And, so, Grant Morrison’s run on “Batman” possibly comes to end. While the final page may say “Follow the Dark Knight to his last adventure in ‘Final Crisis’ #6,” this issue does offer a satisfying conclusion to Morrison’s two years or so on the book and does fill in the gap between “Batman R.I.P.” and “Final Crisis,” showing that Bruce Wayne was never thought dead... but he may just wind up that way soon.
Like last issue, Batman is captured by Darkseid’s forces, being subjected to the insidious probing of the Lump in an effort to create a clone army of mindless Batmen to fight and die for Darkseid, all as determined and capable as the Dark Knight. In his mind, Batman lives through memories that don’t exist, a world where his parents didn’t die and he’s a prissy, naive doctor that is nothing but a laughing stock. In one scene, he’s conned and robbed by a patient who gives the name Elma Barr, but is, in fact, Selina Kyle, “a common prostitute, con woman and thief,” as his father tells him. Morrison throws in numerous little tidbits like that.
The most chilling is what happens to Dick Grayson in this false world with no one like Batman to harness and channel his desire for revenge, he falls prey to “The Joker Killer” and his body is never found. But, there are also glimmers of “hope” as that killer was also caught and given a lethal injection. In a world without a Batman, there also can’t be a Joker seems to be the message, continuing Morrison’s examination of their complex, co-dependent relationship even in a world of false memories.
Morrison’s unbeatable Batman is examined here in a new light as he begins to fight back in ways that his captors could never imagine, including making a deal with the Lump. In this flash through the latter parts of Batman’s career, an emphasis is placed on the trauma and pain that he has gone through. If last issue was all smiles and jokes, this one is all death and destruction, making Alex Ross’ covers work even better.
Lee Garbett’s art is serviceable and not a far cry from the work of Tony Daniel, but he does shine on the final pages when things pick up pace and panels increase. That Garbett handles so many different eras of Batman so well is a testament to his skill as does his consistent art, which easily could have fallen apart by the end but doesn’t.
But, the real star here is Grant Morrison as he wraps up two years of stories and makes one of his central ideas the key to Batman’s salvation. By examining Batman’s near-70 years of stories and juxtaposing them with an alternate world, he proves just how strong, how able, and how enduring the character is. He has no patience for the idea that Batman will die, because he won’t. If he’s survived this long, nothing will kill him -- not even Grant Morrison. It’s been a hell of a run and, hopefully, Morrison will return.
(Neal Adams’s bare-chested Batman returns courtesy of Lee Garbett in CBR’s preview of the issue!)