Okay, I waited for the entire R.I.P. series to come out in BATMAN before I read it or DETECTIVE COMICS. Here is my comparison / review of the two stories.
First BATMAN: I’ll admit, I didn’t go into this one with any hopes of feeling good about it. I think GRANT MORRISON sucks as a writer. It’s like he suffers from A.D.D. In the last page of the last issue, Jezebel Jett had discovered Bruce Wayne was Batman. In this issue, it’s like she’s known he’s Batman for years. There isn’t a sense of excitement on either of their parts, like say when Mary Jane Watson first discovered Peter Parker was Spider-Man. And the chemistry between them is so bland and melodramatic, it’s like I’m reading a love arc from the 70’s only without the nostalgia. And then there was her irritating, “Are you sure you’re not the head of the Black Glove? Maybe you’re the crazy one.” I was waiting for someone to kill her off until I realized, WAY before it was revealed, what her plot twist was…and I didn’t care.
Then you have the Joker. I’m not sure how I feel about the way they took his character here. In a previous story, one of the fake Batman’s Morrison introduced in an earlier arc that may or may not kind of tie in with this arc (don’t ask me, I stopped caring), shoots the Joker in the head…right between the eyes…and the Joker lives. So now he’s all Marylyn Mansony with a long white gown, slicked back hair and a permanently scarred grin. During the story, he even cuts his own tongue right down the middle so he’s all serpentine. He was kind of interesting, mainly because he was still mostly the Joker and WAY more of a threat than the Black Glove (duh duh DUH!), who’s members he dispatched with comical (pardon the pun) ease. Still, with Heath Ledger’s Joker and the Joker from Brian Azzerello’s JOKER trade coming out this year, I found Marylyn Manson Joker kind of gimmicky.
Okay, CRAZY BATMAN! Maybe Morrison finds sane Batman boring because he’s gone to the crazy well more than a few times in in dealing with his character. In R.I.P., Batman’s identity is stolen from him. But it’s okay, he has a back-up: the Batman from Zur-En-Arrh! This Batman is a Batman without the Bruce Wayne side, which has apparently been holding him up all these years. Without Bruce Wayne, Batman can tap into his hidden powers, like talking to gargoyle statues and having his own mentor from the fifth dimension, or the dimension of “Imagination” (yeah Bat-Mite). I actually like this incarnation of Bat-Mite as part of Batman’s psychosis, although I could do with out the red, yellow and purple outfit Batman wears through most of this story.
Have I saved the best for last? No! The main villains, the ones who set out to kill Batman in this piece of $#!+ are called “THE BLACK GLOVE” (duh duh DUH!). Like a glove, they have only five members (although one of them is a woman). The first one we meet is M’Sieur Le Bossu. He’s a tiny hunchback guy who has his own army of gargoyle men (Zur-En-Arrh Batman should try talking to these guys). He’s small and stubby so I guess he’s the thumb. Then there’s the leader who calls himself “DOCTOR HURT.” He’s a failed actor who thinks he’s Thomas Wayne. He knows Bruce Wayne is Batman, where the Batcave and all Batman’s secrets. Maybe this was explained somewhere in Morrison’s run on Batman but, really, I stopped caring. Anyway, I place this guy as the Black Glove’s middle finger because he’s such a dick he doesn’t even introduce us to the other members.
Oh yeah, remember how the Black Glove only has a member for each digit? Well it appears Doctor Hurt’s doctorate wasn’t in math because there are EIGHT of them! And that’s not even counting Jezebel Jett (spoiler alert)! Here are the other members: Diving Suit Guy, Mime Guy, Gay Joker, Bucket Head, Silver Fetish Girl, and Sombrero (actually his real name). I guess Grant Morrison didn’t bother introducing them after taking a good hard look at the concept art. Anyway, most of them are dead now.
As you can tell, I didn’t much like this story. It was boring, long-winded, and it jumped around a lot. I thought that I would have to read Detective Comics to get the rest of the story, but it turns out the Detective Comics R.I.P. arc had nothing to do with this garbage (thank God). And when Batman “dies,” I could really care less. I canceled my subscription to Batman and Detective Comics after reading this arc. Then I read the Detective Comics take on R.I.P. and I decided to stay on that title. Here’s why:
PAUL DINI is one of the best writers working today. Especially on Batman. He knows the character, the supporting cast, the villains, the city better than anyone I think working in DC today (with exception, maybe, to Denny O’Neal who will be doing a two-part story next month in the Batman books). And he respects the characters in a way that no one else does. He continually writes great Batman stories without the use of gimmicky, shocking twists. He doesn’t need to drastically change the character to put his stamp on him. He puts his stamp on Batman by writing some of the best Batman stories ever.
I’d also like to mention DUSTIN NGUYEN who’s been penciling Detective for the past few Dini arcs. What can I say, aside from sharing his first name with everyone’s favorite BENT WOOKIEE COMIX employee, I simply love the way he draws Batman and Gotham City. And in this story he lays out a Bat-Cave far more extensive and impressive than I’ve ever seen before (Sorry Mr. Lee). He actually shows every car ever seen in a Batman comic, Cartoon, TV show, movie or my imagination.
Okay, as mentioned, this story has nothing to do with the “Black Glove” (duh duh DUH!) arc from Batman. There is an early mention of the evil group and Jezebel Jett but then it’s off to our story about Hush’s attempt to destroy Batman. Now, I liked the “Hush” twelve issue run in BATMAN mostly because of the “villain of the month” aspect and, of course, the fact that JIM LEE was doing Batman. But I wasn’t crazy about the Hush character. In fact, I was annoyed when they brought him back.
But this just shows what a great writer Paul Dini is. Here, he took a character I could give two farts about and made him interesting. I actually found myself hoping that maybe, just maybe, Batman didn’t die in that explosion that everyone witnessed from afar and never found his body (spoiler alert). That maybe Hush would kill him in this arc. I mean, at least Hush is menacing. Batman deserves better than to be killed by The Village People of crime.
Okay, this story resolves around Batman’s love for Selina Kyle. He hides it. He doesn’t want it. But it’s there. The two of them team up to go after a Doctor Aesop (he uses Aesop’s Fables to do away with his enemies). He’s a way cooler villain even though we don’t get to spend much time with him before Hush shows up and kills him dead.
Hush has used some of his family fortune to buy a run down hospital which he plans to use as a base of operations (again, the pun was accidental). From here he plans to destroy Batman and all he holds dear. There are flashbacks throughout the story explaining in more detail why Hush hates Bruce Wayne. Some of this was explained in the Batman “Hush” story arc, but here we get to see it in greater detail. If some of the overbearing aspects of his mother had been included in that run, maybe it wouldn’t have felt so wanting in the end.
The Wonderland Gang makes a brief appearance here, sans The Mad Hatter. Zatanna also shows up to set up a plot point that is so cleverly placed that you don’t realize it’s a plot point until the end of the story. The Scarecrow is used by Hush in his plan to undo Batman. So is Mister Freeze, who shows up in a brief flashback. The Joker gets a cameo that is really funny (funny Ha-Ha not funny Oh My God, Sick!). And yet none of these characters are used in a way that takes any attention from the main villain, Hush. He is clearly the bad guy here, using his medical skills to shocking ends.
I know it seems like I gave away a lot here but honestly I didn’t. Each series is full of twists and complexities. Morrison’s I found to be unintentional and tedious. Dini’s I found way too clever to spoil them all. Of course everyone has there own tastes so you might want to check them both out. If so, head on down to Bent Wookee Comix located at 127 Fairfield Avenue in the West End section of Johnstown. See ya there!