First off, the entire existence of this comic is sort of weird. It's a clear continuation of the "Batman R.I.P." story that ended in #681, minus the fact that #681 ended with the tail end of the framing sequence that began the arc. I've been searching and can't find the source, but I know that Morrison originally stated that "R.I.P." would be an eight-issue arc - do these scripts date from that era?

Either way, this issue (and the next) serves largely to provide connective tissue between "Batman R.I.P." and "Final Crisis," which seems like an odd remit for a Grant Morrison comic, who usually doesn't concern himself with comics that exist to clean up continuity. Therefore, it's logical to assume that there's some other purpose to this two-issue arc in his grand plan. Tony Daniel returns from the original "R.I.P." arc, this time inking himself and with Ian Hannin on colors rather than Guy Major.Page 1: Bruce, sans now-cursed cape and cowl (which explains why the Miagani won't let them leave the Batcave in "Return of Bruce Wayne"), plunges into the depths of the Gotham River after blowing up Hurt's helicopter.

Page 3: The charts on this page are sort of odd, since while I think they're supposed to represent Bruce's self-monitoring 'systems' to the point of even knowing what stars are turning overhead, the first one is the weather and the second one is the stock market. These pages also bring Bruce's innate survival instinct to the forefront once again, something that's a major aspect of the current "Return" storyline. The last panel, as well, demonstrates that Hurt seems to possess a similar survival instinct - which goes a long way towards the theory that he's an older Bruce, or somehow related to him.

Page 5: The "Days to Omega" count, of course, is the number of days between now and when Bruce ends up getting Omega Sanctioned by Darkseid. It seems the majority of these will be spent being tortured and sapped by the Lump, but I guess we'll see.

Pages 6-7: The title "The Hole in Things" refers to Hurt's statement at the end of #681, when he referred to himself that way.

Page 8: This definitely seems to imply that Hurt actually put some sort of curse on the cape and cowl itself, one that ties in with the Miagani's warnings about it and the fact that it got hit by the Omega Sanction. There's a definite connection between Hurt and Darkseid, or at least Hurt had foreknowledge of what happened, perhaps by reading Bruce's diaries in the Barbatos box if he really was the 1765 devil-worshipping Thomas Wayne.

I sure do!

This page also sees the return of Ellie, last from #664 when she was hanging out with street prostitutes and Batman got her a job as a receptionist at Waynetech. I don't know if this scene is just to provide closure, or to set up a future role for her, perhaps as part of the upcoming "Batman Inc." title. I dunno, I just love the idea of Bruce having this tiny goth Pepper Potts. "Your six o'clock gangland negotiation is ready, sir." Also, I love Bruce's emergency pocket bat-mask, complete with ears so people know who he is.

Page 9: Judging by the beer? and boyfriend, Ellie's a bit older than I thought she was, but then again I guess she had to be able to work anyway. Either way, this scene provides a nice reminder of the good Bruce can actually do in Gotham, and almost serves as a Batman version of the Superman/suicide scene in "All Star Superman" #10.

Page 11: Mulligatawny soup just seems to be a high-class dish for Bruce to like. It's great to see their relationship again, though.

Page 12: I like the cape and cowl draped to the side, and the fact that Bruce doesn't put it back on to go search underwater. Hurt's last words clearly spooked the hell out of him. Additionally, only Bruce Wayne could be capable of criticizing and finding fault in his performance during the "R.I.P." arc.

Also: Bruce is eating! People familiar with previous annotations might remember Chris Eckert's compelling food theory, and this is actually the first time in the entire run we've seen Bruce Wayne eat something on panel, even if it is just sipping a bowl of soup. Does this symbolize a willingness to nourish himself emotionally and mentally as well as physically after Hurt's curse?

Page 13: This seems to be a major clue here; the fact that Hurt "hides in the holes and absences." The absences of what? That's the question. The absences of Bruce? Is he, as I theorized, what happens to Bruce's body while his consciousness jumps forward? Is Simon trying to complete his mad plan before the black sun shines and Bruce regains control of the body? It seems unlikely, but I really have no idea anymore.

Also, an art error in the final panel - Batman definitely shouldn't have his cape and cowl on, like it seems.

Page 14: Note that the clock has been stopped at 1:15 - the exact same time the helicopter crashed into the clock tower at the end of #681. Either this is, as Alfred entertains, the "supernatural option", or Hurt knew when the crash would occur, stopped the clock, and pre-set the hands before leaving Wayne Manor. Either way, it's evocative of the 10:47 PM that the clock's hands are set to to enter the Batcave, a reference to the exact time Bruce's parents died.

Page 15: The three days Bruce is sleeping provide a convenient time period for all the post-"death", pre-"Final Crisis" stuff that took place in a lot of the side books, like Robin's adventures with Anarky and the gangs or Nightwing fighting Two-Face, that depended on Bruce's absence and took place after "R.I.P." The Manor's Hidden Room that Bruce references here is the same passageway that Dick Grayson discovered in the "Batman vs. Robin" arc of "Batman and Robin," containing clues laid by Bruce himself in the past.

Page 16: Bruce must have been taught the sequence to enter by his parents. I wonder why they warned him never to enter - did they know what he would become, and that he would grow up to travel in time and build the room and the clues? And what do Hurt's scribblings on the wall mean - does the giant "BARBATOS" over the small "thomas"es represent Thomas/Hurt trying to submerge his own identity under that of the Barbatos demon that was built from Bruce's example over years of folklore by the Miagani.

I also love how when Bruce deletes all of his info about his ex-girlfriend, it's swimsuit shots. Is he dumping the sex video too? Someone call the Gotham Noir!

Page 17: This brings us to the beginning of "Final Crisis", since the walls of reality are breaking down after Orion's murder. Superman calls Bruce, of course, since the rich billionaire is better suited to a deicide investigation than actual space cops. Thank God the Green Lantern Corps don't take taxpayers' money.

Page 18: Bruce seems pretty convinced that Hurt's curse is for real, which is interesting. If not convinced, he's certainly wary, although not wary enough to bow out at this point.

Page 19: This conversation is almost word-for-word from Bruce's memories back in #683.

Page 20-22
: It's worth noting that it's unclear when Bruce wrote this entry in what's presumably the Black Casebook (since it uses the same font as Bruce's Black Casebook narration in #681) - it speaks about the events of "Final Crisis" as in the past, and he couldn't have written it IN the past since he supposedly got amnesia after being Omega Sanctioned by Darkseid, so he must write this after his return, around the beginning of the upcoming "Batman Inc."

The links to my other annotations:

Stuff at Funnybook Babylon (original Batman run, current Batman and Robin)

Stuff here (Return of Bruce Wayne #1, #2, #3; Batman #700)