Tuesday, October 26, 2010

THE KNIGHT, DEATH AND THE DEVIL

(OR: THE DICKIE GRAYSON AND JACKIE JOKES-A-LOT IMPROV VARIETY HOUR)

SCENE 1
Joker in his funerary persona is now in the “underground railroad” (both literal and figurative) connecting Alan Wayne’s crypt with the Hidden Room beneath the Manor’s library. The lych-way. The corpse road. And like a New Orleans-style funeral, he’s dancing. Interestingly, it appears to be a Tango.

R.I.P. as farce: Where in R.I.P., Joker was invited to be the Master of Ceremonies of a Danse Macabre (Dance of Death), here, Joker was NOT invited, so he’s crashing the party, and he’s making it literal, dancing with the dead, in this case one of Bruce’s female ancestors – like many have mentioned, probably Catherine Van Derm. While he’s outgrown his former very brief “Ringleader from Hell” persona, the top hat also adds a bit of “Ringleader” vibe befitting a Master of Ceremonies at some sort of Masquerade. The similarities to the black/top hat fashion that Doctor Hurt donned as he set sail for Liverpool on S.S. Orion and probably became Jack the Ripper can’t be overlooked.

Note that the Tango was invented in Argentina – Batman’s next stop in Batman, Incorporated where El Gaucho operates. I’ll stop these lines of thinking before I delve into something like Gandy Dancers, laying railroad tracks, being a primary influence on American Blues, and the short leap from there to Joker’s present New Orleans voodoo jazz man wardrobe and doctrine. Or the odd Irish behavior of getting drunk and grabbing a corpse at a wake and dancing with it.

The top hat works on a multitude of levels, actually. More than anything Joker resembles an Undertaker. It wouldn’t be surprising to see someone in similar garb standing on a storefront in a Wild West town (or in 1800’s Gotham) as a steely-eyed bad-ass cowboy like Batman walked down the street. Especially in a Western, an Undertaker was tasked with collecting the myriad of dead bodies left behind by a bounty hunter or gunslinger. The whole schtick adheres to Joker’s black and red theme, but is probably influenced 100% by the plot of R.I.P., which involved Batman in a “funeral parlor” style setting at Arkham, buried alive in a casket with a headstone. It’s pretty much “Black Glove, R.I.P.” at this point.

The word Undertaker could be interpreted as a man who prepares the dead for the Afterlife, or “Takes the Dead to the Underworld”, or more literally who “undertakes” something, an ironic combination of the two highly different dictionary definitions found in the combined root words, since Joker has “undertaken” this mission of revenge. A cursory Wikipedia disambiguation revealed that Prince created but never released an album called “The Undertaker”, which gave me a coincidental chuckle, since we’ve already seen one MASSIVE Prince homage in Batman and Robin in the form of everything about Flamingo. I’ve covered the Hamlet references on a few occasions. (Gravediggers as clowns).

One wonders if Joker’s getaway vehicle will be as obvious as a Hearse.

“Born from a coffin” is one of those lines that would’ve had the “Damian is Bruce reincarnated and he’ll grow up somehow from Damian” theorists a few years back. Interestingly enough, when viewed through the “Ancestor-Box”, it does become immediately important to realize that Damian Wayne’s existence from Mike Barr’s Batman: Son of the Demon is another element of Batman’s past that was “brought back” from oblivion by Darkseid’s device to be used as a weapon against Bruce Wayne. The very same continuity-altering things that gave rise to Hurt also may very well have nudged “Son of the Demon” back into continuity, retroactively.

“The first and BEST BOY WONDER’s in the hands of the most evil man on Earth!”

This is a telling line from Joker. I’ve postulated that the reason Joker killed Jason Todd was that he was boring. No fun to play with. NOT DICK GRAYSON. His playmate was gone – the two of them spent many a night playing games and cracking jokes and “routines” with Batman as the straight man. His feelings about Tim Drake are something I’d be curious to find out. Tim met Joker in his New Homicidal phase and has known him almost exclusively in that capacity and comes at Joker the same way Batman would, so it might be boring to reiterate it.

SCENE 2
Alfred seems completely and utterly prepared for Hurt. He even had time for a cup of tea. Clearly, that’s an indicator of his faith in their success – the plan (mentioned quickly and quietly last issue) must be a good one. If Morrison is going to stick to his themes from throughout, I have ZERO DOUBT that “the plan” involves taking “Acting” and “Theater” to all new levels to defeat Hurt. In fact, I believe Grayson’s later line of “We’ll improvise” is literally referring to acting. Take into consideration Batman # 682, where Grayson imagined Bruce Wayne as Hamlet fighting Joker as Laertes (“Doth his blade envenom” is definitely a Joker move, since Joker consistently poisons everything. Gold dominoes. Fingernails. Rose petals. Joker IS poison – he’s the skull and crossbones on the poison bottle.)

