I'm not assigned to review Batman #682 for CBR, and now that "Batman R.I.P." is over, I'm not going to be doing any more annotations for Morrison's Batman run (and, let's be honest, my annotations had devolved into snarky commentary punctuated by the occasional moment of clarity, anyway).
But I'll talk about this issue anyway, not only because it has my favorite Alex Ross Batman cover, ever. Does anyone else love the day-glow cover as much as I do? It's such a brilliant contrast to the solemn covers of most of the "R.I.P." arc.
So after Morrison's ambiguous ending to "Batman R.I.P." in which he clearly revealed that Dr. Hurt, the leader of the Black Glove organization, was actually the Devil -- okay, it wasn't clear, and Hurt may not be the Devil at all, but it was whatever it was -- Morrison comes back a week later with an issue that is all fragmented memories and sense impressions.
It's not going to help you clear anything up, if the last issue left you with any questions.
Although, SPOILER, Batman is alive. Bet you didn't see that coming! Yup, it turns out that he's alive, and jacked into a Apokoliptic machine for something called "Final Crisis." I'm not sure what that is, but I think there used to be a comic book by that name that started coming out and then kinda stopped. I'll get back to you if I find out more.
Digression #1: Did y'all read the Mike Marts interview at IGN? I love Mike Marts. He does confirm that "that all signs are pointing towards Dr. Hurt not being Thomas Wayne." And he talks about Morrison's future (maybe) return on the book, possibly.
Anyway, back to issue #682. It is indeed a Final Crisis crossover issue, but since Batman pretty much spends Final Crisis out of commission, trapped in a contraption o' life-suckery -- or, as we find out, memory suckery. Because the bad guys want to build an army of Batmen, and they know that the secret to Batman's awesomeness lies not in his DNA, but in his mind.
So we get this issue, which is a "best of" episode -- a clip show -- filtered through Grant Morrison's include-and-transcend approach. This is Morrison running through the highlights of Batman's life, putting all the discordant bits into a single, highly fractured, narrative.
A key visual sequence that gives you a sense of Morrison's approach here: on page two, Alfred cleans up the infamous bat that flew through the infamous window from the infamous origin story. He scoops the smallish bat up with the dust pan and throws a much, much larger bat away with a shovel. It's the Bob Kane bat transforming into the Frank Miller bat in a three-panel sequence. It's a dream-like, highly impressionistic retelling of Batman's history, and we get different eras explored in single panels, and even alternate realities that we've never before seen. (Like when Alfred imagines the variations of Batmen that never were.)
Digression #2: I may not be doing annotations this time, but David Uzumeri is.
I don't know what to make of this issue. It's too incomplete on its own, and it's not even a coda for "Batman R.I.P." really. It's a Morrisonian symbolism issue, like the Rebis spotlight from Doom Patrol #54. In the Rebis issue, the visual cues tied into the symbolism of the alchemical marriage, and it ultimately provided a link which would send Rebis back to Earth, "healed" and ready for action. Maybe that's what's happening here, as Batman is psychically healing after the events of "R.I.P." But because he's Batman, he can only heal by overcoming an obstacle -- in this case, a Jack Kirby villain lodged in his psyche, pretending to be Alfred.
Does that imply that Alfred in Morrison's previous issues was something more that he seemed? Has "The Lump" been affecting Batman's mind for more than this issue? Was Morrison's entire run a bat-dream triggered by one of Darkseid's machines?
I really have no idea at this point, though I suspect there are no simple answers to any of those questions.
I would like to note, however, that the thing Batman is hooked up to on the final page looks suspiciously like a fiction suit.