Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Comic Book Review: Batman #701

I remember when I read the final pages of Batman #681 in November of 2008. They were exciting, mysterious, and provided a satisfying ending to Batman RIP story. But of course, as always, there were still lingering questions, as Batman seemingly died in the helicopter explosion, yet he appears alive and well in the first issue of Final Crisis, before "dying" again in the sixth issue of that series. So how did Batman end up saving the world in Final Crisis, and what about Dr. Hurt becoming El Penitente in Batman and Robin? Well in this weeks issue of Batman, the RIP team of Grant Morrison and Tony Daniel return of bridge the gap, all while revealing a few tricks hidden up their sleeves.

This issue picks up immediately after Batman RIP, with Bruce fighting the roughs waters of Gotham to emerge at the Harbor. While he exits the waters, he can't help but wonder about Hurt, and how his escape from a wrecked helicopter at the bottom of the sea would be next to impossible, yet a quick panel shows the evil Doctor pressing his way out of the ruins.

Upon returning home to Wayne Manor, a battered Alfred greets him, and Bruce begins to recount his experience that almost led him to death. Even though he's suffered wounds tough, his inner detective won't allow him to stay still, so he fires up the Bat-Sub, and races to the helicopter ruins underneath the harbor. He finds nothing amongst the ruins, which bothers him immensely as he tells Alfred upon his return home. Alfred attempts to encourage him, highlighting the fact that Batman was able to escape all the traps set for him, and make it out alive. But in Bruce's mind, he should have never fallen in the traps to begins with, he could, and should be dead now.

As Alfred exits the Bat-Cave behind Bruce, he takes note that the clock has mysteriously stopped working, right a 1:15. I'm not sure if that's relevant or not, but knowing Grant and his love of clues, I feel like it is.

Bruce informs Alfred that he's going to sleep for the rest of the day, yet he just tosses uncomfortably in bed still feeling the aftereffects of the drugs issued to him by Hurt. He begins to enter a state of hallucination and memory, thinking about Hurt, and his parents. He's baffled by the fact that Hurt found the Mansion's secret room, the same room that Dick discovered in Batman and Robin #10. He explains that his parents made him vow to never enter the room, and he silently apologizes to them as he enters it to find "Barbatos" and Thomas messily painted on a wall. More questions abound to him, and he wonders if maybe there is a sick family secret, perhaps insanity or something of the like that has been buried under the rug. And why would Hurt go trough such length to destroy the good name of Wayne?

Bruce retreats back to the Cave once again, pondering of all his info, trying to connect the dots. He's interrupted by Alfred, who says that there is something urgent to be seen. Alfred takes Bruce outside, to see that the sky is turning red, the beginning of Final Crisis. In the Bat-Cave once more, Superman appears on the computer to recruit Batman for investigating the murder of a god, Orion. Before Bruce leaves, Alfred once again tries to comfort him about the recent lies and allegations thrown at the Wayne family, saying that the real truth can be proven. Bruce again relates the atrocities the Black Glove put him though, but he says the worst part was losing his fathers Bat-Costume to the Gotham River. He's still concerned about the supposed "curse" put on him by Hurt, and as he flies out to the Orion crime seen, he notes that he can feel a larger trap enclosing around him.

It's incredible to me, that even though Dr. Hurt was beaten this round, Batman is still very much in his trap. Bruce is flooded with much uncertainty, even about his own family and their potential secrets. Even the whole "curse" is troubling him, giving us a look at a Batman with much less confidence than usual.

Grant also threw us for a spin with the secret room in Wayne Manor, which is part of the caves included in Return of Bruce Wayne. It's looking like the Wayne's had secrets of their own, maybe not quite the messiahs we thought them to be.

And then as always, more speculation on the true identity of Dr. Hurt. While some maintain that he's obviously the embodiment of all evil, I'm not sure certain, but either way we'll most likely get the fuller picture within the coming months of Batman and Robin.

Tony Daniel continued his hot streak with great pencils, added with Morrison's story and we get an overall great issue. Glad the band got back together even if it just may be briefly.

With this short story line, there's only one issue left in the missing chapter of RIP, which is to be entitled Batman's Last Case. So check back next month a recap of that.

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