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Sunday Slugfest: Batman #679

Posted: Sunday, August 17, 2008
By: Keith Dallas

Grant Morrison
Tony Daniel (p), Sandu Florea (i), Guy Major (colors)
DC Comics
"Miracle on Crime Alley"

Joey Davidson: 4.5 Bullets
Shawn Hill: 3.5 Bullets
Paul Brian McCoy: 3.5 Bullets
Dave Wallace: 4 Bullets
Thom Young: 3 Bullets




Joey Davidson 4.5 Bullets

Batman is crazy. Seriously. He's completely lost it. That doesn't, of course, stop Grant Morrison from making us sit back and wonder if this crazy Batman isn't crazy at all. Screw that, he is. Perhaps the phrase "bat shit insane" is most appropriate here.

The Dark Knight works his way closer to the head of the Black Glove with purple-suited fury. Robin is trying to track Batman down, and Alfred is still tied up in the Batcave. We finally get the Joker in the mix here, but it doesn't happen until the end and those expecting more of a showdown in this part of the arc will probably come away disappointed.

The issue is titled "Miracle on Crime Alley." An appropriate joke, but Morrison is probably capable of better. The whole deal comes from the thought that Batman's birth from Bruce Wayne that night on Crime Alley has been a blessing unto Gotham. It's a concept that has been dealt with several times before ("What would Gotham be without Batman?") and for a series that claims to push the envelope and bring Batman to his lowest, this plot device is something I could do without. It's there, nonetheless, and it represents only a minor chink in the armor that is "R.I.P."

I've been a massive proponent of the inaccessibility camp for both of Morrison's current epics. Final Crisis is the most inaccessible heap of a comic I've touched in recent years. It's something that those without a DC encyclopedia in their minds will not be able to come close to fully understanding. And, unfortunately, every issue prior to this one in "Batman R.I.P." has had huge moments of inaccessibility that have driven even the most hardcore of DC fans to the internet in search of answers. And that just does not define fun or entertainment for me at all. I recognize that there are those who love comics that deliver more than simply 32 pages of information. They like comics that challenge them and make them dig deeper for answers. But Morrison's current work has turned into more of a scavenger hunt than a great comic. Oh, and for those hunting, why the heck does Bat-mite have a little gremlin on his back?

But I'll back away from that argument here. Quite frankly, Batman #679 was great. For those who have been reading "R.I.P." since its beginning (which is probably the only way to read it) will have no problems with the book whatsoever. It moves fluidly from start to finish with only incredibly minor hiccups within. But one of those hiccups--and it may be considered nitpicking by some--is what keeps this book from a perfect score in my mind.

Morrison delivered a monster version of Batman here in "R.I.P.": Zur-En-Arrh Batman is something completely unlike Bruce Wayne. This is great. At one point, he even says it out loud to one of his victims: "See, I'm the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh. I'm what you get when you take Bruce out of the equation. I want you to tell me some more about the Black Glove and where they took the girl, Jezebel Jet." It's a great line and a wonderful moment in the story. Except for the Jezebel Jet part. This is where the line loses me. This version of Batman is completely separate and apart from Bruce Wayne… why is it, then, that he has concerns for those important to Bruce Wayne? If you want to make the argument that he is concerned because he is a hero then why is he not worried about Alfred? It's a moment when the story puts and sputters, something that I got caught up on more so than I would have liked.

All that aside, issue #679 is the moment when I have become excited about Batman. I'm excited for next month, and I'm really excited for what happens next. I will say, in addition, that the recent Robin tie-ins have done a lot to expand the story and assist them. So if you want more from the storyline, look into Robin. Otherwise, it's a great book for now, and I hope it stays this way. Morrison has a lot to keep in check with this crazy storyline. Let's hope he gets it done.




Shawn Hill 3.5 Bullets

Plot: Batman has been through a lot (kidnapped, tortured and drugged by his enemies). But due to the aid of a helpful hobo, an old friend has returned: the Batman of Zur-en-arrh, and he knows just which scores to settle.

