Thursday, October 14, 2010

Return of Bruce Wayne 5

This close to the end of a story, the loose ends start wrapping up. So it is with Return of Bruce Wayne #5, much less because it is the penultimate chapter in a six-issue story than because it is the fourth-to-last chapter in a fifty-issue story that will reach its turning point next month. While the heroes are named on the front covers, the dominant force behind the scenes has been the enmity of Doctor Hurt, whose story will be providing its final answers very soon.

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.


  1. Great post as usual Rikdad & on time like clockwork!

    A bunch of questions:

    1. The scene of Marsha burning the bound Bruce: do you think it would have made it to the final cut of the movie "Black Glove"? If so, is there a possibility that Alfred saw this scene when he was sent by Bruce to watch this film in the pages of R.I.P.?

    2. Is the box which Bruce snatches from Nichol's hand a fully functional time machine? In Batman #700, in the flashback section, Prof Nichols sends Batman back in time through some form of mental projection. Is this because, he lost the prototype of the more advanced time machine as shown in ROBW #5? Or did Hurt pull his funding :)?

    3. So far in ROBW, Bruce has had no control over the destination/time span of his time jumps. Do you think that's about to change now that he has Nichol's machine? Will he manipulate his destination mid-stream? Or will he land at some point in the near future (say Gotham in the 70's) & then use Nichol's machine to travel to the end of time before the eclipse kicks in again?

    I noticed yet another reference to 'the hole in things' via the hole in Bruce's journal that caught Jonah Hex's bullet!

    Thanks for the amazing posts. Thanks for listening.

  2. One more point:

    Could the W and the bat symbols inside Bruce's grandmother's teacup, be a reference to the art of divining the future by 'reading' tea leaves?

  3. Rikdad,
    My LCS owner reports that his shipment has been delayed. Thanks for the review.

  4. Dispatch,
    It seemed like Bruce did enough to ruin the planned filming, but they could have used a shot or two of this in the dossier.

    Nichols' box is a functioning time machine, but he said that it required gargantuan amounts of electricity, which Hurt provided. If Bruce ends up somewhere ordinary, he won't be able to use it. But if he goes to the End of Time, he can wait for the Time Bubble. I think it's possible that he goes to Gotham in some other time, possibly even the 1765 Barbatos ritual (that seems to be what Hurt wanted). Then he could snag the Ancestor Box that made Hurt ageless and use it as a time machine to go to the End of Time. That experience might bind the giant bat to Bruce, but also put him in position to snag the Time Bubble. Then he'd have to make two more time jumps to tie up loose ends with the casket and his "rescue" team. Maybe the book or other clues for Dick's benefit as well.

    I didn't see anything in the text of his book except the word "microscope", which would have been one of the anachronisms he noticed. Nice catch on your part. BTW, the book had no hole in the final pages of ROBW #4.

    And there's no doubt that the teacup's symbols pertained to divination by tea leaves. What she saw might have been noticed by her or not.

  5. To add to the Darkseid/New Gods theme and following up on my comments previously regarding the Orion constellation, etc. And connecting to Morrison's recent interview comparing Bruce/Batman to a New God. I think there is a theme here of recreating the Batman world as the New Gods world, or at least the Darkseid part of it. Orion was Darkseid's son but fights him. Bruce/Batman is born of primal evil (Hurt) in some way, via the murder of his parents, the manipulations of Hurt (the new Darkseid, he is the hole in things, and therefore the trace left by Darkseid as he fell through time). Bruce represents Orion, the hunter, fighting against an evil that is within him in some way, because OTW is related to him in some way.

    It occurred to me that Morrison might have made a twist on the TW Junior old story, and given Thomas Wayne rather than Bruce a twin. Therefore there was a double you a bad and a good twin of Thomas Wayne, which might explain the good and the bad Thomas and the hiding away and treatment by Bruce's grandfather. There seem to me enough clues in this issue pointing this way.

