Scene … actually let’s start with the cover this time.
Question marks abound, as Robin stands side-to-side with Oberon Sexton, who most gallant readers have either theorized is Bruce Wayne (Many believing he is once more amnesiac) or else The Joker in some twisted homage to the Batman. The cover doesn’t do much to help, except emphasize his “Gravediggeriness”. However, a peek of pale skin (indeterminate whether it’s pasty white or just fair) peeks from his sleeve. His black mask could still suggest a cut smile underneath. The trenchcoat? I own a black rain-slicker a bit shorter than that, but I’ll say that raincoats with mantle-like flaps down the top are THE # 1 article of clothing for making a skinny person seem broader. But your guess is as good as mine.
Scene … wait now let’s do the TITLE.
“BONEYARD” … as in, a pile of Dominoes. All 99 Fiends piling onto this here Mexican Train.
Scene 1: El Penitente’s Drug Mansion in Mexico
Confirmation if anyone needed it. El Penitente is Doctor Hurt. Now who is Doctor Hurt? Well, we’re getting there. Morrison wisely gives us most of our information but has something so crucial and juicy in that last tilt of his hand that he won’t reveal the whole thing just yet. There’s more to it. He may be Thomas Wayne, but there’s more to it. Still, everything checks out.
Scourging. Repentance. Purely for the sake of decadence, as we’ll see in a moment, he’s so decadent he’s just fucking with this poor Padre.
Double-U as “Double You” – it’s the Japanese who use their form of “W” (Daburu) as an ideogram for “double”. Just off the top of my head, there hasn’t been much Japanese folklore incorporated into R.I.P. or Reborn, but there was Bruce Wayne reclaiming the mantle by way of the Bat Tengu Demon back in KnightsEnd. Just a stray thought.
His talk about “the Dark Twin” is, I think, a nice red herring – still claiming things that are vague enough to match up with fan theories. This time, the long-held claim that maybe, just maybe, he’s Thomas Wayne, Jr. – Bruce’s “long lost brother” who in Crime Syndicate Earth is actually Owl-Man. Many a fan has speculated that particular Thomas was Hurt. In this case I think it’s more metaphorical – or even prophetic. Due to crazy time hijinx, historical destiny and weird deals with demons and soul-swapping, these two are “dark mirrors of one another”. One the “Bat” and the other the slave of the Bat Demon. Reclaim what was always rightfully mine indicates as an outcast/black sheep of the Wayne Family, he was cast out for his Devil Worship, ostracized and shunned. Cut out of the will. Probably Darius Wayne was his brother or his brother’s son (his nephew) and Darius got everything, including the land, whereupon he began construction of Wayne Manor, which was later completed by Civil War era Joshua & Solomon.
Sure enough, this is a Batman comic. Hurt is hiding out as the El Penitente Cartel, and therefore, the D.E.A. is destroying the place. But Hurt doesn’t care. He has no soul, he just walks to the usual mode of transportation, a chopper, and leaves. Take him home, to Gotham. One way or another, he’s from Gotham.
Notice when he says “The Mask of the Penitent One” has served its purpose, his face is revealed to some extent in a way it hasn’t been before. His Doctor Hurt haircut swept back, shown as being a bit more silver/white. If it’s not just coloring choice, if his hair is actually white, he’s got to be far older than a potential “Brother”. As a 250 year old possibly Devil possessed or soulless immortal bastard, white hair would be the standard.
Scene 2: Dick Grayson in the Cult Chamber
Fresh paint … “within a year, maybe”. Oh hey! Batman R.I.P. was a year ago! And Dick Grayson, ever the boy wonder, follows the old clichés and stands on the Bat Seal, and a passageway opens with a rail tunnel, indicating that however long ago the Corpse Road was built … somebody was still using it for something by the time railroads came along (Joshua & Solomon – Especially considering one of them might very well be Bruce). Oh, also … YET ANOTHER mention of an “Underground Railroad”. First the actual Underground Railroad that was hidden in the Bat-Cave. Then the further mention last issue. Plus the Subways used by the British villains. Add to that the NYC subways from 7 Soldiers and the Gotham subways that Cave Carson found Bruce’s marks in. Morrison is really crazy about underground railways, now.
Scene 3: Oberon & Damian in the Graveyard with the Shovel
Belial Twins speak as one. Duke Vepar. We covered them last issue. Naberius, dog of Hell. Calls himself a dog, supposedly appears as a three-headed one. Also as a Crow, and hey, he’s got a pet Crow. That explains the jacket with the feathers, too. Couldn’t place that one last issue. Apparently Naberius isn’t shovel-proof. Damian beating down Zepar is appropriate, since the guy is supposedly a pederast. Oddly enough … here they call him Duke Vepar, but last issue he was Duke Zepar. I wonder if Morrison is combining the two on purpose.
But of course, in our “Batman vs. Robin” angle, Damian’s new spine isn’t the miracle cure he wanted it to be. It’s remote controllable, and Talia is testing him out. World’s worst mother. And in comes the character everyone was curious about, the “old enemy” of Dick Grayson. I theorized Morrison would pick a lesser known like Shrike, but in this case, Talia’s puns prove to be not subtle at all. Blatant, snarky teasing of Slade’s codename.
