Thursday, July 15, 2010
THE MISSING CHAPTER: THE HOLE IN THINGS
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.
“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.
“Surviving is what I do.”
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 …
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.”
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 …
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.
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”.
“An empty space.”
“Hiding in the gaps.”
I’m not saying Bruce Wayne is schizophrenic or anything.
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.
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.
DAYS TO OMEGA: 27.
He really did sleep off those three whole days, so that’s pretty cool.
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.
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?