Whoooa boy. Did I miss something? I could make neither heads nor tails of this, even attempting as far as I could to dredge up memories of where this fitted in the whole scheme of things (as far as realizing I’d already read The Black Casebook and had felt similar feelings of being underwhelmed).
This story begins at “Midnight at the House of Hurt,” where the reader is greeted by a spread depicting the Black Glove organization, headed by Dr Hurt, and frankly they are a bit less intimidating than Dan McDaid’s Crimson Hand. You know me: too many superheroes and supervillains in leagues rings alarm bell in my head, that I might be heading for snooze territory. Still, some of the non-hero/villain characters introduced—like Honor Jackson—make for entertaining reading (with Bruce not in quite the literal pit he found himself in in TDKR but figuratively the same). Interestingly, R.I.P. anticipates The Dark Knight Rises in a few interesting and quirky ways. For one thing, the Gotham that TDKR has reached, where crime is low and Camelot seems to have been achieved, represents the calm before the carefully orchestrated storm. Bruce/Batman has also betrayed himself to a villainous woman who can’t be trusted; in this case, it’s Jezebel Jet, who he previously seems to have met in England. Robin at the time is Tim Drake, who is a bit bemused by the Bat’s throbbing heart, and quite upset about the appearance on the scene of Damian Wayne (Bruce’s son with Talia). Like Bane’s expressed attitudes in TDKR, Dr Hurt’s desire is to make Bruce/Batman “nothing less than the complete and utter ruination of a noble human spirit.” Dr Hurt also suggests that it will take only a little push to trigger the subliminal programming that will make Batman snap. Meanwhile, Bruce Wayne’s reputation is about to be dragged through the mud, and the unthinkable is about to happen: Alfred’s going to get beaten up. As many a modern Batman character will tell you, “You could erase my country’s national debt with what it costs to maintain this place,” as Jezebel says of the Batcave. “You could use your wealth and influence in other ways.” For the ultra-modern Batman, philanthropy is not enough.
However, despite the seemingly insurmountable odds stacked up against him, Bruce/Batman is triumphantly, eternally smarter than those who try to destroy him. Maybe it’s cheesy, but to me it’s a punch-the-air moment.
I’m not a huge fan of Morrison/Daniel’s Joker, but that’s personal taste (though acquiring the wardrobe of Jean-Paul Gaultier is an odd whim!). On the other hand, I like the way Daniel has drawn Bruce. I never thought I’d say I’d be glad to see Bat-Mite back, but in R.I.P. he works beautifully—in fact, he may be my favorite part of this whole whirlwind. The Batman of Zur-en-Arrh uses a baseball bat (“a place you once saw in a flashback hallucination induced by Professor Milo’s gas weapon . . . a ‘planet’ with two Batmen, where you were super-strong, invulnerable and immortal with a technologically and mentally advanced ‘double’ called Tiano for a buddy”).
“What the Butler Saw,” however, is an excellent story. There should be more stories that feature Alfred as more than comic relief.