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COMIC BOOK REVIEW

BATMAN #676

Author: John Bierly
Saturday, May 24, 2008

FROM DC COMICS: "Are you ready for "Batman R.I.P."?

Beginning the epic story that will change the legend of the Dark Knight forever! Everything in Grant Morrison's groundbreaking run on Batman has been leading to this story, and nothing will ever be the same again.

Who will live? Who will die? Who will be Batman? The answers are sure to shock you in "Batman R.I.P.," featuring artwork by Tony Daniel and Sandu Florea and covers by Alex Ross."

EDITOR'S NOTE: John Bierly, who reviews DETECTIVE and BATMAN CONFIDENTIAL for BOF steps in for Jett and reviews BATMAN #676. Jett will return to his BATMAN reviewing duties with issue #677.

"Batman R.I.P.," the latest crossover/event to change Batman's life forever (at the expense of the fans' bank accounts) begins in the pages of BATMAN #676.

And kids, it's friggin' crazy.

But if Grant Morrison has indeed lost his mind, I kind of hope he never gets better.

We begin with a full-page piece of bad-ass art by Tony Daniel, bathed in a harsh crimson hue by colorist Guy Major. Batman declares, "YOU'RE WRONG! BATMAN AND ROBIN WILL NEVER DIE!"

But to whom does he declare it? If rumors are to be believed, is it even Bruce Wayne under the cowl? And is that Robin, who looks smaller than Tim Drake, supposed to be Bruce's genetically engineered (by the good folks at League of Assassins Family Planning) "son," Damian?

Who knows? Because one page later, it's six months earlier as we get the spooky, Victorian Era-inspired first meeting of Doctor Hurt's strange collection of villains who want to invite Batman -- whether he likes it or not -- to their "Danse Macabre." And it's called "Midnight in the House of Hurt," which is a classic title if I've ever heard one. Can't you just see an old Dennis O'Neil/Neal Adams Batman issue from the 1970s with this title?

Anyway, what unfolds over the course of the rest of the issue is typical of Morrison's run. We get Batman and Robin quipping in the newly unveiled Batmobile -- I appreciate the muscular economy of its lines -- about how Bruce needs to take it easy after his heart attack. We also find out that Bruce is still obsessed with the Black Glove case, which is maybe not a bad thing since the Black Glove seems intent on hurting him really, really badly. They foil a crackpot "villain" in a fun scene and we get some good stuff between Tim and Alfred about Bruce's choices, decisions and motivations. And thankfully Tim finally talks to Alfred about Damian, but Alfred refuses to talk about it on the grounds that it's a conversation that Tim needs to have with Bruce. The scene begins well but ends a bit abruptly for my tastes.

Meanwhile, Bruce is indulging in the opposite of rest and relaxation with new flame Jezebel Jet, who, by the way, is in on “The Secret” after the events of last issue. (Tony Daniel's half-page shot of a half-clothed Batman taking a slinkily-clad Jezebel into his arms while the wind blows around the curtains is more vintage Batman imagery from the '70s.)

The fact that he takes her to his parents' grave means he's willing to let her all the way in, but will he regret it when she opens her purse and plucks out an invitation for two to ... THE BLACK GLOVE'S DANSE MACABRE?

DUN-DUN-DUN!

Oh, Bruce. This is going to end so badly for you, and no one but Grant Morrison knows how badly.

And Grant Morrison is crazy!

But we love him anyway.

The next few pages crank up the crazy as Morrison, Daniel and Major do some amazingly troubling work to take us inside The Joker's mind for a Rorschach test.

And it's some spectacularly messed-up stuff.

The only thing scarier, I think, would be a Grant Morrison Rorschach test.

(No offense meant, Grant. In fact, much love and respect to you. I have no idea what the hell you're doing with this story, but I trust that YOU do, and that's all that matters.)

So many questions. So few answers. In many ways this issue seems choppy and abrupt, and the ending feels like it comes way too quickly. It sets some things up, but I don't really feel a lot of momentum going into the next chapter.

We'll just have to see what happens.

(And Grant, if you truly want to make a timeless Batman story, don't include so many pop-culture references like "American Idol" and CD changers.)

I don't mind an "event" as long as it's good, but I think a lot of us still have bad tastes in our mouths after the mess that was "The Resurrection of Ra's Al Ghul."

Will "Batman R.I.P" be better?

Let's all hope so.

Give 'em hell, Grant! You always do.

Sometimes literally. - John Bierly

Indiana native John Bierly started writing for publications as a teenager and never stopped.
His interests include family and friends, burgers, concerts, Mountain Dew and, of course, Batman.
His favorite movies are
BATMAN BEGINS and Rushmore, and he's very happy that Maggie Gyllenhaal is going to be in THE DARK KNIGHT.
You can read his blog at JOHNBIERLY.COM.

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