Saturday, August 28, 2010

Bat-Myth 101

Still under siege from my real job, but I thought I'd slip in a quick Batman review. Because, hey. It's probably the best comic on the shelves today. How can I NOT talk about it?

Batman #702
by Grant Morrison and Tony Daniel

In the second and concluding part of “RIP: The Missing Chapter,” we get Batman’s own impressions of the events of Final Crisis. Which makes this a sort of “Final Crisis for Dummies,” something that, considering some of the reactions I read to that book, would probably ease the bitter souls of the angry fan-men who didn’t understand it. Except, of course, that they’d then take offense at being called dummies, and get pissed off all over again. So god forbid.

That being the case, this would seem to be a story without an audience. It’s mostly re-cap, after all. Re-cap with artwork that’s mostly not as good as the artwork in the story being re-capped. But I really shouldn’t crap on Tony Daniels’ efforts here; his work has improved a lot, and this is nice-looking stuff in places. If he ever gets better at poses, he’ll be one hell of a mainstream funnybook artist. And that’s not something I ever thought I’d say back when he was Morrison’s primary Batman artist.

But what was I saying? Oh, yes! Story without an audience. Except it’s not. Morrison works a little bit of magic here, using some finely-tuned prose to give us new insights into events we read about almost two years ago. Mostly, the issue is concerned with how Batman deals with facing aliens and gods. They’re hard to prepare for, he says, and he doesn’t like fighting things he can’t prepare for. But he improvises beautifully. Because of course he does. He’s Batman.

There’s also a huge revelation about Dr. Hurt lurking at the end of the issue that ties RIP and Final Crisis together: Dr. Hurt is an echo of Darkseid in the same way that Darkseid was an echo of Mandrakk. They’re three different faces for the same thing, pure evil rippling back and forth across the surface of reality. That’s my reading, at least; I’ve seen others that are pretty convincing. But I like my version best. It allows Hurt to be The Devil (as was revealed at the end of RIP), but ties him to the larger mythic world Morrison‘s writing about. And still makes the story an intensely personal one about Bruce Wayne’s quest for inner truth.

Which probably sounds insane to anyone who hasn’t been reading this stuff, if it makes any sense at all. That’s the problem with writing about Morrison’s Batman work at this late date: it’s maddeningly complex, and the themes and plotlines dovetail into each other at every possible opportunity. My understanding of it is as much instinctual as intellectual at this point, and trying to explain the various layers of meaning is impossible without unpacking the entire four-year run of comics for you. Which is a project I’m working on, but which goes a bit beyond the scope of this review. For now, suffice it to say that I was blown away by this issue. Batman goes cosmic, but remains Batman.

Grade: A

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