Monday, 16 February 2009

Batman - Slideshows and Sudoku.

I love chronologies. I love taking big jumbles of stories that occur in a shared universe and sifting through them for clues as to which happened on the Thursday and which on the Friday, despite the right and proper disinterest of those stories' writers and editors in such things.

Spending a winter's evening working out where exactly the 1980's issues of Mister Miracle fit around the Justice League books of the era has got nothing to do with what how stories work and what stories are for, but it's harmless after-the-fact fun. Much like how Sudoku has nothing to do with how numbers work and what numbers are for, but the time spent by enthusiasts pencilling one to nine into little boxes doesn't in anyway damage the numbers one to nine for anyone who'd like to do more sensible things with them.

Things go horribly wrong when editors try to join in though. At worst you get Countdown, a year-long 'lets try and fit everything together' chronology project disguised as a story. It failed both in its attempt to fit everything together and in maintaining the disguise.

At not-worst-but-still-pretty-bad you get the mysterious something that DC showed at the New York Comicon.

Now, I didn't go to the New York Comicon so I've not seen the mysterious something. I just listened to the podcasted panels and heard the reactions as the something was unleashed, or (at one panel) the literal groans of aprehension and terror as Editorial threatened to unleash the something a second time. What was this unseeable horror? This empty threat, implict but absent in the space inside my headphones?

Apparently it was a slideshow.

Newsarama reported it like this...

DiDio addressed confusion behind how Final Crisis and Batman R.I.P., both written by Grant Morrison, flow.

"We're going to make sense of this," said DiDio. "Just for you."

DiDio pointed to the projector, saying that story started with the first issues of "R.I.P.," going to Final Crisis #1, and then the last issue of "R.I.P.," Batman #681, then moving to Final Crisis #3.

After that falls the "Last Rites" story (Batman #682-683), and then Final Crisis #6.

The next part after that, somewhat logically, was Final Crisis #7.

"When you put it like that, it still doesn't make sense," joked Rucka

Well, no it doesn't Greg. Because that's just not what happens. There's just no way that that's what happens. There's just no way to read the comics and think that's what happens.

In terms of the Morrison-written stuff then the real chronology couldn't be clearer in the text...

The main RIP storyline happens in its entirety (Batman #676-681).
Then Batman fishes himself out of the drink and gets involved in the Orion investigation (seen in flashback in Batman #683)
Final Crisis happens in its entirety.

A better answer to the question "How do RIP and Final Crisis fit together?" would be "RIP happens first, then Final Crisis."

It's better because it's simpler, it doesn't require a slideshow and because IT'S WHAT IT SAYS IN THE COMICS. I can't stress that last one enough.

I started to think that perhaps Newsarama misreported it. But CBR said the same thing. And the Funnybook Babylon gents who were there noticed the same thing in thier podcast.

DC Editorial went to the trouble of putting together a display to give a complicated answer (to a question that only ever needed the answer "Story A happened before Story B") without going to the trouble of checking that the answer was vaugley plausible.

If there's the overlap between RIP and FC that the presentation claims then that means that the Batman we see in FC #1's Justice League meeting has to be the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh. Doesn't look or sound much like him to me, and I'm not sure he'd sit still at the table.

Also, if you follow Editorial's chart, then Batman must have rejoined Alfred to reveal that he survived the helicopter crash before the helicopter crash happened.

Happily, we can all just ignore DC's chart. Literary theorists will argue forever about where the balance of authority between writer, text and reader falls when determining the meaning of a story, but nobody's ever going to seriously suggest that inattentive editors get the final say.

Less happily, this is pretty conclusive proof that the people editing these stories, and charging themselves with the task of explaining them to fans, aren't bothering to read them.

_________________________


I'll stop moaning now and do some being constuctive. For this project I worked out my own RIP/Last Rites/FC/ThatSortOfThing chronology. I was aiming for simplicity there though, so couldn't really show my workings and talk about how I arrived at it. Nothing to stop me now though. Make a cup of tea, put a record on.

BUILDING AN RIP/LAST RITES/FC/THATSORTOFTHING CHRONOLOGY.

Step One:
The Morrison Bits.

The flashback sequence in Batman #683 establishes that Batman returns from surviving RIP's helicopter crash and immediately becomes involved in the events of Final Crisis #1.

So the solid core of the chronology is...

  • Batman ##676-681
  • That flashback sequence from #683
  • Final Crisis #1-7
Then there's just the question of where #682-3 goes. Morrison says that they should be read between Final Crisis #5 and #6. An ideal reading order isn't always the same as a chronology though, and Simyan's dialogue in FC#5 makes it clear that the conclusion of Batman#683 has happened either before or during that issue.

So now it looks like...
  • Batman ##676-681
  • That flashback sequence from #683
  • Final Crisis #1-4
  • Batman #682-3
  • Final Crisis #5-7
Easy.

Step Two: The RIP 'tie-ins.'

'Heart of Hush' from Detective Comics first, since it's easiest. Hush makes it clear that he's makes his move in this story in order to punish Batman before a 'mysterious entity' called the Black Glove brings about his extinction. So we're before Morrison's RIP. Possibly as much as a couple of months before, as the story ends with a 'Two Months Later' epilogue showing Selina recovered from the events of this arc, but that doesn't make much difference either way.

Right, lets have a look at Robin #175 and #176, the only tie-ins to be nested within Morrison's RIP itself. The story involves Tim looking for Bruce following his disapearance in Batman #677 (the first of the three Bruce-disaperances we'll see the Bat-family react to as we work through all this).

