Wednesday, July 28, 2010


The latest issue is here, and how does it fare? Artistically, pretty bad. Georges Jeanty’s interiors are very basically framed, aren’t so especially good, and damn sure don’t make up for Cameron Stewart, or even Kubert’s cover. But he at least gets the job done, so there’s something to be said for that. But yeah, it’s pretty bad. Characters seen previously in Morrison’s story-so-far don’t match with their well-depicted selves from other issues. It's competent. You can follow the story. I won't linger on it much.

Scene 1 – The Van Derm Ranch (Out West)
Straight out of “Once Upon a Time in the West”, a ruthless gang of thugs shows up out of nowhere on a ranch and kills the owner (hangs him, actually – Hang ‘Em High), kills the courageous young son who pulled a gun on them, leave the mother to cry over a dead son and husband, and kidnap the daughter.

It’s not explicitly stated until the end, but this is the Van Derm Ranch. Apparently since our last era, they’ve moved out West. The desert skies (No clue where? Oklahoma? New Mexico? No matter … it’s generic Wild West) are red and the sun going down casts long black shadows.

In Tarot terms … we get a literal “Hanged Man”. Nice symbolism with the apples falling from the tree he’s hanging from. Like red pearls falling to the ground. And these bastards even killed the dog. If you didn’t already know they’re the Van Derms, you’d realize it as soon as one of our goons finds the Bat Casket in their house. The mother screams – “Don’t tell them, Katie! No matter what happens! Don’t you tell!” (which contrasts rather eerily with Hurt fantasy Thomas Wayne’s “Now she’ll never tell” at Martha Kane’s death-scene). The Van Derm children are once more a brother and a sister – one boy and one girl seems to be a common number for their family. Anyway, one of these punks kills the little boy, and laughs about it. You know Bruce Wayne is going to fuck him up later.

Mom sits there crying with her dead son cradled. And prays for a dark angel of retribution. And she gets one. Bruce clickety-clacks up with his bat-spurs as it rains. So what’s the deal here? Apparently he spends a bit more time in this era – enough time to willingly and purposely get new clothes and assume this “Dark Rider” persona to track down things from the previous areas that he now remembers after his meeting with Blackbeard (“Remember” … Darkseid … Man of Bats … and so forth). Interesting though, because Bruce Wayne arrived all three times last time at the same time somebody prayed for someone like him. This time … he’s clearly been here for a while already. Enough time to leave Gotham and return.

Last Issue – Wayne Manor
Last issue our hoods met Jonah Hex at the old abandoned Wayne Manor and hired him to deal with their little “bat problem”. In that way, Jonah Hex really 100% compares to modern day guys like Deadshot quite nicely. He coyly showed the Dead Man’s Hand, indicating that this takes place after Wild Bill Hickok’s death, probably not too terribly long after. Here the only indication of the time we really get are a newspaper and rumors of somebody being over 150 years old … somebody who would’ve been between 40-50 in 1765 … during a particular Satanic Rite. I think that puts this in at about 1865-1870. It’s hard to say and not ultimately that important. What is important is that Alan Wayne, featured prominently here, the son of Judge Solomon Wayne, and nephew of Joshua (Who I really thought we’d meet, since he holds the casket in that one painting that I guess Bruce sets up next issue) is probably in his 20’s. And this is Bruce’s Great-Grandfather.

Bruce has apparently tracked these punks all the way there to the Van Derms, and all the way back to Gotham, and even got one of them before they got desperate and sought out Hex. The goons, by the way – Bucky, Lucky and Chuck? Classic goon names. Practically 60’s Batman.

Scene 2 – Gotham City (Straight out of Gangs of New York)
(The night that the “Boss” doesn’t want this fucking black cowboy character fucking up his occult voodoo.)

Where was I? Right … late 1800’s … hoods have just hired Jonah Hex to take out this vigilante. They’re showing him to the “Boss’s place” in Gotham. Naturally the boss works out of a saloon and gambling establishment, and naturally, the boss is Vandal god-damn Savage (He’s where I wish the art was better … but for Hex, too). Vandal Savage meet Jonah Hex.

Savage is pounding laudanum to numb the pain. Apparently he’s got stomach cancer. I’m curious then if that alludes that Blackbeard was indeed Vandal Savage. If you’ll recall … Blackbeard smoked that pipe like a chimney. Anyway, we find Western-Era Vandal Savage using a French accent and talking about Napoleon betraying him (Which would’ve been 100 years prior) and banishing him to Russia.

“Cut yourself shaving” seems like it was taken right out of the awful attempt at a Jonah Hex movie.

“I’d hate to spoil your famous AIM” – interesting that AIM is in bold font, since AIM is the name of a Classical Demon.

Eeeeesh, artwork, eeesh.

Hex’s got a good nose – he smells something funny in the next room, and immediately puts our minds into what sage would be burnt for. Burning sage is used in many ceremonial functions in many cultures, but here we’ve got two options. Either to clear the girl’s mind – something the Indian cooked up to make her pliant … or for use in brainwashing techniques, which is right up Doctor Hurt’s alley.

The Indian is not Miagani, it seems, but he seems like he’s from a local tribe who knows something about them. Probably a Delaware Indian, and apparently one of the last shamans to be able to read or speak the Miagani Language. He’s scared of the Bat-People, relays Miagani legends about turning the sky upside down (there’s that term, UPSIDE DOWN, again) and knows their “end of the world” legends. End of the world? Hex’s fee just went up.

Savage has tons of men, but Bruce faces them in the street and Waco Kid’s them all in their shooting arms with razor-sharp batarangs. Nice little Man With No Name moment. There’s a good bit of Eastwood in Batman here. He doesn’t say a word in the entire issue …

Our superstitious Indian, “Midnight Horse” (Another MIDNIGHT reference … hahaha literally we here have “Midnight in the House of Hurt”) believes it’s a spirit. All this talk about the Miagani has got him rattled. He’s more right than they know. But Savage has an inkling, since he remembers the Old World. Anyway, Savage’s motives for opening the Casket seem pretty simple. Same as his motives in Final Crisis … he’s been alive for so long, anything short of Armageddon is boring. The end of the world will be a relief. A cure to his boredom. But seconds later he seemingly contradicts that – even immortals fear extinction and the girl in there has a gift that could help prolong an immortal’s condition. (No doubt whatever the secret passed down by the Van Derms regarding that casket is … but didn’t Bruce instruct them on that secret?)

Anyway, tremendously importantly … Catherine Van Derm is being imposed upon by Doctor Thomas Wayne, rumored to be over 150 years old. Yes, Simon Hurt shows up here, seemingly. Looking for the key to eternity. He calls her a little slut, which is his usual perversion and corruption. She’s probably not a little slut. But this is champagne and orgy Thomas Wayne we’re talking about. Old Money Dark Secrets behind Puritan Roots/secret societies Thomas Wayne. Apparently the secret of immortality is in that box that only she knows how to open. So they think anyway.

We know a few things in there. Annie’s book. The notes of the Black Pirate regarding the Miagani. Probably White Fawn’s necklace is in there too, because why not?

What else is important here? Indian legends criss-crossing with Satanists. Thomas Wayne looking for the secrets of the Bat-People/Miagani. He wants to know the secret of Barbatos. What the hell are the Bells of Barbatos? I know what they are thematically. We’ve heard bells ringing in the distance and had Black Pirate and others reference doomsday and destruction and the end of time with regards to them. And assume they’re connected to Bruce’s Omega issues. But what’s actually causing people to hear bells tolling?

“Yes, the Bells of Barbatos, that’s it! And all those statues! (The Miagani statue of Man of Bats) and paintings! (The painting of Mordecai Wayne) Darius and Mad Tony, the heroes of the Revolution! (DC Fans, help me out – who the hell is Mad Tony? Anthony? Antonio? Antonin?) I stood in the circle with Jefferson when we raised batwinged Barbatos and drank the starry venom!” (Dark Knight, Dark City, and also referenced recently by Alfred when explaining Thomas Wayne. Here he is!)

“ … Gran’pa Jerome says a DARK GOD is opening his box and there’s bells … but the bells at the end summon another … from the shadows …” That’s FINAL CRISIS, isn’t it? The dark god, DARKSEID falls into a black hole (opens his box) but the bells at the end summon another (another dark god) from the shadows. That’s MANDRAKK. Right?

