Friday, December 26, 2008

Nova says: Don't be a Phalanx DICK

So I just read the first twelve issues of the new Nova ongoing by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning. I ordered that nifty new hardcover that just came out - Nova: Annihilation. And boy is it good.

But rather than just tell you why I think it's good, which you don't care about, I thought I'd tell you about how it got me thinking about comic book mythology. Which you REALLY don't care about. So here goes.

Comic books are myths, folks. Perhaps the purest form of the myth we have left. Don't be afraid of that, by the way. It's an honored and important tradition.

As long as there have been people there have been people telling stories. Mythology may be the oldest human institution running, and for good reason. Myths serve a variety of functions, but to me they all boil down to two main functions:

1) Myths take complex and abstract ideas and bring them down to a level that makes them intellectually palatable.

2) Myths take uncomfortable and personally objectionable ideas and makes them psychologically palatable.

Look, life is tough - it takes a spoonful of mythology to make the medicine go down. We need a bridge to connect us to the great big world about us. So we have our gods teach us things about the universe and ourselves in ways we can absorb. With lots of punching and sex.

So round about issue # 7, Richard Rider gets wholly infected with the transmode virus, and becomes one of the Phalanx. These folks are a more advanced evolutionary version of Warlock from the New Mutants. (Warlock actually makes some unlikely but very poignant appearances in issues # 11-12)

At any rate, it's a lot like being taken over by the Borg. You become a member of the Phalanx and are bound to their communal goals. Now Nova is made a "Select", and so he has a certain amount of free will.

He still feels like Richard Rider, and maintains most of his personality. But he is completely unable to defy the collective goals of the Phalanx, and in that way, he is still a puppet.

I swear to you I'm getting to a point. I wanted to share that with you to help you understand a piece of dialogue that DnA throw at you as Nova explains his new revelations about being a member of the Phalanx:

I like that bit for two reasons. Firstly, it reminds us that nobody considers themselves "the bad guy". All of the people you hate? They are the heroes of their own story. They feel exactly as you do - a beacon of hope and a keeper of righteousness in a world gone mad.

It's important to remember that.

The second reason I love that excerpt is because of how bloody subversive it is. Because in those phrases, we see the enemy, and the enemy is US.

Now, I don't want to make this an attack leveled strictly at the United States - it's an attack on the concept of "empire" itself. Abnett and Lanning being British, they have a little empire and colonization in their culture as well. But if the shoe fits...

The United States of America runs around stomping balls in the name of Freedom. Whenever we decide that we need some resource or some swath of land, we start spreading "gifts" of civilization and freedom to the Heathens.

Thank God all those plantation owners chained up those pesky Africans, they would have never known what to do with themselves otherwise. Same goes for those backwoods savages who were here before we were. March them the hell away from that gold and hand them a Bible for Christ's sake, they're worshipping dirt like a pack of idiots!

And before you go thinking how much cooler you are then those idiots who killed Indians and enslaved Africans, understand this: we're still mucking up other people's lives for their stuff.

Only difference is, we need oil more than gold now. And we're more in the Freedom business than the God business these days. However you slice it, we are the goddamn Phalanx. And that's in this comic book.

Now, not one reader in one hundred will know they just learned that. But they did. The Phalanx are the good guys, giving "gifts" to their victims? No way. As Richard Rider says to himself through the transmode propoganda: why aren't you screaming?

Nova # 7 is a little mythological pill slipping past the cultural programming and reminding us of dark things we need to know. Things we don't want to hear about ourselves. We might be the good guys in our own story, but to Iraq we're just the Phalanx.

Why aren't we screaming?

Again, I want to emphasize that this is not an Anti-American jag. I thought of Iraq because I'm an American. We're acting like a bunch of Phalanx dicks. We just are.

But the metaphor fits more perfectly with a Communist regime. North Korea, I'm looking at you. It works just as well religiously as it does politically. Muslim extremism? I'm looking at you, now.

Whoever you are, if you're awake at all you'll be looking at yourself and your world and wondering about what you're foisting on other people for their "own good". The Phalanx think they're helping, too. They're the biggest cocks in the galaxy. Don't be a D-Bag Phalanx. It's so deliciously subversive.