As Tim's heroic search for Batman can't at any point involve him checking the Batcave (or otherwise he'd have run into Doctor Hurt ,who'd set up shop there throughout this time) we have to suspend a certain amount of logic while reading this. Clinging onto as much as we can though, we know...

We're after Batman #676 because Tim's already stolen the Black Casebook. We're after Batman #678 because the 'Gotham Golden Dragons' have a picture of the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh on thier phone. Tim's fight with Swagman sets up their next tussle in Batman #679.

So now we've got...

  • Detective Comics #846-50 ('Heart of Hush')
  • Batman #676-8 ('RIP' parts 1-3)
  • Robin #175-6
  • Batman #679-681 ('RIP' parts 4-6)
  • That flashback sequence from #683
  • Final Crisis #1-4
  • Batman #682-3
  • Final Crisis #5-7
And now we come to the RIP tie-ins which are set after Bruce's disappearance. Since they're all full of "It's different this time! He's never coming back!" melodrama then it'd be nice so say that they take place after his 'death' in Final Crisis rather than after the helicopter crash. Sadly they don't.

The Batman and the Outsiders tie-in is very clear that it's the aftermath of the Black Glove incident that's being dealt with and features Ollie explaining that Bruce is gone to Clark, which would for obvious reasons not be the case if this were set post-Final Crisis.

'The Great Leap', The Nightwing story, feels like it's set a smidge later as the Batcave is in a more operational state and the characters are more in a 'coming to terms with Bruce being gone' phase, rather than in the immediate aftermath of RIP. Nevertheless, the assumption is still that Bruce is missing...perhaps forever! Rather than that Bruce just got frazzled by Darkseid and we all totally saw his corpse. So we're still pre-Final Crisis.

  • Detective Comics #846-50 ('Heart of Hush')
  • Batman #676-8 ('RIP' parts 1-3)
  • Robin #175-6
  • Batman #679-681 ('RIP' parts 4-6)
  • Batman and the Outsiders #11-12
  • Nightwing #147-151
  • That flashback sequence from #683
  • Final Crisis #1-4
  • Batman #682-3
  • Final Crisis #5-7
Step Three - All the Last Rites Malarky.

It's quite easy to say which stories are certainly set post-Final Crisis.

By Nightwing #152 then people are now talking about Bruce being dead fersure, and by the 'Faces of Evil' two parter that ran from Detective #852 to Batman #685 then we're getting our first explict references to the events of the Crisis.

  • Detective Comics #846-50 ('Heart of Hush')
  • Batman #676-8 ('RIP' parts 1-3)
  • Robin #175-6
  • Batman #679-681 ('RIP' parts 4-6)
  • Batman and the Outsiders #11-12
  • Nightwing #147-151
  • That flashback sequence from #683
  • Final Crisis #1-4
  • Batman #682-3
  • Final Crisis #5-7
  • Nightwing #152-3
  • Detective #852 & Batman #685 ('Reconstruction/Catspaw')
Which of the other post-Bruce stories are set after his RIP disappearance and which after his FC 'death' though?

The dialogue between Dick and Tim early in Robin's 'Search for a Hero' arc suggests that it takes place around the time of Nightwing's 'Great Leap', so that would place it inbetween RIP and Final Crisis.

Similarly, the 'Last Days of Gotham' two-parter that runs between Detective #851 and Batman #684 tells us that it's concurrent with the later chapters of 'Search for a Hero'.

What've we got left? Just Batman and the Outsiders #13-14, I think.

Well, I want to put them before 'Search for a Hero' as Steph's in costume here and 'Search' ends with Tim telling her she's not allowed to be or he'll [unspecified threat] (shortly after attempting to end her Superhero career then he assits sadistic murderer Jason Todd in escaping from prison. Tim's choices puzzle me.)

Can't see that it's contradicting anything if we stick 'em next to the other Outsiders issues for neatness' sake.

There we go then...all done.

  • PART ONE - BATMAN BEATS THE DEVIL.
  • Detective Comics #846-50 ('Heart of Hush')
  • Batman #676-8 ('RIP' parts 1-3)
  • Robin #175-6
  • Batman #679-681 ('RIP' parts 4-6)

  • PART TWO - BATMAN'S MISSING FOR A BIT AND EVERYONE OVER-REACTS.
  • Batman and the Outsiders #11-14
  • Nightwing #147-151 ('The Great Leap') - concurrent with early chapters of 'Search for a Hero'
  • Robin #177-82 ('Search for a Hero')
  • Dectective #851, Batman #684 ('The Last Days of Gotham') - concurrent with later chapters of 'Search for a Hero'

  • PART THREE - BATMAN KILLS GOD.
  • That flashback sequence from #683
  • Final Crisis #1-4
  • Batman #682-3
  • Final Crisis #5-7

  • PART FOUR - BATMAN APPEARS DEAD FOR A BIT AND EVERYONE OVER-REACTS.
  • Nightwing #152-3
  • Detective #852, Batman #685 ('Reconstruction/Catspaw')

2 comments:

  1. And sure enough GameInformer magazine had a blurb in it this week about Bruce Wayne being dead. These of course being the same morons that said Morrison's Batman run is the worst in recent history.

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  2. There appears to be some time between Nightwing 150 and 151, and in the end of 151 Batman appears to be dead, so I would put this issue after Final Crisis.

    Btw, thanks for the cronology. There were so many comics I didn't know where to begin.

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