Thursday, March 4, 2010

Batman and Robin 10 Preview

Just a few hours ago, DC placed a preview to Batman and Robin #10 on its website. A few short pages provided a wealth of clues about the main mystery of the entire 16-issue opening portion of Grant Morrison's run on the title. Damian stands mighty, instructing Wayne Enterprise's board on the nature of the finanical irregularities that have long been hinted at, a moment of "and a child shall lead them" of biblical proportions. Then Batman confers with Oberon Sexton, obtaining copious information about the Domino Killer -- but is the information true? True or false, this is a huge fraction of the entire Domino Killer plot in just a couple of pages. Enough to make it worth revisiting the questions that remain open in this story. I will also incorporate some observations from the rest of the series.

Damian tells the board that the irregularities stem from an excessive and growing amount of money that has been siphoned off into an fund, in the name of Thomas Wayne, for the victims of railroad accidents. That piece of information is tangled in a number of possible deceptions -- the thing of which we can be most sure is that the fund is not being used simply to aid the victims of railroad accidents. Damian says that its use goes back years, so it's not something that began after Bruce's disappearance. Is it the fund that has always funded Batman's activities, and is no longer being covered up by Bruce? It's a bit suspicious that Bruce would leave a detail like that unaddressed. Is it something that has been siphoned out of Wayne Enterprises for the Black Glove? It's also suspicious that something like that would have escaped Bruce's notice.

The conversation between Oberon Sexton and Batman is, on the surface, full of details. Up until this time, the story had presented dominoes to us on five occasions. After the second, when Toad was found dead with a domino in his hand, Dick listed the oddities he'd faced in the first two issues and included a mention of "domino killers". The plural there when only one body had been found can be explained as his exaggeration as he registers a general frustration with the elements around him. Or it may be a clue that there is, after all, more than one domino killer.

Sexton describes a larger pattern. We were told earlier that he is an "amateur detective" on the trail of "a globetrotting serial killer." Now he lists five or six other victims, including three members of the Black Glove as seen in the finale of Batman, R.I.P. He gives a timeline of "six months" for the murders and disappearances. Assuming that the faces match with the ones they seem to match with, they are:

1) Cardinal Maggi, a Black Glove member seen in RIP. The newspaper announcing his "gruesome slaying" has previously been shown in the possession of Le Bossu as well as in Sexton's hotel room.

2) al-Khidr, an oil sheihk, a Black Glove member seen in RIP. "Choked to death on peanuts and poison".

3) Malenkov, the Russian general, a Black Glove member seen in RIP. (The "soldier" in RIP had a uniform similar to, but not exactly matching, that of current Russian generals' dress uniforms.) We saw the Joker kill him. Sexton says that "they found his remains inside an alligator, with a domino pattern painted on its back."

4) Jezebel Jet, working for the Black Glove and seen in RIP, but not one of the five betting members. We saw Talia's man-bats attack her plane, which either led to her death or some other outcome of Talia's choosing.

5) "Sir Anthony", British, accompanied by the headline "The mystery deepens." His appearance is similar to that of a member of the Black Glove seen in RIP who said that he made his fortune in electronics -- the match here is uncertain. It could be that a man with the first name "Anthony" was knighted after making a fortune in electronics. So it could be that yet another of the five betting members has been slain, or the two men could be different. If so, then this is the only victim on Sexton's map who was not in RIP. Dick, looking at Sexton's evidence lists "a media guy". That could be "Sir Anthony".

The one betting member of the Black Glove not, perhaps, named is a short man wearing a cowboy hat who smokes a cigar and is the only one with absolutely no spoken words. It's possible that he is the "media guy" and is for some reason left off of the map (perhaps the case that brought Oberon Sexton "west"). In that case, it's possible that every evil wealthy person present in RIP has been accounted for as a victim in Sexton's report -- those six and exactly those six. If not, then either Sir Anthony or the "media guy" are a wealthy person who was not in RIP, hinting that they entered the organization as a replacement once the killings started. The only one with a domino clue described to us was Malenkov. Given that some have "vanished", there would not be the possibility of a domino clue with the bodies. it seems likely that dominoes showed up in other cases, too, or else the other cases are linked to Malenkov by the prominence of the victims and only he had the domino clue.

There are irregularities in Sexton's report:

a) He had been contacted by El Penitente and given a demand to do something. Perhaps this meeting with Batman was that demand. Either way, Sexton does not mention that phone call, and does not mention the folder on his bed with the likely image of Doctor Hurt / El Penitente -- an admittedly blurry shape like that of a man wearing the Thomas Wayne batmask with the upside-down pentagram underneath. That Sexton does not mention the phone call indicates that he is fearful of repercussions ("since the eyes and ears of El Penitente are everywhere") and thus is probably telling Batman exactly what El Penitente asked him to tell, give or take a possible sneaky clue that he might work in subtly.

b) Sexton ends with the comment "They can bury the truth as deeply as they like, Batman. But good men will always find shovels to dig with." The teaser images seen at the end of #9 include a shovel stuck into the ground by the gravestone formerly used to hold the body of "Bruce Wayne". Either Sexton's final comment is delivering Dick a clue which leads him to take a shovel to that gravesite or someone else places the shovel there. But Sexton does not purport to know that Wayne was "buried" there. So why would he have knowledge enough to leave such a clue? Note that burial is how the Black Glove tried to dispose of Batman.

c) We know that Malenkov was killed by the Joker, much the same way that we know that Santo was assaulted by Jason Todd, and Jezebel by Talia. While it may seem to Dick or Sexton that there is a killer carrying out a pattern, we know for absolute certain that there isn't a single killer following this pattern. We have no doubt whatsoever who killed Malenkov. The question is how his body ended up inside an alligator after the events of RIP, which should have ended with the general's body in the care of the authorities. It is equally unclear how Le Bossu managed to get free after RIP. He had a newspaper mentioning Cardinal Maggi's death. Is his escape related to the removal of Malenkov's body? The Black Glove had Gotham authorities working for them as of the end of RIP, they may have chosen to start working on their agenda immediately and accordingly placed the body in the alligator and let Le Bossu free. (Whereas Jezebel has to escape on her own.)

