There was a lot of hinting heading into this - including by Grant Morrison himself in interviews - that Batman was going to be killed off. Bruce is fighting a losing battle here, practically brainwashed into losing his mind from earlier sessions with the secretly-villainous Dr. Hurt. Bruce appears to go off his nut, calling himself the "Batman of Zur-En-Arrh" (referencing a character from the 60s) equipping his "Bat-Radia" (really a radio) and having conversations with "Bat-Might" (in lieu of Bat-Mite, suggesting the throwback character is a hallucination.) Ultimately, taking down Bruce as he confronts the Dr. Hurt-led, Joker-aided Black Glove STILL requires a betrayal to pull off. Even if - to me - it was a little obvious, it's still expertly laid out by Morrison and expertly-drawn by Tony S. Daniel.
But... Batman plans for everything. And we once again find this out in the most epic way possible.
It's the landmark moment of Morrison's time on the title and arguably the best of his mainstream career.
But... "Batman R.I.P." is not without its flaws. For one, it's incredibly difficult to tell what is going on at points. You may find yourself rereading pages to pick up on what has happened. Not exactly an uncommon trope when it comes to Morrison stories as his tendency to go over the reader's head is in strong - but not full - force here.
There are also giant gaps. Particularly, how Batman ends up in certain scenarios. That's where "Time and the Batman" comes in, which ties up a few loose ends (including the biggest one), but not all of them and doesn't maintain the high level of quality. It's a helpful companion piece, for sure, though the three-parter involving Bruce, Dick Grayson and Damian Wayne is bewildering enough on its own. Maybe there's a plan for a supplementary series to help explain that one, but I doubt it.
Still, "Batman R.I.P." is gripping and it's easy to appreciate the ambition. It asks a lot of the reader, but it's worth the effort.
Rating(s): 9.5/10 ("Batman R.I.P."), 6.5/10 ("Time and the Batman")