Batman the annotated adventures the second (tho’ as Botswana Beast has pointed out in our email exchanges, this is more commentary than anything else). In case you’re interested, part the first (for 680) can be found here.

Scroll down for the jump

I want to preface this by saying I haven’t read any other annotations for this comic. TRU FAX.

So let’s get right down to it, shall we?

PAGES 1, 2 & 3

I never knew Grant would be so literal, but I guess, given how GOTH this arc has been, the coffin makes a lot of sense.

And yep, we all knew it – we knew he couldn’t be beaten – and its good of the script to deal with it right away:

“Batman thinks of everything.”

There’s not even an exclamation mark. It’s just a statement of fact.

I remember how, last New Year’s eve, while my flat was being transformed into a booze-stained ashtray and people were taking the time to rip my bathroom door off its hinges, a few of us – Me, my then girlfriend, her little brother and a magician named John – stopped in the kitchen for a protracted argument concerning whether or not Batman is a superhero. Of course this is out and out cockish behaviour worthy of some nasty new breed of veritie-fuckhead, spawn of Linklater, Tarantino and Altman (all of whom I like, but….) – however we did it. So there. And it all seemed pretty serious and important at the time. Z (g/f) and I were firmly in the ‘Obviously he is, fool’ camp. and we were ranged against the rantings of said younger bruv, who insisted he isn’t. John was undecided. He likes to weigh up both sides of the argument. So my argument, which now I realise scales the heights of wankitude to an even greater degree than the subject of the conversation, ran: He’s got a cape and a cowl, he fights supervillains, defined a whole strata of superherodom and you just can’t beat him – that’s his superpower!

Clearly bruv wasn’t going to be impressed with this. To most people being a superhero means possessing the mutant ability to stretch your flaming skull-head as far as you can fire a plasma blast whilst flying. Or something like that. And Batman can’t do that yet.

Or can he?

Anyway, fair enough, I was talking drunken shit, but even if it’s not strictly a power, it’s still Batman’s no.1 schtick. It’s what makes him such a pleasure to read. Just how can he escape certain death with three murderous Martians surrounding him? He always has a back-up plan, he always knows the lay of the land before he pounces on it, and in this case he’s even got a back up personality.

‘Hh’ indeed.

Page three’s final panel is one of those laugh-out-loud-with-glee moments. Morrison’s good at those.

I know we’re retreading old ground here, I know we’ve said all this about Batman before, but invincibility really is key to the character and I really enjoy the way 681 celebrates it.

PAGE 4

There on the walls of the temple, the wrathful deities crowd round to guard Bruce Wayne. Let’s hope he doesn’t mistake them for demons…

It’s amazing how everyone in a Grant Morrison comic, perhaps with the exception of the Kill Your Boyfriend and We3 crew, meet the time-squids. People said his Batman would fail ’cause it would never be cosmic, but they forgot about Ninjabats. Batman has to be one of the most accomplished meditators, perhaps magic practitioners*, on the planet, and that means he’s seen a whole lotta cosmic stuff (but like a good bodhisattva, after meeting it on the road, he put a batarang to it), and, anyway, the really freaky stuff in the batverse always lies….within. The outlandish villains, the weird vehicles, the asylum’s – they’re just the meaty shit’s external trappings. Batmite’s corporeality isn’t the issue, as it is with Mxypltk in Superman. It’s the arrow he points inwards that matters.

Thogal is an interesting one. It’s the latter stage, as far as I understand it, of one of the highest tantras in Tibetan Buddhism, where the self reveals itself as luminous void; where the fundamental nature of reality asserts itself as endlessly detonating emptiness: empty light/form – the rainbow body. So this is the good news – if Brucey keeps this up, we really will see the Rainbow Batman again before the day is through – but the bad news, for now at least, is that right there on the edge of being, Bruce discovers his mind’s been vandalised and realises he’d maybe better deal with that first.

And so: RIP.

Isn’t it just delicious that there’s no clue Batman can’t pick up on, no stone left unturned. It doesn’t matter that the enemy’s trail was embedded right behind his nose – he’ll scour his soul with a magnifying glass if need be and even the Devil leaves fingerprints. Sheeeeit, it’s all in a day’s work for the World’s Greatest Detective. Suck on that, Holmes.

PAGE 5

imagine how violated you’d feel if you realised someone had not only been fucking around in your head, but that they’d even gone so far as to booby-trap it. There in the last cave, the gloomy recesses of the psyche, Batman discovers the post-hypnotic word, the mind-virus, and no wonder he has difficulty fathoming its shape! What would it look like? Zur en arhh, lest we forget, strikes me as fifth-dimensionese, Martian for ‘Surrender’, and that’s why Bruce can’t quite grokk the thing – its tendrils extended through his life – his history – writhing with his inability to save his parents, Robin, all the innocents of Gotham; with the stark fact that he’s not a superman, that he’s mortal, and he can’t reverse the Earth’s rotation; he can’t turn back time and stop Chill’s bullet. The ‘black hole’ Bruce describes is the looming shadow of ZRNRRH, the hyper-sigil of banishing, condensed planet composed of Batman’s insecurities, and a devastating reminder of what he and his mission are not: infallible, unlimited and unbounded. See how the Black Glove turns his power fantasy against him…

But Batman always wins.

On this page we catch a glimpse of his plan to hijack the memory of Zur en arrh and make it work for, rather than against, him. Batman’s ‘off’ switch, when flicked, activates the superhero Bruce dreamed he could be, without doubt, unable to even consider the possibility of weakness or human frailty.

But we know all about that other Batman. We dealt with him last time.

Furthur!

I’m eager to see how the sequence with the dream-ninjas attacking him in the desert fits in with all this.

‘We shall wound your soul forever, and if it is strong, it will survive the wound.’

Hmmm.

Is ‘the wound’ they’re referring to the Zur en arrh mind-tattoo? Are the entities he summoned during the Thogal ritual, whether real or imaginary, somehow responsible for drawing down the grand soulfuck that’s been RIP, the demon that’s been prowling the fringes of his life? Is this a necessary stage in the initiation process, a resensitizing of the subtle bat-body?

Someone fire up the bat-computer!

Don’t you just love evil Buddhist monks? They really are the best! I still remember an argument between my most contrary friend, Matt, and a well traveled journalist who used to hang at our student digs in Wood Green, over whether or not she was telling the truth about the lecherous monks she’d had to fend off when she visited a monastery in Tibet. My friend gently explained how a disciple of Gautama would never stoop so low as fanny** grabbing, while she sat there wondering how her interlocutor could so confidently set about attempting to deny her actual lived experience. Matt used to engage in this sort of behaviour a great deal, but I think it illustrates quite nicely the modern, new agey westerner’s understanding of the Orient. The need we have to believe it’s the last truly holy place, where enlightenment’s bursting forth from the branches of the bodhi trees and that bloke over there, he might be an honest to goodness dragon!

PAGES 6 & 7

What is that weird billboard in the first panel all about? I’d love to know what Morrison was thinking of when he put that in the script. And if it was Daniel then, well, he’s a much more interesting guy than I thought. It’s like Chris Cunningham’s All is Full of Love video, only a bit wrong. Bjork’s snuggly, kissy android face might not have enjoyed such broad appeal had it adopted the blank, dead stare perpetrated by that creepy thing hovering above Robin, Pierrot and Swagman’s rooftop shennanigans. I imagine Gotham’s skyline is rife with this brand of disturbing imagery – the ad people know that Gothamites like their sales-pitch that little bit more…dark. Edgy.

Psychotic?

I have no idea what’s going on with the newspaper either. I’m not going to even try with that one. ‘Knights Martini’? ‘I Forgive’? Is this some intra-continuity bat-bullshit I know nothing about? Probably. I don’t know anything about superhero comics.

Mimes in combat, villainous, fighting mimes… There’s something a little cliched about Pierrot, isn’t there? But I suppose, considering he feels like he’s always been there anyway, the DC Universe needs someone like him doing the silent bendy thing. Don’t have much to say about the subject really, but that dodge in the first panel’s a nice bit of stage direction from Grant, executed pretty solidly by Daniel. His art’s very dynamic, actually. It can lack flow, and much of the action can come off as slightly overcooked, but there’s always movement – the page feels fast and pulpy and alive – even if the action’s a little too exaggerated, over-extended and showy a lot of the time.

And the blank speech balloons prompted a little smile. You could only do that shit in comics.

PAGE 8

Aha! One of Morrison’s seventh cavalry at the eleventh hour moneyshots! He still can’t get enough of them after all these years. Sadly none of these guys are as cool as Acid Archie, but they’re pretty fucking cool nevertheless. Years from now, a whole new generation of comic writers, weaned on Morrison, will dust off all the wonderful toys he’s gifted to the DCU and the Club of Heroes will score their very own, honest-to goodness title. I can just see them now, the first truly international superteam since the JLE, but instead of being modeled on the Man of Steel, drawing inspiration from the ultimate self-realised humanity of Gotham’s champion. I suppose they’ll set themselves up in a reconstructed, customised version of Mayhew’s mansion, the island providing a perfect base of operations, perched as it is at the tip of the southern hemisphere, between Spain and Morrocco, the gateway to Europe on one side and Africa on the other, and the whole place commemorating the dreadful events that reunited them a few years before… Shit, maybe DC will recognise my genius shortly and that writer’ll be me.

PAGE 9

The black and red colouring is effective on a couple of levels. Obviously it’s symbolic of the fact that Bruce is in the Black Glove’s clutches, a cup of chai away from certain death, but it also somehow nicely signposts that we’re looking at a memory. Neat.

There really is no end to Batman’s arsenal of abilities. Nietzche would be proud. Magic Circle level sleight of hand? Cups switched in the blink of an eye? Pfah! Kid’s stuff! And you might think its tragic that Bruce’s paranoia’s so hardwired (‘Force of habit.’), but you’re wrong, it’s cool. Morrison’s run has been, in part, about underlining the simmering undercurrent of threat running beneath Batman’s life. As a writer he understands the need to amplify the ambiance surrounding the characters he writes – stories are nothing without atmosphere – and the pervading mood of a batbook should be one of menace. Batman’s enemies always skirt the edges of Wayne Mansion’s neatly trimmed estate. Grant knows this, and he cranked up the volume on it till it made the transition from narrative background noise to become one of the fundamental themes carrying the run.

Anyway: die, evil monk!

PAGES 10 & 11

Oh yes! Purpleness! ‘The sky is beginning to bruise…’ and all that. Daniel and Major’s skylines always feel heavy with the reflected reds, greens, yellows and oranges of the city streets below. Bleeding with neons and halogen. It’s totally over the top and gaudy, like so much of the art, but it fucking works. There’s a lovely sense of Gotham as a radiant, black gargoyle, far from the drab greys that characterised the batvisions of the late eighties. A return to the colour of Aparo, but somehow more fully realised, blended with the modern grim ‘n’ gritty vibe. It’s amazing how the the apparently divergent understandings different generations of writers have brought to the character can collide so perfectly within one palette. How even the art team are somehow caught up in the post-modern juggling of Bat-elements that’s defined Grant’s run.

Cardinal Maggi and Al-Khidr… Now I don’t know if Grant even bothered to check what these names mean, but I think it’s unlikely he doesn’t know the latter refers to an extremely mysterious and important figure in Islamic mythology. Translating as the ‘Green One’, Al-Khidr’s status as a prophet or a saint remains contested, but regardless he’s pretty important all the same. And ‘Maggi’ means ‘May’, the month sacred to the Virgin Mary. These guy’s are not just financially elite, but perhaps in some sense they are spiritually exhalted too. Above human laws, flouting them for sport. You can’t touch them for it. They act with total impunity. I don’t care if any of this was intended; you never heard of the death of the author? Still, whatever else they imply, these names, especially if they’re self appellated, are indicative of a kind of puffed up vanity. One shortly to be brought to heel….