Comments: Since the last time I reviewed Batman, when I was hesitant over Grant's commitment to one of the DC Top Three, I've been completely won over to the Morrison approach. The Black Glove story nailed it for me: more than one scintillating issue, that multi-part story was a character-filled mystery romp that read like the best of old DC's many mysteries and a JLA crossover at the same time. The absolutely wonderful art by J.H. Williams didn't hurt, either.

Since then I've enjoyed pouring over the Batman back history referenced by Morrison, who has really impressed me with his comprehensive Bat Knowledge. I've been immeasurably aided by my friends on the boards here, whose Batman lore far exceeds my own. Though I've always liked the character, I've read him more often in team or team-up settings, and have only collected his titular book for brief, intermittent periods over the years. Morrison's run is my longest sustained Batman commitment in years, and now that I'm in a better position to understand his kaleidoscopic (a better word than scattered or fractured) approach, I'm starting to get a lot out of it.

Once I realized that at least half of the last six or so issues have reflected the confused impressions of a drugged prisoner (one who has subjected himself to several mind-altering experiences of his own volition in his pursuit of crime-fighting perfection), I began to be able to piece the facets of story together. Morrison writes Batman like a permanent PTSD sufferer; always vibrating through his consciousness is the primal horror of his parent's deaths, not to mention all the subsequent traumas he's subjected himself to ever since.

But that is not to say this Bruce is sick. More like driven. Obsessive. Exceptional. I'm not sure I put total faith in the completely expository nature of this issue (after all, it's Bat-Mite doing all the exposition, and what the heck are those spider-legs sprouting out of his back?). Tying up everything so very neatly reads like a favor for the fans, so the events of this issue are for once quite easy to understand.

But is Zur-en-arrh really just all that is explained here? Is it that simple? I'm not buying it, but it works as a frame for the events of this issue, which are pretty much Bruce's first strike back at the Club of Villains assembled by Dr. Hurt to take him down. As such, his surgical strikes are quite enjoyable to watch, as is his charged dialogue to read. The extra-demented Greek chorus provided not by just Bat-Mite, but also by the Gotham gargoyles adorning the buildings Super-Batman leaps from, just add to the fun.

The art is less satisfying, as this sort of story isn't really playing to Daniel's strengths. He has some fun connecting the talking statuary to Le Bossu's henchmen's masks, but his Zur-en-arrh just isn't as demented as required. Daniel's particular kind of cartoonish is fair enough when dealing with a cheap Joker knock-off like Charlie Caligula, but he hasn't fully captured the freakish nature of the rest of the Club of Villains. His thoroughly modern, Image-y style misses that kind of goof on/celebration of the Silver Age silly details that become missed opportunities from the script. Nor is his Jezebel Jet as memorable as she should be as Bruce's current damsel in distress.

Daniel's better with more straightforward Gotham crime, but this story veered off the straight path long ago. Of course where there's madness, there's Arkham, where the Joker awaits, but that'll be next issue. I'm sure it'll be okay. After all, Bruce still has his Bat-Radia.




Paul Brian McCoy: 3.5 Bullets

I think I've got this figured out. And I'm going to go ahead and spoil the whole shebang for you folks and reveal who's behind all of the craziness that's going on in Batman's life. It's Bat-Mite.

I hear you chuckling out there, but you won't be laughing for long when you get an idea of just who and what Bat-Mite is and what he wants.

So first, a little history.

Bat-Mite first appeared in Detective Comics #267, published in 1959. He appears as a small, childlike man in a costume similar to Batman's. He possesses near-infinite magical powers and comes from another dimension. Bat-Mite idolizes Batman and visits Batman and Robin in the bat cave, intending to "join the team." When he's rejected by the Dynamic Duo, he decides to stick around and helps out the bad guys in order to make Batman's adventures more exciting. The story was written by Bill Finger.

His next appearance is in Detective Comics #276, published in 1960, in a story called "The Return of Bat-Mite." There's not much to the story beyond Bat-Mite showing up again, being a pest again, and then disappearing again at the end. This issue was also written by Bill Finger (as far as I can figure out).

He appeared repeatedly over the next twenty-odd years across the spectrum of Batman comics, with his recurring MO being using his powers to prolong battles and make them more and more spectacular. With the Crisis on Infinite Earths, Bat-Mite was essentially written out of the DCU.

