Wednesday, February 24, 2010


And so we come to it. The final chapter in the very much ... well ... the big "team-up", that's treated like a big "team-up" by a slightly wryly self-aware Dick Grayson.

Four heroes. A cooped up Robin back home. A monster Bruce Wayne clone Black Knight. This one plays it straight. It follows standard Morrison storytelling logic - starting the story with mysteries in both the plot and the format/execution, and giving all the explanations at the end.

Coalmine I ...
Seen in previews, but we get an instance of Dick Grayson admitting to administering the overdose that killed Batwoman (the dying Batwoman, whose injuries would have killed her anyway). Still, as sticklers will point out ... "ZOMG, Batman killed someone!". For the record, this is Dick Grayson, who has killed before (Joker, but he resuscitated him) and we've never once heard his thoughts on mercy killings/euthanasia. Apparently he's for it, at least when pushy red-headed Bat-females tell him what to do.

Nice bit of chat between Batman and his mate, the Knight, talking about back when they were Robin and Squire, respectively. Cyril was terrified of Dick - Dick, the Boy Wonder ... not for nothing, but looking back at stories like Dark Victory, and Frank Miller's out-of-continuity All-Star Batman and Robin? Yeah ... I can see it. That kid was a little firecracker. A ten/eleven year old who could hold his own against Batman, and better still ... push Batman a bit. "This rough and raucous little Demon Boy, always somersaulting around and cracking weird jokes in some barely decipherable accent." Cyril says. The accent has got to be a bit of Dick's early circus slang, mixed with a bit of his being a U.S. Northeasterner, where accents are usually different from neighborhood to neighborhood, but they're always talking at light-speed. It could be a new experience for a cultured, refined, snobby aristocratic boy from England. There's a nice bit of friendly rivalry between these two.

"Earl of Chav", Beryl remarks they've taken to calling Knight. Chav is a slang term in England for somebody working class who goes out of their way to wear a tasteless outfit to stand out in a crowd. We have them here in the States too, but we call them "Long Islanders". They're typically Italian, but by no means limited to just the "Guidos" you see on MTV. In fact, it's quite a contagious, infection of poor taste, zero fashion sense and douche attitudes. But I digress!

Whatever your thoughts on Morrison's storyline, I really like HOW he depicted a clone. It has the knowledge and know-how built-in, but just can't quite live up to the potential. Like Dick said, "like a good song in the hands of a really bad singer". No actual life experience. No muscle memory.

Wayne Tower I ...
The Black Knight finally speaks more than just grunts ... and Morrison basically writes the book here - "Dumb Monsters for Dummies". Kudos to Cam Stewart, who, if you follow through the whole issue, you see chips away at Black Knight's skin in every panel, we watch the guy deteriorate.

Alfred, in a cool move locks Black Knight's cape in the elevator, going up, and Damian chastises Dick Grayson's bad move and turns an IR computer mouse into a projectile weapon at the same time. From a wheelchair and neck-brace. How can you not like the kid? (Also ... issue title "BROKEN" and Damian pure shades of "Post-Knightfall" Bruce - Nice.)

Damian proceeds to use his wheelchair as a weapon, and we get the first of the potential bombshells of this issue, hinted when Batman tastes his own "blud" and refers to it as "tainted, sour blud." Meanwhile, Damian escapes down to the Bat-Bunker garage where we see Dick's flying Batmobile ... Damian's "Akira" bike ... Bruce's last Batmobile ... and the Bat-Quad from the first arc.

We get a glimpse of Black Knight's memories as he likens his mental capacity to shattering glass. His memories are a mash-up of Bruce's worst tormenting inner thoughts, and also the memory of being within the clone tank and watching the other clones die.

But it's still a clone of Bruce Wayne, with some of his memories, and god damn if some of his talk doesn't reference that. "Sumthing siriously wrung with mi brane. I can smell it, old chum, ruh-rotting btween mi ears." He's still got some of that detective know-how. He realizes he's brain-damaged. But then, he says some startling things about Damian, which I'll translate into "Not Brain-Damaged" - just remember that memories of Damian came in the second issue of Last Rites, where Batman started accelerating his "negative memories" to fuck up the clones. Presumably, this means Damian Wayne was considered by Bruce Wayne to be a negative memory.

