Sunday, November 14, 2010


Pg. 1:

“Warning: This station is no longer safe.”

“As they reach the EVENT HORIZON they will appear to become frozen in time forever.” – the Archivists have already noted that all the data of Timeline Universe-Zero is being packed into a black hole for safe-keeping while they reboot the Universe by threading the end through the beginning like an Ouroboros.

The thing is, this is another “hole”. Black holes have been mentioned in this run before, having been related to Darkseid. Every “Hole in Things” has been in the image of Darkseid. A bullet hole … a plot hole … a hole in memory … all of these things are the influence of Darkseid from beyond the grave.

What if it got more literal? What if the very same Black Hole that the Archivists are using as an External Hard Drive for the Universe’s data is the Black Hole of Darkseid’s death? Wouldn’t it be ironic – and VERY Batman – if the Archivists use Darkseid’s own methods as a way to save the universe over and over again?

Pg. 2:

Bruce’s face is beet-red, because he is still poisoned, not to mention on fire, for those who were confused.

Pg. 3:

“Assume cardinal configuration.” – You’ll remember that the Lazarus Pit that Grayson found in England had four exits – one for each cardinal point of the compass. North, East, South, West. You see this sort of thing in Egyptian funerary architecture as well – the Pyramids are all aligned N,E,S,W to form a cross-compass, and to represent the N/S path of the Nile, and the E/W path of the sun. East of the Nile is sunrise, rebirth. West is sunset, death. After that, just about everyone everywhere was using the compass in their resurrection rituals as well.

Pg. 4:

“An infestation of hyperfauna has been detected.” – The important thing to note here is that it’s not attacking from OUTSIDE of Vanishing Point. Duly note that they only detect the thing once they start healing Bruce Wayne with Ultimate Lazarus Power. It was already infecting him (Like we saw when he activated Nichols’ time box and we saw both Bruce and the Hyper-Adapter).

So, like a Star Trek transporter “foreign object scan” or something, they separate the entity from Bruce. However, they immediately bring to attention that they don’t have the means to contain it until All-Over. So Bruce immediately begins formulating a plan.

Pg. 5:

“I need a disguise. And once you hear what I have to say, you’ll know why I need you to take away my memory again.” – All part of the plan. We learn the reasons for this later, but here’s the really important part:

“I accept my sacrifice.” – This Archivist is a one-eyed (acolyte of Metron) all-knowing database. It’s essentially the Mandelbrot Barbelith discussed way, way, way back. It is sacrificing itself – letting itself become possessed by the Hyper-Adapter, at which point the fusion of Hyper-Adapter and Archivist become BARBATOS. (Biorganic Archival Robot BATman Operating System or some ridiculous acronym, if you like!)

It is essentially providing something for the Hyper-Adapter to possess to try to attack Bruce, sacrificing itself as the BAIT (Of which Bruce is taking a very big gamble about his own mind.)

“The sound of ancient, rusty locks unlatching.” – We already know this to be Bruce’s relativistic interpretation of extra-dimensional gateways – time travel portals. Boom Tubes, Time Spheres … either way, it sounds like that to him. “Bells and thunder” – PING PING PING.

Pg. 8:

Tim Drake finally gets his moment, in a total “shoe on the other foot” scenario. During Final Crisis it was Bruce standing alone, powerless against Darkseid-Dan Turpin. Here it’s Tim standing alone, powerless against Hyper-Adapter-Bruce Wayne. Tim has had to go through his own mini identity crisis to keep up with Bruce. The two of them are growing eerily similar. Expect Tim Drake to remain Bruce Wayne’s partner in his global operations.

Make certain to evaluate the difference between the voice of BARBATOS and the voice of Bruce Wayne. BARBATOS now speaks with the Archivist’s non-capitalized dialogue.

“Alone in the dark with the bats.” – Who is saying this? It’s Bruce, however it’s delusional. Bruce has spent his “darker days” in recent years thinking just that about himself, but we know that prior to the Ten-Eyed Men exorcising the Hyper-Adapter from him, and Thogal where he confronted ultimate evil and stopped it for a moment, he was being influenced. (I guess Bruce can’t ever give Hal Jordan any shit about Parallax ever again …)

“Alone in the dark with the bats,” is actually exactly where Bruce left the Hyper-Adapter in 1640. Sort of reminds me of his line about "Looking the devil in the eyes and seeing fear".

Pg. 9:

Cyborg gets a surprising bit of coolness from Grant. It’s appropriate, since Bruce is stuck in Kirby cyborg-mode at the moment, bonded with the possessed Archivist. And so begins the ultimate play on “Bat-God”, the ultimate Tower of Babel moment. The ULTIMATE BAT-DICK. It’s a joke, if you couldn’t tell. One last laugh at the concept of Batman taking down the entire Justice League. And as we’ll learn very soon – even Bruce doesn’t take that concept seriously. It’s all part of the plan, and like it or not, he knows that when the Big Guns arrive, he isn’t taking them down easily.

Pg. 10:

The end of time looping in on the beginning of time … I half-expect to see Phantom Stranger walk nonchalantly by …

Pg. 11:

Interesting note of comparison between the Time Sphere and how it all turns white and Superman reaches out and touches “Pure Thought” in much the same way Bruce does in his “duel” with Darkseid later. And as he does, Superman says “I KNOW I CAN DO THIS”. Superman has touched pure thought and “our dimension” (Cube Time) before, and presumably in an ultimate moment like that he is the being capable of breaking from his storybook confines. But there’s no need – Batman’s got them covered.

No need to burst the thought bubble.

Pg. 12:

Futurama just did this! On his way back through, will Rip Hunter shoot Hitler with a laser?

Pg. 13:

Again, note difference between Barbatos talking and Bruce talking. Barbatos simply initiates attacks against the JLA. Bruce apologizes to Congorilla for what he’s about to do. Time to dive back into the Morrison run and figure out when Hurt is talking and when it’s Barbatos …

Pg. 14:

“Knight’s move executed.” – More chess. “I prayed every night you’d come back to us.” – More prayer-as-summons. Tim has keen intuition – he immediately “feels” the difference between basic technology, and the fact that this Archivist is possessed by Apokoliptian curse-demons.

The nosebleed is as good an indicator as any that this thing is trying to bore a hole in Bruce’s mind – to hollow out a hole where it can move in, or, since Bruce is one of those noble spirits that Darkseid requires … for Darkseid to live in. (Remember Superman asked “Why Turpin? Why not Batman?” and Darkseid responded that it would take TOO LONG to break down Batman. But with the Ancestor-Box, he already had a plan to attempt just that – from the past – and obviously the Clone Batman Body was the decoy to keep Superman off his back. And remember that Hurt’s entire goal has been the same thing – to break or corrupt Batman’s soul/spirit – presumably to create a new body for his master, Darkseid, whether he realized that’s what he was doing or not.)

Pg. 15:

“This equipment is overloading my nervous system.” – One wonders if Darkseid used Hyper-Adapters to bore out holes in the minds of Kraken, Turpin, Mary Marvel, and the rest of those possessed by the Evil Gods during Final Crisis.

“You’re Bruce Wayne.” “Not yet.” – Bruce wasn’t planning on getting his memory back so soon, apparently. He probably didn’t plan on it happening until after Superman and Green Lantern got back. Either way, Tim’s helping, by representing the most literal, recent impact of the First Truth of Batman – it’s his current partner.

Wonder Woman:

It’s at this point NO COINCIDENCE that the same two people are with Bruce for an exorcism. Tim Drake and Diana Prince. They were both there in Nanda Parbat, and they’re both here now. Fairly appropriate, since Wonder Woman herself has trained (in the 70’s) in some advanced martial arts and meditation techniques … has experience with Gods … has herself been royally fucked over by Darkseid’s machinations … and was the GODDESS OF TRUTH (And the weapon Bruce needs against Darkseid is indeed a TRUTH). I’m keen to see Grant write some Wonder Woman soon.

“Did the Fury that hounds you take its scent from this cape and cowl? I wonder …” – Apart from gleeful delight at seeing Wonder Woman say “I wonder …”, it’s important to remember that she may have recently experienced something similar to the Hyper-Adapter. She was “INFECTED” by a thought-weapon herself (God-Bacteria) and possessed, probably by Artemiz (One of Darkseid’s FEMALE FURIES, wink-wink, nudge nudge).

