Batman RIP to Battle for the Cowl
- A Reader's Guide.
- A Reader's Guide.
Contains spoilers galore.
(There's a lot more to come)
What's going on in the Bat-books?
A number of Batman-related titles have been cancelled (Robin, Nightwing, Birds of Prey) and a number are going on hiatus (Batman, Detective) before relaunching in some form. The storyline involves the apparent death of Bruce Wayne and the subsequent inheritance of the Batman role.
Charitably this this happening because when "one writer is doing such a big thing, then it has to impact other books [...] because this story is too big to ignore" (Fabian Nicieza, IGN, December 2008 ).
Uncharitably this is happening because "the sales on the Batman titles went through the roof with the first issue of RIP. So quite clearly DC took one look at that and said let's put some branding on the other Bat titles" (Morrison, IGN, May 2008 ).
Either way, what we're left with is a curious maze of personal writer-led stories and mandated editor-led 'events'. This is your map.
What is Batman RIP?
In the pages of Batman, 'RIP' is a six issue arc which runs from #676 to #681.It concludes a "25-chapter novel" (Morrison, Newsarama, Feb 2008 ) which has run intermittently in the title since #655.
The title was also used as branding for issues of Detective Comics (#846-850), Nightwing (#147-150), Robin (#175-176), and Batman and the Outsiders (#11-13). These stories have at best a thematic or tangential connection to the main arc. They do not interact with it "in any crucial way" (Dini, CBR, June 2008 ) and were written with no input from the main arc's writer (Morrison, IGN, May 2008 ).
The main storyline involves the attempted ruination of Bruce Wayne's soul by a source of pure evil from beyond the limits of reason, and the subsequent kicking of said evil's a** by the Undamned Batman.
What is Last Rites?
'Last Rites' was a bit of masthead branding applied to issues of Batman, Detective Comics, Nightwing, Robin and Batman and the Outsiders published following the conclusion of 'RIP'.
The 'Last Rites' storyline published in Batman ('The Butler Did It/What the Butler Saw') is set during Final Crisis and clarifies Batman's involvement in that series and its relation to RIP.
The 'Last Rites' storylines published in the other titles show various Gotham residents adapting to life without Batman.
What is Final Crisis?
A seven-issue miniseries, plus tie-ins, offered as DC's major event for 2008.
It variously attempts to be, or has been marketed as being...
...a sequel to Jack Kirby's Fourth World, OMAC and Kamadi material.
...the conclusion of the plot threads Grant Morrison has been running through all his DCU work since Animal Man.
...the third part of a 'Crisis' trilogy that began with Crisis on Infinite Earths and Infinite Crisis.
...the 'Third Act' of Didio-era DC which has run through Graduation Day, Identity Crisis, and everything since.
How successful it is in being any of those things is a matter of much debate. As is the level to which the project is interested in being anything other than the first two things. As is the level of comprehensibility the series attains given these various demands.
In Batman terms the series is important since it features "the final fate of Batman" (Morrison, IGN, August 2008 ); A mischievous and ironic phrase since the death of Barry Allen (returned to life by Final Crisis) occurred in an issue of Crisis on Infinite Earths bearing the cover blurb "the final fate of the Flash."
What is Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?
A two issue story by Neil Gaiman and Andy Kubert that will run in Batman #686 and Detective Comics #853.
In both its title and its publication method, it parallels the Alan Moore/Curt Swan story "Whatever happened to the Man of Tomorrow?" which ran in Superman #423 and Action Comics #583 and which gave the Earth-1 Superman a 'final story' with which to cap off the continuity erased by Crisis on Infinite Earths.
Gaiman has said of the story, " I think the most important thing Sandman did, and it did create some important things, was that it was the first mainstream comic ever to finish a story. And I think that cannot be underestimated. The idea before that had always been that if you were writing a monthly comic, let's say Superman or whatever, you couldn't finish it. You weren't ever allowed to do the last one, to have the story mean anything. You had to turn back to the soap opera. [...] One of the things that attracted me to [Whatever Happened...] was when they asked if I would be interested in writing the last Batman story, so that's what I'm doing. The last Batman story." (Ain't It Cool, December 2008 ).
