In W. W. Jacobs' story "The Monkey's Paw", an aging couple is given a magically-endowed preserved monkey's paw that bestows upon them three wishes. The story is a classic representation of the trope that magic may work great evil by granting the letter, but not the spirit of a wish. Their first wish, for money, is granted is the form of a cash settlement that comes due to their working-age son's death – a horrible outcome they vehemently rue. Their second wish is to bring the son back to life. This, too, goes badly as they hear the scuffle and banging at their door of what is surely a corrupted, evil version of their son. And so the third wish is to have the undead son go away.
Batman and Robin #8 gives Dick Grayson the experience of the second and third wishes. Going (arguably unforgivably out of character) against the advice he hammered upon Tim Drake in The Resurrection of R'as al-Ghul, he places the body from Bruce Wayne's crypt into a Lazarus Pit and finds, to no reader's surprise, that the choice was a mistake. Lazarus Pits have always been known to madden the subject, which would have perhaps been a sufficient explanation for the experience going badly, but a distinct and separate reason comes to bear here.
Batman and Robin #8 has a reveal, long teased inside and outside of stories, including in Geoff John's Blackest Night, that the body of Bruce Wayne, seen several times since his demise, was not really Bruce Wayne but one of the clones created by Mokkari in Final Crisis. The logistics of this have confused some readers, so I'll break it down here:
1) Mokkari uses DNA from the captive Bruce Wayne to create an army of clones. The clones are brought to maturity rapidly, in about a month, and in that time are speed-programmed with the memories and experiences of the real Batman, give or take a few tweaks. (This is exactly the plan Luthor used in creating a subservient Superman clone in Action Comics #500.) We see this in Batman #682.
2) Batman, unconscious and physically restrained, becomes aware of the process and fights the mental control of Mokkari's instrument of psychological control, the Lump, a character who puts others into his dreams. Batman eventually wins the confidence of the Lump and gets the otherwise immobile creature to rise and set him free. Batman #683.
3) Mokkari reports his failure to Darkseid. Final Crisis #5.
4) In a flashback that is not quite harmonious with the above, Darkseid tells Mokkari to save one of the dead clones, stating that he can use it, although he doesn't elaborate on how or why. Batman and Robin #8.
5) The real Batman confronts Darkseid and is beamed by the Omega Sanction into the past. Apparently, nothing whatsoever is left behind in the present, which is exactly how the Omega Effect is first portrayed in Forever People. Batman's fate, however, will be to live a series of futile lives, as seen in Grant Morrison's Mister Miracle miniseries. Final Crisis #6.
6) Superman finds the dead clone and assumes that it is Batman, since it is an identical copy of him down to the DNA. Confusing Superman may be the purpose for which Darkseid intended the clone, although the logic behind this is not clear. Darkseid intended to win his confrontation with Superman, and presumably did not plan on being shot by the real Batman, so it's hard to know how much of what unfolded was part of his plan or backup plans. Final Crisis #6.
7) The body is placed in a grave whose first in-story appearance is in Batman and Robin #1. It is subsequently seen in Blackest Night, with Black Hand removing the skull and using it to create Black Lantern rings and to animate, briefly, a Black Lantern Batman. Blackest Night #0-6.
8) The clone's skull is recovered and reunited with the body (which was found by Dick and Damian in Blackest Night: Batman). It is placed in a crypt next seen in Batman and Robin #6. It is this body which is removed by Dick and taken to the Lazarus Pit.
Because the clone is insane, it must obviously be stopped. It has returned to Gotham, and its "plan" is uncertain, although it's about to engage in a violent clash with the wheelchair-bound Damian.
What next? Will the clone be killed? Will it roam free, unaccounted for? Will it be put into a cage and be used, eventually, to provide the body for Bruce Wayne's spirit upon his return? If it does die, does that fulfill one of the "death of Batman" scenes from Batman #666? And given that the next story arc seems to have Damian battle Dick Grayson, that makes for two Damian-vs-Batman stories in a row. With Bruce Wayne set to return, we will have three Batmen in just a few months. Morrison, of course, has filled his work with alternate versions of Batmen.
Kings and Madmen
Perhaps the more momentous scenes in this issue show us the machinations of Old King Coal. The issue opens with flashbacks showing how he captured the Pearly Prince and incapacitated Batwoman. Then, in step with the battle of the two Batmen, we see him trigger an explosion that accidentally settles the fight and his celebratory comments afterward.
Why is this character, alluded to but not seen in the previous issue, so interesting? His relationship with the Pearly King resurrects Morrison's use of games as a template for events in his story. We have a white king and a black king, and that immediately invokes the notion of chess. The black king has a black queen (off-camera) and also a number of black pawns, with (coincidentally?) eight of them seen in the panel where Eddie is captured.
Old King Coal's plan is to destroy London and rule a New Jerusalem from Newcastle (the center of a coal-bearing region of England). "New Jerusalem" is a term often used to describe the capital city of a new religious order to arise in the undefined future. William Blake's poem "And did those feet in ancient time" posited that England had a future and past with centrality to Christianity beyond what is historically recorded. Given Old King Coal's leanings, however, it's clear that it's not Christ but Antichrist as the central figure of his religion. Blake's poem mentions "dark satanic mills", commenting on the industrial problems of his time.
Coal refers to "the Beast", a name from the biblical Book of Revelations, which also introduced the idea of a Christian New Jerusalem. He believed that sacrificing Batwoman would bring about the rising of the Beast from the Lazarus Pit. We have some reason to wonder if the evil Batman who arose is the partial fulfillment of Coal's belief.
The larger question: Is Coal directly tied to the larger evil that has been behind Morrison's entire run on Batman? His efforts are unquestionably similar to things we've seen before. Are they part of it? His henchmen wear face-covering masks, like those of Pyg's dollotrons (and in contrast to the Pearly Prince's Robin-style domino mask). He takes down Batwoman with an airborne narcotic, like the airborne drug of Pyg. He speaks on the phone (to his female companion, his "bleedin' Donna" as Pearly put it) of a "new age of crime" -- contrast El Penitente's underling Santos speaking of his boss's "new model of crime". Clearly everything about Coal's operation relates to El Penitente's evil master plan under the veil typical of Morrison's work, that many similar things coexist, leaving us to guess which are directly related.
It's also hard to read scenes about Coal's interest in "evil gods" juxtaposed with an appearance by Darkseid and not consider a possible relationship. Coal's men mention Mannheim, the head of Intergang who has always represented a tie between Darkseid and Earth. Meanwhile, the various stories of Greg Rucka over the past few years have spoken of the Crime Bible in connection to biblical events, including the figure Cain whose name is the same as that of Batwoman Kathy Kane (and Batman creator Bob Kane!). It has been conjectured that the evil of Doctor Hurt and Darkseid might be related. Clearly, they are similar. Are they intertwined? How high -- or how far over -- does this conspiracy go?
Even if Coal is simply a criminal whose inclinations lead toward religions of evil, the story is moving, in just four more issues, to a conclusion that scales up the hierarchy of evil to the devilish pinnacle. The solicit for #12 promises that the domino / Domino Killer plot will be revealed, with "the shocking truth behind" El Penitente (who is surely tied to if not identical to Doctor Hurt) coming, along with the "surprising return of a fanfavorite character" (certainly, the Joker would fit that bill). In giving Greg Rucka space to continue to work his evil-religion plot, it's unlikely that Batman and Robin will try to bite off the whole universe of evil in the next four issues (during which a lot of other stuff has to happen). But big things are coming.