ROBW #5 itself has a plot twist that is revealed to us when we see Marsha Lamarr walking with Professor Carter Nichols and it becomes clear that she is "the woman", the "visitor" who serves as the ultimate temptation that Doctor Hurt offers the scientist. The betrayal is made clear to Bruce when he notices Marsha's absence and he is struck from behind. Betrayal is a common weapon of Hurt's -- Dick Grayson has been struck from behind by Jim Gordon in the most recent pages of Batman and Robin #14 and Bruce was betrayed by Jezebel as part of the coup in Batman, R.I.P. The plot of the main events of this story is thus complicated by acting and other lies. Lies within lies, actually.
Consider the seemingly simple question of whether or not Bruce, in this story, is the detective mentioned as far back as Batman #677 in the dossier that incriminates the Waynes. The dossier asserts that there was a detective hired by Martha's family. As it turns out, neither Marsha nor the others who arranged that dossier believed that there really was a detective, and considered Bruce to be play-acting, and he did not create any dossier himself. And yet he really did serve as a detective in the case, and was the person to whom the dossier referred, even though it was intended to be false. Lies within lies.
Since Infinite Crisis, Grant Morrison has been using old-time continuity selectively as a pattern for a new retelling of Batman's backstory. Two of the characters in this issue -- Doctor Hurt and Carter Nichols -- go back to the Fifties and Forties, respectively. Marsha Lamarr tells Bruce to wear a replica of the Thomas Wayne batsuit to frighten Thomas's murderer into confessing; this is the plot of Detective #235. But that plan is utter deception; she is sending Bruce into a trap so that he -- a nobody, in the eyes of the Black Glove -- can be sacrificed for their dark purposes. Nothing like the older story actually comes to pass in this issue, except as a lie. Nor, in fact, does this issue confirm the suspicion that the Black Glove had the Waynes killed, although it seems extremely likely.
Beyond the unreliable nature of Marsha Lamarr as a narrator, this story is complex because Bruce is being used for three entirely different purposes.
First, he plays the role of a detective during a meeting with his own grandmother, Betsy Kane. Why does this meeting take place at all? Lies within lies. Perhaps it falsifies the existence of a detective to explain the existence of a dossier that frames Thomas Wayne. Does it feed Betsy's belief that Thomas was really evil? It may help that belief along, but that's apparently not necessary -- she is already solidly convinced, for reasons that will merit comment later. Lastly, it helps lead Bruce along in the lie, because it gives the impression that Marsha was using the meeting to get the key to Wayne Manor -- a key she almost certainly did not need. However, it makes Marsha's phony investigation seem more plausible.
Second, Bruce is to play the role of the human bat in a ceremony of sacrifice patterned on the one in the 1990 Peter Milligan-penned Dark Knight, Dark City. Summoning the demon Barbatos requires a carefully-prepared human sacrificial victim who is dressed like a bat. Marsha's poison lipstick (Bruce is, like Jesus, betrayed with a kiss) and the batsuit bring this about. And now we must ask, if that is the role this suit plays in one masquerade involving the Black Glove, why did Thomas Wayne wear such a suit? When Doctor Hurt wears it, it seems to imply power within the Black Glove, but Thomas may have worn it because he had been set up as a victim on some other occasion, maybe some lunar eclipse earlier during the same year.
Third, Bruce's murder is being filmed (by Mayhew, the aspiring director) as faked evidence that Martha Wayne was a Satanist. Marsha in disguise shows us why the Black Glove, in RIP, note Doctor Hurt's fondness for actors. (She mentions two others who could have played the role that Bruce plays; this could be another crucifixion reference, but more directly refers, possibly, to Mangrove Pierce and John Mayhew.) The Black Glove's plan is marvelously complex, in that duping Bruce during one day could help bring about three different goals.