Hurt has used Bruce Wayne’s own theatricality against him. In fact, he incorporates theatrical elements into his Occult rituals. But I don’t think he’s prepared for the onslaught of a Dick Grayson / Joker improv-comedy duo with Damian as the Straight Man and Alfred coordinating the gags. Morrison’s Alfred is like a stage director – damn near like his own actor, Michael Caine in Nolan’s The Prestige – and his Joker probably went to theater/drama school. (Seriously – the Red Hood? Dini’s “Stage Magician” arc? Stand-up comedy? That guy is ENSCONCED in drama school).

“Lovely covered in dirt, yes.” Astute readers guessed that Pyg was the lawyer, and I guess that kills the silly “Hurt’s lawyer is an Asian stereotype” argument. I’m never entirely sure what he’s talking about, but the first thing I thought of was Truffles, or other fungi that a pig might be employed to sniff around for and dig up. Appropriate in the context of gravedigging, and it establishes the comparison between Pyg and Joker – Pyg is a wannabe, and I expect to see a confrontation between the two next issue, where Joker scares the fucking pants off of Lazlo Valentin.

SCENE 3
The significance of the zoomed in “Triumph of Death” stands out as weird placed where it is, but later we see that the painting – the very same painting we saw in Mayhew’s study on the island – is being hung up over where the portrait of Thomas and Martha hangs.

“DAY 3” is interesting placement. This scene takes place at night, and “DAY 3” means that the moment when Hurt steps through the gate onto the Wayne Estate is MIDNIGHT. Truly is just became MIDNIGHT IN THE HOUSE OF HURT.

To me, this seems to confirm that Doctor Hurt was ON THE ISLAND calling the shots during the Club of Heroes arc. I’d wondered before … if he was broadcasting from a remote location or not … if that really was Mangrove Pierce strung up and carved. Seems that way.

The scenes of street violence and pandemonium are interesting. I couldn’t make heads or tails out of the second panel after the “QUARANTINE CONTINUES” headline and TV screens. We haven’t actually seen TV news report snippets since the Red Hood arc. And so wondering what the Hell was happening in that red-tinted image, I realized that it’s a truck smashing through a window-front at a dry cleaner or department store. People sent flying. Racks knocked over. For some reason, the clothes on racks, red tint and heavy duty truck reminded me instantly of Jason Todd (his red truck had a “dressing room” area – we’ve been seeing a LOT of dressing rooms lately, last issue in the Park Row Theater the most recent). It’s such a random pandemonium element, this frame, followed by yet another frame showing yet another smaller part character we haven’t seen in a while coping with the craziness (Lone-Eye Lincoln) that I can’t help but wonder at it. I’ve been waiting to be unsurprised by a Jason Todd appearance since Blackgate was attacked. Perhaps this is a lightning-quick, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it acknowledgment of his escape.

SCENE 4
“I’m not a pawn”, says Damian. He thinks it’s chess as well … just like Hurt. Of course, Damian is a lot like Bruce. Poor Bruce, right now the person claiming to be his father, and the person claiming to be his son are both bastard demon types. Joker immediately makes a “shrimp” joke by switching “pawn” with “prawn”. He’s been calling Damian “baby” the whole while. But if Damian the straight man thinks it’s chess as well … then odds are good that Doctor Hurt, too, is going to be a straight man in some kind of gag. And immediately Joker cements that notion with his absurd logic for getting to “The Fall” joke involving the banana peel – equating himself to “Big Mike” (The Archangel Michael).

Ironically, this instantly draws my attention back to Jason Todd AGAIN. (The importance of that storyline shouldn’t be overlooked, and I’m currently postulating and forming arguments for a short essay on Morrison’s Jason Todd, the “Red State Robin”, Republican, Political, Right Wing and 2nd Amendment (vs. the “Blue” Dick Grayson).

Joker comparing himself to Michael and positioning the banana peel to “cast down” or make “fall” the guy claiming to be the “Devil” might be backward-logic, but it’s the same sort of “vengeful hand of god” notion Jason is employing in his black and white viewpoint. And Jason succeeds in “casting” Flamingo into a literal “Pit” of a rock quarry … so it’s interesting to see Joker … the namesake of the Red Hood … affecting similar fates on a devilish, demonic character.

Of course, where Jason casts down a demon with a passing resemblance to Joker (Flamingo), Joker will be casting down a demon with a passing resemblance to Jason or Batman (Hurt). After all, “Red Hood” was originally as basic a theatrical guise as the Thomas Wayne “Original Batman” guise – nothing more than a tuxedo with a cape and an added mask.

“Pawn to tree! Your move!”

“They have Doctor Ha-Ha” and “Doctor Johnny B. Damned”. All the top names.” – Pyg seems to be referencing Joker (Ha-Ha) and Hurt (Johnny B. Damned, a nice switch on Johnny B. GOOD. Johnny B. BADDE would’ve probably been too on the nose for Morrison.)