  6. I like your stab at what Dr. Hurt's final comeuppance might be - I forget as a reader that it's obvious to us that Bruce is the inspiration for the mangiani. Hearing Dr. Hurt mention specifically that he wants to summon the hunter/orion/barbatos in this issue seems to suggest that his misunderstanding of what's really going on will be his downfall...or at least his humiliation?

    You end your third to last paragraph with, "We know who will play the key role in ending the threat." I'm not sure I follow...are you saying of course it's Bruce? It doesn't seem obvious to me who will play THE key role in ending the Omega Sanction-charged threat. Who are you suggesting?

  7. I'm kind of curious about the shirt that Dr. Nichols was wearing. One of those smiley face t-shirts? Possibly a reference to Watchmen used as a period detail to tell us that this is supposed to be the 1980's or something?

  8. Thanks for your reply Rikdad & also for the kind mention on the DC Boards!

    I re-read the issue and have a whole new bunch of questions/observations. Here goes:

    Marsha: "Wow. He's Perfect. Good Lord."

    Marsha is presumably exclaiming because of Bruce's resemblance to Thomas Wayne & that resemblance is a necessary part of her (untrue) motivation to confront the Waynes' killer. The real reason why Bruce is ideal for this human bat sacrifice is:
    1. His physical perfection
    2. The fact he's an amnesiac ("a drifter no one will miss")

    Bruce: "I don't much like jokers with guns"
    Is this a sly reference to The Joker?

    Marsha: "Betsy. It's been ever so long."

    Marsha claims to be Martha's "best friend". And yet she hasn't seen Martha's mother for a long time. Did Martha & her have a falling out? If so, then over what?

    Betsy: "Well I Never Trusted him...but then there was that Terrible Night... that Sneering, Awful face."

    Is Betsy Kane referring to the night of the Wayne murders? If so, did Hurt disguised as Thomas pay Betsy a visit immediately after the murder? If so, why? Intimidation? Destroying Thomas' reputation? Why that very night? What did the Kanes have that Hurt wanted?

    Betsy: "Sells Kane Chemicals. Martha dies. He has a stroke."
    Chronology of events as narrated by Betsy. This means Roderick was fine till after the Wayne murders.

    Hurt: "When Roderick Kane choose not to play"

    Is this after Hurt's visit on "that Terrible Night"? Again, on what issue did Roderick refuse to cooperate/play on ? Did he see through Hurt's claims that he was Thomas Wayne. Is that why he was punished?

    The wasps
    Is this a favourite torture of Dr Hurt's? In Batman #669, when Robin(Tim Drake) & the Squire are tied up, someone sets some wasps on them!

    Betsy: "Patrick and Silas"
    Who are they? Bruce's paternal grandfather & his brother? What were they covering up? Had they locked Thomas Wayne's Evil Twin (Hurt) or OTW in the secret room? Then how did he escape? Was Silas/Patrick alive at the time of the Wayne murders? Did they take young Bruce to Hawaii? Or was it Alfred?

    Wayne Manor keys
    There are four keys on the chain Marsha gets from Betsy. I went back to the first issue of Batman & Robin to check out the preview image of Dr. Hurt holding the Wayne Manor keys. That has only two keys on it.

    Five gigawatts of power
    That's the amount of power required by Nichol's time machine. In comparison, the time machine from Back to the Future, required only 1.21 gigawatts :)

    Hired Help Syndrome
    In R.I.P., Hurt thinks of making Bruce his butler. In this issue, Marsha promises Bruce, that she will make him her chauffeur!

    Dark hair/light hair
    I remember you pointing out the portrait of the Waynes in the libray of Wayne Manor & that Martha has light hair in it. You'd observed that perhaps in Morrison's continuity, Martha Wayne has light hair. This issue, Marsha wears a dark wig to impersonate Martha! That clearly
    indicates, that the woman in the portrait is Marsha(or some other impersonator) and not Martha! So is that Hurt and Marsha in that portrait or Mayhew & Marsha??

    Poisoned lipstick/poisoned nail polish-eyeshadow
    Just themes of poisoned cosmetic. joker gets Robin in B&R 14, with poisoned eyeshadow/nail polish. Here Marsh poisons Bruce with her lipstick.

