Batman #676 Review
Batman #676 by Hugo Bravo
Written by Grant Morrison
Art by Tony Daniel & Sandu Florea
Cover by Alex Ross
Grant Morrison (Arkham Asylum, JLA) kicks off what is easily the most anticipated Batman story since Knightfall, and from the looks of it, it's setting up to make Batman's back being broken look like a fairy tale. Batman R.I.P is the culmination of Morrison's run which started in July of 2006 on arguably DC's most famous character. Since then, we have learned that Batman now has two sons: an adopted step-son in Tim Drake, and a nine-year old assassin brat named Damian, who was raised by the League of Shadows. Their leader and Damian's grandfather, The Demon's Head Ras Al Ghul has been resurrected only to be locked away in a comatose state in Arkham. Almost two years ago in the pages of 52, Bruce Wayne spent 50 days alone in a cave meditating in Nanda Parbat. It was revealed that early in the Dark Knight's career, he subjected himself to an experiment that nearly drove him to insanity. He's been captured, tortured, left for dead, reunited with his fellow 'Batmen' in The Club of Heroes (another Morrison creation) and his identity revealed to new girlfriend Jet Jezebel. Most importantly, Batman and Robin have been on the trail of a new threat to Gotham known as the Black Glove. Oh, and he drives a pretty cool new Batmobile too.
All this is revealed within the pages of this issue, making it a perfect introduction to new readers who are just showing up because of the three letters in the title. Grant Morrison always planned to make his whole run on Batman seem as a long continuous story, and the references to previous storylines may send you scrambling to read back issues in Morrison's take on the Batman. But if you are unable to do so, don't fret. Just know that the events of the last two years have left Bruce Wayne with a few extra bats in the belfry and all signs point to some pretty bleak days in the Dark Knight's future. Alfred Pennyworth has seen this type of behavior before, but knows Bruce well enough to not seem surprised or alarmed by it. Will this be the end of Batman? Apparently not, since the first page of the story shows Batman (with a shorter-than-usual Boy Wonder next to him) uncharacteristically yelling that Batman and Robin will never die. While you make your own predictions and theories, remember that Morrison has stated that killing Batman would simply be too easy, and he has plans to do something much worse to him.
The issue is not without its minor problems though. Readers fully engrossed in the happenings of the DC universe may feel a bit confused when they see that a major villain is still locked up receiving therapy in Arkham Asylum in this storyline, and not stranded along with 95% of DC villains in the Salvation Run book, in which he's currently playing a very prominent role. I felt the same way a few weeks ago at the conclusion of Geoff Johns' and Richard Donner's Last Son of Krypton arc in Action Comics, which ended with another major Salvation Run villain behind bars. This is a bit disappointing, especially when you consider how well other books are following the 'villains-on-a-planet' storyline. And as I stated before, Batman R.I.P. may not be a simple comic book to follow. It's a deeply-layered, psychological take on Batman that hasn't been seen in a long time. Those expecting a detective story or a gritty crime drama might feel overwhelmed by how much Morrison and Daniel pack into their work, from the dialogue to the bloody writing on the wall. There is room to find deeper hidden meanings in just about every page of this issue.
But is that really a bad thing? Absolutely not. It's normal for the first issue of a book's run to leave the reader salivating for more, but it's rare to read one that fulfills expectations so well and promises to completely change the status quo of its main character. Grant Morrison's unique vision is set to redefine Batman in ways that we may have never imagined, and with Final Crisis looming around the corner, it may not be the only change in the DC Universe.