Saturday, November 6, 2010




Thomas Wayne meets Barbatos in Stockman’s barn in Gotham Town, 125 years after Annie cursed Nathaniel Wayne’s family, 47 years after Blackbeard was hanged, and 110 years before his failure to retrieve the Van Derm Casket with any kind of help from Vandal Savage.

Dominique is here, and it is strongly implied that Wayne kills her. (This is a HUGE thematic boon for Morrison. Her name is freaking DOMINIQUE (“Of the Lord”). And Tom killed her. And Joker, as an agent of karma 250 years later, uses DOMINOES to kill him.

But there is still ambiguity. Could she have been his sister? (“Drink deep dark twin”. Although it’s certainly just as easy if

His wife? (His wife actually seems sort of likely to me – Joker might have telegraphed it. Recall that Joker “foreshadowed” how he would DEAL with Hurt by burying Oberon Sexton alive in the coffin of his dead wife who Sexton himself killed. So if Tom Wayne killed his own wife Dominique, that may have been the corpse whom Joker was dancing with – the coffin he unearthed – the coffin he planted Tom into purgatory within. HA HA HA HA HA HA HA.

It is implied in the Ceremony of the Bat, that Dominique is the “Human Bat” sacrifice. Bruce Wayne later felt a kinship to her and buried her near his parents when he found her corpse.

It is at least clear that Thomas has ALREADY sold his soul. The space Barbatos later occupies in his brain is the space where the Soul once rested. (“I’ll complete the Cross of the Penitente with a bullet between his eyes, where the Soul sits.” – Naberius). It is also fairly clear that whether he already realizes it in 1765, or it took him several years of thinking about it … NOT having a Soul means a lot to Tom … for good or ill, as we can see from his lecture to Damian about losing souls and not realizing what you’ve lost … and from Pyg’s statements regarding Hurt, and how Hurt believes he is an “Empty Hole” … a “Black Hole”. There is a Hole where his Soul used to be, and Barbatos lives there, hovering in the singularity of an inward logarithmic spiral that has to be fed more souls to maintain immortality.

(“Become MY creature, SUBMIT absolutely to MY instruction and when your SOUL is extinguished in my service … perhaps you’ll finally know by the gaping HOLE that remains what it is you’ve lost.” – Hurt)

This could easily explain his actual Christian repentance as El Penitente. A mask, for sure … but why “absolve sin” frivolously? Thomas Wayne is a puppet of a Hyper-Adapting Demon, and the poor bastard could use absolution (instead he gets laughing purgatory).


Professor Pyg, like The Joker, seems to know a LOT about the nature of the Demon occupying Tom Wayne.

(“Did I tell you on Monday she’s MORMO, formless chaos? On Tuesday it’s all TIAMAT this and TIAMAT that. Tohu va bohu and boo-hoo-hoo. Wednesdays, the GORGON QUEEN comes on tiptoes with a million forked tongues for hair. That’s what it’s like to grow upside down in a world where a hug is a crucifixion.”)

The strange thing is the continual referencing by Pyg of his “Mother”, when we know the one who created his latent murderous psycho state-of-mind is Doctor Hurt, in his post-Robin Dies At Dawn travels, where he probably found Lazlo, already pretty nuts as a circus freak show, in an institution.

I’ve been formulating a short essay on these “Joker knock-offs” that Hurt is creating and how their psychoses paint a pretty bleak view of the Psychology Institution. (While Joker, for instance represents the potentially harmful nature of accidental chemical overdose and abused psychopharmolocological drug use (See also: Scarecrow), and the nature of POISON (a random accident in chemicals leading to a chemical-laden random clown obsessed with the random) … Pyg represents the more “progressive” form of Psychology-as-Brainwashing. His obsession with TV, images and normal-vs.-beautiful speak to the fictitious (but scarily “close enough”) Ludovico Technique. Worse still, that technique in The Wrong Hands. The hands wearing Black Gloves.)

(“Even wrong way round, this little gent could make a well-spoken lady out of a monkey or a flower girl out of a snail.” – Pyg. Snail reference # 1, from one of his TV therapy treatments wherein he saw “My Fair Lady”, one imagines)

(“Bless the snail. The double is two, the deuce is snail horns. The snail is the devil!” – Pyg. Snail reference # 2, the snail being the squid-like Hyper-Adapter as we saw it upon its release from the Ancestor-Box … reaffirmed momentarily …)

And of course a snail’s shell is a logarithmic spiral, like a black hole. Tom Wayne is a hollowed out shell. The primary ambiguity remains is just how much of Hurt is Tom Wayne, and how much is Barbatos (And frankly … what the fuck did he think was in the Van Derm Bat-Casket?)