"I'm your father, Damian. Those tests proved what I feared most of all. You are here to replace me. They sent you to taint the bloodline, for all time. Damian, Demon's Head. In the end it was you. You were my biggest mistake."

Well now, Bruce-Clone. And yes, you're thoughts were brought on by the clashing and smashing of Bruce's worst memories ... but if there's a chance that the real Bruce Wayne felt that way? That's why he kept the truth about Damian so close to the chest? Really now, wouldn't the unprotected sex with Talia be the biggest mistake?

Of course Damian is meant to be some kind of usurper. Ra's al Ghul knew about him, and Ra's was dead. He was enhanced genetically. Apparently it didn't adhere 100% to Son of the Demon and he wasn't put up for adoption. But what makes the clone artificial and Damian natural? What separates them? (Talia's DNA, technically, but still - both were grown in vats.)

At any rate ... a giant leap towards Batman # 666. Damian the usurper ... who'll "rebel".

Coalmine II ...
Batwoman takes a dip in the Lazarus Pit that isn't really a Lazarus Pit, it's really spill from King Arthur's fountain of healing. Knight remarks that the Mine had four exits - one for each of the elements, which is just some old druidic standard practice - nothing especially relevant. Earth, Wind, Fire, Water. At any rate, stuff the Crime Bible types would find interesting.

Batwoman LIVES! And all she has to say about the experience? "That was intense". Jesus, Grant. And the followup for the curious Knight, "It was like a rollercoaster in the dark." And then, true to team-up standards, Colonel Jacob Kane returns, he tracked them down finally - missed all the freaky-deaky shit, and Knight and Squire are jealous that Batwoman has access to "military gear" and mention calling some of "ol' Dad's" friends in the Ministry of Defense.

Wayne Tower II
Singed, burning, degrading Bat-Clone picks up Damian and carries him to the roof of Wayne Tower to throw him off. Says a few more scary "Could be Bruce Wayne thoughts" thoughts.

"Mission comes first, Alfred. Out of my way. 'And I said: What does it take to stop the gunshots?' and the City's big black voice replied: 'The sacrifice of a son'."

(Likelihood this line will come back into play when Bruce gets back? COUNT ON IT.)

So Black Knight throws Damian off the roof, only to be caught mid-swing by Dick with a quippy "With me, it's all in the timing". Classic Dick Grayson. How'd they get back so quick? Colonel Kane has access, that's how. Orbital flight. Cross the Atlantic in half an hour. Dick clearly thinks it was cool ... and goes on to further claim "... and I'm in the middle of a serious team-up." This is the stuff Dick lives for.

Batwoman drops in and starts beating on Black Knight and we get another funny bit of dialogue. "Augghh! Kathy! How could she do this to me?" A nice bit of Bruce Wayne's memories of earlier in "his" career, around Year Five, when Batwoman joined the fun for a year or so.

(Strange coincidental thought process alert: Did you know Kathy Kane's exploits as Batwoman would've been right around the same time our modern "Kate Kane" was attending West Point?)

So Batman and Batwoman take down the Black Knight. With a long fight, and then a "double punch". And after claiming "I'm what you will be." he dies. And Damian immediately goes into "Who are you people and what are you doing here?" mode, keeping his and Alfred's cover and attempting to throw Batwoman off of suspicions that Bruce Wayne's penthouse might have anything to do with Batman.

So as he sends Batwoman on her way, our ever-optimistic Master Grayson hits on her. Smooth move, Grayson. Morrison having some of the first "fun" with the concept of a "millionaire playboy" hitting on Batwoman and getting nowhere. But also, a bit of continuation of Dick & Kate's working relationship, which began back in 52 with a nice Christmas moment and was referenced last issue.

Epilogue ...
Back in England, Knight and Squire (with help from Batwoman's dad and his military hardware) have tracked down Old King Coal's lair and beat up all his chimney sweep henchmen. They knock him out with the patented Batman and Robin double-punch, then set him up in a cell across from his mortal enemy, Pearly King Charlie English. Shades of Long Halloween! Julian Day (Calendar Man) and Alberto Falcone (Holiday). In Gotham it was the freaks vs. the old-school, and in London it's old-school street vs. crime bible north.

Epilogue II ...
Dick talks to Alfred and Damian about what he attempted to do, and firmly assuages everybody's concerns that he was acting out of character. This was BATMAN he was trying to bring back. Damian is understandably pissed that Grayson doesn't plan as well as Bruce. Alfred directly references The Resurrection of Ra's al Ghul where Nightwing told Tim that the Lazarus Pits shouldn't be used.