And that is why I love comics. Keeping the Promethean flame alive, my friend. With really big boobs and explosions in space.

- Ryan

Chronic Review: The Spirit

So I went to see The Spirit today, and it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. No, it was significantly worse.

The problem with the film is that it never hits a true note. You know when you're supposed to laugh at the Octopus clones and his egg references, and when you're supposed to be impressed with Gabriel Macht's improbable dialogue about "his city".

You know when you're supposed to be in awe of Denny Colt's sex appeal and charm, and you know when you're supposed to think how clever Frank Miller is as a director when he flashes those stark whites on the bottom of The Spirit's shoes at you. You just don't.

When you watch The Spirit, you don't ever feel the way you know Frank Miller demands you feel about it. There is never a five minute block during the movie when you can invest an ounce of yourself in it. Over the top doesn't begin to cover it.

If it sounds as though my review is entirely negative, I want to confess that I was conflicted about the movie for at least one third of it. As I watched and listened, I recognized that I was essentially watching a kissing cousin of Sin City.

It has the same absurd "hard boiled" dialogue, the same absurd growling narrative. It's imbued with the same juvenile power/sex fantasies. It's a Frank Miller movie. It hits you with a feverish lack of sophistication. Both movies prune their rose bushes with a chain saw.

So why do I find those attributes so charming in Sin City, and so jarring in The Spirit? I must confess again and tell you that I don't know why. I don't know why one works and one doesn't, I just know that my Spirit experience was one of bemused disdain.

I was also reminded a bit of All-Star Batman while watching the movie. While you're watching the film, you catch yourself wondering if the creators secretly hate the work. Is this a love letter gone wrong or a sick joke? How seriously am I meant to take this? You find yourself asking these questions as you read ASBM, as well.

I guess I'm not completely qualified to assess the movie, because I've never read much of Eisner's original material. Maybe Eisner's Spirit was also an exercise in pushing the envelope of the ridiculous. But it doesn't feel that way. It feels like Eisner is somewhere in the ether shaking his spectral head in dismay.

I thought Scarlet Johannsen avoided total embarrassment with her Silken Floss, which was mostly on key and occasionally fun. Dan Lauria (the dad from the Wonder Years) was serviceable as well. But really, the best part of this film for me was the trailer for Push that ran a few minutes prior.

The Spirit may be the worst movie I've ever seen. I say that as a man who has viewed Eye of the Beholder in its entirety.

If you like yourself, do avoid The Spirit.

- Ryan

Monday, December 22, 2008

Now That You've Read Crossed # 2....

How much fun is that wrap cover for issue # 1?

The second issue of Crossed certainly did not dissapoint. This is the ballsiest comic in...ever. If there is a vulgarian on your Christmas list, do them a favor and fire these issues under the tree.

And after all we've seen, Ennis himself says the most disgusting, gut-flinching scene is coming in issue # 3. Dear God, what's in store for us next month???

- Ryan

Friday, December 19, 2008

Remember these?

Ye Olde Shinders Bag

Ah, yes. A little something nostalgic for the yuletide season. For those of you who were comic collectors in Minnesota from 40AD-2007, Shinders was a big part of your life.

Just the sight of these makes me happy, remembering all of those Wednesday treasures that were hidden inside. Back when you could buy a copy of Amazing Spider-Man, hand the guy (or goth chick) a dollar and RECEIVE CHANGE. Can you even imagine such a time?

Here's to you, Shinders. You were fully decked out in 4 color goodness, laced with baseball cards, trimmed in porn. You were Mecca without all the discipline and death. You were ours and we loved you with the strength of a child's heart.

And then came the inevitable sale and the not-so-inevitable cocaine use. Thanks, buddy. Thanks for flushing away an institution of Wonders with your white powdered moustache and paranoid delusions of grandeur. It's all gone, now.

Except for this bag, which I bring to you digitally in fond remembrance. Recall the past, cling to the warmth and let it grow a seed to bring forth a new Shinders for a new age. Or something.