Point being that Pyg’s psycho rants tend to reveal tidbits about the nature of Doctor Hurt (Sense squared). “Tiamat” is a clear reference to the “squid-form” of the Hyper-Adapter that we first saw, as Tiamat was a Babylonian Dragon goddess (The Puritans keep referring to “The Dragon” in the woods, and back in R.I.P., Hurt was referenced a handful of times as “Old Dragon”) slain by the mighty war god MARDUK, of which the Hebrew name MORDECAI is derived. Another Bruce-as-Orion, God of War reference. D.O.A.: The God of War. Orion’s body sublimated “back to the source” when he died. OR … who else was in the room with him, studying his body forensically? The God-Damn Batman, that’s who … Barbatos-Hurt was Darkseid’s revenge against Bruce Wayne … but theoretically, in a full-circle kind of way … could Bruce have been Orion’s revenge against Darkseid?

Pyg also references the Gorgon Queen, Medusa, with snakes for hair. Also feels a bit like the Hyper-Adapter we saw – “snakes for hair” … tentacles … same idea. Some sort of Dragon Lady. Still female, oddly enough.


Damian is also a “demon” of Bruce’s past unlocked by the Ancestor-Box. And in a way, he is the first. The one whom “Heralded” the arrival of the Hyper-Adapter. His very name is demonic. His very attitude is that of “The little demon boy” (Like Knight described Grayson).

(“That’s him! [Damian] They’re ALL crawling from the BOX now!” – Pyg)

You think that’s messed up? Both Joker and Hurt recognize similarities between Damian and Hurt as well, and consistently bring it up.

(“You sound just like … like him …” – Joker, referring to Damian who is threatening brain damage the way Hurt threatens brain damage every time he shows up.)

(“Become my creature … And you a very different kind of Robin.” – Hurt, trying to recruit Damian to his cause.)

Don’t think that’s enough?

(“A Robin who lets me manipulate him into a locked room situation? A Robin who even brings his own crowbar to the party? You might be the funniest one yet.” – Joker to Damian, shortly before sealing a poisoned, laughing Damian in the same casket he later buries Hurt alive in.)

(“… walked right into that like a PRO. You’ve done this before, am I right?” - Joker to Hurt, immediately prior to burying him in that casket.)


Joker as an agent of God acting against Darkseid’s toxic influence? Does that seem unlikely to you? Joker uses Dominoes as the game to fuck with the man who killed Dominique in a Satanic ritual.

(“I ever tell you about my pal “Big Mike”? God’s top gun. His head banana.” – Joker)

(“The banana represents the primal gag, THE FALL. I’m watching those hands …” – Joker)

And worse still – if Batman should fail, Joker’s backup plan is a NUCLEAR BOMB. If Gotham turns into the NEW SODOM & GOMORRAH, Joker is prepared to initiate THE WRATH OF GOD. Let’s not even get into how Joker used Jason Todd as another “tool” to fuck with El Penitente by tipping off the Red Hood about Santo, and thusly also taking out Flamingo. Jason Todd’s RED HOOD persona is currently using a lot of Milton, Paradise Lost themes and imagery. He even cast Flamingo (A demon) into “THE PIT” (a rock quarry). How fucked up is it that The Joker and Jason Todd represent the interests of the Judeo-Christian God in this saga of Man vs. Cosmic Devilry?


Right … that was just me covering the flashback sequence to DARK KNIGHT, DARK CITY (Highly recommended. Milligan is just terrific then, it’s happening shortly after ARKHAM and GOTHIC and THE CULT and THE KILLING JOKE, and it’s one of the better Riddler stories out there, even if Riddler is ultimately being affected by Barbatos.

I think Tom’s slightly inaccurate repeats of what Hyper-Adapter is saying to him is fairly self-explanatory, although I’ve seen a boatload of people miss the mark online. This conversation is happening IN HIS MIND. He’s ultimately inviting the demon to occupy the space where his SOUL used to be.

(“Ye who knows the where of the mystery box, the eternity signs. The secret treasure of the Miagani.” – Tom Wayne)

This treasure is held by the Van Derms in secret. This is 1765 Gotham. As we saw in the Black Pirate adventure, the Box is in the capable hands of the brother and sister Van Derm – and odds are that this is NATHAN VAN DERM we saw, since he was a young man in 1765, he was probably a well-known architect and artist by the 1790s, when Darius commissioned the Manor to be built. Then, ostensibly, the Wayne family somehow (Fell on hard times? Died young? Who knows …) didn’t actually eventually finish the house until years later, although they owned the Estate.

