And so here it is. The final part of “Batman RIP”. Hugely anticipated, hugely controversial, hugely difficult to actually review, as it happens. Look, it’s the final part of a Morrison storyline. You’ve probably already made your mind up about it, and it’s probably everything you thought it would be – unless you were taken in by the incredibly misleading hype that somehow saw readers of the Daily Telegraph and Guardian informed that this was going to be the last ever Batman story.
And of course, it’s difficult to review because, just like the end of All-Star Superman, I don’t particularly want to spoil it for you. We’re relatively liberal with that concept here on Comics Daily, but I am posting this on the evening the book has come out in the UK, and it is a comic that most if not all of you will have some kind of interest in – for the curiosity factor if nothing else. But so much of what I want to say about it would have to involve telling you exactly what happens – and I’m not prepared to do that. What I’m going to do instead, however, is break format a bit in order to examine how I think the issue succeeds in a handful of different goals. So let’s start with :
Is it a good single issue of a comic book? Oh yes. Littered with delicious moments – another “hh”, some grave digging, the Joker at his absolute best, the Bat-family kicking some arse, a Princess Bride-esque display of poison dodging and an unforeseen yet jaw-dropping pun of a final line – it’s easily one of the better single-issue reads of the run as a whole. It rattles by, and even manages not to suffer too much from Tony Daniel’s workmanlike art. Ignoring all external context, it’s a damned fine superhero comic.
Is it a good ending to the individual “Batman RIP” story? Yes, I’d say so. In the closing pages there’s a lovely sense of bringing the entire arc full-circle (and if he leaves you to draw the final mental line back to the arc’s very first page yourself, that’s your lookout not his – although an artistic glitch means that there’s no sense of visual continuity between the two), and just about everything that the arc threw up in and of itself is resolved. Of all the sub-arcs of the Morrison run so far, “RIP” is probably second only to the magnificent “Club of Heroes” three-parter as a story that can be read as one complete whole.
Is it a good ending to Grant Morrison’s run? Only in the sense that, thanks to its imperfection, it’s a microcosm of the run as a whole – terrific moments, hints of an underlying genius, but something still not quite clicking perfectly as it should. And it doesn’t feel like Morrison’s swansong on the book – because it clearly isn’t intended to be. External circumstances mean that we still don’t know who the hell is going to be writing the book from now on, but at the time of writing this, Morrison clearly thought it would be him. This is the end of his “book one”, his setting out of his ideas about who Batman is and what he means. While plot threads are generally as wrapped up as Morrison tends to leave them (which is not to say they’re done so entirely), thematic ones are left flying all over the place. It’s only to be hoped that he’ll get the chance to start working some of them in more detail from next year.
Will it please the people who took the arc’s title literally, who like to have every single story nuance fed to them through exposition, who can’t work out answers for themselves or deal with the concept of multiple possible interpretations, and who thought Morrison would somehow change his writing style at the last minute and come up with the sort of bluntly straightforward “The Death Of Superman” or “Knightfall”-style storyline the newspapers were anticipating?
Well, of course not. But did you need me to tell you that?