Monday, November 1, 2010

Batman and Robin 16 Preview

The preview to this week's upcoming Batman and Robin #16 opens with a scene that captures a key scene from Peter Milligan's "Dark Knight, Dark City", a 1990 story that is exerting a heavy influence on the ending of this part of Grant Morrison's long Batman saga. However, while the original comic's scene matches this one in many ways, the small differences in the preview suggest something very fundamentally different instead of trivial.

We've seen these underground demonic rites three times now, counting Milligan's story and such a scene in Return of Bruce Wayne #5. In all three, when a group is about to commit itself to the will of an evil spirit, one man backs out. In ROBW #5, the man is Carter Nichols. In DKDC, the man was named Thomas -- Thomas Jefferson. In the B&R #16 preview, the man is also named Thomas, but is probably Thomas Wayne, as seen in ROBW #4, who goes on to become Doctor Hurt.

The great difference between this scene and the corresponding scene in the original is that in the original, the intended sacrificial victim is trapped alone in the cellar with what proves to be an actual large bat, but which manages to speak across the centuries to Batman when he frees it, and the woman's spirit, in the present. It should be noted that the DKDC story has certain parallels to Morrison's own "Gothic", which was being printed at the exact same time; an ad for DKDC even appeared in one issue of "Gothic."

Because the man who is trapped appears to have planned this moment he, not Jefferson, is probably the one who objected and caused the others to flee. In any case, this is certain to be the moment at which Old Thomas Wayne (OTW) acquires the life extension that seems to have lasted a touch over 200 years, at which point the aging process must have resumed, or the young-looking man could not now be posing as Bruce's father.

The preview shows us nothing of the source of the demon but the shrine upon which the victim lies. OTW's identification of bells with Barbatos indicates that Apokoliptan technology is probably present, but this is not clear, so perhaps no such artifact is actually in anyone's grasp.

Bruce's jump in time before this scene was to and from 1718, when Jack Valor was 15. Jack appears much older when he writes his journal; he would be 62 when this ceremony takes place, so it is possible that he witnesses the casket after the ceremony took place. His journal begins in 1746, when Jack would be only 43; it's not quite clear how the 18th century timeline works out.

We know that Hurt lost the casket c. 1880 and still had not found it by c. 1980. He tries to use a time machine -- a strange prop in a story about magic -- probably to grab Barbatos from a time when Hurt had seen him before. But Bruce grabbed the device at the moment it opened a portal, and then became something that he himself did not expect -- if Hurt set the device to a time useful to him, then this bat-demon is likely to be Bruce, somehow transformed as Nichols' device grabs him from the path that the Omega trap had set him on, in an image like the actual large bat from ROBW #1. This could be a series of juggling time portals. Maybe Bruce "ditches" the Omega trap here, or maybe he uses Nichols' device to carry it to the End of Time. Nichols' device, we were told, would require a huge energy source which Hurt somehow provides. Dick encounters an energy source in B&R that keeps him from communicating with Alfred. Whatever the logic and logistics of how these stories come together, the elements are all in plain sight. An energy source, evil will, two portals in time, a bat, and a bat man.

What we have yet to see is if this evil, supernatural but often sci-fi-seeming technology has anything truly demonic, in the sense that earthly Satanists would mean the word, about it.

Hurt, who appears alternately convinced that he is the Devil and aware that he is not, is perhaps headed for an existential comeuppance: If he finds out that the demon he worshipped is the good man who is destined to stop him, and that the great spiritual evil is just a sci fi gadget. On the other hand, he seems aware of the latter distinction in ROBW #5: "200 years ago, Barbatos was beyond our abilities to explain or comprehend -- a demon, a myth. Now we have dark science on our side. A new understanding of time and unearthly lifeforms." It doesn't seem that Hurt would be surprised or disappointed to learn that a box full of wires may have granted such power as he's gotten. And if he finds out that he has been "following" Bruce all these years, that's as much a blow to Bruce to have inspired evil as it is to evil to have been duped.

Milligan may or may not have intended for the appearance of a bat in his ceremony to correspond to the one who has, by legend, visited Bruce in his study, inspiring his guise -- a story element that Morrison depicts in Batman #682. Morrison may have been foreshadowing Hurt's fate when we see that bat's body scooped up by Alfred and set afire. Bats and the Devil surrounded in flames -- this is an image in B&R #3, as I show here.