Or is the first dark god Mandrakk, and the bells at the end summon another … NIX UOTAN … who won’t stop until the wicked are brought to account (“The judge of all f***king evil!”)

Jerome Van Derm. It’s another Christian name. We’ve seen Nathan Van Derm and Martin Van Derm and now we have Jerome Van Derm.

“Old Gambler”, Midnight Horse calls Doctor Wayne. A Native-American associating gambling with Doctor Hurt, whose whole Black Glove is a gambling society that gambles on good vs. evil. I don’t know if it’s ironic or not. Vandal Savage clearly doesn’t seem to give much of a damn about losing Midnight Horse (“The only man alive who can translate Miagani language”). Vandal Savage’s apathy is pretty funny. He just doesn’t give a fuck anymore.

“We’ll build a New Empire in Mexico and bring down this infant America, eh?” – does that not seem like Thomas Wayne 1765’s “El Penitente Cartel”? It wouldn’t surprise me if our Satanist leech, Doctor Hurt basically just swiped Vandal Savage’s plans.

Bruce does his ghost ninja in the smoke routine, and the superstitious words of Midnight Horse fuel the terror in the latest wave of cowardly and superstitious men. Easy ass-kickings abound, and Bruce kicks Bucky off a balcony and onto a roulette wheel. Oh hey, a roulette wheel!

Clearly this is a Thomas Wayne-Hurt who hasn’t met Bruce Wayne yet and doesn’t understand the demon of the night his great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grand-nephew will be, but it’s clear enough after this night, our Satanic immortality seeking Devil-Wayne is going to be OBSESSED with his “nephew”. I wonder if he’ll ever realize that Bruce is Barbatos.

Vandal recognizes him. Vandal must have a long fucking memory, but then again, if he was Blackbeard in addition to Chief Savage, it might help ease his memory a bit.

Hurt mentions that opening the casket will summon “Everlasting day”. You’d think a Satanist would want everlasting night … Hex joins the party, but Batman puts him down momentarily. And we get the ONLY bit of dialogue from Bruce in the entire issue. “Htt”. Indicating a powerful throw at an unexpectedly tough foe. Or recognition? I mean, Bruce has time-traveled and met Jonah Hex before, hasn’t he?

And we learn that our Old Timey Wild West narrator is witnessing this “wagon chase” through Gotham’s streets. With flowery, educated prose he writes about how he was walking down into town across the “black river” (Gotham River) toward the monstrous, bright abnormality (Gotham City) that his father, the Judge (Solomon Wayne) commissioned Pinkney to build (Judge Solomon Wayne is notorious in Batman history as the man responsible for commissioning the Gothic Architecture that Gotham would become famous for). Or, Old Gotham City is on one of the islands, and the new island is being built in that way.

“Our line, the line of Wayne, would forever be a house unfinished.” – While Alan is apparently a quiet, forlorn young man searching for the right woman, who has resigned himself to the belief that he’ll die a bachelor without a good wife … it’s an ironic statement, since Batman as a fictional character, barring Damian, will always be a bachelor and young man. But anyway, Alan … your prayers will be answered tonight as well.

“Black wagon out of Hell” – you’ve got that right, Alan. Anything driven by Vandal Savage and Thomas Simon Wayne-Hurt can neatly be referred to as “out of Hell”.

Is this moody kid so lonely that he’s thinking of jumping off the bridge into Gotham River? I believe so. He’s suicidal. That’s why he doesn’t get out of the way of the wagon that’s about to trample him to death. But fate in the form of Bruce Wayne intervenes and doesn’t just save his Great-Grandfather from death – introduces his Great-Grandfather to his Great-Grandmother. The Wayne and Van Derm lines combine here, folks. Alan Wayne marries Catherine Van Derm. She has the secret of the Bat Casket, and he probably has the secret of the Hidden Room in the mansion.

Bruce gives her a necklace. White Fawn’s necklace. Where the HELL did he get that?

“My Momma wouldn’t ever have parted with this. Not ‘less she sent you. This is from the Olden Days.”

Oh wow. Anthro’s son, “Man”, father of Kong the Untamed (“Boy”) said that necklace would never leave their family and would be passed down their family line in direct descent, forever and ever. So our Dutch Van Derms aren’t totally Dutch? Either that or Martin Van Derm from ROBW # 2 married a Miagani girl (Annie did say that there were hidden Miagani). But Kong-Boy was blond as well. And there was talk about the Miagani returning back over the Siberian land bridge to spread the bat-message globally. In all that time, it seems at least 100% clear now that the Van Derms somehow are the descendents of Anthro/Da-Man/Kong.

The casket is opened by whistling. Bruce’s eyes go wide. Whistle-activated traps were a Miagani trick last issue … so the Van Derms indeed MUST be descended from the Miagani. That means Bruce is descended from the Miagani.

Seeing Vandal Savage pistol-whip Doctor Hurt is immensely satisfying. “He’s a fool. A fool.” Says Vandal Savage, who seems to see Bruce Wayne as the immortal Barbatos Demon, but sees Alan and Catherine as nothing but mortal bones. Vandal Savage is high as a kite, remember, but this is Morrison. High on opiates means some sort of freaky heightened sense of reality. Vandal is calling Doctor Hurt a fool because Hurt wants to summon Barbatos … but Vandal must realize that Bruce IS BARBATOS. The same Man of Bats demon fucker who aced him in Prehistoria (and possibly in the Cave as Blackbeard). His immortal insight is rewarded with a knee to the teeth.

As for Doctor Hurt. Bruce pulls him close to his face, in what looks to me like a moment of recognition, and Doctor Thomas EVIL Wayne says “… are you one, too? I’ll get you all in the end! Hex!”

Are you one what? A demon/devil? Well yeah, Thomas, yeah he is. You’re both demons. Unfortunately for Bruce, Hex is actually pretty badass, and de-horsed back down the road or not, he faces off with Bruce and shoots him in the guts, and Bruce falls into the river. Jonah Hex is in fact faster on the draw than Bruce Wayne. Which is pretty rugged, but is a little singular as a skill-set compared to the sheer versatility of Batman.

I’d be interested in reading more into how Hex factors in as a Deadshot-like character. He does feel very Batman-esque. His facial scars akin to Two-Face or other deformed freaks. The one “wide” eye does resemble Deadshot’s optic sight that he wears over his right eye.

Alan Wayne’s writings confirm he was suicidal, but hey, he got a wife out of this. And even had the insight to recognize divine design. His son Kenneth is born (apparently Catherine Van Derm dies during birth) and Bruce’s great-grandfather is the first Wayne/Van Derm combo.

Scene 3 – Back out West …
Alan writes about how Jonah Hex is probably the only one lucky in the whole affair, but Hex keeps the batarang that Bruce ganked him in the arm with and rides off into the sunset, and leaves Bonaparte’s gold behind. Hex doesn’t want hexed gold, apparently.

Scene 4 – The aftermath …
Alan Wayne doesn’t exactly confirm that he knows Thomas Wayne was a “Wayne”, but he certainly hints toward it. Knowing that the rumors peg Thomas as being 150 years old … knowing that the guy sought in blood the secret of life eternal (same as Deacon Blackfire).

We see Doctor Hurt pack his doctor’s kit and move to Liverpool on a ship called the S.S. Orion. Orion, obviously, being the name of the New God who died at the beginning of Final Crisis … the hunter … tied to Bruce’s belt clue … depicted in the painting of Darius (Which Thomas must know about) … on the roses in the mansion (Which probably isn’t built till afterward) and so forth.

Alan and Catherine seem to have constructed the secret room. And seem to have been quite well informed about both the Wayne family secret (that there’s a Satanic Church on the Estate Grounds, the Underground Railroad stuff, the cave) and the Van Derm secrets. Anyway, the secrets combine. And the Hidden Room connecting to the old Miagani cave is meant to hide the Casket. Alan proceed to design the “Garden of Death” with the bat shape, and his own huge crypt … turns the Wayne wealth into Wayne Enterprises during the Industrial Revolution, and voila … things are coming together.

Scene 5 – Gotham City, only one generation ago – the time of Bruce’s parents …
Comparing the small Bat Casket to the very same buried alive grave that Bruce crawled out of in R.I.P. is a neat exercise. Alan Wayne compared it opening to a coffin. Anyway, now, Bruce arrives in the Film Noir 30’s. Seedy Gotham. And he has a book and some papers (probably the notes). And Bruce, shot, totally gets hit by a truck and spills his notes and the book. Gotham is officially the scumhole we know and love.