You’ll remember that Doctor Hurt “CURSED” the cape and cowl at the end of R.I.P., whereas Annie “CURSED” the descendents of Nathaniel Wayne. So Annie’s CURSE provides the means for Tom Wayne to become possessed … then Tom Wayne’s CURSE provides the means for Bruce to become possessed. “The next time you wear it will be your last”, said Hurt. And sure enough … the next cape is bombarded with Omega Radiation, and the cape & cowl he dons in the Caveman days is actually a demonic hyper-entity, that keeps coming back as a curse (A literal cursed cape and cowl) until the ultimate Kirby-form.

This is why Annie’s Lovecraftian magick words are repeated right here, when Diana asks Bruce if Darkseid opened any kind of Pandora’s Box type device. Bruce remembers Annie, remembers that she cursed the Waynes “Until the end of time”. But possibly realizes that the “S” and “WW” logos that she had as a charm were even older than the Dark Myth that he’s currently bound in, and brighter.

“Use your lasso.” – Good thing Bruce has a friend who is essentially a Truth Goddess. Comes in really handy for exorcisms. (Side note: Since she’s often perceived as a lesser, or middle child Wonder Woman, I’ve been championing Donna Troy to become DC’s resident monster-killer and exorcist for a while now …) But importantly, it’s cool to see that Wonder Woman’s tremendous empathy, compassion and ability to see things for what they really are REALLY shows how major a part of the JLA, DCU, and classic line-up Grant thinks of her as. She’s the “TRUTH” part of the threefold “TRUTH”, “JUSTICE”, and “THE AMERICAN WAY”. (For the record, Batman is Justice, and Superman is … well, Eternal Optimism, which is what the American Way is supposed to represent.)

Pg. 18:

The fractal, mythic bats certainly explain why every time Bruce has an isolation experience, or a near death experience, or a bad trip, we see flashing repeats of big red-eyed bats smashing through glass.

And here’s the hole in time. I guess it’s up to Bruce to patch it. And Grant lays out pretty much every symbol for us, so we can go back and look for them, individually, if we haven’t already spotted them.

Hanged Man. Double Double-U’s (WW). “S” Shield. Pearls. Orion’s Belt. Eclipse. Bullet. Red & Black Roses. Joker’s laughter. Spades (Like the Gravedigger). Black gloves/hands. Black Knights (Knights in general). The bat-symbol. Hanged bats.

Pg. 19:

Naturally, it’s Barbatos taunting Wonder Woman, until Bruce says “MEMORIES” and attempts to use the same mind-attack he used on his clones on the demon possessing him. Side note … when can we have more of THIS Wonder Woman? (Hell … THIS JLA? This is like the ultimate JLA moment for Grant … and it’s not even in his JLA run! Batman’s faith in his colleagues!)

Pg. 20:

Superman’s optimism and Hal’s will-power are strong as hell … but it’s clear at this point what “THE DARK KNIGHT MUST DIE” and “BATMAN AND ROBIN MUST DIE” and “BATMAN MUST DIE” means. Holy crap … Bruce Wayne has to die again! Clinically. Longer than before. No more dress rehearsals like Thogal. No more close calls like the Third Man.

It’s cool that Batman doesn’t see himself as “The Big Three” – as Superman, Wonder Woman and a recently elevated Green Lantern kick Barbatos’ ass into the Time Sphere and Skeets sends it packing to its demise, bonded incorrectly to the Archivist (Which may or may not be KEEPING the Hyper-Adapter bonded as part of its sacrifice), trapped in the Archivist (Who also may be responsible for visiting Dick Grayson in the Bat-Cave, if it has some control over its backwards trip through time) and ultimately achieving that sacrifice by having Vandal Savage slaughter it, then ironically spawning its own new legend of humiliating defeat (Which ultimately happens to Hurt as well.)

While I’ve yet to totally grasp (few of us do) exactly how complex or simple Barbatos’ actual storyline through time is, all that really matters is not HOW it gets from one era to another, but which eras it does exist in, how powerful it gets based on who knows of it, who feeds it and who worships it IN those eras, and how the end up feeding the legend of its own death.

Pg. 25:

I want a Superman & Rip Hunter “Superman Beyond II” any time now … maybe they’ll guest star in Multiversity. Either way Multiversity is where to go for more about what paper-book timelines look like to us Cube Time Higher-Plane dwellers.

“Such hubris on the part of mortals has always had a price.” – Leave it to Wonder Woman to literally quote the punchline of EVERY GREEK TRAGEDY OR COMEDY EVER. You see … when mortals come anywhere near close to “Godliness”, the fates strike them down. Batman has to die. If Batman becomes too much of a Bat-God, he has to die. It’s ironic that Grant, who pioneered the JLA Bat-God, is the one telling us all that if Batman continues in that direction, he can’t last.

Pg. 26 & 27:

Duel with Darkseid. Dead Darkseid. Ruins of Apokolips. Batman needs an exorcism again, but this time he has to do it himself. “The Truth Shall Set You Free” and all that. This is why it required the Ten-Eyed Men to perform the exorcism – with their “extra vision” they can see things that exist in spaces and places that can’t be perceived with only two light-based optical eyes. They can theoretically see the hole in things, and reach down inside and grab the possessing entity and rip it out of you. We don’t just see Bruce’s visit with them from FIFTY-TWO here … we ALSO see his very first visit with them – 15 years ago in his first travels.

Metron is indeed the wheelchair bound one-eyed veteran who warned Bruce prior to his Nichols time box jump. I don’t know if Metron is behind other one-eyed characters (Archivists? Lone-Eye Lincoln? Honor Jackson? Etc …) but it’s fair to say that he has played some part.

Here in this hole where all time is now in a sink, and Batman has access to all the facts and all the memories, and can fathom Darkseid’s grand designs, he gets to flip it back on Darkseid.

Pg. 28:

You’ll notice that the singularity at the center that still lingers on Earth is in GOTHAM CITY. The “Black Heart of Gotham” is possibly the haunting force of Darkseid’s designs. Perhaps Gotham is free to be a bit brighter and lighter now. Never completely free of the darkness, certainly. But less of a hovering doom and gloom. Especially with Grayson as Batman.

Pg. 29:

Certainly looks like one of the Van Derms removes the Batarang from the Utility Belt and places it in the casket. What’s interesting is their constant state of maintaining the symbols. It’s presumably Martin (Remember that Annie said the Miagani were in hiding during ROBW#2, but she knew them, and some few rare people were friendly with them. Of course she knew them – that’s where she got those symbols of “S” for Superman and “WW” for Wonder Woman.)

It’s hard to say though, which Van Derm it is. Content yourselves to know that Martin passed down his knowledge and the book, and 100 years later it had become a legend of local treasure that Tom Wayne the Satanist wanted badly enough to get himself Adapted. I mean, it’s a legend involving witches, dragons, Blackbeard the pirate … bat-people … Vandal Savage the Immortal. One can see how the aspects combine to create something enticing.

Anyway, in keeping with that spirit … the Van Derms consistently pass down symbols in their commissioned art for the Waynes. The Manor itself … commissioned for Darius Wayne by Nathan Van Derm. The Darius portraits. But when the Waynes lost control of the mansion until the mid-1800s when Alan finished it for Solomon and Joshua and Jerome Van Derm, the lines combined anyway.

Final Pages …

It’s nice to flash to exactly where Doctor Hurt is as Bruce talks about how the Hyper-Adapter is still technically out there. On the helicopter, landing at Wayne Manor, where he’ll stride in and shoot Grayson in the head. The crypt is open, indicating how he’ll get through the Hidden Room.

“The bells are still ringing.” – That’s as much acknowledgment as you need that the Ancestor-Box is still affecting things. Bruce’s later confirmation that although Joker has “dealt with Hurt”, they’ll still KEEP LOOKING is further evidence that there is more to hear from this threat. That being said … its infernal attack on Batman’s body, mind and soul, have failed, and he’s prepared for anything now. Darkseid’s revenge has failed.