Many moons ago, someone on Barbelith commented that there’s always a broad grin and a wink beneath the horrendous acts of violence Grant’s baddies perpetrate, and this is a case in point. Quite frankly the sheer number of indignities the Black Glove plans to heap on Bruce Wayne’s compliant flesh has, by this time, reached and breached saturation point to the extent that its become absurd. You plan to what after cracking his head open, pumping him full of smack, breaking his heart, poisoning him and burying him alive? Exhume his half-dead body? And then give him as Joker-style chelsea smile? And after that I suppose you’ll set the brain-damaged Batman, complete with his reportoire of martial skills and weapons, out on the street to begin some new, fucked up unholy mission? I’m sure, given the chance, Jez and the rest would keep going forever. It’s like some horrendous wankfantasy: the eternally wanton death-drive just begging for more.

Excuse me while I just, um, pop to the toilet.

And now the Joker. I don’t know if anyone else experienced the same surge of warmth I felt upon his re-emergence. After spending so much time around the sneering, gloating sadists comprising the Black Glove, his gleeful reference to starting ‘down the trail of bloody havoc’ and his general air of foreknowledge plus a complete lack of concern just chimed really well with me. He doesn’t give a monkeys about wealth, or revenge, pervy forced internments, or any of the other bullshit motivating factors that separate out plain jane Evil from the Chaos the Joker represents. I smiled to myself as he pranced around the room, stopping ever so briefly for a quick spot of murder, obviously getting a massive kick out of explaining how well and truly fucked Hurt and his high rollers are. It’s the point at which you realise the bad guys are out of their depth – Batman and his arch-enemy duke it out on a much grander playing field – and, realising this, the Joker prompts a chuckle from the reader also. A chuckle and a clap. This is the mighty Batverse. These guys are the shit! Did a bunch of conceited, overconfident, ostentatious dilettantes flashing their wodge around cause you to forget?

PAGE 12

Ah, the bat-radia, occult device retrieved from a hidden world. Where did Bruce go to find it? Did he, as the bat-rationalists would argue, simply follow an inbuilt program to its hiding place, dreaming imaginary guides along the way, or should we consider it a gift from the hyper-elves? Zom and I have often argued the case for this ambiguity; not for an either/or answer, but for the gorgeous tensions of the superstate between both polarities. As I mention above with regards to Batmite, It’s an important rule of the batverse that all the really freaky elements can ultimately be figured to a very hard, materialistic ground, but that’s not to ignore the fact these elements exist and exert a tremendous pressure on the diegetic space in the first place; and we sometimes feel we should be able to float away with them. Just drift off into the asylum. Topsy-turvy land is always hovering there, just beyond Gotham’s horizon. Actually, Batman’s default religion, Buddhism, makes a lot of sense in this (super)context. Of course Dzogchen is the Buddhism du jour, so that’s the branch Grant’s got Bruce pursuing now, but regardless of what school you endorse, Buddhism is always *the Middle Way* – the path between extremes. The internal mantra of ‘Not this…. Not this…’, so common to Buddhist philosophy, is perfect for navigating this battleground of competing realities, the Gotham City that Batman stalks. Wayne, again, ever the empiricist, ever the existentialist, isn’t beguiled by either. He can get with the Miss Marpleing if occasion demands, but he’s equally at home bringing it to Darkseid. His brain’s got room for all of it.

Regardless of the radia’s hazy origins, its effects are conclusive: the lunatics are trapped in the madhouse. The thing serves as a lifeline, reconnecting Bruce to his true secret identity, to the superhero, who, with characteristic ingenuity, foresight and a hefty dose of lateral thinking, thought of a way to effectively put the dampeners on any Arkham uprising before it occured. This is the summoning, the reactivation of the bat-computer, the moment heralding the certainty that the Dark Knight’s been playing you.

Signal received.

PAGE 13

Nightwing gets his shit on. Nothing here’s particularly noteworthy, but I like the way he explodes into action. You really get a sense of his speed.

PAGE 14

Just when I think I’ve got the bat-rogues cornered, Morrison distills their primary motivation better than I ever could. Of course, they’re artists! Actually, to be honest I think I touched on this idea in my Gotham by Gasoline piece, but only ever really skirted the surface of it. The Joker and co are performance artists deluxe. Terrorists as super-situationists. Heath Ledger scrawled his philosophy across Gotham’s canvas -a body of theory composed of exploding hospitals and defaced public servants. The lunatic’s paintbrush: a test tube bubbling with multicoloured toxins. Bruce Wayne is more than familiar with this particular movement – he knows its antidotes. Right here he is soooo money it hurts. He simultaneously manages to convincingly sell a gloat-and-threaten like the most hardcore of the Black Glovers, whilst at the same time resuscitating the bad guy. He absolutely gets to have his cake and eat it – the sinister Dark Knight and the superhero combined.

‘Tell him… I look forward to meeting him.’

Again, no exclamation mark, he’s just stating the reality of the situation.

Money!

The earth begins to shift above the grave.

(lovely dramatic timing)

PAGE 15

And with a flash of lightning and a clap of thunder, Batman is resurrected. This is Mr Miracle all over again – the initiation ritual where he did the bump and grind with death and still found a way to unpick himself from its bony embrace. Batman has at this point died both figuratively and, well, kinda literally too. He’s been to the place outside time. Batman RIP. That simple.

PAGE 16

BAM! POW! Back in the old grey and blue.

PAGE 17

‘Now you here, now you ain’t’

The red blood of generation and the black-hole of nullification pulsing, forever. The ‘radiant core’ evil monk describes on page 4 interpreted through the lens of the Joker. And only the Joker could discern it within the blood splattered arabesques of pulverized Robin brains. Talk about black magic. I think Batman and the Joker have been to the same place, but their response to it is entirely different. Their attempts to incorporate it into their lives birthed the Clown at Midnight and led the Batman to redemption. They both begin Grant’s run transformed.

I just want to snatch a second here to giggle at those smug bastards quaking in their boots as they begin to intuit, as the Whip described it in Seven Soldiers, ‘The presence of an altogether bigger reality’.

Moving onwards, however, and the Clown Prince of Crime’s explaining the eternal dynamic as performed by Batman and the Joker, with ol’ white face continually pulling the existential rug out from beneath his feet, only to find Bats has sealed up the hole in the World instantaneously. Batman, the aphopheniac (obsessed with pattern, shape and structure) is form, the Joker, his inverse, is void. And this is a far older love affair than the battle between Good and Evil, hence the Joker lecturing Dr. Hurt on the superiority of the wild card. The Devil’s problem, he posits, is that he is a twoness, one half of a dialectic paradigm that can’t possibly incorporate the infinitely more subtle and sophisticated intercourse between the fundamental Yin and Yang Batman and the Joker represent; the unity of zeroes and ones that makes the world. Shit, even Chaos alone eats the Devil alive. Old Nick’s just another narrative that, one of these days, Chaos, the card that can be anything, that has no fixed form but can take any form it chooses, might stop to clothe himself in and, later, tear apart. There’s no division in the fluxing, flickering twilight of personality that is the Joker. There’s no division in the gorgeous hyper-geometry exposed by the Detective’s magnifying glass. The Devil, with his silly war, has been outclassed.

And he’s a cock for assuming the Joker would ever be his Servant. At best he may enjoy the Joker’s professional respect, but only in the same way an MD might occasionally remark to himself on what a great job his employees are doing.

‘Pleased to meet you….’

After all that Devil talk and, well, just knowing Grant Morrison, anyone attempting to convince himself this isn’t a Stones reference is being very silly.

And then with the ‘Sins…’ business. Hmmm.

More on Dr. Hurt as the Devil later.

PAGE 18

‘Ready when you are.’

Zom wanted me to point out that this is a nod back to the aforementioned Batman vs the Martians scene in Morrison’s first JLA storyline, New World Order. I’m inclined to agree. He’s set to give the supreme criminal mastermind the beating of his life, and its happy, happy time in Poodleland.

PAGE 19

‘I want you to know I understand.’

Hh. Clumsy, clumsy Jezebel… To Bruce Wayne the Ericksonian commands embedded in that sentence glare like the Sun.

Let’s review that page from Grant’s fifth issue:

(Apologies about the shitness of the scan)

The knowledge that Batman’s figuring out Jet’s one of the bad guys sheds a whole new light on this scene. Bruce doesn’t close his eyes to shut out the tears, or to somehow commemorate his parents, he’s simply internalising this horrible truth, and when he opens them he’s steeled himself again, he’s ‘got over it.’, confident the Black Glove’s playing its hand, and one of its fingers is locked within his sights.

It’s the look a cat gives a mouse before she unsheathes her claws.

PAGE 20

The biggest problem I foresaw with Jezebel being a member of the Black Glove was that she’s practically royalty – and a celebrity – and I couldn’t understand how somebody that conspicuous could find enough time outside of the paparazzi’s flashbulb glare to fully indulge her bad side. Morrison turns this neatly on its head, successfully arguing that, like all the fingers of the glove, its precisely because of her status that she can indulge any whim she chooses. Poor old Bruce. She’s probably right about the not trusting any woman bit, but frankly its unlikely he ever has. He found Jez out, didn’t he?

PAGE 21

Fighting happens.

There’s always fighting in this book. Grant obviously made a decision.

PAGE 22

The Devil again. There’s a grand tradition of the Devil cursing films, isn’t there? Morrison obviously couldn’t resist that one.

PAGE 23

The wild card really does win the day. in the end the red and black serves as the Joker’s high-speed comeuppance. The randomness, the chaos, he prescribes to is his undoing. It had to be Damian behind the wheel – the essential disrespector of authority and established structures, bat-iconoclast supreme: the teenager. Morrison’s continuing love affair with Horus… It also occurs to me it had to be the batmobile that takes the Joker out. He just can’t escape the clutches of that pesky bat, can he? There! Implicate order and chaos mixed like water with water in the space of one panel. Neat.

I was right about Damian’s choice of car too.

PAGE 24

The great thing about the comic’s auto-critique, even this late in the day, when the Black Glove has to all intents and purposes failed, is that it still hits the mark.

‘A deluded trust-fund orphan who vents his rage and frustration on the poor in alleyways…’

It’s the golden bullet, the gun, Batman’s alpha and omega. A seemingly indisputable truth – one that might break the back of the titular character – and it certainly topples him here. The next thought follows neatly on from it:

‘I must put away my Batman costume…and retire from crimefighting!’

But we must remember Batman also faces down monsters like the Joker, the white Martians and Dr. Hurt. He’s a member of the JLA. Not simply the Dark Knight, but the Caped Crusader also.

Go get ‘im Caped Crusader.

PAGES 25 & 26

The Black Glove really is just an amorphous architecture of evil. He’s anything that’ll HURT Bruce Wayne: the Anti-Mum/Dad/Alfred. The comic isn’t insisting we literally interpret him as the Devil, although, given all the satanic referencing (and not just in the dialogue; in the comic’s iconography, its mise-en-scene, its themes, its tone, and the gothic genre conventions that Morrison has deliberately brought into play), and, ostensibly, supernatural shit that’s come pouring out of this book since day one, we could quite confidently endorse this take, but that’s not really the point. True to form Batman 681 refuses to pick a side. It denies conclusivity. Anyone that says otherwise does not understand Morrison’s writing. That might annoy some of you out there, but it’s a fact. Sorry. The symbolic/thematic reading is just as important to this book as the literal one. The mythic sphere serving as the Joker’s base of operations that I discussed last time? Well, that’s a key component of Morrison’s comic. Grant understands the Joker’s reading of the text to be just as valid as Batman’s. Sure, we may err on the side of there being an earthly explanation, but that doesn’t matter. Bruce still awoke the last demon in the cave in Nanda Parbat/during the isolation experiment, a demon that cast it’s wrathful reflection on the surface of the material plane, irrespective of the skin this dreadful afterimage decided to dress itself in. That’s how magic works, kids.

