SPOILER WARNING: The following contains spoilers for "Batman" #681, on sale now.
First rumored by CBR's Rich Johnston in a 2007 edition of LYING IN THE GUTTERS, the life of Batman came to an apparent end this week, as DC Comics' much-hyped "Batman R.I.P." storyline concluded in "Batman" #681 by Grant Morrison and Tony Daniel & Sandu Florea.
Morrison had in interviews been characteristically coy about the true nature of the storyline, revealing only that it would depict "the end of Bruce Wayne as Batman."
In the issue, Wayne/Batman is indeed buried alive, though he frees himself for a final confrontation with The Black Glove, the group of decadent gazillionaires who sought to derive some kind of twisted pleasure from extinguishing the "spirit" of the Batman.
The issue climaxes like countless superhero yarns, whereby the main characters - in this case, Batman and the Black Glove leader Doctor Hurt - are seen to go down in the drink with no body recovered later.
Despite strong sales, the "R.I.P." storyline -- which relies on overt references to deeply obscure characters and stories from decades past -- has not endeared itself to critics, with some asking whether it even makes sense. Additionally, illustrator Tony Daniel's storytelling has been a point of criticism, particularly given Morrison's typically intricate plots.
A principal selling point of the "R.I.P." storyline was Morrison's claim that Doctor Hurt would be revealed as "possibly the most shocking revelation in 70 years." It appears now as though Doctor Hurt was the Devil, as predicted with 3-to-1 odds by CBR's own Timothy Callahan, one of "R.I.P.'s" most vocal proponents.
DC has plans to follow-up on "R.I.P." with a storyline called "Battle for the Cowl," in which, it is assumed, that Batman's proteges Nightwing, Robin and Jason Todd as well as his son Damian will compete for the exclusive rights to operate as the new Batman.
Until Wayne shows up again, anyway.
Morrison has said at convention appearances that he plans to write "Batman" indefinitely, yet the author is - according to DC Comics solicitations - not working on any subsequent issues through at least February 2009.