Last week, the internet was crushed beneath its own weight of stunned disappointment. Conspiracy theories ran wild, no one was safely satisfied. “Batman” #681 landed with a tremendous shockwave. At the close of the issue, however, there was promise. Tucked beneath another DC Nation column was a fresh Alex Ross cover and the hope that next week, it might all be resolved. The Black Glove would be unmasked. Batman would be remasked.
Everything would be okay.
Unfortunately, I must tell the internet that, no, the first letter of the third word in every second dialogue balloon, when put together, do not spell D-A-N D-I-D-I-O M-A-D-E M-E C-H-A-N-G-E E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G I A-M L-O-C-K-E-D I-N A B-A-S-E-M-E-N-T P-L-E-A-S-E S-E-N-D H-E-L-P. What we’ve gotten instead is, for all intents and purposes, a “Final Crisis” crossover.
But, wait, hold on. Don’t run. “Final Crisis” is fantastic so far, remember? And “Last Rites” (as DC themselves are calling it, as there’s no trace of the headline anywhere in the book’s interior) does a wonderful and engaging job of filling in a lot of blanks that most of us probably had no idea needed filling in. It’s kind of like Batman’s “Superman: Beyond”. (Which would make it “Batman: Beyond,” which poses all sorts of problems, doesn’t it?)
It’s a well told encapsulation of Morrison’s oft-stated desire to link Batman’s entire history, as crazy as it’s gotten, into one cohesive lifeline. But the story is not that simple, as I’m loathe to spoil, and everything that happens in it could easily be erased away by industrious future Batman writers. But Morrison is no stranger to creating perfect, stand alone superhero stories that had the misfortune of being told in titles with ongoing continuity. Like “New X-Men” lo those many years ago, “Batman R.I.P.” is a fantastic story that works exceptionally well on its own that has then been linked to all sorts of other developments in satellite titles that it was probably never intended to.
This is why a “Final Crisis” crossover, more than one with “Robin” or “Nightwing,” makes the most thematic sense. In many ways, “R.I.P.” did the same thing to “Batman” that “Final Crisis” did to the DC Universe. Sent it through the worst, toughest ringer possible, and then have the good guys pull out the win like it was the most inevitable thing in the world. And everybody cheers.
While there are few direct connections with “R.I.P.,” the mood hasn’t skipped a beat. Tony Daniel is sitting this one out, but Lee Garbett, his temporary replacement, certainly doesn’t stray very far from that established style. The result is perfectly readable, but one wishes there was a bit more dynamism to replicate the many shifts in tone that Morrison illustrates in Batman’s career.
One never knows how all this will shake out once both “R.I.P.” and “Final Crisis” are finished (sometime during the tail end of the Obama administration, one surmises), but right now, it’s hard to find disappointment in such a fascinating take on the most psychological of superheroes.