Thursday, December 04, 2008

All the Scientists Are Running Around: Batman #682 Review

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.

30 comments:

Ronan said...

A review without any sort of opinion as to whether its a good read or not (I loved it)?

Timothy Callahan said...

Yes.

Ronan said...

as long as we all know where we stand (with our feet off the ground and our arses on an uncomfortable fence)

Andres said...

Another great review but what's a fiction suit?
I keep reading whining online that Morrison is messing everything up and (especially with this issue) he's trying to introduce too many old stories/characters into the current Batman. I don't think you can take any individual issue of his run (especially R.I.P AND especially this issue) and form an opinion about what he's doing. We'll have to wait until he's totally done with Batman to fully appreciate and understand what the hell's going on.

Timothy Callahan said...

Fiction Suit:

http://www.barbelith.com/topic/9654

Chad Nevett said...

I rather enjoy the cover as well.

John Pontoon said...

I thought this issue was an artistic triumph. It completely obliterated that anticlimax and lack of explication from the previous issue, rendered them irrelevant in my mind and heart. So much so that I feel the need to communicate this with strangers.

70 years (well,45-ish) of Batman in one issue, coherent, and it drops a bomb at the end that can only blow up if you've been reading this artist's work every month this year! The way this tied in to FC was shocking and perfect. Bravo! Props! Big ups!

Kris Krause said...

I liked seeing those early years revisited in this issue. For whatever reason, DC doesn't publish comics featuring Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson very often, which is a shame because I think this issue shows very clearly that they have one of the best dynamics in comics. (Yes, I know there's All Star, but 1. that comic doesn't qualify for "very often" and 2. I'd rather not go there.)

I like this cover, but personally the next issue's cover is probably my favorite Ross cover yet on Batman. I'd love to see that one printed as a poster.

Andrew Wales said...

It makes my head hurt to try to understand the recent Batman plots. I just don't care!

However, I do agree that the cover is one of the coolest comics covers I have ever seen, and definitely Ross's best.

Jordan said...

Your reviews are as cryptic as Morrison's run. DID YOU LIKE IT?

Timothy Callahan said...

Jordan: Exactly.

(I'll let the review stand on its own. Do you THINK I liked it? Does it matter to you if I liked it or not? Does that affect your own ability to like it or not like it?)

deliriumtrigger said...

I don't understand why people say this is the connection between RIP and FC, for me, it's all FC, and no RIP at all

FrF said...

John:

"I thought this issue was an artistic triumph."

Me, too.

All I'm saying is "Micro-Sleeps"! (Alfred: "Sigh")

I'm not the least bothered about being confused as to what's really going on which narrative plain in Morrison's run.

Kevin said...

Tim:

Seems to me that the big gaping hole in figuring at least how the pieces start to fit together is "Joe Chill in Hell." After that, I think a lot of people--including you (and me)--figured that Chill would have to play some part in RIP. Yet from what I can tell, nothing seems to be suggested.

If all the stories fit together, this really seems to be the one where it hasn't been tied in yet. Any thoughts?

Timothy Callahan said...

Joe Chill in HELL = Devil connection?

But no, I do think there's some details about Thomas Wayne/Batman's origin that Morrison has yet to reveal.

Ronan said...

I liked this issue and it works really well into the context of final crisis but there's still the small matter of the gap between the cliched helicopter crash and batman getting taken by granny in final crisis...he's (Bruce) wearing the cape in final crisis so battle for the cowl is over (which presumably takes place in the six month gap at the end of RIP) and he's back in business...if Morrison doesnt deal with this in the next issue does he get a chance to deal with it all?

Jordan said...

Ok...I'm going to guess you didn't like it. In fact, I think you HATED it.

1) It does not matter to me if you liked it or not.

2) It does not affect my enjoyment whether you liked it or not.

But:

A) I am curious if you liked it or not, unless I'm mistaken what a "review" is?

John Pontoon said...

Good to see some agreement (FrF!) on how good this was.

Here is, I think, a logical response to those wondering about how Batman got from the helicopter crash in the water to Final Crisis: He popped his head out of the water, didn't die. That's all.

So, why didn't we see this scene, you ask? We didn't need to. We readers who expect this "death of Batman" to be explained are doing so for reasons outside the story that we've read. Those reasons are because of interviews with GM and previews of storylines to come.

Getting back to 682, I noted at the Funnybook Babylon comments that the Bat-Radia's presence in Bruce's "memories" is the clearest indication that he is still fighting against his captors inside his head. This is why, in his supposed life story, we see so many false moments. 1. Mothman/Snakeman; 2. Hamlet; 3. Parents live; and lesser maybe-fictions (laughing contest, Bat-Radia, The Eraser, "HOLY SEA PLANE DISPLAY...!, etc).

The fact that Batman is doing this is just so damn cool! Again, GM is kicking much butt. His imagination is, like, the fifth dimension!

Timothy Callahan said...

Jordan: I liked it a lot, actually. I probably would have given it 3 1/2 stars if I was doing a CBR review.

A) I don't believe a review should be whether a critic liked a book or not, but whether or not he thought it was any good. However, the two are usually linked, but not always. Because a bad review, in my opinion, would be one that says critical things about the art and story but gave a "positive" review because the book made the critic remember a time from summer camp twenty years ago and those fond memories made him like the book. So "liking" and quality are not necessarily related.

But I really didn't want to do a normal review for this Batman comic, because, well, just because it is what it is.

Jordan said...