Dick takes his cloak off and once more looks at Batman's cowl that he retrieved after R.I.P. - the cowl that drew him in after Final Crisis more and more as Nightwing ended and the battle for the cowl began, and admits that it looks like Tim Drake was right all along. Crow will be eaten. The hunt for Bruce Wayne begins.

This was possibly the most substantial, forward-moving, not-as-many symbols or themes chapter Morrison has written in a while. Threads were tied up. Promises have been made for the next arc. The flow was a little more standard.

I suspect in Batman vs. Robin, Dick and Damian will attempt to find clues about Bruce Wayne within Wayne Manor itself, and El Penitente (Hurt), Gravedigger, and Talia will all make moves.

But for now ... we're left with an issue that actually ties up more threads than it leaves. Something satisfying. I'm as curious about what happens next as ever, I'd love to see more of the British characters, learn about Old King Coal's wife and if she's ever going to be shown or if she's an Unseen Character ... but frankly, the Batman # 666 and Batman & Son loose threads are more pressing, and have waited a long time to be caught up on.

Not that much to analyze ... I still squeezed quite a bit of thought out of it.

Thursday, February 11, 2010


Well, here we go again. This issue is a little lighter on the "Who's who of British street weirdness" and a little more relevant to things like ... Final Crisis ... Blackest Night ... that sort of stuff. And ultimately, the point of the issue is like the title says: Batman beating up Batman.

But man, oh man, there's some stuff I didn't see coming.

London ... earlier (pre-last issue):
I'll just point out here that every time I see fans whine about something Morrison left out or breezed past, they go crazy about it in forums. But then next issue, inevitably, he deals with it. And everybody always forgets this about him.

Fans griped that Batwoman "came out of nowhere" last issue. I thought she was telegraphed. Hints about Coal's crew being fanatics. Slowly we realize that means they're Crime Bible thumpers. Somebody was carried in a box into the Lazarus Mine. Wham, here's Batwoman in a pine coffin. But for anybody who that didn't track well with - here's your explanation. She was tracking Coal's people because she's a Crime Bible expert. Coal's henchmen are either Scooby Doo "G-G-G-Ghost Miners" or ninja Chimney Sweeps with knockout gas soot brooms.

Crime Bible news: Mannheim (I believe is dead as of 52) is considered to be a Martyr."Hail the Rock and the Rage" is standard prayers for these guys - not just the "Order of the Stone". Which is good, because The Spectre killed every single member of the Order of the Stone during Final Crisis' "Hell Month". (Except Vandal Savage, last seen hanging with Ra's al Ghul, and soon to be seen by Bruce Wayne as a young neanderthal). In case anyone wondered ... it's pretty clear that Morrison loves what Greg Rucka has been doing.

So anyway ... we see Eddie English get loaded onto the Burning Black Heart train with TNT on his chest. And Batwoman is kidnapped. Curiosity - is English his actual last name? Is Pearly King's last name English as well? Anyway ... King Coal is a Crime Bible guy, but his "prayers" echo The Devil (Doctor Hurt) who assault Bruce Wayne, Bruce's acknowledgment that upon meditating he felt a "Hole in the center of existence" and the fact that some of that came from Darkseid. The intersection of Bruce's meditations and battles with his personal Devil, the Crime Bible which worships Judeo-Christian Evil but has plenty of Jack Kirby New God chapters and speaks of the "Apokolips" and Darkseid vs. Batman in Final Crisis? I haven't put my finger on the keystone to the whole set of how it connects yet, but some ideas are forming that hopefully get easier to clarify soon. Anyway ... this ends with a nice, quick Jacob Kane cameo. Colonel Kane (Dad) is Batwoman's "behind-the-scenes" man. Apparently by the time this issue happens, they've gotten over their drama about Alice. By the way, if you aren't reading Rucka & J.H. Williams/Jock Batwoman? What the hell are you thinking? It's literally just as good as what Morrison is doing ... go ... get it. I'll wait.