- Ryan

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Annotated Chronic: Moon Unit Zeek

In episode # 72, Quincy alluded to a comic I created back in high school titled "Moon Unit Zeek". A few words on that:

I created quite a few comics when I was a kid. The first was "G.I. Bo", which was just G.I. Joe with rabbits instead of people. At the time it always bugged me that there was no guy named "Joe" on the team. Who is this cat who was so special they named a goddamn special forces team after him? And why don't we ever see this guy?

These issues kept me awake most nights so I decided to create my own team where the team namesake had a leader that fit. So the lead rabbit was named Bo. And he was a bad ass rabbit if ever there were one; tough, confident, a smart ass. Basically me with toughness and confidence.

These guys also fought Cobra. They were actual snakes. That thing lasted about 6 issues, and I even cajoled my brother and my friend Scott Primeau to write letters so I could have a letters page. Awesome.

I also did a book with ninja dogs called "K-9", and that never made it past issue one. In high school came my most prolific work, which included "Tornado Man" and "Moon Unit Zeek". Tornado Man was a scientist who could- you guessed it- turn himself into a swirling funnel of destructive air. Things would threaten his hot lab assistant and Tornado Man would then proceed to Fuck Shit Up for his enemies. Pretty straightforward, pretty boring.

Ahhh, but then there was Moon Unit Zeek. My tour de force. Zeek was a high school punk with a mohawk and triangle shades that he wore night and day. He was a gigantic asshole, and apparently not very bright because he rolled around in some fairly aggressive toxic waste that of course granted him super powers.

Zeek could emit radiation blasts, and if I remember correctly he could also shoot electricity. The radiation also gave him mind control powers. Zeek had many adventures in which he would take revenge on those who had bullied him in the past with exquisite violence. He would also use his mental abilities to have sex with cheerleaders and such. I suppose in a sense you could say they were artificially willing...but no. Let's face it. He conducted wide scale rape.

So what does this tell you about me? One, I've never had an original idea in my life. G.I. Bo was a copy of GI Joe, and K-9 was a complete rip-off of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Tornado Man is so generic I don't even know where to start, and Moon Unit Zeek was basically a "what if Sid Vicious were actually Frank Zappa's son" riff. OK, kind of inventive to combine the two I guess, but you couldn't change the name a little just to throw the dogs off the scent, dumb ass?

And the more things change, the more they stay the same. I still have no original material whatsoever. But if you listen to the show, you know that already.

Secondly, we're already establishing the sexual inadequacies at an early age, which is precious. Moon Unit Zeek was everything I couldn't be; powerful and sexually active. So I had him do it. With an attitude. Ah, the follies of youth....


Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Batman RIP: The Devil is in the Details - Part IV

Final Thoughts

So. After all is said and done, how shall we assess Batman: RIP? Catastrophic failure? A future legend? I can't speak for anybody but myself, and I'm going to call it a resounding success.

Here's a fun fact: I've now read Batman # 681 no less than 6 times, and I've enjoyed it every run-through. What's the last comic you read that had you so intrigued you went back to it a half dozen times in a week?

No matter how you interpret the identity of The Black Glove or the conclusion of the arc, I think it's beyond debate that Morrison got us all thinking and talking about Bruce Wayne on a higher level than we have in a long time.

Even those folks who were upset over the ending - isn't most of that anger directly attributed to the buzz most of us felt about what was happening? It seemed like something BIG was just around the corner, the promise was so grand only the greatest of payoffs could have satisfied.

For me the series did pay off. I've already discussed some of the most controversial elements of RIP, but really, that's not even the lion's share of the real juice. Look at all of the kick-ass things that happened that we AREN'T talking about because we're all so hung up on Bruce Wayne's "death" and Black Glove's identity:

Nightwing ponders the cowl:

How cool is that? We've been waiting a long time for this. I think Dick is ready for the challenge, and we're ready to accept him in the role. Maybe not forever, but for now. Look, Nighwing is already in the "big leagues", but who could possibly fill those shoes? He might be the only one, and I'd like to see what happens to him when the pressure is on to carry on the legend.

Talia Defends Her Man

Talia is a difficult character to like, and her son is a GIANT ASS. Yet it was still satisfying to me to see her inject a bunch of her ninjas with serum and send a small army of man-bats after Jezebel Jet. Get that dirty whore, man-bats!

