I think it is quite telling of how much we live in an "instant and all encompassing information" age that Batman #681, which is a very good comic book, is seen by many as a disappointment not because of the comic itself, but because of all the hype and the discussions OUTSIDE the comic that pushed the fact that this issue was going to be huge, it was going to be climactic, it was going to be the most amazing thing ever, to the point where it would have been a disappointment if #681 had "only" cured cancer.
Sadly, this comic does not cure cancer, it is tragically "only" a good comic book.
Do you know what would have made this storyline transcendent? If an artist like J.H. Williams had drawn it. I look at All Star Superman and then I look at the non-Williams Batman issues and I just shake his head in disappointment. Tony Daniel is a fine artist. He really is. I think he is a good comic book artist. I especially love the fact that he is ALWAYS trying to get better. He has improved DRAMATICALLY since he started out. DRAMATICALLY. And he is only going to get even better in the future. Definitely a good comic book artist with a great future. But at this specific point in his career, he is not helping Batman R.I.P. He doesn't hurt it (with a few exceptions), but he does not help it any. So a different artist would have been nice, but whattayagonna do?
In any event, the problem here is that this has been sold as an "event," when it really is just a storyline in Grant Morrison's overarching Batman narrative (sadly, rumors suggest that while this was surely not intended as an ending to his run on Batman, it might very well turn out to be just that). Imagine, say, Imperial in New X-Men being billed as an end point in Morrison's run. Or Riot at Xavier's. Or, going back earlier, E for Extinction. Those stories all had clear endings but also clearly led into later stories, just like Batman R.I.P, but instead, we had Batman R.I.P. sold to us as a climax of sorts, which it isn't.
So when read that way, this is just a strong conclusion to an interesting/entertaining story arc.
Luckily for those who have been confused by previous issues, this issue is almost painfully obvious, except for the mysteries that are left unclear on purpose. We see a return of sorts of Morrison's "Bat God" from his JLA run, and it's delivered with great gusto.
Essentially (spoiler warning), the deal is that Batman planned for all of this. He did not know exactly what the Black Glove was planning, but he went along with it all to see what would happen. I've seen some complain that Jezebel Jet was too obviously a villain - well, in this issue, we learn that Batman thought she was obvious, too, and took steps to keep her in check (the scene where he dresses her down is utterly delightful).
Also in this issue, we got indirect confirmation that Honor was not another of Bruce's mental safeguards, which is good, because yeah, that WAS a character I found to be a bit of a disappointment.
Meanwhile, we also got the inevitable comeuppance upon the Club of Villains by the Club of Heroes, the inevitable "I am not your servant" turn by the Joker and also the inevitable "is Batman dead?" ending.
Things we still don't know:
1. Who is the Black Glove?
2. Is Dr. Hurt seriously the devil?
3. What happened to Batman when the helicopter crashed?
Hmmm...that's about it, really.
This issue delivered on the previous issues and I just absolutely loved the book end part of the story - it ended as it began - beautiful.
Such a bold, powerful comic with tons of great action scenes, tons of "F*** Yeah!" moments and still some mysteries - this was a great conclusion to a strong story arc.
Unless we let outside sources cloud our view of the book ("How does this tie into Final Crisis?" etc.).
So let's not do that and enjoy this comic on its own!