Tuesday, May 25, 2010


Superman Beyond 3D fans rejoice … while Morrison has strayed from his ultra-fantastic artistic looks into the concepts of four dimensions, time travel, multiverses and sources for a while since Final Crisis (and a nod or two in Batman R.I.P.), it’s back. And very high-concept. The whole issue does, in retrospect, feel like Howard’s work on Solomon Kane or Conan. Frontloaded with very little information, but then highly narrative at the end to explain everything that’s happened.

Scene 1:
Right where we left off last issue, we have a woman, a dead man, a hideous kraken, and Bruce Wayne with the sword of the fallen Pilgrim witch-hunter. Like last issue, all Bruce has is his pants, boots, and utility belt. But he’s Bruce fucking Wayne. Saving damsels is nothing new to him. So the Beast is fought off. Sharp-eyed readers suspect this woman to be a witch, and that this is either something SHE SUMMONED (akin to how Anthro must have somehow “summoned” Bruce) or something from the Timestream that rode along with him. Nice guesses, since apparently both are correct. She is a witch, and it is a time-squid. More on that later.

Scene 2:
Bruce wakes up. The woman has an animal familiar – a weasel (The weasel, specifically, has a name rooted in “thieving”, “sneaking”, and similar negative words. Historically familiars were suspected as “The Devil Himself”, or at least his servants, who reported back to him and were links between these evil witches and him … so do we consider the weasel, Peck, to be Hurt/Barbatos? It IS wearing a Domino Mask!) … archaic pagan symbols – the cave drawings of Superman and Wonder Woman’s symbol that Bruce drew himself … two days ago … 10,000 years ago. The woman … Annie … is clearly in tune with the Universe somehow. In addition to the whole “summoning Bruce” aspect, she can feel that he’s been touched by a Dark God somehow.

Scene 3:
Meanwhile, in the future … Grant has a The Adventures of Superman # 476 reunion for us. (AOS#476 featured the debut of the Linear Men, and featured Superman, Rip Hunter, Booster Gold, the mysterious Waverider killed by Skeets (Mr. Mind) in 52). In the entirely appropriate for printed comics “Vanishing Point”, the time hunters have gone to the end of time, since that’s where the most advanced records of the timeline and history will be kept, hoping to be able to track Bruce from there. This is classic Morrison high-minded stuff … anti-entropy aegis … cosmic heat death … the big clue should be Superman: “We tracked Omega Radiation here.” But more on that later … as we get to see a map of TIME ITSELF. And it’s pretty fucking inspired. Row after row of strings like a harp, parallel to each other (the timelines of parallel universes), each resonating at a different frequency – a different vibration (again … harp). This is the instrument that made the music that Superman heard back in Superman Beyond 3D. Apparently Grant caught that special about the nature of SOUND and our perception of it on PBS a few months back, same as I did. Great Superman moment of the issue: “Locate that Omega trail. He’s here somewhere. A needle in a cosmic haystack.” This is Final Crisis level coolness. Meanwhile … Rip Hunter talks about a recent adventure (Somehow I’m pretty sure he means 52 and the battle against Mister Mind as the Multiverse reformed – God, I wonder what the Big DC Crises look like on this TIMESTREAM map …) and we get a glimpse of where that monstrous Time-Squid came from. It comes from 4D. But it’s sufficiently mysterious. “Things live out there, I’m sure … things with scale and depth and dimensions we can only begin to imagine,” says Rip Hunter.

Scene 4:
No telling how long Bruce has been here now, thinking he’s this Mordecai, this witch-hunter from Boston. I can’t imagine he’s been around long. A week feels right. Maybe two. The bat pinned to the church door as a fictitious “bad omen” representing the Devil is telling. Bats. Devils. Demons. Probably no need to hammer home that point anymore. Just read David Uzumeri’s article about Bruce possibly being the inspiration for the pop-culture Devil.

Everywhere Bruce goes, children follow him in awe. And it’s nice to see even amidst probably the most fucked up abstract freakout scenario of his life, he’s a detective, neither cowardly nor superstitious. Including his logical jest – “They say Satan is hairy and hell is exceedingly warm” … no, it doesn’t make much fucking sense, does it? Especially not when we look at our imagery. The Bat-Cave is our Underworld, and it’s a real cave – Cold and wet, rather than hot and dry. This chick doesn’t stand a chance against the Dark Knight Detective.

Goodwife Tyler. Tyler was an English surname belonging to one who was an inn-keeper, or even an actual tile-maker. But it’s got to be something that this is the same name as Hourman, Rex Tyler and Rick Tyler of “PRESENT”, and Matthew Tyler the android Hourman, and one of the members of the Linear Men who is conspicuously missing from Superman and Hal’s group right now. The Goodwife’s husband’s name was sure as hell Matthew. Hourman was created in the 853rd Century as an “Intelligent Machine Colony” not unlike the “Archivist” at Vanishing Point. Both are also linked in origin to Metron, who commissioned the construction of Hourman, and who was there, at Command-D in Bludhaven with Bruce Wayne, trapped in the body of the paraplegic fellow with the Rubix Cube. Hell, it also seems like Nix Uotan, the new “Ultimate” Monitor, was commissioned by Metron. So first Bruce visits Anthro, who Metron gave fire. Then Bruce visits Puritan days where there’s a link to Metron’s Hourman android. Metron, Metron, Metron, and Metron. An insurance policy against Darkseid’s evil intentions? Seems possible.

I will say, when I saw that ball of yarn all I could think was “Catwoman”.

Anabaptists were particularly radical Puritanical offshoots. The Flemish painter, Martin Van Derm is of the Flemish (Dutch). We know Gotham was founded in large part by the Dutch. As for the name Van Derm … in addition to this guy, who paints the Mordecai Wayne painting … we know a hundred years later, his descendant, another Van Derm, is commissioned to design and begin construction of Wayne Manor. And sure as shit, here we see Nathaniel Wayne (The Willem Dafoe looking miserable bastard) and a beginning of a relationship between “Waynes” and “Van Derms”. Is this Nathaniel Wayne the very same ancestor of Bruce’s who was referred to in Batman: The Scottish Connection? (There it was implied that the Wayne who first moved from Scotland to the United States was quite an asshole.)

Malleus is a reference to the Malleus Maleficarum; the Hammer of Witches. A book written by Heinrich Kramer for the Catholic Church as a guide for proving the existence of witches and the means for executing them. Indeed, it’s the keystone to the entire "WITCH!" stance of Puritans and Inquisitors since.

