Sunday, December 28, 2008

Batman #683: "What the Butler Saw"

I don’t have that much to say about Grant’s last Batman issue for the foreseeable future. It’s a nice conclusion to his run so far, summing up the major themes in an easily accessible way, and bridging the gap to Final Crisis nicely. However, I found myself more eager to read that Final Crisis issue than this issue. The ending was never that in question, but at least if Final Crisis #5 hadn’t spoiled the ending of this one, there’d be a bit more tension.

A lot of the criticism of Morrison’s Batman run has centered on the idea that it’s incomprehensible without knowledge of the classic Batman stories Morrison’s referring to, or the philosophy he’s presenting in interviews. These issues tell a condensed version of the “it’s all true” Batman history that Morrison discussed in interviews. It is the first time we see this concept rendered so explicitly in the text itself, and I think that’s the major merit of the issue. But, having already heard the concept in Morrison’s interviews, it’s not that much of a shock. This is basically confirming what we’d already suspect from the run to date.

There’s some fun moments here, but the major significance is found in the events with the Lump, and in Alfred’s final speech. During Batman RIP, Batman puts forth the idea that Gotham is a machine designed to make Batmen, that’s debatably true, but what we see in these flashbacks is the process that led to the creation of Batman, the way he turns the memory of his parents’ death into an engine that drives him past human limits of endurance. The Bruce Wayne we see in the alternate reality scenes is the kind of person that maybe he was meant to be, a spoiled rich kid, but the tragedy fuels him to be an undefeatable superhuman fury of justice.

The Lump tells Batman that he’s useless and immobile, he needs something to power him, and after his emergence in Batman’s mind, he has Bruce’s own trauma to drive him. The concept of Thogal is a brilliant addition to the Batman mythos, rather than just referring to the Nanda Parbat experience, it refers to the entirety of his life as Batman. Each awful thing that happens pushes him deeper into the darkness, but he continually climbs out. He faces death, he experiences the ultimate evil and is able to come back stronger and more able to fight it. That’s what Alfred’s speech that closes the issue is all about, his ability to face death and triumph over it.

The entire saga of Morrison’s Batman will apparently wrap up in Final Crisis #6. It’s a rush reading this in single issues, and seeing the two thematically similar stories literally cross over. Morrison is tying up all his loose ends in the DCU, there’s a lot to cover in the last two FC issues, hopefully they’ll hit that same manic insane hypercondensed style as Seven Soldiers #1 had. I don’t think anyone could manage a totally satisfying traditional narrative wrapup in that short a time, he’ll need something that unwraps in your mind as time passes. It’s only a couple of weeks until we’ll find out.

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