Until, that is, Legends of the Dark Knight, where he appeared as what was probably a hallucination of the "drug-addled criminal named Bob Overdog," establishing for the first time the idea that perhaps Bat-Mite isn't really a mischievous imp after all - or at least could appear that way. But then, in issue #6 of the 1999 World's Finest miniseries,
Mr. Mxyzptlk encountered Bat-Mite, shortly after being mistaken for him by Overdog. While in this story the post-Crisis Bat-Mite encountered Batman for the first time, Superman and Batman subsequently concluded that Mxyzptlk had created him, inspired by Overdog's ravings (Bat-Mite entry, wikipedia.com).
In other appearances shortly thereafter (none of which are particularly canonical), Bat-Mite is established to be from Mxyzptlk's home in the 5th Dimension.

Then came the "Emperor Joker" story, where the Joker temporarily steals Mxyzptlk's powers. Then, in 2005's "Superman/Batman #25,
it was revealed that the Joker had gained Fifth Dimensional powers by maintaining the essence of Mr. Mxyzptlk from the earlier "Emperor Joker" story line; at the end, Bizarro was able to extract this latent magical essence from the Joker, which manifested in a form recognizable as Bat-Mite. As such, a Bat-Mite has been fully reestablished into the current continuity as an outgrowth of Mr. Mxyzptlk incubated within the Joker (Bat-Mite entry, wikipedia.com).
Read that last bit again: As an outgrowth of Mxyzptlk incubated within the Joker.

Apparently (I haven't read the story), "Mr. Mxyzptlk battles the Joker, who has tricked Bat-Mite out of his powers, using other characters as their pawns." This directly links the Joker with Bat-Mite. Eventually in this story,
"Superman frees Darkseid from the Source Wall. Double-crossed, Superman becomes stuck in the wall himself. Bizarro and multiple Supergirl rescue him. Everyone so far and many more other duplicates fight in an arena before Bat-Mite escapes. The two imps tie up all loose ends with their cosmic powers" (wikipedia.com).
So Bat-Mite and Mxyzptlk are involved with Darkseid and the Source Wall. Hmmmm. Where else is Darkseid popping up lately?

Also, "Zrfffans can do any kind of evil to anyone - but only as long as their mischief can be considered a "prank." Pranks are a part of the Zrffan outlook on life. ... The Zrfffans' five-dimensional physical forms are impossible for us to comprehend, which is why we usually perceive them as little dwarfish creatures or flashy thunderbolts" (wikipedia).

Now we know that Morrison is squeezing all of Batman's mythos into the lifetime of Bruce Wayne and playing with the idea of just what all those crazy experiences would do to a person. The Black Notebooks are his attempts to catalog the things that were too far out to believe; his own X-Files, as fellow reviewer Thom Young put it. Some experiences have been written off as hallucinations during Batman's isolation tank experiment with Doctor Hurt, but not every experience has been addressed so far.

As with the Club of Heroes, I believe that Morrison is reinventing Bat-Mite as a serious attempt at making a magical imp from Zrfff work in the realistic narrative that Batman currently exists in. While Bat-Mite is not physically the Black Glove, I believe that he is behind (in?) the Black Glove. And the name of the creator of Bat-Mite serves as the first clue: Bill Finger.

We also have the parallel issue numbers, with Bat-Mite's first appearance being in issue #267 of Detective Comics and the Black Glove first appearing in Batman #667. We also have "The Return of Bat-Mite" in Detective Comics #276 and the "R.I.P." story beginning in Batman #676.

In between those issues, in Batman #672, when Batman is shot in the chest, Bat-Mite appears for the first time in Morrison's story. But instead of the Bat-Mite of old, this incarnation is more ominous and appears to be carrying an insectoid creature on his back. This connects directly to the idea that humans can only see a humanoid form of the 5th Dimensional beings from Zrfff, as their true forms are "impossible for us to comprehend." Is the insect-thing a glimpse at something closer to its true form?

