I want to spend $4/issue on.

I am SO glad I decided not to buy this storyline.

md said...

"All along I've considered Morrison's run to be reminiscent of Thomas Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49, and this ending continues to fit that pattern. Like Oedipa, Bruce is seeing clues where none exist, and we too, like Bruce, are desperately searching for an answer when we don't even fully understand the question."

Thank you, Kris!

md said...

@The Crafty Trilobite: You need to read more postmodern fiction. I'd recommend starting with City of Glass, the first novella in Paul Auster's New York Trilogy.

Kalki-El said...

R.I.P = Rest in Pieces?

Could the "hole" = Joyce's gnomon, the absent piece of a parallelogram?

When "everything counts," then a constellation of parallels results in the modern deconstructionist's dilemma: to make sense of relativity requires slipping into a form of apophenia.

Childhood trauma (to varying degrees) triggers psychological fragmentation, leading to multiple personae.

We cope by creating the illusion of unity, sometimes aided by the creation of a "tulpa," an imaginary guide made manifest.

Morrison admits to being influenced by Alvin Schwartz's book, "Unlikely Prophet."

I recommend Schwartz's book as a key to understanding both R.I.P and All-Star Superman.

Rob Pugh said...

I've read both of Alvin Schwartz's books [and enjoyed them immensely] but neither helps me understand Batman RIP.

And after a couple days I'm leaning more towards the story working on a symbolic/post-modern level, but not at all as an in-continuity, monthly comic book.

And the "buried alive" and "explosion/no body" tropes are more annoying the more I think about them...

...and I think anyone telling anyone else they "need to read more post modern fiction" is one of the big reasons they actually don't, and maybe don't care so much its proponents... fwiw.

Bruce Castle said...

Hey Tim,

I’m a long time reader, first time commenter. I always enjoy these and your writing in general. Of course that may be because of my unhealthy love for Morrison's writing.

Enough praise, I also have some self-promotion. I wrote about Batman #681 here.

http://readrant.wordpress.com/2008/11/27/review-batman-681-spoilers/

It's long, but it wouldn't be worth reading if it wasn't, right? Thanks a lot and keep up the good work!

Timothy Callahan said...

Jordan: Did I like it?

Yeah, I did. Chad and I are going to talk about the issue in this week's Splash Page, but even with my disappointment at the lack of concrete resolution (and that disappointment was based on my stupid contextual assumptions from the solicitations ABOUT this issue, not because I didn't like the actual issue itself) I still feel like "Batman" has been, BY FAR, the best Marvel or DC comic of the past six months.

The fact that we're still talking about it testifies to how important this comic is. A lot of other stuff doesn't make complete sense, and nobody cares enough to write endless blog posts, discussion threads, or comments on it. "Batman" has been a lot of fun, and an intellectually stimulating exercise, and I think it's not over yet.

Rob Pugh said...

I don't know... you keep laying the blame with the "solicitations"... but the solicitations didn't really say anything that Morrison himself hyped in panels and interviews... and then Didio and DC's marketing did the same.

RIP was interesting, but not fulfilling... emotionally, intellectually, or as a story... for me, of course.

And the fact that folks are talking about it doesn't necessarily imply its importance. In fact in this case, it seems they're talking about it because they WANTED it to BE important, and it turned out it doesn't really seem to be. They're talking about it because they're disappointed in it.

Timothy Callahan said...

I think Morrison's Batman run will always be seen as hugely important. It may not affect the continuity in the long-term (as much of Morrison's work tends to be washed away by the writers who follow him), but there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that even if this Dr. Hurt thing is never resolved completely, this run will be looked at as a milestone in Batman storytelling for decades.

If you look at Batman runs from the Bronze Age onward, it will be O'Neil/Adams, Englehart/Rogers, Miller/Mazuchelli, Loeb/Sale, Morrison/Daniel. Those will be the biggies.

Ten years from now, come back and tell me how wrong I am about that. I don't think I will be.

Rob Pugh said...

Man is History going to be busy... what with having to judge both the Morrison/Daniel Batman run and the GWBush administration.

[Thanks and be sure to tip your waitresses.]

Oh, and earlier, instead of "solicitations didn't really say anything that Morrison himself hyped" it should have been, obviously that the "solicitations didn't really say anything that Morrison himself didnt say while hyping it at panels, etc"

Fingers and brain clearly not working the same speed.

Anonymous said...

An earlier poster intriguingly compared RIP to The Crying of Lot 49 as a way of dismissing the theory that Dr. Hurt is the devil. I'm in basic agreement that the unreliable pattern recognition driving Bruce's thoughts seems to be at the center of the story and that Hurt's position at the navel of this process (where the dream can no longer be rationalized) is more important than his identity. Still, it's not like Lot 49 doesn't produce the exact same sort of figure in the form of A.) Trystero and B.) Maxwell's Demon (the latter a possible equivalent for the Batman persona in the ideal, a quantum rationalist). Within this kind of story, where the detective imposes meaning upon possibly chaotic patterns, it seems like a devil figure emerges to fill the place of the ultimate puppeteer, the guarantee that everything means something and has something to do with us.

-Dan

David Uzumeri said...

Mr. Rich Johnston claims he hasn't heard anything about Batman RIP rewrites, so I'm pretty sure they didn't occur. This is Grant's ending. Wonder what the next two issues will bring - the cover scan of Bats 682 on ebay has it as both a Last Rites and Final Crisis tie-in.

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alex said...

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Collier said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Eric said...

P. 17 - Joker says, "Pleased to meet you" to "the Devil" Rolling Stones reference?

Eric said...

And, if Hurt is the Devil, is this in a sense a retelling of the Job story, where the Devil makes a bet that he can crush a man's soul and is proven wrong?

If so, that puts the Joker in the role of God as the counter-bettor.

Elias Nebula said...

I dig the Pynchon comparison too, although I don't know if Grant Morrison is hip to it. Nota bene, the "villain" (or ghostly architect of the hoax) in that novel is one PIERCE Inverarity (which sounds like "pierce inveracity" which suggests piercing non-truths). Which is echoed in "Mangrove Pierce" - sorta.
Also, the last time Pierce Inverarity is ever heard by Oedipa Maas he is impersonating Lamont Cranston (The Shadow). That isn't an answer - of course - merely further obfuscation. Still, isn't it nice to idly conjecture? Beats reading What If... House of M by a country mile.
Also - wouldn't it be great if they resumed the DC version of The Shadow? The Kyle Baker one? An unsung classic, lads.
Lamont Cranston = Dr. Hurt = Batman.
Grant Morrison can suck and stink at times, but I agree that this particular arc is the best in the genre today. Christ, comic readers are being made to THINK. Whoever heard of that?

Sinclair said...

Can someone explain something to me?

On page 23, Dr. Hurt/the Devil clearly states that he is the one he painted Zur-En-Arrh on the walls of Gotham and in previous issues, we'd been led to believe that Hurt implanted to phrase as far back as in when Batman entered the isolation tank.

Yet then, on the final page, there's a clear suggestion that Bruce himself had created the trigger phrase as a mechanism for resisting psychic attack and obviously, we've been told multiple times that he booted to a created personality of the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh while his mind was rebooting.

So which is it? It makes me feel a bit stupid.