    How did Mayhew & Hurt fall out? Did Mayhew's having set up the Club of Heroes have something to do with it?

    Lastly, how did Marsha die? I forget the details. Can you tell me which issue was this shown in?

    Waiting for your reply!!

    Thanks again.

  9. ehepd, Morrison's latest interview indicates that when these stories wrap up this month, Bruce's world is going to get less supernatural and sci-fi-ish, so I would say more that he is interacting, intensely and briefly, with the New Gods' world in one more issue, rather than that that world will be recreated in his. But the extent of New Gods stuff in this forthcoming issue is likely to be as rampant as you'd mentioned!

    Hurt is Thomas Wayne's "twin" in name and perhaps appearance, but he was born about 200 years earlier. That same interview indicates that the missing portrait *is* that of Doctor Hurt, so there's not much ambiguity anymore about the birth origin of Hurt. We may learn more about how he got to where he is in 1980+, but the story actually *could* stop now and not tell us anymore about who Hurt is. Although I think there probably will be more.

  10. Matt, Dick and Damian will be the ones getting everything done in B&R #15; Bruce in ROBW #6. As for B&R #16, I think Dick will be the key player, but Bruce may have a role.

  11. Sypha, I thought of Watchmen and also Dr. Wolper from Dark Knight Returns. Nichols actually has a similar job, in this comic, to Wolper.

  12. Dispatch -- lots of comments there!

    Yes, "Jokers with guns" is definitely a deliberate use of the Joker's name, but also a noir-era term, and "with guns" applies to Joe Chill. There's hardly a more on-the-nose statement that Batman could make than that he doesn't like Jokers with guns. For Morrison to work the noir vocabulary into it is very impressive.

    That's some nice detective work on the timelines. I didn't take it as Hurt appearing as Thomas on the night of the murders, but some arbitrary night, to smear Thomas. But it's interesting to contemplate a timeline, and what Hurt wanted of Roddy. He sold the company, anyway. Of course, he dies when the eclipse transpires. The exact Waynes-Black Glove interaction remains curiously unclear after this issue! The opening to B&R #13 remains at odds with all other accounts (Bruce dying)... Hurt's fantasy? Did Hurt in the orgy actually transpire as part of his smear on Thomas? Was the fantasy of Thomas paying to have his family killed to have been filmed? Or was a staging of it filmed, but unusable because Bruce didn't die?

    In Batman #681, it's stated that everyone associated with the Black Glove film was killed [by the Devil]. Making the film may have doomed Mayhew, although he certainly outlived the experience by many years (and even by one wife). It may just be that Mayhew lost the bet that he would kill the heroes.

    Lamarr's death was a key plot point of the Club of Heroes story. It was never shown, but the original Knight figured it out, and most likely, he was ruined by the Black Glove for confronting Mayhew with that knowledge.

  13. Rikdad, I discovered your blog today, very much a happy accident! Your reviews and synopses are spectacular, full of detail and good insight. It's actually helped me understand what I've read more clearly!

  14. I've followed your blog for a while now.. and I usually agree with your conclusions.. hell.. sometimes I even have to consult with your post in order to understand what I've just read..

    But I've been always skeptical about Hurt being "the devil".. and I agree that there's tons of evidence that point that out.. but i'm still not convinced since to me (and it's just my humble opinion) it's a cheap plot twist...

    now.. based on what I've read so far in Morrison's run and specially in ROBW#5 I'm willing to state that all this will conclude with Hurt being some incarnation of Darkseid as seen in older story arcs where the new gods take the shape of people.

    It might be unfunded to you.. but to me.. it feels like it is the right way to end this run.

    I couldn't stop to wonder if Martha Kane's mother was some incarnation of granny goodness... lot's of the dialogs reminded me of her. And now I have to reread back issues to find other characters like Desaad or the furies (Lamarr did cross my head though).