But there are two other goals that Doctor Hurt has that day, and these offer conflicting evidence on who and what he is. First, he is trying to tempt the members of the Black Glove to evil for evil's sake. We see this most clearly with Lamarr, who had been offered eternal life, and ultimately sinned and loses years off a natural life span in the process. She goes on to die young, after becoming Mayhew's fifth wife of six, a death first described way back in Batman #668.
While Hurt succeeds with Lamarr and with the other Black Glove members, he fails with Nichols, who is offered wealth and fame (similar to the successful temptation of Wingman in the Club of Heroes story), but ultimately rejects them, backing out of the ritual at the last moment, a role played by Thomas Jefferson in Milligan's story. He goes on to be an ally of Batman as illustrated in many older stories as well as Morrison's Batman #700.
Hurt's desire to tempt others casts him again as the classic literary Devil, a motive he didn't display in his chronological prior appearance in ROBW #4. (There can be no doubt that Hurt is Old Thomas Wayne, or is what Old Thomas Wayne became, after Morrison's latest interview.) So perhaps something meaningful happened to Old Thomas Wayne sometime during the last hundred years, during which time he apparently began the Black Glove, took up the "Simon Hurt" identity, and perhaps committed the Jack The Ripper crimes. By the time of RIP, he is able to cast a curse, and perhaps do more. He seems to have more tricks up his sleeve than retarded aging.
What seems less devilish is his goal, seen also in ROBW #4 and B&R #14, to procure the bat-casket to attain immortality. Driven to attain immortality, he seems much more man (though one with supernatural longevity) than metaphysical. Among the many telling facts in this issue is that he is simply unable to find the casket, even though he is now, as in RIP, given free access to Wayne Manor. He asks for Nichols' time travel device to bring Barbatos to him, so that he can make use of what is almost certainly the Ancestor Box to give himself another jolt (perhaps an infinite one) of prolonged life. This is a goal he has attained before the possible future in Batman #666.
On a more straightforward note, we finally get a sense of how it is that The Devil would be living as an Army psychiatrist in order to brainwash Batman many years later. We see that he has used this job to make soldiers relive past trauma, possibly torture for torture's sake. At some point, he has to disappear from this role, per the "Gotham's Hurt Missing" headline from Batman #678. But he returns to it later. For now, he occupies the role at Willowwood Asylum, serving as a tie to the "Thomas Wayne, Jr." story from World's Finest #233.
Perhaps the most striking revelations of this story are in the language that ties Doctor Hurt's devil worship to Darkseid. Look at these two speeches.
Bruno Mannheim, 52 #25 (speaking of Gotham): "I'm looking to establish a new world order of crime, with its own capital city."
Doctor Hurt, B&R #14: "I give you Gotham! The new capital city of crime! ... [Where good men] must succumb to the new order of things."
Morrison's depiction of the cult of the Crime Bible and the armies of King Coal, who mention Mannheim in B&R #8 inextricably intertwine these worlds of evil. 52 joins older continuity in linking Mannheim to Darkseid. Hurt's comments in this issue explain that what seemed like demons and myth during his first encounter with Barbatos are now known to be "dark science". While he adopts all the Satanic of ritual and echoing Pyg's line about "Gotham" being a "goat home" (notice the near-anagram intended there), he also references, like Mannheim, the rock and the rage, the "dark side", and Apokolips' fire pits. This issue makes it clear that in Morrison's DCU, the one kind of evil is the other. Most likely, good is related, too, and a man in a wheelchair warns "Batman beware the hole in things." This is like Metron's appearances in Seven Soldiers and Final Crisis, although this man who "can't actually speak" lacks the blue squarish pupils that were Metron's telltale feature in those stories.
ROBW #5 is dense with offhand statements of fact that illustrate much more backstory. A GCPD Mayor James has been killed, replaced by the undoubtedly corrupt Mayor Jessop. Marsha's story of corruption (assuming she's not lying about that) also mentions Police Commissioner Loeb who was introduced in Batman Year One.