This one had it all. Batman facing off with greatest of foes half-crazed and pushed to the brink. Nighwing and Robin riding in as the cavalry just in the nick of time. We all know that Batman is the most formidable human being in the medium. (Sorry, Steve Rogers. He is) It's nice to be reminded of WHY we know that, to see him overcome the impossible with razor smarts and granite will.

It was fun, and it was fun that survived 6 read-throughs. Last year the Sinestro Corps War stole the show - this year I think that Batman: RIP is what we'll remember about 2008 when it's all said and done.

Tangent: Dark Knight DVD

On a sort of related note, the Dark Knight DVD came out today in 9 different formats! My roomate will not be pleased about this, but I'm going to recommend that Batman: RIP fans try and pick up the limited edition 2-disc set exclusive to Circuit City:

It features a Joker cover, and also contains a black Bat-Journal! Now that Bruce Wayne is sitting on the sidelines for a bit, you can pick up where he left off and start recording the cleansing of Gotham in your own Black Casebook. Very nice. Good luck finding one....

- Ryan

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Batman RIP: The Devil Is In The Details - Part III

What Is UP With The "Zurr-En-Arrh" Nonsense?

One of Grant Morrison's objectives in his run on Batman was to treat the character as though everything that has come before actually happened to Bruce Wayne.

Morrison was interested in the mental state of a man who had lived through so many adventures and gone through so many seemingly irreconcilable mental states. I mean, seriously - how could the campy Batman of the 60s and the ultra serious and aggressive Batman since Frank Miller's Dark Knight Returns really be the same guy?

The answer from Morrison is that Batman has purposefully ran himself through the ringer in order to prepare for absolutely every contingency. It takes a "groovy" Batman to work through the Flower Power generation, so he does that. And it takes an edgier Batman to make it through contemporary America. Batman's not really crazy. He's just covering ALL of his bases.

This journey through Batman's history is where we get Zurr-En-Arrh, a concept first introduced in Batman # 133 back in 1958. The Batman of Zurr-En-Arrh reached out into space and dragged our resident Batman to his strange planet for assistance with some alien invaders.

He wore a costume very similar to the one we see in Batman: RIP and actually had the powers of Superman. After the adventure was over, Z.E.R Batman gave the Earth version his radia as a keepsake, and that device also ends up playing a prominent role in Batman # 681.

I think it's actually refreshing that we have a writer who is looking to preserve history rather than slash, burn, and slap a new #1 on the next cover. I'm guessing it's been a real treat for Old School Bat-files, of which I am not. I read Dark Knight returns like everyone else, and I peek my head into the Bat Cave every now and again for some of the big events: Knighfall, Hush, and Now R.I.P.

My lengthy point here is that I'm not completely qualified to comment on Zurr-En-Arrh and all of it's intricacies, because it wasn't planted there for me. I don't know my history. But I can say a few things about what I saw in Batman # 681 and make some educated guesses. I think it's best to begin at the end, strangely enough. Morrison closes out R.I.P. with what appears to be the origins of Zurr-En-Arrh:

Pretty easy to see why this might be something iconic pressed into young Bruce Wayne's psyche. "Zorro in Arkham" is essentially the last thing he hears with innocent ears, the final bell before his entire world is shattered and he is born anew on his path to The Bat. Zorro in Arkahm. Zurr-En-Arrh.

A few complications arise (at least for me) with this birthing. What bothers me is that both Batman and The Black Glove sort of claim to "own" it. Batman claims to have constructed the Batman of Zurr-En-Arrh as a psychological failsafe. When something breaks him down, he's built this backup personality to rise above it.

And that makes a certain amount of sense. Young Bruce Wayne is thinking about masked crime fighters as he leaves a cinematic showing of "Mask of Zorro". His mother then counters his romantic notions with the harsher reality - they'd put Zorro in a straitjacket. And that's what the Batman of Zurr-En-Arrh is: a masked crime fighter brought to madness. It all fits.

But then we also have the Black Glove who really sends Batman spiralling down the dark path when he has agent Jezebel Jet whisper the implanted phrase "Zurr-En-Arrh" into Wayne's ear. And that suggests that Zurr-En-Arrh was a tool The Black Glove came up with to send Batman over the top, not a failsafe that Batman created to protect himself.

Could they be both?