We’re getting there as far as understanding this isolation experiment, this six-sided box that is The Return of Bruce Wayne. Why did he appear during eclipses? Because an eclipse is a black hole with a halo of light around it, much like an actual Black Hole singularity, like the one that resides in Gotham City in the wake of Darkseid's death. (Remember that Darkseid literally "died" and formed the hole in Bludhaven, just a hop-skip away from Gotham on a miles/kilometers map level of thinking as well.)

Because an eclipse casts a black shadow like a hole over that singularity.

Darkseid let all the demons out of the box … and Joker put them all back in.

Saturday, November 6, 2010




Thomas Wayne meets Barbatos in Stockman’s barn in Gotham Town, 125 years after Annie cursed Nathaniel Wayne’s family, 47 years after Blackbeard was hanged, and 110 years before his failure to retrieve the Van Derm Casket with any kind of help from Vandal Savage.

Dominique is here, and it is strongly implied that Wayne kills her. (This is a HUGE thematic boon for Morrison. Her name is freaking DOMINIQUE (“Of the Lord”). And Tom killed her. And Joker, as an agent of karma 250 years later, uses DOMINOES to kill him.

But there is still ambiguity. Could she have been his sister? (“Drink deep dark twin”. Although it’s certainly just as easy if

His wife? (His wife actually seems sort of likely to me – Joker might have telegraphed it. Recall that Joker “foreshadowed” how he would DEAL with Hurt by burying Oberon Sexton alive in the coffin of his dead wife who Sexton himself killed. So if Tom Wayne killed his own wife Dominique, that may have been the corpse whom Joker was dancing with – the coffin he unearthed – the coffin he planted Tom into purgatory within. HA HA HA HA HA HA HA.

It is implied in the Ceremony of the Bat, that Dominique is the “Human Bat” sacrifice. Bruce Wayne later felt a kinship to her and buried her near his parents when he found her corpse.

It is at least clear that Thomas has ALREADY sold his soul. The space Barbatos later occupies in his brain is the space where the Soul once rested. (“I’ll complete the Cross of the Penitente with a bullet between his eyes, where the Soul sits.” – Naberius). It is also fairly clear that whether he already realizes it in 1765, or it took him several years of thinking about it … NOT having a Soul means a lot to Tom … for good or ill, as we can see from his lecture to Damian about losing souls and not realizing what you’ve lost … and from Pyg’s statements regarding Hurt, and how Hurt believes he is an “Empty Hole” … a “Black Hole”. There is a Hole where his Soul used to be, and Barbatos lives there, hovering in the singularity of an inward logarithmic spiral that has to be fed more souls to maintain immortality.

(“Become MY creature, SUBMIT absolutely to MY instruction and when your SOUL is extinguished in my service … perhaps you’ll finally know by the gaping HOLE that remains what it is you’ve lost.” – Hurt)

This could easily explain his actual Christian repentance as El Penitente. A mask, for sure … but why “absolve sin” frivolously? Thomas Wayne is a puppet of a Hyper-Adapting Demon, and the poor bastard could use absolution (instead he gets laughing purgatory).


Professor Pyg, like The Joker, seems to know a LOT about the nature of the Demon occupying Tom Wayne.

(“Did I tell you on Monday she’s MORMO, formless chaos? On Tuesday it’s all TIAMAT this and TIAMAT that. Tohu va bohu and boo-hoo-hoo. Wednesdays, the GORGON QUEEN comes on tiptoes with a million forked tongues for hair. That’s what it’s like to grow upside down in a world where a hug is a crucifixion.”)

The strange thing is the continual referencing by Pyg of his “Mother”, when we know the one who created his latent murderous psycho state-of-mind is Doctor Hurt, in his post-Robin Dies At Dawn travels, where he probably found Lazlo, already pretty nuts as a circus freak show, in an institution.

I’ve been formulating a short essay on these “Joker knock-offs” that Hurt is creating and how their psychoses paint a pretty bleak view of the Psychology Institution. (While Joker, for instance represents the potentially harmful nature of accidental chemical overdose and abused psychopharmolocological drug use (See also: Scarecrow), and the nature of POISON (a random accident in chemicals leading to a chemical-laden random clown obsessed with the random) … Pyg represents the more “progressive” form of Psychology-as-Brainwashing. His obsession with TV, images and normal-vs.-beautiful speak to the fictitious (but scarily “close enough”) Ludovico Technique. Worse still, that technique in The Wrong Hands. The hands wearing Black Gloves.)

(“Even wrong way round, this little gent could make a well-spoken lady out of a monkey or a flower girl out of a snail.” – Pyg. Snail reference # 1, from one of his TV therapy treatments wherein he saw “My Fair Lady”, one imagines)

(“Bless the snail. The double is two, the deuce is snail horns. The snail is the devil!” – Pyg. Snail reference # 2, the snail being the squid-like Hyper-Adapter as we saw it upon its release from the Ancestor-Box … reaffirmed momentarily …)

And of course a snail’s shell is a logarithmic spiral, like a black hole. Tom Wayne is a hollowed out shell. The primary ambiguity remains is just how much of Hurt is Tom Wayne, and how much is Barbatos (And frankly … what the fuck did he think was in the Van Derm Bat-Casket?)


Point being that Pyg’s psycho rants tend to reveal tidbits about the nature of Doctor Hurt (Sense squared). “Tiamat” is a clear reference to the “squid-form” of the Hyper-Adapter that we first saw, as Tiamat was a Babylonian Dragon goddess (The Puritans keep referring to “The Dragon” in the woods, and back in R.I.P., Hurt was referenced a handful of times as “Old Dragon”) slain by the mighty war god MARDUK, of which the Hebrew name MORDECAI is derived. Another Bruce-as-Orion, God of War reference. D.O.A.: The God of War. Orion’s body sublimated “back to the source” when he died. OR … who else was in the room with him, studying his body forensically? The God-Damn Batman, that’s who … Barbatos-Hurt was Darkseid’s revenge against Bruce Wayne … but theoretically, in a full-circle kind of way … could Bruce have been Orion’s revenge against Darkseid?

Pyg also references the Gorgon Queen, Medusa, with snakes for hair. Also feels a bit like the Hyper-Adapter we saw – “snakes for hair” … tentacles … same idea. Some sort of Dragon Lady. Still female, oddly enough.


Damian is also a “demon” of Bruce’s past unlocked by the Ancestor-Box. And in a way, he is the first. The one whom “Heralded” the arrival of the Hyper-Adapter. His very name is demonic. His very attitude is that of “The little demon boy” (Like Knight described Grayson).

(“That’s him! [Damian] They’re ALL crawling from the BOX now!” – Pyg)

You think that’s messed up? Both Joker and Hurt recognize similarities between Damian and Hurt as well, and consistently bring it up.

(“You sound just like … like him …” – Joker, referring to Damian who is threatening brain damage the way Hurt threatens brain damage every time he shows up.)

(“Become my creature … And you a very different kind of Robin.” – Hurt, trying to recruit Damian to his cause.)

Don’t think that’s enough?

(“A Robin who lets me manipulate him into a locked room situation? A Robin who even brings his own crowbar to the party? You might be the funniest one yet.” – Joker to Damian, shortly before sealing a poisoned, laughing Damian in the same casket he later buries Hurt alive in.)

(“… walked right into that like a PRO. You’ve done this before, am I right?” - Joker to Hurt, immediately prior to burying him in that casket.)


Joker as an agent of God acting against Darkseid’s toxic influence? Does that seem unlikely to you? Joker uses Dominoes as the game to fuck with the man who killed Dominique in a Satanic ritual.

(“I ever tell you about my pal “Big Mike”? God’s top gun. His head banana.” – Joker)

(“The banana represents the primal gag, THE FALL. I’m watching those hands …” – Joker)

And worse still – if Batman should fail, Joker’s backup plan is a NUCLEAR BOMB. If Gotham turns into the NEW SODOM & GOMORRAH, Joker is prepared to initiate THE WRATH OF GOD. Let’s not even get into how Joker used Jason Todd as another “tool” to fuck with El Penitente by tipping off the Red Hood about Santo, and thusly also taking out Flamingo. Jason Todd’s RED HOOD persona is currently using a lot of Milton, Paradise Lost themes and imagery. He even cast Flamingo (A demon) into “THE PIT” (a rock quarry). How fucked up is it that The Joker and Jason Todd represent the interests of the Judeo-Christian God in this saga of Man vs. Cosmic Devilry?


