Thursday, January 15, 2009

R.I.P./Final Crisis #6

DC Comics' Final Crisis #6 came out today, with big news for Batman, and I'm about to discuss it and the Batman R.I.P. storyline that recently concluded in the Batman comic series, so if you're concerned about spoilers, I just have one non-spoiler link to more Simpsons-ized Batman characters, and you can skip the rest. So now, a recap of RIP/Final Crisis #6, my thoughts, and a look ahead (sorry, this runs pretty long):

R.I.P. was hyped by writer Grant Morrisson as the most important event in the history of comics (I'm only slightly exaggerating), appearing to bring the death of Batman. In the story, and this might not be 100% right because I almost always find Morrisson's writing style to be confusing, a mysterious organization called the Black Glove is after Batman. They attack him psychologically, causing him to literally lose his mind. Ever prepared, Batman had actually implanted a backup persona into his mind, keyed by the phrase "Zurr-en-Arrh" (a phrase repeated endlessly in the series) which takes over and allows him to take on the Black Glove while Bruce Wayne/Batman recover from the attacks. Which of course happens, and he kicks everyone's asses. He confronts the Black Glove's leader, who claims to be Thomas Wayne, and then the devil, but Batman outs him as an actor named Mangrove Pierce who was referenced in a previous Morrisson storyline. As Batman leaps towards Pierce's helicopter, it explodes, and we're left to wonder whether Batman survived. Since things like this happen in comics all the time, and the person who might have died always comes back, this was a pretty disappointing ending, but it turns out that the story really wraps up in Final Crisis #6.

There was a really nice moment at the end, where it flashes back to young Bruce Wayne, walking out of The Mark of Zorro and telling his parents how Gotham should have someone like Zorro. Thomas Wayne responds that they'd throw someone like Zorro in Arkham, but Bruce says "what?" Reflecting back, presumably hundreds of times on that last conversation with his father, the best he can piece together is "Zurr-en-Arrh." So the whole thing was an exercise in showing you that Batman is a badass, and also crazy. But it was incredibly confusing along the way.

Anyway, Final Crisis #6 came out yesterday. I don't care much for the incredibly complicated multiverse issues and cosmic characters that make up DC crossover titles, so I haven't been reading Final Crisis. But I had read R.I.P., and although it wasn't really my cup of tea, I had invested enough time to see the real ending. So after the exploding helicopter, Batman was apparently fine. He returned to the Batcave where he got an alert from the Justice League. Final Crisis' storyline apparently relates with the villain Darkseid, a super powerful alien/god who wants use something called the "anti-life equation" to destroy the universe. Or rule it. (like I said, I don't follow these kinds of things) So Batman comes up with a bullet that is capable of killing him. And for some reason he picks now to violate his rules about killing and guns (he's had hundreds of times where he logically should have killed people, so it seems dumb that he decides to do it now), pulls a pistol on Darkseid, and fires. But Darkseid has this power where he shoots rays out of his eyes, and hits Batman at the same time. So Batman takes out the threat to the whole universe, but he pays for it with his life. There are some scans of those pages over here, if you're interested.

So Batman R.I.P. had absolutely nothing to do with the death of Batman, other than it happening shortly before his death. Meh. But in the aftermath, hardly anyone in Gotham knows that Batman's dead, and the threat of Batman keeps a lot of bad things from happening, so someone else will don the costume. This sets up the next big Bat-event, The Battle for the Cowl. Back when Bane broke Batman's back, Jean-Paul Valley and later Nightwing (Dick Grayson) took over. This time, Nightwing's a contender again, as is Robin (Tim Drake). They'll throw in some others, I'm sure, just to make it more interesting. If it was me, I'd decide that taking over for Bruce Wayne is too much for one man to handle, so I'd have Dick and Tim both do it. This whole event would sound pretty cool, but since Marvel pretty recently killed off Captain America and had his former sidekick Bucky take over for him, it doesn't feel very fresh.

As for Batman's death, don't worry, no one stays dead for long. Superman died in the 1990s in probably the most highly publicized comic event ever, and he's still around. When I started reading comics, the saying about comic book deaths was "no one stays dead except for Uncle Ben, Jason Todd, and Bucky." But in the past couple years, Jason Todd came back from the dead, and as I mentioned above, Bucky's currently Captain America. And there have been alternate universe Uncle Ben's, too, I think. So give it a year or two, and I'm sure Bruce Wayne will be back. What this does mean, however, is that I should probably writeup a page for Darkseid, but if you've read this far you have probably figured out two things: a guy who shoots death rays out of his eyes is completely out of place in the movies, and I would need to do some serious research to write anything about Darkseid.

And one other link, which I put down here because it's spoilerishly related to Batman's death, Project Rooftop, which holds character redesign contests judged by pro artists, announced their Batman contest today. Entries are due February 4th, if anyone artistically inclined reads this. But past contests (which are still on the site) have yielded some pretty cool designs, and I'll be sure to link back there when the winners are announced.

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