Batman: R.I.P. (#676 – 681) – Grant Morrison

4 out of 5

It’s kind of funny for how waywardly Grant’s Bat run started that its first culmination of events ends up coming across rather streamlined.  I mean, sure, “that’s normal” someone might say of yer average Joe plotter, but it’s not normally how Morrison rolls, preferring to keep things hyper escalated until some thematically unifying conclusion.  This might be because his Batman isn’t constructed in that typical leading-up-to-a-final-issue style, but rather a series of revealing crests that keep setting up patterns that would go in to the various iterations of the writer’s revisions of the character, and of the DCU: from here on in to Final Crisis; into Batman & Robin; into Batman, Incorporated…

That means that the curtain pull on the Black Casebook and Black Glove crimesters has its fair share of shocks, and features our first real “rebirth” of Batman, up through the crucible of his past (in delightfully oddball, purple and yellow and red-suited glory that only Grant could figure out how to ground in the grit of modern comics), but is also just a step along the way, and suffers from that a bit.  It’s not clear if we’re fully supposed to feel the relevance of the red and black symbolism yet, or if those shocks are, indeed, shocks or just further stay-tuneds.  Either way, it’s a heckuva lot of fun, and the streamlining sure helps to balance out the push and pull style of what came before – making it fun to go back and reread and see that, oh, yeah, that was telegraphed after all.

Tony Daniel, while once somewhat at odds with the needs of the story (as much as the artists that preceded him), as inked by Sandu Florea, is now the perfect fit for this mash-up of absurd villains and lightning-in-the-background madness, his expressiveness and Jim Lee hashing complementing Grant’s more settled pace and, by choosing not to draw ridiculous things like Bat-Mite (Or -Might?) any differently from our lead, really works the story angle of this stuff being different facets of Bruce’s persona.

Smaller arcs – three or four issues – of Grant’s Batman run leading up to this were sometimes more difficult to get through, either due to massive tonal leaps or broad swaths of ideas that offered no context to the read as to how they were going to line up.  With R.I.P., though, it all suddenly seems worth it, giving the impression of a pay off while still definitely setting up plenty more, and making for six issues that flip by quickly.