Friday, May 7, 2010

Batman and Robin 12

Grant Morrison's original plan for Batman and Robin was a series of four arcs of three issues each. That would have made #12 a climax of the entire run. In the meantime, the plan was expanded to add a fifth arc, and as a consequence, #12 raised more questions than it answered, and the climax is yet to come.

Much of the action was very straightforward. The scenes that played out Talia's move against Batman and Robin are just what they seem to be, and for now, that threat has passed. Probably the most important consequences, in the near term, are that it cemented the bond between Dick and Damian. Moreover, with Dick twice dealing out beatings to Deathstroke, walking away from some sort of battle with a demon, and standing powerful, smart, and resolute before the Joker, his role in Morrison's story is clear: He's a world-beater. He's up to what's coming.

And what is coming? The Joker seems to be the lesser of two threats. Exactly what his state of mind is is unclear. Is he about to lay into a violent attack on Dick? Will he propose an alliance that Dick won't possibly accept? Is he even aware that his Sexton identity and his activities as a Domino Killer are both part of his actions?

Because of his propensity for almost arbitrary degrees of psychological disorder, the Joker is ultimately uninterpretable, but we do see that his actions led him to resemble his missing nemesis, and at the same time to seek him out in the form of "Bruce Wayne". If he knows everything he's seen and heard (which is not a given), then he knows that Batman is Bruce Wayne. Fans had speculated, with good reason, that the Joker might see Bruce's face and hear his name but never do the detective work to identity that he is Bruce Wayne. But clearly, as Sexton, he did excellent detective work, finding three of the Black Glove members who were masked when he met them, and from other parts of the world. Only a serious dissociation of what he has witnessed and his memory would keep the Joker from knowing that Bruce Wayne is Batman. Given that, consider his frequent and pointed mentions of Bruce to the new Batman (who, the Joker should know, is not the original; and he might well know that he is specifically "Dick Grayson"). In the final scene of #12, was the Joker fishing for information, trying to get Dick to reveal something about Bruce's fate? It's even possible that he was driven to perform the killings in order to get that information, for his own peace (as it is) of mind. But the Joker actually has multiple reasons to have acted as he has: To emulate his fallen enemy, to make good on the threat he made at the end of Batman, R.I.P., and to get this close to the new Batman. And now that he's this close... what next? Whatever the Joker hopes to have happen, a battle is going to result, most likely one that will range far beyond the hotel room. The line of police cars outside is probably about to witness the Joker escaping over their heads or under their feet if not on a bloody rampage right through their ranks.

The larger threat, however, is the one for which the issue's story was titled, although the significance of the title remains unclear (or underwhelming). A Mexican train did indeed arrive in Gotham, maybe just a train, although there is at least some metaphorical sense in which a greater menace looms. As an utterly unknown figure (perhaps one of the 99 Fiends; certainly someone on Doctor Hurt's side) says, "This train started rolling a long, long time ago." That meaning probably extends to the musty secrets of Wayne Manor and the caves below it. Both the past and present manifestations of Doctor Hurt's coming attack have been revealed only partially, in some of the best shadowy narration the comic book genre has ever seen.

One of the most significant reveals of this issue is that the relationship between the Waynes and demonic forces has been ongoing. Not just the Devil worship of Old Thomas and then the recent battle between Bruce (and perhaps his father before him) against that devil. At least Joshua and Alan Wayne have played a role, too -- either knowingly or unknowingly with Bruce's past lives coming to bear. And we know, moreover, that Bruce's presence in the cave in the remote past has left a tangible mark -- perhaps the origin moment of the bat-demons in Gotham somewhere under Wayne Manor. The timeline, such as we know it:

In the distant past (Seven Soldiers #1 mentions 40,000 B.C. as the first contact between New Gods and early Man, but North America was not inhabited until more like 10,000 or 8,000 B.C. It hardly matters.) Bruce Wayne makes his arrival in the vicinity of Gotham via the Omega Sanction. Coincidentally or not, the rocket / time capsule from Final Crisis is also then and there. And we know, in a spiraling narration bringing in Return of Bruce Wayne #1 (whose preview was posted to the web less than a day ago), that the people he encounters call themselves "Deer People". This adds a bit of significance to the antlers upon which the bat-cowl is hung. The details are pending for a few more days, but it is possible that the entire "bat" association with the location of Wayne Manor began with Bruce's arrival. This would be a paradox, a time loop, something that Morrison has used before with the bullet in Final Crisis and the Sheeda in Seven Soldiers as well as the Superman rocket in Red Son -- a rocket that looks just like the one by Bruce's cave, and that similarity is thematically meaningful. Bruce is now living Superman's story -- the surviving son of doomed parents, escaping via distant translocation to a place where he can grow strong. This thematic similarity to Superman is probably a direct intention of the Batman origin as written in 1939, and to make the tie could be the reason why Morrison chose to place the rocket here even if it didn't literally bear him to this time and place. The time loop may not, however, be the origin of the "bat" presence here, and we'll find out soon enough if an existing, savage bat demon was already lurking before Bruce showed up.

