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Batman RIP is one of Grant Morrison’s most famous works. It was a title that is sure to be on the shelves of most committed Batman comics fans. Here, in part one of a two part series, ComiConverse looks back at the collected edition of Batman RIP and Grant Morrison’s wider Batman run with DC Comics.
Grant Morrison created one of the most epic Batman runs of all-time. Morrison’s very name has become synonymous with deep and intriguing comics that often grip the reader by emphasizing everything we love about our favourite characters. Batman RIP was perhaps the greatest example of Grant Morrison’s talents with regards to Batman.
Batman RIP was not the climax of Morrison’s run on Batman, nor was it the beginning. Like the greatest and darkest of our favourite stories, it was a traumatic and relentlessly exhilarating middle act that put Batman under enormous stress and raised just as many questions as it answered.
ComiConverse is please to revisit one of the most engaging Batman stories ever told and dive deeper into the magic Grant Morrison was able to wield with one of the world’s most widely and deeply known comics characters.
Grant Morrison’s Batman RIP:
Its impossible to dive into Batman RIP without referencing the outstanding first act that Grant Morrison created with Batman: The Black Glove. In appreciating the caliber of the story, its important to remember that we are dealing with one of the most well-known characters in all of popular culture. How then is one to create a truly original Batman story, when every human being on earth already knows astonishing amount about Bruce Wayne and the saga of Batman?
Batman: The Black Glove:
The trick lies in Morrison’s outstanding feel for comics, their history and his feel for what the comics fan will and will not easily accept. Linking Batman back to a series of “C-List” heroes from days-gone-by (The Club of Heroes), was an excellent way to get Batman out of the overly familiar surroundings of Gotham City and introduce the key themes and players who would be crucial to his story going forward. The flashbacks and exposition come off as entirely believable, with Robin doing an excellent job early on of playing the disbelieving modern-age teen, who found the whole idea rather goofy.
At this point, the entire “Black Glove” concept comes off far lighter than it ultimately will. It isn’t until Batman’s return to Gotham City that the story begins to become far more sinister, and we truly begin to understand the level of the threat Batman is up against.
The idea that Batman could have subjected himself to experiments in order further the cause of criminal justice may feel like a stretch to some, but the audience has already been introduced to the concept of a younger more unpredictable Batman, whose involvement with the Club of Heroes leaves us primed to believe other, newly revealed, events from earlier on in his career.
This is where the use of the Black Case Book comes into play. At once, it offers us a glimpse inside the mind of the world’s greatest detective and also serves to change up the narrative structure of the story. Its a tool that Grant Morrison uses masterfully. The idea of case log that Batman has been keeping up his entire career, is something that assists in driving home the RIP title when we get that arc’s closing pages.
When we finally meet Batman’s second antagonist in the first act, we are left with a seriously injured Batman and a sense that The Black Glove is an enemy that both Bruce Wayne and the reader have underestimated. Batman isn’t just fighting The Black Glove, he’s being hunted by them, which leads us into he events of Batman RIP.
Batman RIP: Enter The Joker
The now famous sit-down between Batman and the Joker in Arkham Asylum, which was echoed in the animated feature Batman: The Killing Joke (2016), is one of the most skillful openings to a comics story seen in recent times. Somehow, with minimal dialogue, Morrison and Tony S. Daniel are able to set the tone for a psychological look at Batman and the Joker, which will be revisited later in the book. At the same time, the reader is able to fully grasp, as perhaps Batman is for the first time, the scale of the threat he is now experiencing. Everyone can feel it now. The Black Glove is a far more menacing enemy than anyone believed, and although Batman displays his usual icy calm, the images display a character that appears to be on edge; perhaps even on THE edge.
These are pages that the reader will keep wanting to come back to throughout the story.
How does the Joker know so much about The Black Glove?
Is there some kind of higher connection between his own evil and that of the enemy Batman now faces?
In the final caption, we get a sense that we will be seeing the Joker again and that somehow his role will be pivotal.
As Batman leaves the scene, we are already beginning to get the sense that he is having trouble grappling with a threat he doesn’t fully understand.
