Monday, December 01, 2008

Batman RIP Final Thoughts SPOILERS

Spoilers Spoilers Spoilers

I was asked to give me two cents on the ending of Batman #681 -- the last part of the "Batman RIP" storyline" -- and so here, in brief, it 'tis.

When I was a teenager, I enjoyed Morrison's Doom Patrol immensely -- to the point where I would literally count the days for the next issue to come out. And when he had a twist ending -- a hero revealed to be a foe -- it really meant something. It also made sense. Also, the comics themselves, the narratives, made sense.

But reading Grant Morrison's take on Batman was, for me, like hearing that "waw-waw-waw-waw" voice from those Peanuts cartoons. Or is that "zur-zur-zur-en-arrrrh?"

I couldn't help but think that some Power That Be finally read Morrison's resolutions to both this and Final Crisis, blinked a few times, then said "hell no" -- leading to the purported rewrites for FC and the absence of Morrison on the follow-up Batman "event." Not because Morrison's take was so bad -- because he is indeed a great comic book writer -- but because it required an annotated study edition to comprehend.

Also, the "reveal" regarding Black Glove towards the end of the issue made the finale of "Batman: Hush" seem like M. Night Shyamalan in comparison.

"Okay, I'm not your dad! I'm the exact double of your dad from that story several issues back remember that one? And I also might be a metaphor for the devil. Also, you could just be crazy. Also, maybe I really was your dad at one point, and Time Warner said "hell no." Or I could be Tim Drake. But most likely I'm the devil, and also that guy from several issues who skinned that guy. Actually, I'm the adopted child of Ralph and Sue Dibny."

That said, I will default to my old mantra "Maybe This Comic Book Wasn't Written For Me." In which case, you really need to read the review of an enthusiast for this sort of thing. It's like reviewing "Buffy" when you're not a Joss Whedon fan.

These books are not written for a general audience. "Batman RIP" was not the great cross-over event that brought the non-comics reader into the stores in droves and reawoken them to the love that is collecting comics on a regular basis -- not even with demure "hints" dropped in the mainstream media. It just wasn't. Books like the Azzarello GN Joker and even the potty-mouth fest Batman: Cacophony are far more likely to reach new readers.

Additionally, though it was certainly written as though it thought it was, "Batman RIP" is far from the definitive Batman story. It's not even the definitive "quirky" Batman story. It's just a quirky Batman story, and in that sense, it succeeds.

Which is why if you really want to read a great Batman tale, read The Untold Legend of the Batman from 1980. Even at the tender age of seven, I realized "Untold Legend" was heads and tails above any Batman story that had been written to that point. I have no doubt that it was this mini-series that Morrison was influenced -- nay, obsessed by.

But that's the thing, you know? I have an obtuse, highly self-referential, highly obsessive-with-the-pop-culture-of-my-youth novel at home too that I wrote. I would love an opportunity to publish it as-is, have my small but devoted band of readers comb the work for "clues" and parallelisms, and totally alienate the wider audience. And get paid for it. And get paid good money for it. But I'm probably going to contact a good friend of mine today who freelance edits books to take a look at my novel and help me turn it into something at least semi-comprehensible and capable of being related to by more than ten goth codebreakers high on life and absinthe.

Am I selling out? Do I sell out by having an editor read and actually edit my work? Do I sell out by wanting the wider audience to understand my story? Am I in favor of killing the Great American (Graphic) Novel by worrying about such matters?



  1. I also love "Untold Legend". I had the books and tape version. For years I've been walking around with the line "Is that justice, Professor?" "No, Mr. Wayne, it's the LAW." knocking around my head. And I agree, it really is a definitive story, and the parallels between it and RIP are numerous.

    That being said, I think I like the ideas presented in RIP better than the actual execution, and not being a Tony Daniels hater, I have to place the blame on Morrison. I don't mind having to read for comprehension, but obtuse is just obtuse.

  2. I was very much expecting the same reveal we got in "Untold Legend," particularly when we started getting hints of "backup personality." I suppose I should be somewhat grateful not to get what I was expecting, but since I am still not really sure what I did get, I am withholding my thanks to Grant Morrison. I have a lot of respect for Mr. Morrison as a writer (despite Seaguy), as his work on All-Star Superman was the best thing I've read in years, of not ever in the comic business. I stuck with these barely comprehensible issues in Batman RIP, hoping for the big payoff in the end. Instead I was left with, "What was that?"

  3. Great post! I'm surprised that there hasn't been more mention of this story lately. With all of the hoopla attached, the relative silence about the end is very interesting.

    As for myself, I couldn't figure out WHO the heck Dr. Hurt was. I don't think he was Bruce's father and that was just a taunt. I don't think even Morrison could get away with such a flagrant rewriting of Batman's origin.

    In the end, BATMAN R.I.P. was just another Batman story and certainly NOT what I'd call the 'definitive' one.

  4. I agree on all points.

    Do you (or anyone) know if Untold Legend is collected anywhere? I don't remember it from way back but I'm interested.

  5. Don't sweep out all those embedded references to the pop culture of your youth just yet -- if it worked for Junot Diaz, it might just work for you!