    So far we've seen lot's of elements that we usually associate to the new gods, the whole ROBW starts from the fact that Darkseid sent BW into the Omega Sanction...

    my guess is that the return of Bruce Wayne will also mark the return of the new gods.

    It might be nonsense to you.. after all the research you've done (which has been far deeper than the one I've done) but still.. who knows.. I'll stick with my gut feeling for now.. at the end of the day.. it's just for fun!

    BTW, great blog!


  15. Doug, thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed this!

  16. Sadly, there is the one shot Red Robin - Road Home of Bruce Wayne, and in the end of that issue, Ra's Al Ghul states something about Bruce and immortality. When there will be RoBW #6?

  17. Ben, We have absolute confirmation from Morrison that the missing portrait of Old Thomas Wayne "is" Hurt (e.g., at least is what became Hurt) and that RIP was about Batman beating the Devil. ROBW #5 also had the scene in Willowwood with Hurt being almost overwhelmingly devilish in offering a "deal". It's also clear from Hurt's comments that if he is Darkseid, he's not aware of being Darkseid. Finally, although they are both evil in their own ways, their personalities are quite different. Darkseid is humorless. Hurt smirks and sneers. In a move which seems strikingly non-Darkseidian, Hurt was absolved of his sins by a Catholic priest.

    In a world where evil personalities take over people's minds, identity has a nebulous quality, and it's hard to demonstrate that one sort of evil mind isn't another one, but the suggestions here, as I see them, point pretty hard against Darkseid.

    It's much more apt, I think, that Hurt is what a man (Old Thomas Wayne) became after some contact with the leftovers of Darkseid's plan, without either of them knowing about the other. It's unclear what, besides life extension, is part of that. If he just wants to get his hands on an immortality-granting box, why does he want to ruin souls and corrupt the powerful? That's the blank which is left, and Morrison's not strictly under obligation to fill it in. Hurt may remain "the hole in things". And in that formulation, Bruce says that the relationship between them is that Darkseid's fall created the hole in things. But that Darkseid is gone.

  18. Rikdad, awesome post, as per usual. As a new reader to Batman (I came in with ROBW), you have helped me enjoy the reading even more. Great work, you are bookmarked as a favorite, and will be my companion throughout my reading of the various Bat-books. Keep up the good work.

  19. Great issue and post, I'm not going to add anything except I want to say near the end of the issue when Dr. Hurt was using the video camera on Bruce all I kept thinking of was the David Lynch movie "Lost Highway" with Robert Blake as "Mystery Man" and his scene semi like that near the end of the movie. I know it's a reach...but still.

  20. I was just rereading the issue and something jumped out at me.

    Thomas Wayne, Jr., Pre-Crisis, was the Boomerang Killer. In Hurt's office in Willowood (where Thomas Jr. stayed) there was a boomerang on a filing cabinet. Coincidence? Not bloody likely. I'm not sure I think it is at all significant, but I do think it was intentional, with all the Willowood stuff, to recall the character at the least.

    Having reread the issues with Bruce's brother Thomas Wayne, Jr., there are some interesting, if entirely superficial parallels. Thomas, Jr. was possessed, by Deadman. When possessed by Boston Brand he assumed the role of circus stunt man, "The Death Defyin' Demon Red Daredevil Devlin!" and wore a costume of a red devil with a pitchfork symbol. He was a shameful secret of the Wayne family.

    The connections between the Pre-Crisis World's Finest minor character and Hurt does seem to be abundant, for whatever it is worth.

    *I deleted my previous comment and have reposted it here after correcting an error I made before in my rushed recounting of the observation about the connection to Thomas Wayne, Jr.

  21. Dispatch, nice connection with the wasps. I spent some time thinking about that detail in the Club Of Heroes story. It's implied that the Black Glove chose wasps because they knew that Beryl had a phobia of them. I have long suspected a backstory about the Knight being a victim of the Black Glove and ROBW #5 actually advances this without mentioning the Knight, because it was the original Knight who cracked the case of Lamarr's death.