Right … that was just me covering the flashback sequence to DARK KNIGHT, DARK CITY (Highly recommended. Milligan is just terrific then, it’s happening shortly after ARKHAM and GOTHIC and THE CULT and THE KILLING JOKE, and it’s one of the better Riddler stories out there, even if Riddler is ultimately being affected by Barbatos.

I think Tom’s slightly inaccurate repeats of what Hyper-Adapter is saying to him is fairly self-explanatory, although I’ve seen a boatload of people miss the mark online. This conversation is happening IN HIS MIND. He’s ultimately inviting the demon to occupy the space where his SOUL used to be.

(“Ye who knows the where of the mystery box, the eternity signs. The secret treasure of the Miagani.” – Tom Wayne)

This treasure is held by the Van Derms in secret. This is 1765 Gotham. As we saw in the Black Pirate adventure, the Box is in the capable hands of the brother and sister Van Derm – and odds are that this is NATHAN VAN DERM we saw, since he was a young man in 1765, he was probably a well-known architect and artist by the 1790s, when Darius commissioned the Manor to be built. Then, ostensibly, the Wayne family somehow (Fell on hard times? Died young? Who knows …) didn’t actually eventually finish the house until years later, although they owned the Estate.

Tom Wayne SURELY knew Nathan Van Derm. And that’s why he surely later knew to send Vandal Savage’s lackeys to the home of Catherine Van Derm. He probably fled America because by “random chance” (more like Cosmic Chance), he accidentally caused the unification of the Wayne and Van Derm families. That’ll set you back 100 or so years.

Rumors persisted of the Miagani treasure in the Caves underneath Bristol, and rumor would have had it that the Van Derms knew what it was. That might have even predicated their eventual move away from Gotham “Out West”.

I’d like to at least propose the possibility that Tom was impersonating Jefferson. Let’s face it, he’s notorious later for using other people’s names and faces. There’s no reason to think he wouldn’t be doing it as a black sheep Satanic devil worshipper who his brothers/cousins Anthony and Darius HATE. (I can't help but connect Thomas Jefferson with Lone-Eye Lincoln and Honor Jackson. What's with all these Presidential names?)

(“How can a rebel such as I fear Hell, the natural home of rebels?” – Tom)

Curiously enough, one wonders at this talk of rebels in 1765 if Tom is a rebel against the British Government, which still rules the American Colonies. One imagines they didn’t take kindly to witches or devil worshippers (See: World’s Finest – “The Witch Batman” or whichever, where he and Superman go back and meet Mad Anthony – a highly superstitious man.)

The fact that Tom is actually only drinking the blood of a large bat in an Ozzie-style routine is evocative of the fact that this is a soul-selling deal, but also predicates the fact that his entire Black Glove operation is financed by … vampirically draining his ill-gotten gains from “The Bat”.

I can tell this is going to be a long one.


Bruce’s return required the “Sacrifice of the son”. So-to-speak. We know already from BLACKEST KNIGHT that not all “sacrifices” have to be exactly what you expect them to be. But Grayson is sure enough shot in the head, and in those moments his faith in Bruce and unyielding optimistic hope for a hero mirrors the others who have prayed for a guardian spirit just prior to Bruce’s arrival.

Bemoan the lack of Frazer Irving creepiness throughout this super-sized issue … I don’t think they could have found a better section for Cameron Stewart to be responsible for than a kung fu fight between Batman, Batman and Robin, against … we’ll say a dozen or so less than 99 Fiends. Stewart’s epic four-way kung fu match between Dick, Cyril, Beryl and the Clone (not to mention his motion-filled chase through the streets of London) were the highlights of that arc. One almost wishes he was illustrating the Detective/Batman Annuals for David Hine, where Nightrider, a new Batman-candidate from Paris, is a parkour expert, and that’s something I think Stewart would kill on.)

As for the 99 Fiends themselves, they remain another one of the ambiguous elements in Hurt’s arsenal. We know they’re named for Classical Demons, but there were only 72 Classic Demons in Demonology. It seems reasonable to say that there are other Fiends in the 99. Nine-Eyed Man was SPECIFICALLY referred to in the title as “THE FIEND” with Nine Eyes.

Whether Pyg and his Circus, Flamingo, and others count as Fiends is unknown and unlikely.

Didn’t Damian snap that Rottweiler’s neck last issue?

And so begins the fracas. Check out Fiends like Afro-Archer … Powdered-Wig Judge … and Shredder-Zangief. How about Demon-Tonto? Owl-Sweater Flamethrower? Masked Whore-Nun? Solomon Grundy Sideburns?

The financial irregularities at Wayne Enterprises are explained. Like with everything else, Hurt’s funding was siphoning itself off of Bruce Wayne’s history.

Here’s a cool thing – Burnham’s shot of Bruce leaving the library (full of unconscious Fiends really shows the proximity between the Library (Located centrally behind the Wayne Manor parlor, and Bruce’s Study, the classic way of getting into the Bat-Cave, in the West Wing. Notice how the shadowy steps into the Bat-Cave resemble fallen dominoes. Nice artistic nod. Burnham’s Bat-Cave isn’t dead on with how we’ve seen it presented in recent years (feels flipped) but is close enough, because it’s so damned cool looking. I love that the Bat-Cave is lit a glaring green – a subtle hint that Joker has been here, since everything he has “visited” this last arc has been lit a sickly green hue to indicate him fucking with the Red and Black theme. All the coolest parts are briefly on display. The Bat-Computer. The Penny. The Tyrannosaurus. The Joker Card. The Costume Gallery. The Batmobile Bay. The “multi-tiered” central “pit” section that leads to sea level. Fantastic. Burnham really captures the kind of Bat-Cave I want to see when I read Batman, and I hope he’s game for a couple issues of Batman, Incorporated in the future.

Batman creeping through the Catacombs – the parts of the Cave we really don’t know much about, is a fantastic device (Slightly evocative of KnightsEnd, actually … when he emerges victorious by forcing Jean-Paul Valley through parts of the Cave – HIS Cave – that the Az-Bats armor wouldn’t fit into.) But Tom Wayne is familiar with these caves somewhat himself (Although nowhere near as much as Bruce).

As Dave Uzumeri pointed out, the Interrogation Room is from Detective Comics # 134. Some day, I hope to GOD that Grant Morrison decides to just make a small book that’s a sort of “Bat-Cave Guide” (Burnham can draw it!) where Grant picks out the coolest details imaginable to highlight and “bring back” and just goes to town on the awesomeness of the Bat-Cave. I mean … did we ever find out WHAT it is that Batman keeps in that ultra-top-secret forbidden vault below sea level that’s on all the maps and diagrams?

Did anyone else realize immediately that Alfred was trapped in the Bat-Submersible? It’s just one of those ones where I picked up on that thought process immediately. I think part of it was the green lighting reminding me of the green lighting in Batman # 701.


Tom Wayne IS The Devil. At least as far as Batman is concerned. Batman was worried that there was an ultimate enemy and king of crime … but that’s a deeply personal job. He’s not just “The Ultimate Enemy”, he’s BRUCE’S ULTIMATE ENEMY. He’s Bruce’s Devil, Tulpa, Doppelganger and Shadow. Tom Wayne is The Anti-Bruce.

The question is … what exactly did the Hyper-Adapter Adapt to? What did it absorb into its makeup from Bruce Wayne’s past and present to use as weapons against him? Remember his exorcism in Saudi Arabia (The un-coincidental home of the Ten-Eyed Tribe, the exiled Nine-Eyed Man, and Oil Sheik Al-Khidr). Remember seeing the “metaphorical” bat-demons flying away in the night sky as Bruce stood in the desert winds? I’m certain it absorbed that.

Remember the Thogal Ritual? Where Bruce put himself into a box once more and things got trippy? Where he felt like he experienced death, and realized that he might be under psychic attack when he felt the presence of the Hole in Things? Again – the Hyper-Adapter. It’s probably capable of almost anything, and a psychic attack is one of them, although we know its attempts to undermine Bruce’s mind were ultimately failures.

Even disguising itself as the creature on Bat-Mite’s back (using Bruce’s own Imaginary Friend, who he hadn’t seen since his childhood, and a few times on bad gas trips in the 60’s) didn’t work.