Scene 5:
So these idiots now think Goodwife Tyler is a witch! It’s their standard technique whenever a woman does anything, let's dunk her. Witch-Hunter Bruce calls them all idiots. Again, compare and contrast the notion of a “detective” against cowardly, superstitious types. And a little more disdain toward “organized” religion from Batman.

Scene 6:
“Malleus” has a secret. Of course, that bit where he’s Nathaniel Wayne. What’s the story? I have no idea. Perhaps he’s fleeing his own bad reputation? Perhaps a Scotsman doesn’t fit in well in an English and Dutch colony? Because he’s paralyzed with fear that if a witch speaks his name, he’ll die? Could be any of them, really. Ooh, pretty art!

Bruce remembers the Cave. Of course, we know thanks to a potion and some other craft, she’s keeping him as sort of a love-slave/prisoner. Ah, practical magick. At any rate, this woman is a naturalist. She’s English, which means she's hearkening to her pre-Christian roots, which relates to things like the Lazarus Pit Dick Grayson found in that coal mine. Amongst other things.

Scene 7:
Nathaniel Wayne is a real fucker. But he finally iterates the idea of the “devil never sleeps”, that witches have familiars. He basically acts like a living example of the very same book that he’s named himself after. This guy is insanely religious. Another reason why he might be hiding his name: maybe he's Catholic!

The real Bristol Bay is in Alaska, actually. Anyway, here we see the Mordecai painting’s origins. The question is … WHO saw it later and bought it and added it to the Wayne Family Portrait Gallery? My guess would be Bruce did, when he sees it somewhere in the Revolutionary War era, or the Wild West era. “Keep my book safe”, he says. Bruce’s book is the next mysterious item. Odds are we see it more in Return of Bruce Wayne, and there’s a very good chance it’s also the item in the mysterious casket that Joshua Wayne was holding.

It appears our Time-Squid has been busy in the woods.

A Wayne always seems to be protecting Gotham. And there’s that impending eclipse of the sun. And more of Bruce’s memories return. And we learn that he was indeed summoned. By a woman wearing the symbols of Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman. Practical magicians are well aware that when you want to summon a demon or spirit, you wear its symbol. In this case, the first summoning of Bruce came with Metron’s symbol, but the second with his own (and those of his friends). Is this Morrison using a sci-fi time travel story to explain how actual summonings could have happened? As focal points on the time journey of one entity? (This demon being Bruce?)

Here’s our lesson of the day for the local natives. In the 10,000+ years since Bruce inspired Anthro’s grandson to change his tribe from the Deer Tribe to the Bat Tribe … they developed into the Miagani Indians. The Bat-People. Irving really understands how to draw the Cave. Bruce knows these caves, and knows he’s not Mordecai.

Annie is a naturalist. Who worships “bright gods” (man, that sounds an awful lot like Shining Ones). The New Gods. The New Gods (or the Old) have sent her Bruce, just as they sent Bruce to Anthro. But while we know he’s been sent by Darkseid, what’s Metron’s level of involvement?

The Wheel of Time is a classic pagan element of pre-Christian Northern Europe, particularly the British Isles, Celts, druids, that sort of thing. The wheel of time represents the equinoxes and the solstices. It influences the Roman calendar, and makes note of the Lunar Phases. It’s cosmic. The Never-Ending World? I’m not as sure, but it sounds a bit like New Genesis and Apokolips. "Beyond" is a pretty telling word.

Scene 8:
It wouldn’t be Batman if it didn’t have tragedy. Of course the Puritans are after poor naturalist, practical magick, Annie. And they get her, and hang her, while Batman is busy fighting that Time-Squid and vanishing in water once again as the eclipse comes. And here I figured he’d be dunked like a witch … but at least it’s in the Cave he’s making these journeys. The Bat-Cave is being used as the means for the time-paradox Hell.

The name Annie, comes from the Hebrew name Hannah. Both are pretty common. It means “favored grace” (in this case, apparently by the New Gods). I thought the gibberish speech that Bruce hears when he’s coming to actually read a little bit like Hebrew. And hey, Kabalistic vibe shouldn’t surprise anyone. Somebody better informed will be able to figure out if there's anything to that.

The name Peck, her weasel, which the Puritans think is “surely an Imp”, has two meanings. One who lives at the foot of a mountain, or one who deals with weights and measurements. Calling this familiar an “Imp” actually bridges the gap between fairies (The Sheeda?) and demons. And hell … Leprechauns (Bat-Mite, 5th dimensional imps) … Mandragoras (Mandrakk) and Puck (Servant of … Oberon!). Hell, the Wikipedia entry for “Imp” has Mister Mxyzptlk listed under See Also:

Nathaniel Wayne: “And I’ll vow Brother Mordecai was tempted by this Jezebel to his death at the Dragon’s claws!” Christ, Nate … you just described Batman R.I.P.! But in this case, you couldn’t be more wrong. Well … sort of. A few months back I finally stumbled onto the meaning of the color purple (related to Jezebel Jet and Talia al Ghul, who have been wearing it a lot lately, along with Joker who always wore it). Love potions. It was the Oberon reference that put me onto it, Oberon famously in A Midsummer Night’s Dream crafts a love potion out of Hearts-ease (That lovely little purple flower, Jones’s mother is a florist and he’s a bit of a naturalist, so florist fun fact: Hearts-ease is one of the single most invasive European plants in America. I live in lovely rural New York, and our green hills and fields are swathed in purple wild pansies by the name of Hearts-ease. And Johnny Jump-Up. It's also the "pansies" that Ophelia talked about in Hamlet. And in the Language of Flowers symbolizes "thought" the same way roses symbolize ... well, every different color rose symbolizes something different.)

Jezebel Jet, with her perfumes and her purple dresses and her purple champagne was trying to seduce Bruce as a love-slave. Frankly, I can’t believe the bubbling, toiling liquid burning in Annie’s cauldron wasn’t purple. But at any rate, now we have an actual witch, actually making Bruce into her love-slave. But she’s a nice kid!

And as Annie’s house burns? Sure enough … Peck spies on the scene. The eyes and the ears of the Devil are everywhere. I wonder if Grant’s thought process was “I want this familiar to be an animal that has a Domino Mask pattern on its face … what are my choices? Ah … raccoon or weasel. Well, a raccoon is a little too Pocahontas for me.”

And of course … at some point a swarm of bats had to help Bruce fight this unnatural monstrosity. He kills it. He’s coated with green goo. The eclipse comes.

