“Batman R.I.P.: Part 5”, written by Grant Morrison, illustrated by Tony Daniel, published by DC Comics
Grant Morrison’s Batman epic is nearing its end with Batman #680, the penultimate chapter in the “Batman R.I.P.” story arc. This issue sees Bruce Wayne, still dressed in the gaudy guise of “the Batman of Zur-en-arrh,” storming the gates of Wayne Manor, now inhabited by the accomplices the Black Glove. Meanwhile, the Joker makes his grand entrance onto the stage, and the Black Glove tips its hand, finally revealing who the mastermind behind Batman’s demise is.
Grant Morrison’s writing is as laden with motif and symbolism as ever. Red and black patterns are found throughout the book and are given several meaning, from Batman and Robin, to love and death, to suits of cards, to rich people. Morrison’s got his trademark depth down, and while the big twist at the end is easy to see coming for anyone with a little knowledge of Old Testament Bible history, it still manages to leave the reader on seat’s edge, begging for the next issue.
Morrison’s portrayal of the Joker is also noteworthy. He manages to strike a balance between the gritty portrayal of the Joker seen The Dark Knight, and the outright insane version made popular by Batman: the Animated Series. Its a rare occasion where the Joker comes off as dangerous and crazy without sacrificing his intelligence or turning him into a gimmick. Except for one terribly out of place and out of character line where the Joker makes a reference to wikipedia, Morrison is on top of his game with this book.
Tony Daniel’s art continues to be a dynamic force in the book, making what could be a very slow story feel like its alive with action, even when its not. Guy Major’s deep, full, and vibrant colors help to this end, steering the story far from the dark, grim, and gritty attitude most often associated with modern Batman. Daniel should also be credited for drawing a Joker that actually looks like he might survive a round or two with Batman. His Joker – hulking in front of Batman, clad in suspenders and pinstriped pants while brandishing twin straight razors – is about the most intimidating Joker I’ve seen.
This issue is definitely more build-up than it is payoff, but it does its job succesfully. It picks up the pace and builds excitement going into what should be an incredible finish to an ambitious story.
Here’s hoping there’s not more delays crossing the finish line. B+