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????


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