Batman R.I.P. - Finally?
Final Crisis #6It was a case of high irony - even for comic books. This Wednesday, the day that saw the most “civilians” seek out their local comic book shops since perhaps even before 2007’s Death of Captain America in Captain America #25 to pick up the Obama variant of Amazing Spider-Man #583 saw them miss another milestone. We think it was a milestone at least... SPOILERS FOR BATMAN R.I.P. AND FINAL CRISIS #6 ON As readers of Newsarama know, the path to the actual ending of the “Batman R.I.P.” story has been somewhat…convoluted. While the final “part” of the storyline appeared in Batman #681 in December, there’ve been two issues of the series since that tied in to the storyline (“Last Rites” in #682 and #683) which explained how Batman managed to survive a helicopter crash to appear in Final Crisis, which began back in Final Crisis #1, which hit stores last May. So – story-chronology-wise, we finally have the throughline, that is, “Batman R.I.P.” -> Final Crisis #1-#2 (he was called in to investigate Orion's death after facing Doctor Hurt in #681, as revelaed in the #683 flashback from Alfred,and then captured by Darkseid’s forces in Final Crisis #2) -> Batman #682, #683 (Batman hallucinating/Alfred remembering while Batman was trapped in the torture/cloning chamber, which he ultimately escaped) -> Final Crisis #6. Got it? As explained by DC Universe Executive Editor Dan DiDio, the apparent multiple endings of “Batman R.I.P.” were due to making sure readers of the collected editions got full stories. DiDio told Newsarama back in December: “ Here’s the conundrum on this one. And this is reflective of the world that we live in now – the world of collected editions. The R.I.P. story was always meant to play through to the end of Final Crisis - always. The thing is, we had to come up with a very complete story in “Batman R.I.P.” as it existed in its title. The reality is that the “Batman R.I.P.” story does not conclude until Final Crisis #6. There are also issues #682 and #683 of Batman that feed directly into Final Crisis #6, and we’ll have a big finale to the Batman storyline.” Spoiler puppy is here to save you from seeing the image described at right And the “ending” in Final Crisis #6 is pretty final (more on that in a moment) – we see the body, which is often the litmus test for “death” in comics. On that final page of Final Crisis #6, we see Superman carrying Batman’s dead and skeletonized/mummified body – the condition of which is due to being hit by Darkseid’s Omega Sanction. Comics character-wise, this was as big as Captain America dying. Batman is the #2 character (yes, with over a billion dollar box office movie, an argument can be made for #1) in DC’s stable, and we’ve got a dead body. So why, when you flipped on your local news last night, was local reporter Slate Sanchez outside a comic book shop talking to people about Spider-Man and Obama, not “Where were you when Batman died?” Slate Sanchez already did that story, back in December, at the end of “Batman R.I.P.” Although even then, the “death” of Batman was being seen through as much as a jaundiced eye as the “death” of Captain America was nearly two years earlier. Additionally, Final Crisis itself – as much an exploration of the metatextual elements of comics as anything else - kicked off with the resurrection of a character that was at one time seen to be dead “forever” - the Barry Allen Flash. In and of itself, using a storyline to return one character while “killing” another seems to be giving the reader a wink and a nod, that death isn’t forever (which brings up the idea of a world where heroes are no longer scared of death, which brings up super hero decadence, and a whole other can of worms…). The next two questions that can be asked go hand in hand – what "killed" Batman and how “dead” is he? Two spoiler puppies are here to save you from seeing the image described at left Batman was nailed by Darkseid’s Omega Sanction, rays of energy that transport the target into a series of successively worsening alternate lives (as shown by Morrison in the Seven Soldiers: Mr. Miracle miniseries in 2005-2006, and stated plainly by Darkseid in Final Crisis #6). Of course, taking a closer look, which is always a good idea with Morrison’s work, you see that the beams nail Batman in the head and the heart which probably has some meaning. Over the course of Final Crisis, Morrison has proven himself to be a major Jack Kirby (Darkseid creator) scholar, and as such, has adopted the Omega Sanction from Kirby's original use of it back in Forever People #6 ("The Omega Effect!"). In that story, Darkseid hit every member (save one, Serifan) to various points in time, where they’re all later rescued as shown in Forever People #7. Morrison himself even plays with the fact in Final Crisis #6 when Sonny Sumo discusses coming from a “Lateral Universe” with Mr. Miracle, Shilo Norman. Sonny was sent back to Feudal Japan by Darkseid’s Omega Beams, where, as Kirby showed, he lived a happy, full life - the "Omega Sanction" was apparently later refined to be a bit more sadistic. Sonny’s back in his original state, he explains, due to falling through a hole in his life into that Sonny Sumo’s life (no – there is no pronoun trouble in that sentence, Elmer Fudd). Long explanation short – there’s a wide open backdoor to Bruce Wayne’s “death” that Morrison is even hinting isn't final in the same issue where Batman “dies.” Of course, bigger picture - what does this mean? If we take the notion of the Omega Sanction at face value, that Bruce Wayne has been sent back through time to live a series of successively crappier lives, well, honestly, that's cool. Through the course of "Batman R.I.P." (as well as Morrison's run as writer on Batman), he's shown himself to be ready for anything, even up to the point of creating an alternate personality to retreat into if the situation deteriorated, and using his memories as a weapon. Frankly, living a series of successively crappier lives would cause Superman to call it quits around life 20 or so, but Bruce Wayne? Bring it on. So - again, if the speculation about the Omega Sanction is right - Bruce has been taken off the stage for a while, either to be rescued by a time-traveling hero, or setting things up for a big, dramatic reveal down the line. And of course is “Batman” dead? Heck no – someone – Nightwing, Jason Todd, Hush, Robin…or a third party will come out on top in the upcoming Battle for the Cowl miniseries which starts in March, so, by the end of the three issue miniseries in June, there will be someone wearing a Batman costume in the DC Universe. As for Bruce Wayne? Again, to cite Morrison’s own Final Crisis, this time issue #2 – as Superman said: “We’ll all miss him. And pray for a resurrection.”
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