We've been told that the Miagani tribe will practice bat-worship as part of ROBW. Morrison said that they were revealed in Legends of the Dark Knight in the Nineties. I have searched the 122 issues that meet that description without finding any such mention, and either the reference lurks in some tiny corner of no great significance or Morrison is mistaken. The Miagani are mentioned in 1988's The Cult, but they are not themselves evil -- they run into Deacon Blackfire, who is evil. The LOTDK story that best matches the theme is "Shaman" in LOTDK #1-5, the story immediately prior to Morrison's "Gothic". There, there are Native people who practice bat-demon worship. In fact, two entirely unrelated tribes do so -- one native to Alaska and the other native to the fictional Santa Prisca.

The way the timeline of the Manor moves on is fascinating. It was constructed as a 'W' in the time of Darius Wayne (1795) and given garden paths in the shape of a bat-signal in the time of Alan Wayne (according to Batman Secret Files and Origins, he is Solomon's son and Joshua's nephew, and thus lived around 1870). Given that Joshua is holding the casket that makes one of the 99 Fiends shout out "Barbatos!" it is clear that at least eight Waynes (including Bruce's life as the witch-hunter Mordecai) have had a role in the story. It remains to be seen if they all knew about demons or if Darius, Joshua, or Alan were unwitting in their role and directed by Omega Sanction lives of Bruce. Of all of the Waynes seen in the portrait gallery, only Kenneth, Patrick, and Silas have not yet been drawn into the plot... yet.

Which brings us to the train that started rolling long, long ago. Inside the train, we see Senator Vine, the Black Glove member whose absence from the story I noted earlier. Sexton never mentioned him before, despite knowing that he was a more logical target for the next killing (by himself!) than Bruce Wayne. Here he speaks his first lines in a short conversation with Doctor Hurt that mentions Batman not at all but is, on the surface, about a coming battle between the Black Glove and the Joker. It's impossible to know how earnest Hurt's half of the dialogue is. His ego seems likely to pit him against the Joker (who has "a knack for engaging foes he cannot defeat"... like Hurt should talk). But it's impossible that he actually cares whether Vine lives or dies. Having seen Hurt blithely watch the defeats and deaths of Charlie Caligula, the Sombrero, and General Malenkov, we are likely to see him poker-faced as Senator Vine takes his last breath sometime to come.

But what is to come? What began in the tunnel under Wayne Manor? It seems that precisely when Dick found the casket, Barbatos awoke, although that may have been a hallucination. Still, the significance remains -- at least something made Dick see a giant bat demon (notably larger than the one whose head is on Bruce's on the cover of ROBW #1) and left him beaten. Maybe a spirit animated the symbol partially removed from his own chest. It may have the ability to animate things in the shape of a bat. Like the paths around the Manor itself would have been. This again suggests the bat demon seen back in World's Finest #255.

The forces on Hurt's side take many forms. We've seen members of the "99 Fiends" who appear to be hired muscle wielding conventional weapons; much more like typical henchmen than actual demons like Etrigan. Moreover, they dress more like punk and rock musicians or even hipsters than supervillains, much less demons. The scene at the train station shows some of the Fiends, including one holding the bat casket. But there are also several others who look like businessmen wearing domino masks. (Naberius is the only known Fiend to wear such a mask, although nameless others wear goggle or glasses.) These may have been "Fiends"; their different attire may mean they are members of some other group. These masked "businessmen" may be part of the same group that Santo was in; he was apparently a mortal man who needed hospital care. Note also that of the gang leaders in #4, once again Tony Li is left unmentioned when someone lists the ranks of the deceased. Tony Li wore a mask very like the "businessmen". That may explain how the domino got into Santo's hand, although he may have been carrying it all along. It seems as though the dominoes are ID cards indicating the rank of each of Hurt's followers (some of whom wear domino masks) and the Joker called himself the Domino Killer to mock them. Cumulatively, figures like Toad, the Fiends, these masked men, etc., are working for Hurt, but it seems as though he is going to bring a much greater threat than 99 henchmen to town.