Scene 9:
And back to the future we go … and something very strange is happening with the Archivist as it notes the time of Annie’s death on the timeline. But why would the Archivist care? And the mystery deepens as we realize that HOLY SHIT Bruce Wayne is the bio-organic archivist. “You have no idea what I’ve just been through to get here.” He says and follows with; “So you’ll all just have to trust me.” What? But? As Superman explains … Darkseid bounced him through time on Omega Beams and booby trapped him, and if he ever gets back to the 21st Century, it’s “Darkseid’s Revenge” in the form of Batman as a Doomsday Weapon. And Batman steals Rip Hunter’s Time Sphere and the time hunters are screwed. Of course, while theories are coalescing very quickly about the nature of Bruce at the end of time vs. Bruce back in Puritan days and getting from one to the other … we can’t possibly know how this one is going to come together until, frankly, it does. Luckily The Return of Bruce Wayne is coming out rapid-fire. I wonder if this proves the "Two Bruces" theory where one Bruce becomes Doctor Hurt and the other fixes everything. After all ... with the use of a Time Sphere, Bruce could go back in time and become the black sheep Thomas Wayne Devil-worshiper.

Scene 10:
So Annie was indeed hanged. And she gives us our reveal about “Malleus” and that he was really Nathaniel Wayne. So she curses him and all his kin until the end of time, never realizing that in doing so, she’s cursing Bruce Wayne, his descendant, who she vowed to love until the end of time. But we saw Bruce AT the end of time, so perhaps he broke the curse. Or maybe it was just an idle threat.

But all is well for the Puritans … and in wonderful, ominous awesomeness we get that last panel in that era “… but the Devil was not done in Gotham.”

And Bruce awakes in the latter 1700’s, probably the 1760’s. The time of the Black Pirate. But ironically a good 50 years after Blackbeard’s reported death. But this is DC Comics. Blackbeard’s real life historical death might not mean shit here, since at the time of his REAL death he wasn’t even 40 years old yet. Ironically, Blackbeard was also from Bristol, England. His ship was called “Queen Anne’s Revenge” (Which could link it to Annie). And where he was believed killed is indeed the East Coast of the United States, in North Carolina – not too terribly far down the coast from Gotham. And not too terribly far from the port in the Chesapeake that would later become Opal City either – the place where Black Pirate apparently died.

A ship burns (Hey, burning ships … what’s up painting of Darrius Wayne during the Revolution, probably 10 years after this?) and apparently … it was the ship of the Black Pirate, and when Bruce washes ashore, Captain Blackbeard believes that Bruce is the Black Pirate himself!

And Annie’s “be mine forever” potion has worn off. And Bruce remembers “Man of Bats” and what happened to him in prehistory, but to Blackbeard he’s just a wrongly identified man raving like a lunatic. And man, when I hoped that this issue would be a lot more condensed and loaded with exposition and wild ideas than last issue, I didn’t think it would be this outrageous.

See you in a few weeks.

Any good Trekkie has watched every Trek episode dealing with Time Travel and viewed it both ways - as a classic "we mustn't interfere with the timeline" episode and as a "wait, were they actually DESTINED to go back in time?" episode. Deep Space Nine's "PAST TENSE" where at the end we look through the history books and realize that Benjamin Sisko was Gabriel Bell all along.

Or perhaps the best example is Harlan Ellison's infamous "THE CITY ON THE EDGE OF FOREVER", which seems to fit the "we have to go back and FIX TIME!" mold ... until you realize wait a frigging second ... they DO go back and fix time. Which means that even though for a second on that planet it seemed like their history changed due to McCoy tampering with history ... Kirk and Spock were always destined to go back and fix it. (Props to its sequel episode in The Animated Series for hammering home the point, when Spock realizes that his "Cousin" from his childhood was actually HIM, when he meets his past self at that point in time and helps him, and claims to be his own cousin.)

(NO Time Travel storytelling props to Star Trek 2009, which permanently alters a timeline and then uses the old "divergent timeline" theory to justify it. If the movie had ended with Old Spock going to the Guardian of Forever and fixing it, on the other hand ...)

That's a hell of a lot of Star Trek talk for a Batman blog.

Friday, May 14, 2010


Right off the bat let’s talk about the overall coolness of this book. It’s 37 pages long. That’s 37 pages of Morrison goodness. It’s pretty much a direct sequel to Final Crisis (Which I imagine could make or break the issue for you). But Morrison needs that 37 pages. Cavemen don’t say much, and not being especially intelligent or knowledgeable about the various occult happenings occurring in the Batman books, this first issue isn’t exactly the one where we get our groundbreaking reveals. Instead it relies on savage action. It’s pretty straightforward for a Morrison comic. It tiptoes on the boundaries of some of his usual high concepts. But mostly it sticks to its guns as Bruce lands in 10,000 BC, and we realize … my god … Bruce Wayne is the inspiration for the very same Bat-Tribe and Bat-Legends that have circulated around Gotham. So what does that say about BARBATOS?

Morrison plays with language here, opting to make the Cavemen speak English and Bruce speak gibberish, thereby giving us the tale from the Caveman point-of-view. If you’re hoping for Bruce’s inner monologues, you won’t get them. That being said, if you’ve ever read any fucking Batman in your life … you should already know what Bruce Wayne is thinking. In the meantime, Grant would rather have one “mysterious stranger” be hard to understand rather than a whole cast of people we can’t understand – that would kill the momentum of the story (well, unless he added in an Eaters of the Dead style scene where Bruce sits at the campfire and learns their language – but he didn’t. There was already enough Eaters of the Dead influence here.)

Page 1: The issue starts with some of that funky language. The kind of thing that will immediately turn off stupid readers (GOOD) as Boy sees Superman’s rocket (Launched in the final moments of Final Crisis as a sort of “TIME CAPSULE”) sticking out of the dirt and asks his father and tribesmen “What’s it of?” Welcome to Caveman speech. They don’t have all the ridiculous “in-between” words found in English. This is a base language. Even more simplistic than Latin, in a way. And here we meet our cast of heroes: The DEER TRIBE. The children of ANTHRO. Some of the earliest Cro Magnon men. There’s BOY, Anthro’s grandson. There’s MAN, Anthro’s son with the necklace, there’s GIANT, a huge blonde guy. There’s SURLY, a dark-haired skeptic, and JOKER who makes much laughter. Ugg. There’s another guy as well. To those curious … Giant has blond hair and Boy has red – the red haired mutation actually did first appear about 10,000 years ago. As a gnarly Irish Ginger, I’m happy to see it here. As for “What’s it of?” clearly there asking “Who made this thing and where did it come from?” in much simpler terms. One of the earliest basis for human science and curiosity was the belief that there were FOUR ELEMENTS. Earth, wind, fire, water. It was damn near a universal concept on Earth. European tribes, African tribes, Middle-Eastern, Asiatic, North American. Earth, wind, fire and water were a concept present EVERYWHERE. (Last seen in Grant’s run when Knight and Pearly King mentioned that there were four entrances to the Lazarus Pit mine built by ancient druids – one for each compass point, North, West, East, South. Each associated with one of the four elements. This is fundamental human science and far more easily transmutable to magick purposes as well.)

