Bruce Wayne flees from bird-winged Egyptian soldiers (A nod to Hawkman, I wonder?) and he’s saying some sort of code. I’ll admit, I had no clue what to make of it. I assumed he was “in the past” with the help of Nichols, whose involvement was forewarned. It makes itself clear quickly. The Joker is having a pop-criminal team-up, like they always used to have back in the Early Silver Age. He’s with all the old favorites – Riddler, Scarecrow, Catwoman, and … the fake Mad Hatter, who gets a free reinvention this issue for modern times!
Holding everyone hostage while Batman goes “back in time” via some weird hypnosis machine that if it wasn’t 60 years old I’d swear Morrison invented himself. To get the combination to the lock on some valuable artifact Catwoman stole (Which seems like it should be familiar … is that the object she stole in her very first appearance? Maybe not … this doesn’t feel “Year Three” … Robin looks about 14 or 15 and Joker is starting to get bored of the pop-crime, so it feels more “Year Six”.)
No doubt each of the criminals has “something on their list” they want Batman to learn. It’s all in good fun, too, for instance, Mad Hatter wants Alexander the Great’s brim size. Dick Grayson, even tied in a chair, is ready for action.
Karnak is a real temple in Thebes. The Crystal Cat is a Dan Deacon song.
Riddler here is enjoying himself with the classic 60’s alliteration and riddling. Let’s face it, he was at his prime in the 60’s … or the “pop-crime period”. His problem now is that he’s a pop-crime heist/thief with no pop-crime scene anymore. He doesn’t kill, and attempts to make him “edgy” and “psycho” fail miserably. Although it’s coming back a bit. Riddler’s going to have to get Ocean’s Eleven or Catch Me If You Can or White Collar on Gotham’s ass.
Joker basically ruins Professor Nichols’ life by using his inventions for wrong-doing. And he acts like our oracle here, since he’s insane and that means he’s got intuition about the future. His grand plan? To send Batman back to Crime Alley and give Bruce one last heart-breaking chance to abort the demons that drove him to be … later on we see Bruce Wayne attempt to abort his inner demons via the Thogal and Ten-Eyed Surgeons. And the demons come back with a damn vengeance. But Joker’s also talking about time travel predestination paradoxes, which Robin, using Grant’s own logic, points out wouldn’t work that way. Change the past … none of us will be here. That being said … later Bruce IS sent back in time, and it doesn’t change the past at all, it had always been destined to happen … so Joker is still acting as a precursor to Darkseid.
Joker’s Jokebook … for an item that later this issue is reputed to have nothing written in it, that’s a lot of text. Laughing Fish scheme obviously comes to play pretty straight. “Jokerworld Death Parks for all the family” seems to bring Killing Joke to mind.
“Give your favorite clown prince some of that old time fear gas, Scarecrow” sounds a lot like Alex from A Clockwork Orange. They move to force Batman to go back to that day … with threat of Dick Grayson having his mouth cut into a permanent grin, but Batman has already freed himself, just like he said he would, from the bindings.
A bit of the Mad Hatter “revamp”. The poser Mad Hatter takes on the personality of whatever hat he’s wearing. In this panel, for instance, a cowboy hat, and he wears two six-shooters. Sufficiently different enough from creepy little Alice in Wonderland pederast Jervis Tetch.
Riddler’s not much of a fighter. Joker, crazy as ever, wants to escape via time travel. To funny places like the Cruficixion (Not the first crucified reference in Morrison’s books), the Children’s Crusade (A Slaughterhouse Five reference, which is charming considering Bruce is now bouncing through time and especially considering this issue) and Vietnam.
O’Hara (Continuity alert! O’Hara was killed in Dark Victory prior to Grayson becoming Robin … but here’s O’Hara and Robin together, and Robin’s clearly been Robin for a couple years now. Who’s right, Morrison or Loeb? Well … hell with it. It could always be that this is Clancy O’Hara Junior, after all … this is comics.)
“The Two-Face/Clayface/No-Face/False Face team!” I’d pay good money to read about that in the next Batman Confidential.
Batman can’t endure another session … but someone can … and Nichols can go … well, always to his Granton basement … but can go any time!
Tony Daniel redesigns the 1960’s TV Batmobile and my god it’s perfect.