Moving on, we have the five appearances of dominoes in the story in Batman and Robin.

The drug deal that opens the first issue remains a tricky thing to understand; Gutter Treasure has posted some comments regarding what was going on. Given dialogue in other issues, we can say:

I) Sasha's uncle is one of the customers of Pyg who used the drug to enslave women for the mob. Jason tells us this in #5 and Dick refers to that setup in #3. But it seems odd for both sides of a drug deal to be fleeing in the same car with just one trunk. This may signify that while Toad usually sold to the Russians, in this case he was going somewhere with the Russians to make a sale to some other, and perhaps important, unknown character. If that character gave Toad and the Russians dominoes, that's highly suspicious whether they intended to receive dominoes or not, and I believe that Dick's dialogue probably indicates that they intended to receive cash and were surprised not to.

II) Sasha says that the people who make and trade these new drugs sent Pyg to kill her papa. Given the solicit for #10 that mentions "El Penitente's drug cartel", we can be rather certain that Pyg worked for El Penitente. The fact that Pyg, like Flamingo and the Replacement Batman, was made into a villain out of a good person through real or unreal psychology is further corroboration of that.

III) Santo unquestionably works for El Penitente and moreover indicates "just when we think we have Gotham in our grip" that Batman has returned (he mistakenly confuses the Red Hood's activities with Batman's). This indicates that El Penitente has not just now struck, but has been doing so for at least a short time already. A Morrison interview indicates that Doctor Hurt will be back to finish what he started and El Penitente's comment to Sexton that he has "unfinished business" in Gotham and "scores to settle" leaves us with no doubt that El Penitente is fundamentally Doctor Hurt.

And the upshot of this is that all five or six recipients of dominoes in Sexton's report to Batman are members of Doctor Hurt's Black Glove while all three who have dominoes in Gotham are working for El Penitente... and thus we have eight or nine people in all, all of whom were associated with the same Devilish master, who have been tied to the dominoes. In every case, the domino has been seen after the person failed or was defeated. But we know without a doubt, in at least two cases, that it was not the person who dealt the defeat who placed the domino, and the set of defeats have been doled out by no fewer than four characters: the Joker, Talia, Jason Todd, and Batman himself. Meanwhile, unless it is the Joker behind all of this, the placer of dominoes is not the one who brought about any of those defeats. Finally, the domino pattern on the alligator's back is not a physical domino at all, so that nixes the idea that some physical effect of the domino (poison, restorative, or spiritual) is crucial to what's going on.

It remains the case that the Joker would have had a hard time planting dominoes in these situations unless, perhaps, he posed as a policeman in the GCPD, and was dressed as Tony Li in the meeting of mobsters. Note that the very first time that Dick Grayson, as Robin, ran into the Joker, the Joker was disguised as a policeman.

Now, what information is being disclosed by Sexton to Dick, and why? Dick should know something about the Black Glove simply from Alfred. As I noted on the DC Message Boards, Lane told Batman the complete and undoctored truth in Batman #674 while doing what Doctor Hurt asked him to. The Devil's fond of lying, but will send others to tell the truth when it serves his purpose. Did Doctor Hurt want to spook Bruce with his encounter with Lane, and thereby had Lane tell Bruce the truth? Or did Morrison simply want to tell us what was going on, and left the issue of Doctor Hurt's control over that message undetermined?

All of the events in this run may be an elaborate overarching plan to attack Dick's psychology. The first villain he faced had a circus theme. The second was the Robin with whom Bruce replaced him (the psychological wound of this was a major focus of Nightwing: Year One). The third was a version of Bruce himself. Is this just high-drama storytelling, or is it a targeted attack on Dick's confidence? If it is, and El Penitente is pulling the strings, then how does Sexton's report fit in? It's clearly incomplete as it doesn't mention El Penitente. The idea of a killer killing rich people in other countries wouldn't spook Dick Grayson, but the mention of Bruce Wayne stands out. Up until the last panel of #9, Dick thought that Bruce was dead, and wouldn't be worried about an attack on him, for the logical fact that Bruce wasn't around to attack. But now he thinks Bruce is alive and somehow mysteriously absent after the events of Final Crisis. Bruce's silence is proof that his usually reliable ability to take care of himself has been interrupted. That he is alive gives Dick reason to worry. El Penitente wants Dick to hear that Bruce Wayne is the next target. He wants Dick to know that the wealthy people were being killed by someone leaving dominoes. This increases the likelihood that El Penitente is responsible for the dominoes being revealed in the first place. (We don't even know that any of the wealthy people who were murdered had dominoes with them -- that's only something that Sexton has said about Malenkov.) Of course, El Penitente knows that Dick knows who Bruce Wayne is. Sexton likely doesn't know that, unless he is playing coy in talking about Wayne in front of Grayson like that.

It seems less likely than before that Sexton is the Joker if he has been menaced into doing El Penitente's will. If he is the Joker and retains his memory, he would know that he killed Malenkov. If he is acting as a new personality due to some bump on the noggin as his ambulance was run off the bridge (ambulances are long, blocky, and white -- the first "domino" to fall?), the secret that El Penitente mentions in the phone call is one that Sexton himself doesn't know.

It's also less likely that Sexton is Bruce Wayne. If he is, then he's being used in a way over which Bruce Wayne should be able to prevail -- if not now, soon.

It remains the case that the pattern of attacks and clues would work with a fourth wall reveal, but there's nothing more backing that conclusion in these two pages. But then, there can only be so much in just two pages.