And then, in issue #674, he tells Bruce, "These are the secrets of DEATH we teach. We came all the way from SPACE B at the FIVEFOLD EXPANSION of ZRFFF to prepare your PASSAGE."

It appears to me that for Morrison, the inhabitants of Zrfff are more than just impish pranksters but have specific agendas when it comes to their interactions with human beings in the DCU. Mxyzptlk's goal is to teach Superman to take things less seriously (according to some sources). It seems that Bat-Mite has a bit more serious endgame in mind, which is to put Batman through his paces and make him stronger and better by the end. That's always been his intention really, beyond just the desire for his own entertainment.

And if "R.I.P." is the story of Batman leading up to Final Crisis where we are expecting major changes to the character (if not the originally rumored transcendence of Batman to New God, then at least something that directly involves the return of the New Gods, with whom Mxyzptlk and Bat-Mite were both recently involved), then Bat-Mite is playing the role of Trickster/manipulator to achieve this shift.

Or I could be completely wrong. Anyway, this issue provides more evidence that Bat-Mite is behind it all, while Zur-en-arrh Batman is explained to my satisfaction. There are, as usual, some odd notes throughout the issue that may or may not eventually harmonize with the end result. Batman utilizes a baseball bat pretty effectively, making him more of a Baseball Batman than just a Batman.

There's a very cheap death, blatantly telegraphed by a discussion of the victim's young child (you just know that something bad is going to happen to anyone who makes a point of discussing how happy they are - especially when they're a walk-on character that we've never seen before and shown mostly in shadow as they're introduced), and we find out what happened to Jezebel. But to be quite honest, I'm really looking forward to next issue's return of The Joker more than anything else. This is a better issue than usual for Morrison, but still has room for improvement.

The art is also better this month than in previous issues, and Tony Daniel is getting to draw some pretty brutal violence. He also provides us with an interesting scene where, for the first time in this story, someone else seems to see Bat-Mite. As he mentions on his blog, "I will be honest, I know a lot of people are wondering if Charlie actually sees Batmite. I drew as such (and the script written as such) so that we don't really know if Charlie sees it or not. Or if Batmite is really there at all. If I had to make a call, I'd say he actually can see Batmite there. (He's definitely not talking about anything else behind Batman)."

Hmmmmm. Another bit of evidence for my theory, I think.

But when asked about the insectoid thing riding Bat-Mite, he writes, "I don't even know what it's supposed to be. We're not supposed to get a good look at whatever it is. I have one more script to get to, where maybe I'll finally find out."

I can't wait. Bat-Mite is really the only thing about Morrison's entire run on Batman that has grabbed my imagination and sparked my interest. I hope it pays off in the end.




Dave Wallace: 4 Bullets

Predictably, I enjoyed this issue of "Batman R.I.P." just as much as I've enjoyed the previous few issues. However, this issue is written a little differently to the last couple of issues, in that Grant Morrison explains what's happening to Batman far more explicitly, and lays out the plans of the villainous "Black Glove" organisation with more clarity than we've seen before. For this reason, I was tempted to give it a slightly lower rating than the previous issues, as I've found this storyline to be more compelling when Morrison is more coy about his mysteries, and is ambiguous about exactly what is going on inside Batman's head. However, I accept that there has to come a time when Morrison will begin to bring the story to a tangible conclusion, and there's enough in the way of psychological insight, interesting subplots and other smart touches that this is still a very enjoyable read.

I enjoyed this issue's revelation that the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh is functioning as a backup identity for Bruce Wayne, a self-devised insurance policy that would allow him to continue to fight crime even if his Batman identity was defeated. Yes, he's unhinged, hallucinating the Bat-Mite as his own personal Jiminy Cricket and speaking to the gargoyles of Gotham City, but by giving Batman such a huge obstacle to overcome (his tenuous grip on his own sanity), Morrison makes his triumph feel far more heroic than those of the three-steps-ahead master of planning and preparation that so many writers paint Batman to be. It's also interesting to see Morrison attempt to get to the core of Batman's personality by eliminating the Bruce Wayne element altogether, presenting the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh as Bruce's pure and unleashed id. Whilst some readers may find this off-the-wall presentation of Batman to be too ridiculous to be taken seriously, Morrison peppers the story with sufficient tension and enough moments of disturbing violence that it never feels campy or humourous.

