I’ve said it in previous reviews of Grant Morrison’s work and I feel obliged to say it again here – there are times when he can create works of mastery, and others when he’s ultimately disappointing. Generally speaking, we’ve found his work on Batman to be among the more disappointing. And while Batman R.I.P. is tightly plotted, well-crafted and deeply complex, it just doesn’t hit the sweet-spot of what, in my personal opinion at least, makes a cracking Batman graphic novel.
There’s little wrong with the artwork, which is solid and, while probably not the best Batman art you’ll ever see, doesn’t do a bad job of creating the right mood. And the plot is about as twisted as they come. However, this is no casual read – you almost need to be taking notes to keep up, and a solid working knowledge of Batman’s history wouldn’t go amiss.
And therein lies the problem. With this story, Morrison has created a story arc designed to appeal to the serious Batman fan. There’s nothing wrong with this and it makes sense to cater for your core market, but it excludes everyone else. I wouldn’t care so much if it were a B-list character, but to a certain extent, you can argue that Batman, with his ability to pull in fans from all ages and walks of life, should be a superhero for everyone. Morrison’s gone the other way, leaving the appeasement of the masses to the movie franchise, and bringing this one back in for the hardcore followers of the monthly comic.
The plot convolutes almost instantly and to discuss anything beyond the first chapter would be to spoil some surprises. But basically, a group of super-villains who will be unfamiliar to most readers, has found a way to break Batman down. By using simultaneous tactics of taking out closest friends and allies, while effectively forcing a nervous breakdown onto Bruce Wayne, they hope to destroy Batman once and for all. Needless to say, things aren’t quite as simple as they hope, and there are some dark secrets lurking in the wings.
As a Batman graphic novel it doesn’t really work, unless you can also build up your own collection of all the material that was published around it. It doesn’t stand alone as a story and, as interesting as it is, it’s too tied into Morrison’s over-arching universal plans for all the DC Comics characters to offer much satisfaction for the casual reader. Unless you count yourself as a Batman aficionado, there are plenty of more accessible and ultimately more satisfying Batman books than this around at the moment.
Read Grovel‘s Batman reviews:
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