Monday, December 22, 2008

Batman #682

In the aftermath of "Batman: RIP," Gotham faces the uncomfortable prospect of life without its guardian angel. No, despite the preceding crossover's dubious title and the dark knight's absence from his city's streets, Bruce Wayne hasn't bit the big one. But maybe a few important portions of his personality have, and the prospect of a Wayne without the heart to continue may be twice as unsettling as the death of a caped crusader.

Grant Morrison doesn't provide a distinct narration this month so much as he does a series of random snapshots. Flashes and frames of Bruce Wayne's life and times under a cape and cowl, relationships curtailed by his activities after dark, missed opportunities to step away from his responsibilities as the Batman… as an abstract spattering of personality, it's spot-on, but as a straightforward narrative, it leaves something to be desired. I can get into the occasional trip down memory lane, which is how this was intended, but in such a curt, random form, I found it more like watching a DVD at 24x speed. You'll get a basic understanding of what's going on, but it's all kind of crammed together and disconnected.

Morrison has an unquestionable gift for drawing his readers into the situation, emotionally involving them with a startlingly short supply of vocabulary. That fact is reinforced over and over again in the pages of Batman #682, but just as quickly as the writer delivers these sharp, compelling scenes into our lives, he cruelly takes them away. He's started in enough interesting directions this month to have sufficient material for hundreds of issues' worth of storytelling, even if most of those avenues have already been explored. The writing is great, but its focus is so scatter-brained that the actual experience of ingesting it is often frustrating.

With "RIP" artist Tony Daniels taking a breather before "Battle for the Cowl" later this month, fill-in artist Lee Garbett doesn't take too many chances. In fact, his style is so similar to that of Daniels that I'd have to wonder if he's working as some sort of an understudy. Garbett's smooth, cartoony artwork is strong enough, particularly in dealing with Batman himself, and though his renditions of Robin don't fare as well, for the most part he does enough to get by. With the nature of this month's story, I noticed a few missed opportunities for creative license, particularly when the focus is on Bruce's early crime fighting career, but by avoiding such risks, Garbett ensures his work is inoffensive. He's strong as filler talent goes, but not entirely ready to move up in the pecking order.

As a standalone issue, this month's Batman is a swift disappointment. I'm sure the issue's constantly-shifting focus will look much rosier when collected in a trade paperback, but that's neither her nor there. Grant Morrison's writing is terrific, but it because it comes in such short doses, I had to really reach to appreciate it. Flip through it and give it a closer look in a few months when the full story is revealed.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 4

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