I can’t explain it any better than that.

I should also add here that the whole ‘Did that happen that way, or didn’t it?’ thing is a staple of supernatural tales, or had it slipped your mind that’s precisely what you’re reading?

I suppose it’s significant that Bruce takes off his mask here. The received wisdom has always been that Wayne is a mask for Batman, but this stripping down to fundamentals suggests otherwise. It’s telling that Grant enjoys having Bruce refer to ‘Batman’ in the third person.

‘That’s the thing about being Batman. Batman always wins.’

Okay, Wayne can be Batman, but he can also be a whole raft of other things. Bats has just become a useful role he plays, now he’s recovered from the childhood trauma of his parent’s murder. Now that he’s become truly compassionate and altruistic. A real superhero. Morrison is telling us that the final confrontation is between the Black Glove and the man, not the bat. And there’s something so heroic about Bruce diving for the helicopter; this incredible, unstoppable human being.

Shut up Devil, he’s not gonna make a ‘deal’ with you.

PAGE 27

I can’t help wishing a slightly more competent artist was working on this comic. I don’t hate Daniel by any stretch of the mark – in fact there’s a lot of stuff I like about him, and I think his art’s a neat fit for the book in many ways – but scenes like this, which are fantastic conceptually, sometimes just fail to hit the dramatic high-note I know they should (and would in other hands). This scene kinda sells the indomitable, unshakable bundle of will and determination that is Bruce Wayne, but it could do better: grade C.

Anyway. KAZOKWHAM! Batman’s black glove takes down the Devil.

To paraphrase Gordon:

‘Why did you decide to pick an enemy that’s older than all of us. As old as time itself?’

Because he thought he could take him. And take him he does.

PAGE 28

And he was cowering.

‘Stand aside!’

Shouldn’t Talia be adddressing the assembled police officers?

Oh well….

PAGE 29

A deliberate harking back to the splash-page at the end of Grant’s third ish. We knew Talia wasn’t dead then, just as we know Batman isn’t a goner now.

PAGE 30

Ah, now this really is goood. As readers we hate Jezebel, the femme fatale, in that pure, gleaming way only a gaggle of misanthropic, misogynistic fanboys can. She does tap into something woefully sexist, I’ll grant you. But hey.

DIE JEZEBEL! DIE!!!

Talia’s a great and necessary, tho’ minor, chess piece in this game. She allows us to wreak bloody retribution on all those who brought our hero low. I have to say, I really dig the novel spin on Year One, bat-summoning tech here. A signal that summons…. Just fab. It’s also very pleasurable the way this brings the book full circle – everything’s included, even potentially throw-away, trashy ideas like ninja manbats. This and ASS really represent a new level of narrative neatness for Morrison. Maybe now I can forgive him for the confusing, plot-hole ridden travesty that is New X-Men.

PAGE 31

And now it’s Cardinal Maggi’s turn to meet, ummm, Dr. Hurt.

This really is the age of the interactive comic, isn’t it? You can’t tell me Morrison isn’t aware that Le Bossu’s the surprise, breakaway star of the show, and now he’s setting up base in Gotham? Brilliant! Every time I want things to happen my way in a comic, I’m going to prop myself up on my mindless-soapbox and start ranting.

PAGE 32

The last page….

A reminder of the foundation upon which Batman was originally built.

Why can’t he be Zorro?

He can, but he shouldn’t. Because Bruce Wayne’s totem isn’t the fox, but the bat. A creature of the night. Of nightmare. The masked avenger did come galloping down the sidewalk and into Bruce’s soul that night, but clothed in the form of Joe Chill’s bullets. Only later will he learn that heroism isn’t the same as revenge.

Only then will he become Zorro in Arkham.

And the final panel?

The incantation behind the scenes of everything, the last words of his Father slurred, as within that lethal moment time slows down to a halt… ‘ZUR EN ARRH’ prepares itself to pounce.

Sorry if this post is a bit scrappy, half-baked and rushed, but I’d better get something up.

Now go read my Vulture rogue’s review!

*and for those of you doubters out there, those who insist he’s always been a staunch disbeliever in all things spooky, I say thee nay: Bruce Wayne is an empiricist. It’s what works that counts. And, anyway, I don’t mean magic of the Zatanna kind but magicK, the art of self-hacking.

**I’m using the term in the British sense, you understand

89 Responses to “RIP Batman RIP: If Grant Morrison leaves this title now I shall hunt him down like a dog.”

  1. David Uzumeri Says:

    jesus christ

    One note: I don’t know if it was Morrison or Daniel, but the “KNIGHTS MARTINI/I FORGIVE/etc” text on the newspaper is so that when Lunaire falls to the ground, the newspaper gets crumpled in a way that all we can see is “I GIVE UP.” It’s a neat touch.

  2. Zom Says:

    Whilst I think this issue was about 67.89x richer than the vast majority of shite on the shelves, I think it was slightly over-stuffed. I mean, we didn’t needthe Club of Heroes for example; or Talia, Damian, and the man-bat ninjas for that matter. I understand why Morrison included them – it’s like he’s saying, look at all the fun toys I’ve brought to this title over the term of my run – but they definitely weren’t needed. Still enjoyed their gratuitous presence in a greedy way, however.

    Also, and more importantly, while I’m definitely not a Daniel hater, I can’t help but feel that this would have been a considerably more spicy book had it been drawn by J H Williams or the man Vince. Certain things, like Bat’s black-gloved fist in the flames almost certainly would have taken on a symbolic significance that was completely lacking in Daniel’s panel.

  3. Zom Says:

    Also, love how you brought in Dzogchen when discussing all the uncertainty and ambiguity in this ish

    “Not this… not this…” indeed

  4. sean witzke Says:

    I really like the idea that Batman would approach magic the way Morrison does. If I can see that it works, it’s real. That’s something I’d love to see explored in the books more.

  5. Zom Says:

    Well it’s considerably better than the patently idiotic notion that Batman doesn’t believe in magic. I appreciate that people cleave to that view because they like their Bats grim n really real*, but it doesn’t fit with the Bats of the DCU at all.

    *Same motivation that keeps people denying the supernatural possibilities of this arc

  6. Carl Weathers Says:

    It really did felt flawed like Seven Soldiers 1 did, in that scenes were apparently cut (so you get the saving moment of something that you don’t even know it exists – the riots being taken care off scene by totally somewhat unecessary Club of Heroes. Just… so strange).

    And, if Bruce knew about Jezebel, how come he goes all horn dog with his knife on the glass on the previous issue (or that conversation he has with Alfred before balooning)?

    Daniels certainly improved, but it still feels like it lacks storytelling or, at least, knowing how to express certain Morrisonian thrusts of ideas, to mesh up better things like the Orlando-type of “wearing skins/suits/gloves/5th-dimensional-puppets” in all its symbolic goodness. But Morrison is certainly guilty as well in not thinking properly in how to express it better, or maybe more synchronized with the action.

  7. Zom Says:

    The Jezebel stuff from 680 is a little difficult to factor in. I’m of the opinion that GM sometimes throws narrative logic out the window if he think it’s gonna get in the way of having some fun, and I suspect that’s what happened here.

    As for the CoH’s off page adventures, that stuff may or may not have been cut. It’s not like he hasn’t gone in for that kind of fill-in-the-blanks-yourself storytelling before

  8. Carl Weathers Says:

    Yeah, but those moments felt like it might as well not be there in exchange for some other, better sculpted, cool bits.

    And was there really Ericksonian commands in her line? I know fuck all about NLP with the exception of some self-help streaks it was injected with throughout the years. I just didn’t understand why THAT line would be such a tell.

  9. Zom Says:

    I’m not really disagreeing with you, Carl-Man.

    Seems to me that there’s a long history of villains spinning sob stories that chime with their intended victims’ private tragedies in an effort to create rapport that can be exploited further down the line.

    In my experience estate agents do it all the time.

    I wouldn’t make too much of the word ‘Ericksonian’, just imagine that you’re Batman (or a property buyer) and someone (a mysterious beautiful woman, an estate agent) says something like that to you, what would you think?

  10. Marc Says:

    This issue was a blast the second time around, even moreso with your commentary in mind.

    Speaking of totems: notice how Martha Wayne’s translation echoes the final page of Animal Man?

  11. John Seavey Says:

    “True to form Batman 681 refuses to pick a side. It denies conclusivity. Anyone that says otherwise does not understand Morrison’s writing. That might annoy some of you out there, but it’s a fact. Sorry.”

    And this is why I think that DC should not let him write their regular, ongoing characters. Because I’m fully behind ambiguity as a concept, even to the point of an ambiguous ending where you never know what happened…

    But that doesn’t work in an ongoing series. You can’t have an ambiguous ending without an ending. If someone’s going to write next month’s issue, they can’t say, “We don’t really know what happened last time.” Everything builds on what came before it, and that can’t happen if you don’t _know_ what came before it. For Morrison’s stories to matter to Batman’s future, he has to pick a side and stick with it, or a later writer will do it for him.

    Understand, I say this as a fan of Morrison. I’ve always enjoyed his writing. But when he’s done with a title, he doesn’t leave anywhere for the next writer to go. Animal Man, Doom Patrol, X-Men, all of them dropped off a cliff as soon as he finished his run because there was no logical way to continue the story once Morrison had finished with it.

    He’s a great writer, but he should write self-contained stuff…because that’s what he’s doing anyway. :)

  12. David Uzumeri Says:

    I’ll concede that his runs on Animal Man and Doom Patrol were really hard to follow, but Mark Waid followed up on his JLA just fine, and just because Marvel had no idea what to do with the X-franchise when Morrison left doesn’t mean he didn’t leave them a fertile story ground to work with, especially since they’ve now basically 180ed and gone back around to a lot of the fundamentals of his reboot largely due to Matt Fraction and Warren Ellis (even though the stupid only-198-mutants thing sours the whole mess). There’s still two issues left, and with any luck all these rumors of bad feelings will be smoothed over and Morrison will pick things up after Battle, and even if he doesn’t come back Tony Daniel still seems to have a pretty definite idea of how to follow him.

  13. Zom Says:

    John, I take your point, but I have to say I come from a very different place philosophically. The very idea that GM should attempt to significantly reign himself in so that whoever follows him has an easy time of it utterly repels me*. It would mean that I’d be without some of my favourite comics – it would mean that I probably wouldn’t read superhero comics! Thankfully, as David points out, it rarely ever an either/or situation.

    *Obviously he has to reign himself in a bit. That’s the reality of servicing IP

  14. Gil Jaysmith Says:

    Why should Morrison have to restrain himself? It’s all about imagination. If the following writer can’t figure out something fun to do next (and I would say that the leading exemplar of how to manage that is Rick Veitch’s run on “Swamp Thing” after Alan Moore) then that’s their problem, and by implication the editors’ – not Morrison’s. I would much rather read “Batman” to a Morrison-penned ‘conclusion’ which makes all subsequent “Batman” stories look silly, than read an otherwise-well-plotted story which gets utterly savaged just so the next IP-servicing fucktard with no ideas to speak of gets a ‘fair shot’ at things. If you can’t think how to follow Morrison, don’t fucking try.

