If you’ve never read an issue of “Batman” in your life, the one that came out a couple of days ago might be a good place to start. That’s not a compliment that can be bestowed easily on a story like this, since issue 701 is actually an addendum to two different Batman stories altogether, “Batman R.I.P.” and “Final Crisis,” which would give die-hard fans an advantage over newbies. While it probably wouldn’t hurt to give either one of those a look beforehand, this particular issue is less concerned with plot than it is with character, and focuses most of its attention on the heart and mind of its hero. There’s still a person beneath that cape and cowl, after all.
As far as the plot goes, there’s not much here to report: After fleeing the helicopter that went down in “Batman R.I.P.,” the Caped Crusader makes his way back to the Batcave, not to rest but to figure out what his next move should be. Though his butler Alfred is pretty much up to speed on what’s happening already (he’s still recovering from an assault by the guys behind all this, in fact), Batman lets him know what kind of trouble he’s found himself in since he’s been gone – like his close call with the Joker, whose laughing gas almost drove him out of his mind.
That’s not the only thing Batman’s shaken up about, though. His memories of his encounter with Dr. Hurt – the vile psychiatrist at the helm of that ill-fated helicopter – keep playing out over and over again in his head. Even though Batman’s hardly a novice when it comes to untimely death (to be sure, he’s dealt with a few other villains who’ve found life after “death”), what’s troubling him is some of the stuff Hurt told him before the helicopter crashed – him claiming to be Batman’s long-lost father is right at the top of the list.
Although playing catch up with the storyline requires a bunch of research, going through all that isn’t a prerequisite here. Besides, the reason issue 701 works at all is because it has enough faith in its hero to carry the whole thing with inner monologue, the kind that gives us an idea of what sort of guy he is underneath that mask.
Writer Grant Morrison, the guy who also put “Batman R.I.P.” together, might’ve been tempted to give an old plot a few new twists, but instead of making the whole thing a frantic farce, all he wants to do here is give it a little more depth by creating some intimacy with the characters who populate it.
After more than 70 years of comics, films, TV shows and videogames, the Batman myth still hasn’t lost its potential for growth.
This article was originally published on AllMediaNy.com