“Batman R.I.P., the Conclusion: Hearts in Darkness”
Writer: Grant Morrison
Pencils: Tony Daniel
Inks: Sandu Florea
Colors: Guy Major
Letters: Jared K. Fletcher
Cover artists: Alex Ross (standard cover) & Tony Daniel (variant)
Editor: Mike Marts
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99 US/CAN
Superman’s often been described as a great big Boy Scout, but it seems that writer Grant Morrison might disagree, giving the Dark Knight that particular distinction among super-hero icons. After all, the Scout motto is “be prepared,” and that’s what this story is all about. In fact, Morrison suggests that’s what the title character is all about, and it works pretty well. As I suspected, Morrison’s confusing story arc (and his lengthy run on the title) all comes together in the final chapter. Still, while the surreal storyline makes much more sense in the end, this isn’t as strong and innovative a climactic chapter as I’d expected from a writer of Morrison’s caliber. It’s definitely entertaining, but it’s also somewhat conventional. I’m also at a loss as to why this storyline is serving as a new launching pad for the Batman family of titles, as there are elements in the plot that will clearly be ignored when it comes to DC continuity, but it nevertheless seems to strive to define the future direction of these characters in the DC Universe.
The Black Glove, a malevolent gathering of wealthy, bored and power-hungry personalities from across the globe, have come to Gotham to witness the final humiliation of the Batman. Using various villainous agents, including a woman who posed as the love of Bruce Wayne’s life, the Black Glove, led by Doctor Hurt, have broken the Batman down, shattered his psyche. Now they set out to break his body and his brain, burying him beneath the earth. But one of Hurt’s supposed pawns, the Joker, knows their opponent much better than the Glove does, and the deranged clown predicts a much different conclusion to the scheme.
I have to give Tony Daniel credit for one major element in this book, and that’s his success in bringing Grant Morrison’s vision of the Joker to life. The creepy intensity he brings to the character makes for some great scenes. Unfortunately, the artwork otherwise comes off as fairly generic. The action in this issue unfolds clearly enough, but for such a pivotal chapter in the Batman saga, there are few visuals that really make the reader pause to take them in. I did enjoy the use of only one color (red) and greytones for the flashback sequences. Not only did that approach set those scenes apart clearly, but it also added more tension to the mix. Daniel’s art is at its strongest in the flashback as well. His linework seems more focused and purposeful there while the sketchiness is shedded. Furthermore, Jared Fletcher’s distinct green Joker font also enhanced the strong presence of the character.
Like may other comics from DC and Marvel as of late, this one boasts a $3.99 US cover price. I spoke with the clerk at my local comic shop about it, and we both felt it was something of a money grab for a standard-sized super-hero comic. At least, I thought it was a standard comic; it felt as such in my hand when I picked it up. But a page count shows there are actually 32 pages of story and art to be found in this issue, about 50 per cent more than the usual issue. So it’s nice to see that the extra buck actually went to added value.
The final scene, in which the title character’s fate is left up in the air, is hardly the sort of cliffhanger I expected from such an unconventional storyline. A helicopter explosion/crash? Really? It’s a rather cliched ending, especially given what led up to it. The other heroes’ confrontation with the various tangential villains seemed rather ordinary as well.
Ultimately, Morrison’s interpretation of the Batman as someone so obsessed about his mission that he’s prepared for every eventuality — even losing his mind — works surprisingly well. Basically, this is a dramatic extension of a ridiculous concept. We’re talking about a character that’s been depicted as carrying Bat-Shark Repellant, as being ready for the most outrageous, unlikely scenarios. In the past, that’s been fodder for efforts to satirize the character. Morrison’s characterization here is the same, but his goal is different. And I have to admit, he achieves that goal. 7/10