  6. If you are suggesting that the quality of Grant Morrison's storytelling is the product of not selling out, then maybe selling out isn't so bad. Story before ego.

  7. I'm waiting to see what Morrison himself says about the ending. Should be interesting.

  8. I am reserving judgment on RIP, until I have a chance to go back and reread Grant's run in one stretch.

    However, I like that you brought up Untold Legend. I totally flashed on that as well. I haven't looked at that in decades, but I remember the Batman determining he was schizophrenic at one point.

    By the way, Most people under 45 like works chock full of quirky pop culture references form their youth.

  9. That was a very unsatisfying conclusion to an unusual storyline.

  10. A few months ago, Chris Sims made some similar points about the connection between Batman: RIP and Untold Legend of the Batman:
    It's worth checking out.

  11. I was starting to get lost when the Batman with the funky face mask popped up in the books. So I guess RIP wasn't meant for me either.

  12. I could not stop thinking about UNTOLD LEGEND the entire time I was reading RIP! I actually dug my copy out of my parents basement when I was home for the holiday.

    Val- Does the ending of RIP that saw print match the rumored ending you had heard about back in April?

    I don't think we can completely review/comprehend this story until GM's two part epilogue finishes it all up.

    But I pretty much think it was supposed to be Poppa Wayne and someone else made him change it. Did anyone else think the content of the word balloons didn't match up with the picture on the page--tonally, emotionally etc?

  13. As annoying as the story was, I was even more irked at the fact that we won't learn the "final fate" of the Bat 'til FC finally unfolds. All this hype for a glorified prologue? Eeccch.

  14. I do think that most people underestimate the value of a good editor (and on movies of a good producer) to shepherd a work though the creation process.

    One of the reasons I believe volumes I - III were so disappointing (and even going back to VI) is that the studio gave Lucas a lot more freedom than he should have had.

  15. It was confusing, insane, and nobody (even people who liked it) can be sure they have gotten it - and for all that it was awesome. People started reading Batman, people started talking about Batman online and in comic shops.

    And of course sales were good.

    But I'm biased, GM will always have my heart for constantly and publicly criticizing Identity Crisis for its portrayal of Sue.

  16. Anonymous7:33 PM

    The only reason why this issue is plausible is because Bruce Wayne is supposed to be a genius.

    It also means he has a contingency plan for if Canada invades.

    The third act of the story totally went the way of batshit insane. I really did not like how Hurt turned out to be EVERYBODY.

    I liked how they killed Bruce. It was heroic, just not SUPERHEROIC. I think that's a lot of people's issues with it.

  17. BATMAN R.I.P. seemed to appeal to everyone but actual Batman fans. Morrison fans ate it up, as did many non-Batman fans, or so I gather from the number of times I heard people say, "This is the most interested in Batman I've been in years!" Either these people haven't been reading the work of Paul Dini or Ed Brubaker (just to name a couple), or they just don't care for Batman in general.

    If the story works at all, it works as a Grant Morrison story, but it utterly fails as a Batman story. I think the same could be said of Morrison's X-MEN run. Very good on its own merits, but the characters and world are unrecognizable and all over the place to fit his bizarre ideas.

    Morrison should stick to his own creations or out of continuity stories where he can have free reign in his playground without burdening subsequent creators with the stuff he pulls. Only Morrison can work with Morrisonian concepts.

    Now I'm looking forward to the events of BATMAN R.I.P. to quietly be ignored, if not outright retconned. Here's hoping we get a Joker with some actual range, rather than a boring SILENT HILL reject.

  18. Ok so I did find an interview with Morrison about the ending. I posted portions of it on my blog:

    Don't get your hopes too up.

  19. This storyline just lost me.

    And bear in mind I read every issue of The Invisibles, which is about as weird and bizarre and tough to figure out as anything Grant Morrison has done.

  20. Well, I'll admit it also... I didn't get it. After I read the issue I had no idea who the hell Dr. Hurt was.

    In fact, the final issue almost seems to contradict the rest of it. Why would Batman have to undergo that "backup" personality if he already knew Jet was involved and the rest of the situation was as it was?

    I'm lost. Anyone want to take a shot at an overview explaining it to us?

  21. OccSupes, I think you're great... but in a post where you're ripping on Morrison for making no sense, you overall didn't make much sense yourself in this post. I could hardly follow any of it.

    I haven't read one page of RIP, though, so maybe that's why.

    Every paragraph left me with: huh?

  22. I don't understand why everyone is complaining so much. It was a fun story, it made Batman a bad ass capable of taking on the Devil himself.

    The only thing I could compare it to would be Marvel's Moon Knight, which sadly has gone from incomprehensible-but-good to crap.

  23. i liked batman r.i.p.
    anyone that wasn't cheering for batman as rose from the grave and kicked some black glove ass takes comics far too seriously.
    it was all ridiculous and most importantly fun.

    morrison's run has been incredibly fun, and this is both as a morrison fan and as a batman fan.
    i think i see where he's going with batman, and i like it.

    i'll have to check out untold legends of the batman now. sounds fun.