One thing to keep in mind when you read these reviews: I was writing these as I read the issues.
So, I admit I had some moments of weakness and read some of DC's solicitations (previews) and online reviews — all of which were hard to avoid in the first place — before I read these issues. (A great recap of Batman No. 681 can be found here on ComicBookResources.com — a Web site that should be bookmarked by all comics fans. I'd also recommend you check out the individual issue reviews on Batman-on Film's Batman in Comics. Stephanie Charmichael's "What is Techno Again?" blog also has a lot of comics reviews; she also covers Nightwing for BOF.) Ultimately, despite reading others' thoughts and reading the full-page online previews DC released beforehand, these are my gut instincts as I read each installment.
Enough of that! Onto my individual issue reviews:
BATMAN No. 675: Though it's not part of "R.I.P.," it certainly should be as it sets up Robin worrying about Batman's/Bruce Wayne's mental stability and Jezebel Jet's so-called importance to Bruce. I'm just not buying what Bruce sees in her. In fact, she's never impressed me since her first appearance; her line about there being "so much potential" in their relationship just makes me want to gag.
What's the most intriguing is Talia al Ghul's gut feeling that, to paraphrase her son Damian's words, "someone is out to get" Bruce, someone she has long considered her "beloved." Fill-in artist Ryan Benjamin does a decent job (his Talia is much better looking than regular artist Tony Daniel's), but the Bruce close-ups with all the shading make him look wrinkled and old. The way he and writer Grant Morrison set up the reveal of Bruce as Batman to Jezebel in the last three pages is pretty ingenious.
Random thought: These covers by Daniel and Alex Ross are just incredible. The images are very iconic and could be used for any Batman story. Covers sell issues and these are attractive; they jump out at you off the sales rack.
BATMAN No. 676 ("Batman R.I.P." pt. 1): I LOVE that first shot. If that doesn't give fans promise Batman won't be gone long, I don't know what will.
Is it just me or do Doctor Hurt's thugs look like carnie rejects? That two-page spread of the Batmobile vaulting into action is pretty sweet, but the design isn't too different than any earlier variation. It's just too bad we didn't see The Big Reveal in, or soon after, Morrison's first story called "Building a Better Batmobile."
I definitely don't buy Bruce going through Wayne Manor in his Batman garb — in the daytime, no less — to go straight into the arms of Jezebel. Gag!
Obviously, Bruce's time doing his spiritual cleansing in 52 in Nanda Parbat will play a huge role in Batman's fate in this storyline. It's bit too convenient Jezebel has an invitation to the Black Glove's "Danse Macabre." Speaking of macabre, I guess the slaughtered bodies of Robin, Commissioner Gordon and Nightwing are what The Joker is seeing in his mind during his blot test. And who is the master of Black Glove — Doctor Hurt, The Joker or even Ra's al Ghul?
BATMAN No. 677 ("Batman R.I.P." pt. 2): Morrison seems to want us to believe Batman is paranoid, since Gordon said he checked the GCPD database and didn't find any information on Black Glove and Bruce considers Jezebel's invitation "a warning shot." Since Hurt says his goal is to have Batman self-destruct and Batman narrows down "these obscure links" to "people my parents knew," it's not surprising Bruce has a psychotic break at the end of this issue.
To me, it seems obvious Jezebel is connected to Black Glove since before Bruce's episode, she asks, "What if you're not well?" That line seems like the obvious "push" over the edge which Hurt mentioned. More evidence is to her villainous roots is Hurt's thugs invade the Batcave just as Bruce has his breakdown, which seems a bit sudden since he's already said he suspects Black Glove would make him question his mission and use Jezebel "as a weapon." What better time to attack the enemy when his turncoat girlfriend has his defenses lowered at his own hideout? If that's true, I get the sense Jezebel saying the "Zur-En-Arrh" graffiti phrase aloud is the verbal cue for Batman's breakdown. (I wonder if he's just playing along with Hurt's plan in order to bring the organization to its knees later).
But what exactly does Bruce mean by not being "ready?" Ready for what? — it appears he knows something is going to happen requiring what he learned at Nanda Parbat. It all comes off as a bit convenient. But knowing Morrison's writing style is anything but direct and is full of connected bits of what seems random at first reading, he could be either leading us in a different direction. Hopefully he'll connect the dots.
This seems like a good time to leave you hanging, too. Check back here for the conclusion to this review. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!