What stopped Gordon’s cravings? I’ll kindly refer you back to the fact that it was JOKER who seems to have left the antidote for Pyg’s plague, not Pyg himself. And I think Grayson knows it, even though he said something that seemed contradictory to Gordon back in # 13.

“The snail is the Devil!”

Pyg comes about this line in a way more upside down and backwards even than Joker’s logic, at least verbally, but a snail is of course a sort of a worm-like creature with two horns (“A worm gnawing at the foundations”) that wears a hollow, empty shell. Add the idea of “shell” or “husk” wearing with the Devil = Duality concept we’ve explored elsewhere and the notion that something is “wearing Thomas Wayne” like a shell resurfaces. This would make absolutely good sense if the Hyper-Adapter Darkseid released and Bruce battled as “Dragon” is the demon/devil living inside Doctor Hurt’s brain. He may not be alone in there. And if he is a man who has lived too long, it would be due to the Time/Space Demon Darkseid sent after Bruce Wayne’s past. And the Hyper-Adapter itself is semi-worm-like. Perhaps after Bruce Wayne wounded it in the Bat-Cave, it laid dormant there for 50 or 60 years until the young “Thomas Wayne” of the 1700’s explored the cave and was “entered” by the adaptive entity. We’ll find out.

“They’re all crawling from the box now!” cries Pyg, the second crazy bastard to refer to Damian as having come from a coffin/box and possibly reinforcing the thought that Damian, too, is result of this horrific process happening to Bruce Wayne.

“Piggie’s got work in town!”

It’s fascinating that they never named all the 99 Fiends, because we never get a clear enough sense of any of them following the 3rd Hierarchy hit-team back in Batman vs. Robin. This shirtless guy with the Rottweiler was around back then, but the guy with the pitch-fork is new. And they get even more insane as Damian begins maiming them (I think it’s fair to say that the Nine-Eyed Man from “Fiend With Nine Eyes” was one of them, as the title of that issue explicitly calls him a “FIEND” and it would make sense, him having been one of Hurt’s operatives).

The fiend who is a Catholic nun with two swords is absurd. The huge guy who finally knocks out Damian feels Blockbuster-esque.

“Don’t worry about it. We’ll improvise.”

Whose line is it, anyway? Doctor Hurt has a grand villainous speech to give (like the one Pyg attempted, poorly last issue – “We meet again, Batman …”). Once again, our former Willowood Asylum Doctor (and probably Patient) intends to give Dick Grayson brain damage. He shatters the horse head over the mantle (Representing Dick as a “Knight” – One in Joker’s hands at the moment, and let’s remember, Knights make lateral, unexpected moves across the board and there are two Knights to a side.)

“Our handsome young acrobat will become a human vegetable. Unable to move or feed or change himself.”

This immediately recalls to me Joker’s line to Damian last issue. “You sound just like … like HIM …” with a “HIM” who was never referenced. Damian was spouting off lines about how he was going to give Joker brain damage, and talking about how “chaos” is not being able to feed yourself or change your own diapers. We took it for granted that Joker meant Damian sounds just like Bruce Wayne, because Bruce is notable for these kinds of bad-ass speeches. But Bruce doesn’t often threaten brain damage … whereas Hurt threatens it every five minutes.

I’m of a mind now, that Joker was telling Damian that he sounds just like Doctor Hurt. Another example: during R.I.P., Hurt didn’t quite understand Joker is a true wild card. He called him “servant”, and was utterly appalled when (unsurprisingly for us, at least), Joker turned on him and started murdering Black Glove types. Damian similarly doesn’t believe Joker is not evil at all, and actually 100% non-affiliated with good or evil when he harms (or doesn’t) people. Damian doesn’t think Joker is uncontrollable and also underestimates him.

This fits well enough with my previously mentioned element of Batman’s “ancestor” (claiming to be his father) being a Devil, and his “son” (claiming to be – seems very likely) son being something of a Devil himself. I mean, it’s no coincidence that Grant named the kid DAMIAN and immediately drew comparisons to THE OMEN, a movie about a kid who is the spawn of Satan.

“Thomas and Martha. They took me in. They showed me kindness … Now I’ve taken his face. He’ll be remembered as a criminal, she a drug fiend. Their son mentally ill.”

What’s motivating Hurt’s complete character assassination (and yet, at the same time, jealous wishful vicarious living) of Thomas Wayne? Is it the name? Does he resent his name being stolen? Is it the reputation achieved through doing GOOD? Thomas Wayne is practically SAINTED in Gotham City. No, it seems to be something personal that actually happened. Plenty of talk on the boards, fair bet that Thomas and Martha, like the rest of the Waynes, knew about the “dirty little secret” of Bad Tommy the 200 year old uncle (Who may or may not be possessed by a Time Squid, or a Darkseid) and tried to actually get him help. Psychological help. Forged his name as being their son. Once again, I’m sure we’ll find out.

The offer to Damian. The deal with the Devil. The stuff we’ve had teased for a while.