I have a theory about that, and it involves the Black Glove as Satan schtick. I believe that The Devil has been interested in Bruce Wayne from the beginning, and I believe that he takes "possession" of people in order to manifest his earthly plans.

It would help explain a scene I didn't particularly care for just before the helicopter crashes, when the Prince of Darkness begins screaming like a little girl:

This is how the "Great Adversary" faces his death? Could a simple explosion even do anything permanent to such a being? It seemed odd to me. Naysayers on the Devil theory may take it as evidence that The Black Glove obviously wasn't Satan, and you're welcome to do that.

But if such a being were a possessor of souls and not the people themselves, I think the scene still fits. When it becomes apparent that the battle is going badly, The Devil simply exits stage left and leaves the real Dr. Hurt (or whoever he is) to take the explosion. That sounds like something the Prince of Darkness would do, yes?

But how does that help us with Zurr-En-Arrh? Well, in that final scene of R.I.P. we see what appears to be Joe Chill behind the Wayne's getting ready to do his inevitable evil.

But what if it was actually The Devil using Joe Chill as a pawn? It wouldn't take much of a push, would it?

Now Satan is there to also hear Martha Wayne's proclamation that they would put "Zorro in Arkham" and at a distance where it might be muddled into "Zurr-En-Arrh". The Black Glove did tell Batman that he was "there from the beginning". Maybe this is what he was speaking of.

Conclusive proof? Nah. Does it make for a more entertaining read? I think so. I think it's cool to think that The Devil has taken an interest in Batman as a remarkable specimen of the human race since he was a child. And I think that Grant Morrison has been inviting us to think that way.

The "possessing Devil" theory allows us a semi-rational explanation for the way that Zurr-En-Arrh gets used by both sides of the equation, and it can explain why Dr. Hurt was acting like such a little bitch before he got blown up. It also makes for a more epic and compelling story, in my opinion. The stakes are higher, Batman is testing his mettle against the highest powers and winning. Good stuff.

Up next: I Conclude With More Good Stuff About RIP!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Batman RIP: The Devil is in the Details - Part II

Who Is The Black Glove?

Boy, did this reveal put some bees in some folk's shorts. I'm talking talking about some extra large Japanese death hornets gallivanting in people's boxers and doing catastrophic damage to their junk. So, after reading Batman # 681, who shall we believe The Black Glove really is?

The man himself claims to be Batman's father, Thomas Wayne. Batman believes him to be Mangrove Pierce, star of the cinematic "Black Glove". The Joker seems to imply that our Big Bad is The Devil himself. Confusing, yes?

Let's not go crazy, kids. OK, maybe Morrison didn't hit you over the head with it like a lead pipe. What did you expect? If you want dull and easy, find another author. Seriously. It bears repeating: Grant Morrison is writing on a more subtle level. The devil is in this case quite literally in the details.

Yes, I'm telling you that the Black Glove is actually the goddamn Prince of Darkness. And not that geriatric mumbler who once fronted Black Sabbath - the cool one. Satan. Yeah, baby!

It's appropriate to be very impressed with Timothy Callahan, noted Morrison scholar and avid comic book reader. He called his shot two weeks before the book hit - wow. But let's not just take his word for it. Time to break down Batman # 681 and demonstrate the point with the text.

Clue # 1: The Joker recognizes The Black Glove as The Devil

The grand plan to break The Bat landed all parties involved at Arkham Asylum, which is of course the Joker's current address. Cue hijinx:

Now that phrase is actually quite cryptic and doesn't exactly seal the deal. If you were to ask me exactly what I thought that line signified, I couldn't begin to guess. Morrison studies a lot of stuff - perhaps he bumped into some religion of school of thought that has some demonic significance attached to the number two.

A couple of important things there. One is that we get the word "devil" thrown in there, and Joker is very definitely attaching that moniker to Dr. Hurt. He has some intuitive gift that allows him to pierce the deception and come up with Hurt's true nature.

The second item of import is Joker's reaction to that realization. If you were expecting a quivering little ball of deference and humility...guess again.

How much fun is this scene if you buy into the Black Glove as Satan story! He snaps his little cronies neck, says the Joker trumps him, and tells the Dark Lord that he's betting on Batman to kick his sorry ass in about five minutes. It's wonderful, people. Accept it. Enjoy it.