    And I don’t believe that Morrison leaves the company toys in an untouchable state. “Doom Patrol” continued perfectly well for two years post-Grant; I was an extremely vocal proponent of Rachel Pollack’s run. “Animal Man” could conceivably be written off as a dream which affected us readers more than it did the character himself. “JLA” didn’t destroy anything. “New X-Men” – well, the X-Men are so damn random, who could tell? As for “Batman”, Morrison is, if anything, doing a massive favour to subsequent authors, who don’t have to worry ever again about how to deal with Batman continuity: “It’s alright, lads, it all happened, it’s all good, I’ve persuaded everyone how it all fits together… now the next guy, just write some new stories… and look, as usual I’ve left loads of cool new characters around for you to play with, and I know the chances are you’ll fuck them up like you did Prometheus, but hey, I’m ever the optimist, so here, knock yourselves out.”

    .. sigh. This is why I shouldn’t post while drunk. Excellent post, amypoodle. I’m so glad I discovered this blog. It’s like Patrick’s thoughtsonstuff blog, it’s by people who can still be genuinely amazed by the good stuff.

  15. Zom Says:

    Wow, thanks, Gil. I suspect we’re on the same wavelength. The old Poodle would definitely appreciate the fellow feeling

    Like your imaginary Morrison quote, by the way

  16. Neon Snake Says:

    These should be included in the hardcover.

    Thanks for the spot on exactly when he spotted that ZEA command and flipped it, that’d been bothering me; I couldn’t make the coincidence work of it being both the “disable mode” command, and the “goddamnBats mode” command.

  17. rev'D Says:

    I continue to argue the notion that Mozzer has treated ‘R.I.P.’ as Bruce Wayne’s Adventure of the Final Problem– creating a trumped-up mastermind of crime out of thin air (which pretty much sums up the devil, dunnit?), grappling valiantly with the imaginary bastard & plummeting over Reichenbach Falls, leaving behind a baffled, saddened sidekick, a mad & fantastic legacy, and a gnomic final entry in the Black Casebook…

  18. MFreitas Says:

    Ok, you just convinced me why the supernatural angle should never be dismissed.

    But no comments on the Waynes’s black gloves on the last page?

  19. amypoodle Says:

    I like that one, Rev. Fantastic.

    Also: thanks Gil.

    I do get amazed.

  20. Zom Says:

    Well the Waynes inadvertantly caused Brucie his first big hurtin’…

  21. Eric Garrison Says:

    Excellent post as always. Why is it that after reading your annotations, I all of sudden like an issue that I didn’t like in the first place?

    There were a lot of FUCK YEAH moments in this run, and this final issue had its share of them.

    One has to wonder though that a better artist might have hit this story into the comics statosphere. One issue I find is that a lot of artists can’t properly implement Grant’s visions (David Mckean probably did it the best, and Frank Quitely on All Star Superman).

    Overall, I think that this has been an incredible run. Its gotten a ton of people into Batman, and we’re STILL talking about it.

    I await your excellent annotations on next week’s LAST RITES.

    If anyone is interested, I’m also writing about RIP on my blog at http://www.comicsandvideogames.com.

  22. HitTheTargets Says:

    I loved that whole paragraph on the ambiguity of the Bat-Radia and Buddhism. Batman shouldn’t be a wizard or anything, but come on. He lives in a world where magic and super-science are every bit as real as a gun-wielding thug in an alley. He trained himself to master anything that might come in handy while fighting crime, and if that means rolling with a Bat-mite who’s a magical imp, an extradimensional being, and/or Li’l Brucie’s imaginary friend, he’ll do it. Because he’s Batman.

    Also it’s nice to know Batman could beat the Devil. Sure, Dr. Hurt may not have been the Devil, but in the end what does that matter? He’s Batman.

  23. amypoodle Says:

    Oh, just thought I’d add – the Ericksonian command is ‘KNOW I UNDERSTAND’.

    It doesn’t matter to me what Morrison originally intended that sequence to mean, tbh.

  24. thrilltone Says:

    Rage consumes me. I went all the way to Edinburgh to buy the new Batman. Forbidden Planet was sold out, Deadhead Comics was closed (I am assuming the owner was at the pub). I am sorely tempted to use filthy downloads to read it. Christ, because of the insane amounts of newspaper coverage, all my non-comics-reading friends knpwwhat happens in it. No’ me, likes. Obviously, everyone who never reads comics is desperate for the last fucking part of a 6-part fucking story, so it is fucking sold fucking out.

    ARGH.

    Yeah.

    Sorry. Boozed up a bit.

    Sad rage.

    Grrghhh sigh.

    I look forward to reading this entry once I have tracked down the bloody comic.

    RGGGGH.

  25. Dave Says:

    I think this arc (and the Club of Heroes arc that set it up) were more successful on the meta-textual than the textual level.

    GM demonstrated a way to integrate Batman’s weirdest old adventures into a fairly conventional Bat-story that still manages to play by the noir/crime novel rules most other writers seem to like for the character. That’s cool, and a significant achievement. Now, all those adventures where he fought aliens and travelled to other worlds have a nice, tidy origin that fits with the mundane trappings of the character.

    The bad news — well, the mystery was a paper-thin thing, where the true identity of the bad guy was out in plain sight since the arc that introduced the Black Glove, written in huge type on the movie poster. Batman stories have always been kind of shit as mystery fiction, and this is a pretty typical goddamned Batman mystery.

    I hated that shit when I was eight. I think I still do.

    Oh, yeah, and that scene of Talia’s vengeance: so, we have a private jet in straight and level flight, presumably heading over the Atlantic to Africa. That would mean an altitude of about 10,000 meters, and an airspeed on the order of 500 mph.

    So they get jumped by ninja man-bats. I suppose if a couple got sucked into the jet’s engines, leaving a trail of League of Assassins trained man-bat giblets in its wake, the surviving ninja man-bats could watch Jet’s jet fall into the Atlantic for a couple of minutes before they succumbed to hypothermia and oxygen deprivation.

    Hh. Works for me.

  26. thrilltone Says:

    Man, the bit about how Batman realised Jezebel was bad news right after he realised he had fallen for her, and he suspects that was one of the reasons he liked her…

    That justififes all the ‘batman leaping at glass with a knife/saving damsel in distress/JEZEBEL!!!!’ stuff for me. He might ken she’s bad news, but he’s still got feelings… I’m still young enough to believe in the insane power of love (urrrrrgh) and hope I’m never too old, really.

    Sigh. Excellent comic. Smiles all round, here. Total agree about the warm feeling from the Joker scenes as well. Screw you, rich guys! It’s the Joker! He’s on t-shirts and is an action figure and everything!

    I’ll buy the comic next weekend, I promise.

  27. thrilltone Says:

    Oh, while I am here and still tipsy enough to type words on the internet, and not worry about waking up in the morning thinking “WHAT DID I DO?!?!” (gie it an hour), I think one of my favourite bits of RIP, and the moment when I was sure Batman was primed for awesome victory, was the whole Charlie Caligula “what’s that behind you?!?!” ambiguous Bat-Might scene. Loved it.

    Just that one panel pretty much summed up the whole tone of the thing for me.

    Baseball bat ‘realism’ mixed with psychological terror and possible supernatural interference.

    I love comics, me.

  28. Gil Jaysmith Says:

    I just remembered (sobriety, eh?) Morrison’s played the trick before of having one character’s plot device suborned by another character – at the climax of “Doom Patrol”, when Caulder thinks he’s building a robot that will let him survive the catastrophe, but the Candlemaker hijacks it…

    Not hugely relevant, I grant you (ahem), but it rang a small bell for me.

  29. Dweller Says:

    Couldn’t the whole Devil and Dr. Hurt relation be Morrison just being a tad meta? Joker accused Batman of aphopheniac, so maybe Morrison’s doing the same for us readers.

  30. David Uzumeri Says:

    I just reread 666, and the Hurt=Devil symbology is SO clear that it can’t be taken literally. Third Batman talks about the “old man, the dragon”, with “black wings like a bat”, who anointed him his messiah – I’m totally picturing a 80-year-old wizened Simon Hurt still wearing Thomas Wayne’s costume here.

    And what deal did Damian make with Hurt when he was fourteen? “Gotham’s survival in exchange for his soul.” Did he make the deal Bruce wouldn’t? Is he doing dirty shit for the Glove and Hurt in exchange for the ability to keep Gotham safe?

  31. Tucker Stone Says:

    Batman traded his soul to the devil/hitler in a brave & the bold issue 28 years ago. predates damian.

  32. HammerHeart Says:

    “Years from now, a whole new generation of comic writers, weaned on Morrison, will dust off all the wonderful toys he’s gifted to the DCU and the Club of Heroes will score their very own, honest-to goodness title. I can just see them now, the first truly international superteam since the JLE, but instead of being modeled on the Man of Steel, drawing inspiration from the ultimate self-realised humanity of Gotham’s champion.”

    The thing is, Morrison didn’t create the Club of Heroes. They were created many decades ago. Grant used old Golden-Age characters very well, and this could well lead to more interest on the Club, but they weren’t Grant’s idea.

  33. amypoodle Says:

    I understand that, but, frankly, if they work now it’s because of him, and that’s enough.

  34. The Grassy Beast Says:

    Very much looking forward to being able to read this. We haven’t had a chance to read Batman 681 yet, but in anticipation we made a song. It’s called “Black Glove” and it’s here:

    http://gardnerlinn.com/thegrassybeast/?p=24

  35. Mark Clapham Says:

    Brilliant analysis, great stuff. To answer the implicit question in the title… no way in hell, contractual matters aside, Morrison isn’t coming back to this title. There are plenty of threads left hanging, not in a ‘deferred ending’ way but in an ‘I-am-coming-back-to-this’ way. Does anyone seriously think Morrison doesn’t have more Damian story to tell?

    My suspicion is that Morrison couldn’t give a toss about the mechanical storytelling of ‘Battle for the Cowl’, but is very happy and commercially savvy enough to set up the framework for a nice, straightforward bam-pow ‘event’ following RIP. Morrison will jump back on when all that crap is out of the way (and Final Crisis is finished, natch).

    I also disagree with John S’s contention that Morrison shouldn’t be allowed on ongoing titles: there’s no ambiguity here that’s remotely relevant to other people’s stories. Editorial are obviously content with whatever is going on with Bruce’s ‘death’, and there’s clearly an underlying plan at work. All the ambiguous stuff – what actually happened to Bruce, the nature of Dr Hurt – is left at the bottom of the river for Morrison to pick up, or not, as and when he wishes. In the meantime he’s left a nice, clear continuity space between RIP and his next story in which other writers can play.

  36. Gil Jaysmith Says:

    I’m half-tempted to disagree with the very principle of “storytelling engine as good thing”. I find John’s articles about them kind of interesting, but these engines often give me a sensation of “How can we infinitely postpone the sell-by date on this idea?” – when I’m usually more interested in the perpendicular argument of “Hey, how about this new idea?” An engine which can expand to accommodate new ideas is probably best, but as John has pointed out, the only engine designed with that level of future-proofing is “Doctor Who”. Everything else requires at least a reboot, or just gets old.

    On that basis – the notion that storytelling engines should shut down before they become unsafe – Alan Moore’s introduction to “The Dark Knight Returns” comes to mind, in which he noted that characters like Robin Hood (or Batman) only acquire truly mythic status when their story definitively ends. (I wonder what Moore thinks about “The Dark Knight Strikes Back”, and whether he wants his original introduction back.)

    I also remember how a show like “Babylon 5″ (on which my sister wrote an excellent book) was all the better for having a plan, a length, and an ending – notwithstanding any interference from the networks. I still remember a whole lot of that show. Other, newer shows which didn’t present themselves as having a plan – not so much.

    I suppose DC Comics has some kind of interest in maintaining the publication of a monthly “Batman” comic, but I think (a) you get better stories if, once in a while, you’re allowed to act like you’re not going to carry on afterwards, and (b) personally, I could say goodbye to “Batman” comics, and indeed pretty much any specific storytelling engine, at any time, as long as the last story’s a good’un. I have great faith in the constant creation of new engines, but less faith in the appropriate servicing of existing ones – and anyone who’s collected long runs of pretty much any comic might agree.

