I find Batman R.I.P to be intriguing. So much so, that I have read the trade paperback countless number of times. Yet, it is like bitter medicine to me. I can’t get over the fact that the plot appears to be very jittery and full of unnecessary twists and turns. Maybe I find it too smart for its own good. Grant Morrison is not the only one who has deconstructed Batman. I believe this trend started off with Frank Miller‘s Year One. A prelude set in DC Universe #0 serves as a prologue to the events that span Batman #676-681. The trade paperback also collects two subsequent issues (Batman #682-683) as “Last Rites”.
The story anchors around Dr. Hurt, a scientist who heads a criminal organisation called Black Glove, who have set their aim on mentally and physically destroying the Bat. He sets a hypnotic trigger, “Zur-En-Arrh”, which when uttered by Batman’s then love interest Jezebel Jet, sends him to hypnosis. Bruce Wayne, sans his mind, is drugged and thrown in an alley, while Alfred is beaten up and Jezebel is captured by the Black Glove. The organisation has invited the rich and the famous to witness “Danse Macabre” – the death of Batman. Dr. Hurt also invites Joker to be a part of the play.
The story is so jarring that writing a concise synopsis is next to impossible. Also it might take quite a few reads to grasp the basics of the story. It is revealed that Bruce Wayne had already prepared himself for such a scenario. He creates an alter-ego in an alternate universe – Batman of Zur-En-Arrh, a defense as well as a weapon to break himself from the hypnotic trance.
Eric Norris wrote a two part article on Grant Morrison’s run of Batman (that includes the 50+ issues spanning quite a few arcs). You can read them here and here. He theorises that Zur-En-Arrh could be a reference to Zorro in Arkham, a phrase spoken by Thomas Wayne to Bruce just before his death.
No matter how weird the story is, the artwork by Tony S. Daniel is top notch. Some of the spreads will take your breath away. (Sorry for the reflective light, the pages are glossy)
The covers were done by Alex Ross – master of realistic artwork (Kingdom Come is one of the most gorgeous photo-realistic comics available). The trade paperback collects all the original covers and places them appropriately. he trade paperback also includes alternate covers drawn by Tony S. Daniel.