Batman RIP: Batman And Robin Will Never Die
From the red and black checkerboard of Arkham Asylum, we are treated to a red and black surprise of another sort. Batman and Robin perched atop a Gotham City building, Batman’s voice booming down at an unknown enemy.
But this isn’t the Batman and Robin we know.
The body shapes, along with Robin’s face, giveaway a subtle change in identity, and immediately the reader is forced to reflect back on the book’s title and the true meaning of Batman RIP. The sky is blood red, with bolts of lightning streaking across it, which is something that readers of DC’s Final Crisis (also by Grant Morrison) will more completely understand. Here, although the reader does not know it yet, we are being given a glimpse into how the timelines between those two books interconnect, and also into the level of evil that has taken hold in the world, as this new Batman and Robin look down on Gotham’s streets.
Batman RIP: The Dance Macabre
Six months prior to that scene, we are taken to a mansion, not unlike Wayne Manor, on the fringes of Gotham, where the creepy old macabre feel of the story is reinforced by the arrival of a horse and buggy, whose driver is immediately killed. His murderer, Le Bosseau, is welcomed into the ranks of The Black Glove in a scene that serves to reinforce the power of the Black Glove’s organization and the bizarre nature of its membership. The evil gathering, with its odd cast of characters, appears to be the polar opposite of The Club of Heroes, and perhaps that was Grant Morrison’s intention all along.
From there, we see costumed forms of Bruce Wayne and Tim Drake (using real names becomes increasingly important in this story arc), getting a light workout by taking down some minor criminals in a newly enhanced Batmobile.
Along the way, they meet an, as yet, unidentified homeless man, whom Bruce graces with a few hundred dollars he has lying around. This is the character we will come to know as “Honour Jackson”. He also bares a remarkable resemblance to another darker character we meet in Final Crisis.
Are those two one and the same? Was this seemingly chance meeting and its aftermath part of a larger attack on Batman’s morale and soul? Is this said character’s angelic opposite? The reader is left to make up his or her own mind.
Batman and Robin then return to Wayne Manor, where Robin comments that crime in the Gotham area seems to have seriously dipped in recent days. Bruce isn’t around to hear it, however, as is soon tearing off his uniform and striding down the hall to get at his newest love interest, Jezebel Jet, who oddly enough seems to be waiting in on of Wayne Manor’s many bedrooms.
Jezebel knows Bruce Wayne is Batman.
The two are next seen laying flowers by the grave of Bruce’s parents, when Jezebel whips out a dinner party invitation sent by The Black Glove.
Somewhere inside Arkham Asylum the Joker is being given a was Rorschach Test, during which he fantasizes about killing the entire Bat-Family. The sequence is done by Tony Daniel in the same black and red internal-monologue colouring that we see throughout the book, letting us know that this is merely one of the Joker’s fantasies. For now, he’s still locked-up, yet he seems to know something big is about to happen.
The red and black colouring is so prominent throughout the book, especially in regards to Batman and the Joker. You get the sense that it’s symbolic of the internal workings within the minds of these two characters. Their relationship to each other and to good and evil is discussed later, but here we are treated to scene that is simply to designed to reinforce the terrifying blood lust that operates within the Joker’s head.
Batman RIP: The Trap Is Sprung
The next chapter of the story finds an increasing paranoid Batman strong-arming his way through Gotham City’s seediest areas, kicking ass and taking names, in the hopes of prying loose more information about the identity of the Black Glove. He’s unsuccessful, which leads to one of the scenes that probably escapes most readers.
Given the fact that the identity of The Black Glove remains unknown, and given the fact that The Black Glove seems to have intimate knowledge of Batman including, but not limited to, his secret identity, the reader is left open to some very nerve-wracking possibilities.
Is the Black Glove someone close to Batman?
We find Batman starring into the Bat-computer watching the beginnings of a movie titled The Black Glove, whose plot seems to have eerie similarities to the situation confronting both he and Jezebel Jet. Behind him, we see his faithful servant Alfred, whose presence Bruce seems to only partially acknowledge.
It seems Batman’s famous Black Case Book is missing, and Alfred mumbles something about having misplaced it after entering its most recent contents into the Bat-computer’s files.