Aside from Toad, and the creepy eyes of Naberius, the one obviously nonhuman force we've seen was the (possibly hallucinatory) giant bat, which had none of the human characteristics seen in the statue. The giant bat, which may simply be Barbatos seems more like "muscle" than anything that might be possessing the calm and calculating Doctor Hurt.

So what is coming? His people think that his victory over Batman is preordained and will wrap up in less than 48 hours. Hurt, having called Bruce an usurper back in #679, is possibly the Old Thomas Wayne and almost certainly the man who will pose as the Young Thomas Wayne in the next issue. The newspaper he is holding has a headline about a "New Wayne Scandal", which more likely pertains to that ruse to come than anything going on in the other Batman titles. (An accompanying photo is a headshot, possibly of the false Thomas Wayne.) If Hurt's next move is to take over Gotham as Thomas Wayne, he will have to discard the portion of the dossier that accused Thomas of murder.

But he's going to make a bigger move than merely claim he is Thomas Wayne, put his heels up on a desk, and start issuing memos. This is the story that Morrison said ties in to #666 "considerably". There's going to be a battle. There's going to be great peril to the entire city. Dick has suggested (perhaps just to investigate Bruce's time-flung whereabouts) the Justice League. The 99 Fiends succeeded in a quest to tap the power of Barbatos. A fistfight (or fire and brimstone -fight) with the Justice League slugging it out with demons hasn't been Hurt's style so far. In the plan of RIP, he worked methodically against Bruce over years, a plan that we could see just before it unfolded. In this case, we see an unlikely mixture of demons, thugs, gangsters, and the corruption of the law. What else does the Devil have planned? Apocalypse? Or a reign of evil so subtle that no one in Gotham even notices what changed? The next move is Doctor Hurt's. He's going to face a crimefighter who has with each passing issue been easier to call not Dick Grayson but Batman.


  1. I'd still like to mention the black sun found in the Batcave. Orion's helm has a sun symbol, and we know Darkseid had this whole eternal dark pit hole thing... Not to mention we see a well in the room, is that symbolic for an eternal black hole? Am i looking too much into this?

    Ah well just a random mention: We know from IGN.COM interview that Gordon will be in the Batbunker, so i guess Dick is really going to need everyones' help to stop Hurt's Thomas Wayne act and whatnot. Hopefully we can see Morrison write Tim Drake to assist them, but then again this is BATMAN and Robin after all.

    Still it's going to be interestiing to see what happens. Will Hurt fool Damian that he killed Dick, and thus Damian sells his soul to barbatos? Ooh so much excitment! :D

  2. The biggest monkeywrench that #12 threw into the mix, in my opinion, was the revelation of a new Damian clone. I can't for the life of me figure out what purpose this could serve in the story. Why would Morrison need to include this?

    "Both the past and present manifestations of Doctor Hurt's coming attack have been revealed only partially, in some of the best shadowy narration the comic book genre has ever seen."

    Agreed. Every line Hurt utters is like dark epic poetry. The last few issues of this have been especially powerful. "You see the sign of the DOUBLE YOU? The mark of the shadow. The dark twin." Spooky.

    I also think Morrison's caveman-speak from the RoBW #1 preview was pretty great and unique in its own way. (Like primal poetry; and come to think of it, the confines of word balloons sort of turn comic book dialogue into poetry anyway. Heh.)

    Is the "W" shape of Wayne Manor also a "sign of the DOUBLE YOU"? And if so, what does that mean, exactly? If this is also "the mark of the shadow", then does that "shadow" correspond to the silhouette/shadow of the bat that falls across the circular light of the sun (or of the projector on top of the GCPD building) to make a bat-symbol? So I guess the bat in the bat-symbol does look sort of like a "W". Interesting things to think over.

    It seems as if Hurt is basically staking his claim for owner of the "W" (and of the bat-symbol) along with ownership of the Wayne dynasty. Perhaps Bruce(& co.)'s fight against Hurt will also be a somewhat metaphysical effort to claim back these symbols for their own (non-evil) use. It's almost the question of whether the Devil is really part of God's plan or not. Hurt wants to be the bat-devil so as to revel in pure evil, whereas Bruce uses bat-devil imagery to scare people (the way the Devil scares the religious into being good). The symbology of Batman (and the "W") is--I guess--like a sigil: Hurt wants to use it for an evil spell, but Bruce wouldn't want it used that way. But what if Hurt tries to conjure up the original primal "demon" who inspired all this bat-devil stuff...and what if when he does that Bruce Wayne pops out at him?

    As far as the series originally concluding with #12...I just think that whatever "filler" Morrison has included is going to be stuff that he makes integral anyway. So there is no filler. I don't think we can figure out much from the original target end-point. Whatever it was that was added in to extend the series, no doubt Morrison has already continually rebuilt the overall saga in his mind with every issue, so everything is (almost) equally as important.