  22. I must say I agree with Ben about his thoughts of Betsy Kane being somehow Granny Goodness. I'm not sure, but the design of her eyes (the colours and the strange marks around her globes) reminds me of Jack Kirby's art. And beyond that, she's evil, she knows about the bells, she is expecting the eclipse, and she knows that his husband is suffering, so... I say she's evil, and she's not the real Betsy Kane

  23. I'm under the impression that Marsha Lamarr is the one who fed the misinformation about Thomas Wayne to the Kanes. It's a classic scenario - Martha has a falling out with her snob parents and runs away with Thomas Wayne, who has quite a reputation (but not one that includes Satanism yet). Doctor Hurt sends Lamarr, who we know is an actress, to cozy up to the Kanes, talk about how "She's Martha's best friend, but she just doesn't trust Thomas, and doesn't know where to turn ..." and building toward the payoff. Poor Roderick was spouting warnings at Bruce about Hurt, but may have known full well that Lamarr was this generation's Jezebel Jet.

    Meanwhile ... did anyone else notice the parallel between Tim Drake here, and Bruce Wayne during Final Crisis?

    "SEAL THE HALL OF JUSTICE!" ... a deliberate re-use of that very cool line.

    And lastly ... small wonder I didn't notice it before since we've drawn the connection between the name Wayne with a "W" and Wonder Woman's logo ... but how did it not occur to me that Wonder Woman's logo is a DOUBLE double-u ... WW. As in ... TWO Waynes. Two Thomas Waynes.

    It seems all but confirmed that there are two Thomas Waynes. Hell, we've known for months now ... but they're separated by about 200 years age difference. Hurt really does seem to be the "ghost of the Wayne Family" ... periodically returning for his Satanic rituals and doing bad things to his own great-great-great nephews and nieces. Except to my knowledge, except for almost accidentally trampling his great-grand-nephew Alan with the horse-cart in ROBW#4 ... he only really maliciously attacked Thomas. Why Thomas?

    Thomas is his namesake ... so his name was stolen. Thomas is a doctor ... so his career was done better. Thomas is a philanthropist ... so the bitter old gambler is put to shame. And last of all ... it seems like (from Alan's journal, anyway) that the Wayne Family KNEW of Doctor Hurt. That he's their dirty old secret.

    Perhaps Thomas Wayne threatened to expose him.

  24. Yeah, Ronnie ... the parallels to the Deadman story (ghostly possession ... classic red-devil imagery ...) is pretty crazy. Grant has stated numerous times that he's a huge fan of the old Bob Haney "Brave and Bold" run (Me too ... best Aquaman anywhere!) and that now that he's nearly out of things to mine for his Batman run ... the team-up/travel element of TB&TB will be respected and carried on by Incorporated.

  25. Great comments by all. Rikdad, I agree with you that the interaction with the New Gods world will be more figurative than literal. By recreation of that world, I meant in terms of the archetypes and ideas, which Morrison mentioned explicitly in 702. I also agree with a comment you made previously, that it is hard to use symbolism to predict where things are going. The symbolism however, I think hints at the larger architecture of the story and Morrison's motives and the possible direction of Inc.

    For example, I read somewhere that Morrison wanted to make Batman a New God after Final Crisis. He couldn't literally so he is doing so at least figuratively in his Batman run. Lots of symbols referring to myths of creation, Genesis, religions, etc. Something big is happening, and it's hidden or not so hidden in the symbols. The larger philosophical point that good and evil are related is quite plain too.
    I have more to say about this, but it is long and I would like to make it more coherent than my usual off the cuff comments.

    A couple of observations from this issue, which I think no one has mentioned. More red and black imagery (mentioned), but interestingly two things, on the robe of Hurt's satanists is a red handprint rather than a Black Glove. Bruce is wearing a red tie. Marsha says when the clock strikes 7 totality begins. As in 702 and 703 references to a clock and a particular time. The phrase totality begins must be a reference to the "all-over" of the Miagani.

    And finally, the role of the "dame", the woman who tempts and betrays must be given all the other symbols related to Eve and Genesis it seems to me.