Yet more is told about Bruce's family. The Kane side shares a name with both versions of Batwoman, the younger of which is a target of those who follow the Crime Bible. They also sold Kane Chemicals to
Ace Chemical, which is part of the Joker's origin in The Killing Joke. According to Batman #682, Ace Chemical also bought Axis Chemical, and that story also references Apex Chemical, which is the organization behind the mystery in Batman's very first story in Detective #27. On top of that, the given name of Betsy Kane figures to be the same as that of the original Bat-Girl, Betty Kane. You can't say that Morrison's not playing a deep game here.
Bruce's grandfather Roddy turned down Hurt's temptation, which apparently led to Hurt causing, somehow, his stroke. The agonizingly neglected invalid (wasps crawling on his immobilized face -- torture but no one seems to notice) moans out words of warning for Bruce. Words that he seems to say include "Army", "Martha", and "Hurt" while Betsy looks into her teacup and sees Hurt's "W" scar and the twin bat-symbols (of Bruce and Dick?). These words certainly would make apt warning, and make, with the man in the wheelchair, a salient pattern of two disabled men assisting the hero with information. This pattern is familiar from aforementioned Morrison works as well as Twin Peaks.
Along the way, we find out that a constellation of facts about the Waynes, through the filter of disinformation fed to Betsy Kane. We find out that Martha's necklace is a Van Derm heirloom, via Alan Wayne's wife Catherine from ROBW #4. Thus, the famous pearl necklace, if as "worthless" as Betsy thinks, may actually belong to Anthro's wife from ROBW #1, and be more or less the world's first necklace.
We also know that Thomas Wayne had an evil night life, and appearances before Betsy that seem to stand out from his usual demeanor, and these are almost certainly the work of Doctor Hurt standing in for Thomas. This suggests that perhaps Hurt looked young about thirty years ago, but has aged since then at almost a normal rate, adding urgency to his quest for immortality. The maligning of Thomas Wayne seems to have left to him -- or Hurt? -- being kept in the secret batcave, covered up by Bruce's grandfather Patrick and his great uncle Silas (from 1958's Batman #120, and one of the portraits in B&R #10). This coincided with Bruce being sent to boarding school, which is a story element from Morrison's "Gothic". Meanwhile, Carter Nichols is revealed as a school friend of Thomas's.
It remains to wonder why the Black Glove did not thoroughly smear the names of Thomas and Martha while they were still alive. This may yet be revealed; it may be a plot hole.
While big and complex answers to many questions have arrived, and others seem to be on the verge, we also get a quick, easy answer as to what threat Darkseid has made of Batman's trip through time. In a dash of throwaway pseudoscience, the issue opens with Red Robin explaining that the trip itself is bringing an explosive dose of Omega energy.
Bruce Wayne, as a sort of Batman, appears in the present at the end of this issue. But he is not arriving directly from the Black Glove ritual. He has gone to the End of Time, served as the Archivist, and encountered the rescue team of Superman, Green Lantern, Booster Gold, and Rip Hunter before using their Time Bubble to pop into the Hall of Justice. The next issue is likely to tell of a more complex path through time, possibly giving Bruce at least one stop to pick up the Ancestor Box from the casket before going to the far future. Perhaps the use of a non-Darkseid time conduit breaks the effectiveness of the Omega Sanction, but clearly Bruce has more to do to escape this trap. For despite the use of the Time Bubble, the bells of the Ancestor Box are ringing as the JLA are caught unprepared. We know who will play the key role in ending the threat.
We now await more of the Doctor Hurt saga in B&R, with whatever comeuppance awaits him, whether it be defeat in battle, or the metaphysical despair that he has always been something less than he thought he was. He may have to suffer from the revelation that his Barbatos was the Miagani tribute to Bruce.
Meanwhile, ROBW #6 will provide the conclusion to the tale of Bruce's Omega Sanction, a science fiction story whose forthcoming twists and turns seem almost utterly impossible to guess now, except that they will end with Bruce Wayne back in his own time, ready to begin a distinctly new era as Batman.