Then the whistle – early. How could Dick know the Miagani whistle code? How could Damian? The Batarang with the note that says GOTCHA! Not much else in the box … who could know?

The ruse. “Devil” meet “Bat-God”. Grayson is okay? How the fuck is that possible? Okay, so he’s acting … he improvised … but how did he not just get shot in the back of the head with a .32 meant to fracture his skull in twelve hours?

An icy voice. Probably not Bruce Wayne’s. I’ve got a few composed charts illustrating why I think the man in the Batman costume is Joker. Did Alfred prepare the cave and mansion for Joker’s access to a Bat-Costume?

Moreover … how is that what’s in the Bat-Casket? It’s logical to assume either Bruce Wayne’s return is secretly happening off panel, or that Grayson/Damian/Alfred/Joker pulled some CRAZY “Sleight of Hand” – something that could easily be in a few of their repertoires. I don’t think Dick could have “switched it for a fake box” before, because as soon as he discovered it, it was stolen by the 99 Fiends.

I’ve got a theory or two, as I often do.

Joker, as “Oberon Sexton” was already poking around the Wayne Family Graveyard. His nickname was “Gravedigger”. He seems to know his way around quite well. I theorize that Joker switched out the Bat-Casket. In fact, if you think about it – he’s been out “globetrotting”, traveling the world, in much the same way Red Robin has. Joker is an unbelievable thinker, and pattern-maker, and can doubtless see patterns faster than anybody. It’s possible he traveled the world first and figured out the secrets Bruce Wayne left behind before anybody else … traversed the Hidden Room and the Miagani shrine. Figured it all out and had access to Bruce’s notes or who knows what. Even that he might’ve planted the Batarang in the now empty box so he could track Doctor Hurt.

Or it could be way fucking simpler. It could just be a quick bit of Batman-comic staple “Alfred pretends to be Batman” to distract the enemy. Or even simpler … “BRUCE IS BACK”. Fucked if I know which it’ll be, or even if it is Joker, if it’ll be as insanely complex as I’m making it out to be, right now, at this minute, off the top of my head.

It just makes sense to me that Joker of all people figured out the Return of Bruce Wayne secrets first. He’s well-versed in Demonology and Summoning (See: The Major Arcana), conspiracy theories (See: Well … he makes his own, you know!) and as we’ve seen as he pretends to be “Oberon Sexton”, the Master Criminal is ironically, when in a role-reversal situation, a Master Detective as well.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

MASQUERADE

MASQUERADE
- Noun
1. A party (The “Original Batman” Ball), dance (Danse Macabre), or other (Club of Heroes, Villains) festive gathering of persons wearing masks and other disguises, and often elegant (“Original Batman”, Black Glove), historical (Knight, Squire, Musketeer, Legionary, Gaucho, Man-of-Bats) or fantastic costumes. (DOMINO MASKS are required because there is a minimum requirement of masking.)
2. A costume or disguise worn at such a gathering.
3. False outward show; fa├žade; pretense.
4. Activity, existence, etc … under false pretenses. (See: LIVING A LIE.)

- Verb
5. To go about under false pretense or a false character; assume the character of; give oneself out to be.
6. To disguise oneself. (See: SUPER-HEROES)
7. To take part in a masquerade.

From the root-word: “MASQUE”
1. A form of aristocratic entertainment in England in the 16th and 17th centuries, originally consisting of pantomime and dancing but later including dialogue and song, presented in elaborate productions given by amateur and professional actors.
2. A dramatic composition for such entertainment.
3. A masquerade; masked ball; revel.
(An aside on Masque ... whenever I hear it I think of "The Masque of the Red Death", by Poe. Poe is notorious for his use of masquerades in stories, and what a coincidence ... a quote from Poe's "The Raven" is scrawled on the crypt of Alan Wayne, a man who is ridiculously Poe-like in his depression and Gothic gloominess, and who lost his wife early and pondered doing terrible, beyond-mortal things to get her back.)

(Another aside on Masque ... whenever I think of the Masque of the Red Death I think of the film with Vincent Price. And whenever I think of Vincent Price I think of the 60's Batman TV show villain "Egghead".)

(Yet another aside on Masque ... I do believe I've just come up with a really slick idea for a Jason Todd/Red Hood storyline that echoes or even references "The Masque of the Red Death" and features the first in-comics appearance of Egghead ...)

See also: “MASK”
1. A covering for all or part of the face, worn to conceal one’s identity.
2. A grotesque or humorous face worn at a carnival (See: CIRCUS), masquerade, etc …
3. Also called swim mask. A device … blah blah blah (See: KING KRAKEN)
4. A gas mask (see: SCORPIANA)

Why the digression into masquery? Every single person in this issue is wearing a mask … but more important, I think, are the classical concepts involving “Masques” with a –QUE. Everyone. EVERYONE. And none moreso than the BLACK GLOVE. But to clarify who is wearing what mask to the masquerade, let’s peruse our Cast of Characters for this production – in order of appearance.