  26. Thanks for the translation of Roddy Kane's moanings. I am singularly crap at deciphering that stuff in this series. I was sure he was trying to say something, but damned if I knew what. I can totally pick out the words now that you've pointed them out to me. So again, thanks Rikdad!

    Any idea what Roddy's trying to say with "Doo Auuumus" though? That seems to be followed by a failed attempt at "Hurt" ("Gnnauurtt"), but that one's still giving me fits.

    Also, on the wasps in that scene: I was put in mind of the general connection between Hell and insects there, a hint that Hurt was holding some kind of sway over the situation. But maybe that's just me.

  27. The Wasps reminded me of the device Tim Drake and Squire were trapped in during the Club of Heroes arc.
    But here they might just show how torturous Roddys life is now, he doesn't have his arms free so he cannot keep the wasps from landing on him.

  28. Rikdad you continue to prove that you are undoubtedly the foremost expert on the current Batman universe. In your opinion do you think DC will reopen or address Wonder Woman's relationship with Bruce considering they brought it up twice in Blackest Night?

  29. Noticed a little detail, not that it means anything. There is a Black Glove "logo" on Marsha's cigarette lighter. It is shown twice, several pages apart, and the first appearance is before she is revealed as part of the group.

  30. Great post as always rikdad. A few comments and questions:

    between ROWB 4 and 5 - Dr. Hurt goes to London and returns to Gotham to work at Willowwood (another devilish role through literature - Dr. Yealland in Regeneration comes to mind or even Nurse Ratchett from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest).

    --Is Dr. Hurt really a Wayne? Was he really Dr. Thomas Wayne from Western times?
    --Did he achieve immortality prior to ROBW 4 or between ROBW 4 and 5 through devil worship?

    --LaMarr brings Bruce to the Kane in order to bring some credibility to the false evidence against the Waynes and the detective that the dossier talks about(though ostensibly to get the keys)?

    Bruce's confrontation with his grand mother is intersting. We finally see someone else affected by the Wayne murder besides Bruce.

    --Besty's accusations against Thomas Wayne are the result to lies and set ups propograted by Dr. Hurt? Can we put off all of her accusations as Dr. Hurt's machinations despite some truth about the secret room, etc.?

    The whole speech about Doctor Thomas and Bad Tommy reminded me of Two-Face's origin in TAS.

    --Dr. Hurt tried to corrupt Roderick Kane and when he fails uses some kind of poison or curse to cause his current state?

    --Did Dr. Hurt order the Wayne murders?

    I'm not sure if it matters if Dr. Hurt caused the Wayne murders or not and I'm sure it will be left ambigious. Similiar, to Batman Begins, when Ra's Al Ghul says he was planning on kill the Waynes for giving hope to the city, but random bad luck ends up killing them. I don't even think Grant Morrison should mess with the random nature of the Wayne's death (in the end crime is what killed them and that is what Batman fights). Similiarly, on a platonic level, Martha's pearls weren't Anthros (at least they don't look like them in the prior issues), but it doesn't matter because they are the form of pearls.

    --Who are the Black Glove members that show up? Obviously, we have LaMarr and Hurt (who both may or may not be "members") and we have Mayhew and Carter. Are the other two Pierce and Mayor Jessup? Somehow Mayhew becomes a player in the Black Glove instead of a member by the time the Club of Heroes come about? Also, Hurt comes to take over it, is he on equal footing here and has yet to ascend to a new level?

    --What is the Black Glove movie? Alfred watched it, so it can't just be incriminating evidence against the Waynes or what?

    --Bruce's walking to the crypt looks similiar to the opening shot of B&R 13 of Hurt walking from the helicoptor?

    --What was the sacrifice meant to do? Bring the giant Bat or Bruce from ROBW with the casket to the room? How does this tie to the quest for immortality? Is Hurt lying to all the Black Glove members and this doesn 't have anything to do with immortality?

    --It appears that the time jump with the eclipse and the rain is comming any minute for Bruce, he escapes it by using a non-Darksied for of time travel to go to the end of time first?