(Why couldn’t Puppet-Bat-Mite go into Arkham Asylum? There are dozens of reasons, but one is certainly that the crazies might be able to see him. Remember Charlie Caligula’s “What’s that behind you?!” red herring?)


Pyg’s really a fucked up sort of guy, but dig the routine? Infecting Gotham then offering the cure? Once again he’s pulling from The Joker’s playbook. Holding a parade in downtown with floats and balloons? This is BATMAN (1989). This is Joker handing out money while intending to poison and kill everybody. Except Pyg’s not trying to kill people, he’s trying to turn them into slaves. He’s like Joker filtered through more Anti-Life philosophies. Hurt might be dealt with for now, but if Libra ever came back, here would be an easy choice for Crime Bible hijinx.

Notice behind him as he gives his speech the subtle background – junkies walk INTO his parade float from the left … and Dollotrons walk OUT of it on the right. That’s fucked up.

Pyg’s references are all fairly in line with what we’ve seen before, and referencing Animal Farm continues the trend, while also befitting his Russian backstory. Pretty cool, and carries some nice themes. Batman and Robin recovering (or having had already recovered) his “Mommy” cradle of pain from the destroyed Park Row Theater is a slick move typical of Grayson’s flashy showbiz nature. But Pyg is putting on a theatrical show to dominate these craven zombie-masses, and Dick would know that the strongest way to take care of Pyg (and strike a HUGE blow to his ego) would be not just to kick his ass … but to COMPLETELY UPSTAGE HIM. It’s quite a punch-line from the Wonderboys, turning the Norman Bates-meets-Henry Higgins into a crying little baby before having his own crowd of zombies turn on him in a manner reminiscent of the Cult Homeless turning on Deacon Blackfire. (Only way fucking funnier.)

(Side note: How about the fact that as a precursor to Bruce Wayne’s return and Growth as a Human Being … his “Prodigal Son” Dick Grayson blew the Park Row Theater on Crime Alley where his parents died to smithereens with a Bat-Copter?)

Joker planting his Wrath of God backup in the Jean-Paul Valley-era “Bat-Rocket-Traincar” is something … while he’d have access to the railcar from the Bat-Cave (which we know he knows of), it seems from interviews he might’ve been meant to have planted it in the Bat-Bunker. However, the Bat-Bunker has more up-to-date security, even of Joker as Oberon Sexton at that party at Wayne Tower scouted the place out a bit. It makes little difference in the end, it gives Damian the chance to save all of Gotham in a big-time “Graduation” sort of move.

As for Joker getting a nuke: He’s done it before (See: A Death in the Family) but this is stated to be homemade. Joker’s world tour as Sexton took him to the Middle East, all over Europe … we know with time and disguise he’s been able to get major weapons-grade supplies before, so it’s not that unbelievable. And to top it off … not that many miles from Gotham is Bludhaven, which may or may not be a source of radioactive material for anyone crazy enough to sneak in there (past security) and retrieve some.

Back in the Bat-Cave … Tom Wayne is in the Costume Gallery, looking at the very same glass case he smashed to steal the Thomas Wayne “Original Batman” costume (Which he knew all about. It’s possible Tom was a guest at that party and saw the whole Lew Moxon ordeal, if he was staying with the Waynes when Bruce was very young.) This gallery of costumes has been vitally important to the whole run, being the centerpiece of Bruce’s “Dressing Room”. A broken glass case means an element of history to be brought into play. Damian smashed Tim through the Jason Todd memorial case and stole Jason’s old costume (Which was Dick’s as well). You’ll notice that SINCE THEN, way back in BATMAN & SON, Bruce never put up the old Frank Miller “He Was A Good Soldier” case again. Tom Wayne later smashed the Thomas Wayne costume case. Will Bruce move on and not linger on that part of his past either now?

But at any rate … Hurt looks at his own reflection in the Thomas Wayne glass case, pieced carefully back together by Alfred after R.I.P., wearing the costume and loaded with imagery and themes of being a dark, cracked reflection of Thomas Wayne … and Bruce smashes his face through it.

(“You’re finished!” – Dick)

Now it’s all out there.

(“You really thought you could trap me in a prison I built?” – Bruce)

This speaks to soooooooooooo fucking many levels of Bruce Wayne. I think they’re all fairly obvious – the literal sense of the Interrogation Chamber. The fear-based life he leads. The deepest corners of his own mind. Trapped in his own legend – trapped in his own shadow. Even Bruce Wayne was trapped in the grim Shadow of the Bat. But he adapted.

(“My father tried to treat you in that Hidden Room.” – Bruce)

Did Thomas know about Darkseid? No. No, Thomas Wayne likely knew what all the Waynes knew, including Anthony, Darius, Solomon, Joshua, Alan, Kenneth, Patrick, Silas and onward all knew. That Tom was some kind of aberration (Which was more uncommon then, but it’s still the DCU – Thomas Wayne was still watching the news and witnessing the Challengers of the Unknown traversing the Multiverse, and the JSA saving people). And they all of course probably believed that Tom was a head-case.

The fact that the Hidden Room resembled a Satanic Church is recent. The Waynes haven’t been secretly practicing Satanism in the basement since 1880. Tom Wayne added that after Thomas and Martha were killed, when he was sneaking around the Mansion pretending to be Thomas and fucking with the Kanes. Before that it was simply a hidden basement, where at one point, Patrick, Silas and son/nephew Thomas tried treating old Tom when he returned “home” the first time.

So that’s from Bruce’s youth – when he was away with Alfred for months after the Wayne murders. And prior to that it was where Tom was sporadically kept before they decided he was too dangerous or a lost cause and shipped him to Willowood. But Tom being who he is – possessed by a demon hyper-adapter, a doctor, a gambler, and dastardly son of a bitch, ended up RUNNING Willowood in no time.

Is Tom delusional? Does he really think he’s Thomas? I think probably, otherwise MUST DIE! Wouldn’t have begun with the fantastic false-flashbacks actually showing how the lies about the Waynes could be true. But at this point, Barbatos is eating away at his mind so much that believing himself to be his great-great-great-great grand-nephew namesake is totally possible. I don’t know the name for the syndrome, but it’s something of the case of the jealous person pretending to be somebody … forgetting themselves and believing they are the person they’re pretending to be. It happens to Actors. Zartan from G.I. Joe suffers from it, actually. He’s a Master of Disguise (Like Hurt) who changes his face all the time, but after a while … he can’t remember his original persona.

I really don’t know the name for this. Something like Pathological Liar’s Persona would fit.

Strike that – further research has yielded results. I was looking for Dissociative Identity Disorder. One imagines that a split-personality as a result of Demonic Possession in an Immortal will do that to a person. Which is why sometimes Hurt talks like Hurt. Sometimes he talks like he thinks he’s The Devil. Sometimes Tom Wayne comes out. And sometimes it’s pure Hyper-Adapter speech.

The scary part is that these elements blend so well, and he transitions from one to the other without any kind of detrimental effect on his evil plans.

(“Deep into that darkness peering …” – Poe)

It’s unknown who scrawled that onto Alan Wayne’s crypt, although one assumes he had that crypt built for his wife Catherine and joined her at a much later date. The clinically depressed Alan seems like a prime candidate to catch onto the works of Poe, which at the time were much more recent but still VERY popular (a popularity that never died, actually). The quote from The Raven is expressive of the overall themes of The Raven – that one should not look into the darkness or do occult things to bring back a dead loved one. Alan apparently won that battle with his own soul, but it’s curious to think of Tom Wayne in that light, since he sold his soul for apparently less of a good reason. But if his soul had been gone prior to summoning Barbatos, it’s curious to wonder what his life was like pre-Dark Knight, Dark City flashback.

It also applies to Bruce, who looked into the darkness on multiple occasions (Really, the Isolation Experiments, and the Thogal, are very much like Poe-era existential isolation. You could lock yourself in an attic and write reams of poetry and have much the same result as a Thogal ritual.) Bruce continually peers into the darkness … looking for foes of humanity that he can punch in the face.