Tom Wayne SURELY knew Nathan Van Derm. And that’s why he surely later knew to send Vandal Savage’s lackeys to the home of Catherine Van Derm. He probably fled America because by “random chance” (more like Cosmic Chance), he accidentally caused the unification of the Wayne and Van Derm families. That’ll set you back 100 or so years.

Rumors persisted of the Miagani treasure in the Caves underneath Bristol, and rumor would have had it that the Van Derms knew what it was. That might have even predicated their eventual move away from Gotham “Out West”.

I’d like to at least propose the possibility that Tom was impersonating Jefferson. Let’s face it, he’s notorious later for using other people’s names and faces. There’s no reason to think he wouldn’t be doing it as a black sheep Satanic devil worshipper who his brothers/cousins Anthony and Darius HATE. (I can't help but connect Thomas Jefferson with Lone-Eye Lincoln and Honor Jackson. What's with all these Presidential names?)

(“How can a rebel such as I fear Hell, the natural home of rebels?” – Tom)

Curiously enough, one wonders at this talk of rebels in 1765 if Tom is a rebel against the British Government, which still rules the American Colonies. One imagines they didn’t take kindly to witches or devil worshippers (See: World’s Finest – “The Witch Batman” or whichever, where he and Superman go back and meet Mad Anthony – a highly superstitious man.)

The fact that Tom is actually only drinking the blood of a large bat in an Ozzie-style routine is evocative of the fact that this is a soul-selling deal, but also predicates the fact that his entire Black Glove operation is financed by … vampirically draining his ill-gotten gains from “The Bat”.

I can tell this is going to be a long one.


Bruce’s return required the “Sacrifice of the son”. So-to-speak. We know already from BLACKEST KNIGHT that not all “sacrifices” have to be exactly what you expect them to be. But Grayson is sure enough shot in the head, and in those moments his faith in Bruce and unyielding optimistic hope for a hero mirrors the others who have prayed for a guardian spirit just prior to Bruce’s arrival.

Bemoan the lack of Frazer Irving creepiness throughout this super-sized issue … I don’t think they could have found a better section for Cameron Stewart to be responsible for than a kung fu fight between Batman, Batman and Robin, against … we’ll say a dozen or so less than 99 Fiends. Stewart’s epic four-way kung fu match between Dick, Cyril, Beryl and the Clone (not to mention his motion-filled chase through the streets of London) were the highlights of that arc. One almost wishes he was illustrating the Detective/Batman Annuals for David Hine, where Nightrider, a new Batman-candidate from Paris, is a parkour expert, and that’s something I think Stewart would kill on.)

As for the 99 Fiends themselves, they remain another one of the ambiguous elements in Hurt’s arsenal. We know they’re named for Classical Demons, but there were only 72 Classic Demons in Demonology. It seems reasonable to say that there are other Fiends in the 99. Nine-Eyed Man was SPECIFICALLY referred to in the title as “THE FIEND” with Nine Eyes.

Whether Pyg and his Circus, Flamingo, and others count as Fiends is unknown and unlikely.

Didn’t Damian snap that Rottweiler’s neck last issue?

And so begins the fracas. Check out Fiends like Afro-Archer … Powdered-Wig Judge … and Shredder-Zangief. How about Demon-Tonto? Owl-Sweater Flamethrower? Masked Whore-Nun? Solomon Grundy Sideburns?

The financial irregularities at Wayne Enterprises are explained. Like with everything else, Hurt’s funding was siphoning itself off of Bruce Wayne’s history.

Here’s a cool thing – Burnham’s shot of Bruce leaving the library (full of unconscious Fiends really shows the proximity between the Library (Located centrally behind the Wayne Manor parlor, and Bruce’s Study, the classic way of getting into the Bat-Cave, in the West Wing. Notice how the shadowy steps into the Bat-Cave resemble fallen dominoes. Nice artistic nod. Burnham’s Bat-Cave isn’t dead on with how we’ve seen it presented in recent years (feels flipped) but is close enough, because it’s so damned cool looking. I love that the Bat-Cave is lit a glaring green – a subtle hint that Joker has been here, since everything he has “visited” this last arc has been lit a sickly green hue to indicate him fucking with the Red and Black theme. All the coolest parts are briefly on display. The Bat-Computer. The Penny. The Tyrannosaurus. The Joker Card. The Costume Gallery. The Batmobile Bay. The “multi-tiered” central “pit” section that leads to sea level. Fantastic. Burnham really captures the kind of Bat-Cave I want to see when I read Batman, and I hope he’s game for a couple issues of Batman, Incorporated in the future.