Scene 4: Talia’s HQ
A bit of Talia & Slade’s history: Talia and Slade are both MASTER ranking members of the Secret Society of Super-Villains. Specifically, the Modern incarnation formed by Alexander Luthor prior to Infinite Crisis. These two were at the tippy-top. They came out of Infinite Crisis relatively unscathed, although Batman and Nightwing did beat the crap out of Slade. ONE YEAR LATER, he made a point of screwing with Batgirl Cassandra Cain – a move sure to keep him in Talia’s good graces, since she HATES Cain. During Final Crisis, Deathstroke and Talia were once more sitting at the head of the table in Libra’s new Society and they avoided enslavement by Darkseid. However, Slade didn’t fare so well. In the midst of the Submission month, Geo-Force actually cut Slade’s throat and it hasn’t healed as well as he’d like. Meanwhile, he’s about to launch his own mercenary super-villain team. They’ll probably remain loosely affiliated with Talia, although I doubt they’ll be an unofficial branch of the League of Assassins any time soon. Talia al Ghul seems to be offering Slade a favor in return for one he might’ve paid.
Scene 5: Back in the Graveyard
Alfred playing “Command Unit” in the flying Batmobile is neat. Sexton beats down Belial with his shovel, and what hurts one seems to Tomax & Xamot-like hurt the other, although it’s not as precise as that. Dick’s response to Sexton being on the premises? “Sexton? Ha.” … Recall last issue when Dick said there was something familiar about Oberon Sexton. He seems to have some idea who it might be, expects this all to go very smoothly.
Scene 6: The Corpse Road
This is the place where Joshua Wayne was standing in his painting. (And here I thought it was the library). A separate cave. Dick questions Bruce not knowing about it, and Morrison once again brings up a fan complaint the very next issue, covering all the bases – just all in good time – as Dick asks Alfred about the repairs to the mansion after Cataclysm. Alfred informs him that it was only parts of the Cave and West Wing that were messed up.
And therein Dick finds a stalactite that’s been carved into the likeness of Barbatos, the Devil-Bat-Demon that the Miagani Tribe worships. Possibly the Giant Bat that Batman skins back in 10,000 B.C. and wears like a Batman costume. In fact, it would be hilarious of Bruce killed Barbatos back then, launching this whole Demonic feud.
Half-Human, Half-Bat. We know Barbatos is the Miagani Bat-Demon, but this is the first time I’ve heard “Human & Bat”. That kind of points to the “bat shadow” that attacked and stopped Barbatos from possessing the Wayne girl in the flashbacks in Dark Knight, Dark City. But it was Bruce that Barbatos was calling the “Bat-Man”.
There’s apparently some kind of energy source within the Barbatos shrine. Of course, the next time we see Dick, he emerges from the Wayne Crypt saying “HE FOUND IT! HE FOUND …” and he gets attacked. But clearly next issue we’ll find exactly what he found. Clues from Bruce Wayne himself. The secret of the Barbatos shrine. The Garden of Death. The mysterious energy source.
Scene 7: Meanwhile, back in the Graveyard again …
I questioned the actual level of demonic possession these patsy assholes might have, but Naberius seems to actually sense that Barbatos is waking up. One has to admit, that Oberon’s style of choking out Naberius and slamming him against a headstone to interrogate him is very much in Bruce Wayne’s style.
Alfred mentions Alan Wayne’s crypt, which is the centerpiece in the Garden of Death. So that’s the significance of the Alan Wayne stone last issue. More than just a nod to either Alan Moore or Alan Grant, it’s the stone from the era where the design of the Garden of Death began. Alan Wayne MAY just be the first Wayne who moved from Scotland/England to America. Thomas could be his son or brother, as could Darius.
Sexton recognizes all the demonic names from Demonology (Goetia, Lesser Key of Solomon, and all the other handy stuff I references last time around). He’s thorough. Knows a lot. It’s only natural that Damian suspects he might be Bruce Wayne, and he recognizes the fake accent, too. Sexton find a Domino on the assassin. Or does he? He might be LEAVING a Domino. That doesn’t stop Damian from asking him if he’s Bruce Wayne.
Damian’s piecing together clues, too. Sexton is not who he says he is. These hired hands have nothing to do with the Domino Killer. This guy is looking for something special, but he doesn’t know all the facts.
And naturally, Deathstroke takes over Damian’s body, cracks Sexton with a shovel (Knocking his red-tinted shades off, so we’ll see his eyes if we see his face. Then Dick exits the crypt with the new information and looking like shit – like he’s just been beat up by a demon, and he’s holding the very same coffer casket with the Bat logo on it that Joshua Wayne was holding in the painting (Bruce Wayne’s journal?). And Damian attacks him and sets “Batman vs. Robin” into full swing, although it’s obviously more Deathstroke vs. Batman.
And worst of all, the “99 Fiends” are there. 99 attackers ready to kill. Oberon barely recovered and a total mystery. Slade ready to kill Grayson. Tension levels at 1,000,000 and rising.
The teaser indicates next month we’ll get more Slade/Damian vs. Dick, getting desperate. We’ll get the true identity of Oberon Sexton revealed fully. We’ll learn the secret of the Dominoes (next issue looks like it’ll be called MEXICAN TRAIN and will finally explain that) and Hurt will arrive and give all the dirty decadent details about his tenure as El Penitente.
Can’t wait, Bat-Fans, because unfortunately, being the middle chapter of a 3-parter, Morrison did what he always did, and this issue really didn’t have that much to dissect. It moved the action along nice, set everything up beautifully for the third act, brought in Slade for the quick cash money surprise, and left us hanging with even more questions. And we're looking at a full-scale collision between Black Glove/Penitente interests and League of Assassins/Society interests.
On the art side of things, Andy Clarke loosened up and continued his A-Game on the architecture. Some of the faces are still a little weird, but none as bad as last issue. Slade looks a little youthful, though. And Talia still looks a little odd. But overall, less weird moments than last time out.