Batman Beyond Forever

Batman R.I.P., written by Grant Morrison, illustrated by Tony Daniel and Lee Garbett (2008): Batman finally faces the Ultimate Enemy he never knew he had…and then, as the last two issues tie into megacrossover event Final Crisis (also scripted by Morrison), he also has to face Darkseid, the DC Universe’s amalgam of Satan and Dick Cheney. Seriously, though Darkseid was created in the early 1970’s. Tony Daniel and Garbett provide some dandy artwork in the hyperrealistic tradition of great Batman artists that include Neal Adams and Jim Aparo.

But it’s the story, bringing to at least partial fruition Morrison’s first two years on Batman, that shines — though it shines a lot more if you read everything over again. Morrison’s made himself into the master of zippy high-density superhero comics. Almost everything he does rewards a second reading, indeed, almost demands it at points.

Old Batman stories and characters once cast out of continuity are hereby returned to continuity, often with odd spins. Fifth-dimensional prankster Bat-Mite returns as what appears to be a figment of Batman’s imagination, there to warn him about what’s coming — but as Bat-Mite notes when Batman asks him if he really comes from the Fifth Dimension or if he’s imaginary, “Imagination is the Fifth Dimension! Geez, some world’s greatest detective you turned out to be!”

A bizarre old Batman story about an extraterrestrial Batman holds part of the key to Batman winning now against The Black Glove and its malign, possibly immortal leader Dr. Hurt. So does the Joker. And the Club of Heroes. And Batman’s son, Damian. And Nightwing, the original Robin, and the current Robin. But Batman, poisoned, buried, mind under attack, has to carry a lot of the weight himself. And then, if he succeeds, he has to face the origin of all evil — Darkseid himself — with the fate of all universes depending on the outcome. And there this story ends, at the moment before Batman faces Darkseid, though later revelations would allow for Batman R.I.P.: The Missing Chapter about two years later, also by Morrison and Daniel, once certain things had been revealed in the due course of other stories. Highly recommended.

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