Dick Grayson has a good rapport with the boys in blue, asking Officer Bailey (He was in B&R # 1, right?) how his son Max is doing. The kid’s in a wheelchair. Well … later on we meet “Max Roboto” again. Ten-to-one odds on Max Roboto being “Max Bailey”, crippled son of a cop who gets robot parts and turns to crime.
Grayson has been using kali sticks as his primary weapon as Nightwing for years now. The gang is reminiscent of the Mutants from The Dark Knight Returns, just not as … well … “mutated” yet. An early prototype.
Lone-Eye Lincoln. The very same drug dealer that Honor Jackson led Bruce Wayne to when he was drugged up and walking the streets, the guy who told him Honor Jackson had died days before. Apparently he’s moving up in the world, to suit the new Gotham fashion movement for criminals and thugs. Dapper dress, and he’s a pimp now, too!
The stuff the prostitute, S’reena, says about Mister Freeze is priceless.
And here we have our Mad Hatter v.2 update. He just goes by “Hatman” now, and he’s running an underworld auction. Kite-Man’s killer kite collection … Red Hood’s dual red automatics from a few issues ago … and Joker’s Jokebook. All of these have something in common with Joker, in fact. Joker murdered Kite-Man during Infinite Crisis, he’s the reason Red Hood exists. Grayson leaves us hanging until the future with the “reason it’s so legendary, but worry not …”
Back to 666. Damian-Batman beats the hell out of Max Roboto (Now with super subtle backstory) and leaves him for Gotham’s mutant sewer rats to chew on. Once more, Joker haunts the place, in the form of joker toxin acid rain. Back to Granton, before everyone dies at midnight (Hey, death at midnight is totally Joker’s thing!)
Commissioner Barbara Gordon does what she can while Batman works through the sewers. We get another Infinite Crisis references as Damian uses Brother-I to take out some Hugo Strange Monster Serum monsters … and you can bet your ass Damian doesn’t have the same problem using Brother-I that Bruce had, ethically.
He reaches Nichols’ basement in Granton and finds our villain – 2-Face-2, holding a baby that’s been Jokerized. The broad “January” threat was a 2-Face style motif and Damian figured it out.
“The baby has a twin, like two bars on a dollar sign,” says 2-Face-2 … (Take note, detectives! Because when you find out who this baby is, your head will spin!). 2-Face-2 wants Joker’s Jokebook, or the “past and future die tonight!” (Does he mean the past and future Batmen?)
“He’s not a twin!” cries Damian. Fight breaks out. Damian crushes 2-Face-2’s head under Nichols’ time machine. Young Carter Nichols shows up, kills himself (Damian realizes what Dick meant about being so sure it was a suicide) and then Carter Nichols (who hasn’t gone back yet to tip off the cops back in “Yesterday” because he hasn’t done it yet. Nice way of preventing anyone from stopping him.)
And BAM … the shocker … the Jokerized baby is Terry god damn McGinnis.
AND TOMORROW …
Cut to Batman Beyond. Terry McGinnis is kicking ass against the Jokerz gang, Joker is there – this is probably during “Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker” which means that’s Tim Drake in some form or another. And old Bruce Wayne (Apparently not dead after all … wait … which possible future is the one that’s going to happen?!) looks on and tells him he’s learning. But is it old Bruce Wayne … he almost looks like he could be “Old Damian Wayne”.
AND TOMORROW …
Jump to another possible future. Batman is some kind of grizzled freedom fighter in a dystopian future battling the robot army of tyranny. “The Iron Heel of Fura”. “The Iron Heel” was a Jack London novel, and possibly one of the first dystopian
Future type novels. Fura … no clue. There’s a fluorescent dye that’s got a similar name. Anyway, they’re very Borg-like, and the whole thing is slightly Frank Millerish. Or is it Batman Year 100? I never did read that …
AND TOMORROW …
All the way up to Batman 1,000,000 on the planet Pluto. The Batman of that time has to face off against the Anti-Utopian Army’s hate revolution. And go figure, they’re an army of clowns (Possibly worshipping Joker as some sort of historical god figure, since his face appears on a monitor.)
It was a good time travel story with some subtle winks and nods about the broader time travel story going on in the rest of the book right now. What can happen, what can’t, what has, what hasn’t. And a bit of stuff furthering the “Joker phases” Grant has been highlighting.
I need to dive into some other annotations before I can really wrap my head around the greater importance of this issue.