It is solicited as a "captivating and mysterious tale the likes of which Batman and friends have never experienced before. Delving into the realms of life, death and the afterlife."
What is Battle for the Cowl?
A three-issue miniseries which will be published during the March to May hiatus taken by Batman and Detective.
The story will deal with the matter of Batman's succesion. "The cape and cowl [is] the focus of the story. Should it be retired or should someone take the mantle? Will it make a difference either way? Batman was much more than just a costume, you know; putting it on doesn’t make you Batman." (Daniel, Newsarama, December 2008 )
It will be suported by a number of tie-ins, these being two further three-issue miniseries (Oracle and Azrael: Death's Dark Knight) and a number of one-shots. So far announced are Gotham Gazette: Batman Dead? (dealing with Spoiler, Vicki Vale, Harvey Bullock and Leslie Thompkins), Gotham Gazette: Batman Alive!, Man-Bat, Arkham Asylum and The Underground.
The core series is to be written by RIP's penciller Tony Daniel, who boldly invited himself to do so...
"I was casually talking to [editor] Mike Marts about the story and my thoughts on how great it could be. I consider myself a storyteller, so in my mind I guess the wheels of the story were naturally spinning. And in this case, you couldn’t shut me up.
I mentioned how this could be something really great and not just a stop gap before Grant’s or my return to the title. [...]
So after spilling my guts for about 10 minutes about the ideas that were pouring out of my head, I jokingly told Mike that I would gladly accept the invitation to write Battle for the Cowl. Only he hadn’t done that and we both laughed. But I emailed him later after thinking about it more and it was too late. I was ramped up on my second cup of Starbucks and there was no turning back. I asked him to consider it." (Daniel, Newsarama, December 2008 )
How do these stories fit together?
Batman RIP was conceived as psychological deconstruction of Batman, but on hearing the title Dan Didio directed Morrison to connect it to Final Crisis with a more tangible 'death' (Morrison, Wizarduniverse, Jan 2009).
This connection, and the sequence of events in the stories built around them, is at times a little unclear.
Many of the peripheral stories involve the Gotham cast reacting to Batman's disappearance, but the problem is that Batman disappears three times during the main storyline. Once during RIP, where he becomes a homeless drug addict for an issue, once following RIP's conclusion, in which he briefly vanishes in a helicopter crash, and once following whatver happens in Final Crisis.
The helicopter crash is the most puzzling of these, as it seems to serve no narative purpose and makes RIP look as if it has a weaker conclusion than it does.
Dan Didio explains that he mandated this extra bonus disapearance "Because we live in the world of collected editions, we needed a conclusion in the Batman series, so that we could collect it properly within Batman, without having to bring in segments of Final Crisis to complete the story" (Didio, Newsarama, December 2008 )
This logic is undermined somewhat by the fact that the collected edition of Batman RIP is including the two Final Crisis tie-in issues which follow it, so those reading it in trade will be confronted by segments of the larger story and will find the helicopter crash as much of a perplexing non-event as did those who followed the monthlies.
Thanks to this editorial masterstroke, we've got a stack of RIP tie-ins and Last Rites comics set "after Bruce's disapperance" and two disappearances this could possibly refer to - the helicopter crash or the events of Final Crisis.
I would argue that the balance of evidence seems to suggest that most of the "OMG! Batman's gone forever!" stories we've seen so far do not occur after his "final fate" in Final Crisis but rather while he was temporarily missing following the helicopter crash; Last Rites does not appear to be set in a post-Final Crisis world and there are references to the disapearance in clearly pre-Final Crisis books (such as Supergirl #34).
This changes around Nightwing #52 and Batman #685 where we start getting clear references to Batman being dead, rather than missing, and to the events of Final Crisis.
The broad sequence of events would then seem to be...
- Batman RIP
(In which Batman defeats a 'source of pure evil' but has a curse placed upon him - his next case shall be his last! He then disappears in a helicopter crash.)