I'm of the camp "if you like something, it is good" -- because we define our own universes. If you like it, for whatever the reason, it's good TO YOU. I like reading reviews that have a personal bent to them, where we see how the reviewer was moved, or angered, or felt joy, because of the thing being discussed. You can get a plot summary anywhere, even some symbolic analysis. But what is in your heart -- that is unique to you. If you like something, then for you, it HAS quality.

And my trick worked.

Ronan said...

"Here is, I think, a logical response to those wondering about how Batman got from the helicopter crash in the water to Final Crisis: He popped his head out of the water, didn't die. That's all.

So, why didn't we see this scene, you ask? We didn't need to. We readers who expect this "death of Batman" to be explained are doing so for reasons outside the story that we've read. Those reasons are because of interviews with GM and previews of storylines to come."

Eh? There's a six month gap between where Bruce goes into the water and where Batman (presumably not Bruce) emerges back onto the scene....this is according to the first page of and end of RIP. Nothing to do with interviews etc. Batman is not beating down on bad guys for 6 months...why?

So Bruce goes from being Batman to not being Batman and getting captured in final crisis...thats a hugely relevant to the character jump that hasnt been dealt with.....Morrison has one issue to go.....we know Bruce goes away but we know he is back as Batman by the time of final crisis.....I have a horrible feeling that final crisis and RIP are not going to sync up and its pretty unforgiveable if it doesnt now that a final crisis tie in has directly followed RIP's last issue (there's been certain high profile precedents at DC recently). I mean its possible the event that causes Bruce to stop being Batman is final crisis itself and that the helicopter crash was just well.....a needlessly confusing ending.....help me out here.

as for the "whats a review anyway" argument I can tell you quite categorically that its not a review unless its given a score involving marks out of 10.0 or 100/stars/thumbs up and there is definetly a discernible difference in quality between a comic that scores 7.3 and 7.4 out of ten. I mean, there has to be right? Otherwise they'd be randomly just picking numbers out of their head and that just wouldnt be cool....right?.....guys?...come back here.

John Pontoon said...

I was just thinking that Final Crisis immediately comes after RIP chronologically, but you're right that FC is supposedly 6 months after.

My feeling is that the six month disappearance will be explained, but I don't super much care if it does. I can understand how reasonable men might disagree, though.

Judd said...

Just throwing this out there, but what if the events that happened in Final Crisis actually happened before R.I.P.? I think it's possible that Bruce has been in the lump-seat (or whatever it's called) this whole time.

Consider Morrison's run thus far. He's got almost a "real-world" Batman mythos going. Bruce's Black Casebook, his book of unsolved mysteries, contains events in his superhero career that he can't logically wrap his head around. Stuff like aliens and supernatural events (even though Batman and all the rest are constantly exposed to that stuff on an almost daily basis) are things Morrison's Batman is still unsure of. In this world, Batman's a costumed hero and detective; he battles the criminal element and the mentally deranged. Space adventures and spirits are not part of his norm.

Hurt's outing as the devil (maybe) goes against the structure of Morrison's vision of Batman. Why would he spend so much time logically explaining all of these elements in Bruce's past, but then make the big villain some mysterious supernatural force of evil? To me, that seems like the opposite of what Morrision's been trying to do all along.

But if Final Crisis came first, if events in R.I.P. were a result of the evil gods trying to infiltrate Bruce's mind as they're doing right now, then it kind of makes sense. Hurt's not actually the Devil, he's a manifestation of whatever bad guy's driving around in Batman's head, working to coax Bruce into surrendering and joining this ultimate evil.

Personally I hope this isn't the case. I hate "it was all a dream..." stories with a passion. But it makes sense to me, and it also accounts for the sudden jump from helicopter crash to now. That could have been Bruce essentially defeating the hostile take-over of his mind, and this new story line featuring Alfred could be the second attempt, a reboot attack. Also, it's not clear how long Batman's been missing in the DCU either. Characters in the other Bat-books say that he's "gone," but not supposedly dead.

But if all else fails, I still blame Alfred.

Anonymous said...

Joe Chill in Hell: Every retelling of the story I could find is that Chill is shot by other people. Batman never leads him to suicide, regardless of what he might intend (in Barr's Year Two, for instance).

Could Morrison's twist there be significant to what comes later?

rlsims said...

Maybe it ties RIP to FC because Dr. Hurt was a previous meat suit for the big D? Before Turpin?

Nah.

mindlessones.com said...

In case anyone's interested, here's amypoodle's thoughts on #682

Thank you for your indulgence, Tim

Garland said...

What am I missing with the Kathy Kane stuff. Is that all made up for this issue? What is Robin talking about when he says he knew about her? What's that death scene with the big worm thing? That wasn't in any Crisis I don't think.

John Pontoon said...

The new issue of Final Crisis makes clear that Darkseid's fall is crushing Space-Time on Earth. So, Batman separates from the helicopter, gets out of the water, then
*bwoip*
he's on the JLA satellite getting grabbed by the Alpha Lantern.

Also, shipping delays? It's because evil won.

ZooBot said...

Well, the way I understand it is...helicopter crash, Final Crisis is a week later...and the Batman and Robin six months later, taking down Le Bossu? Well, guess what, that's not Bruce as Batman. Not saying Batman dies, because Grant said it's a fate worse than that (so he can come back later after we give one of the kids a shot).
Also, most of Grant's Batman is about alternate Batmen, which just so happens to show why the original is the best. So, why not have another Azrael or Nightwing as Batman. Then Nightwing realizes, "Hey! I don't like being Batman, I'm my own man!"
Just in time for Bruce's recovery!

Zoobot said...

And, I don't have a problem with Dan Turpin getting Darkseided out, but it really should have been Didio that the God of Evil came through to truly "metatextualize" things proper-like!!!