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Review Date: 07/03/2008

Batman #676 (the start of the Batman R.I.P. story arc series)
Mike Marts: Editor
Jeanine Schaefer: Editor
Alex Ross: Artist, Cover
Grant Morrison: Writer
Sandu Florea: Artist
Tony Daniel: Artist

Guy Major: Colorer
Randy Gentile: Letterer
D.C.'s latest Batman multi-issue story arc is entitled "Batman R.I.P.," consisting of 20 upcoming issues to be published concurrently across five D.C. titles: Batman 676-681, Detective 846-850, Nightwing 147-150, Robin 175-176 and Batman & The Outsiders 11-13.  The R.I.P. series begins in Batman 676; both issues 676 and 677 are currently available at That's Entertainment.  Issue 676 is written by Grant Morrison, penciled by Tony Daniel and inked by Sandu Florea.

     Having grown-up in the Silver Age, I'm a fanatical Batman fan.  He's basically my favorite superhero, and I read issue #676, entitled "Midnight In The House Of Hurt," hoping that maybe Morrison had given us a worthy follow-up to the acclaimed Batman: Hush story arc of a few years ago.

     I guess we'll have to keep waiting.  Granted, it's the first issue of a 20-issue story arc, and maybe these long-run arcs need some time to establish a consistent plot and story details, but something feels really wrong with the kick-off issue for this series.  The plot seems to be about Batman trying to infiltrate The Black Glove supervillain crime organization, as prominent Gothamites, including Bruce Wayne, are being invited to an uppercrust party called the "Danse Macabre," very publicly sponsored by The Black Glove.

     The problem with this kick-off issue is four-fold.  First, the storyline and dialogue never consistently jell from page-to-page.  Sub-plots feel so random and frankly needless to the main storyline (Robin having some identity angst as Batman's sidekick, Bruce Wayne's latest eyecandy girlfriend trying to console him over the long-time pain of his parent's death, etc.), that it feels like the reader is dropped into the fourth or fifth issue of a series without having read key previous issues.

     Secondly, those sub-plots.  Long-time Batman readers deserve something at least a little fresh; re-hashing Robin's sidekick insecurities and Bruce Wayne's orphan pain is hardly new to the Batman world, and feels like Morrison is just mailing-in an effort at a fresh script.

     Third, naturally The Joker weighs-in, on the final four pages of the issue, via reference to a Joker parvovirus that causes the infected to literally laugh their guts out.  There's a weird reference to "millions of people" across America having already died from this Joker virus, and the issue artists deliver a few panels of a t.v. newscaster succumbing to the disease.  I don't enjoy the trend during the past decade of some D.C. artists trying to out-bloody each other when it comes to Joker-related art.  Its just plain gross and pointless.  Enough with the buckets of blood, already.

     Fourth and finally, I'm just not a fan of the D.C. strategy of trying longer "mega-story arcs."  I was disappointed in "52" last year, and feel that the D.C. longer story arc strategy should be limited to 12 issue runs, a la Batman: Hush or the currently-concluding All-Star Superman series.  Running 20 issues in five parallel comic titles is a financial disservice to loyal fans budgeting their entertainment money in tough economic times, and comes-off as a short-term sales revenue strategy more than anything.  Does Marvel rely on this sales ploy? Please let me know if D.C. is not alone in seeming to increasingly make use of this money-making gimmick.

     As such, unfortunately I have to recommend that the happy D.C. reader take a pass on this tired-feeling story series; to me, R.I.P. is D.O.A.  On a final note, please feel free to e-mail me your thoguhts on this one at Gordon_A@msn.com, particularly whether you agree or disagree on my reaction toward the trend on mega-length story arcs and concurrent comic title story runs.
 
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