After R.I.P., DC readers got to see “Last Rites” and a line-wide event (none of which was written by Morrison) called “Battle for the Cowl.” It was largely forgettable. We also got a six-issue mini, which will be discussed later, in which Batman floated around through time. Needless to say, we were lost. Then we saw Final Crisis issue #6, in which Batman “dies”—blasted through time by Darkseid. And things started to make sense. A little.
But chronologically, and logically, the next story to read takes place in Batman #701 and 702—two issues that take place immediately after RIP and before Final Crisis. I don’t know why they were published out of chronology. Maybe it was because they “gave away” a punchline for Final Crisis. But anyway, once they came out, things started to make sense.
The two issues themselves are well-written and enjoyable, but there’s nothing truly extraordinary about them. They begin with Batman falling into the water after destroying Dr. Hurt’s copter. Batman’s own cowl is missing—we all know Nightwing has it—so Batman wears Thomas Wayne’s cowl; the one Dr. Hurt had been wearing. He recalls Dr. Hurt’s promise that the next time Bruce would wear that cowl would be his last, and it looks to us like that may be true. Remember, buy the time this issue came out, Dick Grayson had been wearing the cowl for a while and he was actually damn good at it.
In fact, Batman’s arc here directly paralleled Captain America’s arc over at Marvel. Cap, too, had been killed, and his sidekick was now wearing his costume. And a few issues before Final Crisis #6 came out, we learned that Steve Rogers wasn’t dead after all—he was hurtling through time.
The similarity was remarkable. But I digress.
Morrison then brings in Superman and the events of Final Crisis, and Batman recognizes that “it’s hard to prepare” for “a battle between “Gods and aliens.” He fights an alien Green Lantern named Kraken and thinks to himself that she has no nerve clusters—his martial arts won’t work on her.
But most importantly, we learn that the hole in things that Dr. Hurt talked about was created by Darkseid.
I’m not going to write much about Final Crisis because it’s really a Superman story. Also, it’s not very interesting to me. But the two-issue spin-off “Superman Beyond” is actually very similar to Morrison’s Batman work—at least thematically. In it, we see that the universe is “out of tune” and all time is merging into a single moment. Superman’s mission is to plug a hole in the leak of time—the hole that is “in things”—and stop time from literally running out. We learn that death is the end of time—and all time at once.
Superman’s story here is a mirror for Batman’s.
Batman’s, of course, is a trip through time in The Return of Bruce Wayne. But we’re not there yet. We’re not even close.