Review: Batman #681 – Spoilers!

25 Variant)

So much to talk about! So let’s get rolling! But before we do, I want to give you the real Batman RIP checklist. Forget that fake one that DC made to sell stuff. Here it is:

52 #30: Collected in 52 vol. 3 TPB

52 #47: Collected in 52 vol. 4 TPB

Batman #655-658, 663-666: Collected in Batman and Son HC

Batman #667-669, 672-675: Collected in Batman The Black Glove HC

Batman #676-681 (And maybe 682 and 683): Collected (Soon) in Batman RIP HC

There are a few more, but these are the important Morrison-penned issues. I’ll try to reference most of the others in my review. So let’s go!

Cover: No disrespect to Ross, but his covers don’t mean anything so they kind of suck. This one by Daniel is much more interesting. Is that Batman crawling out of the ground? Yes it is. But what’s up with that I shape? Well kiddies if you’ll all turn to page 16 of your copy of Batman #676, you’ll see that same design when Batman is kneeling in between his parent’s graves. Cool, right?

Page 1: This is Bruce Wayne’s last entry from the Black Casebook. I say Bruce Wayne because he writes in the third person almost as if Batman is just a persona. Does Bruce have more? Will Nightwing become Batman and then Bruce becomes something else? Maybe, that’s kind of an end to Batman right?

Pages 2-3: “The superior man thinks of evil that will come and guards against it.” That’s an I Ching “Book of Changes” reference I believe. Remember I Ching from that “Resurrection of Ra’s al Ghul” story? My God, that crossover did have something to do with RIP, kind of. Anyway, that quote is the start of “The victory is in the preparation” theme that is a BIG part of this issue.

Page 4: Look at the second panel. See those three pictures in the back? The left one looks like Joker with the third eye on his forehead and the forked tongue. The middle seems to be Hurt or the Devil because of the red and black. And I believe the picture on the right is Jezebel Jet. Also, notice the red and black coloring, which turns out to relate to a Joker-devised pattern (If you can really trust that guy! I love that Morrison has the insane characters explain things. He does it a lot, but I’m such a sucker for it.), but also evokes the notion of the Devil. Oh and Bruce talks about how he could see the future. So I suppose it’s possible that even if Bruce is “dead”, he could have still written about this issue in the Black Casebook. That’s a stretch but c’mon this is a comic!

Page 5: So, on the surface this is just Batman planning ahead again. Oh and this monk dude works for whoever you think the “master” is. We also have the backwards Zur En Arrh which will be brought up later. But below this Bruce talks about the “hole” in his mind. What’s that? Could it be Dr. Hurt’s sensory-deprivation experiments? Joker has a hole in his head now, what about that? But what I think it refers to is how Dr. Hurt is “the hole in things”. I’ll bring this up later but what you think about it is up to you.

Pages 6-7: Pierrot Lunaire, the mime, has blank word balloons. Awesome! The Dark Ranger saves Robin! But wait! Didn’t Dark Ranger die in Batman #669? “Formerly the Scout”, oh so this was Dark Ranger’s sidekick then? A hero dies and then his sidekick takes his place. Hmmm…

Page 8: The Club of Heroes baby! Morrison always does this. He takes these stupid characters and makes me love them. If Morrison wrote a Club of Heroes mini or even a monthly I would totally buy it!

Page 9: Check it out here. Batman has watched Princess Bride! Cool! Oh yeah and that “Batman is always prepared” thing is still there.

Page 10: How did Batman survive the poison last ish? Because he’s prepared! Hey it makes sense. He encountered it in Batman #663 didn’t he? Why wouldn’t he develop immunity to that? Again, he watched Princess Bride! Oh and if you don’t get that reference, shame on you. Go watch that movie!

Page 11: So that’s where the Zur En Arrh clothes went. Eww! Did Joker see Bats naked? Anyway, the Joker is no pawn Devil man! Joker bets on Batman?! Always bet on black! Oh and I guess this is what the Black Glove actually is, five rich dudes. Five fingers, five members get it?

Page 12: The bat-radia does something fools! Hey kids! Read Batman #113 for more info on the bat-radia and Zur En Arrh Batman. At the end of 113, Batman still has the bat-radia and we don’t know if it works or not. So good old Morrison brought it back and made it do something cool. So yes Batman is prepared. Oh and this signal was sent to Wayne Tower instead of the Batcave (Which got compromised) so Batman is super duper prepared!

Page 13: So here’s Le Bossu with his face cut up. Why? Because of the Joker as seen last ish. At the time, this was thought of as pure Joker randomness, but since Joker actually bet on Batman this issue and since Le Bossu’s delay may have saved Nightwing’s life, did Joker help save a Robin?