  1. We know that Talia will manipulate Damian, so could we reconsider that sketchy theory that Talia is the Domino Killer and the Dominos we've found in Gotham may have been somehow placed by Damian under hypnosis? Ofcourse this doesn't explain the Mexicans already having a domino, so it's really hard to tell whats truly going on.

  2. In Morrison's Batman run, Talia and the Joker were basically the only real threats that Batman encountered that weren't affiliated with the Black Glove (of course, the Joker cooperated with them to an extent).

    She could be the Domino Killer -- Jezebel is certainly her responsibility. Trying to put fear into the Black Glove and El Penitente's people? It doesn't seem quite terrifying to me.

  3. Another potentially significant clue: In the scene with Le Bossu at the end of RIP, Le Bossu calls the Gotham policeman "inquisitive". The newspaper with the headline regarding Cardinal Maggi is dotted with blood, indicating that it is likely underneath the policeman and not some casual reading material on a table somewhere. It may be that the policeman thought that Le Bossu was connected to it and had the newspaper with him.

    Le Bossu should have ended up under Gotham police authority. Did the mayor, who ordered people not to approach the helicopter crash, free Le Bossu?

    Note that the scene with Le Bossu was "six months" after the end of RIP. That's the same timeframe (give or take the time between B&R #3 and B&R #10) during which, according to Oberon Sexton, the overseas killings of Black Glove members has occurred.

  4. I think the downfall of the members of the Black Glove are more related to Joker now than Talia.
    The killing off of members of a criminal organisation is remeniscent of the opening story of "The Clown At Midnight" that really started Morrison's clue dropping (its like his "Coyote Gospel" for his Batman run). While the clown at midnight appeared to set up the majority of clues leading up to the end of RIP, the opening segment where the group of clowns that had previously worked for Bozzo (Joker)are all killed off didn't seem to do anything besides introduce the red and black flowers as well as harken back to The Joker's 5 Way Revenge. It would be much more similar to Morrison's style if it had a greater predictive role in his overall arc. And I think this is it.

    Whether Joker is the head of the Black Glove, unknowingly to Dr. Hurt El Penitente and he is systematically terminating his "gang" members, or he has some other role in the balck glove I dont know. But the role he plays somewhere can't be ignored.

    And in thinking of this, I think The Joker would in many ways be a more satisfying villian to have been behind all of these goings; on because he is The Joker, he is Batman's arch nemesis, he should pose the biggest threat to Batman. If he isnt then it deminishes his position as the arch nemesis, IMO.

    Also, Rikdad, love the prediction of the B&R arcs attacing Dick's psychology.

    And, have you spoken about the commentary on the different ages of comics, and Batman comics, that the B&R arcs have had? I dont recall reading them, but that is something I have noticed.

  5. Morrison quite screwed up in the blackest knight arc. It didn't divulge much facts and didn't quite contributed to the main story.Though issue #10 seems impressive. The whole plotline has gone haywire with many loose ends.One thing that i have noticed is that other storylines including black mask are more tightly coordinated than the morrison's one.It seems that no one really knows about hush as batman.Having not presence in the whole series. Also i would like to comment that most of my fellow commentor's predictions related to the identity of sexton and domino killer has fallen apart. like healing abilities of domino, sexton being morrison and many more unnatural ideas.The issue#10 is going to be the fulcrum on which this whole story is going to take a new turn for better or worse.We will know soon.

  6. I held out for a day and a half, but I had to break down and read that preview once I saw the image of Dick and Sexton talking.

    Good analysis, rikdad.

    I'm pretty sure that "Sir Anthony", the "media expert", and the BG member who made a fortune in "electronics" are supposed to be the same guy. The only other possibility for a different setup, that I can see, is that maybe this particular British victim has something to do with the Knight's backstory.

    Good call on how the villain-plots in B&R so far have been attacks, in a sense, on Dick's psyche. I was thinking pretty much the same thing as I read this preview. I thought, "What would Hurt want with Dick Grayson? What would be want to DO? Why wouldn't he have Sexton try to kill him?" The answer of course is that Dr. Hurt is always more interested in affecting someone's psychology for the worst and then driving him/her to the dark side. Note that this has also been an escalating attack: the circus villains just REMIND Dick of his childhood, then Jason Todd CHALLENGES his identity and calls him on insecurities, and thirdly the fight with a zombie version of Bruce is of course even more traumatizing and it also makes him look bad.

    Aside from the clues we the readers are given, I think the most important information that Oberon conveys to Dick is the idea that Bruce Wayne is in danger. That's fundamental; at this moment Oberon alerts Dick to a threat against Bruce Wayne.

    As I see it, the questions right now are: 1) What did Hurt want Oberon to do? and 2) Did Hurt want Oberon to mention this threat to Bruce, or was that a play of Oberon's own--a nudge in the right direction if Oberon wants Dick to triumph over Hurt?

    Particularly interesting as well is Oberon's parting line about "good men". One would think that this line is referring to Dick and Oberon himself. But is it? Is Oberon a good man? The Joker is certainly not a good man. Hurt is the total opposite of a good man; so that one line at least underscores an antagonism between Oberon and Hurt. From what we know about Oberon Sexton, though, is this character really a great example of good person? Aside from supporting heroes, the "good men" of this long Morrison Batman saga are Bruce and Dick. Is this comment from Oberon Sexton actually in some way referring to Bruce and Dick, and if so then who besides the Joker (or Hurt or Morrison) know to make it in this moment?

    I come back again to the question of whether Oberon Sexton is a good person or not. Hurt said that Oberon's "sins have found [him] out". What sins? The Joker has a lot of sins; the Joker killed a few of the Black Glove members, and those would certainly be sins that Hurt would like to point to, to cut to the chase, if the Joker is Oberon.