- Various RIP tie-ins and Last Rites books
(In which everyone goes mental about Bruce being gone forever. Except in Tomasi's excellent Nightwing, where they sit around eating popcorn and waiting for him to return)
- The flashback sequence shown in Batman #683
(In which Bruce returns from the helicopter crash as if it were no big deal. He is then dragged immediately into the events of Final Crisis #1)
- Final Crisis #1-4
(In which Batman falls into Darkseid's clutches)
- Batman #682-3
(In which Batman escapes Darkseid's clutches)
- Final Crisis #5-7
(In which we learn the "final fate of Batman" )
- Further Last Rites books.
- Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?
- Battle for the Cowl
A more detailed, issue-by-issue, chronology is offered in the next section.
How do I read it?
How do I read any superhero comics set in a seventy-year-old continuity?
You've two options.
The first is to accept that every story, no matter how self-contained and no matter how good or bad a jumping-on point, has a "Previously..."
We're all of us finding our seats after the movie's started and spilling our popcorn on those around us. Don't stress about this. Just find somewhere, anywhere, that looks like an interesting place to start and jump in.
Be prepared to ask questions. Be prepared to look things up. Be prepared to ignore everyone who says you have to have read "X" before you can read "Y". Be prepared to be confused, and to work through that confusion if you find anything that fires your imagination enough to make that feel like work worth doing.
The other option is to start in 1939 with Detective Comics #27 and plough on through from there.
How do I read Batman RIP?
The six issues of Grant Morrison's Batman RIP printed in Batman #676-681 (and collected in the Batman RIP hardcover) comprise the final chapter of a longer storyline.
Morrison says that, "This is the first story I had planned when Peter Tomasi, the editor at the time, asked me to do Batman [...] the very first story title I noted down was “Batman RIP”. [...] So it came from there…and out of that notion came the idea for the big overarching story I’ve been telling since I first came on the book. Everything…the “Zur-En-Arrh” graffiti, the Joker prose story, the Club of Heroes…every detail that’s been in the book for the last couple of years is significant" (Newsarama, Feburary 2008 )
The complete story is collected across the Batman and Son, The Black Glove and Batman RIP trades.
Morrison also lays groundwork for the storyline in issues #30 and #47 of the 2006-7 weekly series 52. The relevant events from that story are well sumarised in the main Batman title but can be found in the third and fourth trade collection of 52.
The story also relies very heavily on events from two Silver Age stories; The Superman of Planet-X from Batman #113 and Robin Dies at Dawn from Batman #153. Although the relevant events from these stories are eventually recapped in the storyline, this doesn't happen until a point where many readers will have become exasperated. DC have yet to make these stories available to readers, but will remedy this in the Black Casebook trade available from June 2009.
A reader wanting the 'complete RIP experience' could then find it by reading...
- The Black Casebook trade.
- Weeks 30 and 47 from the third and fourth 52 trade.
- The Batman and Son trade.
- The Black Glove trade.
- The Batman RIP trade.
Since it contains no major Status-Q changes, WHY should I read Batman RIP?
You might enjoy it. Then again, you might really not. The storyline has been fairly polarising and divisive among the readership.
As a rough guide I'd suggest that you'll probably enjoy Batman RIP...
...if you're frustrated with LOST for giving out too many answers.
...if your favoutite TS Eliot poems don't involve cats.
...if your personal 'top ten' films include The Fisher King, Jacobs Ladder, Angel Heart, The Name of the Rose or anything by David Lynch.
Matt Fraction best explains the run's appeal...