1. TIMOTHY DRAKE. His mask is one of boastfulness, used to conceal the fact that he’s still jealous about losing the role of Robin to Damian, and indicating that although he is standing amidst what is essentially the “Grown Up’s League”, he’s not as ready to grow up as he’s pretending to be. The lads over at MINDLESS ONES gave Tim Drake a pretty hard time back in “Bristol Bay”, but it seemed clear even then, and especially now that the JLA (And thank Christ there are some “old faces” in there who actually KNOW Bruce Wayne and Tim Drake) pity the kid and are skeptical of him – however Wonder Woman, in her usual standout way, is so compassionate and so empathic, that her look is one of caring and concern more than standing around wondering why this meeting was called at all. Oh yeah … the Robinson-era, Post-Final Crisis JLA (and some “guests” – iconic reservists) are in here, too. And let’s not forget that Tim’s LITERAL mask, his new cowl, is a highly Batman-like full-cowl, instead of a domino mask.
2. JLA. In order of IMPORTANCE to anything related to BATMAN. Wonder Woman. Green Arrow. Black Canary. Flash (Barry Allen). And Cyborg-Starfire-DonnaTroy-DoctorLight-Starman-Congorilla. (Ollie conveniently occupies the space accidentally filled by Hal Jordan in “Bristol Bay” in an art gaff. Except for Wonder Woman, the JLA are wearing the kind of masks that patient parents might wear while listening to some wild story coming from an emotional little kid.
3. BRUCE WAYNE. His mask is pretty obvious – that of the Private Investigator mentioned back during Batman, R.I.P. by Mayor Sebastian Hady to Gordon. But it’s more than that – he also wears the mask of his father, particularly the mask his father wore to the masquerade involving Lew Moxon.
4. MARSHA LAMARR. She wears the mask of “ally”, when she’s in fact, an enemy. No shocker here … she’s an actress … she’s playing a role for Doctor Hurt, she’s equivalent to Jezebel Jet, and she’s basically his “agent in the field”, the mouthpiece for the lies he invents and concocts. She also wears the mask of MARTHA WAYNE, much like how one of Hurt’s masks is that of THOMAS.
5. GROVES. The Kane Family Butler. If BATMAN has an EVIL DOPPELGANGER, somewhere, Alfred must, too. It has been suggested that Groves probably portrayed “Alfred” in the Black Glove’s film. But I doubt it’s very important.
6. BETSY KANE. Her mask is the mask of hypocrisy. For starters, she makes some allusions toward wasps that immediately stood out as regarding WASPs. One blogger made mention that Greg Rucka pegged the KANES as Jewish, But I think it’s probable that the KANES (Martha, Bruce’s grandparents) are not related to the KANES (Kate, Jake, Bette, and probably Kathy). It of course suspiciously draws the question of WHY IN THE HELL ARE THERE SO MANY KANES IN BATMAN’S WORLD? But chalk this one up to the universe being made in the image of the creator. She also wears the mask of suspicion and accuser, probably as a means to hide her own shame at the scandal of her daughter disowning her.
7. RODERICK KANE. Actually, old Grandpa Roddy seems to be one of the only characters whose mask is not of his own making. He seems like a bit of a pushover, but he does wear a mask – a permanent mask of a paralyzed face, since he had a stroke.
8. CARTER NICHOLS. Carter is like Roddy, actually. His mask is more that he is blinded. He’s a victim. But he’s definitely wearing a “brave face” around some scary people.
9. SIMON HURT. Mask on top of mask on top of mask on top of mask. Thomas Wayne. Jack the Ripper. Simon Hurt. Mangrove Pierce. Black Glove. El Penitente. This guy goes from one mask to the next as easily as a disembodied spirit hopping bodies. He certainly hyper-adapts. But we’ll learn more about him as we go. Point being, he always has one of his masks on. Including, of course, a domino mask.
10. THE VETERAN. It’s probably METRON, as most people spotted right away. The New Gods in Final Crisis appeared wearing other people’s faces (and attempting to remake the flesh & blood world in their image). Hard to say – it’s important, I think, to note the wheelchair. But I think it’s equally important to note that the veteran only has One Eye. Singular vision. We’ve gotten that theme repeated to us in the form of mysterious “prophets” all over the place. Honor Jackson only had one eye. Lone-Eye Lincoln has two, but that nickname had to come from somewhere (possibly a glass-eye). If you see Presidential surnames, look for one-eyed men. And then – pay attention – note that ARCHIVIST BRUCE BARBATOS-BARBELITH ALSO only has ONE EYE. Could all of the ONE-EYED characters be “helpers” projected into the Time-Stream by Bruce at the End of Time to help in places where they are needed?
11. JOHN MAYHEW. Here he wears a domino mask as a member of the Black Glove. But we already know that Mayhew is an adulterous bastard, who possibly murdered his wives. So he wears all kinds of masks in his public face.
12. GILLIAN LOEB. Yeah, he’s in the Black Glove, too. We know Loeb because he was ousted by the combined might of Batman, Gordon and Harvey Dent, and then he was murdered by one of the Hangman killers.
13. MAYOR JESSOP. Had his employer, Mayor James, assassinated so he could become mayor. Black Glove organization.

