Okay, so Grant Morrison’s “Batman” is more than a little weird. Bat Mite is running around with a dead rat hanging off his back, Bruce Wayne is strung out on drugs, and villains are namedropping bombshell secret identities like they were candy. But in this issue, Morrison shows that, no surprise, it’s all tethered to another fantastically clever, involved, and pretty airtight BatPlot. While there are plenty of brilliantly ridiculous details throughout the book (like Gotham City being a living machine whose sole purpose was to make a Batman) Morrison goes a long ways to explaining the reasoning behind such a brashly unconventional and fanboy-bristling costume. (Hint: It’s one of Batman’s best plans ever.) This issue serves mostly to get all the pieces in the right place on the table for the final act of the storyline.
It is nice to see Tony Daniel and Sandu Florea’s artwork increasing in quality with every issue. Andy Kubert set a bit of an artistic precedent when Morrison’s run on the book started and, after a storyline by the JH Williams III, Daniel’s work felt like a bit of a step down, especially as the story around his work progressed into more and more detailed strangeness. In this issue, Daniel is more apt than ever at accurately portraying Bat Mite and Gotham City’s Secret Batman Machine all on the same page.
One thing that’s never really gelled with me in this storyline, whether it’s Daniel or Morrison’s fault, is the design of the villains. I kind of get that it’s supposed to be this sort of Theater Of The Arcane look, but guys in suits and weird masquerade masks just seem a bit, I don’t know, unthreatening? I couldn’t really tell you why a spandex outfit and cape made of calendar pages somehow seems more appropriate to me, but it just kind of does.
It’s sort of obvious at this point that, marketing machine aside, “Batman R.I.P.” isn’t even close to hinting that Batman, himself, is actually going to die. (In reality, I’m pretty sure he “died” on two separate occasions in Morrison’s run before the storyline even started.) No, it looks more like it’s one of those spiritual kind of deaths. The ultimate conclusion will inevitably not be Batman flatlining and Jason Todd pulling the mantle of his cooling and autopsied corpse, but rather a rebirth of what Batman really is. A deconstruction of his comforts and motivations. Which, hey, is totally cool by me.
It’s certainly exciting to see all the seemingly bizarre pieces fall into place, as the final showdown is prepared. Old friends both high profile and delightfully B-List are all waiting in the wings for what will, no matter who lives or who dies, certainly be worth reading.