Sunday, July 18, 2010

Comic Book Review: Batman #701

The return of the comic book reviews! It has been a while, hasn't it? So much to read and so little time to review can be frustrating at times, but it goes without saying that I'll be here to deliver the bits and pieces of popculture reading whenever I can. Since the last month, the only comic book I was able to review was the mega spectacular Batman #700, and we all know how that turned out if you've been following the trail of The Dark Knight's adventures. It's not so much a milestone as it is a refresher, rather a tribute to all the men who have worn the cowl past, present, future. Regardless of the lineage, we all know there's only one man who is the TRUE Batman, and that's none other than Bruce Wayne, who's tenacity, determination, AND trauma can't be replicated by any of his successors. That being said, Wayne's eventually going to resume his role as The Caped Crusader after he finishes his journey through time. However, Grant Morrison still has a story to tell that involves the original Batman prior to his fate at the hands of Darkseid in Final Crisis.

Batman #701
Written By: Grant Morrison

Illustrated By: Tony Daniels

How fitting, I'm reviewing the following issue of Batman, and it's the return of the creative duo that brought us the tale that changed the Dark Knight's life almost two years ago - "Batman R.I.P"! Yes, Grant Morrison has paired up once again with artist Tony Daniel, to tell a two-part tale set in between R.I.P and Final Crisis, filling in the gaps and addressing some inconsistency issues fans may have had surrounding Batman's appearance/ disappearance in these stories.

Beginning the review proper, I'll admit to being one of the readers who were dumbfounded by Batman's "death" in R.I.P, only to find out he survived and "died" again in Final Crisis! Back then, R.I.P was supposed to turn Batman's world around and cause dramatic changes that would stick around for the foreseeable future. Of course, we all know now that Bruce disappeared, and his proteges continued his mission by continuing to fight the good fight and adjusting to their new roles, the most prominent being Dick Grayson/Nightwing assuming the mantle of his mentor. However, having a crazy "Zurr-En-Arh" Bruce Wayne come back from the brink of insanity, diving head first to a helicopter explosion, and resurfacing in Final Crisis just left too many question open... How did Batman survive that and where did he go during the interim?

These are  the questions Grant Morrison addresses now; in the storyline that's fittingly called "Batman R.I.P: The Missing Chapter". Without giving away spoilers, I will basically tell you that it picks up where R.I.P left off - with Batman right after said helicopter explosion. Naturally, the Dark Knight survives and is able to escape, but so were his enemies, namely the leader of the syndicate known as the Black Glove, Doctor Hurt. With the trail going cold, Batman returns to Wayne Manor to recover, but something Hurt told him prior to his defeat still haunts the mind of the World's Greatest Detective. Whether it was an omen or a warning, the next few days prove that evil forces never rest, so Bruce Wayne resumes his work and continues on as the Dark Knight, not knowing what lies ahead of him.

Now that the plot summary's given, the next thing you need to consider is "Is this story accessible"? Less yes and more no, honestly. First and foremost, this is a continuation of R.I.P, and if you don't know what happened to Batman there and afterwards in Final Crisis, I suggest a little backlog reading is in order to fully comprehend the events that take place in this issue and the next one next month. However, the story can also stand alone as an adventure that covers another unsettling adventure of Bruce Wayne after he escapes from a crisis, only to bear witness to the beginning of another in a mere few days.  Take note, this is Grant Morrison writing this, and as the architect and engineer of Batman's rise, fall, and rebirth, I must say that this is tame and refreshing compared to the R.I.P and Final Crisis days. I needed a tale to fill in the gaps and explain just how Bruce Wayne got back on his feet after all the abuse and beating he took with the Black Glove. This issue starts off things nicely, and brings back that R.I.P atmosphere back in a less convoluted manner, along with Tony Daniel once again inking things in a positive light. I've been a fan of Daniel's pencils since he started drawing on the main Bat-title, and he continues to work solid ground to this day. I will however note that he draws Bruce Wayne a little more out of proportion in this issue. He appears too buff in certain pages, and in others inconsistently young and old. Not too much of a problem, but it can be confusing to the trained eye sometimes.

At least for two issues, Bruce Wayne is back as Batman, and we have the creative team who "destroyed him", Grant Morrison and Tony Daniel, re-teaming to tell a solid adventure that's off to a good start. Again, anyone who invested in Batman R.I.P and Final Crisis needs, repeat NEEDS, to read this one. There's no excuse, especially if you've followed Batman: Reborn and saw the seeds planted for "The Return Of Bruce Wayne". This has secrets in it that lead and delve into the latter storyline, so take note of that and check this out if you want some answers prior to Wayne's return to mainstream DC Continuity. Overall, this is not immediately accessible, but it's not hard to pick up the trail and read either.

Rating - 9/10

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