Batman creeping through the Catacombs – the parts of the Cave we really don’t know much about, is a fantastic device (Slightly evocative of KnightsEnd, actually … when he emerges victorious by forcing Jean-Paul Valley through parts of the Cave – HIS Cave – that the Az-Bats armor wouldn’t fit into.) But Tom Wayne is familiar with these caves somewhat himself (Although nowhere near as much as Bruce).

As Dave Uzumeri pointed out, the Interrogation Room is from Detective Comics # 134. Some day, I hope to GOD that Grant Morrison decides to just make a small book that’s a sort of “Bat-Cave Guide” (Burnham can draw it!) where Grant picks out the coolest details imaginable to highlight and “bring back” and just goes to town on the awesomeness of the Bat-Cave. I mean … did we ever find out WHAT it is that Batman keeps in that ultra-top-secret forbidden vault below sea level that’s on all the maps and diagrams?

Did anyone else realize immediately that Alfred was trapped in the Bat-Submersible? It’s just one of those ones where I picked up on that thought process immediately. I think part of it was the green lighting reminding me of the green lighting in Batman # 701.


Tom Wayne IS The Devil. At least as far as Batman is concerned. Batman was worried that there was an ultimate enemy and king of crime … but that’s a deeply personal job. He’s not just “The Ultimate Enemy”, he’s BRUCE’S ULTIMATE ENEMY. He’s Bruce’s Devil, Tulpa, Doppelganger and Shadow. Tom Wayne is The Anti-Bruce.

The question is … what exactly did the Hyper-Adapter Adapt to? What did it absorb into its makeup from Bruce Wayne’s past and present to use as weapons against him? Remember his exorcism in Saudi Arabia (The un-coincidental home of the Ten-Eyed Tribe, the exiled Nine-Eyed Man, and Oil Sheik Al-Khidr). Remember seeing the “metaphorical” bat-demons flying away in the night sky as Bruce stood in the desert winds? I’m certain it absorbed that.

Remember the Thogal Ritual? Where Bruce put himself into a box once more and things got trippy? Where he felt like he experienced death, and realized that he might be under psychic attack when he felt the presence of the Hole in Things? Again – the Hyper-Adapter. It’s probably capable of almost anything, and a psychic attack is one of them, although we know its attempts to undermine Bruce’s mind were ultimately failures.

Even disguising itself as the creature on Bat-Mite’s back (using Bruce’s own Imaginary Friend, who he hadn’t seen since his childhood, and a few times on bad gas trips in the 60’s) didn’t work.

(Why couldn’t Puppet-Bat-Mite go into Arkham Asylum? There are dozens of reasons, but one is certainly that the crazies might be able to see him. Remember Charlie Caligula’s “What’s that behind you?!” red herring?)


Pyg’s really a fucked up sort of guy, but dig the routine? Infecting Gotham then offering the cure? Once again he’s pulling from The Joker’s playbook. Holding a parade in downtown with floats and balloons? This is BATMAN (1989). This is Joker handing out money while intending to poison and kill everybody. Except Pyg’s not trying to kill people, he’s trying to turn them into slaves. He’s like Joker filtered through more Anti-Life philosophies. Hurt might be dealt with for now, but if Libra ever came back, here would be an easy choice for Crime Bible hijinx.

Notice behind him as he gives his speech the subtle background – junkies walk INTO his parade float from the left … and Dollotrons walk OUT of it on the right. That’s fucked up.

Pyg’s references are all fairly in line with what we’ve seen before, and referencing Animal Farm continues the trend, while also befitting his Russian backstory. Pretty cool, and carries some nice themes. Batman and Robin recovering (or having had already recovered) his “Mommy” cradle of pain from the destroyed Park Row Theater is a slick move typical of Grayson’s flashy showbiz nature. But Pyg is putting on a theatrical show to dominate these craven zombie-masses, and Dick would know that the strongest way to take care of Pyg (and strike a HUGE blow to his ego) would be not just to kick his ass … but to COMPLETELY UPSTAGE HIM. It’s quite a punch-line from the Wonderboys, turning the Norman Bates-meets-Henry Higgins into a crying little baby before having his own crowd of zombies turn on him in a manner reminiscent of the Cult Homeless turning on Deacon Blackfire. (Only way fucking funnier.)