    In short: I think that the short and long term benefits of having Morrison do a run on a comic exceed the downsides, and if the only practical downside is that the average comics writer doesn’t know how to follow him… well, Average Comics Writer, why don’t you make sure the door doesn’t hit your career on your way out ;-)

  37. Zom Says:

    Nice to see some interesting discussion developing here. I’ve scanned a number of other threads where the chat seems to stuck at the level of “it weren’t the Devil because nonnonoImnotlistening”.

  38. David Uzumeri Says:

    This, especially the title, adds a few new layers to the proceedings of the discussion.

    http://www.newsarama.com/php/multimedia/album.php?aid=24477

  39. Paul C Says:

    “Why should Morrison have to restrain himself? It’s all about imagination.”

    Actually, it’s all about successful franchises, and my sense is that killing off iconic characters doesn’t do anybody any favours in the long term – especially if you’re not really killing them off. People see through that stuff, unless they’re busy concentrating on the peripheral details like what “Zur-en-Ahh” means. That’s called sleight-of-hand, folks, and it means they’re taking you for a ride. It’s not a bad ride – I’d rather read Morrison than anybody else, even after all these years (snif) – but it’s just a ride, and now we have to get off.

    p.s. The best follow-on to Morrison in an ongoing title was clearly Peter Milligan on Animal Man, who produced a 6-issue run which managed to be even more bizarre than Morrison and still got Animal Man back home in time for tea. Sorry, pizza.

  40. Carl Weathers Says:

    Fuck me, that preview tastes awesome. “Could have been worse”.

    Where was that artist all this time?

    WHERE WERE YOU WHEN I NEEDED YOU!?!?!?!?!

  41. Dave Says:

    Sorrym but if New X-Men is a “plot-hole ridden tragedy,” then by that standard of breathless uninformed hyberbole, Batman RIP is “a fucking gigantic black hole from which no plot can escape in the center of a crime against humanity.”

  42. Neon Snake Says:

    ““Why should Morrison have to restrain himself? It’s all about imagination.”

    Actually, it’s all about successful franchises,”

    It’s that weird balancing act, isn’t it, in the reader’s mind?

    If you’re a fan of “Batman the franchise”, then I have a lot of sympathy with the view that it’s important to service the IP, not ruin the mythos, leave the next writer somewhere to go, and all that. There are a number of posters on other boards that I post on who have unbroken runs stretching back decades, since they were nippers, and are scared that the engine that has brought them so much pleasure is now irrepairably broken.

    On the other hand, I absolutely don’t believe that Morrison (or anyone else) should rein themselves in or dilute their stories for the sake of the franchise, for the sake of the next guy. It’s incumbent upon the next guy to one-up Morrison, to write the best story he can possibly write; otherwise, what’s the fucking point?

  43. Paul C Says:

    @Neon Snake: The problem that Morrison has is that most comic readers and the general public are interested in the IP being serviced. I don’t have an issue with killing off and resurrecting superheros – to a certain extent, that’s what they’re there for – but if you fail to deliver on a promise, you break the trust of most readers. And that’s not a good thing.

    I don’t believe that Morrison should be reined in, but he would benefit from DC editorial taking a firmer hand earlier on and a) making sure the marketing doesn’t backfire or b) not bottling out halfway through. Every writer needs a decent editor, and I sometimes think that some of Morrison’s problems stem from not having consistent and constructive editorial relationships.

  44. Zom Says:

    Yup. Swhat I reckon

  45. I’m Just Sayin’…#38 | Comics Nexus Says:

    [...] you to a very intriguing point-by-point analysis that I recently came across, that you can read by clicking here, and offer my own two cents on the conclusion to the much-ballyhooed BATMAN: [...]

  46. The Satrap Says:

    At last, I got the goddamn issue of the goddamn Batman from the goddamn online store. OK, boys, you know the drill. Thread Hijacking is GO!!!

    a) I decree that the Joker’s “comeuppance” on the bridge is a nod to/stolen from Chigurh’s car crash in “No country for all men”. It is, therefore, FACT.

    b) Sorry but if New X-Men is a “plot-hole ridden tragedy,” then by that standard of breathless uninformed hyberbole, Batman RIP is “a fucking gigantic black hole from which no plot can escape in the center of a crime against humanity.”

    As far as I’m concerned, it wasn’t the plot holes that turned NXM into your run-of-the-mill interesting failure. It was the odd unreadable storyline, the fact that the nastiness lacked the emotional honesty of the other, far superior GM project of the time(the Filth, obvs.), the dialogue (even choppier than is Gargunza’s wont, with very little in the way of the usual countervailing wit), the fact that Gundam appeared unable to walk the walk concerning the “mutant philosophy” thing he’d been going on at length, et cetera. OTOH, his run on Batman, flawed though it has been, is IMO leaps and bounds ahead of NXM in all these departments.

    Let’s take the issue of thematic consistence, for example. In this run we’ve been told that Bruce deliberately descended to a “dark cellar” (of the mind, of the franchise’s repressed history, et cetera), and found/unleashed/created something dark, something that felt threatened by the meticulous approach to doing good of that most formidable of do-gooders. That dark thing co-opted (or, if you truly insist, who knows and frankly who cares, maybe was) the figure of Bruce’s long Lost Dad, and entered into an alliance with the Joker. That alliance was bound to be strained because according to GM’s take the Clown Prince of Crime is even more offended/amused by the Bat’s methodical ways than by the do-goodin’, and because that most basic staple of teleologically driven narratives, the confrontation with the “pure source” of evil, is after all grist for the Bat’s apopheniac mill. That’s all perfectly consistent. Now, one may complain about a feel of arbitrariness about the proceedings, of lack of emotional punch in the myriad intended ambiguities, of plot details being a mess or whatever. But NXM, with its “let’s all forget about the sexy reformers and the inadequate teenagers, can I have a couple apocalypses please” et cetera is in another class of “messy”.

    c) I found this issue to be in line with what came before, meaty and enjoyable for those of us who have been willing to overlook the storyline’s shortcomings, and yet the kind of thing that’s not going to make any new converts. The fact that it did not live up to the insane hype? Well, this comes to show that it’s far easier to bullshit otherwise intelligent adults than we’re all willing to admit.

    d) I can grok the point the Joker’s trying to make, when he talks about pulling the red and black motif out of his arse, I just happen to know of a way to make it all even better. Since there’s red and black in the flashback to the life of Young Bruce, I decree that, not unlike the slurred Zurr en Arrh, the red and the black –as a painful metaphor of the senselessness of the “now you here, now you ain’t” life&death joke&punchline et cetera thing– was also buried deep in the mind of young Bruce, and was, not unlike Zurr en Arrh, tapped into by Hurt & co and turned into a hypnotic trigger, the red and black petals from last issue. I also decree that Bruce turned this around and that he created yet another back-up personality, a back-up on the back-up as it were. Therefore, I decree that in this issue Batman emerges from the grave as the red and black BATMAN BEYOND OF ZUR EN ARRH and that everybody must re-colour their comics accordingly, stat.

    Why, you’re welcome. Happy to help.

    e) Quibbling, complaining. It’s always possible, it’s part of the fun. In his heart of hearts, even if the interwebs hurt his feelings, I’m sure that GM knows this. I’ll ask him in the arctic fastness, why thanks for reminding me.

    For instance, concerning Jezebel, it’s nice (or, rather, “nice”) to see how the beatings and ball-gagging which she was subjected to by Hurt in issues prior can be reinterpreted as more than mere misdirection, as added S&M thrills for the fingers of the Black Glove. It would be nicer if Hurt’s treatment of her in this issue were somehow consistent with the aforementioned thrills from issues prior.

    f) While criticism of Daniel’s art is certainly not unwarranted, I’m still impressed by his emaciated Joker. You can practically feel the poison oozing from his chemically bleached skin.

    g) Oh, while I am here and still tipsy enough to type words on the internet, and not worry about waking up in the morning thinking “WHAT DID I DO?!?!” (give it an hour)

    But that’s the point, isn’t it? The thrill of the shame? The feeling that one has made a total cock of oneself, semi-anonymously?

    In the immortal words of Meredith Brooks, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    h) Isn’t the constant use of “et cetera” a lovable quirk? Please do tell me that it’s a lovable quirk.

  47. Zom Says:

    Satrap, I love you. You are never to leave us. Never!

    Great point about the Jet related discontinuities between 680 and 681.

  48. Neon Snake Says:

    The discontinuities work, though. Step a little to the side, and look at it again through the lens of someone who would beggar an entire country. The ballgag is just playacting for Brucie’s benefit.

    “Let go of me!” she cries! “Leave me alone!” she barks, to the hapless henchmen, how manhandle her so roughly, not knowing who they are dealing with and how they should be more gentle, lest she have them chopped into little bits.

    S’all good.

  49. Carl Weathers Says:

    I swear I just came here to post a message saying “where is Satrap?”…

    Do try to get your batsignal-slash-comics in time. No need to emulate the Batmen of all nations, coming all late and shit.

    So… when is the review of 682 coming?

  50. Zom Says:

    I imagine it will be boughted today. Thursday is comics day in the UK. I expect it to go up Sat or Sun – assuming Poodle’s happy to write it!

    Christmas podcast being recorded Sat

  51. The Satrap Says:

    Interesting point about Jezebel’s attitude. The whole thing about the fingers of the Black Glove being in an altogether different class of rich than Bruce’s is clearly an attempt (half-arsed, some infidels may say) of defusing the whole “class warfare” thing, or rather to show that accusations of oppression of the poor are the kind of hypocritical codswallop that the Black Glove degenerates would spout to rile up the Bat. Bruce has been cast in this run (being on first-name terms with hookers et cetera) as the “billionaire of the people”. This may be a somewhat charitable take on real-world philanthropists, or prolly an attempt to embrace the wish fulfilment aspect of superhero comics in an unapologetic manner and flaunt the fact that the story aims for exactly fuck-all “topical relevance”.

    Whatever the case, Jezebel’s cruelty is perfectly aligned with the entirely accurate observation I made in issues prior, that the “class warfare” thing was being solved in Bruce’s favour, given the obnoxious “Gilded Age” vibe given off by the Chardonnay-swilling Hurt and his proto-Bat masque costume.

    I mean, I’m so going to fly business class to the arctic fastness…

  52. Chris Miller Says:

    “True to form Batman 681 refuses to pick a side. It denies conclusivity. Anyone that says otherwise does not understand Morrison’s writing. That might annoy some of you out there, but it’s a fact… That’s how magic works, kids.”

    You’re right: it annoyed the hell out of me. I did not like this story. It was not a supernatural tale, in any meaningful sense except the (supposed) reveal. It did not take Bruce as a character to any new place he had not been before. It did not demonstrate any new insight into Batman (“he’s indomitable” doesn’t count, nor does “he may be crazy,” especially since neither one actually addresses the legitimate psychological concerns raised earlier in the story). It was overstuffed yet unsatisfying. It certainly wasn’t remotely “the definitive Batman story” Grant promised. It was pointless.

  53. Zom Says:

    Thanks, Chris!

    Would be interested to know how you would define the term “supernatural”. Should probably mention that it was used in Poodle’s little rant more as a term of convenience, as a way of getting our readers to pay attention to tropes, conventions and iconography that have traditionally been used within fictions of a supernatural bent. Also, I should point out that the Poodle’s (and I suspect Morrison’s) definition of supernatural is likely to be far, far more slippery than your own: “slow time”, “a machine to make a Batman” spring to mind here.

    Further, Batmite certainly can be read as a supernatural being (just not conclusively).

    Also, what “legitimate psychological concerns” would those be?

