May 28, 2016

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 459: Batman #681, December 2008

I was up early today (uncommonly early, considering it's a Saturday). When my wife came down, she asked how long it took me to read and blog a comic each day. I said, taking into account that I do my reading with breakfast most days, that it's about an hour, though sometimes less if I have little to say about a comic. This got me to thinking about what I do have to say about particular comics, and then, more broadly, about my ability to maintain a sustained reading of a particular series. It's been something that's plagued my project since the beginning. I would say 5 or 6 issues into a series, occasionally even one I love, I start getting tired of the characters, of the setting, of the story. Even Alan Moore's masterful take on Supreme I had to put down after only a few issues. Looking back now, though, this issue moves us into the fourth consecutive week on Morrison's Batman, and we're not even half way through his run. When I was talking to my wife, I suggested that this was a mark of a really well-crafted story, that it could be telling me the same narrative, with the same characters and the same setting, and that I could be invested in it for going on a month, and probably for at least a month more. Now, as should be obvious by now, I'm a little biased when it comes to Grant Morrison. I really do think he's one of our greatest living writers, and, I'll admit, I probably have a slight case of blinders when it comes to his writing. But, again as my wiser-than-words wife noted, if I read something of his that was terrible, I wouldn't call it great just because of who wrote it.

But his Batman work is great, make no mistake.

In this concluding issue of "R.I.P.," we're treated to a final entry in the Black Casebook, and come to realize that Batman actually is a superhuman, a superhero. Flashbacks to his time in Nanda Parbat reveal to us that he has looked beyond death, into whatever comes next, and has come back, ultimately prepared for the ultimate finality. Can we call his power "super-preparedness," "super-mindfulness," perhaps. Is he the ultimate Zen superhero, always ready for any circumstance but also always still? Because of his preparedness, does Batman have, in a way that none of us really can, the ability to always exist in the now? And is that what makes him unbeatable? (Side note, Batman versus the Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is something I would love to see.)

And then there's this:
"In my attempts to see clearly in the deepest dark, in my efforts to go the still eye in the storm of madness, did I open myself up to some pure source of evil? Did I finally reach the limits of reason? And find the Devil waiting? And was that fear in his eyes?"

Forget superhero. What about archetype? And, when we get to the inevitable Return of Bruce Wayne series, we'll have to question where that archetype actually came from. The answer is remarkable.


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