And listen, if that's all there was to it, I wouldn't buy into the Devil routine, either. But there's more.

Clue # 2: Batman # 666

Remember how odd and confusing that issue was plopped in the middle of Batman & Son? We had Damien as Batman fifteen years in the future fighting replacement Batmen who think they're the anti-christ. Doesn't seem quite as odd now, does it?

Damien drops a zinger toward the end of that issue - he claims to have traded his soul to the Devil in exchange for the future of Gotham. Is that literal? In continuity? I don't know, but there's that darned Devil again. And he's hanging around Gotham, and he's interested in Batman.

And again, if that were the only piece of evidence, we'd probably have to throw it in the trash. But wait...there's more.

Clue # 3: The Final Confrontation

There's quite a blow-by-blow verbal battle high above Gotham between the Black Glove and Batman at the end. It begins with the line that most of the internet has grabbed hold of and refused to let go:

I'm your father, Bruce. I'm Thomas Wayne. BAM! And it's quite a bomb, designed to hurt and punish, which is exactly what the Black Glove has been doing to Batman all along. Torturing him in every sense to break him down. But that's not where the battle ends. Because Batman immediately calls the revelation a lie:

"You're not Thomas Wayne."

A declarative with no frills. Batman isn't the type to delude himself. If there was evidence that the Black Glove was his father, he'd face it down with the same icy resolve he faces everything with.

But he didn't do that. He called it a lie. So does the Black Glove defend this untruth? Far from it. He instead says: "and still, the cloak fits. And if not dad, have you dared to consider the only alternative?"

Batman offers back with Mangrove Pierce, star of the film "Black Glove". Hurt dismisses this idea immediately. "No. I skinned Mangrove Pierce alive and wore him the Mayhew's party."

So he's not Thomas Wayne, and he's not Mangrove Pierce. Who in the hell (rimshot, please) is this guy??? He continues: "I am the hole in things, Bruce, the Enemy, the piece that can never fit, there since the beginning."

A few points to make on THAT bit of nonsense. In the biblical book of Job, there is a figure who essentially tortures Job and brings him to the mental and physical brink. He's known in that book as the Adversary, and he's typically thought of as the Devil. Sound familiar? Dr. Hurt has done the same to Batman, and now claims to be the "enemy". Hmmmm.

He also claims to be "there since the beginning". A few ways to interpret that. Satan was God's top lieutenant in the old stories before the Council of Nicea tossed out all those gems from the Bible. So there's that beginning.

You may also remember the story of Adam and Eve got tempted by this jerkwad serpent in the Garden of Eden. And that was the Devil again, this time as the Serpent. And that was a beginning as well. Interesting.

This whole scenario is also reminiscent of Jesus "temptation in the wilderness". Before he begins his travelling priesthood, The Devil tests his mettle. For 40 days Jesus fasts, and Satan puts him through the ringer - he's physically, emotionally, psychically beaten down.

Sound familiar? Again, this is exactly what Dr. Hurt is doing to Batman. That temptation business closes at the top of a peak looking over Jerusalem. Here Batman is challenged to the heights overlooking Gotham. And it doesn't work exactly as the Gospels do. It's really a cross between a "temptation in the wilderness" and a "Faustian bargain". Both archetypes involve guess who? Satan.

I'm not going to sit here and tell you that you must interpret this text as Black Glove = Satan. Hurt could be lying out his bum to try and intimidate Batman. But I'm tired of listening to forum posters trying to say that the idea is preposterous.

What's preposterous is that you read the book and missed all the bread crumbs Morrison left for you. If you aren't digging it, fine. I'm not suggesting you have to think it's a great idea. But at least understand what you're bitching about, you damn heathens.

Would you believe there's more Satany goodness available to analyze?

Clue # 4: Batman thinks the Black Glove is The Devil

How do I know that? Because I read the book, that's how. Remember those final journal entries in Batman's black casebook? Here's how he puts it to bed:

"In my attempts to see clearly in the deepest dark, in my efforts to go to the still eye in the storm of madness, did I open myself to some pure source of evil? Did I finally reach the limits of reason? And find the Devil waiting? And was that fear in his eyes?"