    Carter saying don't look at me like that seems to echo Joe Chill's sentiments in some comic looking at Bruce.

    The comic starts with a dame (LaMarr) and ends with a death (Roddy).

    --Dr. Hurt is able to successfully curse Carter?

  31. John, it's hard for a comic book to capture the creepiness with which the Mystery Man from Lost Highway locks the camera on the protagonist, but, yes, having your misfortune / demise be filmed adds a touch of the sinister, for sure!

  32. Ben and Ian,

    Betsy definitely is *a* granny -- Bruce's, in fact -- and there's a bit of vulnerability there when he asks Marsha why his grandmother didn't care for him. (This contradiction was raised by readers when Batman #677 referred to Martha's family outliving Martha.)

    Is she Granny Goodness? If so, and if Marsha knows that, then there would be no point play-acting in front of her. I think if she is, then Marsha definitely didn't know. Tapping that New Gods sort of power is what the Black Glove wanted and couldn't achieve. So if she is Granny Goodness, I think the dialogue was free of any such reveals. The tea leaves, however, make it look like there was magic going on whether she was directing it or not.

  33. ehepd, good points about the symbols. The hand reminded me, again, of how Jason Todd's calling hards had that similar symbol.

    On a more straightforward point, "totality", while it sounds cosmic in the magical sense, is actually cosmic in the literal, astronomical sense. It means the part of an eclipse in which the shadow is fullest. Because this was an eclipse of the Moon, it means when no part of the Moon is uncovered by the Earth's shadow. A lunar eclipse can remain total for over an hour, and is total for everyone on Earth who can see it at the same time, whereas totality for the solar eclipse covers a small area and can never last for more than 7 and a half minutes.

    The eclipse that ended ROBW #4 must have been a lunar eclipse because we saw a full Moon shortly before Bruce disappeared.

    I doubt if astronomical reality is very relevant to the story, but it was interesting to me that Morrison made the eclipse in #5 a lunar one. It would be very unlikely for two total solar eclipses to affect Gotham 30 years apart; making it a lunar eclipse made it more realistic.

  34. Matt, I gave a try at every one of Roddy's moans, but I could only make sense of the three I mentioned. ("Army" as in the Army patients at Willowwood.) Maybe "Doo" is "No", but otherwise, I haven't been able to take it any further. It's very hard to be sure of cracking a one-word code unless the word is already known to be important.

  35. Retro, I did think of Bruce's line when Tim spoke, but I also thought that when Dick said "Alert the Justice League" upon finding Bruce's old cowl.

    We don't know how many Waynes Hurt has tangled with, but possibly Joshua (who died in the caves) as well as Alan and Thomas, and now Bruce. I think he may have already tangled with a few when he said to Bruce c. 1880 "I'll get you all in the end."

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  38. this seem interesting about barbatos

    In demonology, Barbatos is an Earl and Duke of Hell, ruling thirty legions of demons and has four kings as his companions to command his legions. "He gives the understanding of the voices of the animals, says past and future, conciliates friends and rulers, and he can lead men to hidden treasures that have been hid by the enchantment of magicians."

    and that's what bruce is doing traveling through time, conciliates friends and leading pirates to treasures if just to trick them.

  39. "Noticed a little detail, not that it means anything. There is a Black Glove "logo" on Marsha's cigarette lighter."

    That's interesting. The Black Glove organization (which seemingly wasn't called as much yet here, and maybe took the name from Mayhew's film) is nothing if not an establishment for gambling.

    And as the pile next to me can attest ... the typical marker of membership in a gambling establishment (such as the casino I frequent) is an endless array of matchbooks and cigarette lighters.

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  41. Rikdad, concerning Hurt's past entanglements with Waynes, we are actually privy to Joshua's death beneath Wayne Manor in the catacombs, via a story in Shadow of the Bat. From a Wayne Family Tree/Time Line Outline I've been developing:

    "Joshua, later believed to be his brother Solomon upon the occasion's retelling, fought off bounty hunters with a cutlass to protect the former slaves he was assisting, wearing a black cloak in the shadows. This story proved to increase the legend of Solomon Wayne as a larger-than-life figure. Joshua's story is told in Shadow of the Bat 45 (1995).

