The Doomino Effect for Dec 24, 2008

Starting off this week’s haul is Batman #683, the conclusion to the two-part “Last Rites” storyline, of which part one was a Book of Doom earlier this month.

While working on a separate post about the Gnosticism in Final Crisis, I came upon a July blog on Final Crisis #2 which mentioned one of Grant Morrison’s favorite tricks is “…the last minute revelation that the good guys have already won.” I’m not enough of a Morrison devotee to be able to identify his favorite themes, but I think we have a winner if a line in a Final Crisis writeup from this summer accurately predicts the outcome of the first two conclusions to “Batman RIP.”

We continue to saunter through the disjointed retelling of Batman’s history, now revised in order to distract Batman’s increasingly dangerous consciousness so that The Lump can continue to suck out the good parts. It’s important to note that, without a costume, gadgets and a cave to play in, Bruce Wayne sure comes off like a loser. And nobody tells Batman he’s a loser, especially not in made-up memories crafted by a fat thing in a chair disguised as Alfred!

As disjointed as the memories are, they’re sequenced in a way so that they can still have an impact, even if we only glimpse a fraction of the scene. Juxtaposing one shot of Batman and Jason Todd disagreeing right next to an anxious conversation between Bruce and Alfred wondering where Jason is, followed by a close-up of a bloody crowbar is effective because readers can piece together what’s missing and therefore so can Batman. It’s like that awkward rush of uncomfortable adrenaline when you hear a familiar song from a past relationship. It’s just enough to dig up a lot more.

And even though the “Batman is always prepared” theme can get tiresome (it’s how he’ll defeat Wolverine someday) it is still, in its own way, awesome, as we see that the army of Batman clones can’t handle the suffering that Bruce Wayne has endured, and so the great project of sucking out What Makes Batman Be Batman and multiplying it backfires. No one can be Batman but Batman. Because he is simply the awesomest. And he knows this, too, so he simply taunts his mental captor and convinces him there is grace in bowing out. Golddust says it best, when he asks “What kind of man can turn even his life memories into a weapon?”

The long-awaited bridge between the helicopter explosion and Final Crisis #1 reads more like a third-party attempt to clean things up than it reads as a planned transition, but at least someone made the effort, albeit uninspired, to tidy that up. And we now know that “Batman’s last case” was not Dr. Hurt and the Black Glove, but the murder of Orion (v.3) that we saw in Final Crisis #1, which will conclude in Final Crisis #6. I bet that’s where he’ll become the new Spectre, because what bigger betrayal is there than having God punish you for a career of fighting evil?

Speaking of people with a lifetime of bad memories, that leads me to Daredevil #114, part 4 of “Lady Bullseye.” Lady Bullseye secretly practices law on the side, which is impressive given that she just came from Japan but is already licensed in the state of New York. She’s representing Milla’s parents, who are seeking custody of their daughter after Matt Murdock ruined her life. The best part is that they have pictures of Matt and Dakota getting it on. This is bad for two reasons, because Matt’s caught red-handed and Dakota is now in the middle of it. This is also good for two reasons, because Matt now really does have an alibi for that murder that was pinned on him, and now he’s learned to close the blinds when cheating on his wife with an ex-model in front of a window.

The bad news elsewhere is that the good guys Lady Bullseye was seeking are getting knocked off and resurrected Hand-style. The good news is that you can recover from that. I don’t remember how, but Wolverine did it. He’s fine now. Still, lots of good stuff going on. Ninjas, zombie ninjas, Iron Fist, ancient alcoholic ninjas, Daredevil, Catholic guilt. I’m digging it.

Speaking of Iron Fist, Wolverine being okay and alcohol, that leads me to New Avengers #48. I was totally planning on dropping this book because I thought it was going up to $3.99, but it was still $2.99, so I bought it. It’s essentially little more than the forming of the New New Avengers. I thought they were going to have their first mission established here, which would last for a few issues (that being “We must find Luke and Jessica’s baby”). Instead, this issue seemed to be more concerned with setting Luke Cage’s new course than the team’s.

On one hand, it’s an interesting twist. I didn’t see it coming, and it definitely adds some moral ambiguity. Luke has the best intentions. He’s a good guy. I assume he’s going to be stuck on a team of Thunderbolt Avengers, who we would be immediately inclined to consider All Bad Guys. So that ambiguity pulls it back to the interesting side from what would otherwise be potentially dismissable. Spell check tells me “dismissable” isn’t a word, but I hope the made-up meaning is clear.

Anyway, on the other hand, it seems like kind of an illogical step to take, at least this quickly in the game. The good guys have far from exhausted their options in the hunt for the abducted baby, so it’s ridiculously early to go to the head bad guy, who you know is bad, and submit yourself to him with the faith that he’s going to use his resources to help you. Don’t – think – too – hard, which is too bad. It feels lazy. This issue also relied on the old “Tightly-wound law enforcement agent shoots the bad guy just a second before the bad guy reveals crucial information, because HE’S JUST TOO ANGRY!!” I know Bendis has his quirks that a vocal group of readers don’t like, but “lazy lameness” is a new one to me.

Oh and Billy Tan is just terrible. Would someone do me a favor and stop hiring him?