“Batman R.I.P.” by Grant Morrison

The blurb on the front said Batman R.I.P. is “as good as superhero comics get” and it was from IGN, a pretty trusted source for geekiana. I’ve been reading Morrison’s reboot of Batman and Robin, and like it a lot. This was the story that led up to it. So I took the bait, bought the book, read the book, and the same thing happened as almost always happens when I read a Grant Morrison book; I thought, “Huh? What? I don’t get it…”

Here’s what I think it’s about: A villain group called The Black Glove has sworn to destroy Batman, in a way that put me in mind of a book I liked much better, Daredevil: Born Again. They involve the Joker, who they refer to as The Master. They do, in fact, manage to make some Very Bad Things happen to Batman–poison, madness, drugs, kidnapped girlfriend, etc. And in the end a helicopter goes down, with one of the bad guys and with Batman. Do you think he’s dead? For real? This time?

Grant Morrison said in an interview that the villain’s reveal would be one of the most shocking things in Batman’s history. After reading the book, this confused me. First, because I found at least three main villains (possibly a fourth), and a whole lot of secondary ones. Second, because when I finally figured out which one I thought he was talking about (I’m still not completely certain) it wasn’t shocking.

In the wake of my confusion, I looked up reviews, most of which are excellent. But the excellent reviews came from comic-book critics and fans who had been reading the various Batman titles all along. That isn’t me.

I have geek cred. I’ve read comics for over twenty years, and even worked in comic shops. I’ve read a lot of Batman. But what I’ve read were often stand-alone graphic novels, like The Dark Night Returns, The Long Halloween, The Killing Joke, Mad Love, etc. I don’t read every issue of every Bat title. I have a general sense of what’s going on in the major universes. I know the main characters and history. And that wasn’t enough to appreciate this book. There’s lots of good stuff in it; Grant Morrison is a good writer and a very clever guy. But I think this collection is better suited for medium-high to high Bat fans who follow the ongoing books. It couldn’t quite stand alone, I thought.

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