The Revolution was a bit disappointed with the ending to RIP in Batman #681. However, I am keeping an open mind since the actual conclusion of that story is going to take place in Final Crisis. And this Last Rites two-issue story arc will serve as the bridge between RIP and Final Crisis. RIP has been a fun ride so I hope that Morrison is able to deliver the goods with this Last Rites story. Let’s hit this review for Batman #682.
Writer: Grant Morrison
Pencils: Lee Garbett
Inks: Trevor Scott
Art Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Story Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: We begin with a couple of black panels with the words “I had the most extraordinary dream last night. You were in it.” We then see Bruce Wayne sitting in Wayne Manor. Bruce is all beat up and he is wearing a suit. Bruce says “That’s it.” We then see Alfred standing next to Bruce. Alfred says that he is tendering his resignation.
Alfred sweeps up the bat who crashed through the window and takes it outside and dumps it in the garbage. Julie Madison arrives outside and Alfred tells her that Bruce has had to cancel their date. We cut back to Bruce saying that he needs a disguise.
We then hear Alfred narrating “No. That’s not how it happened.” Alfred says that the window was open and that he had already decided not to resign. And the bat flew in the window and was alive and quite unafraid.
We cut to Bruce in the cave under Wayne Manor in a Killer Moth outfit. Then we see Bruce in a green armored Sidewinder outfit and getting into his Sidewinder that Alfred had repaired.
We shift to Batman entering Professor Milo’s lab. We then cut back to the Batcave where Alfred is extracting bullets out of Bruce’s shoulder. Bruce asks Alfred what he would have suggested if Bruce had decided to become something other than a bat. Alfred mentions his ideas for Bruce being Owlman, Catman, Pidgeonman, The Raven, Mosquitoman and The Skeleton.
Alfred wonders if nothing had flown through that window if Bruce would have become the Curtain, a stage themed avenger of evil. Alfred then points out how Bruce no longer refers to Batman as his disguise.
We cut to Alfred once again meeting Julie Madison at the entrance of Wayne Manor and informing her that Bruce is indisposed. Madison points out that this is the third time. Madison hands Alfred a letter to give to Bruce and then she says that she is leaving for Hollywood tomorrow.
Alfred continues that Bruce’s unrelenting work as Batman is not chasing away the demons. Alfred says that all Bruce wants to do is fight on and on and that he is addicted to the thrill and the adrenaline burn. Batman quips that he is not chasing thrills. That he is crushing crime and saving lives.
Alfred inquires what about Bruce’s life. Alfred states that Bruce used to have a great sense of humor when he was a little boy. Alfred says that Bruce needs that sense of humor now. That at the rate Bruce is going that Bruce will be dead within six months. Alfred says that Bruce’s parents would not have wanted that.
Batman replies that all he needs are his regular problem solving “micro-sleeps.” Alfred continues on about Bruce needing to tend to Wayne Enterprises as well as dealing with Miss Madison. Batman has fallen asleep during Alfred’s talk. Suddenly, a little clock rings and Batman snaps out of his micro-sleep. Batman suddenly replies that he knows how Dr. Death commissioned his latest crime.
We cut to Alfred and Bruce visiting Thomas and Martha Wayne’s graves. Bruce says that he has decided only to have short term physical affairs in his life. Casual relationships. That Alfred should tell this to Julie Madison. Alfred responds that Miss Madison has already left for Hollywood several months ago.
We then slide to Alfred getting Bruce dressed and ready to go to the Circus. Evidently, Alfred insisted on Bruce taking one night off from being the Batman. We see Dick Grayson’s parents getting killed. Then we see the judge officially declaring Dick the ward of Bruce Wayne.
We cut to Bruce bringing Dick into the Batcave. Bruce says that his parents were killed by a criminal, too. And that is why he has dedicated his life to exterminating criminals. Dick asks Bruce if he needs any help.
We shift to Batman and Robin in action. Alfred narrates that it was as if color had come to their monochrome lives. Alfred says that everything changed. We see Batman and Robin battling the Joker and one of his silly and goofy Silver Age schemes.