Lingering questions?

I have a few. For starters … when is the Giant Bat-Beast going to get explained? Secondly … while I can speculate, how exactly is it that the Dutch Van Derms are descendents of the Bat-Tribe? Thirdly … what about Annie and her book?

But at least we have some clean-cut answers about Doctor Hurt.

I apologize. My ramblings tonight could have been a lot more concise.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


Man, that’s an evocative title.

As a lover of the whole comic book experience, something like “The missing chapter” just plain comes across as cool. The very implication that we were following the timeline panel-by-panel, only to find out that something was missing … a few moments in time (like the missing 52 seconds during 52, for instance) that could answer everything is a great one.

Of course, this is a two-parter, and we only get SOME of those answers. But with a name referring to “The Hole In Things” we know there’s more to it.

Page 1
“Days to Omega: 30”.

Days to Omega is awesome stuff. More funny still is this: All that talk Bruce did back in "Black Casebook" about being Alpha Male Plus. So him meeting Darkseid was ... the ALPHA and the OMEGA. Fuck that's poetic.

Apart from the proper chronological ordering of things (The “missing month” in Final Crisis where Earth fell into a black hole and the fact that we know Batman is imprisoned during that month, while Darkseid’s slaves take over the Earth and heroes form resistance movements.) it’s a nice impending “Doom Countdown Clock”, which syncs up pretty well with The Return of Bruce Wayne, wherein the ACTUAL return of Bruce Wayne is a Doomsday Clock.

“Surviving is EASY.”

Yeah, maybe if you’re Bruce fucking Wayne. Which as Superman, Dick Grayson, Tim Drake and everyone else have hammered home lately while we’ve watched Bruce survive in foreign time periods … you are. Which means your superpower is your resourcefulness, your cleverness, your brains … and plain old dumb luck. The reason you, Batman, are super-human is because all these elements have combined in you through every means available. Divine intervention (including the writers). Your own genealogy. Destiny. Because the story must go on. And honestly? Flight, super-speed, laser eyes and x-ray vision are awesome super-powers … but LUCK is that much better.

Page 2
“Surviving is what I do.”

Fucking-A right.

Page 3
Love this page. Batman, silhouetted in the darkness of Gotham River, swimming upward with all his might, as the background element while the frames zoom in on Hurt’s helicopter … it appears Hurt (and Lane … I guess) kick their way out of the chopper and live. That looks like it’s Lane’s foot (with Hurt’s hair next to it) and obviously Hurt’s hand (with some of Lane’s cape?). The bubbles surrounding them could very well indicate that they had breathing apparatuses (There’s air escaping the chopper, but the smaller streams of bubbles seem scuba-like). In fact, in Lane was trained to be a Batman replacement, he’d almost certainly have some re-breather gear in his Utility Belt. Not that your later “supernatural” theories are wrong, Bruce.

Love the use of the diagrams as well, showing “stats” of Batman’s survival skills. Of course … it’s a little alarming to see Bruce’s survival skills reduced to statistics. Reminds me of Hurt’s isolation experiments where he studied Batman’s mind and skills.

Art-wise, I think this is my favorite page of the issue. Because I love seeing Batman swim, and have ever since those Brave and the Bold team-ups with Aquaman, where they consistently proved why they’re the two baddest mothers on the original JLA line-up. It feels very Adams/Aparo …

Page 4
Just a quick reminder of where we are. Gotham River. A few hundred yards out from Arkham Asylum. Spotlights indicate that the police have surrounded Arkham Asylum by this point. Fire on the surface is from the chopper crash – floating bits, burning fuel supplies and oils. Tony’s linework is getting better. There are certain things this issue that are cringe-worthy – occasionally Bruce is just far too hawk-nosed, and man, to illustrate the difference between Bruce and Richard, Tony has jacked old Bruce up to be slightly more hulking. Still … his linework has crisped up pretty nicely.

Pages 6 and 7
Nice title page spread. I like it. While this issue continues to be chock full of red/black, seeing Bruce’s eyes narrowed remembering the gun and the pearls from the night his parents died is pretty cool. So did it happen that way?

Pages 8 and 9
The “journal entries” mark such a stark difference between Bruce and Grayson. Bruce is constantly mentally cataloguing and arranging the sequence of events in such a way that he’s going to jot it down in his casebooks later. Grayson doesn’t worry as much about memorizing everything. The Devil’s in the Details, and Bruce is OBSESSED with the Details.

“The next time you wear it will be your last”. Hurt’s words resonate, since we know Bruce is about to put his “last” cowl on and go get time-blasted. And later one when Bruce refers to his own cape & cowl as a “death-trap” things really seem metaphorical. But what if they’re not? What if LITERALLY when Bruce Wayne reappears in the Present, he “pops” back into the now-ancient relic Cowl that he was zapped out of in the first place? Like a phantom face appearing in the cloak of a specter.

This scene where Ellie returns is adorable. It’s like the gritty Gotham City version of those little moments in All-Star Superman where Superman takes time out of world-saving godliness to be nice to people. She took that job at WayneTech (I re-read that recently and literally was like “Boy, I sure hope she takes that job and is a success story …”). Had to laugh my ass off that her boyfriend’s name is Errol, though. How old is that tiny girl? 13? 14? In like Flynn, I suppose.

“Don’t worry about me.”

Page 10
Not much to this. Iconic “I just walked all the way back to Wayne Manor” shot. Anatomy is just jacked up to the max here … look at this guy … Bruce Wayne may be bigger than Grayson, but he’s still supposed to be a lithe, lean ninja type. This is some Frank Miller shit. I wonder if you stretched it vertically with PhotoShop if it would look right …

Page 11
After returning home from a horrific “joyride” with Damian … Alfred is sweeping. Bruce is missing, could be dead, Dick and Tim no doubt went back out to help the Club of Heroes wipe the floor with the Club of Villains. And Alfred is SWEEPING.

I’d be upset if the parlour floor in Wayne Manor didn’t have black & white checkered tiles. There’s an old Victorian era mansion a few miles from my house that we used to break into while ghost-hunting (Punk kids I guess were a cowardly, superstitious lot. I was in it because the superstitious girls freaked out and got nervous and huddled close. But I digress. At any rate, place is supposedly haunted. Of course, out here in the sticks (Styx?) everything is supposedly haunted.) Anyway, huge parlour with the iconic hardwood wall panels and a huge mirror and all that. Beautiful building. Recently restored by rich people who’ll never find a buyer for it. In the future if I ever get a gig drawing Batman comics, I’ll be asking the owners if I can go in and do some photo-referencing.


Page 12
BRUCE FINALLY EATS SOMETHING! As if that isn’t bad enough … in a few pages, he actually gets some sleep! The fasting has ended. And hey – Batman’s favorite food is Mulligatawny soup. Good choice, actually.

I love the concept that Batman was never really out of it for more than a half hour. As if that’s even a lot of time. I’ve just wasted a half hour between paragraphs.

“Wanted to ENLIST me.” Yes, it’s easy to forget that Hurt is into the corruption of souls. The entire Black Glove? Corrupt people. But was Hurt involved in corrupting them in the first place? He certainly seems to have corrupted Lazlo Valentin … completely fucked over Eduardo Flamingo … and so forth. So why does he just want to put a bullet in Dick Grayson’s brain? Is it because Dick Grayson really, truly is incorruptible? But not just in that “I’ll fight you because I’m stubborn” way like Bruce. Grayson is purely virtuous.

“We were right about Jezebel.” So Alfred WAS in on it with him about Jezebel. Re-reading that recently, I’d been curious. Bruce talked about Alfred’s “acting lessons”. He even made a point to misinform Jezebel about Alfred being a bad actor – suggesting by saying that Alfred Beagle’s “Hamlet” was critically torn to pieces. But those acting lessons didn’t specifically ever say that Bruce let Alfred know Jezebel was honey-potting him.

The Bat-Sub is a cute device, but Tony is really over-designing the vehicles in this issue. His “Not-Quite-What-I-Wanted Batmobile” was so sleek and sharp looking, with it’s straight edges and wisely used curves and jags. It’s a thing of beauty, and every time I see it sitting in the Bat-Bunker garage next to Grayson’s “Better Batmobile” I smile at how cool it is as the “ground pounder” of the Mobiles. Here, Tony channels Jim Lee. And that’s a fucking shame, since Jim Lee is the most overrated bastard in comics. The whole organic hideousness is pure 90’s Image sensibilities. But whatever. It’s kind of a non-issue. What gives with the green and blue spotlights?

