Sunday, April 16, 2017

Superhero Media: Batman RIP

Ever read or watch something that other people have acclaimed as the work of genius and thought to yourself, "Wait, is this actually just a pile of shit?" Batman RIP is an odd beast, it's part soft-reboot, a simultaneous attempt to bot retcon out the Silver Age and celebrate it and it's also trying to tie up a couple of years of Batman continuity. Basically none of these lofty goals really work, as there's too much going on for veteran writer Grant Morrison to really get to grips with any of it in a satisfying way. I wasn't really aware that, after the various Crises that the DCU has been through, Batman's Silver Age adventures were still considered to "have happened" within the broader continuity. I mean, I like the sillier stories of the Silver Age, "A Boner for Batman" and "The Bat-baby" may not fit perfectly with the current conception of what Batman is, but they do represent where the character has been. Erasing these stories with a hand-wave, or worse, implying that they only ever happened in Batman's mind as part of a psychological defense so good even Batman for got that he did it, only serves to diminish, not enhance the character. 

Another pet peeve I have with Batman, which crops up in RIP, is the concept that the conflict between Batman and Joker is somehow inevitable and/or appropriate, like two universal opposites that have always been and must always be. What a load of shit. Batman's opposite number is clearly Bane (or maybe Owlman), so when the Black Glove (more on them in a minute) recruit the Joker to help them kill Batman, their shock at Joker's eventual betrayal just comes across as really dumb. Speaking of dumb, the Black Glove have a convoluted plot to drive Batman insane through a phony romance, the accusation that Alfred is his father and having a team of new costumed villains tearing up Gotham. I'm sure longtime Batman fans will be thrilled to have new foes like the Hunchback, the Swagman and Caligula doing nothing at all interesting to fill in time before Joker turns up. Oh, and Joker is now David Bowie? "The Thin White Duke of Death", no idea what they were getting at there, I guess Morisson is a big Bowie fan and wanted to work it in somewhere.

This "Epic Batman event, decades in the making" is pretty naff, all in. It aims for Operatic, but falls far short and lands somewhere around pastiche. The idea that Batman is so well prepared for various forms of attack that even he doesn't know everything he's put in place sounds like a bad joke at how the character has developed over the past decade. Batman RIP is an interesting and often frustrating read, but probably more worth a borrow than purchase and certainly not an essential part of your Batman collection.  

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