I also enjoyed the smaller references to Batman lore that help to make this feel like an important chapter in the history of the character, whether it's Batman's decision to use the same cinema that he visited on the night of his parents' death as a hideout, or the continuing hints that Doctor Hurt might be Thomas Wayne. This latter plot point is still unclear by the end of the issue, as Morrison keeps us guessing about Hurt's true identity, and his relationship with Alfred. It feels like a red herring to me, but I guess that it could prove significant in the end. There's also a fun vein of dark humour running throughout the issue, whether it's the Joker's deranged final line, or the great visual pun towards the issue's end, which sees Batman's choice of weapon give his name a whole new meaning. Finally, there's a hint that we may see the international club of heroes return to the pages of this book soon, which could make for an interesting climax to this story, given that we know that the Black Glove organisation is also assembling for a final showdown with Batman.

Tony Daniel's artwork continues to serve the story well. Most impressive is his transformation of the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh from a ridiculous outfit of rags into an imposing figure of justice and violence, despite the gaudy colour scheme and design. Daniel plays every scene straight, keeping his images rooted in a sense of realism even for the scenes that include outlandish elements such as the Bat-Mite or the talking gargoyles. There's an intensity to his Bruce Wayne that makes him a compelling hero to follow, even when gripped by madness, and he handles the issue's violent scenes effectively, too (notably this issue, there's a very grisly scene in which Bruce removes his own tooth as he discovers that his paranoid fantasies of having had a tracking device inserted into his mouth are true). I also have to mention Alex Ross' cover, which symbolically reinforces the themes of Morrison's story by showing a Batman who is falling, yet at the same time also seems determined and triumphant.

This is perhaps the most straightforward issue yet of "Batman R.I.P.", but it's no less enjoyable for that. There's a real sense that this book is gearing up for a climactic finale, not only to "Batman R.I.P." but to Morrison's entire run thus far, and I can't wait to read the concluding issues.




Thom Young: 3 Bullets

Batman #679



Back on April 28, Dave Wallace and I posted a joint review of Batman #675 in which I expressed disappointment about that issue not picking up where the previous issue had left off seven weeks earlier (#675 was supposed to have been in the stores on March 26, but it was nearly a full month late):
I am a little disappointed with the story in this issue in that the previous issue ended with Batman having been beaten to a pulp and then crawling into a dumpster to simulate a parachuting accident--though parachuting into a dumpster in downtown Gotham City seems like an odd cover story.

I had hoped that this issue would pick up the story at that point--with TV news crews surrounding the alley as Wayne is removed on a stretcher and placed in an ambulance. Alfred would then be left to explain how it was that Wayne was parachuting in downtown Gotham City.

Did he leap from a skydiving plane? Did he leap from the roof of the Wayne Foundation Building? Why didn’t anyone see him falling out of the sky into an alley and a fortuitously placed dumpster?
It seemed to me then, and still, that Morrison had skipped a chapter in an effort to get the series back on schedule--so that it could get in synch with what he was planning to do with Final Crisis. After all, he has said in interviews that there is a connection between the two series in regard to what’s happening to Batman.

Well, if the reason for the disconnection between issues #674 and #675 was to get the two series synchronized, I think another option for achieving that goal might have been to have this most recent issue be the chapter that was skipped. Very little happens that meaningfully advances the “Batman R.I.P.” storyline.

Oh, there’s plenty of action, to be sure. Readers who like action shouldn’t be disappointed, but there is very little in actual plot development:
  • Robin places a call to Squire in England, which sets the stage for Knight, Squire, and the rest of the Club of Heroes to come to Gotham to aid Batman against the Club of Villains;
  • Commissioner Gordon is taken out of action (at least temporarily) because he decided to visit Bruce Wayne (undoubtedly to tell him about the mayor’s allegations regarding his parents), and he now needs to avoid the booby traps in Wayne Manor that the Club of Villains set;
  • Dr. Hurt and the Club of Villains have prepared a trap for Batman at Arkham Asylum by taking out Dr. Arkham and bringing in several crates of the Joker’s poisonous black and red roses (when mixed together) that we first saw in issue #663.
In terms of significantly advancing the plot from the previous issue, those three items are all we get--and they take up a total of three pages (a half page, two pages, and a half page, respectively). I suppose we could add that Batman is going to knowingly walk into the trap at Arkham after he learned of it from his “interrogation” of Club of Villains member Charlie Caligula with a baseball bat.