SCENE 1: Timmy the Emancipated Boy Wonder and the Adventure of the Adopted Dad’s Skeptical Super-Team.
Interesting how the present-day “Search for Bruce” JLA task force stuff has been in order. We learn that off-page, Superman’s team swiped back that Final Crisis rocket and left it at the Hall of Justice before heading to Vanishing Point.

We get the skinny about the recording Bruce made in Batman # 701 and # 702. I’m curious what it would look like if EVERY JOURNAL ENTRY from Morrison’s run was lined up in order. Could clues be gathered from it?

Wonder Woman says “You all know what to do”. It’s a nice thing to say, but Christ, it’d be nice if they’d let us in on it. Punch Batman in the balls if he shows up? Trap him in a bottle? I mean … what are the options for an Earth-based, non-Hyper-God-Magick team of fantastical, but far from Godly heroes?

SCENE 2: Nice transition from Wonder Woman to Marsha Lamarr’s ass.
Checkered floor alert. You’ll notice that Lamarr is moving across a checkboard toward Bruce DIAGONALLY like a Queen Piece. Bruce, naturally, is a Knight Piece. She wants to use him as a Pawn Piece.

Lamarr’s purple lipstick is ALREADY applied. We of course know from classic Primary vs. Secondary color that Purple and Vivid Green = TOXIC/POISON. The Joker’s colors. Luthor’s colors. Jezebel Jet wore a lot of purple and drank purple champagne. Marsha Lamarr wears green, with purple lipstick. I really don’t need to go on about The Joker’s constant use of green poisons (See: Frazer Irving’s entire coloring of every “Joker Scene” in Batman and Robin) and Talia al Ghul herself tends to wear a lot of purple and green. Hell … come to think of it … there’s Catwoman’s old costume … Ra’s al Ghul … Riddler …

Doctor Floss.

Mordecai’s notes: (Note the anachronisms, of course, Bruce Wayne himself IS an anachronism right now)
The scars on my body --- numerous --- from my head --- found stacks of grit on --- stone. If only I had a … microscope --- tip of ---

Breathing on JUPITER. Something to that … can’t place it now. King of the Gods. Maxie Zeus. Astrological ruler of Sagittarius, guardian, protector … yeah, I’ve got nothing. But since it’s referenced directly in involvement with Lamarr’s nasty smoking habit, I’d look more toward the relationship with CANCER. I mean, talk about poisonous, or cancerous – later when they explore the Wayne Family Cemetery, she ashes one cigarette under her heel and immediately lights another.

Cool bit: They take the BRISTOL FERRY up BRISTOL BAY to whatever Hamptons-like rich community the Kanes live in.

SCENE 3: Meanwhile, at Stately Kane Manor …
More acting from Lamarr. She switches gears when Betsy Kane comes to greet her. When’s the last time you trusted anyone who said “It’s been EVER SO LONG”. Like I said … it’s that Jane Austen satirized, very particular era of snotty, aristocratic English. Dame Judi Dench probably plays Betsy here. And you’ll notice that unlike Wayne Manor, the parlor in the Kane Mansion DOES NOT have checkered tiles.

I think I’ve nailed down the “Wasp” thing. I mean, apart from alluding to the fact that these Kanes are WASPs themselves. It occurred to me when I thought about them being snobby OLD, OLD, OLD money. With their old butler and their OLD mansion. Old and shabby. They’re in the same frail condition as their house. I thought immediately of my grandmother’s house. Before it burned, there were beehives and paper wasp nests in EVERY WALL of the place.

If they’re so rich … can’t they afford to call an exterminator? Partly an indicator of the hard times Gotham has fallen upon (even for the rich – she mentions immediately that Roderick sold Kane Chemical to Ace Chemical – Man, Gotham really was designed to build the Batman) and partly to help explain why she’s so bitter and jealous that Martha basically ditched her miserable, miserly, dilapidated, crotchety parents to go live with young philanthropist Thomas Wayne, who of rich families in the Depression whose wealth was decreasing, the Waynes were on the rise still.

Oh, it’s entirely speculation on my part … but I’m certain of the “Dilapidated” thing. And they can never even leave their house. They’re shut-ins. She’s in a wheelchair … do you see any ramps? Ramps wouldn’t be proper. He’s in a damned iron lung. They don’t get out much … of course they’d believe every lying fucking word Marsha Lamarr tells them about what their daughter is doing. And if Doctor Hurt pays a visit – and it seems from Betsy’s statements that he did – how would they know he’s not the real Thomas Wayne? He could say pretty much anything to them.