"It's a pretty spectacular example of [...] using Batman as frame of reference for Batman. The gag is that everything that's happened in the Batman comic actually happened to Batman, right? And what would that do to a human mind? From the bleak noir stuff to the bam-sock-pow stuff and everything in between. [Morrison]'s using the whole history of the character to comment on the character as the character endures it. And to comment on the comics mainstream, and on heroes, and all that great stuff. I mean, the first fight scene takes place in an art gallery during a Pop Art retrospective where these faux-Lichtenstein paintings of comics are commenting on the comic we're reading as we're reading it, for god's sake. And as the run went on, Morrison really used the entirety of the character's history as a frame of reference and context to comment on the character. Batman-as-Batman-as-Pop-Culture-in-toto. It's a mess, and a glorious one at that, and his reach might have exceeded his grasp for a couple reasons not exactly germane to this discussion, but it's been a pretty amazing piece, all the same. It's the Cremaster of superhero comics." (Fraction, The Comics Reporter, January 2009)
How do I read the Batman RIP tie-ins?
Dini's 'Heart of Hush' storyline in Detective # 846-850 is set shortly before Morrison's RIP issues and has no connection to them except the the idea that Hush is making his move now in order to destroy Batman before someone else beats him to it.
Robin #846-850 is set during the events of RIP, seemingly inbetween Batman #678 and Batman #679.
Batman and the Outsiders #11-13 and Nightwing #147-50 are set following RIP's conclusion.
Since they've no impact on the main plot, WHY should I read the Batman RIP tie-ins?
If you're following the characters in those particular books, or if you're looking for a Paul Dini story about Hush and a Peter Tomasi story about Two-Face.
There's no other strong reason, although events from 'Heart of Hush' may eventually prove important in Battle for the Cowl.
How do I read Final Crisis?
Final Crisis consists of a seven-issue miniseries, four accompanying miniseries (Revelations, Rogues' Revenge, Legion of Three Worlds, Superman Beyond) five accompanying one-shots (Requiem, Rage of the Red Lanterns, Resist, Submit, Secret Files) and two tie-in issues (Batman #682-3).
It was preceeded by a weekly series called Countdown to Final Crisis, published against Grant Morrison's wishes and in contradiction to his storyline (Morrison, Newsarama, June 2008 ). Considered alongside its own spin-offs, but not counting tie-ins in the monthlies, Countdown to Final Crisis comprises at least 102 issues, none of which make any fucking sense. It is best ignored.
Someone approaching Final Crisis to see Batman's story play out can happily confine themselves to Batman #682-3 and the seven-issue core Final Crisis mini.
Final Crisis is however, as discussed in 'What is Final Crisis?' above, the conclusion to a great many long-running stories. Readers may find their experience of its accessibility varies.
For example, when confronted with Turpin, a tough cop with prior history with superheroes, some readers will say "Hey! This is Dan Turpin from New Gods #5." They will get on fine.
Some readers will say, "I don't know who this guy is. But it says here that his name's Turpin, and that he's a tough cop with prior history with superheroes. That's probably enough to be going on with." They too will get on fine.
Some readers will say, "I don't know who this guy is! How am I expected to follow all this continuity?" They will get hopelessly confused.
You probably already know what sort of a reader you are.
Someone looking to read everything that feeds into this story would be faced with reading the complete DCU work of Jack Kirby and Grant Morrison, the complete Wildstorm work of Warren Ellis, Wanted, Sin City, Secret Invasion, every prior Crisis crossover and every DCU book published for the last four years.
Someone looking for a more manageble project of preparatory reading might just want to check out the four Jack Kirby's Fouth World Omnibus volumes and Grant Morrison's JLA and Seven Soldiers runs.
What's the chronology of all this?
What follows is an attempt to place the books considered by this article into an issue-by-issue chronology. Bare in mind that a chronology is not the same as an 'ideal reading order' or a list of 'essential reading' and also that in many places this is based on my own textual sleuthing and subjective judgement, rather than on anything official.
- Detective Comics #846-50 (Heart of Hush)
- Batman #676-8 (RIP parts 1-3)
- Robin #175-6
- Batman #679-81 (RIP parts 4-6)
- Batman and the Outsiders #11-12 (Outsiders No More).
- Nightwing #147-151 (The Great Leap)
- Robin #177-182 (Search for a Hero)
- Detective Comics #851 & Batman #684 ('The Last Days of Gotham')
Happens concurently with 'Search for a Hero'.