Page 2: “How is it so hard to look at?” – it’s the Stone Age. These guys aren’t familiar with metallic mirror finishes. To them, that’s practically camouflage. “Da-Man”. That would be “DAD + MAN”. U.K. and Irish readers will recognize “Da” without the extra “d” on the end.
”Old Man (Anthro) said it’s holy. Things happen here that can’t happen other wheres.” – this is reference to the fact that when Anthro “came of age” in this place, METRON appeared and taught him how to make fire. Surly says “There’s holy and there’s haunted” … clearly CAVEMEN ARE A COWARDLY AND SUPERSTITIOUS LOT … anyway, after a lot of talk about how Superman’s rocket is the same color as the sky, “Blue”, they discuss that a rival Tribe boundary is nearby, it’s not safe, and they’re looking for Old Man (Anthro). It’s interesting to contrast these savages to the street thugs Batman typically beats the crap out of. Apparently humanity hasn’t changed that much in 10,000 years.

Page 3: “What made tracks like these? Shining ones?” asks Da-Man. We recognize these babies as Batman’s bootprints. Shining Ones, again, would be METRON. Da-Man sees the cave – his caveman senses are enough to realize someone is in there so he throws a rock in. Out come the bats …

Page 4: … and the Batman. Did I mention Chris Sprouse’s artwork is fantastic? Anyway, “SHADOW ON STONE” is the title. There’s a lot of stone here, and admittedly, the “Stone” in the title is probably the STONE AGE. As for “SHADOW ON STONE” … most stories would refer to being a “SPOTLIGHT ON STONE” … but through the lens of Batman? They’re actually casting a shadow on it instead. Viewing its dark side. At the same time … “SHADOW ON STONE” is somewhat indicative of a phenomenon that occurs later in the issue – a Solar Eclipse (actually it should be referred to as a Solar Occultation) wherein the Moon blocks the Sun, and the Shadow of the huge stone Moon is cast upon the Earth.

Page 5: “I warned you!” says the superstitious SURLY. “Shush” says DA-MAN, who proceeds to ask Bruce “Where’s your tribe at?” … well … the Wayne Clan are rooted in Scotland, originally … so Bruce’s tribe, is probably somewhere on Great Britain at the moment, building henges or something. But point being … Bruce can’t understand Caveman language. And they can’t understand him. So Morrison chooses to write what Bruce is saying phonetically … “Wayrameye” … “Woddizdizplaze” … Bruce is from the U.S. Northeast Coast, specifically New Jersey, regardless of his upper class accent. To a Caveman the guy probably talks 5,000 miles per hour. “Where am I?” “What is this place?” … classic amnesia questions. DA-MAN tells GIANT to tell him who they are. DA-MAN, is Bruce really that terrifying with his blue eyes? It’s funny … the guy named “GIANT” is really only a little bigger than Bruce. Homo sapiens were pretty short back then. Bruce would be huge. His pale skin a little scary. His blue eyes ridiculously uncommon (only ever having been seen in rare places in Northern Europe). This guy is creepy to swarthy cavemen.

Page 6: GIANT introduces them all. MAN, BOY, SURLY, JOKER … at hearing his name, JOKER (clearly terrified) laughs a manic little laugh. Joker even has green eyes. It’s clearly just a nod to repeating themes throughout history, but Bruce growls at his laughing. A funny little moment. Don’t take it too seriously, kids, and naysayers … quit rolling your fucking eyes.

Page 7: They call Superman’s rocket “His sky-cart” … apparently the wheel has been invented, because “cart” requires “wheel”. Bruce sees it and says “HH.” See? We don’t need Bruce’s exact words to know what he’s thinking. We all know “HH.” means “I’m getting a clue.” It’s a dead giveaway that the wheels are spinning in Bruce’s head. At which he informs them that “The old man is dead. I’m sorry.” Yes, at the end of Final Crisis, Anthro died. And they can smell Old Man, dead in the cave. So DA-MAN goes in to get his body.

Page 8 & 9: Bruce examines the rocket. He might be an amnesiac, but his head is probably filled with images of the Present Day and even some high-tech JLA style stuff, so it must seem familiar. He opens it and finds the items Superman, Supergirl, John Stewart and the rest laid in it. Superman’s cape is fine (It’s indestructible, for those who didn’t know) but the portable Bat-Signal inside? Crumbles to dust. Apparently this rocket ship took a million years to get here. Deep in the cave, DA-MAN sees the symbols that Bruce drew on the wall. It’s not just any cave, after all … it’s the Bat-Cave. But remember as well … there’s Ice Ages and earthquakes in the meantime that will change that cave and the landscape.

Page 10: So they bring out Anthro’s body – still with Metron paint on his face to counter Anti-Life. And he had WHITE FAWN (DA-MAN’s mother) necklace. White Fawn really was married to Anthro. They talk about keeping it as an honored memento and never letting it go. Batman returns to them with Superman’s cape. VANDAL SAVAGE and the BLOOD TRIBE watch from the hills.

Page 11: They bury Anthro in a stone cairn. Don’t know what to do about Bruce, who has set up Superman’s cape like a flag on a spear or stick. Apparently it stirs some kind of notion or symbol to him. They want to know why (If he’s a Shining One: GOD) he doesn’t tell them some secret or new weapon or tool. Metron, after all, taught Anthro fire. So why wouldn’t Bruce teach them something. But irony of ironies, since he exited the Bat-Cave, filled with Bats, they call him MAN OF BATS, which is naturally the same name as the tribal warrior of the 20th Century inspired by Batman – MAN-OF-BATS, the Native-American crimefighter. Of course, Bruce’s voracious fucking appetite proves to them that “at least he eats like a man”. Recall those theories about how Bruce didn’t eat anything over the course of Morrison’s run. Well now, he’s hungry. GIANT says something that’s actually pretty frigging accurate. “I say he is a man, from across the ocean, I say.” Good call, Giant. Physiologically, Bruce being of Scots descent, that’s exactly the kind of thing Bruce should appear to be. But they sense they’re being watched, and Bruce’s ninja skills kick in with an early warning. “LOKKA!” (Look out!)