(Side note: How about the fact that as a precursor to Bruce Wayne’s return and Growth as a Human Being … his “Prodigal Son” Dick Grayson blew the Park Row Theater on Crime Alley where his parents died to smithereens with a Bat-Copter?)

Joker planting his Wrath of God backup in the Jean-Paul Valley-era “Bat-Rocket-Traincar” is something … while he’d have access to the railcar from the Bat-Cave (which we know he knows of), it seems from interviews he might’ve been meant to have planted it in the Bat-Bunker. However, the Bat-Bunker has more up-to-date security, even of Joker as Oberon Sexton at that party at Wayne Tower scouted the place out a bit. It makes little difference in the end, it gives Damian the chance to save all of Gotham in a big-time “Graduation” sort of move.

As for Joker getting a nuke: He’s done it before (See: A Death in the Family) but this is stated to be homemade. Joker’s world tour as Sexton took him to the Middle East, all over Europe … we know with time and disguise he’s been able to get major weapons-grade supplies before, so it’s not that unbelievable. And to top it off … not that many miles from Gotham is Bludhaven, which may or may not be a source of radioactive material for anyone crazy enough to sneak in there (past security) and retrieve some.

Back in the Bat-Cave … Tom Wayne is in the Costume Gallery, looking at the very same glass case he smashed to steal the Thomas Wayne “Original Batman” costume (Which he knew all about. It’s possible Tom was a guest at that party and saw the whole Lew Moxon ordeal, if he was staying with the Waynes when Bruce was very young.) This gallery of costumes has been vitally important to the whole run, being the centerpiece of Bruce’s “Dressing Room”. A broken glass case means an element of history to be brought into play. Damian smashed Tim through the Jason Todd memorial case and stole Jason’s old costume (Which was Dick’s as well). You’ll notice that SINCE THEN, way back in BATMAN & SON, Bruce never put up the old Frank Miller “He Was A Good Soldier” case again. Tom Wayne later smashed the Thomas Wayne costume case. Will Bruce move on and not linger on that part of his past either now?

But at any rate … Hurt looks at his own reflection in the Thomas Wayne glass case, pieced carefully back together by Alfred after R.I.P., wearing the costume and loaded with imagery and themes of being a dark, cracked reflection of Thomas Wayne … and Bruce smashes his face through it.

(“You’re finished!” – Dick)

Now it’s all out there.

(“You really thought you could trap me in a prison I built?” – Bruce)

This speaks to soooooooooooo fucking many levels of Bruce Wayne. I think they’re all fairly obvious – the literal sense of the Interrogation Chamber. The fear-based life he leads. The deepest corners of his own mind. Trapped in his own legend – trapped in his own shadow. Even Bruce Wayne was trapped in the grim Shadow of the Bat. But he adapted.

(“My father tried to treat you in that Hidden Room.” – Bruce)

Did Thomas know about Darkseid? No. No, Thomas Wayne likely knew what all the Waynes knew, including Anthony, Darius, Solomon, Joshua, Alan, Kenneth, Patrick, Silas and onward all knew. That Tom was some kind of aberration (Which was more uncommon then, but it’s still the DCU – Thomas Wayne was still watching the news and witnessing the Challengers of the Unknown traversing the Multiverse, and the JSA saving people). And they all of course probably believed that Tom was a head-case.

The fact that the Hidden Room resembled a Satanic Church is recent. The Waynes haven’t been secretly practicing Satanism in the basement since 1880. Tom Wayne added that after Thomas and Martha were killed, when he was sneaking around the Mansion pretending to be Thomas and fucking with the Kanes. Before that it was simply a hidden basement, where at one point, Patrick, Silas and son/nephew Thomas tried treating old Tom when he returned “home” the first time.

So that’s from Bruce’s youth – when he was away with Alfred for months after the Wayne murders. And prior to that it was where Tom was sporadically kept before they decided he was too dangerous or a lost cause and shipped him to Willowood. But Tom being who he is – possessed by a demon hyper-adapter, a doctor, a gambler, and dastardly son of a bitch, ended up RUNNING Willowood in no time.

Is Tom delusional? Does he really think he’s Thomas? I think probably, otherwise MUST DIE! Wouldn’t have begun with the fantastic false-flashbacks actually showing how the lies about the Waynes could be true. But at this point, Barbatos is eating away at his mind so much that believing himself to be his great-great-great-great grand-nephew namesake is totally possible. I don’t know the name for the syndrome, but it’s something of the case of the jealous person pretending to be somebody … forgetting themselves and believing they are the person they’re pretending to be. It happens to Actors. Zartan from G.I. Joe suffers from it, actually. He’s a Master of Disguise (Like Hurt) who changes his face all the time, but after a while … he can’t remember his original persona.