We cut to Bruce telling Alfred that he does not want Dick going out on his own. We then shift to Batman meeting Batwoman. Batman does not like another crime fighter operating in Gotham. However, the two end up kissing.
We shift to Batman and Robin looking for clues. Robin asks Batman if he is always going to be “Robin.” Robin asks what if Batman gets married or something. Batman answers that if he married Batwoman then all three of them would fight crime as a family. Robin then says that there is something about Batwoman that he does not trust. Robin adds that he doesn’t trust Batgirl, either.
We cut to Batman holding Batwoman as some weird creature is in front of them. Batwoman stammers that “Don’t know what they gave us…feel like I’m split in two…my soul dying on another planet…when our souls die…we die, too…” We see Batman and Batwoman teleport off the planet and Batwoman says “I love you. Dying wouldn’t be so bad if I knew that you loved me, too.”
We shift to Batman standing by himself on a rooftop at night. We zip back to the Batcave where Alfred tells Robin that usually it is Bruce who breaks their hearts. That this is a first for Bruce. Robin responds that he knew about Kathy Kane, but what was he supposed to say to Bruce. Robin asks what Bruce will do now.
Alfred replies that Bruce will learn and persevere and he will begin again. We cut to Batman arriving at Dr. Hurt’s lab where he has volunteered to undergo ten days in complete isolation in order to simulate the effects of loneliness during space flight.
We cut to Lump sitting in a chair. A voice from off panel says that the Lump is a new kind of weapon for a new age of terror. The Lump is a telepathic parasite that is hiding among Batman’s recollections in the form of Alfred. The Lump is filing sorting and converting Batman’s memories onto the database along with Batman’s biological material.
We cut to Bruce and Dick at Alfred’s funeral. We cut to Batman hooked into Darkseid’s machine. We cut back to the Batcave with Batman sitting at the Batcomputer with Alfred by his side. Batman asks when did it become like an endless game show. And what is the connection between the chemicals and the crazy people?
We zip back to Batman telling Alfred that he hates all the pranks and puzzles. That he is tired of playing games with clowns, quiz masters and circus people. Batman states “I trained to be a soldier.” Batman says “Crime. Madness. Horror. These are the things that I understand.” (Bad-ass Batman. Gotta love him.)
We cut to Joker tied to a chair and decidedly more sinister. The Joker says that the fun has got to end. We cut to Batman at the Batcomputer. Batman tells Alfred that each time the Joker comes back he does so in a different fashion. That the Joker is constantly recreating himself. Batman says that the Joker must be carefully monitored in case his original persona resurfaces.
We shift to Dick in his Nightwing costume and stating that he is going to be on his own with the Teen Titans. We cut to Bruce telling Alfred how time has flown by. Bruce stares at the display case with the Robin outfit in it. Bruce tells Alfred to say goodbye to the Batcave. That it is now just Bruce, Alfred and Gotham City.
Bruce then asks Alfred to tell him about the dream he had. Alfred says that it was not much of a dream. Alfred continues that he had made up a story for Bruce when Bruce’s spirits were at an ebb. That it is a story of a world without Batman. And that Alfred wrote it not longer after his own death and resurrection.
We cut to the Thomas Wayne punching out Joe Chill. Martha hugs Bruce and tells him that everything is all right. We zip to Martha Wayne slipping a scarf around Bruce’s neck. Bruce is an adult now.
Bruce heads off to the hospital with his father, Thomas. Thomas says that some grinning maniac has poisoned the water reservoir and that he and Bruce are needed desperately at the hospital. Thomas tells Bruce to wipe the look of disinterest off his face.
We hop to the Lump in his chair with Simyan and Mokkari standing next to him. Mokkari mentions how Batman almost detected the Lump’s presence. Mokkari says that Batman’s superior physical prowess, his strategic acumen and courage make him unique. That these are the traits that they must duplicate and steal and mass produce.