“There was something gnawing inside me.”

I just had the pleasure of watching Scorcese’s “Shutter Island”. Being an avid Batman reader, and Morrison/Moore follower, I had the plot figured out about 50 minutes into the movie. Not that he was crazy – to be honest, I had that figured out within five minutes. But the entirety of the elaborate ruse and each individual psychological reference that his brain was doing to make up for things and so on and so forth. I even figured that he was the person he was hunting for – although not being Jonathan Crane, I didn’t pick up on the Anagram nature of the names.

Point being … he described his mentally fucked wife as having said she had “insects crawling around on the inside of her skull, tugging on strings and making her do things.”

It immediately reminded me of that fucking THING on Bat-Mite’s back.

The ghost thing fascinates me. This is very much a ghost story, after all. But Hurt is tangible.

“I am the hole in things”.
“A ghost.”
“An empty space.”
“Hiding in the gaps.”
“The holes.”
“The absences.”

I’m not saying Bruce Wayne is schizophrenic or anything.

Page 14
The clock stopped again. The last time that happened (well, “the next time” it happens) Bruce was dreaming about when Jason Todd died. Is Bruce dreaming here? Is he dead? Has somebody died? Rest in peace.

I wonder at the significance of the time. It’s 1:15. What does that mean? Literally, chronologically it means that it’s only been an hour and fifteen minutes since Midnight, which was when “Zur En Arrh” wore off and Joker’s trap occurred. If Bruce was only in their clutches for :30 minutes after that, that means he dug himself out of that grave, and with Dick Grayson, kicked the shit out of them from 12:30 to probably 12:40. (Ten minutes seems fair. Ten minutes between digging his way out of a grave and the chopper crash.) Then after a brief time swimming for his life, he goes another five minutes before he talks to Ellie. 12:50? Then he goes home. We don’t know exactly how he gets home, it appears he walks. Point being, there’s no way he could do all that and return home, hop in the Bat-Sub, go back out, explore, and come back before 1:15. Which means something happened at 1:15 – an hour and fifteen minutes after Midnight.

Is that when Batman died? Not Bruce Wayne … obviously. Batman. When Dick Grayson picked up the cape and cowl, and while Batman was sitting on that pier reflecting about the whole thing before walking back home?

Titus 1:15 says Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled.

Hey, Bible reference! But one that seems kind of spot on, right? But beyond that … Alfred finds it unusual. Did Sombrero or Hurt stop the clock on that moment on purpose? Permanently affixed dead-center in the Witching Hour?

“He’ll think twice” says Alfred. Twice. Twin. Deuce. Devil. Double. Doppelganger. Hurt is as much a doppelganger as any character has been before. Of course, it’s hard to say just WHICH Wayne he’s the evil twin of. Still, being the evil twin of Bruce’s father would be the ultimate soap opera type bit. That’s the German term, of course. “Fetch” would be the term in the British Isles. Either way, seeing a Fetch was an omen of death. And they were theoretically related in name and type to “Mares” … as in Nightmares, which were originally considered by the stupid old timey people to be evil spirits. In Batman’s case, that seems to be literal.

“I want to go thank Tim and Dick.”

Actually it appears he doesn’t get a chance to, since like Christ on Easter before him, sleeps for three days.

Page 15
Hairy-chested love god. Even sleeping, Batman takes notes. We finally get some concrete thoughts on the whole drugs/hallucinations element that Grant has been exploring. Nice to see a little consistency with the Manor being shaped in Van Derm’s stylized “W” … the cool thing about that is not only does it suit Grant’s needs for the historical Bat-Symbol and the “W” for Wayne context, but it gives the place a West Wing and an East Wing – a left and a right side. Alfred specifically told us that the WESTERN “V” of the manor was the part that caved during the Earthquake, but that the Eastern side was far less damaged. I was going to say something quippy and unanswerable like “I wonder which wing the LIBRARY” is in, but actually … if you look at Andy Clarke’s beautifully technical artwork back in the Batman vs. Robin issues … it’s VERY CLEAR that the Library is the central jutting point on the W – the “n” on this quick little text-diagram: [_n_]

The talk about feeling disembodied – haunting the halls and stairways of his own home. I know Bruce is dreaming here, but that talk is actually highly indicative of Clinical Depression. The existential disconnect where you feel like a ghost yourself and just drift from room to room with no drive or goal. Is this Grant telling us that Bruce is depressed? NO. I believe it’s Grant telling us that without Batman, Bruce WOULD BE horribly depressed. In the day or two since Batman died (in his head, metaphorically, symbolically or whatever), depression has already crept in.

But that’s just me extrapolating on the dreamlike quality thing, and isn’t really important to the plot here (in fact, it says more about me than Bruce).

Point being, here’s our connection. Bruce dreams about the Manor’s Hidden Room. And we see the fireplace in the library. The portrait of Thomas and Martha. The horse’s bust. The three roses. Artifacts that it seems more and more likely that Bruce Wayne puts there himself – probably next week in the Cowboy Issue of Return of Bruce Wayne, since Morrison is blending elements and Wayne Manor was said to be built both in 1795-99 AND in the 1860s. Judge Solomon abandoned it – perhaps Bruce will help with the decision to complete and restore/renovate the “old haunted house”, and he’ll directly influence the three roses and the hidden room.

Bruce dreams that he sees the “Thomas Thomas Thomas Thomas BARBATOS” wall. Is he sleepwalking?

“Why had my parents made me solemnly vow never to enter the Hidden Room?”

So … Grayson was right. Bruce HAD to know about this. Did Alfred?

As for why his parents had made him solemnly vow … that’d be because you yourself, Bruce, are responsible for its construction and whispered in Solomon’s ear “it’s evil or occult and you should tell your family never to go in there” as a secret means of keeping the evidence within from being tampered with so that Dick Grayson could get it in the future? (Anyone remember that scene at the beginning of Back to the Future III where the mail-man guy shows up at the exact spot on the exact day Doc Brown got zapped back to 1855 with a 100 year old letter for Marty McFly?)

At any rate, when Bruce says “Forgive me” it seems semi-clear that he’s not dream-walking so much as he’s just still groggy as he wanders around the Manor. Of course … isn’t the Manor still booby-trapped by El Sombrero? Alfred still hadn’t deactivated everything, almost a year later. But that’s a minor quibble. I’m not sure what leads him to realize that Hurt discovered the Hidden Room. But it’s clear enough that Hurt is the one who scrawled “Thomas Thomas Thomas BARBATOS” on the walls. Grayson remarks that the ink on the walls or whatever is under a year old, and here, under a year ago, we see Bruce finds it. We already speculated that Hurt was the one who wrote it. This seems to confirm that suspicion.

I wanted there to be 99 instances of the name “Thomas” … or even 72. But there’s only 30-something, and I seem to remember there’s only 30-something in the original drawing as well. Then again … I suppose ALFRED could have written it.

“Some kind of sickness at the root of the family tree.”

Why, that would be Annie’s curse on the Waynes, wouldn’t it? Or could it be the Van Derms and devil worship? Or the fact that Wayne Manor is built on Miagani holy ground?

“A worm at the foundations.”

The fantasy fan in me would just like to point out that WORM is another word for DRAGON. And specifically … one that is SERPENT-like. Like “THE” Serpent. The big one, the literary one, the one they talk about at Church. The Devil. The forked tongue, that Joker was clearly hinting at when he sliced his own tongue in R.I.P. (Is that still sliced or did he get it stitched up? Perhaps his trip to England was initially to use their healthcare system.)

Worm at the foundations mentioned in such insanely close proximity to “Family Tree” immediately makes me think of Nidhogg, the worm (serpent … dragon) that gnaws at the roots of Yggdrasil, the Tree of Life. The Tree of Life isn’t just a Norse theme, though, it’s seen in a lot of shamanistic religions.

When Alfred says “there’s something I know you’ll want to see.” I thought he was referring to the newspaper articles. My brain kicked in. The newspaper is on Bruce’s workstation, which means Alfred must be talking about something else.