I really don’t know the name for this. Something like Pathological Liar’s Persona would fit.

Strike that – further research has yielded results. I was looking for Dissociative Identity Disorder. One imagines that a split-personality as a result of Demonic Possession in an Immortal will do that to a person. Which is why sometimes Hurt talks like Hurt. Sometimes he talks like he thinks he’s The Devil. Sometimes Tom Wayne comes out. And sometimes it’s pure Hyper-Adapter speech.

The scary part is that these elements blend so well, and he transitions from one to the other without any kind of detrimental effect on his evil plans.

(“Deep into that darkness peering …” – Poe)

It’s unknown who scrawled that onto Alan Wayne’s crypt, although one assumes he had that crypt built for his wife Catherine and joined her at a much later date. The clinically depressed Alan seems like a prime candidate to catch onto the works of Poe, which at the time were much more recent but still VERY popular (a popularity that never died, actually). The quote from The Raven is expressive of the overall themes of The Raven – that one should not look into the darkness or do occult things to bring back a dead loved one. Alan apparently won that battle with his own soul, but it’s curious to think of Tom Wayne in that light, since he sold his soul for apparently less of a good reason. But if his soul had been gone prior to summoning Barbatos, it’s curious to wonder what his life was like pre-Dark Knight, Dark City flashback.

It also applies to Bruce, who looked into the darkness on multiple occasions (Really, the Isolation Experiments, and the Thogal, are very much like Poe-era existential isolation. You could lock yourself in an attic and write reams of poetry and have much the same result as a Thogal ritual.) Bruce continually peers into the darkness … looking for foes of humanity that he can punch in the face.

(“The devils in the details, right?” – Joker)

Another telling phrase that I’m glad Morrison used since I’ve been saying it over and over again myself. Joker’s attention to detail means that he’d be the kind of guy who had minimal trouble spotting the attention to detail Hurt went to for his own plans. But the challenge had no results! Hurt was no fun!


Hurt has been poisoned by Joker’s toxin and is about to be buried alive. My best guess at translating his laughing-gas induced gibberish there is thus:

“(Painful laughter) FUCK YOU. NOT DEAD. [Referring to Joker’s toxin, which usually has lethal effects but doesn’t on him because he’s immortal? Or is he trying to tell Joker that BRUCE WAYNE is not dead? I think it’s plea-bargaining using Bruce as the bargain, but it’s too late because he’s incomprehensible.] DOMINO [The obvious one] and then (More painful laughter).”

Damian grimacing as he’s hooked onto a screaming Bat-Subwaycar is hilarious. It’s action-packed and bad-ass as well – a chip off old Bruce’s block. But it’s just funny. The angry kid … super-hero time.

Here’s another moment that I keep seeing fans mistake on the forums. Alfred says “He’s gone, sir. Something about unfinished business. I presume we have permission to cheer.”

He’s talking to Damian, of course, who has just disarmed the bomb. BRUCE is the one with unfinished business, leaving Damian hanging as soon as the kid acknowledged he was good. Bruce has gone outside to chase down Doctor Hurt, but instead he finds Joker. And clobbers the Clown Prince. That easy.

(“So I said, if anyone’s going to bring the house down, it’ll be me! I can make it solo.” – Joker)

This explains why as early as The Clown at Midnight, he cut loose all his henchmen, even breaking up with Harley Quinn. He had ulterior motives during R.I.P. when he realized exactly who and what was staging the “show” and decided with Batman gone, he’d hilariously play the “detective” role, and hasn’t worked with anybody (except tipping people off and using them as pawns and tools and dominoes.)

Now that Bruce is back and punches him in the face and no doubt ships him right back to Arkham? Oh yeah … Joker … sorry to say, but YOU DO “have to go back to the old gags”. Somewhat. Except for this tell:

(“Starting today, I’m taking the act in a whole new direction. The Joker fights crime!”)

He’s referring to what he said to himself back during R.I.P. when the Batman Dead rumors began circulating. He’s not actually making an announcement “Tonight” that he’s changing his act again. However, that has to change once he gets pounded in the face by Bruce. With Bruce around, Joker was his ultimate wild card foe. With Bruce gone, Joker played games with Grayson. With Bruce back and going international? Joker will be forced to “adapt” yet again.