    Joshua Wayne disappeared in 1860 when fatally injured and attempting to hide the secret of his family's involvement in the railroad. His disappearance is said to have been from his running away with a former slave named Ruth he'd fallen in love with, that he'd died at Gettysburg, he'd returned to their ancestral home in Europe, only his brother knew the truth, and he told no one ( Joshua's corpse would be discovered in the wine cellar many years later when Bruce Wayne was alive. His body wasn't identified, but a tombstone with "Joshua Thomas Wayne" went up in the family cemetery. An interesting bit of contradiction from Post-Crisis continuity and Post-Infinite Crisis continuity, in the story of Joshua and Solomon Wayne from Shadow of the Bat the two brothers purchase Wayne Manor in 1858, three years after it was constructed by once-wealthy magnate Jerome K. Van Derm, who took his own life after losing his money in failing businesses. It is interesting that Morrison used the Van Derm family when reconciling the conflicting origins of Wayne Manor Post-Crisis, of Darius Wayne commissioning the Manor and of Solomon and Joshua purchasing it wholesale). Also in Shadow of the Bat 45 (1995)."

  42. Hi Rikdad, love the annotations! I had some confusion about page 20 at the bottom. When bruce says "like the one who sent those hoods to the hospital"? Is he referring to himself? This line totally confused me.

  43. Ronnie, I think one of my favorite things about Return of Bruce (and "Batman vs. Robin", since it ties in) is the reconciliation of various accounts of Wayne Manor's history into a literal literary pedigree.

    By adding transitions from one possible "canon" to the next, Grant has brought its history to life amongst the greatest, most fully fleshed-out literary locales.

  44. On the subject Roddy Kane's moaning "Doo Auuumus".......
    The first thing I thought when I read that scene was "Dumas." Unless I am mistaken---the Order of St. Dumas has not been mentioned anywhere in Morrison's run (unless maybe the Return of Ras Al'Ghul, which likewise has not played a significant part in Morrison's run). Can you confirm that for me Rikdad? It seems rather late in the game to throw Dumas out of left field. On the other hand, it would nonetheless fit within the concept of different versions of the Batman (or "bat men") other than Bruce Wayne, which has been a major reoccurring theme since the very beginning of Morrison's run. Still, I doubt it.

    Thanks again for the awesome blog posts (can't wait until next week)!

  45. Doo Auuumus = Thomas

    In Arabic, Thomas is spelled/pronounced “Daummuz”

    Didymus is the Greek rendering of Thomas

    Thomas means “Twin”

    W = Double You...

  46. Rikdad,

    Another new reader that has bookmarked your excellent site. I haven't been this excited about a comic since Final Crisis and RIP. ROBW #5 had everything clicking together in an incredible way. Thanks for your great insight.

  47. The mystery of Doctor Hurt and his immortality/prolonged life.....

    ...well we are dealing with a time travel story, maybe Hurt is using time travel. He certainly didn't seem surprised when discussing the professors time machine invention.
    To further support this, in RIP Hurt informed LeBossu that he was able to *immediately* create the scandal regarding the dead mans suicide. This was portrayed at the time as a demonstration of the Black Glove's power in order for the scandalisation of the Waynes that came later to appear within the Black Glove/Dr Hurt's ability. But how could he do so in such a manner, with such speed and ease?

    The scandalisation of the Wayne's only served a purpose in the pages of RIP, for Hurt to be THAT prepared to establish the scandal and frame Thomas 30 odd years prior is a hell of a "just in case".

    I am starting to think that Hurt is a time traveller also and, in particular what we have seen in in RoBW #5 is a result of Hurt going back to establish the frame up that he needed for his plan in RIP.

    The obvious hole in this theory though is his lack of recognition of Bruce at the different times.

  48. Rikdad -
    you wrote "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"."

    I re-read #5 last night and was confused by this whole exchange. Who was covered up? When?