****NOTE: The entire following post contains MASSIVE spoilers for the recently-completed "Batman R.I.P." storyline and the ongoing "Batman: Last Rites" and "Final Crisis" storylines. So if you don't wanna know, turn back now!!!!*****
So, Batman is dead. I suppose it was a logical conclusion to the last couple months' worth of Batman comics, which fell under the title of Batman R.I.P., and the current mega-event in DC Comics, Final Crisis, which from the beginning carried the tag line "Heroes die. Legends live forever." Also, Bats has done fairly well for himself in terms of comic book deaths. Marvel's dumping of Captain America a couple of years ago was fairly unceremonious. Even this Crisis has been a bit unfair to a DC champion or two. (Whither, Martian Manhunter?)
That said, sticking Batman's demise in this huge ultra all-encompassing DC multiverse nightmare kinda seemed to lessen the significance. I mean, come on, Bruce Wayne, a man who somehow managed to last longer than Superman, a couple of Flashes, who knows how many Green Lanterns, etc, died confronting one of the DC Universe's major baddies, and the biggest headline this comic book Wednesday was a cameo by President-Elect Obama in The Amazing Spider Man. Qua???
Here's a very quick and insufficient run-through of Batman's last couple o' adventures. (I didn't read every book along the way, but I've followed pretty close through message boards and such and let me tell you, this was one convoluted way to get to where we are today)
First came the storyline Batman R.I.P. It ran primarily in Batman's solo title. The promise was for a shocking ending that would shake Bruce Wayne's world to the core and set the stage for the man's final curtain call, which would come in issue #6 of Final Crisis, DC's summer event which has been hammered sales-wise by Marvel's major summer event, Secret Invasion.
The gist of R.I.P.: a mysterious new enemy threatens to destroy Batman from the inside: emotionally, psychologically, and finally physically. The identity of Bruce Wayne's true father is called into question (was the butler Alfred having an affair with Mrs. Wayne?) as was the nature of the murder of Bruce's parents (Did Mr. Wayne set up the hit to take care of his adulterous wife???) which lead the young lad down the dark path that would lead to becoming the Dark Knight. Lots of crazy stuff happens, villains get involved, former-Robin Nightwing gets thrown into Arkham Assylum at some point for some reason, current Robin Tim Drake and second Robin, the ressurrected Jason Todd, do some stuff. Eventually Batman goes insane, but it's okay because he's created a backup personality to take charge in case Bruce Wayne ever goes insane, so this new personality controls Batman for awhile till Bruce regains control, and eventually Bats confronts this new cadre of evil folks until he and the story's main antagonist disappear following a helecopter crash. Then, no one hears from Bruce or Batman for a couple of months, and all of Bats' friends at home are very sad.
Fastforward to Final Crisis, which apparently somehow ties into all of that: Batman goes to investigate the murder of one of the new gods (sorry, you're on your own. This blog could get waay too long waay too fast) and eventually fights an evil new god who captures him and sends him...somewhere. We find out where if we pick up a couple of Last Rites books back in Batman's solo title: the bad guys have created a clone army of super soldiers (not the Marvel type) and are attempting to steal Batman's psychosis to insert into these clones so that they'll have an army of Batmen essentially. From within his subconscious, Bruce figures out that something's up, and he begins to fight back, driving the clones insane and causing them to start destroying themselves. He eventually breaks out of the mind trap and escapes his captors.
Then we go back to Final Crisis #6, where Bats is the first of DC's big three (Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman) to actually do something constructive in this event's main story. While Bats has been captive, Supes is off doing something else, and WW (not to mention a whole bunch of other DC heroes and heroines) has been transformed into a slave of evil along with over half the world's population, Darkseid (one of DC's heavy hitters; by this point the guy's just a bit short of true deity status) has taken over the world, and the fabric of the multiverse (which is reality itself) is starting to tear apart.
Enter the Bat.
Batman makes his way to Darkseid's private chamber stealthily. Of course, Darkseid knows he's there, because he's Darseid, and they chat for a bit. Batman tells Darkseid that he once took a solemn vow against firearms that he's kept his entire life, but for Darkseid he was prepared to make a once-in-a-lifetime exception. He then reveals he's kept the bullet that Darkseid's lackeys used to kill the new god Orion two paragraphs above this one, and that it's the only thing in existence that can kill a new god (in this case, Darkseid). Mr. Evil Incarnate asks Bats if he thinks he can outrun the Omega blasts that he will fire upon the Caped Crusader should he attempt to fire, to which Batman replies "Try me." Bats fires, Darkseid fires, the bullet goes through Darkseid's chest. Batman smiles. "Gotcha," he says, just before Darkseid's Omega Beams absolutely wreck him.