    Or, whoever Oberon really is, if Oberon has been only pretending to be on the trail of the killer while actually committing murders himself, then Hurt's comment about sins would seem most appropriate. A phony righteous detective person hiding something more sordid, like the fact that he's the murderer he's supposedly searching for. That hypocrisy would be a lot like the situation with Jezebel Jet: note the Time magazine image with her surrounded by children (ah yes, quite a benevolent woman, to all outside appearances).


  7. I may be wrong, but my current working theory--to go over it again and update it with the preview info--is this:

    The dominoes are all like badges of membership in Hurt/Penitente's CURRENT organization (they have nothing to do with Black Glove people, per se). Hurt has obviously been (mis)directing Dick down a path toward a "Domino Killer", who probably doesn't really even exist when you go over the facts (Toad was the only one killed). The Joker is masquerading as Oberon while he's really been offing some Black Glove members. Now here's the new part: on their phone conversation, Hurt/Penitente instructed Oberon/Joker that they were to "pool" all of their dastardly doings under the umbrella of the "Domino Killer", so that that threat would be even more overblown in Dick's mind. Hurt told Oberon that he was to lead the current Batman to believe that this one "Domino Killer", which Dick learned of recently, had ALSO been behind everything related to the Black Glove members' demises as well, even to the fall of Jezebel Jet (which had nothing to do with Hurt or the Joker). And we KNOW that that General wasn't killed by an alligator: but Oberon has been instructed to relay that specific death as if it had domino imagery associated with it, all in order to make this "Domino Killer" seem more impressive to Dick, and to give Dick misinfo about the situation.

    But I think that Hurt did NOT instruct Oberon to needle Dick about what's going on with Bruce Wayne; I think Oberon/Joker added that in because, despite his own "sins", he still wants to see a Batman beat the Devil. (And I don't think the Joker has amnesia, I think he's playing these games for the time being because it amuses him to do so.)

    Just my thoughts at the moment. Could be wrong. Sorry if I rambled. Something I think we continually need to consider is what the Joker's relation to Dick has been in the past, and how these new circumstances would have affected how the Joker would approach the new paradigm.

  8. DAL good theories, and Drazar I think I can answer your question. My theory is that the dominos are the drug of el penitente's cartel. That would explain why Santo (the mexican guy) had a domino at the meeting already, he was showcasing his product to buyers or to get rid of competition. And as for Toad, in my opinion he knew that the suit case was filled with dominos because he either bought the dominos or had not sold them yet. Also, someone, maybe Rikdad, said somewhere that the way Joker acted in the 60's was to amuse Dick, so maybe if he's Sexton that's why he's doing it now. Also Rikdad, as for what you said about the fourth wall reveal, if I was Morrison (Sexton?) and a character told me to change the story for that character's benefit, I would just take that character out or kill them, so there's no reason why Morrison cannot do that. And also DAL, what you said about good men. One thing that makes me think Sexton is referring to himself if the shovel/buried thing. Sexton is referred to as the gravedigger more than once, and so he has done some digging. Graves are usually dug with shovels, and Sexton says good men will always find shovels to dig up the truth

  9. Mxylev: Yeah, I meant to mention that about the "shovels" line; that does gel with Oberon as "Grave Digger". I still think there's a contradiction between Oberon being one of the "good men", yet having "sins" to be "found out". Also, in the preview page Oberon is talking about digging up truth--that's not quite what a grave digger does. A grave digger digs into empty earth so a body can be put in it; but what Oberon's talking about here is about digging up something that's already buried. I dunno. None of this quite matches up, I admit, and maybe I'm just looking into things too hard on this point, but the idea of Oberon being a "good" man seemed to stand out to me.

    I'd also just like to say that so many of these other theories--about what the dominoes are, about who's who--are all really great as well. No matter what path Morrison chooses, I don't think we can lose.

    Regarding the Joker and Dick's evolving relationship:
    -When it was just Bruce as Batman, the Joker was a murderer.
    -When Dick came into the picture, as the happy young Robin, the Joker lightened up.
    -As shown on the very same page in "Last Rites" (682), Dick becoming Nightwing corresponds with the Joker getting "practical" again.
    -And when Dick becomes Batman and starts playing would be very symmetrical for the Joker to have started playing detective as well, as "Oberon Sexton". There'd even be a parallel between the two in that they'd both be taking over other detectives' roles: Dick is taking over Bruce's mantle, and the Joker would perhaps be assuming the identity of the real Oberon Sexton--since the guy was an actual known author before this. Why would the Joker choose Oberon Sexton to (kill and?) impersonate? Maybe just because the guy would be easy to impersonate, and because he would need to follow Dick into taking on a preexistent detective role.

    But there's sure a lot of Britishness in this run...The Squire and Knight, Oberon's supposedly from England, and there's that missing Black Glove member from England as well. And Alfred's from there. Are all of these English elements separate? Or maybe the slain British Black Glove member was the REAL Oberson Sexton?

  10. Lots of good comments. I need to sit down and work out what we know math-style; I have a distinct theory which I'll withhold just a bit here until I see how some of the minor facts fit in (or don't). I'll say succinctly that I'm considering how El Penitente might be trying to lure Dick into a very specific course of action.

    Incidentally, it wasn't the preview that made me think of the whole year as a series of attacks on Dick -- it was the image the clone saw of the Bizarro Bat Circus, with morphs of Catwoman and the Riddler; Bane, Scarecrow, and Azrael; the Joker and Robin; and the Robin of Zur En Arrh, with Jim Gordon and Kathy Kane to boot.