Page 12: VANDAL SAVAGE attacks, looking not a day older than he did in the Anthro scenes in Final Crisis … or, frankly … during Final Crisis, since he’s immortal. He attacks. His Blood Mob has them outnumbered, big time. DA-MAN asks Bruce to save his son. Bruce hides the kid in the bushes, takes an arrow to the shoulder, and the BLOOD MOB murders the Cavemen. Shocker, Bruce saving a kid and then helping him come of age. It’s like he was destined to bring lost young men into adulthood. He’s a mentor.

Page 13: Bruce hides BOY in the bushes while Savage’s savages slaughter our Caveman friends. Chris Sprouse adds a real sense of feral brutality here. Blunt force. Blood spatter. It’s bloody and it’s violent and it’s bone-breaking.

Page 14: Giant goes down last of all, full of arrows. Vandal Savage kills him. Then Bruce makes his move, drop-kicking Vandal in the face. Moving like Batman moves … cat-like … ninja-like …

Page 15: It’s quite the action scene, actually. Bruce makes Vandal eat rock. Unfortunately for Bruce, Vandal has a LOT of tribesmen who pin him with ridiculously strong caveman hands, and Vandal picks up a rock, and in a moment that’s as much a tribute to GREG RUCKA’S Crime Bible stuff as any of Grant’s Batwoman scenes were … Vandal Savage, CAIN, the first murderer on Earth, knocks out Bruce with a rock and red rage. The rock is stained red in the firelight. And they drag everything back to camp. Vandal keeps WHITE FAWN’S necklace as a trophy. They’re probably going to cannibalize the DEER TRIBE.

Page 16 & 17: Back at the camp, which Grant initially described as “Apocalypse Now”. Skulls on sticks everywhere. Bonfires and savages eating red meat. Vandal arrives at the top of a bluff and tosses Bruce down the hill. His minions also carried Superman’s rocket all the way back. And here’s the part where Grant wrote in the giant Bat that Andy Kubert drew – it’s been skinned and perched atop the various skulls – yet another conquest of Vandal Savage. Some prehistoric DC Comics bat that would make cryptozoologists worldwide giddy, and real scientists cringe. That’s comics!

Page 18: Vandal is a notorious cannibal, so the idea is when the sun comes up, he’s going to eat Bruce Wayne for breakfast. Meanwhile, BOY, with Batman’s utility belt in tow, has snuck along behind and spies on them from the hills.

Page 19: Vandal is going to eat his brain. He grabs two women to go mate with (we see Vandal with harems a lot lately – in Final Crisis: Revelations he had the Anti-Life zombie, pre-Female Fury Catwoman and Batwoman hanging all over him). And damn he’s hairy.

Page 20: Once again, history repeats itself. Here’s Bruce with his arms and legs splayed and tied to spikes in the ground. He’s bleeding. He’s exhausted. And he’s the Batman tied up in a death-trap. Yeah, this will last. Stupid Cavemen.

Page 21: Once more, a very Apocalypse Now moment, where he’s sick from the cold and blood loss and he’s laying there hallucinating. Vandal comes off much like Marlon Brando did in Apocalypse Now, in fact, an “adopted leader” of a savage tribe using them and doing what he wants. Bruce is hallucinating under the shadow of the hide of the massive prehistoric bat. Wolves (the earliest form of domesticated dog, actually) are circling in the distance. And he hallucinates that the dead Bat comes to life with a crackle of strange symbols, almost as if the giant Bat’s spirit is awakening before his eyes. Appropriate, although he’s clearly feverish.

Page 22: And so Bruce dreams, and his first batch of memories come back to him – the basics. He sees skulls, skulls, skulls, the giant Bat. And familiar words cycle through his mind. “NIGHT (“I must be a creature of the night”). TERROR (“Must be able to strike terror into their hearts!”). SUPERSTITIOUS (“Criminals are a superstitious, cowardly lot.”). OMEN (“A bat! That’s it! It’s an omen. I shall become a bat!”). CREATURE (“I must be a creature of the night.”). BLACK (“Black, terrible.”). TERRIBLE (“Ditto.”). BAT (“A bat!”). DISGUISE (“So my disguise must be able to strike terror into their hearts!”). MAN. BAT.” All words directly ripped from Batman’s original origin – “The Legend of the Batman and How He Came to Be.” From 1939 or whatever. It’s been shown and shown again over the years, but always tends to stay true to Bob Kane’s original version. And BOY arrives and wakes him up. Boy has painted his eyes with warpaint that’s shockingly close to a domino mask like the kind, oh, ROBIN, would wear. He’s brought Bruce’s utility belt.

Page 23: He cuts Bruce free. (Really, not much to this page. Like I said, when “EVERY PAGE” isn’t loaded with symbolism or themes, Morrison is being a lot more straightforward than is normal.)

Page 24: He gives Bruce the utility belt, and immediately Bruce’s reaction to battle his fever and infection is to down two or three penicillin. He lays back for a moment regaining his faculties. BOY wants to leave now to warn the DEER PEOPLE that Savage is coming for them. Savage snores. Bruce doesn’t give up advantages.

Page 25: Morning comes. Savage wakes up and calls on his tribesmen to come watch him kill and eat the mysterious stranger. But he’s gone. Untied. The dogs are dead. Vandal screams “SHOW YOURSELF” which is never good news.

Page 26: The Batman strikes, now wearing the Kubert-style Caveman Batman costume. Smashes Vandal’s head into the ground.

Page 27: Lurks in the mist. Vandal asks “What are you?” … Bruce pulls the classic “Batman doesn’t talk” routine and scares away Vandal’s backup with micro-flash grenades. Vandal manages to get Bruce by the throat (never let it be said Vandal isn’t a tough son of a bitch) and accuses him of being a sorcerer. Bruce pepper-sprays him.

Page 28: Then kicks him in the chest. BOY attacks using the symbol of a bat, telling the Blood Mob that the DEER PEOPLE are gone and the BAT PEOPLE are here, officially giving birth to the Bat-Tribes that will birth the Miagani Indian Tribe later.

Page 29: Savage’s spear vs. Bruce’s grapple gun. Grapple gun wins. Bruce gets him in the guts, gives him the old “GET OVER HERE” like Scorpion, then knocks Vandal out.

Page 30: Caveman Batman money shot. Batman standing over Vandal Savage’s beaten body.

Page 31: BOY warns that Vandal Savage has angered the sun, and in the sky we see an eclipse forming. Batman says “HH.” Once more, possibly piecing together clues. He gives the kid back his grandmother’s necklace and bids him to follow. We’ll recall from BATMAN VS. ROBIN that Dick Grayson found Bruce’s cloak in the BARBATOS cave on some antlers with an Eclipse drawn over top of it.

