Funnybook Babylon

November 26, 2008

David Overreacts A Bit To Batman #681

Filed under: Articles — Tags: , , , , — David Uzumeri @ 11:22 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?


  1. This is precisely why I have not been too excited for or thrilled about Final Crisis from the beginning. Ever since I read that Morrison had to put it more “in line” with the atrocious Countdown series (that I dropped after issue 5), I realized we were not going to receive what we needed.

    Either that or Morrison needs to go to drug rehab and this is all misdirection cover-up for an undiagnosed bi-polar disorder; I’d prefer to blame editorial.

    Comment by Squashua — November 26, 2008 @ 11:30 am

  2. I’m interested to see if Morrison says anything regarding this. I haven’t read the issue yet, though.

    Comment by EndlessMike — November 26, 2008 @ 11:52 am

  3. Yeah, I think our first clue will be exactly that–whether Morrison says anything, and/or what he says. This is the moment when we’d traditionally get an interview at IGN, CBR, Newsarama or the like regarding this final chapter. If the interview is with Mike Marts (he’s the editor right?) instead or even worse Dan DiDio, then that may speak volumes too.

    I get my comics shipped but I think I may have to visit my local comics emporium to buy this one off the stands today. Even if it sounds like an anticlimax, it’s still a climax. I could use one.

    Comment by Matt — November 26, 2008 @ 11:58 am

  4. I enjoyed the rest of this storyline…this just feels like such a lame ending. Honestly, I called Jet being evil. That was obvious. But last issue, when they finally revealed it…it still had me freaking out because it was handled so well. NOW DO YOU GET IT?! had chills going down my spine. THAT was a climax. But honestly…this issue sounds lame. And being the naive little fanboy I am, I’ll still drop 4 bucks on it.

    Comment by Tres — November 26, 2008 @ 12:52 pm

  5. Part of your reaction has to be due to expecting this story to “make sense” in a typical whodunnit? kind of way. I think there’s been a constant effort on the parts of well, everyone, to explain why the story has been so jagged– bad art, editorial, rewrites– but my guess is that this story matches Morrison’s original vision fairly closely. Does anyone think that he couldn’t have asked DC to get him a “better” artist than Tony Daniel if he was dissatisfied with the work? Or is it more likely that Morrison has been working from a certain, perhaps inaccessible POV, of doing a big ol’ Batman story in the manner of crazy-ass 80s British comics and that Daniel’s artwork (and Kubert’s before him) happens to be a pretty good match for that kind of storytelling?

    As for the conclusion: I had the same thought upon reading it, but now I’m not nearly so sure. Throughout his whole run, Morrison has been delivering very important information through asides. The fate worse than death here, I suspect, is that the next time that Bruce Wayne puts on the cowl, he’ll be cursed. Thus, he can no longer be Batman.

    The DEVIL as a figure has been intimately linked to Morrison’s view of Batman from way back– but we’ve known all along that Batman fought the Devil, so this reveal was a no brainer. Check #666. The only dangling link in my mind is Alfred, which I suspect is going to be revealed next issue.

    Comment by j.k. — November 26, 2008 @ 5:09 pm

  6. I was also disappointed at first, but after a second reading I’m beginning to feel that the explanation of who the black glove is is sort of three way:

    1) The last page implies very heavily that the Black Glove is, in some shape, Thomas Wayne, since he said “Zorro in Arkham”. Perhaps I’m reading too much on a line, but it seems the kind of clue that would go unnoticed and that Thomas would use later, if he was a criminal mastermind.

    2) But it also seems the Zurr En Arrh trigger phrase was implanted by Bruce Wayne in his mind immediatly after his parents died, that the Batman of Zurr En Arrh is his back up system and was born the same night Batman was born, that they complement each other, in a conscious/unconscious sort of way. So, in a way, the Black Glove merely plays off Bruce’s already fractured psyche, making him realize just how crazy he is.

    3) And then again, the Black Glove could be some sort all-encompassing evil, The Devil himself, a negativness so vast that there is no such thing as a name for it, that cannot be explained by traditional storytelling means like a reveal or a twist, that thrives on the “guessing game” because in the end it’s all and nothing and tying him to one character would only diminish the extent of his metaphysical terror.

    I don’t know…perhaps I’m just making excuses, but the sort-of-reveal did make more sense when I thought a little about it.

    Comment by Amadeo — November 26, 2008 @ 5:11 pm

  7. Personally, I believe Hurt to be Thomas Wayne, and all Bruce’s denials of it are simply hyperbole, as it renders his entire existence since the events in Crime Alley to be meaningless. The evil he has been fighting against is actually a part of him. This is the reason he either doesn’t survive the helicopter crash, or doesn’t reclaim his old life if he did. After all, this is a man who can survive being buried alive. A simple explosion over the sea wouldn’t be much trouble.*

    Thematically, Morrison’s entire run has been about the relationship between fathers and sons (or their surrogates) and, in particular, how the father eventually lets down the son- Even the Ras A Ghul crossover ties in with this theme, as Ras betrays his daughter and grandson in his desperate attempt to prolong his own life. Similarly, Batman betrays Robin with the relationship he forges with Damian, and there can be no greater betrayal for a son to discover his father being responsible for the murder of his mother.

    Temporary replacement personalities for psychic take-overs, strength to escape death traps, back up plans with computers- all everyday occurrences for Batman. But coming face to face with a Freudian nightmare,** now that’s a killer.

    *As to why the helicopter explodes? It definitely collides with the clock tower to knock it’s back rotor off, so I’d imagine it ruptures some fuel lines while doing so, leading it to explode when it crashes into the sea.

    **Am I the only one to get a Sherlock Holmesian vibe from the climax? From a great detective meeting his ultimate adversary and both perishing over water, to the ‘alternate’ take on Moriarty proposed by the film The Seven Per Cent Solution’ where Holmes’ victimisation of an innocent maths tutor is given Freudian analysis. It transpires that,, when he was a child, Holmes mother betrayed his father by having an affair with Holmes’ maths tutor, leading to Holmes Sr killing her, and then taking his own life. The name of the maths tutor? Moriarty, of course.

    Comment by Lee — November 26, 2008 @ 5:52 pm

  8. You know, I’ve been noticing how Didio keeps skipping around the question of whether Morrison will be the regular Batman writer after Gaiman’s schtick, and it seems pretty clear from his last interview with Newsarama that he won’t. This makes me think that you are onto something David Uzumeri: something is indeed rotten in the state of DC and it’s infuriating to think that editorial meddling may have ruined the build-up and climax of what should’ve been a landmark story.

    Comment by preston — November 27, 2008 @ 2:55 am

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