    Also, the era of the Joker-as-a-killer wasn't before Robin's debut. In fact, Robin's debut and the Joker's debut were almost consecutive stories. Robin's debut was cover-dated April 1940 and the Joker's "Spring" 1940. After poking around as to newsstand dates, it turns out that Robin's second story in Det. #39 with a May cover date came out before Batman #1's April release date. But to cut to the chase, the Joker's first story had Robin in it, and as I mentioned, their first shared story panel had the Joker disguised as a policeman clubbing Robin on the head. (Will Sexton be the "cop" disguise for the Joker to do the same again?) So the Joker and Robin grew mellow together, not the one before the other.

    As another fact-level observation that was perhaps made before, the Sexton backstory that his face was scarred when criminals killed his wife bears a loose resemblance to the Joker origin from The Killing Joker. He might misremember/portray it, from a biased perspective, as being just that, vs. TKJ's story of the wife dying randomly when criminals were involved.

    It's very odd that the word "media" is used in consecutive panels: Dick talking about the "media guy" and Sexton talking about the media stories about the Waynes. Maybe means nothing.

    Finally, compare the scene with Pearly and the one with Sexton. Pearly states quite clearly that he is not allowed to speak of the location of the pit. So he points with his fingers on a map while singing a song about "following". As though Pearly cannot speak freely (perhaps he is being watched, or perhaps because of some code of honor), but he defeats the spirit of the restriction while honoring the letter. Maybe Sexton is doing the same thing, obeying every explicit command of El Penitente's while slipping subtle clues to Dick. As the "shovel" comment... that seems unlikely to be unrelated to the shovel preview panel.

    Myx's point, also, brings up something hard to ignore in a three-way relationship: The "gravedigger" identity, the "shovel" comment, and the shovel preview.

    On the Britishness, there was a lot in the Batman run. Actually, when I read Mirror Master's dialogue in FC and Animal Man, I feel like Morrison's working it in because he can really knock it out of the park, and he also did that with Pearly and King Coal.

  11. Interesting. I read Batman #1 a long time ago and had forgotten that Robin was in it as well. I believe I'm somewhat aware (heh) that Morrison's hypothetical correspondences in Bat-history don't align all that exactly (I'm pretty sure the debut of Nightwing was quite a while AFTER the Joker's return to murderous form; I mean, I would think that the '70s O'Neil/Adams "...5-Way Revenge!" story would count as dark Joker). And though it's very interesting stuff, I think what Morrison has insinuated about the eras and phases that all these characters have gone through is quite generalized. But I'm not an expert on Batman chronology; I just think, for all the yin-yang Bruce-Joker stuff, Morrison's insinuating a lot of Dick-Joker action and reaction as well.

    Looking forward to reading the specific actions you think Hurt/Penitente may be leading Dick toward.

  12. A couple more smaller tidbits:

    Jezebel gets a phone call on her plane at the end of RIP, and she is puzzled as to how anyone could have that number -- very similar to the call that Sexton gets. And, I might add, it hearkens back to the radio conversation that Mayhew had at the end of his story (and life). Jezebel is attacked by man-bats at the same time, so we might guess that Talia is taunting her before she strikes, but then again, the call could be from someone else, like El Penitente.

    Also, Time magazine is mentioned in Jezebel's last scene. Nice consistency for her to be on the cover of Time in Sexton's notes.

  13. More: Sexton uses the same terms that Jezebel uses in describing the Black Glove. "Elite", "secretive". She was reading from Hurt's script. He also describes them as an "international club", which is the phrase Mayhew applied to his team.

  14. "They can bury the truth as deeply as they like, Batman. But good men will always find shovels to dig with."

    This line could be a reference to Bruce/Batman digging himself out at the end of RIP and to metaphorically escaping the "death" by time travel of the Omega Sanction. Thinking that since this issue is the first in the return of Bruce Wayne. That could still point to Sexton as Bruce, although I am aware of all the difficulties pointed out by rikdad and others. The sins however could be referring to Bruce's actions during his Omega sanction voyages. But if it is Bruce, does he not know it?

    On the Joker/Robin parallels, I remember that one of the messages that seemed loud and clear in the 80's, perhaps even late 70's, and definitely later was that Joker's main goal was to kill Robin. And his satisfaction in Death in the Family is partly because of that, as well as his thinking he had killed Dick in Batman #416. He doesn't necessarily wish to kill Batman, but he wishes to kill Robin. Is that because he thinks he should be the only one bringing a funny side to their confrontations?

    DAL, I like your theory on the domino killer. It would be terrifying to think that there is a killer, to then discover is all quite random. The fact that the defeats or death that Sexton associates with dominoes have been caused by more than one agent, seem to point to not one single domino killer. On the other hand, and pointed out before but dominoes, bones, gravedigger have a relationship, so that could point to Sexton as Joker as domino killer.

    It doesn't seem to me as if the clues point more in one direction than another and in that sense I like B&R even better than RIP.

    On Britishness, a couple of random points (I live in the UK). Lots of allusions to cult TV shows in Britain from Dr. Who to old sitcoms. The "circus" slang was gay slang in the UK in the 70's I think. Simon is a common british name (I know lots of young people here called that). Class struggle themes (a poster in comic bloc forums pointed this out), e.g. Knight and Squire (Morrison mentions this in an interview), Kings of crime with working class accents, Dick as the circus boy and Damian as the aristocrat.

  15. Maybe this doesn't matter, but I just wanted to point out again how duplicitous (for lack of a better term) the epithet "gravedigger" might be. Is a "gravedigger" a bad guy or a good guy, a killer covering up his crimes (by burying the body) or a detective exhuming a body? It could be any one (or two, or three...) of these things, and this uncertainty of what "grave" is being dug and why has lead different readers to recall VERY different characters doing very different things. Hurt dug a grave for Bruce in 681, but Grant Morrison was the writer who took Bruce "To the grave!", but Bruce himself dug his way out of that grave. Lastly, in the interest of exploring the themes of the run (I'm more interested in doing that than being a detective, myself), given all the allusions to "underground" and gold/treasure in this run ("There's gold in the mines of the underworld"), I'm reminded of how explorers (or criminals/robbers) have dug into graves/tombs to find buried valuables. On the last page of the previews, Sexton gives a metaphor in which truth is the buried treasure that good people strive to unearth. Is it good or bad to dig graves? Is it the action of a criminal or a detective? Is it the act of a murderer or the act of resurrection? It can be any or all of these things.

