Friday, August 20, 2010

Batman and Robin 14 Preview

First as tragedy, then as farce. The pivotal battle of Dick Grayson's tenure as Bruce Wayne's replacement is here. The next issue is almost three weeks away, but a web-released preview gives us indications of where the battle and the larger story are going.

First, we see Alfred in the Wayne Manor library, whose portal to the hidden evil Batcave has been illustrated in multiple recent issues.  Once again, we see the portrait of Thomas and Martha and the horsehead. Alfred appears to enter a different portal, first passing on foot, then manipulating the hands of a clock. The clock entrance has been displayed in many accounts of the Batcave architecture over the years; in Batman #676, Alfred and Tim Drake appear to enter the Batcave in this way, but no attention is given to the mechanism that opens the clock-portal. In Legends of the Dark Knight #6, Morrison shows Bruce seated in a very similarly-rendered library or den, with attention to a window that allows the sun to shine through, and a clock drawn by Klaus Janson that resembles the one Tony Daniel drew in RIP. This is similar to the clock drawn now by Frazier Irving. In "Gothic", Bruce sits in a room of stopped clocks, each turned to 8:25, presumably the hour of his parents' deaths. In Batman and Robin #14, Alfred turns the clock to 9:46 or 9:47. In Batman #701, when Alfred observes that what is likely the same clock has stopped (unbeknownst to him, at the time of the helicopter crash), it is stopped at 1:15. What is the relationship between these times? Did Morrison substitute, arbitrarily, a different death time for the Waynes? Or is there a second event that has some meaning? Or is it all arbitrary? Does it all break down into symbolism and hints and clues, or is that just Wikipedia?

Even if Alfred is going to the normal Batcave, then there is some significance to the scene or it wouldn't be shown to us. But even more so if he's going somewhere else. In #701, Bruce believes that Hurt got into the hidden evil Batcave. It's not clear how he knows that, but it's reasonable to assume that he has some sort of silent alarm. Suppose it wasn't Hurt who entered the room but Alfred. Given the reveals that are coming about the backstory, we can suspect that Alfred's been in that room before, when Thomas and Martha were. I.e., Alfred knows something that Bruce doesn't. As the Black Glove prepares to strike again, is Alfred going to the scene of a Black Glove event that he attended, one with great importance to the history of the Waynes?

The other event in this unlettered preview is the twist in the "interrogation room" encounter between Damian and the Joker. Having pleaded his (relative) innocence and desire to help, the Joker passively turns the beating into a victory. Damian stiffens, grins, and collapses. Apparently, the Joker has "tainted, sour blood" (something the Bat Clone says, in a different context, in B&R #9). This hearkens back to "The Clown at Midnight", when the Joker kills two Arkham guards with his own saliva, with the text explaining that his body has been dosed with so many toxins over the years that he is immune to that which easily kills others. The scene reads as a deliberate counterattack on the Joker's part, but it remains possible that the Joker didn't intend to win this way. Possible, but the man with the permanently frozen grin certainly seems pleased by the prospect.

First as tragedy, then as farce. The Alex Ross cover to Batman #680 showed Batman and Robin (Bruce and Tim) facing the Club of Villains in battle. Nothing very much like this scene actually happened. The villains who were taken down were beaten by the Club of Heroes and Nightwing. So the similar cover to B&R #14 may also illustrate a theme rather than a coming fistfight. The key parallel is that the Club of Villains were Hurt's muscle, and in the new cover, this is also true of the individually mediocre-looking but numerically awesome 99 Fiends. Naberius told us way back that the 99 Fiends have no master. Maybe not, maybe they are a "pandemonium" of which Hurt is a part, but this cover shows us, as did B&R #10-12, that they are doing Hurt's bidding.

Robin has been brought down (even if not deliberately) by the Joker, and whatever did so is sure to erode a path through the policemen guarding him, and the Joker will escape. The 99 Fiends have brought down Dick Grayson and Jim Gordon where Dollotrons are waiting to swarm them. Dick Grayson's capture is imminent, if not in the moment where we last saw him, then in the three days to come. This preview shows us that the Wayne Manor library remains the focal point of what's coming. And as a link to the past, Alfred may be showing us, with Return of Bruce Wayne #5 to show more, that it is also the key focal point in the story's past: Thomas and Martha, "Gotham's Hurt", a masquerade party, a cowl, and the Black Glove. The pivotal events in Batman's past, coming to light now.


  1. Hey Rikdad, also worth mentioning is the White Knight on the mantlepiece on the first panel. Another symbol or a clue that it's going to be Bruce that saves Dick one more time?

  2. Nathan, I did mention it ("Once again, we see the portrait of Thomas and Martha and the horsehead")... But I don't think Bruce is going to save Dick. I think Dick, Damian, and Alfred win this without him. But I could be wrong... there *are* two Batmen on the cover of #16.

  3. Rikdad... Love the joker 'wikipedia' line. I want to ask you, is it jokers blood that poisons Damian, or is it a poison he uses as mail polish as he made a comment about it in the panels after? I remember him ending one of the R.I.P. comics waiting for his nail polish to dry.