Page 14: Batman saves that monk’s life in the flashback because he’s awesome. Oh and Batman is super ultra mega prepared!

Page 15: Ok, I know a lot of people, myself included at times, have criticized Tony’s art in RIP, but this looks AWESOME! Although, that may be because I love this stuff. I know most comic fans think of Spider-Man, but I think of the Bride. Busting out of a grave is one of the most badass things a hero can do. And yes in addition to all the preparation Batman is still BADASS!

Page 16: Check it out! Not much to say here. That Black Casebook stuff continues. Again, was it Bruce writing the future? Bruce writing because he didn’t “die”? Or maybe it’s a forgery?

Page 17: Joker references the death of Jason Todd which I’m sure you’ve all heard of if you’ve read more than five Batman comics since that occurred. The Joker mentions Apophenia. God that’s fantastic. Grant Morrison has been accused of doing it and now Batman is being accused of doing it. Oh and guess what I’m doing right now? Guess what this whole post is? But hey, Batman’s pattern recognition is pretty accurate so Joker is the crazy one! Oh and Joker calls Hurt the “devil” and says he trumps him which is so Joker. Also, Hurt himself talks about sins like he knows about them.

Page 18: “I thought I smelled dirt” is what Jezebel Jet says, but he looks pretty clean to me! See how prepared Batman is? He brought his dirt repellent costume oh yeah! Oh and Jet thinks she’s untouchable. It sure would be sweet if something bad happened to her soon….

Page 19: Ha Ha! Batman was faking the love Jezebel! How did Batman know? Because he always falls for bad girls!

Page 20: So the Black Glove has been around for more than 20 years? Then I would think that it wasn’t created just to screw with Bats. Which would again support the “Hurt is the Devil” thing.

Page 21: Nightwing is badass! This is the first of what I call the Battle for the Cowl pages. Each candidate will show you why they should be the next Batman. And the Black Casebook explains why Bruce couldn’t just stop all of this before any damage was done. So please subtract one star from Batman’s preparation level.

Page 22: Robin is badass! Oh and again, the Black Glove movie talked about in Batman #667 was about “the devil himself”.

Page 23: Damian is badass! Check it out. It would be Damian that “kills” the Joker (This is the third time Joker has “died” in Morrison’s run right? Shot in the face in Batman #655, shot again in Batman #663, and now this). It’s the way he would deal with villains as Batman as we saw in Batman #666 remember? Oh and Damian saves Alfred too. I love that little guy.

Page 24: Exposition! The lack of crime and the Zur En Arrh on the walls were established way back in Morrison’s first issue, Batman #655. Sweet!

Page 25: This is the page. “I’m your father, Bruce”, um no, you’ve said that before. Mangrove Pierce? “No, I skinned Mangrove Pierce alive and wore him to Mayhew’s party.” Eww, so then who are you Hurt? “I am the hole in things, Bruce. The enemy, the piece that can never fit, there since the beginning.” So he’s the Devil. Why is this so surprising? More on that later.

Page 26: “Your mother, your father, your faithful butler, Alfred–All will stand revealed as drug addicts, perverts, criminals.” So I guess since you said “your father” you must not be him right? Oh and you’re offering me a Faustian Bargain? Again, you are the devil!

Page 27: Man the devil is whiny! More Black Casebook stuff talking about “the Devil waiting”. The third fake Batman is in the chopper as well and if you remember Batman #666, this is the “Anti-Christ” Batman. But the Casebook also reveals “the limits of reason” with Bruce. I’ll talk about that later too.

Page 28: Fear in the Devils eyes? Batman is again Badass. This is also where Batman and I guess the Devil and the Anti-Christ “die”. Also, more proof that DC loves drugs! That’s right kids! You want to hurt someone? Drug up!

Page 29: Yeah you knew this was coming. He’s the obvious choice. But who’s Robin? And then what happens to Damian/Tim? How about Dick and Tim take over Batman and Robin, then Damian and his pops hang out more?

Page 30: So this is where Jezebel Jet “dies”. But if you’ve noticed a pattern, all of the “deaths” in this issue have been “questionable”. I hope she’s gone from Morrison’s run (If there is more which I’ll of course talk about later), but I’d bet the Devil himself she’ll return in the next ten years.

Page 31: Six months later, so someone killed Cardinal Maggi (One of the Black Glove)? Was this Talia or maybe it was Damian as the new Robin? And of course this page leads into the first page of RIP Batman #676. I like that Morrison didn’t end on this or even show it again. I still remember it.

