Saturday, July 5, 2014

Graphic Novels - Batman R.I.P.

With Grant Morrison, a few things come to mind. Some of them are things like Animal Man, All-Star Superman, narcotics, baldness, and Batman. I’ve looked at some of his work on Batman a while back. The Black Glove HC contained a bunch a good and weird stuff. Well, it’s time to jump back into that madness.  Hold on to your butts because I’m going to jump into the next adventure, Batman R.I.P. Morrison basically wanted to put Batman up against his ultimate enemy. Sounds good, doesn’t it?

Morrison is the writer of this six issue arc. The penciller is Tony Daniel. Daniel had already been on the book for a while. The issues I’ll be looking at from the trade are Batman #676-681. While there are two other issues in the trade that looks at what Batman did post-RIP, I’m saving those for something down the road. With all of that said, let’s see what happens when Batman faces his greatest adversary: Someone who isn’t the Joker!!!

Batman RIP
Writer: Grant Morrison
Penciller: Tony Daniel
Inker: Sandu Florea
Colorist: Guy Major

After we get a proclamation that “BATMAN AND ROBIN WILL NEVER DIE,” we go back six months in the past. We see the meeting the Black Glove, a group of rich, freakish crazy folk. Their leader, Doctor Simon Hurt, gives them a new mission: destroy the Batman. We then cut to Gotham City where Batman and Robin are chasing some idiot down in the Batmobile. After they get the guy, Bruce goes to see Jezebel Jet, his rich girlfriend who also knows his secret identity. While they… hang (hint, hint), Robin and Alfred talk about Bruce’s mind set. Apparently, this Black Glove business has made Bruce a little batty. We then cut to Arkham Asylum (and get the creepiest intro for the Joker) as one of the Black Glove members (Le Bossu) recruits the Joker.

While Batman is out facing some of Le Bossu’s men, Tim leaves town with one of Batman’s casebooks. Commissioner Gordon finds out that a newspaper is going to release shocking details about the Wayne family. The next day, Bruce and Jezebel spend the day together. We find out that she and Bruce received an invitation to an event the Black Mask is holding. Later on, Alfred leaves the manor to do some research for Bruce. While Alfred’s gone, Bruce takes Jezebel to the Batcave for the first time. When she sees all of his gadgets, she tells him that he’s nuts. When he tells her about all of the research he’s been doing, she tells him he might the Black Glove. Things go worse when images saying “Zur-En-Arrh” pop up on the Bat computer. As Jezebel says the word, Bruce passes out and the Black Glove overtakes the Batcave.
Dang, after seeing all of those Batmobiles, I thought she'd be fine. After all, "chicks dig the car!"

While he’s out, Doctor Hurt pumps Bruce full of drugs and has him dumped out on the streets of Gotham. Meanwhile, the Black Glove captures Alfred and Nightwing. Tim is the only one who can stay a step ahead of the group. On the streets of Gotham, Bruce is approached by a hobo that he ran into as Batman while back. Honor Jackson helps get Bruce out of his funk a bit. He even gives Bruce a busted radio (Bat Radia). Then Bruce finds out that Honor Jackson died days ago… huh. Anyway, this is when Bruce completely loses it. He sews some garments together and transforms into the BATMAN OF ZUR-EN-ARRH. Also, Bat Mite shows up.
Well, it’s official. Batman has lost it.

Batman takes on the Black Glove by spying on them and beating them with his “bat of justice” and yes, I named it the “Bat of Justice.” He also talks to the city and the stone gargoyles talk back to him… just run with it. Strangely, Bat-Mite is the only one here who’s actually making sense. We find out that Batman created another personality for times where his mind would be attacked like this. Meanwhile (in less crazier times), Tim is able to contact the Knight and Squire of the Club of Heroes and tell them that trouble’s brewing. Le Bossu is preparing to lobotomize Dick at Arkham Asylum. The Black Glove also set up their base at Arkham Asylum for their final showdown.