“CITIZEN WAYNE” is a pretty awesome headline. The whole “money + power = corruption” thing.

Page 17

He really did sleep off those three whole days, so that’s pretty cool.

Red skies.

It’s a little scratchy, but I like Tony’s depiction of Superman here. Even though he’s a little Howard Chaykin looking. Superman in Crisis-mode. There’s no smile at the moment. Orion’s just been killed. But sure as hell, there’s an GOLDEN ANGEL in the background behind Superman – Lady Justice, the golden statue in the Hall of Justice … Truth, Justice and the American Way. “JUSTICE” (albeit a word that’s been abused lately by DC Comics, thanks so much, James Robinson) is the common link between Batman and Superman. It’s the basis of their friendship. But more than that … Superman being an angel is a classic bit of metaphor as well. He flies. He comes down from heaven. He sits on clouds. He helps people. He’s guardian angel of an entire city, an entire planet. If Bruce Wayne is Batman is Barbatos is a Demon and a Devil, Superman is an Angel. The Underworld and the Heavens … best friends. My god, isn’t it a beautiful thing, that in the DC Universe, the Devil and the Angel, the Darkness and the Light, are best friends?

And really … isn’t Justice the unifying link between Heaven and Hell anyway? You’re good you go to Heaven and are JUDGED to have been worthy. You’re bad, you go to Hell and are JUDGED in the reverse.

“In Superman’s world, everything is mythology.”

Hate to break it to you, Brucie boy … but in YOUR world, everything is mythology, too.

Just out of curiosity, why the fuck is Bruce still wearing his ripped, shredded, tattered costume? Did Doctor Hurt steal all his uniforms?

Pages 18 and 19
Tony Daniel really draws a lot of widescreen, horizontal zooms on eyeballs and furrowed brows, doesn’t he? Go back and read through his other issues. Seriously, there’s more than a few.

Superman’s bit about the Green Lanterns is funny enough. It’s one of those little moments where you get both Grant playing nice with the other DC mucky-mucks. Geoff Johns, despite his lack of subtlety, really highlighted a nice concept in how Batman works in darkness … and Green Lanterns jobs are to light up the darkness, but that interferes with Batman’s job, so they don’t get along. It wasn’t much of a step to add in Batman’s “Tower of Babel” level paranoia, multiply that by the fact that Hal Jordan turned into a Number-1 Cosmic Asshole Super-Fucker, and draw out the fact that Batman is a skeptic and Hal Jordan was “resurrected” to the tenth power. It works. Their preexisting relationship in old JLA comics was just generic enough that by the 60’s and 70’s, as Hal progressed to cowboy bravado and Bruce sunk into brooding obsessive behavior, the return of Hal in modern times could set up some sort of dislike between the two of them. I’ll stop harping on this now. “Okay, they were professional and courteous, but Batman didn’t like him much.” At any rate … Bruce NEVER got on with Guy Gardner … liked John Stewart, but didn’t like when Stewart called him on his shit … and liked Kyle Rayner but treated him like a novice, because, well, Rayner was a fucking novice. And a novice with the most powerful emerald weapon in the galaxy is dangerous. Although I’ll warrant Bruce thought Kyle was a nice enough kid and meant well enough. (Kyle earned his respect in Morrison’s own JLA run, after all.)

Point being … Superman likes the Lanterns, but being an angel of compassion who fraternizes with a demon of vengeance, he also knows how to enlist Bruce’s help and what to say to get him to agree. And Superman has utmost faith in Batman’s skills, which proves well later, when Hal Jordan gets arrested, Batman doesn’t trust the Alpha-Lanterns, Superman gets sucked away to deal with some cosmic crazy shit and future wars, Batman gets zapped, and Superman leads the team that believes he survived and goes looking for him. It’s pure DC Big League Politics, and quite frankly … after his Batman run I hope to fuck somebody is smart enough to be like “Uh … Grant … Robinson’s Substitute Justice League is just wrong … will you write THE BIG SEVEN?”

(Note: The reason they’re THE BIG SEVEN is not that they should be the only members of the JLA, self-centered prigs who don’t allow any new members or hog all the spotlight. The reason they’re THE BIG SEVEN is because they’re workaholics who are that much more dedicated than their “Guest” or “Reservist” Members. Superman never stops (and doesn’t need to). Batman never stops (because he’s obessed). Aquaman never stops (because he’s stubborn as a mule). Wonder Woman rarely stops. Flash is a workaholic. Green Lantern is a workaholic (we get a little of this from Johns, who doesn’t outright mention it, but DOES show it, by having Hal visit home briefly, then fucking leave for GL business and rarely get home to see his brother or friends.) and Martian is a workaholic. And because they’re all fucking workaholics who happen to work amazingly well together, they’ve earned the admiration and fucking AWE of the entire DCU, including even their classic supporting members like Atom, Hawkman, Arrow, and the rest, and the newer supporters like Steel, Huntress, Vixen and so forth. It’s like the Batman and Robin team – the dynamic duo that work together like they were made for that shit. And now they’re all alive for the first time in 20 years. Grant, even just a mini-series!)

This page is word-for-word the same scene we saw Bruce remember during Last Rites. Only with the added benefit of Bruce’s journal entries. Here’s our line about the cape & cowl being a death-trap – beautiful image, that. Is it the death-trap he can never escape?

Some manifestation of the Devil, or my father. Good theories, Bruce. After all this time, we still can’t quite narrow down which one either.

Pages 20 and 21
Again, I want to complain about the butt-ugly hideousness of one of Tony Daniel’s vehicles. It was cute when he took the 1960’s TV Batmobile and gave it a bit of red/black flare back in Batman # 700, but this thing just looks ridiculous. A bubble cockpit so tall it hardly seems aerodynamic. The twin fins are fine … give it a bit of an F-22/A Raptor gibe although it’s too small to be one. The nose is just silly, and the wings are outrageous. I miss the holy living hell out of the Bat-Plane that got blown to smithereens on the Island of Mister Mayhew. J.H. Williams can design a vehicle. Grayson’s Bat-Plane is pretty stock as well. Enough of this Jim Lee pounded metal overdrive crap. It doesn’t look aerodynamic at all. I realize some of that seems to stem from the coloring (it only needed two tones) and too many inky blacks on the smooth surfaces.

That being said, the devil-imagery of the Bat-Plane is evocative. The red eyes are ridiculous but clearly spell out the theme. It’s like Batman is riding to his doom on the back of a jet-powered Demon chariot.

That being said, this spread is framed to utter perfection. It’s like Batman is flying into a black bordered box. The blackness is surrounding him. Death is surrounding him. And hidden in that black border is Doctor Hurt, hiding in the holes, in the absences, in the voids.

Page 22
Think fast, Batman …

How do you kill a God?
What’s the motive?
Where’s the bullet?
Where’s John Stewart when you need him?
Who the hell is this Kraken broad and why does she keep talking about Grannies and Furies?
If I die and the Grim Reaper decides to rebel against Life and use my clone’s corpse as a puppet, will the years of subliminal messages I’ve winked and suggested to Wonder Woman kick in like a trigger-phrase and make her fall in love with me?
Where is Darkseid?

Thursday, July 8, 2010


Scene 1 – THE FLASHBACK (Maybe?)
We’re treated to a familiar view – the perversion of the Miracle on Crime Alley. The lie told to Hurt Batman. The false history. But the way we’re treated to it treats it damn near like it’s actually Doctor Hurt’s memory. In fact, the way it compares to Joker's ink blot test from R.I.P., it's almost certainly all in his head. Maybe he believes his own lies ...

We get to “see” the hypothetical story of Thomas Wayne having hired Joe Chill to kill his wife and son. It’s a wonderful job from Irving of mimicking Dave Mazzuchelli’s Year One splash … which, maybe my memory is faulty, I believe was repeated in Batman, R.I.P. by Tony Daniel. Is this supposed to be the “real way it happened”? Was Thomas Wayne a sick bastard? And look at that look in Martha’s eyes as she dies … the furs … the pearls. Memories of what Bruce said flood back to my mind from the end of R.I.P. where he spoke to that assassin masquerading as a monk – he’d read about traumatized children who create self-defense mechanisms for themselves. ZUR EN ARRH. ZUR EN ARRH. When his father abandoned him, could Bruce have been so further traumatized that his mind blocked off the whole thing and created a more idealistic story where they both died and he vowed vengeance right there on the spot?