Batman explained to Caligula that this savage “Batman of Zur-En-Arrh [is] . . . what you get when you take Bruce out of the equation”--which might be Morrison’s comment on the way Batman has been presented in comics for the past 20 years or so when there has been little focus on Bruce Wayne in favor of showing Batman as a single-minded, bug-up-his-ass jerk. (“bug up his ass” . . . hmmmm).

As he mentioned to Bat-Mite earlier, now that he’s free of the Bruce Wayne persona, his mind “seems so much faster now. Clearer. Simpler. Like a streamlined engine, a silver bullet” (page 8, panel 2).

In addition to the minimal plot development, there is no character development--not that there needed to be. It’s just a fact that there wasn’t. Overall, of course, the issue is well written. It’s also competently illustrated. I remain interested in the “Batman: R.I.P.” story, but there really isn’t much in this chapter that couldn’t have been skipped.

As I indicated in the review that Dave Wallace and I did of issue #675 almost four months ago, I would have preferred for Morrison to have covered the problem of Bruce Wayne recuperating from his so-called “parachuting accident” while attempting to avoid the paparazzi and tabloid press. Then the stories that did appear in issues #675-78 would have all been pushed forward one issue. I’m sure the three significant pages in this latest issue could have been squeezed in somewhere.

I guess the main reason for my sense of disappointment with this latest issue is that I’m ready for the “Batman R.I.P.” storyline to wrap up. I should be eagerly anticipating each new chapter, but this latest issue has left me frustrated that we’re no closer to figuring out what’s going on.

In interviews, Morrison has admitted that he has been dropping false “clues” in the story to throw readers off track (which, of course, is a perfectly valid approach to writing mysteries). However, he has also said that he’s surprised no one has figured out the identity of the mastermind behind the scenes (the so-called “Black Glove”) since he’s been telling us who it is in every issue.

Well, I thought I had figured it out, but it’s looking less likely now.

I thought the villain behind the scenes was The Outsider, the dual personality that Alfred developed in the 1960s due to a form of Dissociative Identity Disorder. I remain convinced that the prose story in issue #663 only makes sense if it was written by Alfred or his Outsider persona.

However, in this issue, Alfred is still tied up in the Batcave where he’s being tortured by the Club of Villains. I suppose The Outsider still might be behind it all, and that the Alfred personality is “in charge” (so to speak) at the moment, but I’m starting to doubt it. If the Outsider is behind it, then the plot should be about at a point where Alfred should be escaping so that the Outsider has a chance to emerge from Alfred’s subconscious.

I also thought Jezebel Jet might be the connection between this series and Final Crisis. In fact, I really like my idea that Bruce Wayne’s most recent girlfriend is possessed by one of the evil gods of Apokolips--and that she had been using an ability to manipulate emotions to cause Wayne to fall in love with her so quickly.

However, we discover in this issue that Jet is also still being held by the Club of Villains--and so my idea that she’s related to Glorious Godfrey/Reverend Good (and that she has powers similar to his) is looking less likely. Along that line, though, of the gods of Apokolips being involved in the “Batman: R.I.P.” story, there is one thing I noticed in this issue that had entirely escaped my notice previously, I’m embarrassed to admit.

One of the members of the Club of Villains is “King Kraken”--and “Kraken” also happens to be the name of the Alpha Lantern who was possessed by Granny Goodness in Final Crisis #2, and who took out Batman and hauled him off to Simyan and Mokkari’s Evil Factory where he was placed into something that resembled a Matrix-styled virtual reality chamber.