Page 32: The scared Blood Tribe comes back, not quite finished. They throw spears, loose arrows. Bruce and the kid run, and Bruce makes him jump off a cliff with a waterfall into a deep pool, even as the Solar Eclipse (Occultation) reaches its maximum. Side note: Is this waterfall the same waterfall that Bruce Wayne drives his Batmobile through to get into the Bat-Cave? Historically one of his Bat-Cave entrances has always been hidden behind a waterfall.

Page 33: BOY surfaces to go on and found the BAT TRIBE. Bruce doesn’t. An eclipse … and a dunking? Something supernatural just happened. I believe I recall from Constantine that “magical teleportation” is easier in a liquid medium. Something similar from Lovecraft’s Chthulu mythos comes to mind, that a “BIRTH of the UNHOLY” is easier under water as well. It lubricates the magical doorway opening. Like the principal that giving birth underwater makes it easier. Or does Bruce Wayne have to drown during an eclipse each time to zip or zap into the next era? (For instance, in the Puritan era will he be “Dunked” as a witch? In the Pirate era will he be tied to a heavy weight and “sunken” to Davy Jones’ Locker? In the Private Eye days will he be given cement shoes and sunk in Gotham River?)

Page 34: Vandal Savage is cast out of the Blood Mob Tribe for offering false promises and angering the sun. Then something happens. Lightning and white lights. The Blood Mob are terrified. A subtle nod that “Superheroes are gods” in this Universe, and are the “modern mythology” in ours.

Page 35: Of shining ones! GODS! Actually, it’s a time-traveling Superman, Hal Jordan, Booster Gold and Rip Hunter. Two time travelers, and DC’s two heaviest hitters – Superman with his super-senses, and Hal with his ring that could track just about anything. They know Bruce was here, but Superman can’t hear his heartbeat (which he’d recognize). He assures a skeptical Booster and Hal that Batman will survive … but reaffirms that IF BRUCE RETURNS ON HIS OWN “EVERYONE DIES!” – there’s our doomsday clock. We know this is the cast of TIME MASTERS: VANISHING POINT … a “companion” to Return of Bruce, albeit not vital to the Batman story. Is it that crossover-ish or what? Huh? Didn’t Dick say “ALERT THE JUSTICE LEAGUE” when he realized what was descending on Gotham? Satanism? Doctor Hurt? Joker’s back? Sacrifices?

Page 36: Bruce finds himself underwater. He gets pulled out, by a Puritan woman. He wonders where the BOY went. She calls him Master Demon. There’s a dead Puritan in the water with a sword.

Page 37: And some glowing green demonic kraken bursts out of the water, maybe it followed him, maybe it’s a monster summoned by a witch. He raises the sword and moves to kill it. I’d be willing to bet that Puritan guy’s clothes end up on Bruce soon. Who’s the chick? Is one of them Ebeneezer Badde? Is that Klarion’s mom? (Just throwing things out there … not much to tell about RETURN OF BRUCE # 2 yet … but it’s only two weeks away so I’ll spare the frivolous theories and be back in two weeks, SAME BAT TIME, SAME BAT CHANNEL!)

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


Aquaman kicked ass this week as well. But where are we?


Wayne Family Cemetery
Page 1: Primarily this picks up where the cliffhanger left off. Robin (Damian) has just attacked Batman (Dick) and Batman would very much like to know why. “You almost killed me,” Dick says, and indeed we see that his bat-emblem has crumpled – apparently after being shot point-blank in the chest by Jason Todd, the Red Hood, about seven issues ago, he added some extra chest protection, in the form of a thin layer of extra breakaway padding shaped like the classic Batman logo.

Keep your eyes on Oberon Sexton. In fact … I can wait. Go back and re-read EVERY SINGLE instance of Oberon Sexton appearing. Enjoy yourself as you realize I’m a genius! (Well, maybe not a genius … but if you want … please, go and read my article “Joker III: I can do this, too!” or whatever the hell I named that particular Blog Entry. Where I list all the references to The Killing Joke and make my arguments for why Oberon Sexton simply must be The Joker in disguise.

Slade goes for the old “shovel takes out groin” cliché. Apt to use it on Dick Grayson, who is a well-known romancer of super-heroines.

Quick jump over to Talia’s base-of-operations, where Slade’s loving it …
Page 2: Deathstroke doesn’t even want to kill Dick Grayson so much as cripple him. The last few issues I’ve been voicing my curiosity at why Grant Morrison used Deathstroke the Terminator instead of say … SHRIKE … or even Jason Todd, given his ties to Talia. This issue very poignantly tells us that Slade, like Talia, “had his kid get turned into a good guy by Dick Grayson”. Damian trained with Dick and became Robin. Rose trained with Dick and became, well, Ravager. But she’s a Teen Titan now. So these two “evil parents” have that in common. And we all slap our foreheads and say “Guh … of bloody course.” I’ve been eager to get to that point since I read the preview.

Page 3: And here’s our “title page”. We’re at the fullest extent of the “Batman vs. Robin” aspect of it. The Mexican Train is coming to Gotham. Andy Clarke knocks this page out of the park, actually. Not all his frames this issue are “pure genius”, but they all definitely suffice (a handful are a little stiff and lacking in the best possible “camera placement”. But some of the ones he really put some effort into really more than make up for it.)

Oh, P.S. … Dustin Nguyen, Paul Dini’s usual collaborator, did some art here, too. See if you can spot it.

Page 4: The “juice” is turned up on this electronic kid-puppet machine so when Dick gives a classic high kick to Damian’s guts, Slade feels it hardcore. He’s about to be the victim of their own over-enthusiastic willingness to try this crazy super sci-fi technology out for evil purposes. And worse still … he told Batman who he was through Damian’s mouth and now Dick is ready to hand out some serious fucking ass-kicking.

Page 5: Talia’s scientists seem awfully concerned for the kid all the time. Could it be they’re more proud of “their baby” than she, the DNA donor is? Probably. But what wrongfully used sci-fi technology would be complete without its scientists yelling “it’s too dangerous!”

Slade complains about Damian’s muscles jamming up from the kick from Grayson. Slade being a super-soldier isn’t used to the normal reactions people have to tremendous pain. He also pushes kids waaaaaaaay harder than he should, and is notorious for it. In fact …

A perfect member of the “Dick Grayson” Rogues Gallery. If Dick is the “sidekick who is groomed to be the perfect super-hero, then Deathstroke is the opposite of that – the wicked mentor, who wants to pervert sidekicks or junior heroes to evil purposes. Which is why that storyline in the Teen Titans Go! Cartoon where he wanted Dick to be his assassin apprentice worked so well.