Not fucking likely. More likely this is the story as Hurt is trying to play it. Stoking the coals of the rumors that Thomas Wayne was some sort of cad so his big plan to arrive in Gotham and pretend to be Wayne immediately draws gossip and rumor toward what he needs.

Or maybe it’s another Earth! A lateral timeline intersecting with the main DC timeline, and that’s how Hurt got here.

No, no. Let’s not over-think it. Odds are this is 18th Century Satanist twat Thomas Wayne, somehow survived through the years or maybe even time-displaced by his accidentally summoning a time-displaced Bruce instead of what he wanted to be Barbatos. Or from drinking and bathing in blood. Or maybe orgies really extend your vitality. Feels very “Eyes Wide Shut”.

The point is, the mystery of Hurt is just as mysterious.

So he killed his wife so he could have coke and sex parties with supermodels in masks? Well, at any rate … I’m sure more of his complete bullshit story will be shown to us in the next two or three issues of Batman and Robin … and I’m sure “What REALLY happened” will be reaffirmed in Return of Bruce Wayne # 5 when Bruce visits Gotham of his parents’ time.

Transition to ... “THREE DAYS FROM NOW!”
In a parallel to R.I.P. we begin with a trip to the future. Only this time, rather than a curious panel of a Batman and Robin who we might suspect is Richard and Damian screaming “YOU’RE WRONG”, we get a few panels, and keen insight into exactly how the fuck Doctor Hurt plans to access Wayne Manor so completely.

The old “Public press conference, I’m Thomas Wayne and I’m back” trick. You slick fucker.

I’m curious to see if Grant even bothers to bring Tommy “Hush” Elliot into this. I mean, how fucking complicated would that reaction be? We cut to somebody pretending to be Bruce Wayne in public, but still completely fucking baffled at this whole Thomas Wayne scandal.

Who wants to bet “Doctor Wayne” “finds” the cure for what’s ailing Gotham City?

So he’ll be getting the “keys” to Wayne Manor. And on his march to his sacrifice in the library, the altar, in front of our horse statue mantle with our Orion’s Belt roses – the very same secret passageway Dick just found that leads down the Satanist Church, we get some of our 99 Fiends again! Let’s take a crack at some names, now.

Our albino twins, of course, are BELIAL. But this guy with his infrared goggles and harlequin checkerboard pattern and flamethrower? I’ll ultimately guess is ANDRAS, who in the Lesser Key of Solomon had “owl’s head” in his description. The checkered, quilted sweater looks like the feathers on an owl’s chest, and the goggles give him an owl’s face. The woman in the leopard-print? SITRI, a demon specifically described with leopard in the description. Our fellow with the tattoos of black horses on his head would be OROBAS, who in the books is literally depicted as a man with a horse’s head. And our chap with the dog collar (seen with a Rottweiler on a leash last issue) was a hard place, but I’d say is AMON, who took the form of a Wolf, and had dogs mentioned, but a “head like a raven” which could be why he has such a silly arsed hair style. Last comes our zebra-patterned sniper. Him, I had no idea. But since he appears to carry a high-powered rifle, I thought AIM would be a pretty cute demon for him to have as namesake. Since AIM was listed as tall and distinguished and carrying a firebrand (which easily translates to a gun), he seemed a good choice. In addition, obviously last issue we got NABERIUS (The dog with the crow for a pet – we don’t see him this issue) and DUKE ZEPAR (Misnamed as “VEPAR” but clearly the “soldier” in red clothes.) Also not seen this issue is SENATOR VINE, the supposed “last survivor of the Black Glove”. VINE is another demon of classical demonology. And last issue, there is one silhouette in the distance that isn’t as plain and nondescript as the others. A man with a jacket and possibly a sword. I’d wager that’s CAIM, who was said to wear elegant clothes and carry a razor sharp sword.

Anyway, much of what may come to pass here (or quite possibly “WILL” come to pass) is hinted at (we’ll get to it later) and the possible fate of Dick Grayson that played out in Batman # 666 seems all too close now … how will the Caped Crusader get out of this? Can he beat destiny?! Apparently he can … if he’s better than Bruce Wayne. (But didn’t Bruce in Infinite Crisis pretty much say that Dick Grayson was a better man than he?)

And naturally, lines like “You dare imagine yourself superior to a Wayne?” just scream us in the direction of our long-lost Satanic 17th Century Thomas Wayne black sheep. Too bad Grayson, like us knows that sacrificing him, or killing him, or doing whatever, and summoning “Barbatos” is actually summoning an ass-kicking of New God time-displaced Bruce Wayne OWNS history proportions.

Of course, the Wayne superiority complex strikes me as strange, if this guy is supposed to be possessed by some sort of Devil. It all works out thematically, but it’s still strange for a Devil.

Our shot of Grayson getting executed gangland style in front of the fireplace where Thomas and Martha Wayne’s portrait hangs, by a man claiming to be Thomas Wayne, but really some sort of Devil or usurper or evil fuck … actually has shades of Bruce’s death scene in Final Crisis. And this isn’t what we saw in # 666 anyway … so destiny has already changed. But we’ll see. For all we know, it’s a tranquilizer, or Alfred loaded the gun with blanks, or Joker sabotaged the whole fucking thing (A lack of Joker is a sure sign Joker’s more involved than we think, right?) or who knows what. After all, the panel only shows the split-second of Dick appearing to be shot in the head. But where’s the blood? Is that brain-splintering pain on his face? It rather looks like the pain from the sound of a gun going off to me … that wince from the BANG and the expected death.

Last bit on this particular opening: Heard some complaints about Frazer Irving’s artwork during the preview (agree, those pages were a little more hit and miss. Sometimes Joker was a little too plain, but it got better). Have to say … he nails it this issue. This is top stuff.

Will Grayson be the better man than Bruce? Will it matter, since five minutes later they’ll accidentally summon Bruce and bring Hell down on themselves?

Scene 2 – Gotham Grand Hotel, 3 days earlier … and immediately after the end of B&R#12.
(For those wondering, I imagine that scene in Command-D “Evil Factory” in Bludhaven in Return of Bruce # 3 took place immediately after Grayson said “Alert the Justice League” and before they show up here. As for the “Present Day” portion of Batman # 700 – “Bat-Night” on Crime Alley? That would’ve been between Blackest Knight and Batman vs. Robin.

Irving’s Joker is pure Conrad Veidt. Looking at Joker we can determine a few things. This is the same Clown at Midnight face. The scar is visible on his forehead. The grin is permanent (although with time it appears the gashes at the corners of his mouth have healed up a little bit, he still can’t stop grinning). And he’s keeping the slicked hair with the one or two dangling strands in the front. Very nice. Love the way Irving does his eyebrows. Pure wolf-like cunning, those.

So it’s “Going Sane” … just not so absurd. Joker didn’t really “Go sane” when Batman was gone. He just went “less crazy”. Without Bruce Wayne Batman he lost his professional sense of commitment to his act and decided to try something new. Oh, sure, it still involved a bit of murder, a bit of humor, but the style-shift was dramatic.

“Disguise is also one of my many accomplishments, after all.” – It certainly is, Joker. It needs to be used more. I always loved that bit way back in the 40’s where he dressed like a beat cop, but you could see his ridiculous grin under the fake mustache.

Dick lays out the whole domino angle for all of you who haven’t figured it out with a dozen issues to work with, validating our insane online lines of speculation.

He poisoned Mr. Toad. How’d he do that and why didn’t we realize it before? Well, since the Joker reveal last month, some people have figured out the pacing, and I’ve been informed that I’m an idiot. I’d figured that the “deal gone bad” in the first page of Batman and Robin # 1 that Toad was fleeing from involved Oberon Sexton. What I didn’t realize was that Joker had paid for a sample of the “Super Drug” then sold Toad out to the cops. Why did Joker buy the “Super Drug”? So he could create an antidote and leave it for the Dark Knight to find at the Carnival Grounds. Later we’ll learn that the “antidote” might be more important than we thought. It may be the catalyst for the actual “sickness” scheme. But if Joker has tampered with it … and Joker represents Death … we might be talking about fucking Doctor Hurt’s plan up by killing everyone in Gotham City. Keep your eye on the Joker.

That panel of all black with only Dick’s eye behind the white lens of the bat-cowl on a black plane is fantastic stuff.

