One of the nice side-effects of Grant exploring Gotham City before it was Gotham City is that he gets to name some things. The Palisades, the hilly region north of Gotham where all the mansions are, where under the Wayne Estate the massive Bat-Cave stretches a vast expanse that opens up in secret coves and places along the coastline and under the hills ... naturally borders on some water. And that water, due east of Gotham's luxurious Palisades, is Bristol Bay. Which we've seen mentioned last issue. A fun aside that I probably mentioned then? Annie, the witch, was from Bristol in England. And so, allegedly, was Blackbeard the pirate, whose ship is the Queen Anne's Revenge.
This time around, like Spock and Bones before him, Batman is going to remember, damn it. Clearly after two issues of amnesia the over-arcing story requires Batman starts assembling these clues.
I wonder if Dan Turpin is pissed that the Batman shot him.
So here is Bruce Wayne, washed ashore and at the mercy of Blackbeard the Pirate, who also has a young man captive, and they watch the Black Pirate's ship, the Black Rose (Really? I mean really? Black Rose?) burn. And ol' Thatch thinks Bruce is the Black Pirate.
The year is 1734. A full 30 years prior to when I expected this issue to take place (Our suspect, the Satanist Thomas Wayne, having been Satanizing around 1760, and vanishing prior to our young Darrius becoming a war hero in 1777).
Morrison wisely doesn't really let us know whether this is actually Vandal Savage or not. Perhaps he just missed that snippet of Wiki fact, or would rather Blackbeard be his own man, or just likes leaving it mysterious.
Bruce remembers Annie giving him Mordecai's clothes - something he DIDN'T remember at the time, on account of love potions and lies.
Yet again, Bruce has been summoned. Anthro tried to summon Metron and got Bruce. Annie tried for "a New God" of some sort and got Bruce. Later we'll learn that Jack Valor prayed for aid from his grandfather, Jon Valor, the first Black Pirate, and got Bruce. Wonder who summoned him to 1860.
"Then says I let him join us on our journey to the Underworld". Those tallying keywords, ding-ding-ding, there's Underworld used once more for the Bat-Cave.
Those expecting young 15 year old Jack Valor here to be Batman's "Robin" of this time period, it's neatly subverted - rather, this is more a classic super-hero team-up. All those times where Superman dressed as Batman so that Bruce Wayne could be seen in the same place - same sort of idea. A bit of super role reversal to throw off the villains.
This issue is HEAVY on the Miagani Tribe, who we finally meet.
Blackbeard comically having the totem skull of the Miagani "smoke his pipe" is reminiscent of Joker hot-boxing Dick Grayson back in the "60's" chapter of Batman # 700. Our young Jack Valor is quite a cool guy, giving us the scoop on the history of the Miagani once more, how ancient they claim to be, and where and why they've hidden.
The Indian traps are ingenious, and very much Indiana Jones in fashion. Jack Valor's friends the Miagani are quite cunning and clever - inspired, no doubt, thousands of years ago by the Man of Bats' utility belt. Were they here, hiding, watching Batman fight the time-squid kraken last issue?
Hanging upside down like bats, matches well the statue of their totem, Man of Bats. So the demonic statue wasn't Barbatos at all! The Breath of the Bat - a great natural defense, and one that Batman probably still uses to this day. The angled stones made to click and spark when they strike are an ingenious defense in the methane tunnel.
Scene 2: Bludhaven
Batman and Robin at ground zero in HAZ-BAT suits. Priceless. Dick found the "relic" last issue - the cloak of Batman from 10,000 years ago, left behind in the cave where Anthro died and then worshiped by the Bat People/Miagani afterward for years. The cloak he wore during Final Crisis, with the needle punctures in the cowl. With no Batman or Superman around, Wonder Woman leads the charge, since she's a natural leader and member of the trinity - and so here she finally turns up to validate her "WW" symbol being one that Bruce used.
Continuity alert: Hal Jordan appears here, but wasn't he with "Superman and the others"? Christ, DC Comics editors ... Christ. At the least they could've used one of the other thousand Green Lanterns. John Stewart would have been the right choice, since he was a big part of Final Crisis. It's kind of easy to see how the error could happen - Paquette may not have known Hal was involved with the Time Masters last issue. Or the description might have just been a quick list of "Who is in Robinson's JLA team" or something. Or maybe just a list of concerned heroes with "Green Lantern" written and not specified which bloody Green Lantern they meant. Everybody ... pretend that's John Stewart.
Nice to see Tim Drake get some respect, Wonder Woman turns the investigation over to him, and here stands our young lad, still fresh off being the Teen Wonder and not even 18 quite yet, standing toe-to-toe with Black Canary, Flash, Congorilla, Guardian, and more.
Morrison finally gives the Tim Drake fans what they want - an explanation for why Tim found Bat-Symbols in caves in Europe - the Siberian land bridge, of course. The Miagani spread the word of their shining gods and Man of Bats. Fuel for the "Batman inspired the legends of the Devil" fire.