Page 32: This is the other page that confuses people. First off, what’s up with the “Mask of Zorro”? Mask of Zorro is the 1998 Antonio Banderas film. So Batman is like 18 now? “Mark of Zorro” is what they went to see! It was supposedly one of the many works that inspired Bob Kane to create Batman. Who fucked this up?! This is actually a big mistake since this page relates Batman to Zorro. So was this just a HUGE mistake or was it supposed to indicate that this dream/flashback/whatever is false? Anyway, Bruce asks “how did he get to be Zorro?” Poor Bruce! Martha Wayne is wearing a black glove! Was she part of it? Were both of them? Bruce talks about what Zorro would be like if he was real and Thomas replies “they’d probably throw someone like Zorro in Arkham”. We then see the back of a head that is probably Chill. Then the backwards Zur En Arrh. So did the Black Glove/Devil create Batman? Zur En Arrh=Zorro in Arkham. Hmm, so is it just describing this story? Zorro and his whacky adventures? Or is this questioning the sanity of Batman? Or is it just that damn apophenia again?

Holy exhaustion Batman! That took a looonnng time! And there’s still more! Someone’s reading this right? So let me break down my opinion of this issue even more!

The Hate: So the big complaint is where’s the resolution? I admit it was troubling for me at first. This is the conclusion of not only RIP, but also Morrison’s entire run of 20 or so issues so far. This was also mega hyped by DC as like the most shocking thing in all of Batman! I believe it also promised that Batman would be disgraced and that’s why he would give up the cowl. Bruce dies this issue but he died in the most unbelievable of ways. So what’s up? Well, I first have a question for the haters, were you really expecting everything to be spelled out? This entire run has been unique and surprising and so why would the finale be any different? It’s like when people got pissed at the end of Sopranos. Anyway, I have four ideas about what this ending really meant. I’ll put one in the hate section and three in the love section. Ok?

Ending One: This isn’t the ending Grant planned. There was a rumor recently in Lying in the Gutters that Final Crisis #7 was delayed again because of serious rewrites. Didio was unhappy with the finale which understandably pissed Morrison off considering this was the way he wrote the pitch for the book. So what if this is true? What if it’s true but about the wrong book? Maybe instead of rewriting FC Morrison had to rewrite Batman RIP? Hear me out. This book has been delayed for unknown reasons. Tony has said it’s not his fault and he even posted this alternate ending on his blog. Also, DC hyping a book is one thing, but the actual writer? Especially when this writer is Grant Morrison? I’m pretty sure that even Morrison himself talked about how this would be the biggest Batman thing in 70 years. Also, we know that Batman #682-683 is going to bridge the gap between RIP and FC, but there is more Final Crisis stuff. While reading that JSA Kingdom Come Special Kingdom this week, I saw an ad for Final Crisis #6 that read “The Fate of the Dark Knight Revealed”. So is it possible that DC made Morrison keep his finale out of RIP and insert it into their big event instead? If any of the things I just wrote are true then I’m pissed off! One of the reasons why I love comics is because of the creative freedom! You can see almost anything in comics. But if DC is fucking that up especially for one of my favorite writers then I am furious. Another problem with this scenario is that in addition to pissing me and other fans off, Morrison wouldn’t be too happy either. He may quit DC because of this. That of course would anger me even more since Batman is one of my favorite characters, Morrison is one of my favorite writers and Morrison has said that he wants to write Batman for a long time. I hope none of this is true, but it would explain a few things.

The Love: So these are my positive views on this finale.

Ending Two: This is kind of a response to the first ending I think, but this is basically just the simple scenario. Morrison has talked about how he tells fairly familiar and classic stories. The reason why people think they’re so weird or so original is because he dresses them up. He tells the tales we’ve heard a million times before but he does it in new ways. What was Batman RIP? Villains tried to screw with Batman but he prevailed because of his motto (Damian mentions it in Batman #666) “The victory is in the preparation”. Now I love Batman and I know how unbeatable he is, but even I was doubtful last issue. Everyone thought Bruce lost. That either he would die this issue or be severely disgraced, but that didn’t happen. He planned for all this like he always does. He then got help from his whole supporting cast. Even Joker and the Club of Heroes got in on the action. So basically, the forces of good beat the forces of evil. And who’s more evil than the Devil? See, Bruce can even beat the Devil!

Ending Three: As I mentioned earlier, this finale is just all part of Morrison’s run. This issue followed the traditions of all his others. A lot was resolved, but there were some loose threads that will be dealt with later. It’s the Batman version of Morrison’s New X-Men run. Sure there are some individually great stories, but really, you have to judge the entire run as a whole. What was the best story of Grant’s New X-Men run? It’s hard to say right? You just think of it as one giant story and that might be true about this run as well. Of course the only problem with this is what if part of my first ending scenario is true? Will Morrison even return to deal with the unanswered questions?