  54. thrilltone Says:

    I’m not too fussed if the story didn’t reveal any new insight about Batman. It may tread old ground in the sense that it dealt with how ludicrously well-prepared and well, unhinged, Batman is, but it dealt with this in ways I certainly haven’t read before.

    It surprised me, it made me grin and actually laugh out loud, it made me, for the first time in aaaaages, desperate to read the next issue of a comic.

    It never delivered on any of the world-changing hype, but then I tried to avoid all of that anyway. I wish other humans had also avoided the hype, then I may have actually been able to buy a hard copy of the bastard (THIS WEEKEND, THOUGH).

    I waaaaas dissappointed with the lack of solid resolution to ‘WHO IS THE BLACK GLOVE, LADS?’, which I must confess I was expecting to be some sort of Xorn-like reveal that blew my mind or at least made me go ‘ooooh’, but this doesnae bother me overmuch. My backup personality is dealing with the trauma of that, really.

    Grant Morisson’s two most favourite current things seem to be car crashes in finales (a comment on the final issues themselves?!?!) and ballgags. I fully expect the final Final Crisis to feature Batman crashing some Apokolips death-wheeler into, I dunno, an evil version of Superman’s car (the one with the two red fists), thus saving part of the world.

    “But that’s the point, isn’t it? The thrill of the shame? The feeling that one has made a total cock of oneself, semi-anonymously?”

    Yes, I’m afraid so. The rush of flesh (or leather hand)on plastic key, half-opinions transferring from brain to komputor screen – these are things that make me feel just a bit more… alive? Real, almost?

    I sure use a lot of commas.

  55. Chris Miller Says:

    Zom-

    Well, there’s room for all kinds of people in the world. Some find a static panel of Batman saying “HH” to be a “laugh out loud with glee” moment, even while admitting that it’s just retreading old ground.

    Me, not so much. And I think all the insinuations that the bad guy is really “the Devil” — in a story about a scheme that’s otherwise entirely down-to-earth — is just a cop-out to avoid supplying him with any actual motivation.

    And the psychological concerns I spoke of (I’m not the first to raise them, I hasten to add) were all the questions raised about whether Bruce’s obsession was really self-destructive, whether he was doing more harm than good, that sort of thing — all swept under the rug by Grant’s favorite take on him: the Bat-god who’s Prepared For Everything. (Meaning, of course, that his paranoid obsessive control-freak tendencies are *justified*.)

    I really thought that after IC, 52 and OYL, DC had promised to deliver a somewhat more sane, psychologically balanced Batman, letting the character move forward. Paul Dini seems to have pulled it off. Grant, OTOH, is just taking him back around to the same places again.

    Hell, Grant practically rubs our faces in it: apophenia. Looking for meaning and significance where there’s none to be found.

  56. Chris Miller Says:

    And just to play catch-up on a few other posters’ comments…

    Zom-
    “GM sometimes throws narrative logic out the window if he think it’s gonna get in the way of having some fun…”

    Indeed he does. Drives me friggin’ nuts. YMMV, obviously, but I tend to stop having fun when the story stops hanging together sensibly. What can I say? I’m a rational/analytical type.

    John and Gil-
    I agree with both of you, oddly enough. On the one hand, I’m perfectly cool with the idea of a long-term story having an ending. It worked for Babylon 5, it worked for Gaiman’s Sandman, etc., etc., and it could certainly work for Batman.

    OTOH, I agree that such an ending needs to be *good enough* to be worth the trade-off of no new stories (at least for a while), and that while Grant has a tendency to break the toys he plays with, he doesn’t necessarily do it in a way that’s worth the trade-off. With his own creations, that’s fine; with someone else’s, it seems arrogant. If he’d truly written “the definitive Batman story,” I’d be thrilled… but he didn’t come close. (Frank Miller did that — plural, in fact, both the beginning and the end of the character’s career, perfect bookends.)

    Rev-D-
    I really like the Holmes analogy you detected. Interesting.

    Dave-
    “I think this arc (and the Club of Heroes arc that set it up) were more successful on the meta-textual than the textual level.”

    I definitely think that’s how Grant intended it. And it obviously works for some people — amypoodle’s piece was all about the symbolism. This signifies this, that signifies that other thing, layer upon layer.

    Personally, though, I don’t generally find metatext satisfying unless the text beneath it works in its own right. When it doesn’t, the whole think collapses like a house without a foundation.

    Satrap-
    “Now, one may complain about a feel of arbitrariness about the proceedings, of lack of emotional punch in the myriad intended ambiguities, of plot details being a mess or whatever… I found this issue to be in line with what came before, meaty and enjoyable for those of us who have been willing to overlook the storyline’s shortcomings, and yet the kind of thing that’s not going to make any new converts.”

    Indeed one may, and I do. All of those problems are there, and they’re real, and I just can’t handwave them away to enjoy whatever’s left of the story (or for that matter the metastory). Bully for you if you can, if that’s what it takes I think Grant’s writing for a pretty narrow audience here.

    Now, won’t someone please come and comment at my blog about this? I’ve had plenty of readers, but for some reason almost no discussion!…

  57. Zom Says:

    Chris, I’m pretty rational too, thanks very much, I just have different concerns. For example, I think I probably enjoy metatext, and wallowing in (for want of a better word) the ambiance of stories more than you do.

    On the question of signifiers, I’m wondering if you should bothering reading GM penned comics if you find it difficult to immerse yourself in symbolism, and I’m wondering whether that might be the key difference between your reading of this text and my own. I find your assertion that at heart this story was “down to Earth” frankly bizarre. Ostensibly, sure, but scratch the surface and all sorts of awkward incongruities bubble up: Batmite, the Devil of 666, the Grand Guignol details, the misshapen lunatic villains. As I’ve said above, the conventions and iconography of gothic horror are present, as are skeins of psychological horror, genres which *stretch the concept of a grounded reality often to breaking point*. Poring over the bare bones of the plot won’t reveal that stuff, but then stories aren’t simply about plot, are they? Also, and this is very, very important, RIP is quite clearly not supposed to be straightforwardly supernatural in a conventional sense. It’s ambiguous in a “did I really see a ghost?” sort of way.

    Finally, you seem to be suggesting that writers should be supplying us with villains and plotlines that are driven by psychological motivations. I tend to disagree. I think it’s perfectly fine to do other things. I fact, going further, I think that’s an incredibly narrow (if very often extremely fruitful) way of approaching storytelling, and I thank God that there are creators like Grant Morrison around to give that sort of thinking two fingers.

    Are you sure you’re commenting on the right blog? I mean, I’ve criticised Morrison a lot over the years. I think he can be slapdash, and that he quite often fails to really make the best of his ideas. In all honesty I think this is an example of just such a failure (although I’ll freely admit that I enjoyed the ride immensely*), but in world of Dinis and Morrisons, give me a Morrison any day of the week. Seems to me most of our readers feel the same way.

    Please understand, I’m not trying to be antagonistic, and I’m all for discussion, and having looked at your blog it would appear that you and I see eye to eye on many things. I just suspect that you come from a very different place in terms of what you want from a comic if, as you say, you prefer the recent run on ‘tec to the recent run on Batman.

    *It strikes me that I actually enjoyed some of the ways in which this arc failed by traditional standards. There was something about it’s juddering, fragmented, non-sequitorial plot that I found fascinating and deeply immersive. The failures seemed to reinforce the experience somehow, rather than weaken it. I probably need to write (and think) about this…

  58. The Satrap Says:

    Concerning the issue of psychological realism in superhero comics, of all places… sometimes the drive to give “realistic motivations” to the make-believe members of the caped set strikes me a bit like the late (and lamented) Mark Grünewald’s strained, mildly comical attempts to come up with serious-sounding pseudo-scientific bollocks in the Marvel Encyclopaedias he oversaw.

    The Batman franchise* is 100% trashy wish fulfilment, at the end of the day. Even the elements of “darkness” and angst contained therein are melodramatic pap, frankly. Therefore, it’s perfectly legitimate to approach these characters as vehicles for “mere” epic stories and striking vignettes, hovering at some point between the archetypal and the stereotypical. If it’s done cleverly and knowingly, it can be as effective as the use of more “literary” techniques, for only the most thoroughly socialised Serious People completely fail to react to pulpy thrills, and because fortunately there’s nothing to prevent a good writer from “seeding” the base lead of pulp with the gold of symbol and meaning**.

    If I may be allowed to glory in my deeply uncool musical tastes again for a second, I’m now imagining the JLA at a karaoke bar, singing the Killers’ hit “are we human, or are we dancers?” The answer I would be willing to give is that they are for the most part dancers, but that the dancing can be glorious.

    Morrison is probably not for everybody, because he’s often reckless in his search for the “striking vignette”. But at his best he has a knack for making the most of it, emotionally and thematically, for making the striking memorable. “Darkseid is” is still the ultimate Darkseid quote, together with that great Kirby line about being the tiger-force at the core of things et cetera.

    It’s nice that you’ve mentioned Dini because his run, which I’ve enjoyed in an “it’s OK, I guess” way, provides a few good examples of overcooked psychological pseudo-realism. We’re hit over the head, repeatedly, with the reasons for Hush’s hatred for Wayne. His mother cramped his style! Compared him unfavourably to Bruce! And he was always a little psycho bastard anyway, to boot! Want some Aristotle? Bruce loves Selina, truly! So *SPOILERS* he angsts for a bit, and then they have a quickie right after her heart operation, whereupon they part ways, again. It’s OK, I guess. The best thing about this arc is Nguyen’s storytelling, which e.g. sells us totally on Hush’s wonderment at the size of the Bat-cave. The striking vignette, again.

    By contrast, Morrison is not afraid to hint at things that a lesser writer would expound on at length. His Batman has many typically Morrisonian flaws, but is it really true that the Hurt-as-Devil pseudo-reveal is arbitrary, given that the idea was already introduced when the run was entering its middle arc? Isn’t it rather that for some reason people thought it was an “unseemly” possibility? And if we accept the notion of Hurt as a daemonic presence, do we need more motivation than what’s right there on the page? Bruce, larger-than-life bastard that he is, is shown to be willing to explore the hellish regions of his mind with a ruthlessness and resourcefulness that would make Stanley and Livingstone blush (the bit about hunting and eating his traumas is another great line), so it’s easy to understand why Hurt would not take kindly to the invasion. I can almost sympathise with him.

    My main complain with the above is not one of execution, it’s rather the fact that GM appears to have…let’s say, an “optimistic compulsion” that I don’t necessarily share, which sometimes leads to an irony-free treatment of the superheroic subject-matter. “Irony” is not the same thing as lazy, smug “deconstruction”***.

    *: or “mythos”, if one has to insist yet again on ennobling it.

    **: the writer as apopheniac? Will Bruce Wayne return from his self-imposed exile with a shaven cranium and giving bullshit interviews on Newsarama?

    ***: then again, some of the factions of comics geekdom that most actively abhor Morrison’s output seem to veer towards the irony-impaired side of things…

  59. amypoodle Says:

    I’d also like to add: I fail to understand how anyone for whom conclusivity is an issue could possibly enjoy any of Grant Morrison’s comics (with perhaps the obvious exception of We3 and JLA) since Flex Mentallo. Or, Chris, is this simply a problem you have when it’s Batman? Is The Filth allowed to remain ambiguous where the fruits of the Dark Knight’s detective work are not?

    And Tec? What? I fear this mountain between us, at least in terms of this discussion, may be unscaleable.

    Agree with everything you’ve said, Zom, including, believe or not, the stuff about Grant not quite living up to his promise, but, like you, it doesn’t prevent me from enjoying his Batman enormously.

