Tuesday, May 25, 2010
UNTIL THE END OF TIME
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
ULTRA-COOL BONUS PART WHERE I TALK ABOUT TIME TRAVEL IN STAR TREK
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.