And then Superman gets back from wherever he was and doing whatever else he was doing, and he starts wrecking stuff, because he's ticked off. The last panel of the book is Superman looking righteously peeved holding Batman's mangled corpse, half the flesh melted from his face.
It's reminiscent of Supes' mourning of Supergirl's death in Crisis on Infinite Earths, if anyone cares.
So, there we have it. Batman appears to be dead. And it was foretold long ago that this would happen, only the brain trust at DC said that Bruce Wayne wouldn't actually die, but that what they had in mind for him was actually "a fate worse than death," so I leave the door open that somehow Bruce isn't actually truly physically dead (enter snarky comments about people staying dead in comic books here, but then remember that the original Flash was out for almost thirty years following Infinite Earths and the fact that most resurrected characters have some superhuman element to them; Batman does not), so this does come as a bit of a surprise. That could have been what they were going for when they said they weren't killing him.
So after digesting this for awhile, here's what I've come up with: Batman probably shouldn't have lived this long. He's got this knack for surviving things he probably shouldn't have, but that's always been a part of the Batman mystique. He was always ultimately prepared for anything that could be thrown at him. (Hence the backup personality in R.I.P.) That said, he's way out of his league when taking on a foe like Darkseid one-on-one. Darkseid is a guy who can stand toe-to-toe with Sueprman. How awesome, then, that if Bruce is going to go out, it's taking Big Nasty down with him. I like it.
That is, of course, assuming that Darkseid is actually dead. If not, this becomes a heinous and pointless death, at least from a story-telling perspective.
I think DC botched the handling of this. How is it that newspapers across the country announced when Marvel killed Captain America unceremoniously in his own book; this, what is supposed to the biggest even in DC history, features the death of the biggest icon to fall since Superman, yet nobody knew it was happening except comic fans. Part of that is Marvel's fault for putting the world's biggest celebrity in five pages of Spidey's book (hm, think that was on purpose??) which reportedly had people lining up around the block of comic stores around the country to get their hands on. (Glad I was too busy with K3 stuff to get out to Bedrock City today)
But part of it is, this story just wasn't handled well. And, I don't get at all what the point of R.I.P. was. It seems to have had nothing to do with the actual story of Batman's demise. Heck, by the end of R.I.P. nobody's entirely sure exactly what happened to Batman. And we're not really sure how he got back before going off to join the Crisis fracas.
Are you confused? That's probably good. A lot about this entire ordeal didn't make too much sense, and I don't think it had the impact that it probably should have. Unless of course they're going to say he's not really dead, or Darkseid isn't really dead, or some other cop-out. In which case, there was tons of confusing build up for absolutely no reason whatsoever.
Oh, and finally, don't worry, Bat-fans. There will be a new Dark Knight of Gotham. Who it will be is yet to be seen in--you guessed it!--another DC Comics event spanning three or four different titles under the banner of "Battle for the Cowl." I think it'll be a cool story; really, though, I don't have the money to buy four titles' worth of comics till this whole thing gets staightened out. My money's on Dick Grayson, formerly Robin, recenlty Nightwing, to be the new Batman. But they'll probably go with someone more obscure and hardcore.
But for tonite, rest in peace, Bats. You done good.
Got this from Comic Book Resources' review of the issue.
"You can step off your ledges, though, folks. Anyone who’s read “Seven Soldiers: Mister Miracle” #4 knows exactly what’s been done to Batman at the close of the issue. He’s caught in the Death Trap, the Omega Sanction. It won’t be easy to escape, but sheesh, if Shilo Norman could do it, Bruce Wayne should have no problem at all."
So there. I guess Batman isn't dead dead, and maybe this fits the "fate worse than death" description. To be fair, I haven't read "Seven Soldiers: Mister Miracle," so I'll have to turn to good old Wikipedia to find out what the hey they're talking about here, but there. Surprised no one on the forums caught that yet!
That said, I'm probably happier with him being dead than that. Like I said, I think it kinda cheapens the whole thing, but...meh. Long enough blog already.