As Batman continues to stare at the screens in front of him, there are some rather disturbing scenes of Alfred putting on a pair of latex gloves. Bruce is inquiring about the whereabouts of Tim Drake and suggesting that this conspiracy might go back years, to his parents’ generation. The Black Glove might even be someone who knew his parents.
Alfred then applies a bandage to Bruce’s bleeding neck and implores him to talk to Tim about the new family dynamic with Damien. Batman walks away dismissively and asks Alfred to go to the movies to watch The Black Glove for him.
Grant Morrison establishes two important components in this scene. First, that Alfred has possession of Batman’s Black Case Book and has had regular access to the Bat-computer, second, that Alfred has just been able to apply a compress to Batman’s bleeding wounds, the contents of which were unknown.
Given the events that are about to unfold, these moments seem particularly important.
Could Alfred be in league with The Black Glove? Could he be the leader of The Black Glove himself?
The idea of a member of Batman’s inner circle being a traitor is something that various authors besides Grant Morrison have played with over the years. It was also done in the opening pages of Batman: The Court of Owls in regards to Dick Grayson.
We are soon treated to Jezebel Jet’s first glimpse of the Bat-Cave, where she claims to be impressed, at first. Soon into her tour through the Cave, however, she begins questioning whether or not Bruce needs to continue as Batman, and even hints that his obsession has driven him over the edge.
Could Bruce Wayne actually be the The Black Glove? His own worst enemy?
Grant Morrison closes the scene with Bruce starring into a seemingly malfunctioning Bat-Computer that has begin to spew odd phrases and images onto the screen. When Bruce struggles to read it, Jezebel whispers the words into his ear – Zur-En-Arrh.
And with that, Batman collapses, with what would appear to be a nervous breakdown.
As The Black Glove’s henchmen invade the Bat-Cave, we are treated to a scale of the plot against Batman. The Black Glove have sprung a trap that was years in the making, perhaps decades. All of a sudden the reader, who has been primed to be less comfortable with Batman’s past than they might have been originally, is filled with a sense of danger. Batman himself admits freely that he’s not ready for what’s about the happen next.
Batman RIP: The Batman of Zur-En-Arrh
We reconnect with Bruce Wayne on the streets of Gotham, where is found by Honor Jackson, the homeless veteran who Batman had helped with cash days before. After helping Batman grapple with his amnesia (The Black Glove injected him with drugs), Honor gifts Bruce an unknown device, and then disappears.
The fact that we alter learn Honor Jackson had overdosed the day before (presumably having bought drugs with Batman’s money), leaves the reader with a confused and hollow feeling.
What was the purpose of this character’s interactions with Bruce?
Was he an angel, a devil, or something else?
Grant Morrison next presents a newly invigorated Wayne stitching together a new Batman costume out of some random purple material he discovers in Crime Alley. Enter the Batman of Zur-En Arrh – one of the coolest ever creations of a Batman author.
Again, circling back to all we thought we know about Batman, how can we make Batman appear for formidable than he already is?
He’s already the world’s greatest detective, escape artist, crime-fighter and martial-artist, what else is there to know?
Here’s is where Grant Morrison truly shines. the creation of a secret back-up identity that would take over if Bruce Wayne’s mind ever came under attack is a simply breathtaking bit of comics writing. The idea is enhanced by a later scene (which again connects to Final Crisis) where Batman reveals how he came up with the idea for a back-up identity, and why he feels its necessary.
The concept is brilliant in so many ways, that its almost hard to describe them all. We are shown connections to stories from Batman’s past, as well as connections and clues to moments yet to come. We are shown new insights into the mind of a character we all thought we knew down to the last detail.
Its strategies and creativity like this that make Grant Morrison a master story-teller, and we’ll pick up on some more of Morrison’s magic in Part II of this series.
Do you own a copy of Batman RIP?
What were your memories of the series and Grant Morrison’s run on Batman at DC Comics?
Let us know in the comments section below.
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Source: DC Comics
Pure Comics Magic
Batman RIP is a masterwork by Grant Morrison, and somehow makes Batman a more formidable and interesting character than we already knew him to be.