Will Joker stage a reunion tour with the Club of Villains? Seems likely. It’s similar to Luthor’s Injustice Gang from Morrison’s JLA, but with Joker in charge rather than stuck with Luthor as a boss. Will other villains from Batman, Inc. join the Club, to fill out the numbers against the new members of Batman, Inc.? Will we see Joker team with Lord Death Man? Etc …? Hopefully! (Although personally I’m hoping INC. gives us some much needed Riddler escalation.)

But Joker’s not going to scrimp on a challenge like going international just to stick around dusty old Gotham and play games with Grayson on a weekly basis. He wants to play in the big leagues with Bruce. Let Gotham have a new wave of wild new villains. He can always go back and take over that stage again if he wants to.

Anyway, note the fact that Batman punching out Joker is a LITERAL “PUNCH”-line. And afterward it immediately jumps to Wayne Tower, to the Bat-Bunker. This is Batman and Robin’s title – Bruce comes to visit our heroes in THEIR base.

Pyg’s in Arkham now with Joker. That could be interesting (and bad for Pyg – Joker has “old friends” in Arkham by way of his criminal career colleagues, some of whom he actually somehow by some miraculous quirk of fate (not killing them) managed to have decent working relationships with.)

Mayor Sebastian Hady survived Joker’s poison popcorn, but Gordon’s going to have a field day on his ass.

The “world’s top brain surgeon” patched Dick up. I have no idea who he’s referring to. It could be anyone from Doctor Mid-Nite (Dick is leading the JLA right now … friends with the JSA …) or he could be referring to an unknown quantity who we’ll meet (or won’t meet, he does have Wayne money access after all) in Batman, Inc.

Bruce Wayne grins a smile that’s equal parts Silver Age smiling Batman and terrifying.


It was good, and I totally didn’t expect it. Shocking stuff, but well within DCU secret identity-keeping parameters. WayneTech is all over the place anyway as far as crossing over with super-heroes, but I didn’t even think Batman, Inc. would need this kind of public backing, or Bruce dropping a bombshell on the public. Nice to see Tim Drake show up as well, popping in after he too gets to help save the day in The Return of Bruce Wayne # 6.

The reunions were brief and we didn’t get a lot of talking, planning and “on to the next phase” stuff – but rest assured, THE RETURN ONE-SHOT will give us all of that and truly transition us into INCORPORATED. The season-ender had to move a little more quickly and have a bit more punch.


It’s the elephant in the room. It should have come out first. Thankfully, it’s coming next week, and there’s three or four MASSIVE parts of the storyline that we don’t have answers to yet (although we’re as close as ever to having some final answers about everything we need). Can Tim Drake stop Future-Archivist Bruce from destroying the world? Is there any need, since it’s Bruce and he’s escaped the Omega Effect with some unexpected help from Carter Nichols? What about getting to Wayne Manor in time to save Dick? What about the fact that Darkseid is coming back into the picture? What about Cube Time and the maps of the Multiversal timelines? What about returning that Time Sphere to Rip Hunter so Superman, Hal Jordan and Booster don’t die?

Just a few more days.


  1. I thought that "We'll assemble a new black glove..." was a hint at Batman Inc's corporate nemesis - although I guess it could be both that and the Club of Villains: Knights, Deaths and Devils.

  2. Certainly.

    There have been interesting stages in the roles of these three primary focal point characters (Even more interesting how having the British Knight & Squire as tongue-in-cheek allies really spotlights those relationships back home in Gotham, with Bruce as the Knight with a few Squires, and then Dick Grayson obviously becoming the Knight while Bruce moves on to become Knight-Errant.

    If Bruce and Joker's relationship was always evocative of "The Seventh Seal", and the iconic imagery of the Knight playing chess with Death, it's no wonder Hurt attempting to play didn't satisfy Joker. (The Devil is too focused on the gambling - the profit and loss involved, to actually ENJOY the game, or make the game enjoyable/worth playing.) One gets the feeling Joker is a huge fan of Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey, in which case ... didn't Death pretty much "Get the knights out of Hell"? And hey - a movie about Time Travel. Somebody should write an essay drawing parallels between Morrison's Batman and Bill & Ted's adventure. Bruce & Dick's Excellent Bat-venture.

    So it transitioned into pure Masquerade. Death as Karma, thwarting The Devil (Which parallels Black Racer challenging Darkseid - "Death comes to ALL. Even YOU.") and aiding the pious Knight-Apparent.

    Now? Now we're looking at Kingdoms. So far we've been limited to the Kingdom of Gotham. But there are these "Death" type characters around, not just in Gotham's Joker.