- Batman and the Outsiders #13
- Bruce returns from the heli-crash, as flashbacked to in Batman #863 .
- Final Crisis #1-2
- Final Crisis: Requiem
(Concurrent with FC#2. I've only included this because of the awesome scene of Bruce with the Oreo.)
- Final Crisis #3-4
- Batman #682-3 (The Butler Did It/What the Bulter Saw)
- Final Crisis #5-7
- Nightwing #152
- Detective Comics #852 & Batman #685
- Whatever happened to the Caped Crusader?
- Battle for the Cowl.
What does it mean?
Note: Batman RIP is polysemic, ambiguous, elliptical and all those other things that're great for literature and troublesome for bald 'fact files' like this. The section that follows therefore cannot aim to be as 'definitive' as does the rest of the guide, but can only aim to be plausibly interpretive.
What do the red skies mean?
Red skies appear on a number of occasions throughout Morrison's Batman RIP.
In the opening 'flash forward' sequence to events six months after the main storyline, over the skies of contemporary Gotham as Batman pursues 'The Green Vulture', during the sunset Honor Jackson shares with Bruce, and during Bruce's subsequent transformation into the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh.
Red skies have a particular meaning in DCU-lore. They were first seen during the Crisis on Infinite Earths, most notoriously in what became known as "Red Sky Crossovers" - issues marketed as Crisis tie-ins which had little connection to the storyline other than that particular colouring choice.
They are now a familiar omen of disaster. As DCU#0 puts it, "When the Multiverse is on the verge of destruction, when the skies drip red as the barriers between parallel universes bleed... When Earth's greatest heroes rise up together, willing to sacrifice everything they have in defense of all they hold dear... That war is called a Crisis."
2006's Ion maxiseries eventually revealled that the reason for this is that the weakening of the walls between universes during times of Crisis allows for a glimpse of 'the Bleed', an arterial channel between realities first introduced in Warren Ellis's Stormwatch run which went on to become a major part of the cosmologies of both Wildstorm and Final Crisis.
The association of red skies with Crises raises the question of RIP's association with Final Crisis. Addressing this in an interview Morrison says, "it could be the start of it, because those red skies have been seeping in for a while, but it's certainly not happening at the same time as Final Crisis #1. It could be happening a week before or something, but I haven't exactly specified it." (IGN, August 2008 ). So the red skies should be seen as signs that the Final Crisis was immanent, rather than that it was underway. This fits the sequence of events in the story.
This leaves the red skies in the six-months-later 'flash forward' sequences however...
"That's actually even more in the future than Battle for the Cowl," says Tony Daniel, "[That] would, hypothetically, appear at the very end of it" (Daniel, Newsarama, December 2008 ).
This places them well after the conclusion of Final Crisis, and would seem to suggest that on that occasion a red sky was simply a red sky.
Red also has a significance (or at least a significant lack of significance) in the red and black pattern the Joker is making throughout the story. The red skies also serve as visual references to this.
How exactly did the Joker talk with his tounge sliced in half?
In Batman #680 the Joker reveals that he knows Doctor Hurt's true identity by mutilating himself to display a serpent's tongue. It has troubled many readers that he appears capable of comprehensible speech after doing so.
It is however entirely possible that the Joker wasn't capable of comprehensible speech before doing so, and the tongue slicing merely serves to make this explicit.
The Joker was shot in the face in Batman #655 and, when he reappeared in #663 had undergone facial reconstruction surgery leaving him incapable of producing any sounds except "a subhuman paste of of slobbery vowels and clicking consonants." The prose story in that issue makes it very clear that, while the Joker thinks he's talking, all that's coming out is "mangled phonetics and toxic intent."
When this version of the Joker reappears in DCU#0, Tony Daniel draws him with retracted lips which would be unable to manufacture any rounded vowels or labial/labio-dental consonants. Daniel is careful never to actually show him speaking.
It seems very likely that the Joker we see in RIP is talking in the same "subhuman paste" and that his speech balloons (coloured green to distinguish them from conventional dialogue) contain the words he's trying to say rather than the actual noises coming out of his mouth.