    This has probably already been mentioned by someone, but the slight uncertainty of what we (and Dick, for his part) are even supposed to be looking for reminds me of the mysteries in R.I.P. as well. Is there really a singular Domino Killer?/Is there really a singular Black Glove? Is Dr. Hurt really someone else?/Is Oberon Sexton really someone else? Remember too that even through the end of 680 it wasn't at all certain that the Dr. Hurt figure was the same as the Black Glove (leader). In R.I.P. we didn't quite know what--or how many--distinct blanks we were supposed to fill in as detectives, and random clues were given out (red & black) to confuse us and Bruce as well. While the similar deceptiveness of the B&R mysteries may not play out in the same fashion, to me at least it seems that Dick in particular is being purposely led to ask some misinformed questions. He looking for one killer when there's more than one, looking for a "Domino Killer" when that identity may be almost completely fabricated, looking for someone who killed BG members when the BG boss is probably behind all this; he's unaware that Oberon Sexton has been talking to El Penitente, etc.

  16. I'm terribly short of time this morning, but I wanted to throw out the theory I was working on, which I don't think will play out (but it might): If the whole point of the Domino clues is to create a war between Dick and the al-Ghuls. Which is already known to us to be the center of this coming arc. If Dick were to assume that the same force were behind all of those killings, then the knowledge that Talia caused at least one of them (which she would likely admit to) might create the Batman-vs-Robin fight which Hurt could hope to lead to one of their deaths.

    I still think it's plausible, but given that the secret of the dominoes is supposed to come out after the B-vs-R fight gets going, it seems like an anticlimax.

    However, a core idea there is that if El Penitente wants Dick to know about the dominoes, and he means to mislead Dick, then the likely "mislead" is that one agent caused all of the killings -- something we know for certain not to be true. So why would El Penitente want that?

  17. "Why would El Penitente want that?"

    I would GUESS that Morrison isn't going to go the route of the particular in explaining why Penitente would want to confuse Dick in these specific ways. Right now my best guess is that it's all going to be explained broadly as Penitente/Hurt just wanting to confuse or misinform Dick to throw him off balance, period. But maybe you can hit on a specific well-reasoned plan that Penitente/Hurt has in mind. As much as it's a way to tie things together for P/Hurt and direct a psychological attack against Dick, it's also a general way Morrison to make the current run to make sense in relation to the previous "Batman" issues.

    P/Hurt manipulating Dick against the al Ghuls is an interesting idea and there might be something to that...but I think that would kind of be a throw-in, after-the-fact embellishment on Morrison's part. I don't think the Dick vs. Damian fight will be all THAT important to the rest of what's going on, because in this interview ( Morrison says that the "Batman vs. Robin" arc is kind of a "filler" that was added in. I would assume that it's the Dick vs. Damian stuff that was shoe-horned in to create the basis for these three issues, and Morrison then brought in some the domino-related revelations, moving them forward into this arc to give it some more substance.

  18. I have an idea. Hurt knows everything about Burce's life. Maybe since Hurt failed to phsycologicllay break bruce, he is trying on Dick, the next best thing. Hurt would know that Bruce was no longer batman.

  19. Can anyone throw some light on why Joker's favourite job in the world is to kill a robin other than pissing off batman?A genuine reason will be greatly appreciated.

  20. Mxy, I think there's no doubt at all that Hurt is planning on a big attack on Dick and Damian.

    Gautam, nothing would hurt Batman more than killing Robin. That's why the Joker wants/wanted to do it. Killing Batman would end the fun, but killing Robin would force Batman to live with the grief.

  21. Rikdad, any thoughts on the meaning of the number sequences in the dominoes? More random clues? Also, surely, mentioned before by you or somebody else here or in the Batman boards, but any meaning to the fact these dominoes are double the usual number in dominoes? The most common dominoes end with a double 6, not double 12, at least in Latin America. Maybe it's different everywhere else.

    If the double 12 in Toad's hand was the first to be placed as a message, and the next is 12/11, is the meaning that the dominoes are counting down to a war between Batman and Robin or to Dr. Hurt's reappearance?

    I was struck by something this morning. Pyg's dialogue to Robin makes mention of operating in front of everyone, of not hiding his "true" face. For me that recalls LeBossu's urges and motivation.

    Surely pointed out before, but a sexton is in charge of ringing bells and digging graves.

    I think the point of commenting on this blog (owned by rikdad) is not to be antagonistic or demean other commenters. We are all having fun, thinking, speculating, taking off from rikdad's observations and as a result enjoying Morrison's run all the more.

  22. Some random thoughts. Although likely that I am repeating past observations (like the domino countdown), I hope I might offer something new.

    Santo (saint), El Penitente (the one doing penance) are spanish words related to the church (Catholic) and El Penitente is in Mexico. A cardinal, who was a member of the Black Glove was killed. Santo speaks of a new way of doing crime, so does the Red Hood, and the last arc and Batwoman talk of a new age of crime, crimefighter. The resurrection of the clone fulfills the prophecy of the Dawn of Crime. Morrison repeats themes when he is hinting at something, what? A possibility is that this is a hint linking together RIP and the Return of Bruce Wayne. Morrison mentioned that the villain of RIP was there from the beginning. This referred to the Devil clearly, which is there from the Dawn of creation, but now it could also refer in-story to the Devil/Hurt being there from the beginning for Bruce Wayne/Batman. There is a church/religion with Hurt/the Devil as its head. A sexton does work in the church, so does that tie Oberon Sexton to Hurt from the beginning?