Remble Colliery, English countryside (Near Newcastle):
Batwoman kind of sums up one of my thoughts - the Crime Bible "worships Gods of Evil". I suppose that means they're an "all-inclusive religions". They worship Satan, they worship Lucifer, they worship Pluto/Hades, they worship the New Gods of Apokolips, they worship all evil gods. Therefore ... the "connection" between those things might just well be that these cult crime villains are the ones making connections via prophecies and other things. In fact, one would theorize that the Third Batman from "Batman in Bethlehem" (#666) and the "new Gotham villains" depicted there are carrying out the evolution of the Crime Bible, and that by the time Damian grows up, the Crime Bible is HUGE in the DCU.

So ... insane Lazarus Bruce Wayne clone is the "Black Messiah" of the Crime Bible? I wonder how long he'll stick around for ... but some fans have theorized that Darkseid is in there. Dick says "there's no God of Evil in there, just Batman". And Darkseid says "he has use for a dead clone body of Bruce Wayne". Could this be Darkseid's last ditch attempt? After all ... he mentioned that he chose Dan Turpin because Batman would have been too hard to control. This feels sort of like "post-Return of the Jedi" when the Emperor didn't actually die, he hurled his soul into a clone body.

Final Crisis news: This flashback clearly takes place AFTER Batman has escaped but BEFORE Superman picks up the body. It's obviously BEFORE Batman shows himself, shoots Darkseid and gets Omega Sanctioned, because Darkseid mentioned "I wondered when you'd show yourself", meaning Bruce has been sneaking around the Bludhaven bunker. Plus, here Darkseid isn't bleeding or dying.

The fight. Man, much of this issue is the brawl. Batman (Dick), Knight, Squire and Batwoman can't even take on a full-powered, Lazarus-bathed super-soldier clone of Bruce Wayne. Four TOP level ass-kickers like that can't handle this guy. I'm not saying Bruce wouldn't win against the four of them (with or without Lazarus Pit) but this clone (which needs a name) is a wrecking machine. Even Dick's cool "Electric Bat-Knucks" didn't help much. Meanwhile, Cameron Stewart draws a really good looking Kung-Fu battle.

Outside ...
More of Old King Coal. Even his black car has a burning coal chunk logo. Others have pointed out the "Black vs. White" theme of the English gangsters. Black Newcastle vs. White London. Black Coal vs. White Pearl. Working class (Chimney Sweeps, too) vs. Street Royalty. OF COURSE King Coal is smoking a cigar. The guy has to be smoking. Burning. Smoldering.

Batwoman tazes Clone-Bat in the FACE! And it doesn't work! That Fountain of Youth crap must be good stuff. Meanwhile ... the mine has been caved in. The "Caved in mine" is an absolutely classic Pulp Fiction trope. And Clone-Bat escapes ... because he apparently has enough Bruce Wayne escape artist skill to be the one who gets away.

Gotham City (Wayne Foundation Bat-Bunker):
Alfred's home. A nice bit of "Comic book time" because he was on some high-tech exotic location last issue during the Lazarus Pit events, and now he's already back in Gotham.

Back at the Coalmine ...
Bat-Clone (What the HELL are we going to call him? Dark Messiah? Bat-Beast?) takes one of Alan Moore and Brian Bolland's Gyro-Bats for a spin back to London. What's his motivation other than being an insane Bruce Wayne clone? But anyway, Batwoman is severely fucked up. Broken legs. Dying. WHAT?! Rucka gave the okay for this?! (Yes, yes ... fear not, Batwoman fans ... there is a Lazarus Pit five feet away and a Prophecy involved. She'll be fine next issue.)

Back in London ...
We get another cameo from John Cleese inspired "Beefeater" as Bat-Beast steals the Bat-Plane that Dick left in London ... because he looks like Batman, sounds like Batman, and knows what Batman knows.

Back in Gotham ...
More Damian. He's got a new spine, he's a 10 year old hellion so being wheelchair confined doesn't seem like much fun. And this time instead of Batwoman, it's Alfred's turn to shut up internet fans who complained that Dick Grayson is acting out of character, as Morrison sums it up thusly for those who literally said there was no proof other than our (us being readers who pay attention) "interpretation of what Dick is thinking". And thus: "I fear Master Richard has taken the taunts of the Red Hood to heart and done something rather rash." I love how often I'm proven right (Sorry, had to gloat here ... I'm done.)