Careful reading of the arc shows that nobody, from the Arkham psychiatrist, to the Club of Villains to the members of the Black Glove, show any sign of understanding him before or after the tongue-slicing. They respond only to the fact that he has spoken or to actions that he's taken rather than to the content of anything that he has said. There's no evidence that any characters with whom he converses in Batman RIP can makes heads or tails of what he's saying.
There's one exception to this.
The Batman of Zur-En-Arrh has an extended and two-sided conversation with the Joker, and is able to fully understand him both before and after the tongue-slicing.
But then, the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh also has two-sided conversations with gargoyles.
Batman typically works by gathering evidence and consciously interpreting it. In RIP we're shown that as the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh this process is unconscious. Whereas normally he'd read the city and deduce what the clues were telling him, in this state of mind he experiences this as direct linguistic information; "Shh! The city's talking" (Batman #679).
It follows then that he'd also be the only one able to converse with the Joker. Just as he interpreted the city's clues and experienced them as talking gargoyles, he'd be able to read the Joker's body language, intent and phonetics and experience them as actual speech.
It's also worth looking at what the conversation is about. The Joker is insisting that all life is fundamentally meaningless and that all attempts to make sense of it are doomed. And the World's Greatest Detective is making a liar of him...just by the simple act of understanding it.
Who (and why) was the Black Glove?
At San Deigo 2008 Grant Morrison said that the Black Glove's true identity would be someone "everybody in the world knows." Curiously, when the identity was eventually revealed, much of the readership failed to recognise him.
Lets go back to when Morrison first took on the Batman monthly and he mentioned that he'd "rather Batman embodied the best that secular humanism has to offer" (Newsarama, 2006). This take on the character has proved vital to how Morrison has written Batman throughout his career and is crucial to understanding why the Black Glove is who he is.
By 'Humanism' here, we're talking about the whole raft of philosophical ideas that came out of the Renaissance and told us that it was possible for us to stop thinking of life as one long downhill ride from the Fall or the 'Golden Age' and to start thinking that humans had a chance to improve the world and themselves if they started playing smart and making a bit of an effort.
Where Batman comes in is that humanism does this through reason, rationality, science and all that sort of stuff, to the exclusion of all the irrational mumbo-jumbo that's also a part of being human. Arkham Asylum, by a younger and angier Grant Morrison, punishes Batman for his humanism by painting him as a repressed, joyless prig and having him suffer humilation and agony for his failure to integrate into himself myth, ritual, chaos, the Id, and all the other things reason excludes.
By the time of Morrison's JLA run things are very different. Here Batman is routinely defeating gods and ur-gods by holding to these values.
Inbetween we get Batman: Gothic, where reason and rationality are shown to be effective but limited. Batman solves the mystery, but an epilogue reveals that he's been blind to a major player in the events....the Devil himself! Humanism works here, but remains oblivious to the man behind the curtain.
The Devil next reappears in Morrison's Batman mythos during RIP, where he's wearing Mangrove Pierce's body and using the name 'The Black Glove'.
Batman is invested in a project which attempts to improve humanity through reason and rationality. There's no greater threat to that than the possibility that deep down inside humanity is a kind of irrational evil from which it can never escape.
The Devil's the ultimate supernatural bogeyman. There's no greater threat to it than the possibility that people might one day be able to work and think their way free. If that's true then the Devil's days are numbered.
The Joker is well aware of who the Black Glove is, making numerological references to the Devil, quoting the Rolling Stones and illustrating the point by fashioning himself a serpent's tougue. He also claims to know why the Devil hates Batman (#680) and it has to be because of this; the possibilities for humanity that Batman's values and achievements represent scare the Devil (#681).
Batman has to acknowledge though that the Devil is a part of him. Just as humanism tried to exclude from its discourse the irrational side of human experience, Batman tried to fence off the nonsensical aspects of his own life experience inside The Black Casebook; "All the things we'd seen that didn't fit and couldn't be explained went into the Black Casebook" (#665) but when he writes the final entry in the Casebook he faces the posibility that he's reached the limits of reason.