We see tubes with clones inside of them lining the walls. Mokkari states that they will create perfect copies driven by a concentrated dose of Batman’s intense emotion, fury, pain and drive. And with this template they shall build an army of mindless “Batmen” to fight, pillage and die for Darkseid’s empire.
The Good: Batman #682 consisted of a conversation between Bruce and Alfred as the two looked back at Batman’s long and unusual career. Morrison bookends Batman #682 with Alfred talking about his dream. This was an effective way to begin and conclude these series of flashback scenes. Bruce and Alfred’s conversation served as the spine for this issue and effectively tied together all of the various unrelated scenes. Morrison hopscotch’s his way through Batman’s history in a series of scenes that were as short as one panel and as long as a few pages.
Batman #682 was akin to asking Joyce or Faulkner to summarize Batman’s entire career in just one issue. And I quite enjoyed the manner in which Morrison delivered this issue. Morrison impressively attempts to take all the different eras, stories and incarnations of the Batman and integrate them into a single narrative. In the process Morrison, through the Batman, is able to give his own commentary on the different versions of the Batman and his world that we have seen over the past seven decades.
Morrison is able to give the reader a wonderful overview of Batman’s career as he displays a nice feel for the various characters in Batman’s past. The reader gets such a good sense for each era in Batman’s past and how the Golden Age (1938-1955), Silver Age (1956-1970), Bronze Age (1970-1985) and Modern Age (1986-present) all had their own unique moods. Morrison succeeds in what I thought would have been an impossible task in reconciling the radically different eras in Batman’s past.
However, Morrison is able to reconcile the differences between the Golden Age, the Silver Age and the Modern Age and mesh them all together in a pleasing fashion. And at the same time, Morrison is able to fully integrate the black casebook into Batman’s past as well. The reader gets a better sense of why Batman began employing the black casebook and how it helped him to attempt to sort out the oddities of the Silver Age of his history. Morrison also nicely mixes Dr. Hurt into Batman’s continuity as the transition from Batman’s Silver Age into the Bronze Age.
I also found it interesting that Morrison took the time and effort to address the Golden Age Batman. To me, this seems like the most overlooked version of Batman. Quite often the Silver Age Batman is examined and remembered largely thanks to the Batman television show from the 1960’s which had quite a large pop culture impact on many people in America whether they read comic books or not. However, the Golden Age Batman interests me more than the Silver Age Batman. And I have always seen the post- 1986 Modern Batman trying to return a bit closer to his Golden Age roots.
The Golden Age Batman was violent, dark and had a complete disregard for the lives of criminals. The Golden Age Batman carried a gun and had no qualms with killing criminals with almost an irreverent view of their deaths. This version of Batman was spooky and creepy and did all of his work in the dark and against bloodthirsty villains who were true killers.
The Silver Age Batman stands out as this bizarre anomaly that is sandwiched by the much darker and more violent Golden Age Batman and Modern Age Batman. The Bronze Age Batman acts as the bridge between the campy Silver Age Batman and the serious Modern Age Batman.
Morrison takes this opportunity to address one of the biggest quirks in Batman’s past which is how campy and silly Batman’s villains like the Joker had become during the Silver Age. It must be remembered that in the Golden Age, the Joker was a very violent, dark and threatening figure.
Morrison has the Batman comment on how ridiculously wacky and silly the Joker has become. It is punctuated with the Joker having a laughing contest with Robin and then losing and being too tired to make an escape. This was a well chosen moment to contrast the Silver Age Joker with the Modern Age Joker who is forever linked with the only death of a Robin.
Morrison manufactures a reasonable explanation for Joker’s unexplainable personality differences between the eras. That the Joker constantly recreates himself. Whenever the Joker comes back he does so in a different fashion. Morrison makes a point of having Batman comment how the Joker is now acting so differently from his original persona which was a nice nod to the Golden Age Joker’s personality.
I enjoyed the fact that Morrison has Batman state that he must carefully watch the Joker in case his original persona resurfaces. Which, of course, it does and that is how we arrive at the Modern Era Joker.
