3 out of 5
I think this is one of those arcs that’s more successful and fun in consideration and analysis than it is to actually read. Which isn’t as horrible as it sounds, as one of the most fascinating things about Grant Morrison’s long stretch on Batman, in retrospect, is how many stylistic modes and approaches he filters through, shifting in and around – I can assume – DCs scheduling and events, as well as how his goals and ideas may have evolved along the way. So some things arrive with a punch; some are experimental; some are out there, meta-ideas; and some – like Must Die! – are conceptual and clean-up. Conceptual in that this was, apparently, a purposeful “reflection” of R.I.P., down to panels and beats, thus tying in to recurrent themes of doubling and reflection that were backgrounded into Grant’s run, as well as (somewhat) full circling on lotsa lotsa bits and pieces: Joker; Simon Hurt; Pyg; the return of Bruce Wayne…
The problem, I guess, with the actual execution, is that I don’t know if a lot of these things got the chance to be the strongest elements on their own, and so it feels rather underwhelming piling them all together for a ‘conclusion,’ sorta kinda just clearing the deck for Batman, Inc. The last arc had a killer buildup to Joker, for example, but he’s shifted off to a symbolic side here in favor of Hurt, and Hurt never felt like an official villain for whatever reason. I mean, Bruce had Darkseid and the frikkin’ past to deal with, and Tim and Damian were more engaging playing off on another than picking off villains, so who cares about this dude who I guess we were supposed to think was Satan but, dumb reader that I am, I don’t think I picked up on that until reading other reviews and analyses?
Regarding Tim and Damian, though, you do get a further sense of how far they’ve come as a trusting team and as unique versions of Batman and Robin, here, backed up by some of the most awesome Frazer Irving art yet, with some undeniably badass and creepy scenes. And although I’ve criticized how Joker is played off, here, I do love – again, more in concept, I suppose, than execution – how he ends up doing an Enemy of My Enemy bit because he hates Simon Hurt. Plus: Pyg. Pyg is a weird, ooky Grant creation, and while he’s essentially playing second fiddle to Simon, his fiddle – commanding all his dollbots – seems louder than his boss’s.
While perhaps underwhelming due to dividing its focus across plot points that never quite got their due, the fact that all those plot points do get touched on is appreciated, and makes for a good after-the-fact summary of everything Grant accomplished during his long (and at the time of B&R, still ongoing) run.