    After saying most dominoes in Latin America (my experience) are double 6 I realised that Mexican dominoes are double 12, a tie between El Penitente and the Domino Killer? In latin Dominus meant master, later used to refer to God. In this inversion (crime Bible is also an inversion) the master of the church is the devil. Domino also referred to the hoods worn by certain medieval monks, Santo wears a hood and the black and white theme of dominoes comes from carnival masks in Venice.

    The villains that Dick is encountering have animals names, could be considered circus freaks (Toad, Pyg, Flamingo) and they speak in ways that seem, to me reminiscent of past Joker stories. Sasha also refers to Flamingo as King of Killers, Ace of Assassins. As noted by many Pyg uses the grounds were Joker held Gordon in the Killing Joke. And wouldn’t Joker think it funny, given that Dick is now Batman. But they were sent by El Penitente, not the Joker. It seems unlikely that Joker will let himself be used by Hurt again, unless he is outraged that the former Robin is now Batman.

    Another possible connection to the Joker is that Jason says in BR6 that he defeated his archenemy something Batman (Bruce) never did. It can hardly refer to Flamingo can it? Isn't the Joker both Jason's and Bruce's archenemy? Unless he is now referring to El Penitente/Hurt. Bruce did defeat Hurt, but in some real and metaphorical (randomness, chaos) sense has never defeated the Joker.

    One theme that seems loud and clear is that of double faces, hiding/revealing one's true face (another allusion to the devil I think). There are the metaphorical ones, Pyg's and Flamingo's psychological scarring, LeBossu's dialogue in RIP, and also real ones, like a different Batman under the cowl (hood, mask..), Jason trying to replace Dick (dying his hair black) and finally the actual replacement of one face by another, Pyg with the dollotrons and Flamingo eating faces. Scarred faces are prevalent, Le Bossu (by the Joker in RIP), Sasha, Santo, all the dollotrons, Oberon Sexton, etc. So are we seeing clues to Morrison possibly using Two-Face? Far-fetched perhaps, but you and the commenters have noted double meanings before. The solicits do mention an old enemy of Dick Grayson coming back and since bringing Dick back to the Batman books, Two-Face has been portrayed as his biggest foe. I thought at first that line referred to Deathstroke, but Morrison while inventing new villains has otherwise stayed within the Batuniverse. For what it's worth when Sasha talks about Flamingo she says "he was a good man, who fought the mob.." although the rest of the sentence seems much less related to Harvey Dent.

  23. ehepd, Morrison uses countdowns as themes quite often; at least, he refers to them without necessarily focusing tightly on the matter. For example, in Superman Beyond, we're told that a "Doomsday countdown reaches zero".

    One way to create the seemingly impossible placement of dominoes counting down would be if El Penitente simply has all of his people carry a "domino of the day" and they're all counting down, and he lowers the count, coincidentally or not, each time Batman brings one of his people in. We have no indication that anybody gave Toad, Pyg, or Santo the dominoes in their hands... they might have been carrying them all month for all we know. Maybe it's a password for membership. But we've been told that they're "terrifying", and that's certainly not terrifying.

    I've done little brainstorms on what might be terrifying:

    a) They are composed of human bone and indicate the slaughter of many innocent victims.

    b) They are composed of the specific bones of people we care about, eg, the Waynes or Graysons (whose bodies we saw in Blackest Night anyway).

    c) They carry the drug and so, being sold in toy stores and so on, and will infect many victims with Pyg's infection or worse. (Note, a plague killing Gothamites en masse was part of the plot of "Gothic", and also similar to the Joker's fantasy at the end of #676.) Maybe, like the Joker's red/black toxin, it's only deadly when dominoes touch each other? Maybe the antidote that Dick found in Pyg's lab was a fake. Surely they would know by now that it cures people of Pyg's infection (we'd have heard about it if it didn't). But maybe Pyg's infection was just one of two and the second one's worse.

    d) Maybe something like (c), but the harm is spiritual instead of medical?

  24. I am really Sorry, If I hurt someone with my comments.Didn't wanted to hurt anyone.

  25. ehepd,

    Good stuff with noting all the Mexican connections, with the religious elements and especially the dominoes with 12s on them. Details like this are what make me love Grant Morrison comics, because he's obviously done the research to make sure that things fit thematically (Latin-American flavored villains, religious elements that hail from there, dominoes that one would find in Mexico, etc.)

    I've also considered whether Harvey Dent is Oberon, but I never got very far in my theorizing because I don't know what his current DCU status is. As I remember, he was last used in a forgettable Nightwing arc. He'd certainly fit the "scarred faces" theme. And he does have "sins" for El Penitente/Hurt to find out about, on the one hand, but he does like to fight crime, on the other. Ultimately, in my mind the most compelling argument toward a Harvey-as-Oberon reveal is the little fact that during the Batman run Morrison casually name-dropped "Two-Face" every now and then more than he name-dropped any other villain who didn't appear. In other words, Two-Face was worth mentioning. But is Two-Face capable of dressing up as someone else and taking on their personality?