Before Wednesday's finale of this story, I will post on the words of Doctor Hurt, how he describes himself. This preview shows him on the cusp of becoming what he is. B&R #16 will possibly follow his origin with his fate. Exactly what he made of himself in the meantime is a mystery whose answers may lie in past issues, or #16, or nowhere at all.


  1. I remember Old Thomas Wayne saying that he participated in a ritual with Thomas Jefferson and Darius Wayne in ROBW 4. That OTW causes the others to flee is pretty certain but it seems more likely that Jefferson is the one who protests the ceremony like he did in DKDC.

  2. One note William, Darius is identified as a relative of the Waynes along with "Mad" Anthony (a real life Revolutionary era American figure), not in conjunction with the ceremony. Thomas Jefferson is name checked along with the sacrifice, but Darius came up separately.

  3. WHUPS! You're right RonnieThunderbolts. I should have checked the book,

    "Yes, the bells of Barbatos, that's it! And all those statues! And paintings! Darius and Mad Tony, the Heroes of the Revolution!"

    "I stood in the circle with Jefferson when we raised batwinged Barbatos and drank the starry venom!"

  4. Mad Tony and Darius were rather like later incarnations of Waynes, I imagine. Brash, cocky and noble, but with their foibles. But not at all as demented as their occult cousin.

    The thought of Bruce's "ultimate mythic bat-man form" appearing throughout history at these key moments reminds me of Barry Allen's Crisis moment, where his sacrifice and degradation appears as visions to all these key people, going backward through time.

    In this case, something similar could be happening, where Bruce's myth comes to life and travels back in time, becoming more primal and bat-like with each jump backward. But it seems at least certain there is some real connection between the Prehistoric crypto-bat-beast, the Barbatos demon seen here, the Barbatos demon seen in ROBW#5, and probably the "Hunter/Bat-Orion-Maybe-Metron" form from the End of Time. And when I say "some connection", I don't just mean that Bruce wearing the bat-beast's skin inspired the legend of Barbatos.

    I'll jump back to something we all discussed WAY back during 52 and the Thogal ceremony ... the Ten-Eyed Men CUT OUT Bruce's demons (and a black, "shadow of the bat" was seen by our extra-dimensional eyes flying away on the horizon like a wisp of cloud ...)

    Where did they go?

  5. Note that "Mad Tony" is actually a real person: The one who inspired the name "Wayne" for the Batman character.

    Retro, that's a very good point. We have to ask what happened (and/or what Bruce think happened) in that ceremony. You wouldn't expect a reasonable man to ask other men to slash at him with swords just for the visual and therapeutic effects.

  6. It's all the hole in things, of course. Bruce had his demons exorcised ... quite literally. Yet another element for the Hyper-Adapter to pluck from continuity and plot-holes and "add" to the Devilish mix?

  7. Retro, I've been talking about the demons exorcised from Bruce by the Ten-Eyed-Men in relation to Hurt and all this since February. Before the Return of Bruce Wayne had begun I was engaging in a discussion on CBR where a poster was sure that Hurt was Bruce, and I was both countering, but trying somehow to accommodate the idea, to entertain it as valid, I decided that the demon cut from Bruce by the Ten-Eyed Men in 52 had to be the source of Batman's dark shadow/copy if there had to be a doppelganger involved.

    It goes off in a different direction, having at the time been unclear how the Omega Sanction would work, but I do think that the connection between that scene in 52 is very possible.

    I think it could very well have something to do with all this, and I think you're onto something.

  8. I remember that thread quite vividly.

    It is curious how every new issue that supposedly reveals something about Doctor Hurt ... older theories that are no less valid become at least ... somewhat less well-remembered.

    At this point, I quite believe that Barbatos, the Hyper-Adapter, and the demons exorcised from Bruce in the desert are one and the same. Possibly the Bat-Beast of 40,000 B.C. as well.

    If Hurt has some legitimate claim to that demon or not is the question. Is it nestled in his mind? Who owns this sucker? Bruce, or Thomas?

  9. I didn't see that the poster AJM mentioned the Ten-Eyed Men-exorcised demon first as a potential origin for Hurt at CBR, good on him, I think it makes a lot of sense.

  10. "The Shadow of the Bat come to life."

  11. Its interesting to think that Dr. Hurt has already been defeated many years in the past when Bruce escapes the Omega Sanction, and yet he doesn't even know it. I love this blog, thanks for your thoughts rikdad, this has been one mind bending ride Grant has put us on.

  12. Well, I mean ... a Batman with brief time travel capabilities ...

    You know an obsessive "preparation" guy like Bruce Wayne is going to go back and plant the means for victory all over the place.