Damian’s line … “Graaa … Slade … wearing me like a glove.” Apt considering the circumstances. But let’s not forget the context here. They’re surrounded by “Fiends” who are henchmen of Doctor Hurt, the Black Glove, and “Demonic Possession” is almost definitely involved. So Slade becomes a Demon, possessing Damian’s body. And Talia is a Demon as well – Talia al Ghul, Daughter of the Demon. Who is in fact possessing the albino body of his son, the White Ghost, these days. The al Ghul family do some Demonic Possession via science. The other side? Via black magic, of course! So Batman has two “Demonic” organizations out to get him, one that uses cutting edge science and the other that uses the occult.

Oberon Sexton … “Unnnh. Batman … Robin … we have company …” – Grant’s still playing coy with the dialogue. Really, if anything, the fact that Joker isn’t so bat-shit crazy that he can actually do things like … invent a fake ID … sit down long enough to write a book … and stick with a fake accent and really work the whole “master of disguise” angle is pretty impressive. But we should know by know how dedicated he is to his routines.

Page 6: Help me identify these new members of the “99 Fiends”. Fat guy with bull on his trench coat. Girl with flamethrower and leopard print. Alfred’s comment about the water cannon – the water cannon in the new Batmobile was used in … let me think … Paul Dini’s first few issues of Streets of Gotham to battle Firefly … I think? Or was it Judd Winnick’s arc? At any rate … it has a water cannon.

Page 7: Grant, never one to not use something cool that he introduced, gives us the awesome return of the electrified bat knuckle dusters. Originally intended for use in “electro-shocking” the zombie Bruce Wayne in case it was crazy from Lazarus treatment … here they are again … for what? Why … Dick Grayson proves that he is in fact the master, when he pins Damian to a tree and gives him 5,000 volts to the heart like a defibrillator machine. And Slade, who’s an old bastard with heightened senses and nerves … has a heart murmur!

Page 8: I like Andy Clarke’s artwork fine, by the way (Although his Talia is a little on the scary Botox-faced whore side) … but this is actually the first page in three issues where Slade Wilson has looked like Slade Wilson and not a little on the frumpy, terrible art side. Anyway, like the scientist conveniently says, “Mr. Wilson’s enhanced senses are making him vulnerable!” and Dick Grayson pulled a … well, a “Bat-God Moment” and gave Slade Wilson a shot to the heart from 5,000 miles away.

So, the whole strange “Talia uses Deathstroke to mind-control Damian in “another form of Demonic Possession” angle” over … Grayson gets back to business. The cemetery is crawling with Doctor Hurt’s minions. Oberon Sexton is there and he’s the freaking Joker in disguise still. (Hence Dick’s “What the HELL are YOU doing here?” line … which doesn’t quite get answered this issue, but let’s face it, Joker’s technically “known” Bruce was Batman since during R.I.P., when Bruce ripped his mask off. Joker simply didn’t give a fuck. But not giving a fuck doesn’t mean he won’t get involved here, it just means he’s not the type of guy to go blabbing that information to every Two-Face, Deathstroke and Penguin he sees. In fact, he’s been far too busy anyway, getting in touch with rare contacts around the globe (All speculative) like Pearly King Charlie English and Pearly Prince “Smooth” Eddie English in the U.K., and others elsewhere, to track and kill Black Glove members. Not to mention the whole “Invent fake ID, go on book tour, adhere to the fake accent, stay in hotels, think up jokes, and do detective work” angle.

Page 9: So our new “Fiends” have arrived, and they’ve picked up the Casket (The Joshua Wayne casket Dick found in the Cave) and they escape with it. Whatever is in it is terribly, epically important, and I’m sure we’ll find out in two weeks, or in Return of Bruce Wayne. But meanwhile, back to identifying these new “Demons” in Hurt’s employ.

Fat guy. Trench coat. Bull motif. Cargo pants.
Pyromaniac girl. Flamethrower. Polk adot shirt.
Pyromaniac guy. Flamethrower. Hideous checkered sweater.
“Leader” type. Black trench. Spiky Mohawk. Tattoo of a … griffin? … on his head.

Damian says “I’m all right … but there’s something funny about him” regarding Sexton. Hilarious bit of foreshadowing. It was that moment that I knew my assumption about Sexton was correct. Awesome. Anyway, Sexton says “No hospital (They’d make him take off his disguise) … my hotel … please … we must talk … I fear this is only the beginning.” – This is JOKER saying this. So either it’s that bad, or he wants to talk to the “new” Batman on his own terms. Obviously staying in the Gotham Grand Hotel is what a touring comedian would do (Can’t believe I didn’t see the significance of the Hotel for an “in-town act”) … but Joker really wants to talk to Dick Grayson. We don’t get the scoop, on account of the Joker reveal is the cliffhanger. Tune in next week, same Bat-time, same Bat-channel, I guess, to learn what Joker wants to talk to Dick Grayson about.

Oh yeah, and back at Talia’s HQ, Deathstroke is having a seizure. Nice, Dick.

Page 10: Side note to the annotating here … but this is the first awkward transition this issue and not the last. Usually I chuckle when Morrison quickly leaps to the next scene and assumes you can figure out the rest, but this time it wasn’t as slick. I’m not sure why, but I think it might be Clarke’s stiff art style. Whatever the case, the transition seemed more abrupt than usual, the usual being something I love, and this particular one feeling awkward.

“This” is what happened to Dick Grayson in that Barbatos cavern under the cemetery. He was attacked by a giant bat. Surrounded by smokes and hocus pocus. Obviously the occult, devil worship, crazy dark arts are factoring in here. He’s seeing patterns. We’re getting patterns in the form of the Return issues, their eras, and all the “Bat” related mythos surrounding Gotham. At any rate, their recovery seems to be in the Bat-Cave. Not Dick’s Bat-Bunker, but the genuine Bat-Cave, since this whole night has taken place at Wayne Manor already anyway. No sense driving all the way into town to mend Dick’s busted ribs. And Damian wants to talk to his mother.