  60. Carl Weathers Says:

    Doesn’t the series starts with a villain that is a ghost (but not really)? Damian sells his soul to the devil, there are trips to transcendent mountains in tibet accompanied by a satanic bin laden and his grandson Damien, rituals of exorcism, mask-wearing Orlando-type of capital-E Evils in club of heroes saga, bat-might (“might”: not only as “power” but, as Mickey Eye said, “EQUALS AMBIGUITY!!!”), Joker’s dialogue with Hurt, “Joe Chill in hell” (and other supernatural titles that I can’t remember now).

    I still don’t like it, because I just thought it wasn’t any good, well plotted, well structured, well told etc. But I can’t see your point concerning the supernatural, Chris (except concerning Morrison validating Batman’s worst paranoid rigid assexual Rorsharch-lite traits — which I completetly agree. I found that really unsatisfying and kinda sad. More of that 682 panel of Bat-helicopter shooting at zeppelins, please).

    (rant/)

    I really wish someone would publish it all in one big book. ‘Cause I can’t be bothered to buy a shitload of paperbacks, man. It’s the same thing with New X-men. Too many things broken through the monthly rhythm, the years-long soap-opera writing, the art. It could be such a beautiful large picture from above when putting all together, but it isn’t really, no? Even if taking some things in consideration, you can’t. Those things are just too much and too much in the way…

    (/drunken rant of sadness)

    PS: really. F&%$ Dini, man. Neither-hot-nor-cold middle-brow by-the-numbers continuity-minded-pap (which I thought Morrison had some of it as well) averageness is still more boring and uninteresting than a hot failure that is aiming at the bowels of a horned moon. At least the hindenburg gives you some chills and vistas. If Dini is supposedly the other option (and worst yet, the good option), then we’re all fucked.

  61. Marc Says:

    “I’d also like to add: I fail to understand how anyone for whom conclusivity is an issue could possibly enjoy any of Grant Morrison’s comics …”

    And I’d like to add: I don’t see how anyone for whom conclusivity is a virtue could possibly enjoy any Batman comic. Or any comic featuring any halfway major DC or Marvel property. If Bucky Barnes and Jean Grey didn’t get their endings, nobody will. Batman never will. Not even Miller’s definitive ending–Miller himself has fucked that one. So don’t worry about what the next writer is going to do or whether Bruce Wayne will be back as Batman (hint: yes!) and take the comics on their own terms.

    None of which is to say RIP is beyond reproach. It has plenty of problems on its own terms (mostly in those two godawful middle issues). But I really don’t care whether Morrison has made it easier or harder for the next C-lister who’s going to follow his act. Lord knows, even when he’s left his successors with brilliant story engines (mutant culture, Mutant Town) they’ve done everything in their power to unmake them. The ambitious stories stand or fall on their own; everything else will be forgotten in two years anyway.

  62. Zom Says:

    Is truth

  63. The Satrap Says:

    We appear to have an emerging consensus (of five people or so; governments have been toppled with less) that Giordano´s output is at its sweetest when it´s shorter. It´s in minis when he is most likely to hit all the right notes, Seven Soldiers was IMO far better in (some) chunks than as a whole, even ASS was a relatively short affair et cetera. As for novel-length work like NXM or Batman, we can* argue endlessly about its relative qualities, what qualifies as an interesting failure and what not, whether the onus should be on the interesting or the failed bits et cetera.

    *: and why shouldn´t we?

    PS: The exception to the above silly Unified Field Theory would be the JLA run, which was both pretty ace and long. It was mostly a collection of self-contained arcs with a couple overarching subplots, though.

    PPS: In an entirely gratuitous “why yes, I am indeed speaking with myself” fashion, I´d like to add that the idea of “vignettes” that go beyond being “striking” to become “memorable” is congruent with the idea of superheroes as vehicles of “mythic” takes on human emotion which Glaurung has been banging on about with respect to ASS, in the last issue of “Seven Soldiers” et cetera. The less exalted formulation is better, if you ask me (which you, oh gentle reader, surely don´t).

  64. Marc Says:

    “We appear to have an emerging consensus (of five people or so; governments have been toppled with less) that Giordano´s output is at its sweetest when it´s shorter.”

    Gargunza. Gundam. Giordano. Glaurung. I await an emerging consensus that we can just call the motherfucker Grant. Morrison. and leave all the escalting Barbelith-style idiocies behind.

  65. Max Cube Says:

    thanks for another enjoying commentary on a series i really liked a lot – your writing is my preferred dvd commentary for the series we seem to mutually adore.
    i know that among everything else being discussed about the RIP arc reading it felt to me like a deeply personal and powerful story of someone (bruce/grant/me/you?) trying to grapple with the psychological realities generated by the grandest cosmo-philosophical questions of Order/Chaos/Meaningfulness/Identity/History and other concepts similarly deserving of the Blake Capital Letter. Beyond or in addition to all the plot turns and crashes, the reveals and misdirections, the action scenes and the meta-text, I found it really really moving emotionally. Seeing someone go through all that and try and keep going, makes me a bit teary-eyed.
    one question i’m puzzling over, is how reliable is Batman a narrator? How much can we believe him when he tells us he had it all worked out, was prepared for everything? Knew Jez was bullshitting him? Or is there an element of bootstrapping his own fiction into fact right there in the moment as we read/watch it happen – fake it til you make it?

  66. The Satrap Says:

    leave all the escalting Barbelith-style idiocies behind…

    While the assessment is entirely accurate, I’ve always been amused/fascinated by tropes, jargon, running gags et cetera. One could even posit that those things are not entirely unrelated to the lasting appeal of things like superhero franchises.

    There’s always the option of ignoring those people one finds precious, annoying et cetera. I hear that in real life it is harder than on the internet, though I wouldn’t know about that.

  67. Marc Says:

    Ah, “idiocies” was too harsh. I apologize for the tone (if not the principle).

    But really: not entirely unrelated to the lasting appeal of things like superhero franchises? One could also posit that those things [deliberate impenetrability, trading depth for preciousness, catering to a shrinking in-group, etc.] are not unrelated to the declining appeal of things like serial comic books… but then, one would only be justifying one’s habits.

  68. Bots'wana Beast Says:

    In the end, Marc, so far as I’m concerned only Satrap is allowed to indulge in ‘Georging’ here – I think he does it rather better than most but it’s one of those things – is it a Mark Gruenwald rule of comedy: ‘the more annoying it is to you, the funnier it is to me’? I think that’s partly how it works.

    Gosh, I would like to talk about this comic but I wouldn’t know where to start, now.

  69. The Satrap Says:

    Ah, “idiocies” was too harsh. I apologize for the tone (if not the principle).

    No offence taken. I have lots of understanding for the righteous urge to denounce the imbecilities of mankind. Personally, I rail on a daily basis against the state of the press, but far be it from me to dictate how one is to bring down the Malleus Maleficarum.

    Masturbatory “Georging” will continue in earnest, though.

    But really: not entirely unrelated to the lasting appeal of things like superhero franchises? One could also posit that…

    I was bullshitting you a bit there, admittedly.

    And, without further ado, we can officially declare the thread to be derailed. There’s growing restlessness on the back benches, clearly more input is needed.

    CAN I HAS MY REVEIW OF BTAMAN 682 PLS

    THX

  70. Zom Says:

    It’s being worked on. Honest, guvnor.

    I keep peeking into the drafts section and that word count is slowly but surely going up (think we’re up to 2700 words). Poodle promises to get it done today, but I estimate he’s only halfway there at the mo’, so it’ll be a good few hours before it goes live.

    Did the podcast at the weekend. Hopefully we didn’t get too pissed. It all seemed like excellent stuff at the time… Expect it to go up in chunks over the period between Christmas and New Year.

    Before that, end of year lists!

  71. Chris Miller Says:

    Zom-

    I’m perfectly comfortable commenting here. Smart people saying interesting things. No reason we should all have to agree over details, is there?

    “I find your assertion that at heart this story was “down to Earth” frankly bizarre. Ostensibly, sure, but scratch the surface and all sorts of awkward incongruities bubble up: Batmite, the Devil of 666, the Grand Guignol details, the misshapen lunatic villains… Also, and this is very, very important, RIP is quite clearly not supposed to be straightforwardly supernatural in a conventional sense.

    I’ll go along with what you say about the “gothic” qualities of the storyline, but really when I wrote “down to earth” what I meant to convey was, in fact, “not supernatural.” For all the atmospheric trappings, it’s still a story about a group of rich, corrupt criminals with a thoroughly human-level plan… no mysticism involved, just drugs and deception. Thus, the ambiguously supernatural ending struck me as tonally inconsistent. (And while there can be other sorts of motivations for an antagonist short of psychological realism, this didn’t really supply one.)

    I can very much enjoy symbolism, layers of meaning, metatext, etc…. so long as there’s an underlying text qua text that works on its own terms. I just found that lacking here.

    Obviously, if you found the story “immersive,” then it worked for you despite the flaws you acknowledge. It didn’t for me. Whether there’s a great degree of difference or perhaps only a small one between how much the flaws bothered us, the end result left us in different places.

    Satrap-

    “Morrison is probably not for everybody, because he’s often reckless in his search for the “striking vignette”. But at his best he has a knack for making the most of it, emotionally and thematically, for making the striking memorable.”

    No doubt. I just didn’t see this as close to his best.

    “And if we accept the notion of Hurt as a daemonic presence, do we need more motivation than what’s right there on the page?”
    Actually, yeah. Why devote such effort and attention to the Batman, in particular? When demons and devils waste their energy on, say, John Constantine, it’s understood that there’s pre-existing bad blood there. He’s trespassed onto their territory in various ways. Batman? Not so much.

    amypoodle-

    I didn’t read The Filth, but FWIW I do tend to attach different expectations to material that’s creator-owned or otherwise self-contained than to stuff set squarely within the DCU. That said, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed quite a lot of GM’s work, including (most recently) Seven Soldiers.

    Carl-
    I agree about the slapdash plotting, and I have to acknowledge you make some good points about the recurring mystical elements. I suppose I just processed most of that as psychological surrealism, not flat-out capital-S Supernatural stuff.

    However, I disagree with you about structure. I actually think this (and even more so, Final Crisis) are very intricately structured work. I just don’t think Grant’s rather quixotic notion of structure (cyclical, recursive, numerological, what-have-you) are necessarily conducive to good storytelling.

    Everyone: there seems to be a lot of hate on for Paul Dini here, which I don’t quite understand. While his work on ‘Tec isn’t up to the heights he hit with BTAS on TV, neither is it half as bad as his work on Countdown (for which I mostly blame the rotating scripters, really). He’s not breaking new ground, but he’s offered some very enjoyable stories along the way, and they have the added virtue (to my eyes, at least) of presenting recognizable versions of the characters, personality-wise, which is something Grant frankly seems to consider optional.

  72. Zom Says:

    I don’t hate Dini’s work (what I’ve read of it), I just find it bland. It certainly seems solid enough in terms of plot, character, pacing – it appears to respect the mythos and isn’t without the odd minor creative flourish – but when all is said and done it feels like a well made, and quite handsome, table (to steal a scriptwriter friend of mine’s simile).

    I’m not saying that’s a bad thing in and of itself – the world needs its competent table makers – but I tend to want my superhero comics, particularly my Batman comics (which have been mired in a particular kind of mode for a very long time now), to be a little more adventurous, even if that means putting up with some of Morrison’s less well thought out excesses.

  73. The Satrap Says:

    When demons and devils waste their energy on, say, John Constantine, it’s understood that there’s pre-existing bad blood there.

    GM tends to stick to his own personal overarching continuity, and the “Batman Gothic” storyline from Legends of the Black Knight or whatever (I have it in trade form) is about bargains with the Devil and stuff. Perhaps more importantly, the range of stories in which Batman has appeared over the years is far broader than Constantine’s. What GM has done with the introduction of the Black Glove has been to challenge a very specific perception of the character’s history, rather than the history itself.