“I’ve been doing this for a long time. I had you figured out when I was twelve.” – Attaboy, Grayson. This is the kind of line that makes me with Bruce would never come back.

Damian voices the question on plenty of fans’ minds, if message boards are to be trusted as accurate gauges for broader fan viewpoints – wouldn’t Sexton have been a real writer to be published and noted? Sure was. Cue a spot on bit of timing for a cameo from England’s Knight. The man had killed his own wife. Joker apparently realized it right away, buried him with her (possibly alive) and then usurped his identity.

What was the first “domino of death” that started the chain reaction? How far back are we talking here? Was it killing the Russian General? Or does it go further? What about killing Jason Todd?

Gordon barges in and immediately addresses one of my own queries – how fucked is it that Gordon was all buddy-buddy with Oberon Sexton at a party? Pretty fucked, thinks Gordon. And just to cap it off … Damian calls Joker on his bullshit and thinks he’s always been totally sane. Personally … I agree with Damian. Never mind the fact we’ve “visited” Joker’s mind with Martian Manhunter or Atom or whoever and it’s been a crazy ride. Nevermind that cosmic godly types like Phantom Stranger have used Joker’s madness to battle chaos demons. I’m perfectly sane, and the only thing that stops me from acting like the Joker is that there isn’t a stage to act out the routine on, or a system designed where I can just go to Arkham Asylum every other week by claiming insanity. And frankly, I’m too lazy to be that dedicated to an act – the greatest acting gig ever – making the whole world think you’re insane when you aren’t.

I’m sure Grant will probably give us a clearer look, since Joker IS the “Death” mentioned in The Garden of Death, The Triumph of Death, and The Knight, Death and The Devil.

“Looks like EVERYONE dies in the crossfire. Unless … unless you’re as good as he was.” – Joker repeats the idea Doctor Hurt mentioned before. They think Grayson will need to surpass Bruce to save the place this time. But the everyone dies thing seems to speak to my theory that Joker sabotaged Hurt’s drug as well.

Scene 3 – The Bat-Bunker
This is a nice scene, our obligatory “briefing” scene, and also the calm before the storm. Dick takes Gordon to the Bat-Bunker to show him his theories about what’s going down. Gordon has his suspicions about Bruce Wayne. However, they’re not the usual suspicions. And if anything, these days, Gordon’s suspicions that Wayne might be Batman are probably fading, since Wayne (Hush) is seen places while Batman is elsewhere, (If Batman is dead, he can’t be Wayne, who is alive) and seeing the Bat-Bunker he may believe this is the legendary headquarters of Batman.

“Everything the Joker says is a lie or a trick or a clue.” – Way to narrow it down, Grant. Let’s all just go back throughout your entire run and try to determine which lines are lies, which are tricks, and which are clues.

Gordon confirms the fact that he certainly knows it’s a new Batman. However, it’s been a few months. Half a year even. Maybe more. This isn’t another Jean-Paul Valley incident, so we’re past that suspicion now. Does he suspect it’s the former Nightwing? Possibly.

“I still haven’t made all the connections.” – That’s fine, Grayson. Neither have we.

“In three days time, Gotham experiences a total solar eclipse”. Ah, here it fucking goes. Doctor Hurt’s speech (three days later) sort of hinted at it, and here’s the rub. So Bruce is on his way back. We know how that works. Each era in Return, he’s been “summoned” by somebody, only to vanish again during a solar eclipse, and appear … well, probably three days prior to a solar eclipse. I wonder if this means each issue of Return of Bruce takes place over three days. Actually, that’s very possible.

Caveman Era: 1st night does cave drawings. 2nd attack on caveman camp. 3rd Dons bat costume.
Puritan Era: 1st night Annie’s hideout. 2nd back to health, thinks he’s Mordecai. 3rd fights dragon.
Pirate Era: 1st night cave adventure with Blackbeard. 2nd hangs out with Miagani. 3rd vanishes.

It’s possible. I’ll admit, The Puritan issue seemed more like a week had gone by, and the Pirate issue seemed like he was only there 24 hours.

“… but if it helps to know, most of my cops prefer you to him.” – Too funny. Dick was a cop, he would have a good rapport with cops (We saw him asking Bailey how his boy, Max “soon to be Robot” Bailey was doing). Having been a cop, this makes sense. Plus, he’s Dick Grayson. Everyone loves Dick Grayson. He’s way less scary.

“Which brings us right back to Pyg, Santo, Flamingo, and the 99 Fiends” – Well … not that I wouldn’t have gotten to it later … but Professor Pyg is back by the end of this issue. So who wants to bet that Eduardo Flamingo resurfaces as part of Doctor Hurt’s forces soon as well?

Dick has a map of Gotham up on his display. Has anyone tried the old classic detective method of taking that map, and marking the locations where various Domino Crimes or Black Glove related incidents have happened to see what they get? Probably not … since locations like The Killing Joke carnival grounds I don’t believe have ever been placed on that map.

“We can’t afford to take our eye off the Joker. He hasn’t played his hand yet.” – Right … again, I suspect the attempted murder of 9 million people, seems his style, but then again, Joker has been sabotaging the Black Glove’s efforts and killing the fuck out of them. Damian wants answers the direct way (Something that never worked for Bruce – trying to beat information out of him) and Dick is trying to play the game out and win it. The question really does come down to “Can they trust Joker this time, or can’t they? Or can they to a degree then he turns?” Grayson doesn’t know, and neither do we. I sort of want to trust him.

Scene 4 – Gotham Central
Lieutenant Bilbao’s a new cop, I don’t believe we’ve ever seen before. The obsessive name-tracer in me would like to point out that the name stems from the city in Spain, and the name’s origins potentially mean “Two River Banks” or something to do with two rivers, presumably referring to the two rivers of that region. What does that have to do with Grant’s intricate plot? Jack shit. Did you know the Guggenheim in Bilbao, Spain was designed by Frank Gehry? His name sound a Hell of a lot like Gary Frank, who draws Superman to look just like Christopher Reeve and will be drawing Batman: Earth One. Also featuring The Riddler. To my knowledge his work has never been confused with the work of Frank Quitely, whose name isn’t even really Frank Quitely.

This scene is a beautiful thing. How exactly does one break it down? Why does Damian feel the need to bludgeon Joker with a crowbar? Is it out of some sense of “Revenge of Robin”? Does he purely not like the Joker for killing one of the people to wear the Robin uniform? Is it for Jason Todd, who Damian met, and isn’t fond of at all? Doubt it. I’m quite certain it’s his sadistic little sense of irony and justice. Damian’s a very “Laws of Solomon” kind of kid. Eye for an eye and crowbar for a crowbar.

It’s a little late to be talking about this, but Joker has clearly healed a little bit from his accident a while back. His voice is back to normal – his mouth not as sore or shredded, so his voice actually comes out normally. His cheeks where he kept ripping the stitches during Clown at Midnight and R.I.P. have healed to a degree – although he’s still trapped in the permanent grin. His scar isn’t going anywhere, it seems. But he’s at least one degree closer to classic Joker. And we get the skinny on his injury, which we already kind of knew about but now know in pretty frank detail what happened. Bullet through bottom of jaw (ouch … flashbacks of when I accidentally impaled my jaw with a rock), messed up his tongue, and went through the roof of his mouth and nose/sinuses. So he’s had a little bit of remodeling on his nose, particularly the interior. Yeah, that’ll mess you up pretty bad. A manually cleft palette would hurt.

Is Joker really crying here? What about actually mourning the fact that he was a normal little kid once? Complete bullshit? Grayson says everything is a lie, trick or clue. But come on … he probably was a little whiz kid once … seems logical. Probably didn’t intend to grow up and become a super-criminal when he was a lad. Probably wanted to be an astronaut or pirate.

Damian continues to voice his “Joker is totally sane” theory. I can’t wait to see more if it, frankly. Love hearing a bit more of Grant’s thoughts on Joker. Is he mad? Are we all mad and Joker’s sane? Where’s the line and who’s on what side of it?

And Christ, yeah, Damian really comes into his own as Mini-Bruce here, and Joker notices it, too. And that last panel of Joker before the beating is fantastic. Take note that Joker’s fingernails are now painted ALL BLACK instead of alternate red and black like his dead man’s hand configuration. Joker as Death, Joker mourns Death. This panel reminds me of Alex Ross’s Joker covers.