Robin mentions something on all of OUR minds as well, since Batman and Robin # 13 was delayed a couple weeks - "Don't we need to get back to the Joker?" Yes, yes we fucking do. Robin also connects the dots with what the Batman Black Knight clone said about being born from a broken jar. He's getting better at this detective stuff, and he and Grayson now have a play-by-play of exactly what happened during Final Crisis. I'm curious as all get where the present cast fit in the timeline, since B&R#12 ended with a cliffhanger, but Morrison rarely worries about that sort of thing. I'm sure we'll see space where this stuff fits, or maybe it even happens "After" Batman Must Die ends and of course before B&R#16.
Shit. My timeline is wrong. Bruce Wayne determines that the year is 1718 (Should've been obvious, the year Blackbeard died, historically - all this thought of him potentially being Vandal Savage has me turned around). So Black Pirate must be writing his journal as an older man in 1734. So the Waynes he meets would be the PARENTS of Thomas Wayne, and the girl that the cultists in Dark Knight, Dark City sacrificed to Barbatos. There's a huge skip between 1718-1734 (this issue) and 1860's next issue where A LOT happens, including our Satanist Thomas Wayne, our Darrius, the Revolution, and more. Hopefully historical records are good enough by 1860 that Bruce can get some fucking information about it, then.
Bruce is shrewd enough to know Jack is the Black Pirate, of course, we all knew, too. It wasn't meant to be much of a surprise.
If Blackbeard isn't Vandal Savage ... he and Vandal took their lessons in controlling bands of brigands and plunderers from the same teacher. Character-wise, they're almost identical.
The Miagani are dangerous as can be. Valor mentions the "curse of the Black Pirate", but it comes down to rumors and misdirection. Still, it does bring to mind Annie's curse last issue, and the nature of curses. Do they work for the Black Pirate? Maybe in self-fulfilling prophecy kind of way. But the Miagani are superstitious and we see that being closer to the earth and more naturalistic, they're right to be so.
Saber fight on a bone bridge. It's like Indiana Jones meets every single Ra's al Ghul adventure. Good stuff. Very pulpy, which is perfect for pirate fare.
Israel Hands, for the record, really was Blackbeard's first mate. He survives after Blackbeard is killed, and basically does the pirate equivalent of a gangster turning "states evidence". Will we hear about it next issue? It's possible, I guess ... not that likely.
Valor really does know about the Miagani. Nothing we don't already know. Last of the once great Miagani tribe. Claim descent from the "First Boy", who we know is Anthro, and whose clan met Batman then founded the Miagani tribe. Bruce is impressed, and he sees the statue - a statue of HIM - and the relic, his cloak from Final Crisis. And they recognize Bruce as their God. That's pretty crazy.
And Bruce gets back his Utility belt after 100 years. Apparently Annie didn't find it useful and she left it there. It's a little old, but still perfectly good - not like the cape and cowl, which has thousands of years of age on it.
So the Orion's Belt reference is not just in reference to Orion, or the painting of Darrius Wayne, but also to his utility belt, which is in fact, a "hunter's belt".
Born Under a Black Sun sounds familiar.
The wealthy brother and sister then ... the Waynes? They seem young ... this could be our Satanist Thomas Wayne after all. With a powdered wig it's very hard to tell, but he certainly resembles a younger Thomas (if he was in his 20's then, he'd only be 50 by the time the events of Dark Knight, Dark City rolled around). And there is the casket.
The mystery of what's in the casket rages. It seems akin to practical magic ... or summoning demons, Goetia style. A list of names. Symbols. Annie's book of magic. The "OTHER" thing that he won't speak, which is our big mystery (Barbatos?).
Keyword checkers - once more, Valor equates "MIDNIGHT" with awful, occult things. MIDNIGHT and UNDERWORLD are Grant's two biggest reuses of words in this run. The bells of All-Over, no doubt, tie to the End of Time and the fact that Batman just left Superman and Green Lantern stranded there.
1860's Gotham ... Wayne Manor is haunted, and these crooks approach it from the Wayne Family Cemetery.
Jonah Hex has laid out a Dead Man's Hand for these boys, same as Joker had laid out for Batman in DC Universe # 0 (R.I.P.). They're trying to hire Hex to take out this new gunslinger (Batman). But who summoned Batman this time?
My guess is Joshua Wayne, who is the brother of Solomon Wayne and as we saw in the paintings, was in the cult parts of the Bat-Cave before he reportedly (by these two thugs) died in the caves. Perhaps Bruce took his place for a while. It's clear Bruce probably meets up with Solomon.
Whoever these guys' "Boss" is will probably be a big cameo. Hell, I wouldn't be surprised to see it be "Boss Falcone", although there's a good chance for laughs we get "Boss Gordon" or "Boss Kyle" or something. I'm not sure if it would be too obvious for the Sheriff of Gotham to be a Gordon - that would be a LOOOONG family history of cops.
And so Batman comes rolling in over the hill. Will he gunfight Jonah Hex? Beats me ... bet five bucks they team up and kick ass next issue, though.
I'm not in the most deductive of modes right now ... can't wait for the other annotations and notes to go up so I can dive headlong into the discussion.