    Lord Death Man absolutely fucking SCREAMS this thematic imagery. While there's providence that he was so amazing in the Bat-Manga, Grant choosing him as a black/skeletal figure can't be coincidence because he fits so 100% perfectly into Joker's latest Gravedigging-Clown/Undertaker/Voodoo/Thin White Duke of Death persona. Which isn't to say Joker won't change it up (In fact, I feel like he'll take it "more voodoo" and less "gravedigger" now that the secrets of R.I.P. are revealed and settled.)

    The question is, who else represents that in other realms?

    It seems fairly guaranteed that Grant will bring back Knight & Squire some time into Batman, Inc. Cornell's series keeps our eyes on them in the meantime, but Grant has made a point of including them here and there TWICE in each series. Mentioned first in Batman & Son, brought in during Club of Heroes, and brought back for R.I.P. Brought in during Blackest Knight and brought back during Must Die!

    They'll be back in INC., as surely as Jason Todd will probably be back for some resolution with Bruce & Dick.

    And I suspect the British "Death" representative will be the elusive and twice-mentioned SPRINGHEELED JACK, although if it's Joker putting together the International Villains with Pagan Death Themes organization, there are other British folklore options as well. (It seemed fairly obvious that Joker-as-Sexton had been in touch with Pearly King, for instance.)

    But Jack is evocative of death already for Knight & Squire in that he killed Percival, so it's really whoever Grant fancies. Then again ... his horrific Batman-like visage would fit equally well in the "Devils" category.

    Should be interesting to find out, for sure.

  3. I just want to say thanks for doing all this with each issue. For those of us not as well read, these commentaries offer some pretty sweet insights and make me love Morrison all the more. He is writing on a level truly beyond anyone else in comics, and actually anyone else in current pop culture (that I've found). Thank you for helping us see what gems he's found.

  4. Spring-heeled Jack is pure Devil - he made Cyril into a homeless drug addict and is the black sheep of the royal family. Hell, he may even actually be Hurt - Percy was presumably angry at Mayhew over him killing Marsha, and Hurt may have killed him to preserve the secrecy of the Black Glove.

    And of course, we had both a death and devil in Blackest Knight - a pearly king of crime laying down dominoes versus a crime cultist.

  5. Definitely, Shiny.

    Pearly said "They told me you was comin'" to Dick, and his use of dominoes almost cemented that the "they" he meant was Joker. Plus, Pearly King and Prince ... Clown Prince. The nature of street performers and entertainers? Oh yeah ... these are Joker's types of rare allies.

    Pearly also boasted Arthurian descent, but the important part - and something I never picked up on until recently - is that he uses the dominoes to give Dick the map because he's in the Queen's Jail and Royal Spies or recording devices are listening. THAT'S why he tips up his tea-cup and indicates Dick towards the Royal Crown logo on the bottom.

    I'd like to see Pearly confronted by Springheeled Jack, I think that'd be something ...

  6. Black Mass was the name Jack Kirby called Darkseid in his comic “Captain Victory” to avoid legal repercussions.

    Captain Victory was Orion's orphaned son who was adopted and raised by Kalibak's son and Mad Harriet's daughter.

    Apokolips and New Genesis finally destroyed themselves in a cosmic war and the only thing that remained of Darkseid's evil empire was the planet Hellikost....and Darkseid's evil ghost that actively haunted Hellikost and forced Hellikost-ians to carry out his will from beyond the grave.

    Darkseid's evil ghost, “Black Mass” was actually symbolic, because Hellikost-ians would go around the galaxy destroying planets to “appease” him; like sacrifices in a Black Mass.

    Captain Victory destroys Hellikost [This doesn't kill Darkseid's spirit, although it weakens it]

    Anyway, I'd be surprised if Grant Morrison didn't read up on Kirby's original planned ending of the Fourth World saga.

    New Genesis and Apokolips are no more. Darkseid kills Orion/Orion kills Darkseid. Darkseid becomes some evil shadow figure haunting the cosmos.

  7. So, I've been reading your posts backwards from this one. I got to the Missing Chapter before just giving up. Morrison makes my head swim. It's a quarter til 11, and my contacts are getting dry, been reading so long. I'm all hopped-up on Capri-Sun and canned ham. Thank you for this engaging recap! I feel I understand all this Ancestor-Box/hyperfauna/Satanic-Batman-villain stuff a lot better now.

    PS. I live in Georgia. Which my Yankee relatives refer to as "the sticks (Styx)" as well. Nice pun.