“Patrick and Silas had to cover up the whole thing”. – Betsy Kane.
Betsy seems fairly aware that Patrick and Silas Wayne had some sort of family secret they were covering up – but if anything, it’s the same secret we know about. That Doctor Hurt is really Thomas Wayne of the 1700’s … again, Alan Wayne knew about it, and apparently built the secret room and passed it down all the way – we learned in # 701 that Bruce’s parents told him never to go in there. And in the fringes of continuity there is rumor of an “older brother” at Willowood Asylum.

HOW would the Waynes go about EXPLAINING that their 250 year old Great-Great-Great Uncle was still alive, a practicing Satanist, killing people, haunting their family, and possibly holding Black Masses in the basement hidden room of Wayne Manor? They couldn’t … if the question ever arose rumor of a “brother” or something at the asylum would have to suffice.

Awesome though, that Bruce’s boarding school experience with Manfred is directly referenced here. Is that the FULL REFERENCE the MINDLESS ONES were looking for? I believe so!

Betsy Kane reads the tea-leaves. And what do we see? Two bat-symbols, a W, and what could be the Grim. Reference to the “two Batman”? No … I rather think it’s probably reference to Barbatos grafting itself onto Bruce. But it’s hard to say … this one will be answered next issue so I’m not worried about dissecting it.

“Thomas told you this? AFTER his alleged death?” – Bruce’s question pretty much spells out the fact that 1700’s Thomas began pretending to be Thomas Wayne to torment people and gain access back to Wayne Manor if he could.

Every time anyone mentions Thomas Wayne it’s different. One minute they’re referring to Tommy, the next Tom, the next Thomas. And every time it could mean BOTH.

“Whoever that man was, it wasn’t Tom Wayne!” (Did she mean whoever the man was who came and talked to her afterward, or the man who died in the street?) We take it to mean she thinks Thomas Wayne hired a lookalike (Pierce?) to fake his own death … but it’s so nonspecific as to which part of Bruce’s question she was ranting about. Indeed Marsha’s line later – “Martha’s relationship with her family deteriorated years ago. You heard how Betsy felt about Tom Wayne.” Could easily mean that the Kanes knew of 1700’s Thomas (Many of Gotham’s aristocratic elite would … potentially … have heard the rumors or even met the man.) and didn’t want Martha getting involved with ANY of them.

SCENE … 4? Yeah, 4.
Willowood Asylum IS Arkham Asylum. A little Batman history lesson.

Arkham Asylum was founded back in … whenever. The early 19th Century or so. The peak of the Sigmund Freud era, and the height of fervor between your lobotomy proponents and those newfangled psychologists who were using drugs to treat patients.

The history of Arkham can be pretty neatly read about in Grant’s own “ARKHAM ASYLUM: A SERIOUS HOUSE ON SERIOUS EARTH”. Duh.

So why then, did Arkham first appear in the comics in the late 60’s (I think … although chronologically now after various Crises, and thanks to being in The Long Halloween and so forth, it reopened in Batman’s 2nd Year of Crime-Fighting. Which of course, Grant primed us for by having whoever in LAST RITES say in a flashback “there’s even talk of the old Arkham Asylum reopening.”

Willowood was of course the Asylum where The Brave and the Bold’s “Thomas Wayne, Jr.”, Bruce’s not-quite-in-continuity older brother with a mental disability lived. He apparently got possessed by Deadman then cured, then died.

So Grant fuses the two. ARKHAM closes after the “Mad Dog” incident. Later the building is used as the military insane asylum called WILLOWOOD. Later on, during the rise of Batman, it reopens as ARKHAM.

But while it was WILLOWOOD, Doctor Simon Hurt worked there. (No wonder he just waltzed in and stole control of Arkham Asylum from Jeremiah Arkham!). At least, that’s the going theory.

This Asylum is large, and Ryan Sook has drawn it to look a LOT like Arkham. But it looks like its upstate, and shouldn’t Gotham River be right behind it? It’s impossible to tell. But the fact is … the building looks almost exactly like how Tony Daniel depicted Arkham during R.I.P.

Nice art cue, as Marsha’s car is parked at the Asylum and later we see they’re out back.

THERE IS A STATUE OF A BOOMERANG ON DOCTOR HURT’S FILE CABINET which could indicate that the “Boomerang Killer” of The Brave and the Bold was indeed, very much, one of his historical “masks”.

Carter Nichols re-enters the story as a young man. Frankly, the story goes (and you can skip Final Crisis if you want) Batman # 700, Batman # 701, Batman # 702, Return of Bruce # 1, Return of Bruce # 2, Return of Bruce ->

The “Time and the Batman” trade is pointless. #700-#702 should be included as immediate prologue for the Return of Bruce TPB. But enough of that chatter – I never usually complain about the dull market aspects of comics.