  3. The only "Red Son" I am aware of is Mark Millar's story. Is there one by Morrison as well?

    Do you have any idea why quite a number of Batman Board threads including the one regarding your blog are disappearing? The one I posted asking this question apparently did not even last long enough for me to see if there were any answers.

    I'll be back again to reread your analysis....just one little fun, non consequential thing....did you notice that a number of buildings in the train scene had dominoes for windows?

  4. Drazar, the "black sun" is definitely going to represent something. An infamous trick that Christopher Columbus pulled was to predict an eclipse and thereby convince the locals that he was very powerful. Maybe Bruce does the same thing with a solar eclipse?

    I missed the bit about Gordon's role. Maybe I missed an interview?

    We'll see about Damian. I think the deal will come later. At least, invulnerability would seem to ruin the present state of the character.

  5. DAL, I think the mini-me is just setting up future stories. Talia seems to be Morrison's third favorite villain in the sandbox.

    Hurt's dialogue is so savory when left ambiguous, that it would be a shame, in a way, ever to find out what "Double You" means. Another Thomas? Another Bruce? Another deity? A man possessed?

    Good thoughts on the possible Hurt-Bruce outcome. If the climax comes at the end of the narration, it might be in ROBW #5 or #6. If in medias res, earlier. Or in Batman #700. Or there may be "epic" encounters between them that settle the matter in one era, leaving other encounters until future eras. That's how the Sheeda were used in Seven Soldiers. Victories are a big deal, but they last for centuries, not forever.

  6. Moira, Morrison gave Millar the idea for the time loop in Red Son. A time loop was part of Alan Moore's Twilight of the Superheroes proposal, and Final Crisis had enough to remind me of TOTS to make me wonder if the time loop idea was actively inspired by TOTS.

    Neat point about the windows and dominoes. None of them look *exactly* like dominoes, but a lot of them look somewhat like dominoes. There's also a building at upper right whose windows are lit in a pattern that resembles three glyphs, but it's not "legible" even when flipped, rotated, reversed, etc.

    I have no idea how the thread culling works on the DC Boards, although it's been conspiratorally suggested that I have something to do with it. The only way I know of to "make" a thread go away is to behave badly, but some threads seem to go away anyway. Here at my blog, no such worry.

  7. Sorry guys, I'm a French guy so I don't talk english a lot (may be a little ;) )

    I just want to say: the mini-me Damian is a player of the "double you" thematic. The evil twin, the bad brother, like Thomas Wayne (and domino).
    Not the older Thomas Wayne, the Thomas Wayne jr. who was created by Bob Haney (but, it's pretty the same in concept.)
    I dont think Morrison want to give a twin brother of Bruce Wayne, and I don't say that, but Morrison use the Thomas Wayne Jr in JLA earth two (to rearrange the continuity?)and that is the "double you".
    we know Morrison use the all continuity, and revise it, to be all-life time of the Caped Crusader.
    Thomas Wayn is no longer the twin brother now, he is the grand grand grand grand grand old father, a little crazy (the first time, Hurt said he was the father of Bruce).

    I think the mini-me will come back in Batman #700 with the futur story sequence (Drawn by Kubert?)

    And, if I talk of Bob Haney, like you know, that's because Morrison already use him with Giant-Bat, and Demon guards Waineswright. ;)

  8. Ha! Rikdad, I was thinking about mentioning that sort of an eclipse trick in my last post, but it was running too long. I can definitely imagine Bruce Wayne telling the primitive people "Watch as the wings of the giant bat in the sky block out the sun!"

  9. Have followed and enjoyed your work Rikdad since the start of the Black Glove run. I thought the Joker's line at the end was revealing - namely, that Damien is 'clearly not the detective his predecessors were'. Morrison always emphasises certain words by putting them in bold. Here 'detective' and 'predecessors' are marked. So the Joker knows that there have been a number of Robins (clearly, since he killed one), and he seems to be paying a tribute to the detective skills of one of them (that is, Grayson) knowing that one of these Robins is now the new Batman standing before him.

  10. Last thing for now: With all the possible "eclipse" business, I wonder if Morrison will have the moniker "Wayne" come about in the first place because of a connection to the sun (or moon) WANING as it's eclipsed.


    Here's the interview Rikdad. You can also notice the 5th arc he calls is "Batman and Robin must die!" yet DC is promoting it as "Batman must die!" :p It's pretty much R.I.P 2.0 with Joker, Hurt and Batman in between the chaos.