Look ... Dick Grayson is not Bruce Wayne. Dick has feelings. Jason Todd was his successor, a little bit of a trainee, and Jason didn't last long. But they were both Robin. When Jason returned? After he tried to torment Bruce a bit, he moved on to Dick. Clearly there was a grudge. But CLEARLY Dick actually cares what Jason thinks and says. And now ... now they're rivals. Jason is the closest thing Dick has to an arch-nemesis. The ex-Robins. The good son vs. the bad son. (Granted, I think they're as much "little brothers" to Bruce as they are "sons" but that's a WHOLE other argument, not that relevant here. I've said it before ... Bruce was their surrogate, and was whatever they needed him to be. Brother. Father figure.)

Plus Jason's statement had the added insult to injury of the fact that Jason himself was resurrected via Lazarus Pit. And he's ... not really much less insane than he was before. Dick talked Tim out of using the Lazarus Pit on his lost ones. But throw a Jason into the mix? Feelings get mixed.

Lastly ... Alfred called Jason "Red Hood". Not Master Jason. Not Mister Todd. RED HOOD. That right there is tacit acknowledgment that Jason is no longer part of the Bat-Family. He WAS the Black Sheep. Now he's not welcome. He's a villain. He might not be a Gotham Rogue, but he's a villain. Perhaps the most tragic villain of all.

Coalmine ...
A nice moment of "full circle" appreciation. Dick first met Kate Kane as Batwoman during 52 - the Christmas issue. He gave her a Batarang as a Christmas present, because he's Dick Grayson - "Nice guy extraordinaire, lover of red-heads, welcome aboard." So now she finally realizes (She's not officially Bat-Family) Oh ... you're that guy who gave me the Batarang. Nightwing became Batman, that's who it is. It's a nice moment. He came to her rescue with Montoya as well.

Then she DIES. What the fuck?!

But like I said ... there's a Pit nearby ... a Prophecy in the air ... she'll be fine.

But then there's this: Knight and Squire dig through and find Batman. Quote Dick Grayson: "She's dead. Batwoman died in my arms." Which TOTALLY hearkens back to the Silver Age story where Kathy Kane died in Bruce Wayne's arms. I don't think she really died in that story ... it was a hallucination or something brought on by aliens. I think it was featured in The Black Casebook collection, actually, and that's where I read it.

King Coal calls his "old lady" or whatever (Nothing actually said they were a couple). I'm still trying to figure who she might be. My guesses are: Whisper A'Daire. (Because she's Crime Bible and Abbot is a supporting character in Rucka's Batwoman stuff, but his former Cobra partner Whisper is missing) or possibly Talia. Talia was part of Libra's high command in Final Crisis. Libra preached out of the Crime Bible as Darkseid's prophet. It's POSSIBLE Talia converted to Crime Bible religion during Final Crisis. She did seem to be "planning something" last issue. It's hard to say, though. Morrison has finally gotten around to picking up on threads from Final Crisis but Talia has been a recurring character in his run with her own agendas and plots. Whether they connect are just speculation.

Back in Gotham ...
Last, but not least ... I didn't expect Bat-Beast to fly back to Wayne Tower in Gotham, attack Alfred and see Damian (and possibly throw the kid wheelchair and all off the top of the building next issue). Can not fucking wait to see where this goes from here ...

Batwoman has got to be revived to counter the prophecy. Dick Grayson has had a rude awakening and will have an even ruder one once they kill this Bat-Beast clone and he realizes ... wait a fucking second ... if the Blackest Night body we buried isn't Bruce, where the fuck is Bruce? Tim Drake was fucking right?! Knight and Squire ... well, they're along for the ride, aren't they? Good friends to Batman (Bruce or Dick). Awful nice of them to help out with this case.

Damian vs. a clone of his father? How the hell is that going to go? Damian was included in some of the newer, less fun memories that Bruce used to destroy the clone minds (basically the whole second issue of Last Rites). How's that going to work?

And, going way further (and less likely, but hey ...) if Darkseid is somehow in there, or affecting the Bat-Beast/Dark Messiah clone ... and Damian is the grandson of "The Demon" ... has some sort of connection to The Devil (As seen in Batman # 666) and is the closest living thing to Bruce Wayne on the Earth right now? Will Dark Messiah/Darkseid actually give us a hint about the nature of Doctor Hurt A.K.A. The Devil? (Coming soon in the very next story arc.)

I doubt Morrison will highlight much of that. He likes to keep things close to the vest and seed out the hints and tidbits over time. But I do think there's a very, very high chance that we get A HINT about Doctor Hurt next issue.