“Batman R.I.P.”, Chapter 2: Batman in the Underworld (Batman #677)

Welcome back. So soon, you say? Well, what can I say? I realised that there isn’t a ton of things to talk about this issue so I thought I’d get it out the way so we can move on to the mad remainder of the book in which you find more and more to talk about it as you go along.

So this issue begins with us joining Batman as he beats up one of the Club of Villain’s lackeys, but he’s quickly interrupted by Gordon, another character who expresses his doubts at Batman’s pursuit of the mysterious Black Glove, and saunters off to the Batcave for the rest of the issue. But this isn’t a slow burner because of that – what Morrison’s essentially doing here is setting up events that are about to happen in the third issue. Back in the case, for instance, we immediately find Batman getting touchy with Alfred over Tim’s doubts, and spending yet more time with Jezebel whom it’s beginning to look like he really cares about…or so it seems. Indeed, if you never realised Jezebel was a baddie at the time, then you’d probably be getting doubtful about Batman too as a reader, going soft and being a prick to his faithful butler, but it’s all just Morrison tricking you. The idea here and when Jezebel openly doubts him as well, to which he suddenly agrees no less, is to make you really think that Batman is completely clueless as to what’s going on, and to Jezebel’s intents that aren’t revealed for another few issues. Quite cleverly, she asks a lot of rhetorical questions that I’m more than sure inspired debate at the time from fans, but it’s all part of her act and Batman agreeing is all part of his. Still, it’s not as if the guy planned everything, or I can’t imagine he did, but I suppose we’ll talk about that in Time and Batman which, in tying the events between R.I.P. and Final Crisis, I imagine must explain some more of this.

More on Batman’s time in the cave in a bit. We catch up with Doctor Hurt and the Club of Sheer Villainy and, as I said in my last post, Hurt says the line, “What we are about to do will be a work of art. Nothing less than the complete ruination of a noble spirit”. It’s a great line and, in a way, true. But, of course, and this isn’t too big a spoiler to any long fan of the character, Batman wins in the end and will perhaps be even more powerful for it come Final Crisis. The irony of this makes me smile, especially when we first saw the line paired with that image of a young Bruce Wayne on the night that he, at least emotionally, became Batman. True, I know Batman dies in Final Crisis, but I know also that he comes back somehow and I have a funny feeling that that’s why this particular book opens with the statement that “Batman and Robin will never die!” In what other book should that be more appropriate than one called R.I.P.?

Aside from that, we’re given another curve ball by Morrison, or so I think. Although we don’t learn the full meaning of this until later in the arc, Doctor Hurt insists that he knows Batman better than anyone, which is quite mysterious. On the one hand, he could of course be referring to the experiments he already carried out on him that we’ve learned about, but in the third chapter of this arc we see him dressed in a costume that readers of The Black Casebook will instantly recognise and see where Morrison’s going. Though I won’t spoil that particular surprise until then – but I might as well point out that it remains unclear if Hurt’s words are true or not, a question I don’t expect to be answered in Final Crisis but could be in Time and Batman – it is hinted at in Gordon’s other short scene.

And, man, this must have thrown fans off at the time, even though there’s a very obvious hint that it’s complete bullshit in the first issue. What happens is that Gordon learns of a “cover up” involving the Wayne’s. Apparently Martha was a drug addict and Thomas an alcoholic who might have had her killed by Joe Chill for apparently cheating on him with Alfred, possibly Bruce’s real father, and his own death faked. The idea that he could still be alive indeed probably scrambled fans to assume that Hurt is Thomas, and perhaps even other theories like Alfred knowing of the “assassination”, hence his mysterious ongoings lately that I had been noticing. But I never believed any of it for a second and, on the former point, the characters who Hurt tells this to don’t either, dismissing it immediately. The reason I didn’t, though, was that in the opening of the first issue we see Le Bossu kill a man on Hurt’s doorstep which he expects shouldn’t be a problem if the Black Glove are as professional as they say and, indeed, Hurt says that reasons for the man’s death and possible plan B’s and C’s are already being arranged to deal with it, emphasising their power. So, for that reason, it seems pretty obvious that all of what Gordon reads is fabricated nonsense. Hell, Hurt implies as much strongly enough next issue when he’s beating up Alfred and acts sarcastic about it all.

WAIT, WHAT?!? Yep, Alfred. Broke my heart too. What happens is we see Bruce in front of all his computers when the graffiti words, Zur En Arrh, actually revealed to be an “induction trigger phrase”, appear on screen, though all Bruce can see is static. As soon as he asks Jezebel what she sees, and she repeats the words in his ear, that’s him unconscious and about to go mad, just as Le Bossu and some minor baddies come to “kidnap” Jezebel and set fires off in the Batcave. That’s when poor ol’ Alfred enters and gets the shit beaten out of him to end this chapter. Worry not, for the good old butler survives and, indeed, he is a good guy and not linked to Doctor Hurt like I had initially thought. But we’ll find out that next time. For now, this’ll be it for today. Not actually sure I’ll combine any chapters into the one post for this story arc, but I guess we’ll just wait and see. Until then.

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