Ending Four: Ok, so this is probably the weirdest and hardest to accept theory, but hear me out. So in this issue Bruce is writing in the Black Casebook right? What is the Black Casebook? It was explained back in Batman #665. “Vampires, flying saucers, time travel… All the things we’d seen that didn’t fit and couldn’t be explained went into the Black Casebook.” Batman’s always trying to make sense of everything. Remember all that stuff last issue? About how Batman subjected himself to that experiment just to understand the Joker. Remember the whole “that’s not life, that’s Wikipedia” thing? I’ve talked and talked about what this story means but what if the point is that it doesn’t make sense? Maybe hurt isn’t the Devil, he’s just come crazy gambler. What the heck was up with that thing on Bat-Mite’s back? Oh and of course Bat-Mite was just imagination anyway. Hurt himself said he was the “piece that can never fit”. Or remember the whole limits of reason thing in the Black Casebook? That’s why this story was written about in the Black Casebook. It just “couldn’t be explained”.

Final Final Thoughts: So many words. So tired! But hey I care. That’s more proof that this run was fantastic, so much can be said about it. So if anybody is still reading, thank you so much for taking the time. Of course now that you’ve read my life’s story, the least I can do is read what you think. So please let me know. This story is meant to me discussed and I’m obviously more than happy to do my part. Thanks for reading everybody!

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7 thoughts on “Review: Batman #681 – Spoilers!

  1. I’m gonna have to agree on Ending Four; The story simply couldn’t be explained from Batman’s rational point of view, which is why he initially thought of Mangrove Pierce as being Hurt’s real identity.

    Great review of a great issue. I can’t wait for the next one.

  2. Yeah, Ending Four is probably the one most people aren’t going to think about, but when I wrote it, I started to feel that it was the most likely. There are so many things that are hard to explain, so the story is in the Black Casebook.

    This issue was pretty great and yes I’m really looking forward to the next one. I hope Grant stays on this book for a long time. Thanks for the compliment and thanks for reading!

  3. First of all I want to say that I am looking forward to reading Final Crisis 5. What Mr. Morrison is doing with Final Crisis is nothing short of amazing. It’s like the apotheosis of super hero comics. If it is published exactly the way he wants, this really seems like it might be one of the all time best comics ever as far as story, innovation, originality, etc…I have only read up to 4 so far, gonna pick up 5 tomorrow. And his All Star Superman is for sure in line with your thoughts in Ending Two.

    Yeah, I was slow when I read it, (Batman 681) and I puzzled over the last page for a few minutes, trying to understand the Mask Of Zorro at the top of the page, the ZUR EN ARRH backwards at the bottom of the page, and Thomas Wayne’s words to Bruce that if Zorro came to Gotham they would put him in Arkham. The word Arkham was in bold, and I knew that meant something, but I still wasn’t consciously able to figure out that Zur En Arrh was Zorro in Arkham…

    I also was puzzled about the use of The Mask of Zorro instead of the proper The Mark of Zorro. A mistake, or intentional???

    I then gave the 6 issues of RIP to my dad to read, to get another opinion. He didn’t see it either. He asked me what Le Bossu means, and I looked it up online and found out about the 1944 film…

    So then I finally looked online a bit, and found this article.

    Your speculations in Ending One, I think may have merit, and elements of the behind-the-scenes. I don’t know, but if sure feels right. Really.

    But honestly, when I re-read your thoughts in Ending One through Four, maybe ALL of them are correct. Like, “Nothing is True, Everything is Permitted”. For example, when you watch the director’s commentary for “The Mindscape of Alan Moore” he says that he is not a big fan of director’s commentary tracks on DVDs because art is supposed to be interpreted by the viewer, and the commentaries sort of lock down what something is about, when it could be about any number of things at once, and it makes the viewer intellectually lazy to have to HEAR someone TELL them what something is about…

    But really a great article. I am going to bookmark this so I can look at it again.

    Well, I’m gonna go smoke some pipe-weed and watch MST3K 1001 Soultaker now.

    PEACE!

  4. I’m glad you enjoyed my lengthy article. I agree with a lot of what you said as well, especially about director’s commentary. I love listening to them, but only on certain things from now on. Director’s can totally ruin a scene’s value for sure.

    Just to let you know, I already wrote a review for Final Crisis #5 as well. I hope you enjoy it. I too love Final Crisis.

  5. Pingback: Review: Secret Warriors #4 « read/RANT!

  6. I read it. Ive been collection comics and worshipping Batman for 15+ years. I loved RIP for the most part. I love MOrrison and I cant wait for the new things coming in the Batuniverse this year.

    great blog

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