By Grant Morrison, J.H. Williams, Tony S. Daniel & various (DC Comics)
In all the furore and hype surrounding the death and inevitable resurrection of Batman by Grant Morrison everybody seemed so concerned with what was going to happen next that they appeared to sideline what was actually occurring in the monthly comicbooks they were holding in their hands.
Now with the dust long settled let’s take a look at one of the collected volumes comprising the extended campaign of psychological warfare the Dark Knight faced on the complex and rocky road to his demise and disappearance at the conclusion of Batman R.I.P. (and Final Crisis, if you’re of a nitpicky nature like all us true comics fans…)
In the build-up to that epochal event a sustained and vicious multi-pronged attack was launched against the Gotham Guardian by an all-encompassing criminal hegemony calling itself The Black Glove which succeeded in destabilising the already dubious mental equilibrium of the emotionally and physically burned out Batman.
The Glove’s enigmatic, quixotic leader Dr. Hurt was masterminding every minute aspect of the war and was merrily dredging up long-forgotten foes and cases Bruce Wayne had all but banished from his mind…
This volume collects the contents of monthly Batman comicbooks #667-669 and #672-675; two impressive story-arcs which intensively reference tales included in the associate compilation Batman: the Black Casebook – so you might want to keep that tome handy, even though the new stories herein can readily be enjoyed without it.
The first of these is a delightful play on the hallowed and time-tested “locked-room” mysteries and “ten little Indians” plots of traditional detective thrillers as a group of Batman-inspired heroes from around the world reunite on a desolate isle to mull over the old days and what might have been…
Their original meetings had occurred in ‘The Batmen of All Nations!’ (Detective Comics #215, January 1955 and included in Black Casebook with its sequel ‘The Club of Heroes’ appearing in World’s Finest Comics #89, July-August 1957 – and collected in Showcase Presents World Finest volume 1).
Against his better judgement Batman agrees to a attend a reunion of the club – after a decade of embarrassment and acrimony – on ‘The Island of Mister Mayhew’ the millionaire backer of the original enterprise and a movie producer who’s most notable effort was a thriller entitled “The Black Glove”.
Like a garish High School Reunion, the years have not been kind to many of the B-list champions, but things get much worse when their transport is destroyed and heroes start dying in ‘Now We Are Dead!’ before traitors are uncovered, impostors unmasked and the true culprits get away to menace another day in the spectacular conclusion ‘The Dark Knight Must Die!’
Scripted by Grant Morrison with stunning illustration from J.H. Williams III, this is top-rate, classic Batman fare and some of the survivors of this saga even made it into the later Batman Incorporated storyline…
The four-part drama that follows (the intervening issues having formed chapters of Batman: the Resurrection of Ra’s Al Ghul crossover saga) sees a series of violently degenerate substitute Batmen unleashed on Gotham, beginning in ‘Space Medicine’, as the first ersatz crusader targets cops and their long-suffering chief Commissioner Jim Gordon.
When the real Dark Knight gets involved he soon realises in ‘Joe Chill in Hell’ that an old, nigh-forgotten case not only offers clues to his current dilemma, but might also have sown the seeds of his eventual defeat or victory.
Life-saving hallucinations and deeper explorations reveal that a long-buried contingency plan to protect his sanity might not be enough when ‘Batman Dies at Dawn’ before it all astonishingly comes together when he finally confronts ‘The Fiend with Nine Eyes’ and realises who his true enemy is and always has been…
With astounding art by Tony S. Daniel, Ryan Benjamin, Jonathan Glapion, Mark Irwin, Sandu Florea & Saleem Crawford, this visceral, imaginative and deliciously off-balance frantic psycho-thriller sets the scene for the ultimate showdown in Batman R.I.P. …
© 2007, 2008 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.