Page 11: They go over what concrete evidence they actually found, if any. Here we get some more factoids about Wayne Manor. It was designed by a man named Nathan Van Derm (Oh, we’ll be meeting him, no frigging doubt.) for Darius Wayne in 1795. That sits right – one of Morrison’s original sources, a map of Wayne Manor from post-Infinite Crisis, states that the Manor was built in 1795 (another contradicts it, but he picked the one that worked better for him). Darius Wayne is of course, the Revolutionary War Hero. Thomas Wayne, the devil worshiping bastard who is pretty much Doctor Hurt/Barbatos/El Penitente … well, we know from Batman: The Cult and Batman: Dark Kngiht, Dark City that those devil worshipers were back in 1760. A full 35 years before Darius Wayne had the mansion built on the grounds that he probably inherited from his devil-worshiping Uncle Thomas. Since the Revolutionary War itself was in 1776, a good 11 years after the devil worship, there’s plenty of time to work with. Also, take note – the Black Pirate, who Batman will be teaming up with in his Pirate-themed third issue of Return of Bruce Wayne – was operating during the Revolutionary War period. That being said … Blackbeard, also rumored to be in that issue … was long dead by then, having operated in the Golden Age of Piracy – the late 1600’s. So maybe we’ll see Blackbeard’s Ghost?

Anyway, Wayne Manor is shaped like a stylized W. With the lych-way (the corpse road, a nicer word for it) to ALAN WAYNE’s crypt (who is Alan Wayne? Another question … gah), anyway, the designs for the crypt added onto the Manor overview shows a Bat-Signal. And Dick voices the opinion that the casket that was stolen by the Black Glove’s people is the key to this whole thing.

Another cool moment. They get ready to go visit Talia. Very matter-of-factly. Alfred, who had been blindfolded the whole way, left a tracker at the place so they could get there if need be. Dick has him refuel the Bat-Rocket, last seen in Batman & Son. And they go! As if it’s just a quick trip to the corner store.

Page 12: A very nonchalant page. Panel to panel it just skips to the new Batmobile (which can apparently piggyback on the Bat-Rocket, we never even see it) outside Talia’s Man-Bat Ninja fortress. Walking down the halls using the electrified dusters on ninjas. And they just march in.

Page 13: And Dick smashes the machine that enables them to control Damian. Lectures Talia. Talia barks back about how Dick is using mind-control, too. Dick lectures her back about Bruce’s wishes and qualities. She offers him the chance to go. He won’t go without Damian. Damian wants to talk to his mother alone for a minute. So Batman very nonchalantly again, passes the time by visiting the medical wing and beating Deathstroke out of his hospital bed. Mentions Deathstroke’s connection to the destruction of Bludhaven (Dick’s old haunts) during Infinite Crisis, tells Slade this small beatdown is just the prelude to the next time they meet.

Page 14: The Mom and Son talk. Damian is going to continue being Robin. Talia practically disowns him. She shows him that she’s got another clone, Damian II, all ready to go, a fetus in a tank that’ll be 10 years younger than him. Reveals some tiny tidbits about the process that hint at Damian’s true lineage.

Page 15: Talia’s motivations made a little clearer. And she really doesn’t take Dick seriously. He’s nothing but a “circus boy” to her.

Page 16 & 17: Finally, more Andy Clarke architecture. Here he excels in ways the other B&R artists haven’t. A great, but short two-page spread where we see an elevated train (Very “Batman: Year One” looking) pull into town. At the train station awaits a bunch of Gotham Gangsters, all wearing Domino Masks, awaiting whoever is on the train. They talk about how Red Hood (Jason) killed the gangsters (Morrison finally names the rest of them, although we saw the names in Batman Reborn Hardcover as well – Bullet-Nose, Aitch-Eyes, High-Rise Romero and Gentleman-G.) Anyway, they talk about how vigilantes in Gotham are hard as hell, but that “Penitente” has it all worked out. We get the usual “in forty-eight hours, Gotham will be on its knees” claptrap.

Cut quick to the 99 Fiends walking into town, bringing the casket they stole from Grayson along, asking the same questions, about Batman. The Mexican Train is in this case an actual train, rolling in from Mexico, carrying Doctor Hurt and Senator Vine, the last member of the Black Glove (I thought the Glove was all dead … but then again, Doctor Hurt has TWO hands.) and anyway, Vine (Bat-scholars, help me out, is Vine preexisting?) mentions that somebody is coming for the Glove members. They hint at Joker.

Page 18: Back in the chamber with the Barbatos statue, there’s no giant bat that Dick thought he fought. They’re assuming it was a hallucination (again, possibly black magic – but then again, there’s that giant bat from Return of Bruce # 1 to think about …) at any rate, there’s no bat shit on the floor, no smell, but there is Batman’s (Bruce’s) cape and cowl hanging from antlers with a sun overtop of it and some sort of well.

Page 19: “Alert the Justice League”. That pretty well sets up “Rip Hunter: Time Master” by Dan Jurgens, I doubt Morrison will give it more than a word after that. “Thomas Wayne, Barbatos, devil worship and the underground railroad. Everything’s connected and it’s all coming to a head. It’s one big pattern.” – Sure is, Dick. We’ve done enough theorizing and it’s been spread over enough months that I don’t feel like getting deep into theories just this moment. I’m ready to just read along now and find out. Dick has his theory about Sexton, too. Dick figured it out. Did you? (I did!)

Page 20: Joker’s not that fond of all the “police protection”. He asks if “Wayne” had anything to say. Does he know Tommy Elliot is pretending to be Bruce? Does he know Darkseid zapped Bruce? Does he figure Bruce’s “crazy act” lately is because of his own nerve toxin? Joker jokes about how Damian asked if he was Bruce Wayne – basically stating that Damian is nowhere near the level of detective that Dick, Jason or Tim are.

Page 21: Dick says he misses some obvious clues. For instance, the deaths have in common something, and he doesn’t mean the Black Glove, or the Dominoes. He means the oil sheikh choking on peanuts in the restroom. The murders themselves. Are jokes!

Page 22: The Joker! Ta-da!

Not much more to say. Tons more questions, all which’ll be answered in the coming weeks. New issues every week for multiple weeks. Lots and lots of resolutions coming. Roller coaster rides.

But I will say, it’s wickedly appropriate that somebody pointed out the jokes seem to be based around “dirty jokes” (Sheikh’s peanuts in the bathroom” … “shakes penis in the bathroom”. “Russian Generals in an alligator’s mouth”. Putting genitals in an alligator’s mouth.” Etc …) and that’s exactly how Joker would see the Black Glove – lude, corrupt, rich, perverts and scandalous types. They’re one big dirty joke. And so he’s killing them using dirty jokes.

So where does that leave us?

With questions. What's in the casket? Another Damian baby? How's Bruce getting back? What's Thomas's deal? Is Barbatos a real frigging demon?

Oh yeah, and El Penitente's entire organization is converging on Gotham, all the gangsters who want to survive are allying themselves with him, and Joker's on ... the good guys' team?!