Enemy time travel. A villain who crops up over the centuries but not consistently? Could Hurt be time-traveling, too? It doesn’t seem likely. Nichols backs out of the bet in the end. He decides his soul isn’t for sale, and it seems like that kind of amazing technology is not available to Hurt.

Hurt apparently gave Roderick the stroke … possibly assassinated the Waynes. Probably IS a Wayne. Probably is the Boomerang Killer. Bruce is trapped inside a BOX. Joker has apophenia and can seemingly see the box form, see the city grids. Grids/boxes/same idea. The grids might be constructs of the box, moving pawns here and there, shifting history around Bruce. Only crazy people can see it. The Hyper-Adapter may very well be the black, broken heart of Gotham City … constructing grids and frameworks within the Ancestor-Box to build the legend of the dark knight and ensure the Omega Bomb.

Who were the other TWO tall dark and handsomes?

We know that Jack Valor gave the bat-casket to the VAN DERMS, because years later in the cowboy era, the Van Derms still have it. Jack delivered it to a brother and sister in Gotham Town – NOT at Wayne Manor, which means Wayne Manor was probably not built yet. It was built in the late 1790’s, and he probably would have been dead at the time.

But there are instructions written onto his notes stating the casket should go to the catacombs. Who wrote them? The Van Derms? They were building the mansion for Darius, after all …

It’s hard to tell which … because we’ve been seeing this “bat-beast” or “bat-demon” transposed over Bruce, tied to Bruce, and he’s supposed to be a likely candidate for Barbatos. But I’ll put forth that Barbatos might be the Hyper-Adapter. It certainly explains a lot of things if that’s the case. Another “we’ll see”. I’m not really prepared right now to dig up all evidence of that.

But they directly refer to it as an UNEARTHLY LIFEFORM and I’m pretty damn sure that means Barbatos is the Hyper-Adapter, and it’s Gotham’s black heart. Of course, a moment later they refer to it as “The Hunter”. That’s been related back to the likes of ORION and Batman throughout the run …

Crime Bible ties should not surprise anyone at this point. Grant was an architect of 52. He and Rucka covered the Gotham stuff, primarily. Rucka stuck with the Crime Bible, and it was incorporated heavily into Final Crisis with different covens and ultimately Libra arriving as some sort of messiah to herald Darkseid.

Interesting that as the eclipse passes and Bruce vanishes … his grandfather, Roderick dies.

Final points: Tim Drake crying “SEAL THE HALL OF JUSTICE” is exactly the same thing Batman yells when he realizes that Kraken harbors GRANNY GOODNESS.

And of course … there’s our Mandelbrot-bat-barbatos-barbelith-one-eyed Archivist Batman. What in the hell is he going to do next?


ADDITIONALLY …
I had some interesting ideas about the nature of Mangrove Pierce (“My father’s double … and mine”) especially now that we’ve seen Bruce Wayne, Thomas Wayne, and Thomas Wayne-HURT all dressed in the “Original Batman Costume”. I mean … the name “Pierce” itself is a word that means “Putting a hole in something”. And we can all but confirm that Doctor Hurt personally puts holes in things – whether it’s holes in Bruce’s memories that he could fit into, storywise … amongst other psychological attacks.

He lobotomized Flamingo. He gave Roddy Kane a stroke. He drove Pyg over the edge. The list goes on and on.

My presumption is that Mangrove Pierce was just another one of Hurt’s “False Identities”. I haven’t had the time to compile evidence to build on that thought, and I’ve had people argue against it quite succinctly so more on that at another time.

Really, in the context of this latest issue, which is a massive info-dump (although still maintaining that air of “dots ready to be connected, that can’t quite be connected yet”) yet another re-read of the entire run so-far is in order. Maybe next weekend, if I have time.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Just a thought ...

Before October Batman Morrisonia just goes crazy on us.

I'm not sure I expect it to actually happen, but to me it feels like ... if Return of Bruce # 5 is the Gotham of Bruce's childhood - he's visiting the Gotham where "Batman is born" on Park Row outside the theater where Zorro plays. He's visiting the Gotham where Joe Chills lurks and is going to discover just how ensconced in it all the Black Glove and Doctor Hurt really were ... in a sort of seedy fusion of the 30's and 70's ...

Then it seems like Return of Bruce # 6 might revisit "Robin Dies At Dawn".

I'm curious to see how that plays out. The possibility of Bruce Wayne being there, watching himself as Batman earlier in his career. A historical lynch-pin of an issue that really SHOWS us all the stuff we've been TOLD. Doctor Hurt. That military general. The isolation experiment (that'd be a full-circle on the whole Thogal running theme). The "MISSING DAY" from when Batman faced the "THREE GHOSTS". These are massively important events that factor majorly into the Black Glove's attack on Bruce, and we haven't actually WITNESSED any of them.

So I just wanted to make it known that I'm pulling for ROBW#6 to be focused on that very point of Batman's life (and a little mysterious "Bruce helping Bruce" stuff).