(“The devils in the details, right?” – Joker)

Another telling phrase that I’m glad Morrison used since I’ve been saying it over and over again myself. Joker’s attention to detail means that he’d be the kind of guy who had minimal trouble spotting the attention to detail Hurt went to for his own plans. But the challenge had no results! Hurt was no fun!


Hurt has been poisoned by Joker’s toxin and is about to be buried alive. My best guess at translating his laughing-gas induced gibberish there is thus:

“(Painful laughter) FUCK YOU. NOT DEAD. [Referring to Joker’s toxin, which usually has lethal effects but doesn’t on him because he’s immortal? Or is he trying to tell Joker that BRUCE WAYNE is not dead? I think it’s plea-bargaining using Bruce as the bargain, but it’s too late because he’s incomprehensible.] DOMINO [The obvious one] and then (More painful laughter).”

Damian grimacing as he’s hooked onto a screaming Bat-Subwaycar is hilarious. It’s action-packed and bad-ass as well – a chip off old Bruce’s block. But it’s just funny. The angry kid … super-hero time.

Here’s another moment that I keep seeing fans mistake on the forums. Alfred says “He’s gone, sir. Something about unfinished business. I presume we have permission to cheer.”

He’s talking to Damian, of course, who has just disarmed the bomb. BRUCE is the one with unfinished business, leaving Damian hanging as soon as the kid acknowledged he was good. Bruce has gone outside to chase down Doctor Hurt, but instead he finds Joker. And clobbers the Clown Prince. That easy.

(“So I said, if anyone’s going to bring the house down, it’ll be me! I can make it solo.” – Joker)

This explains why as early as The Clown at Midnight, he cut loose all his henchmen, even breaking up with Harley Quinn. He had ulterior motives during R.I.P. when he realized exactly who and what was staging the “show” and decided with Batman gone, he’d hilariously play the “detective” role, and hasn’t worked with anybody (except tipping people off and using them as pawns and tools and dominoes.)

Now that Bruce is back and punches him in the face and no doubt ships him right back to Arkham? Oh yeah … Joker … sorry to say, but YOU DO “have to go back to the old gags”. Somewhat. Except for this tell:

(“Starting today, I’m taking the act in a whole new direction. The Joker fights crime!”)

He’s referring to what he said to himself back during R.I.P. when the Batman Dead rumors began circulating. He’s not actually making an announcement “Tonight” that he’s changing his act again. However, that has to change once he gets pounded in the face by Bruce. With Bruce around, Joker was his ultimate wild card foe. With Bruce gone, Joker played games with Grayson. With Bruce back and going international? Joker will be forced to “adapt” yet again.

Will Joker stage a reunion tour with the Club of Villains? Seems likely. It’s similar to Luthor’s Injustice Gang from Morrison’s JLA, but with Joker in charge rather than stuck with Luthor as a boss. Will other villains from Batman, Inc. join the Club, to fill out the numbers against the new members of Batman, Inc.? Will we see Joker team with Lord Death Man? Etc …? Hopefully! (Although personally I’m hoping INC. gives us some much needed Riddler escalation.)

But Joker’s not going to scrimp on a challenge like going international just to stick around dusty old Gotham and play games with Grayson on a weekly basis. He wants to play in the big leagues with Bruce. Let Gotham have a new wave of wild new villains. He can always go back and take over that stage again if he wants to.

Anyway, note the fact that Batman punching out Joker is a LITERAL “PUNCH”-line. And afterward it immediately jumps to Wayne Tower, to the Bat-Bunker. This is Batman and Robin’s title – Bruce comes to visit our heroes in THEIR base.

Pyg’s in Arkham now with Joker. That could be interesting (and bad for Pyg – Joker has “old friends” in Arkham by way of his criminal career colleagues, some of whom he actually somehow by some miraculous quirk of fate (not killing them) managed to have decent working relationships with.)

Mayor Sebastian Hady survived Joker’s poison popcorn, but Gordon’s going to have a field day on his ass.

The “world’s top brain surgeon” patched Dick up. I have no idea who he’s referring to. It could be anyone from Doctor Mid-Nite (Dick is leading the JLA right now … friends with the JSA …) or he could be referring to an unknown quantity who we’ll meet (or won’t meet, he does have Wayne money access after all) in Batman, Inc.

Bruce Wayne grins a smile that’s equal parts Silver Age smiling Batman and terrifying.


It was good, and I totally didn’t expect it. Shocking stuff, but well within DCU secret identity-keeping parameters. WayneTech is all over the place anyway as far as crossing over with super-heroes, but I didn’t even think Batman, Inc. would need this kind of public backing, or Bruce dropping a bombshell on the public. Nice to see Tim Drake show up as well, popping in after he too gets to help save the day in The Return of Bruce Wayne # 6.

The reunions were brief and we didn’t get a lot of talking, planning and “on to the next phase” stuff – but rest assured, THE RETURN ONE-SHOT will give us all of that and truly transition us into INCORPORATED. The season-ender had to move a little more quickly and have a bit more punch.


It’s the elephant in the room. It should have come out first. Thankfully, it’s coming next week, and there’s three or four MASSIVE parts of the storyline that we don’t have answers to yet (although we’re as close as ever to having some final answers about everything we need). Can Tim Drake stop Future-Archivist Bruce from destroying the world? Is there any need, since it’s Bruce and he’s escaped the Omega Effect with some unexpected help from Carter Nichols? What about getting to Wayne Manor in time to save Dick? What about the fact that Darkseid is coming back into the picture? What about Cube Time and the maps of the Multiversal timelines? What about returning that Time Sphere to Rip Hunter so Superman, Hal Jordan and Booster don’t die?

Just a few more days.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

BLACK MASS (Part I) - Dick Grayson Prayed



This is by no means my blog/annotations on Batman and Robin # 16. I'm saving that for next week, when I finally have Return of Bruce # 6 digested.

ROBW#1: Anthro prayed for Metron, or a miracle. And got Bruce.
ROBW#2: Annie prayed for a dark hero. And got Bruce.
ROBW#3: Jack Valor prayed to his grandfather the Black Pirate. And got Bruce.
ROBW#4: Mrs. Van Derm prayed for a dark angel. And got Bruce.

The next one is tricky. Who prayed for a miracle when Bruce arrived in "Noir Gotham"? Was it Marsha Lamarr, looking for "tall dark handsome stranger" to sacrifice? How long was Bruce in that hospital? It seems he was there a little longer than the usual stay of time. I'd be willing to bet it goes like this:

ROBW#5: Young Bruce Wayne prayed for a miracle. Old Bruce Wayne appeared ... but got hit by a car. Because meeting yourself in the past won't happen in a way that can alter anything.

ROBW#6: is tricky. Bruce has freed himself from the "Eclipse" mandate thanks to Carter Nichols and now has to trust himself and Tim Drake to fix things. We'll see when we get there. Maybe even trying to "stop Bruce from arriving", Tim was secretly praying Bruce would return. But point being ... Bruce has broken free of the curse, so to speak.

B&R#16: Dick Grayson was about to die and prayed for Bruce. And got Bruce.

While I'm sure ROBW#6 will finalize what we need to know about the nature of the Hyper-Adapter, square Bruce up against his time purgatory and all with plenty of time for him to retrieve Superman and Co. from the End of Time ... let Tim know he's back early ... and have plenty of time to re-enter the Omega Effect and pop out in Wayne Manor right when Dick is "sacrificed" ... I believe it's very likely it'll end with Tim Drake on the phone with Grayson.

The final details relayed ... the Mansion will be prepared for Bruce's arrival.

And as for Doctor Hurt?

At first I believed the corpse Joker danced with was Catherine Van Derm. And that Hurt is buried alive in her casket - a fitting revenge for the girl. But I can't help but wonder how much of his plan for Hurt Joker telegraphed when he buried Oberon Sexton alive with his dead wife.

It's possible that corpse belongs to Dominique, or even if Hurt had a wife, his wife. It's possible it was her coffin.

As for the whole where Hurt is buried? What's the only fresh hole in the Wayne Family Plot? The "supposed" grave of Bruce Wayne (clone).

Tuesday, October 26, 2010



Joker in his funerary persona is now in the “underground railroad” (both literal and figurative) connecting Alan Wayne’s crypt with the Hidden Room beneath the Manor’s library. The lych-way. The corpse road. And like a New Orleans-style funeral, he’s dancing. Interestingly, it appears to be a Tango.

