David Overreacts A Bit To Batman #681

Posted by on Wednesday, November 26th, 2008 at 11:22:21 AM

UPDATE: After doing some thought and reading it some more, my initial reaction (which I’ll keep here even though I don’t still agree with everything I said this morning) was regarding my expectations for the issue more than the quality itself, since it’s actually a pretty fucking incredible action comic. My problem was, I thought I’d find out for sure who and what the Black Glove was, so I got angry, even though we have the next issue coming next fucking week. Which is pretty dumb and nerdragey of me so I admit to a decent degree of embarrassment, but still, I was really sure this issue was going to have the huge twist that was promised, even though honestly nobody ever said that for sure and we practically still have two issues left. In three weeks I may very well be feeling like a total asshole, and I’m okay with that, since I like good comics.


Normally, this is where I’d do page-by-page annotations, but I don’t really know if there’s anything to annotate.

This is what DC promised:

This is it – “Batman R.I.P.” concludes here! The final, heartrending confrontation between Bruce Wayne and Jezebel Jet. The final fate of The Dark Knight. And the horrifying and shocking truth behind the Black Glove. With The Joker, the Club of Villains, Robin, Damian, plus an ending you’ll never see coming – this one has it all!

– From the solicitation

And also to show how strong he is and the way he deals with what happens to him. Bad guys take him down, and I’m thinking, ‘How do I get him back up?’ [Laughs] When we find out at the end who the villain is, it’s possibly the most shocking Batman revelation in 70 years.”

– Grant Morrison, at NYCC ’08

So, what did we get? See below the jump.

…we don’t find out who the Black Glove is.

Oh, I mean, we find out well enough; we know it’s five people who place bets on wealthy dudes. The first fifteen pages or so of this issue are fantastic, especially any scene that has the Joker berating the Black Glove guys. Batman accuses Hurt of being Mangrove Pierce, then he throws his cowl down, jumps into a helicopter with him, has some internal monologue about going to the edge of reason and seeing the Devil and making the Devil scared, and then the helicopter blows up. I guess it’s possible that means the actual villain all along was the Devil, that it was Satan wearing Mangrove Pierce’s skin. But “The devil spent some time fucking with Batman” is not the most shocking Batman revelation in 70 years by any stretch of the imagination.

Additionally, last issue, the Joker hinted at a discrete and concrete reason why Doctor Hurt hates Batman. We never saw that. The hint about Joe Chill’s son is largely ignored.

It’s possible, I suppose, that Morrison simply didn’t want to end the story yet, and that the next two-parter will provide us with more closure. Perhaps the mystery behind the Black Glove and Doctor Hurt is meant to extend into 2009 past Battle for the Cowl. Maybe Morrison just has a really weird idea of what constitutes the biggest Batman shocker in 70 years.

Or maybe he was forced to rewrite the comic.

If this is the story Morrison wanted to tell all along, then it was poorly marketed. From a craft standpoint, there’s nothing wrong with the issue; it’s got some great dialogue, a lot of moments that made me smile, satisfying payoff after payoff, until the helicopter scene. But after God knows how many issues of hints and deception, and the implicit and explicit promise that the secrets of Hurt and the Glove would relate to Batman’s past and shock him to his core, I can’t imagine this was the ending Morrison had in mind. I don’t think the answer’s there and I just haven’t dug deeply enough; I’ve read the issue pretty carefully twice, and Morrison is usually very explicit with his reveals even if he’s obscure with his clues. Xorn being Magneto was pretty clear.

So the logical conclusion here, considering the delays, the comments by Tony Daniel that the book’s delay wasn’t his fault, the rumors on Lying in the Gutters about rewrites, is that this isn’t the ending of “Batman R.I.P.” that was originally pitched. We read Grant Morrison’s Batman epic, and then at the end, it changed. I don’t buy that this was just supposed to be the middle act. Morrison has always been very clear that R.I.P. is the culmination and climax of his run and the themes he’s been establishing. I mean, of course, it was going to continue, but this was supposed to be the big finish for the Black Glove/Doctor Hurt story. And it didn’t solve anything.

Was Morrison’s big revelation deemed too risky at the last minute? If so, then we’ve just entered into a situation where I have absolutely no idea, when reading a DC comic, if anything will play out in a logical fashion as the writer intended. It’s one thing to retcon a story shortly after it’s published, but to diminish it as it’s being told – to interfere with a book like this, to completely modify its payoff, especially when it’s not broken and is basically your only consistent seller in the top ten along with Final Crisis – it erodes my ability to enjoy the comics. It erodes any faith left in the idea that when I see things set up, I will see them pay off. I recognize this is work-for-hire and that this could theoretically happen with any story, but for the most part everybody in the industry, as far as I can tell, just wants to put out the best comics possible. Doing that requires placing trust in the creative talent. If Batman’s big shocking reveal in this issue was reversed in one week in #682, that would have been one thing; R.I.P., as Morrison intended it, would still be there, in front of me, sitting on my longbox. But it’s not. This didn’t read to me like the rest of the arc. I’m now in a situation where, every time I pick up a DC comic, I can’t have faith that what I’m reading is what the creative team wanted to put out, or even compromised on putting out.

That’s sad. I read five issues of a detective story and one issue of an anticlimactic confrontation. Six issues of a mystery that didn’t have a solution.

Or was that the ultimate joke all along?

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