And there’s our reverse Jason Todd moment. Of course, we’ve already seen Jason Todd beat down the Joker with a crowbar. And if Joker can survive it from Todd, who has to be like three times stronger than Damian and possibly a little more bloodthirsty, I don’t think Damian’s going to kill him either. Still … always a riot to see the Robin beats Joker with a crowbar reversal of fortunes thing after all this time. And doesn’t Damian just look like a natural …

Damian points out some of Joker’s inconsistencies. Paraphrasing here: “If everything is a joke and nothing matters (IE: human lives, law & order) than I wonder if you feel the same about the brilliant mind you’re always showing off”. Yes, Joker … if we’re all worthless … how is it you’re so vain? How is it YOU have worth?

“You sound just like … like him …” – Has Joker found a new playdate in Damian? Seems like he might have. The fact that this scene also mirrors the scene in The Dark Knight where a similar interrogation-via-beating plays out and Joker wins it and sets up his arch-enemy yin/yang status with Batman seems to build on that.

Cops reaction to Damian beating Joker half to death with a crowbar is priceless. And it’s kind of sad, seeing Joker beaten with a look in his eyes I don’t think we’ve ever seen, but with that stupid grin plastered on his face. This is a new one. Joker as a tragic character rather than a comic one … or it would be sad, if this wasn’t Joker and we didn’t expect him to reveal something fucking awful next issue.

Scene 5 – Don’t check your map of Gotham City or this probably won’t make any damn sense … they’re flying from whatever “EXIT” from the Bat-Bunker Dick took to lead suspicion away from Wayne Tower so Gordon wouldn’t identify … but it’s probably not TOO far from Wayne Tower … preferably in a straight line to Gotham Central … except I don’t think Blackgate Penitentiary is anywhere in that straight line …
EDIT: Sorry, I'm a moron sometimes and at this point close reading wasn't happening. The Batmobile crashed in an alley (hence the dumpster and garbage cans) in Downtown Gotham ... NOT Blackgate, which if my memory would've served me better, I'd remember was on an island.

I didn’t see this coming. Not exactly. But it’s pretty awesome and just amps me for the next issue. How the fuck long is the wait? That’s rubbish. But at least we get to learn some of the in-between off-panels stuff between R.I.P. and Final Crisis in the meantime, and get to see Cowboy Bruce. Fuck, though … that’s side-tracking us. The dominoes are falling and we need to be here, not off on a damned detour in the past! Will Grayson survive? (HE HAS TO, RIGHT?!) Will Damian defect (NO WAY, RIGHT?!) Will Bruce kick everyone’s ass? (PROBABLY)

Anyway, the 99 Fiends (Hey, 99 upside down is 66. And apart from Route 66, at one point a veritable Highway to Hell, 66 is just one 6 away from being 666! Maybe 999 Fiends were just too damned many.) are on the move again, shooting the awesome flying Batmobile out of the sky, right into the alleys where a fucking army of Dollotrons (Have the entire prison population been converted into fucking Dollotrons?!) swarms around Batman and Gordon.

And the demons reach Professor Pyg, handing him a new mask for this masquerade ball that is the downfall of Gotham, and set him free. Pyg’s back! Escaping Blackgate? Isn't Jason Todd in there, too?!

As for the triptych … looks like Gotham City’s populous is about to have a freakout of epic proportions when that drug goes off. Looks like Gordon will be in the clutches of Professor Pyg (rather mirrors Grayson being in the clutches of Le Bossu and Scorpiana, actually) and a repeat of the shot of Grayson apparently being shot in the back of the head … surrounded by white light. What could that mean?

Fucking Christ. Until next week … my brain is fried from the amount of holy fuck in this one. If this is Batman R.I.P. as farce than the Joker is playing us all for the fucking fool.

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Batman ... and Time

Just doing a little bit of organization here (In that sort of "Where were you on the night of August the 14th of the Year 9,000 B.C.? kind of way.)

9050 B.C. - Metron gives Anthro the gift of fire. Anthro begins telling stories.
(Estimated because 50 years of age would have been a ridiculous lifespan for a Cro Magnon but Anthro clearly makes it to a ripe old age and becomes "Old Man".)
9000 B.C. - Bruce Wayne arrives at the Bat-Cave, summoned by Anthro's need for a hero against Savage. Anthro dies. His son dies. His grandson, Kong the Untamed, founds the Bat-Tribe.
(Red Robin confirms that Bruce's cape (which is CURSED by Doctor Hurt) appears to be about 11,000 years old. 2000 A.D. minus 11,000 years = 9000 B.C.)
1618 A.D. - Jack Valor "claims" that the original Black Pirate died this year.
This is entirely possible, as Jon Valor (the first Black Pirate) was said to live in the 16th Century (The 1500's). However, at over 100 years prior to Jack's claim, it's more likely that Jon was his GREAT-Grandfather, not his Grandfather.
1640 A.D. - Bruce arrives further down the Wayne Estate, summoned by Annie's need for a hero against persecution (from Mordecai and Nathaniel Wayne.)
(Not estimated. Bruce Wayne surmises that "Yesterday it was 1640 ... something.)
1670 A.D. - Martin Van Derm is now an old man, and hands Annie's book, and Mordecai's portrait, down to his daughter.
(Estimated by Van Derm's age - He looks to be in his 60's, his daughter middle-aged, and Gotham Colony has grown large and profitable. He may have become wealthy.)
1718 A.D. - Bruce arrives in Bristol Bay when Jack Valor prays to his grandfather (Jon Valor) for help.
(Bruce figures out exactly what date it is based on evidence at hand. Jack Valor is 15.)
1734 A.D. - Jack Valor finally gets around to recording his journal. By now, he's 31, just got married and had a baby with his wife, and spent about 17 years as the Black Pirate.
(We see his young wife, and baby, the next Black Pirate?)
1765 A.D. - Jack Valor delivers Bruce's notes to a brother and sister in Gotham - either the Van Derms, or Thomas and Dominique Wayne.
(Estimate it's this year, because 1765 is the year that the Satanic cult ritual occurred in Dark Knight, Dark City (as written about by Stockwell, but not specified until Alfred explained in detail the year to Damian back in Batman and Robin # 10.)
1777 A.D. - Sometime after the American Revolution begins, in its 12 years, Darius Wayne becomes a war hero, saves Gotham, and becomes famous.
1793 A.D. - Jacob Stockman finally writes about the horrible night of the demon summons in his journal.
(Date is mentioned right in the journal.)
1795 A.D. - Darius Wayne, war hero, commissions Nathan Van Derm to build Wayne Manor.
(So says Alfred, when talking about specific dates of Wayne Manor.)
1799 A.D. - Wayne Manor is completed, I imagine.
(1799 is the original date listed for Wayne Manor being built. It probably took a few years. It's the same time period the MacDubhs (Bruce's family) drive the Sliths across the Atlantic.)
1855 A.D. - Alan Wayne builds his elaborate crypt in the Wayne Family Cemetery that just happens to be the same cemetery where some serious Cult Worship happened 100 years prior. They use it as an Underground Railroad.
(1855 is the alternative year suggested for Wayne Manor's construction, however, it's been mentioned that the "Grave of Death" was constructed in the 19th Century. That's a big addition to the Manor, so one presumes Alan Grant added a lot more to the place. Alan, I take it, is Judge Solomon and Joshua's father.)
1876 A.D. - Batman arrives in Gotham City and faces Jonah Hex. UNKNOWN SO FAR.
(1876 is the best guess, because the "Dead Man's Hand" that Hex flashes was invented that year, the year Wild Bill Hickok died. It's entirely possible we'll learn that it's NOT 1876, give or take a year or two. But 1876 seems to be the earliest possible year it could be, and is certainly during the "Peak" of Jonah Hex's career.)
"25 Years Ago" - Batman arrives in Film Noir, Private Eye Gotham.
(This one doesn't hold as an actual real world year. It's the "years" of Batman's parents, Thomas and Martha, a pastiche of current "parent's, or grandparent's" past. It's vaguely 1940's through 1970's. Probably a bit of Maltese Falcon meets Dirty Harry. Since Batman's comic book "year" shifts year to year to remain modern and in the present, so his parent's lives must shift along with it.)
Present - DC Comics Continuity, duh.
Vanishing Point
(Not that much to it. Except everything. Vanishing Point is the last point on the line before it stops. The timeline. The storyline. The end of time. More pending ...)