R.I.P. as farce: Where in R.I.P., Joker was invited to be the Master of Ceremonies of a Danse Macabre (Dance of Death), here, Joker was NOT invited, so he’s crashing the party, and he’s making it literal, dancing with the dead, in this case one of Bruce’s female ancestors – like many have mentioned, probably Catherine Van Derm. While he’s outgrown his former very brief “Ringleader from Hell” persona, the top hat also adds a bit of “Ringleader” vibe befitting a Master of Ceremonies at some sort of Masquerade. The similarities to the black/top hat fashion that Doctor Hurt donned as he set sail for Liverpool on S.S. Orion and probably became Jack the Ripper can’t be overlooked.

Note that the Tango was invented in Argentina – Batman’s next stop in Batman, Incorporated where El Gaucho operates. I’ll stop these lines of thinking before I delve into something like Gandy Dancers, laying railroad tracks, being a primary influence on American Blues, and the short leap from there to Joker’s present New Orleans voodoo jazz man wardrobe and doctrine. Or the odd Irish behavior of getting drunk and grabbing a corpse at a wake and dancing with it.

The top hat works on a multitude of levels, actually. More than anything Joker resembles an Undertaker. It wouldn’t be surprising to see someone in similar garb standing on a storefront in a Wild West town (or in 1800’s Gotham) as a steely-eyed bad-ass cowboy like Batman walked down the street. Especially in a Western, an Undertaker was tasked with collecting the myriad of dead bodies left behind by a bounty hunter or gunslinger. The whole schtick adheres to Joker’s black and red theme, but is probably influenced 100% by the plot of R.I.P., which involved Batman in a “funeral parlor” style setting at Arkham, buried alive in a casket with a headstone. It’s pretty much “Black Glove, R.I.P.” at this point.

The word Undertaker could be interpreted as a man who prepares the dead for the Afterlife, or “Takes the Dead to the Underworld”, or more literally who “undertakes” something, an ironic combination of the two highly different dictionary definitions found in the combined root words, since Joker has “undertaken” this mission of revenge. A cursory Wikipedia disambiguation revealed that Prince created but never released an album called “The Undertaker”, which gave me a coincidental chuckle, since we’ve already seen one MASSIVE Prince homage in Batman and Robin in the form of everything about Flamingo. I’ve covered the Hamlet references on a few occasions. (Gravediggers as clowns).

One wonders if Joker’s getaway vehicle will be as obvious as a Hearse.

“Born from a coffin” is one of those lines that would’ve had the “Damian is Bruce reincarnated and he’ll grow up somehow from Damian” theorists a few years back. Interestingly enough, when viewed through the “Ancestor-Box”, it does become immediately important to realize that Damian Wayne’s existence from Mike Barr’s Batman: Son of the Demon is another element of Batman’s past that was “brought back” from oblivion by Darkseid’s device to be used as a weapon against Bruce Wayne. The very same continuity-altering things that gave rise to Hurt also may very well have nudged “Son of the Demon” back into continuity, retroactively.

“The first and BEST BOY WONDER’s in the hands of the most evil man on Earth!”

This is a telling line from Joker. I’ve postulated that the reason Joker killed Jason Todd was that he was boring. No fun to play with. NOT DICK GRAYSON. His playmate was gone – the two of them spent many a night playing games and cracking jokes and “routines” with Batman as the straight man. His feelings about Tim Drake are something I’d be curious to find out. Tim met Joker in his New Homicidal phase and has known him almost exclusively in that capacity and comes at Joker the same way Batman would, so it might be boring to reiterate it.

Alfred seems completely and utterly prepared for Hurt. He even had time for a cup of tea. Clearly, that’s an indicator of his faith in their success – the plan (mentioned quickly and quietly last issue) must be a good one. If Morrison is going to stick to his themes from throughout, I have ZERO DOUBT that “the plan” involves taking “Acting” and “Theater” to all new levels to defeat Hurt. In fact, I believe Grayson’s later line of “We’ll improvise” is literally referring to acting. Take into consideration Batman # 682, where Grayson imagined Bruce Wayne as Hamlet fighting Joker as Laertes (“Doth his blade envenom” is definitely a Joker move, since Joker consistently poisons everything. Gold dominoes. Fingernails. Rose petals. Joker IS poison – he’s the skull and crossbones on the poison bottle.)

Hurt has used Bruce Wayne’s own theatricality against him. In fact, he incorporates theatrical elements into his Occult rituals. But I don’t think he’s prepared for the onslaught of a Dick Grayson / Joker improv-comedy duo with Damian as the Straight Man and Alfred coordinating the gags. Morrison’s Alfred is like a stage director – damn near like his own actor, Michael Caine in Nolan’s The Prestige – and his Joker probably went to theater/drama school. (Seriously – the Red Hood? Dini’s “Stage Magician” arc? Stand-up comedy? That guy is ENSCONCED in drama school).

“Lovely covered in dirt, yes.” Astute readers guessed that Pyg was the lawyer, and I guess that kills the silly “Hurt’s lawyer is an Asian stereotype” argument. I’m never entirely sure what he’s talking about, but the first thing I thought of was Truffles, or other fungi that a pig might be employed to sniff around for and dig up. Appropriate in the context of gravedigging, and it establishes the comparison between Pyg and Joker – Pyg is a wannabe, and I expect to see a confrontation between the two next issue, where Joker scares the fucking pants off of Lazlo Valentin.

The significance of the zoomed in “Triumph of Death” stands out as weird placed where it is, but later we see that the painting – the very same painting we saw in Mayhew’s study on the island – is being hung up over where the portrait of Thomas and Martha hangs.

“DAY 3” is interesting placement. This scene takes place at night, and “DAY 3” means that the moment when Hurt steps through the gate onto the Wayne Estate is MIDNIGHT. Truly is just became MIDNIGHT IN THE HOUSE OF HURT.

To me, this seems to confirm that Doctor Hurt was ON THE ISLAND calling the shots during the Club of Heroes arc. I’d wondered before … if he was broadcasting from a remote location or not … if that really was Mangrove Pierce strung up and carved. Seems that way.

The scenes of street violence and pandemonium are interesting. I couldn’t make heads or tails out of the second panel after the “QUARANTINE CONTINUES” headline and TV screens. We haven’t actually seen TV news report snippets since the Red Hood arc. And so wondering what the Hell was happening in that red-tinted image, I realized that it’s a truck smashing through a window-front at a dry cleaner or department store. People sent flying. Racks knocked over. For some reason, the clothes on racks, red tint and heavy duty truck reminded me instantly of Jason Todd (his red truck had a “dressing room” area – we’ve been seeing a LOT of dressing rooms lately, last issue in the Park Row Theater the most recent). It’s such a random pandemonium element, this frame, followed by yet another frame showing yet another smaller part character we haven’t seen in a while coping with the craziness (Lone-Eye Lincoln) that I can’t help but wonder at it. I’ve been waiting to be unsurprised by a Jason Todd appearance since Blackgate was attacked. Perhaps this is a lightning-quick, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it acknowledgment of his escape.

“I’m not a pawn”, says Damian. He thinks it’s chess as well … just like Hurt. Of course, Damian is a lot like Bruce. Poor Bruce, right now the person claiming to be his father, and the person claiming to be his son are both bastard demon types. Joker immediately makes a “shrimp” joke by switching “pawn” with “prawn”. He’s been calling Damian “baby” the whole while. But if Damian the straight man thinks it’s chess as well … then odds are good that Doctor Hurt, too, is going to be a straight man in some kind of gag. And immediately Joker cements that notion with his absurd logic for getting to “The Fall” joke involving the banana peel – equating himself to “Big Mike” (The Archangel Michael).

Ironically, this instantly draws my attention back to Jason Todd AGAIN. (The importance of that storyline shouldn’t be overlooked, and I’m currently postulating and forming arguments for a short essay on Morrison’s Jason Todd, the “Red State Robin”, Republican, Political, Right Wing and 2nd Amendment (vs. the “Blue” Dick Grayson).