Is the fact that we have a character named “Kraken” in both series a clue? I don’t know--but I do know that I’m tired of speculating about what these possible red herrings might mean. Beyond Morrison’s admission that he has planted false clues in the story, there is also the problem of possible errors in the story that can also be considered “false clues”--albeit unintentional.

I’m no longer certain what Morrison intended to be in the artwork and what might be a mistake made by the illustrator, colorist, and/or letterer. For instance, Morrison has stated that there were the errors in the artwork at the end of Batman #676:
The scripts are very detailed, as are the descriptions, but things go wrong. Like in the first issue of “Batman: R.I.P.,” the Joker wasn't supposed to have any blood on him at the end--because he’s in an asylum cell having just had a fantasy . . . and the colorist didn't quite get it, so there's blood all over the place. . . . There shouldn't have been blood. It should have just been the Joker having a fantasy. (May 23, 2008 interview with Morrison conducted by Dan Philips for IGN.com)
In fact, it wasn’t just the Joker who was shown covered in blood when he shouldn’t have been. There was also blood flowing out the doors and down the steps at Arkham Asylum--which may have been part of the Joker’s fantasy or may have been part of the mistake.

Additionally, as Dave Wallace pointed out to me, it wasn’t just the colorist who seemed to have made a mistake in that issue. It appears that Tony Daniel (or perhaps his inker) may have drawn blood in those panels, and Guy Major not only colored the blood that was drawn but added a few splashes as well.

With that previous mistake in mind, I began to wonder about a few of the visuals in this latest issue. Are they clues or are they mistakes?
  • Page five--the talking gargoyles on the building instruct Batman to look for the “grids” in the city by slowing down his vision. When he does so, he suddenly sees a green and black checkerboard cube. Is it a clue?

    It looks like it might indicate that the city is part of a hologram (or a virtual reality projection in Batman’s mind)--indicating that all of “Batman: R.I.P.” is taking place in the virtual reality chamber that Batman was placed into in Final Crisis #2. However, I’m certain that at least one part of that image is an error.

    Instead of a green and black checkerboard pattern, I’m 99% certain that Guy Major was supposed to make it red and black in order to continue the red and black checkerboard motif that has been running through the series since issue #663. Additionally, though, I think another part of that checkerboard cube might also be an error.

    I’m not certain that Morrison meant for Daniel to draw a checkerboard cube surrounding the city. That image implies the city is a hologram (like the holo-decks on the Enterprise in Star Trek: The Next Generation). Instead of a three-dimensional holographic cube with a green and black grid, the dialog that Morrison wrote would seem to indicate Batman was seeing a two-dimensional red and black checkerboard made from the “ street grid” of the city: “Of course, Birnley, Newtown, Jerold--the streets where Batman was born. A checkerboard, a blueprint, a machine designed to make Batman.”

    Streets do form a grid in the city, and it is that checkerboard pattern that Batman seems to be talking about--so is the checkerboard drawing not only a mistake because it was colored wrong but also because it wasn’t supposed to be a cube? I don’t know, maybe.

    If it is supposed to be a cube, then it could be a clue that Batman is in a virtual reality chamber (which would also tie into the space medicine isolation chamber that Morrison has used in this story). However, if “Batman: R.I.P.” is just a Matrix-styled virtual reality world in which Batman is trapped, then there are a number of problems with that scenario--such as the scenes in Morrison’s story that are not from Batman’s point of view, and the crossovers in the other Batman Family titles (like Nightwing and Robin that acknowledge the “Batman: R.I.P.” storyline even though the protagonists of those titles are not locked into a virtual reality chamber in Simyan and Mokkari’s Evil Factory in Blüdhaven.

    My take is that Batman was supposed to be seeing a black and red checkerboard made up of the grid of streets in Gotham City, and that he is not experiencing a virtual reality world--but what do I know? I also think Alfred ’s Outsider persona is behind it all, and that Jezebel Jet is an evil god from Apokolips.

  • Pages eight and nine--Bat-Mite and Batman have a conversation in the abandoned theatre where Bruce Wayne had watched The Mark of Zorro with his parents just before they were murdered by Joe Chill in an alley behind the theater. It was while I was reading this scene that I saw something that had previously escaped my notice--Bat-Mite’s dialog is lettered with lowercase letters but the rest of the book (with one exception) is in uppercase letters (I’ll discuss the one exception in a moment).

