Thousand Faced: Batman R.I.P.

Batman R.I.P.

A Review of the Graphic Novel

Writer: Grant Morrison

Artists: Tony S. Daniel, Lee Garbett, Sandu Florea and Trevor Scott

It’s been almost fifty years since my Mom bought me my first Batman comic at the PX in Germany.  It’s why I learned to read.  As I got older I like to think that the character of The Batman kept pace with my tastes in fiction.  In 1986 when Frank Miller jarred Batman forever with the classic The Dark Knight Returns I knew there would be no going back now.  The days of the light banter with Robin while comedic criminals got Socked and Bopped were over.  Villains became psychotic killers and a much more troubled “hero” now stalked the rooftops of Gotham City.  For a generation the comics portrayed Batman as representative of our American dark cultural psyche.  Up until the last few years the movies never even got close to what readers of the comic have known for two decades.  That The Batman is the coolest because he suffers more than any other fictional character out there and he never gives in.  Batman R.I.P. is Grant Morrison taking the character to his logical extreme by bringing threads he had been weaving into the storyline for the past few years.

Inside Arkham Asylum a stark consultation takes place between The Batman and a newer, more twisted Joker.  Apparently getting shot in the head by a corrupt cop Batman impersonator only made him worse.  The cards in the Jokers deck reveal something is coming for The Batman. Not impressed with impending danger The Batman tells the Joker that the enemy can bring it on if they like.  The scene ends.  And here we go…

A flash of lightning and a page from someplace else in the storyline reveals a shadowed Batman and Robin with their eyes possessing a lambent glow.   “You’re wrong,”  Batman shouts.  “Batman and Robin will never die!”

And now the tale unfurls.  In a very lush penthouse overlooking Gotham City, a collection of horribly wealthy Euro-trash calling itself The Black Hand is plotting to take The Batman apart.  This story is like Batman via a Hitchcock film.  There are McGuffins, red herrings and red and black flowers of death.  Even though different artists are used the story is still possessed of a solid flow and feel.  Tony S. Daniels Joker shines darkly.  For all of The Black Hand’s machinations and resources their outraged ennui is nothing compared to the carnival of madness endlessly looping in his brain.  The Batman network of friends and family is threatened with dire circumstances.  On top of it all there’s a woman in Bruce wayne’s bed and his head making things even foggier.

If you like murderous psychological thrillers than you’ll sidle on up to this story.  Although I bought these as individual issues in the regular Batman series and read them over and over this presentation in graphic novel form is very successful.  It carries the legend of The Batman further as opposed to another bunch of villains get their asses kicked.  There is something fundamentally changed in The Batman forever.  For over twenty years The Dark Knight has influenced this comic series.  We are told this is an ending of sorts.  I never really believed DC would have the guts to kill off Bruce Wayne.  Darkside didn’t have the nads for it either later on in Final Crisis.  Yet this look into self-induced madness as a weapon will not simply go away.  There’s a crazed Batman with a baseball bat always in there now.

And then there’s the clones.  There ought to be clones.


by Bill Hilburn

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