    Also yeah the black sun is very interesting, because we have to remember Dick immediatly thinks of Justice League, ofcourse this could be simply because of the cowl itself, but it's very hard to tell.

  12. DAL, I thought you might note before I did that the senator's name, Vine, is yet another name that resembles "Wayne". (Phonologically, /w/ and /v/ are similar consonants, and the diphthongs in the middle are similar, too.)

  13. I think Dr. hurt is also domino killer. At the end of the issue, he seems to be getting ready to kill Senator vine.

    One question for rikdad: Is Dr hurt from the same dimension as Darkseid? Is he also one of the DC Gods? because I don't think DCU's Gods are remotely similar to our Gods. Secondly, isn't NEKRON the official DC devil?

    Considering all this I think Dr hurt is Barbatos.

    Also I think we are going to see the ultimate team-up, i.e., Batman and Joker working together against a common foe,Dr. Hurt. I think Joker will be Dick's trojan horse.

    Also you didn't mention in your article about Damian's clone brother. What's your views on it. Will he be he Damian's dark twin?

  14. Rikdad, in regards to "Vine", the first thing I thought of was "Vane", as in Commissioner Vane (mentioned in 672) and Vanity City (the setting for the Aztek series, named after a Vane who was said to be a rival industrialist of Bruce's father). I'm not sure if these surnames are going to turn out to have the same etymological root, but if they do then I guess it makes sense for a "Vine" to be the last BG member alive, so he can reveal some hidden history.

  15. Can I post on here without an account? I'll try. I sent you an e-mail anyway rikdad. Damnit I can't... OK I'll register.

    To sum up:
    Barbatos seems to be the big bad. He is demon #8 in The Lesser Key of Solomon. That means there are 91 demons below him... and there are a possible 91 dominos... It IS an order of ranking. I'm convinced of it.

    Maybe the 7 demons above him are (1) defeated or (2) names for the devil himself, as you've sortof hinted at.

    Anyway thought I'd try and make the domino thing make sense.

    Also the Double You probably has some reference to Bruce Wayne/Batman being two parts of the man, or two versions of him as well as the other stuff you're all saying (Morrison likes to layer things, doesn't he?!)

  16. DS, that's a nice way to account for 99 (= 91 + 8). It's cherry picking the details from different sources: The Lesser Key of Solomon only has 72 demons. But it could work.

    I think "Double You" is going to mean that Hurt *is* two beings (e.g., and man and the Devil possessing him). Of course, hidden identities is part of the superhero genre going back to Clark Kent. I think it's less likely to be Hurt identifying himself as the double of someone else (e.g., Bruce)... that seems too dismissive of himself. E.g., Luthor doesn't think of himself as Superman's dark shadow. He thinks of Superman as *his* dark shadow.

  17. Not really #12 related, but i just had to share this with you Rikdad, Dal and others!

    So the "Joker we've never before seen like" is actually happening in the 5th arc, huh thats pretty darn intriquing if you ask me. Also #700 is sounding downright awesome.

  18. About the "Double You", I'm not sure if Morrison is really going to go into this kind of detail, but a "W" is really a "double V" (and in French at least, that's what the letter is called). Could the two V's be Vane and Vine? "Vane" and "Vine" in double-combination make "Wayne"?

  19. During the confrontation between Bruce and Joker in RIP, Joker tells Bruce that he "found out who Doctor Hurt is and why he hates you," so Joker is likely saner than we think during that scene, and he also obviously knows more than Dick or we the audience do about the situation they're about to find themselves in. He's going to play the role of some kind of authority figure during the next arc, whether that's through a reluctant team-up or merely taunts like he delivers to Bruce during the climax of RIP.

  20. Hi guys!

    Like Jack, I'm french, so excuse my poor english. When reading the sollicits for the "batman must die" arc, I asked myself is the foes who nearly killed Batman were Hurt and Darkseid, who surely will make acomeback sooner or later. Indeedn he nearly killed Bruce bygiving him a fate "worse than death", and boobytrapping him.

    But it's very unlikely for morrison to use him in B&R, though it would be an unexpected twist. I really hope this will tie with "batman 666", which becomes more and more interesting.

    I find a Dick/Joker team up better thana hurt/joker team up, but Tony Daniel once said Joker was gonna be creepier than ever, so I don't think it will be this way.

    Also, Morrison said Bruce would return shortly after B&R 16, didn't he? So "Batman must die" is not the last arc in this serie?

  21. Ok 1 question I've never seen answered, Joker very clearly sees that Bruce Wayne is Batman in the penultimate issue of RIP so how couldn't he possibly know who Bruce is?

  22. didn't see mentioned here or there that the name (word) 'thomas' means twin.