    I doubt this use of lowercase letters for Bat-Mite’s dialog is a mistake. I’m certain Morrison directed Randy Gentile to letter it that way--which means it might be a clue!

    What I’m not certain about, though, is whether the name “tlano” was supposed to begin with a lowercase “t.” After all, since Tlano is the name of the supposed Batman of Zur-En-Arrh, the “T ” should be capitalized. Is the lowercase “t” a clue or a mistake?

    The lowercase “t” is probably a mistake, but the rest of the lowercase letters for Bat-Mite’s dialog is probably a clue. The question then becomes, of course, whether it’s a real clue or another of Morrison’s red herring false clues.

  • Additionally, in that scene in the theater Batman refers to the being with whom he is having his conversation as “Might” rather than as “Mite”--“Bat-Might” instead of “Bat-Mite?”

    Is that a clue, a mistake, or just a case of Morrison slightly changing the character’s name? It might have been a case of the letterer correcting what he thought was a spelling error in the script--and so changed “Mite” to “Might” when he lettered it. However, it might just as easily be a slight name change instituted by Morrison.

    Yet, if Morrison intentionally spelled the creature’s name as “Might,” it’s unclear why he would have done so. A “mite” is a small bug with eight legs that is related to ticks and spiders. Like ticks, some mites are parasites.

    When we consider that Bat-Mite has been shown several times with insect-looking legs that seem to be emanating from his back (or perhaps there is an eight-legged creature riding on his back), it would appear that Morrison is indicating that Bat-Mite is actually an acarid from another dimension.

    Could he be a member of an intelligent acarid species “from Space B at the Fivefold Expansion of Zrfff ” (as he claimed to be in Batman #674, page 7, panel 2)? (By the way, Zrfff is also the name of the Fifth Dimensional world that Superman’s nemesis Mr. Mxyzptlk is from.) Could the mastermind known as the Black Glove be an acarid from another dimension who has been using his fifth-dimensional magick to bring about Batman’s destruction? It’s possible.

    Another “clue” that would seem to tie into the notion that Bat-Mite is the mastermind is that he (it) “helped” Batman and Robin apprehend the “Yellow Gloves Gang” in his (its) first appearance--in Detective Comics #267 in 1959. Nevertheless, this “Yellow Gloves” / “Black Glove” connection that may point to Bat-Mite feels more like another one of Morrison’s “red herrings.”
As I mentioned, though, Bat-Mite’s dialog is not the only exception to the uppercase lettering that is otherwise used throughout the book (and throughout the comic book industry in general). The Joker’s dialog on the final page is also in lowercase letters. Is there some sort of connection between Bat-Mite and the Joker? Is this lowercase lettering stuff a legitimate clue or yet another of Morrison’s red herrings?

Unfortunately, at this point I just want the mystery to be wrapped up.

I’m tired of trying to figure out what’s a legitimate clue, what’s a red herring, and what might be a mistake on the part of the illustrator, colorist, and/or letterer. Of course, many of the mistakes (such as all the blood at the end of issue #676) will be fixed in the collected volumes of Morrison’s run. Unfortunately, I’m buying the single issues, which may actually be filled with errors.

One final thing: In my review of Final Crisis #3 last week, I wrote:
Like the Late Modern novelists and poets (as well as the Postmodern writers), Morrison isn't going to slow down the story to have a character explain things through some awkward exposition that serves no purpose other than to make sure the readers are following along.
Of course, I now have to retract that statement.

During his conversation with Batman in the abandoned movie theater, Bat-Mite delivers a speech of more than 150 words that is almost entirely exposition. It is unquestionably intended to explain several key plot points to any readers who have been unsure about various events in previous chapters.

Bat-Mite's exposition may be welcomed by some readers who have been confused, but it was unnecessary as far as I'm concerned.

Plus, it forces me to eat my words that "Morrison isn't going to slow down the story to have a character explain things through some awkward exposition that serves no purpose other than to make sure the readers are following along."

I stand corrected.



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