At Arkham Asylum, we find out that Joker is always on his own side as he kills some Black Glove members. Batman makes it to the Asylum and takes it the group’s henchmen. He faces down the Joker who has Jezebel trapped. Instead of killing Joker, Batman does his best to save Jezebel, but we find out that Jezebel has been always working for the Black Glove. Batman passes out from some of Joker’s poison. Meanwhile, Commissioner Gordon heads out to Wayne Manor only to find it bobby-trapped. Luckily, Talia al Ghul, Damien, and the League of Shadows (or Assassins) save him.

When we next see Batman, he’s in his regular suit and experiencing a flashback to his time away from Gotham. He’s also in a straitjacket and buried in a coffin.  We then get a statement that makes Batman apologists smile: Batman thinks of everything. While the Black Glove revel in their victory, we see Robin get saved by the Club of Heroes. Batman’s Bat-Radia activates and shuts down Arkham Asylum. This causes Nightwing to get back into action and not get lobotomized. It takes a few minutes, but Batman is able to break out of his coffin and is normally sane… for him anyway.
Yeah, I'm just going to admire this awesome image.

It’s pandemonium at the Asylum as Batman and Nightwing fight on. Robin, Alfred, and the rest of his allies head to the Asylum. Joker escapes the Asylum but is taken out in a pretty funny way by Damien. Batman faces Doctor Hurt who does what he can to confuse Batman. Hurt escapes in a helicopter as Batman leaps on. The copter blows up as Batman’s allies show up. Then, everything comes to a close. We find out what happened to Jezebel (Ninja Man-Bats!!!!!) and Le Bossu. The storyline ends as we find out that the phrase “Zur-En-Arrh” was derived from “Zorro in Arkham.”
Dang, Hurt! Pick an identity or something...

While it can be confusing, I really liked this storyline. The best thing about it is the artwork from Daniel, Florea, and Major. It’s really good and it stays consistent until the end. I don’t know what happened to Daniel, but his more recent stuff involving Batman doesn’t look this good. It’s also well detailed. The designs look good and the action flows really well. My only quibble would be the freakiness of the Joker because he looked so messed up. Still, I will say that he looked worse in “Death of the Family.”

The story is pretty good for the most part. We really get to see Batman messed with here. While we have seen him get hurt badly before in "Knightfall," this was a little different. The strongest thing Batman has is his mind and that’s what gets heavily attacked here. He gets mentally attacked by the Black Glove (I want to say “Black Hand”) and he still comes out on top. Now, does it go absurd? Yes, the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh sequences were weird, but I really liked them. We really get to see Batman go bat-guano insane.

I also liked the use of his allies like Robin, Nightwing, the League of Shadows (or Assassins), and the Club of Heroes. The Black Glove were pretty decent villains. Unfortunately, we don’t really dwell on any other members other than Doctor Hurt, Jezebel, and Le Bossu. To be fair, those three are really the ones that amount to anything. I also liked the use of the Joker and how he was pretty much in a league of his own. For some reason, I even liked the appearance of Bat-Mite. I guess we can thank Batman: Brave and the Bold for that.

My complaints about the storyline are few and far between. My main quibble is the conclusion. We really don’t get one. Some things are tied up, but a lot of important things aren’t. In a way, it makes sense because this is just one part of Grant Morrison’s tapestry on Batman. Still, in order to see what happens next, you’ll have to go to the next storyline: Final Crisis. If you thought that they would kill Batman in his own book, you’d be kind of wrong.

The storyline is also dependent on what came before. If someone just read this storyline and nothing beforehand, they would be confused out of their minds. Morrison tries to explain some things, but not everything is explained well. I think I have a fondness for this story because I read the Black Glove HC before this story. It introduced me to all of the players and concepts put in place. One last quibble would be the scenes where Bruce is homeless in Gotham. Why didn’t anyone recognize him? He’s like one of the richest people in Gotham! Maybe his disheveledness (is that a word) disguised him or there’s some other lame excuse. Well, it can’t be too perfect.

Overall, I liked this story. Check it out if you have a liking for Morrison. Before you do that, also check out his run before that storyline so you won’t feel too lost. Well, that’s one decade down. Next time, I’ll be going back to the 90’s and seeing how Jean Claude Van-Damme…  John Paul Valley fared out.


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