Morrison’s explanation works for me in that a completely insane and random agent of chaos like the Joker might certainly change personas even as drastically as what we see between the Silver Age Joker and the Golden and Modern Age Joker. The Joker has been written as being so radically unstable that massive shifts in his personality is enough to explain away the discrepancies in how the Joker has behaved in the past.
Morrison then places his final commentary on Batman’s Silver Age era in the scene where Batman goes on about how utterly ridiculous everything has become. That it seems like the past several years all belong in the black casebook. Morrison shows the reader that deep down inside the Golden Age Batman is still alive and well even though it is the Silver Age.
In this scene the Batman states that he is sick of all the clowns, circus performers and quiz masters. That Batman is annoyed and tired of all the pranks and puzzles. That Batman trained to be a soldier. That he understands things like madness, horror and crime. This is description is more similar to the Golden Age Batman. And the madness, horror and darkness becomes the foundation for the Modern Age Batman. Morrison writes this scene as if the Golden Age Batman had realized what a joke everything had become and was ready for Gotham to return to its darker roots like it was at the beginning of his career.
Chemicals and their mind altering abilities is a theme that has continually appeared through out Morrison’s run on Batman. In his attempt to explain the Silver Age, Morrison has the Batman ask when Gotham became like an endless game show. Batman also asks himself what is the connection between the chemicals and the crazy people. It is as if Batman and his villains were all exposed to various chemicals that spawned the oddities that are found in the Silver Age.
Morrison does make a point of showing one panel with Batman in Professor Milo’s lab that is filled with various chemicals. And we also know that in the beginning of the Silver Age that Professor Milo’s chemicals did cause Batman to hallucinate more than once. And Morrison has even concluded that some of Batman’s Silver Age adventures like the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh were simply a product of being exposed to Milo’s mind altering chemicals.
Morrison takes the culture of the 1960’s and places it upon Batman’s Silver Age. The 1960’s were heavy with the experimentation of different drugs and chemicals all designed to lead to mind altering experiences and trips. Pop Culture was birthed in the mid 1950’s. And this corresponds closely with the beginning of Batman’s Silver Age.
Then there is the 1960’s pop culture of swingers and flower children which was in fashion during Batman’s Silver Age. Morrison takes the pop culture of the 1960’s and superimposes it on Gotham and Batman’s villains as we see that the villains themselves even referred to as pop villains and how Gotham has become center stage for this bizarre variety of villain.
Morrison does an excellent job investigating Bruce’s psyche and how he has reacted and behaved during all of these different eras of his career. Even in the scenes during the Silver Age, Morrison has Bruce remain rather consistent in his demeanor and his unwavering drive to rid Gotham of crime. Morrison hammers home that Bruce Wayne died the day that Batman was born.
We see Alfred point out how Bruce stopped referring to the Batman as his disguise. That at some point in Bruce’s career as Batman that his real identity became Batman and Bruce Wayne became the disguise.
Morrison is able to show how Bruce’s frayed ends of sanity crumbled during his career as Batman. That Bruce completely created for himself a brand new identity in the Batman. And that Bruce left his original identity as Bruce Wayne to wither and die.
The reader witnesses Bruce’s incredible drive in that Bruce has eschewed regular sleep patterns in favor of problem solving micro-sleeps. I found this to be a neat way of showing how Batman operates as a soldier and how his entire life is consumed with fighting crime to the exclusion of practically everything else. That Bruce is willing to deny himself everything in order to be the Batman in hopes that it will somehow vanquish the demons from his childhood trauma.
Morrison even takes a little shot at Miller’s take on Batman over on All Star Batman. We all know that the two men have a little “feud” of sorts running. Morrison has Batman make a point of saying that being the Batman has nothing to do with the “rush” of his job. That Batman is not an adrenaline junkie.
This is a direct jab at how Miller has portrayed All Star Batman as a adrenaline junkie who loves the rush of being Batman. Morrison’s Batman instead is more cold and driven and states that for him it is all about crushing crime.