    I still think a Joker reveal would make more sense and would "say" more about what we've seen in B&R. "Why would the Joker work for Hurt?" will remain a question that people are very justified to pose, but I think the answer is just that the Joker likes to have fun, screw with everyone, and hence will play along for a while. Also, by my own theory the Joker is dressed as Oberon in order to mourn Bruce and because he needs to take this detective identity in relation to Dick putting on the cowl. In a sense the Joker might have a psychological need to be this way given the current state of affairs in Gotham. In that case, P/Hurt possibly threatening to reveal the Joker for who he is, if it came to that, might legitimately be something that would upset the Joker on a fundamental level, as it would throw off the balance of chaos and order (or whatever, if the Joker is not able to be "the Joker" without Bruce as Batman). So I think that if Oberon is the Joker and P/Hurt found that out, then that is in itself blackmail material against the Joker, at the very LEAST because it would ruin the Joker's current "game" before the Joker was done playing it. (Remember, Oberon sought out Dick at the party, and talked about the Red Hood and Batman and Robin on tv, before P/Hurt even got to him; in other words, whoever Oberon is, he has his own motives related to what's been going on in B&R.) While I don't think there's any EXACT explanation out there as to why the Joker would be doing this--the Joker doesn't need one. There are a lot of outs--and who's to say that the Joker wouldn't already be subverting P/Hurt's plan and working against him in what he (if he is Oberon) told Dick in those two pages in the preview? As I think I said before, if Oberon is the Joker, then the real question is why P/Hurt would think he should try utilizing him again and not expect that to backfire.

  26. Gautam, I think I have another answer to your question about Joker/Robin. If you read the long halloween, Joker beats up Harvey and almost kills other mobsters becuase he says "there's no room for two homicidal maniacs in this town." The same (sort of) applies to robin. The Joker wants all of Batman's attention, and by killing Robin he would have all of it. It also is a little like The plot of The Dark Knight movie. The Joker thinks if he kills Robin he can make Batman kill him (joker), thus bringing Batman down to his level. Oh and about Sexton, I've pretty much ruled out the 4th wall and Mangrove Pierce (too anticlimatic), so I'm convinced he's an omega sanction life of Bruce. Since the return of Bruce Wayne starts in issue 10, it would make sense that Sexton starts to realize he is Bruce. Do not know, just thought I would share.

  27. Hey guys, new here. Has anyone explored the dominos as Tarot cards yet? If so, ignore me, but if not here's what I've gathered:

    12- Hanged Man/ Traitor- Toad was found hung as a result of betraying Pyg.

    11- Strength/ Fortitude- 11 domino found with the antidote, Batmans fortitude has prevailed.

    10- Wheel of Fortune- Santo got 10 and the Wheel of Fortune card signifies a sudden/opposite change in the direction of a persons life. Clearly Santo changed from alive to dead, and I know this next one is a bit of a stretch, but the number could be taken with the appearance of Sexton to mean a change in the Joker from criminal to crimefighter.

    9- The Hermit- Although we don't see a double 9 domino, Pearly leads Batman on a path that ends on a 3/6 domino and 3 + 6 = 9. The Hermit card indicates that it is time to come out of hiding to share knowledge, which Pearly does.

    As for where it goes from here, I haven't figured that out yet. The rest of the numbers work like this:
    8- Justice
    7- The Chariot("the mood of the card may be characterized as that of conquest. It represents a battle that can be won if the Querent has the willpower for it. The battle is usually an external one, with a clear goal and plan of action. Qualities needed to win the battle include self-reliance, righteousness, conviction and plain hard work. The steeds represent powerful forces, internal or external, that can be controlled to achieve the goal.")
    6- The Lovers(Thalia?)
    5- The Pope(Leader of the new religion of Crime?)
    4- The Emperor("symbolizes the desire to rule over one's surroundings, and its appearance in a reading often suggests that the subject needs to accept that some things may not be controllable, and others may not benefit from being controlled")
    3- The Empress("She can represent the creation of life, of romance, of art or business. The Empress can represent the germination of an idea before it is ready to be fully born.")
    2- The High Priestess("Mystical vision -- introspection -- otherworldliness"
    1- The Magician/The Juggler(The Joker? He represents the potential of a new adventure, chosen or thrust upon one. A journey undertaken in daylight, in the Enlightenment tradition. He brings things out of the darkness into the light. He explores the world in order to master it. He is solar consciousness."

    I dunno, maybe its nothing. I need to get back to writing by Russian History midterm due in 4 hours.

  28. Ah, forgot this bit about The Lovers- "The Lovers is associated through its cross sum (the sum of the digits) with The Devil, Key 15. He is often the source of the impulse, or that thing inside of us that responds to it. The Devil's energy is absolutely necessary, absolutely deadly."

    all these quotes come from wikipedia.

  29. Just read BR10 and thought I would post a few quick hits that perhaps some of you can use. Doubtless you've all thought of it, but just for fun.

    1) There is clearly a connection between El Penitente and the Domino Killer. Mexican train is a game played with double 12 dominoes! There is a significance to the 99, but I have to look it up.

    2) Rikdad you were right about the terrifying secret of the dominoes I think. They must be made of bones and bones of Wayne ancestors. Perhaps Grayson too, but most likely Wayne.

    3) I think this issue goes a long way to show that Oberon Sexton is Bruce Wayne. His being prepared (" I have excellent hearing") for the coming assassins and escaping through the window and Damian's line (paraphrasing from memory "... if he is alive, maybe he is amongst us but changed somehow" and his appearance by the Wayne grave. I have been persuaded for a while that he is Bruce, by an observation that Rikdad made that Sexton was happy to see Dick when they first met. Slim I know.

    4) could Talia's executioner be the Joker? That would be a new role for him, but barely fits with the Joker's m.o. and with the line of one of Dick's archenemies, although of course he could be made to fit that.

    5) Something more is going on with trains and bones. The mention of the underground railroad (a part of Wayne lore from a graphic novel a while back), the mexican train, the train carrying the pearly prince in London.

    6) And more clues of Hurt/the devil/EP and his connection to Pyg and Toad, etc., since the clue in the batcave is to a demon that speaks to animals.

  30. I also just read BR10, and I noticed that Thomas Wayne shares his name with the devil worshipping black sheep of the family. Is this a clue that Thomas (and possibly Martha) were part of the Black Glove at one point? Or at least that Thomas may not have been the man we think he was?