There's that rascally Prince of Darkness again. And he's afraid of Batman, which is BAD ASS. Sorry, it just is. And fun.

And quite frankly, I think the fear is mutual. Batman put away his cape and cowl and completely disappeared for six months. We know he's not dead from Part I - so why did he do that?

My interpretation is that he took the Black Glove's curse very seriously. What curse? The one that Dr. Hurt bestowed on Batman as he took off in that soon to be exploding helicopter:

Batman brushed up against the source of pure evil, and that source declared Batman to be cursed. Wear the cowl and die, kid. So he hasn't. Can you imagine anything other than a major demonic figure getting Batman to back off being The Batman? It doesn't really make sense to me any other way.

- Ryan

Next up: Zurr-En-Arrh!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Batman RIP: The Devil is in the Details - Part I

Batman: R.I.P. concluded when Batman # 681 hit the stands last Wednesday, causing quite a furor among the unwashed masses. The message boards and forums lit up with ubiquitous bitching about the lack of closure, Batman's "death" scene, the true identity of the Black Glove, and the overall clarity of the plot.

As usual, the boisterous voices on the forum don't tend to speak for the true sentiment of the general reading populace. If you just listened to the chat when the story broke, you'd think Morrison just broke the franchise forever.

A recent Newsarama poll tells a different story about reader reaction. They set up a 4 point scale to rank the quality of the ending, and the rating with the most votes to this point has been 3 - not a masterpiece, but pretty darn good.

As promised on The Show, I'm going to break down some of the items that have caused the most hullaballoo and determine if the rancor is justified. Not to ruin the surprise or anything - in most cases it isn't.

Grant Morrison is not your typical comic book writer. He's a bright guy, he's an odd guy, and he writes with precision and texture. If you want to absorb the Morrison Experience, you have to be awake and pay attention. The clues are placed purposefully to make a better, more nuanced reading.

The devil is very much in the details, friends. Let's take a closer look at Batman # 681 and see if we can answer the question that nearly cracked the internet in half:

Did Bruce Wayne Really Go Boom in that Helicopter?

Of course not. Bruce Wayne is very much alive. At least for now. How do we know this?

I know what you're thinking. "Of course he isn't dead. He's a main character, so they'll just bring him back even if he did die." That's not what I'm talking about.

I'm not even talking about the fact that Morrison told us all point blank a few months ago in an IGN interview that the Batman in Final Crisis (which occurs chronologically after R.I.P) is Bruce Wayne. Although that's a pretty good reason, you have to admit.

No. I'm telling you that if you simply read the story with the care that a Morrison book demands, he's telling you clearly that Bruce Wayne is very much alive. The proof is in the narration.

Throughout Batman # 681, Batman gives a "play-by-play" analysis of everything that happens in the issue. That text is shown written on lined paper. This should come as no surprise to anybody reading R.I.P.

It was established earlier in the arc that Batman writes hand-written notes into Black Casebooks, which Alfred then transcribes into the Bat Computer:

That's what you're reading. In case you'd forgotten that little tid-bit, Grant Morrison actually reminds the reader of this fact in the middle of issue 681:

So when you see those lined notes, you're reading Batman's casebook, basically his journal. Did you notice that we have journal entries about the final confrontation with the Black Glove? Did you notice that we have Bruce Wayne's reaction to that battle, all the way to the bitter end when Batman observes fear in his opponent's eyes?

So ask yourself - if Bruce Wayne died in that helicopter crash, how is he writing about it in his diary? The answer is that he can't. Bruce Wayne is very much alive, and Grant Morrison isn't pretending that he isn't.

So for those of you tearing your robes over the cliched "death", I recommend you relax a bit. Sure, that explosion is still in the land of probably-too-familiar-to-be-fresh. Fine. He didn't exactly re-invent the wheel with that one, but neither did he go the hack route, either.

See, I'm not saying that you have to be in love with the ending of Batman R.I.P. I've got some small issues with it myself, things that I wouldn't have done if I were the author. But many of the issues of the Mob would be solved if they simply read the goddamn text with care.

This is Grant Morrison. The devil is in the details.

Next up: Who Is The Black Glove????