    Apart from the supernatural elements mentioned by Carl, GM presented us early on with a big honkin’ reification of all the elements of the Bat “mythos” that stick out like a sore thumb amid the grim & gritty miasma of current continuity: the Black Casebook. More cheekily still, the Casebook was introduced as the key to solve (i.e. as something bigger, deeper than) the mystery posed by an assortment of icons of the sweaty 90′s like the Bat-Bane. That’s a pretty clear statement of intent.

    In addition, the old issues which have been quoted verbatim in the comics are, unsurprisingly enough, quite congenial to GM’s obsessions: in “Robin dies at dawn”, for example, Batman experiences a good old fashioned abduction before landing on a plane(t) that happens to be the stomping grounds of a giant daemonic statue.

    In short, this thing has been about Gerald being Giscard all along. Perhaps the people who feel somewhat “cheated” by the resolution of RIP should have bailed out earlier? I find it easier to wrap my head around the ennui expressed by some who say that GM has been, here and in Final Crisis, coasting on past successes. At least as far as the Batman run is concerned, I don’t necessarily agree. I see a lot to enjoy in the Lynchean sense of anxiety about the Batman’s predicament; the set-up of the bait-and-switch pseudo-mystery of the Black Glove (which had people talking about Mangrove Pierce or Alfred till the very end); the “discovery” of a character like Le Bossu, that feels like he’s always been lying there, waiting to be incorporated into the “mythos”; and yes, the implications of the subversion of current Bat-dogma.

  74. The Satrap Says:

    Oh, and irrespective of his “true” identity or status, Hurt is a grinning sadistic bastard after my heart, and the soliloquying third replacement Batman is a terrific new villain too.

  75. Zom Says:

    I still gonna have to disagree on the supernatural elements, Chris. To begin with the gothic genre almost always brings the supernatural along with it, even if it doesn’t do so explicitly. I know when I’m reading a gothic story, unless it’s clearly stated otherwise, that the supernatural exists within its borders, so in that sense I’m ready for it, even if it doesn’t appear until right at the end. Secondly, and this is trickier territory, the presence of the supernatural in RIP ties into both Morrison’s bat-continuity (as Satrap has already pointed out, this run and Gothic), and our understanding of Morrison’s take on the subject. Those of us who are very familiar with Morrison’s writing (not attempting to exclude you from that category, by the way) know that his angle on the supernatural isn’t the common or garden one and that things like Batmite, slow time, altered states of consciousness and reified symbolism (Simon Hurt as “everything that hurts batman”) all count. Of course this is problematic because it’s certainly not a reading open to more casual readers, but for those of us who love the sloppy bugger it works a treat.

    I’m also of the opinion that the supernatural elements are considerably less jarring than they could have been because their status is consistently presented as ambiguous. Had Beelzebub arrived on a six headed dragon I might have had a problem. A tempter in a helicopter? Not so much.

    Come to think of it, Chris, I’m glad you showed. This is exactly the kind of debate that we used to get on Barbelith back in the good old days

  76. amypoodle Says:

    Chris, the only reason I even bring the supernatural/gothic elements up is because it’s fun to see how Grant plays with these ideas, not because I think it’s necessary for everyone reading the book to pick them out. Zur en Arrh is a cool take on the idea of a magic word, and if other people don’t pick up on that reading then, well, hey ho… I do agree that the inbetween-the-linesness, the density, the symbolism of Morrison’s work can be pretty annoying, boring or alienating for a lot of readers, but I don’t find it any of those things. It’s just a question of taste really, and it’s a moot point too, ’cause the guy’s unlikely to change his writing style now.

    I’m actually going to say it too: I prefer a lot of Grant’s more recent writing (with the exception of NXM (which I didn’t hate) and Vinanarama) to things like Doom Patrol (much as I love that shit too).

    You may send the hit-men round if you wish.

  77. Chris Miller Says:

    Satrap-

    I can’t really see “bait and switch” as an experience to enjoy, in fiction any more than in commerce. And I’m completely lost as to what you find interesting about Le Bossu. OTOH, this…

    “Oh, and irrespective of his “true” identity or status, Hurt is a grinning sadistic bastard after my heart, and the soliloquying third replacement Batman is a terrific new villain too.”

    …is a statement I can get on board with.

    Zom-

    Grant giving special attention to his own prior “Bat continuity” (much less using it to put a twist on obscure surreal stories from the 1950s, something I think a grand total of zero readers were crying out for) isn’t really a selling point for me. I read both Arkham Asylum and the “Gothic” arc in LODK back when they first appeared, and never much cared for either one. They struck me as the work of someone who didn’t really get Batman, just wanted to use him as the vehicle for his own literary/symbolic preoccupations.

    Not that those are necessarily bad preoccupations; it’s just that they’re not equally appropriate in all places. He certainly reigned them in significantly on JLA, but OTOH gave them pretty free reign in Seven Soldiers — to pretty good effect in both cases. Some characters and concepts give you a lot more latitude for that sort of thing than others, IMHO.

    (I could offer similar comparisons of older work. I wouldn’t include myself as someone who “loves” Morrison — certainly not the way I do Moore or Gaiman — but I’ve read the majority of what he’s written these last 20 years, and enjoyed most of it. Contra amypoodle, I just think he’s been slipping lately.)

  78. Zom Says:

    I’m honestly not entirely sure what “getting” Batman is. I mean, I know there are popular ways of working with the character, and I appreciate that his appeal is often tied to things like, say, his humanity, but I’d be reluctant to go anywhere near anything that looked at all essentialist. What I would say is that if you are going to go outside of the bounds that many of the fans think define the character, then, if you want to bring them along, you’ll have to earn it. Something which Morrison has arguably failed to do, despite his attempts to point to and highlight the full blown, neon-glo insanity of the Bat-continuity/verse.

    I prefer Moore too. He manages to do much of what Morrison sets out to do, but he doesn’t scrimp on all the other stuff. Like coherent plots.

    Moore is a have-your-cake-and-eat-it experience.

  79. The Satrap Says:

    And I’m completely lost as to what you find interesting about Le Bossu.

    He’s a perfect example of the distinguished tradition in superhero comics of cannibalising stuff from other sources; the specific sources he’s drawn from allow lots of textured riffing (meaning that the guy’s baggage goes from Victor fucking Hugo to the Disney bowdlerisations); he’s a novel iteration on the motive of “brilliance in a twisted body” that is inherent to so many Bat-villains (and some of us like the playful aspect of the iteratin’); there’s genuine potential in the fact that the Joker called him on his bullshit and that he’s disfigured for good; he commits violence with a glee that is both suitably “mythic” and refreshing (for the “cathartic” usefulness of villains lies less in their defeats than in the fact that they are nasty on our behalf); HE HAS AN ARMY OF GARGOYLES FOR FUCK’S SAKE.

    to put a twist on obscure surreal stories from the 1950s, something I think a grand total of zero readers were crying out for…

    The collection of essays Batman Unauthorized, edited by Denny O’Neil, is for the most part jejune middlebrow pablum, but it does have a couple of nice contributions. Geoff Klock’s unabashed love letter to the Tank’s latest run-ins with the Bat is one of them. Another one is a piece asking for the 50′s to be revisited, and stating that the Batman of that era is as faithful to the essence of the character as other, more street-level iterations. This was all before the begin of Garfield’s run, mind.

    So yeah, there are indeed people out there for whom the surreal stuff has been a rather welcome change of pace.

  80. The Satrap Says:

    “before the beginning of G’s run…”

    +

    screwy link.

    Apologies, oh gentle reader.

  81. The Satrap Says:

    Also, Le Bossu is an immigrant, in Gotham. Will* always be, aggressively, incongruously, iconically. Does any Bat-villain bring that to the table? Not that I know of.

    *: or rather, would. One shouldn’t assume that in the current environment people can be arsed to touch icky stuff like new characters.

  82. The Satrap Says:

    Also, Hugo’s hunchback is based on Pulcinella / Polichinelle, and anything that connects superheroes to their long-neglected Commedia dell’arte roots is fine in my book.

    I’ll shut up now.

    I mean, hopefully.

  83. Chris Miller Says:

    “What I would say is that if you are going to go outside of the bounds that many of the fans think define the character, then, if you want to bring them along, you’ll have to earn it. Something which Morrison has arguably failed to do…”
    Fair enough. I’m not trying to say there are carved-in-stone boundaries.

    “I prefer Moore too. He manages to do much of what Morrison sets out to do, but he doesn’t scrimp on all the other stuff. Like coherent plots.”
    Quoted for truth.

  84. Zom Says:

    I give up.

    You’re on the blogroll!

  85. Bots'wana Beast Says:

    Yeah, I put you there about a month back, Chris. I like today’s/yesterday’s article a great deal although there was a whiff of bullshit science, maybe, about it. I don’t know much about science.

    The thing I don’t get – and I do think there’s a strong unheimlich bent to MozBats, but never anything remotely so overtly supernaturalist as was in Gothic, is that you select, at this point, from your prior summations, an answer to the remains-multiple-choice ID of Simon Hurt that works diametrically against earlier reading. I know Chris Sims isn’t necessarily the towering intellect of ComicsBlogdom, saying that with great affection and he’s on the sidebar too, but his reading (be warned: second-most effusive review of #681 ever, after this) while not the one I’d choose, because it’s probably going to turn out to be Desaad, in the end, isn’t it, in some way, is at least consistent with the lead-in and his understanding of Batman. He makes it work quite well, I think.

    That said, and Mike Marts was the editor on New X-Men too (of which, so far as I’m concerned, this is largely a remixing), I do think Grant needs to be taken in hand a bit by someone like, well, Stuart Moore preferably but I’m sure Axel Alonso could make him a mite more consistent and crisp.

  86. Zom Says:

    I thought they were both fairly run of mill readings, Dunc (and kinda wrong, if you ask me) – the sort of thing you’d expect from reasonably articulate fans with a hard-on for the RIP arc.

    Like their enthusiasm, though. Chris in particular is always very good at conveying that, and I do so love to see people having a good time.

    As I imagine do many, many other folk, hence his large readership.

  87. Bots'wana Beast Says:

    I really enjoy Sims reviews every week, although they do occasionally slip into formula (“the story had x, y and z [where x, y and z are wild concepts], ergo I, of course, loved it”], but I’m not often struck by them as I was this – I honestly thought of Mangrove Pierce as the floppiest of canards, but the simple rationale: look, Batman says so. A lot of people want Batman grounded in really, the earthy tones of Miller’s era, but possibly even preceding that – I think they don’t want supernature intruding, I think Chris (Miller) is kind of expressing that? I can sympathise a bit, without obviously speaking to the larger problem you will have with Batman operating in the DCU and so on – the notion that that is how Batman is done. Science says Batman could exist, and I think that’s as integral a facet of why the character is so unbelievably malleable as the more out-there gear. So, it’s a reading available for hardliners there – I prefer the all-encompassing route of the Devil/Desaad/Darkseid, possibly operating the body of a man called Mangrove Pierce in some fashion, who just happens to be the doppelganger of Bruce et pater, the usual anti-self gear Grant likes so much, but I quite like the idea of giving each multichoicer the same weighting. I can’t really make Thomas Wayne, Sr. work so much atm, but – pretty hilariously, I thought – different news outlets have been screaming ‘Batman killed by devil[Guardian]/his father[FOX]‘.

    I’m not sure that there were any actual errors in either above-linked review? Certainly you, I or especially yr bro might like to, and be right in doing so, claim a better feel for authorial intentionality, but like him, otoh, I could give one for it.

  88. Nebulouschief3351.Sosblogs.Com Says:

    Vous nous concoctez continuellement des articles fascinants

  89. gigantesques nibards Says:

    Superbe post : encore une fois

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