Let me start with the following sentence: Grant Morrison is a fantastic writer.
His run on X-men is probably the best I've ever read. It was smart and involving and brought the X-men into the realm of the real world. He told the quintessential X-men story with a new and fresh twist. It boiled everything there was about the X-men down to its core and gave us something that was very much in line with the X-men, but read like it was brand new.
How did that happen?
Well, I'm sure a lot of it had to do with editors that gave him enough freedom to keep him active creatively and tight enough reins to best serve the company and the franchise.
Unfortunately, it seems as though DC has let him run amok with his "R.I.P." storyline. Maybe "amok" is too strong a word. But DC comics should be paying a lot more attention to their franchises and the talent they put on them and when. I'm not complaining about this R.I.P. storyline. I'm going to wait until I finish it until I pass judgment. The quality of the story isn't the problem.
The problem is that Batman is going to have the biggest movie of the summer with The Dark Knight and people are going to be getting to the comic store to find the latest Batman adventure. They will be hard pressed to find Bruce Wayne, however. "R.I.P." will be in full swing by the release of Dark Knight and, by DC's own admission, Bruce will be M.I.A.
From their solicitation:
Are you ready for "Batman R.I.P."?
Beginning the epic story that will change the legend of the Dark Knight forever! Everything in Grant Morrison's groundbreaking run on Batman has been leading to this story, and nothing will ever be the same again.
Who will live? Who will die? Who will be Batman? The answers are sure to shock you in "Batman R.I.P."
This seems cool enough, but right in the midst of a time where you're going to be fighting for new readers after the movie? Editorially, this seems like suicide. What would make the DC editorial staff think that this would be a good idea for what will be a gravy train of readers hopping on after Dark Knight? I have every issue of Batman from Death in the Family until now and I feel like every time I pick up an issue of R.I.P. that I've missed the last three issues. There's an odd disjointed nature to the comic (which is probably intentional and I have a theory about it we won't get in to here) but it's very off putting to old readers, what makes them think new readers are going to latch on to it?
And what do they think will happen when a Dark Knight fan and infrequent comic reader goes into a shop, asks for a Batman comic book and gets a comic without Batman (or at least Bruce Wayne) on it? You think they're going to stick around? Probably not for long.
Unfortunately, Marvel had the right idea with the treatment of Hulk and Iron Man around the times of their release. Iron Man and Hulk have been at the forefront of the Marvel Universes ever since the new movies were announced (Tony Stark with his Civil War/Illuminati involvemnt, Hulk with World War Hulk and planet Hulk). When the movies came out, they started new series (or fairly new series) with the main characters in the spotlight with #1 issues that were really easy for new readers to jump on to. And with Hulk, you've even got the powerhouse team of Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness working on it.
This was a smart plan and those books are fun to read and selling well.
DC is going in an opposite, counter-intuitive direction and placing their lead character that is going to have a record-breaking box-office success into a situation where new readers won't be able to read about the character they're interested in and in order to find out why, they'll have to buy 15 books worth of crossovers they won't understand. You shouldn't be telling a "legend that will change the Dark Knight forever" story right now. You want to tell the quintessential classic Batman story right now.
So, while "R.I.P." might be a good idea and a good story, it's the wrong time to wheel it out. Next summer would be ideal, after you've shattered sales records off the coat-tails of the movie. The ideal for this summer? Bring on a writer and tell a classic Batman story that will get people hooked. Take Batman#608. It was the first part of Jeph Loeb's Hush. It eased you into a story from the get-go, kept Bruce Wayne at the forefront and brought in all of the major players people want to see in a Batman adventure. And it was preposterously good, to boot. That's what you want now. Something that would drag people along for a year of a great story, 12 issues of the one book (no crossovers), and start it the week of July 20th.
But, hey, don't take it from me. We'll just watch DC's sales numbers for the month of July and August and see what happens.