Saturday, January 30, 2010
Cover: The bat-corpse in the sarcophagus seen at the end of #6. Here we see that it's quite skeletal, with little if any flesh.
Dick carries the man he loves most. The pose is nearly identical to that of Superman holding Batman on the last page of Final Crisis #6. Like the famous rendition of Superman holding his deceased cousin in Crisis on Infinite Earths, it's also quite similar to Michelangelo's Pieta.
The action in London opens mid-explosion, with no explanation for why this is happening. Batman has saved a little girl by seconds. Rescuing children has been a frequent theme in Morrison's run. It's how his first issue of Batman opened, and how we first saw Damian as Batman in #666. It was also part of breaking up Pyg's scheme in the present, as hinted at in the solicit for #1 which didn't quite come to pass, because it was Pyg, not the Domino Killer, whom we saw abducting a child.
Squire begins to fill us in. She knows that there's one more bomb because King Coal said so. Why does she know what King Coal said? Did he confess or was he overheard? His name is a twist on the nursery rhyme, Old King Cole. There seem to have been more bombs, but we don't know how many.
Batman rendezvouses with Squire. Lucky those buses and cranes were around to facilitate his travel.
To stop the bomb, Batman goes underground for the first of three times in this issue.
Batman throws a bomb to let him stop a bomb. The burning black heart reflects King Coal's name (that's what coal does, burn). It's a well-connected villain who has his own train esconced in the London Underground. The phrase "black heart" comes up often in Morrison's writing, including in Batman #673, when Bruce speaks of "a deep, black well where my heart should be." Dick rescues the son, a self-titled prince, of the self-titled king we meet later. The son's language calls to mind the god-and-devil lines from Morrison's run that initially seemed figurative but ended up literal.
In Basement 101, Batman goes underground for the second of three times. The villain names are mixtures of puns and cultural references of perhaps no great importance. "The Morris Men" once again puts the author into the story, perhaps foreshadowing the reveal of a fourth-wall role for Oberon Sexton. Highwaymen (like Robin Hood) were some of the early inspirations for superheroes.
The jailer is concerned with the Pearly King speaking too much. The King himself takes pains not to give away information aloud, while doing so with gestures. Is he under surveillance? If so, does it have to do with the "eyes and ears of El Penitente" being everywhere?
The interrogation resembles the most famous scene in The Killing Joke, which Morrison has reprised already in DC Universe #0. Even in having the standing Batman on the left and the seated villain on the right. However, Pearly is not trying to hinder Batman -- he has obviously already prepared a helpful clue by putting a map into the dominoes. This is not depicted with consistency from frame to frame.
There is a tank of eels behind Pearly.
A game of cards played using real people is reminiscent of the Black Glove gambling on matters of life and death. King Coal lost to Eddie and had resorted to violence to renege on the wager. It's not clear why he needed to attack London in order to strike at Eddie, but Batman stories never pass up a good slow-acting death trap.
Coal is black and pearl is white. Two sides of a game. Street royalty (Pearly's diction is Cockney; he thinks he's royalty) against country (coal mines, or colliers, are inevitably in rural locations). South (London) vs. the north (Newcastle). And so we are also told that King Coal subscribes to "fanatical superstition". Is King Coal working for El Penitente? The Crime Bible people seem to be affiliated with him.
The legend of King Arthur and a Cauldron of Rebirth is perhaps a light embellishment by Morrison on actual epic poems. However, this deserves careful attention because Morrison has touched on this theme already, in Seven Soldiers, spinning an epic battle for a cauldron, lost by Arthur and his men, into a battle against the Sheeda. There, Morrison states that Arthur set "out to recover the Cauldron of Rebirth from Unwhen, the bleak otherworld on Sheeda-side. Thus are these deeds remembered by bards in later ages... And three times the fullness of great Arthur's ship we went into it. Save seven, none returned." As in the actual epic, Preiddeu Annwfn, Arthur does not win the cauldron. That poem describes the Cauldron as pearl-rimmed, which is probably where Pearly's motif comes from. As Arthur failed to win this cauldron, a Grail analog, the effort to revive Bruce isn't going to work out for Dick, either. Are the Sheeda going to enter into this story? I suppose not.
Perly's cup has a crown with the Maltese cross and fleur de lys on the sides. That's not an uncommon design for the crown of royalty.
How exactly is it that Pearly is playing dominoes when dominoes have already come up five times in this story? (The trunk that Toad was carrying. Dominoes in the hands of Toad, lab of Pyg, and hand of Santos. Pyg mentioning dominoes from his cell.) Full set of possibilities:
a) The author is using a theme that has no explanation within the logic of the story.
b) Some intricate, but humanly-explicable, criminal organization is leaving clues for Batman and has Pearly as well as Pyg and other agents under its control.
c) Some cosmically-powerful agency is sending Batman the domino clues without having an organization in the usual sense.
d) The author of the story is a character within the story, and is using dominoes for some purpose we will find out later.
Talia is salivating over Damian's soon-to-be ascendency in power and evil. Or so she thinks. A lead-in to next story arc, all foreshadowed long ago by #666 stating that Damian was bred to kill and replace Bruce Wayne.
Alfred says that the body's identity was ascertained by "several" reliable sources. Dick later cites Superman; perhaps there are others? But if DNA is the only evidence, this hints that some stand-in (e.g., the clones) may have been substituted. I have argued, though, that this is not the simplest explanation, though it's possible.
The Batgyro was Batman's new weapon back in Detective #31!
The coal pit has everything omenous going for it: It's on the purportedly cosmic "Ley line", has spooky backstories suggestive of sacrifice, with links to King Arthur (see above). Dick notices that men carried something heavy in. Presumably this means the coffin with Batwoman. We don't know how Batman arrived, but it seems like men carrying a coffin would have been a likely course.
Batman goes underground for the third time in this issue. Even for a guy who operates out of a cave, that's unlikely to happen by chance. The emphasis on the underground calls to mind the title of #677: "Batman in the Underworld".
Dick estimates that he might be back in pixie boots by New Year's. That's eleven days from December 21 to January 1.
King Coal's men glow. Why not?
They are involved with some attempted sacrifice (and, apparently, resurrection) of Batwoman, which is what the Crime Bible crew has been after since "52". But that means that these superstitious criminals think that putting a dead into the pit does more than bring them back as a live hero. So maybe what goes wrong here will have more to do with the pit than any problem with Bruce's body. Batwoman says that the covens believe that the Knight of the Beast will rise on this night. As in Watchmen, a plan has already been put into motion when we find out, and there's no going back. But instead of the evil Batwoman that King Coal expected, it will be evil Batman.
That's Bruce's left hand coming out first. The English word "sinister" comes from the Latin word for "left". Dick made contingency plans for backup in case he needs to fight the resurrected Bruce Wayne. We're sure to see him wish he'd brought more backup.
Update: DAL's very-sharp comment (to this post) that the first lines of B&R #1 are a probable comment on the series as a whole is very likely correct. Given that, I added the comment (also below) that the Russian Lev looks like Dan Didio. Here is a depiction of each of them, side-by-side. Aside from the obvious differences in emotion (Didio seems to be smiling, not yelling, in every photo I can find), it looks like a pretty good match. The first lines of Morrison's run on Batman spoke of the confusion and ambiguity that would typify the run. If this series indeed began with a Fourth Wall moment, then it makes it seem more likely that the "Mo G" graphic was a hint that the masked mystery writer Oberon Sexton could be Grant Morrison himself, the "Gravedigger" of Bruce Wayne... and perhaps other major characters.