Joker comparing himself to Michael and positioning the banana peel to “cast down” or make “fall” the guy claiming to be the “Devil” might be backward-logic, but it’s the same sort of “vengeful hand of god” notion Jason is employing in his black and white viewpoint. And Jason succeeds in “casting” Flamingo into a literal “Pit” of a rock quarry … so it’s interesting to see Joker … the namesake of the Red Hood … affecting similar fates on a devilish, demonic character.

Of course, where Jason casts down a demon with a passing resemblance to Joker (Flamingo), Joker will be casting down a demon with a passing resemblance to Jason or Batman (Hurt). After all, “Red Hood” was originally as basic a theatrical guise as the Thomas Wayne “Original Batman” guise – nothing more than a tuxedo with a cape and an added mask.

“Pawn to tree! Your move!”

“They have Doctor Ha-Ha” and “Doctor Johnny B. Damned”. All the top names.” – Pyg seems to be referencing Joker (Ha-Ha) and Hurt (Johnny B. Damned, a nice switch on Johnny B. GOOD. Johnny B. BADDE would’ve probably been too on the nose for Morrison.)

What stopped Gordon’s cravings? I’ll kindly refer you back to the fact that it was JOKER who seems to have left the antidote for Pyg’s plague, not Pyg himself. And I think Grayson knows it, even though he said something that seemed contradictory to Gordon back in # 13.

“The snail is the Devil!”

Pyg comes about this line in a way more upside down and backwards even than Joker’s logic, at least verbally, but a snail is of course a sort of a worm-like creature with two horns (“A worm gnawing at the foundations”) that wears a hollow, empty shell. Add the idea of “shell” or “husk” wearing with the Devil = Duality concept we’ve explored elsewhere and the notion that something is “wearing Thomas Wayne” like a shell resurfaces. This would make absolutely good sense if the Hyper-Adapter Darkseid released and Bruce battled as “Dragon” is the demon/devil living inside Doctor Hurt’s brain. He may not be alone in there. And if he is a man who has lived too long, it would be due to the Time/Space Demon Darkseid sent after Bruce Wayne’s past. And the Hyper-Adapter itself is semi-worm-like. Perhaps after Bruce Wayne wounded it in the Bat-Cave, it laid dormant there for 50 or 60 years until the young “Thomas Wayne” of the 1700’s explored the cave and was “entered” by the adaptive entity. We’ll find out.

“They’re all crawling from the box now!” cries Pyg, the second crazy bastard to refer to Damian as having come from a coffin/box and possibly reinforcing the thought that Damian, too, is result of this horrific process happening to Bruce Wayne.

“Piggie’s got work in town!”

It’s fascinating that they never named all the 99 Fiends, because we never get a clear enough sense of any of them following the 3rd Hierarchy hit-team back in Batman vs. Robin. This shirtless guy with the Rottweiler was around back then, but the guy with the pitch-fork is new. And they get even more insane as Damian begins maiming them (I think it’s fair to say that the Nine-Eyed Man from “Fiend With Nine Eyes” was one of them, as the title of that issue explicitly calls him a “FIEND” and it would make sense, him having been one of Hurt’s operatives).

The fiend who is a Catholic nun with two swords is absurd. The huge guy who finally knocks out Damian feels Blockbuster-esque.

“Don’t worry about it. We’ll improvise.”

Whose line is it, anyway? Doctor Hurt has a grand villainous speech to give (like the one Pyg attempted, poorly last issue – “We meet again, Batman …”). Once again, our former Willowood Asylum Doctor (and probably Patient) intends to give Dick Grayson brain damage. He shatters the horse head over the mantle (Representing Dick as a “Knight” – One in Joker’s hands at the moment, and let’s remember, Knights make lateral, unexpected moves across the board and there are two Knights to a side.)

“Our handsome young acrobat will become a human vegetable. Unable to move or feed or change himself.”

This immediately recalls to me Joker’s line to Damian last issue. “You sound just like … like HIM …” with a “HIM” who was never referenced. Damian was spouting off lines about how he was going to give Joker brain damage, and talking about how “chaos” is not being able to feed yourself or change your own diapers. We took it for granted that Joker meant Damian sounds just like Bruce Wayne, because Bruce is notable for these kinds of bad-ass speeches. But Bruce doesn’t often threaten brain damage … whereas Hurt threatens it every five minutes.

I’m of a mind now, that Joker was telling Damian that he sounds just like Doctor Hurt. Another example: during R.I.P., Hurt didn’t quite understand Joker is a true wild card. He called him “servant”, and was utterly appalled when (unsurprisingly for us, at least), Joker turned on him and started murdering Black Glove types. Damian similarly doesn’t believe Joker is not evil at all, and actually 100% non-affiliated with good or evil when he harms (or doesn’t) people. Damian doesn’t think Joker is uncontrollable and also underestimates him.

This fits well enough with my previously mentioned element of Batman’s “ancestor” (claiming to be his father) being a Devil, and his “son” (claiming to be – seems very likely) son being something of a Devil himself. I mean, it’s no coincidence that Grant named the kid DAMIAN and immediately drew comparisons to THE OMEN, a movie about a kid who is the spawn of Satan.

“Thomas and Martha. They took me in. They showed me kindness … Now I’ve taken his face. He’ll be remembered as a criminal, she a drug fiend. Their son mentally ill.”

What’s motivating Hurt’s complete character assassination (and yet, at the same time, jealous wishful vicarious living) of Thomas Wayne? Is it the name? Does he resent his name being stolen? Is it the reputation achieved through doing GOOD? Thomas Wayne is practically SAINTED in Gotham City. No, it seems to be something personal that actually happened. Plenty of talk on the boards, fair bet that Thomas and Martha, like the rest of the Waynes, knew about the “dirty little secret” of Bad Tommy the 200 year old uncle (Who may or may not be possessed by a Time Squid, or a Darkseid) and tried to actually get him help. Psychological help. Forged his name as being their son. Once again, I’m sure we’ll find out.

The offer to Damian. The deal with the Devil. The stuff we’ve had teased for a while.

Then the whistle – early. How could Dick know the Miagani whistle code? How could Damian? The Batarang with the note that says GOTCHA! Not much else in the box … who could know?

The ruse. “Devil” meet “Bat-God”. Grayson is okay? How the fuck is that possible? Okay, so he’s acting … he improvised … but how did he not just get shot in the back of the head with a .32 meant to fracture his skull in twelve hours?

An icy voice. Probably not Bruce Wayne’s. I’ve got a few composed charts illustrating why I think the man in the Batman costume is Joker. Did Alfred prepare the cave and mansion for Joker’s access to a Bat-Costume?

Moreover … how is that what’s in the Bat-Casket? It’s logical to assume either Bruce Wayne’s return is secretly happening off panel, or that Grayson/Damian/Alfred/Joker pulled some CRAZY “Sleight of Hand” – something that could easily be in a few of their repertoires. I don’t think Dick could have “switched it for a fake box” before, because as soon as he discovered it, it was stolen by the 99 Fiends.

I’ve got a theory or two, as I often do.

Joker, as “Oberon Sexton” was already poking around the Wayne Family Graveyard. His nickname was “Gravedigger”. He seems to know his way around quite well. I theorize that Joker switched out the Bat-Casket. In fact, if you think about it – he’s been out “globetrotting”, traveling the world, in much the same way Red Robin has. Joker is an unbelievable thinker, and pattern-maker, and can doubtless see patterns faster than anybody. It’s possible he traveled the world first and figured out the secrets Bruce Wayne left behind before anybody else … traversed the Hidden Room and the Miagani shrine. Figured it all out and had access to Bruce’s notes or who knows what. Even that he might’ve planted the Batarang in the now empty box so he could track Doctor Hurt.

Or it could be way fucking simpler. It could just be a quick bit of Batman-comic staple “Alfred pretends to be Batman” to distract the enemy. Or even simpler … “BRUCE IS BACK”. Fucked if I know which it’ll be, or even if it is Joker, if it’ll be as insanely complex as I’m making it out to be, right now, at this minute, off the top of my head.

It just makes sense to me that Joker of all people figured out the Return of Bruce Wayne secrets first. He’s well-versed in Demonology and Summoning (See: The Major Arcana), conspiracy theories (See: Well … he makes his own, you know!) and as we’ve seen as he pretends to be “Oberon Sexton”, the Master Criminal is ironically, when in a role-reversal situation, a Master Detective as well.