In the various isolation experiments, initiations and Thogal rituals we've seen Batman undertake he's found this 'source of pure evil' deep down inside himself. And as Doctor Hurt breathes, "The Black Glove always wins" it is Batman's own black glove we see smashing through the helicopter window.
Since we're talking about a book set in the shared universe of the DCU we have to mention that this is a world not short of Devils and Devil-analogues... Neron, Satanus, the First of the Fallen, Lucifer and plenty of others could all in different ways be thought of as 'The Devil' in DCU continuity.
I would suggest that it is not helpful in understanding Batman RIP to do so here. What Batman triumphs against here is the idea of the Devil rather than any specific pre-existing variation on that idea. Although perhaps we should mention Orion's warning from Final Crisis #1 concerning Darkseid and his retinue of evil gods - "They did not die! He is in you all!" - and Darkseid's own admission in Final Crisis #7 that he'd have chosen Batman's soul to ruin over Turpin's were it not so difficult.
It'd be tempting to give the last word to Damien, who says, "I know the Devil exists, or at least something exists which might as well be the Devil. I've met him." (Batman #666)
The Black Glove is something which might as well be the Devil.
What does 'RIP' stand for if not 'Rest in Peace'?
I don't know.
Final Crisis Questions
Are we really supposed to believe that DC would kill Bruce Wayne?
No. The day Final Crisis #6 came out, Morrison was giving interviews saying, "I keep on stressing for people not to think of this as death. This is part of the story. There's more cool s**t to come. It'd be too easy to think of this as the end" (Wizarduniverse, January 2009)
The week before it came out, Didio was saying things like this, "when you mention a name to people who aren’t familiar with comics, they know who that character is – for everybody from Superman to Aquaman. We want to make sure we have the character that is the most recognizable to the largest number of people. That’s something that we’re always working towards" (Newsarama, January 2009)
What was the 'Final Fate of the Batman'?
With Darkseid fully incarnate, and destroying the universe with the mere weight of his unsustainably godly presence, Batman confronted him beneath the ruins of Blüdhaven.
In a scene which parallels and inverts Shilo Norman's confrontation with Darkseid from Seven Soldiers #1, Batman shot Darkseid with the god-killing bullet which came into his possession while investigating the death of Orion.
Darkseid's last act was to direct his Omega Beams at Batman. They made contact, leaving Bruce a charred and ruined corpse with burnt-out eyeballs.
But it's not all bad news.
Darkseid's last words were, "Can you outrace the Omega Sanction? The death that is life!"
'The Omega Sanction' was introduced in Seven Soldiers: Mister Miracle #4 where it's described as "The ultimate hell...trapped in an endless succession of synthetic lives [...] Each new existence more degraded than the last. More hopeless. More meaningless. Neverending."
In 'Rock of Ages' Morrison describes it as "Out of time, out of space. Beyond what even Gods know." but Shilo Norman has already shown us that it can be escaped. One scene of particular relevance from Mister Miracle #4 is the exact moment at which Shilo first began to realise he was trapped inside a synthetic life; It was while looking at the Bat Symbol.
In Final Crisis #7 we rejoin Bruce on prehistoric Earth, witnessing the death of the first boy on Earth. He's in possession of a little rocket ship full of superhero memorabilia sent through time from the point in Final Crisis where all seemed lost.
There would seem to be two immediate explanations for how he got there.
One is that all this talk of the 'Omega Sanction' is irrelevant and that Darkseid's beams simply relocated Batman in time, as they've previously done to the Forever People and Sonny Sumo. This is perhaps the simplest explanation, but leaves the dialogue as being very misleading and fails to account for there having been a corpse.
The other is that Batman escaped the Omega Sanction and for some reason returned to the material universe at that point. One might speculate that he's been returned to his (restored) body and that it had been laid to rest in the little rocket ship.
The details have yet to be revealed, but some things are abundantly clear; The fire burns forever, the story is To Be Continued, and Batman and Robin will never die.