Wednesday, November 10, 2010
When Bruce first arrives at the end of time, thanks to Professor Nichols' time travel machine, the Archivists use the occasion to store his history into their permanent archive of the Universe. Bruce has an exalted role in the history of the universe – his is the last story to be stored and all of the final events in the universe involve him. The Archivists have a flair for the artistic: They create representations of the key items in Batman's mythic story: The pearls his mother wore, the bell he used to summon Alfred on the night he chose to become Batman, the gun and the bullets that took his parents' lives.
While completing their primary purpose for existing, the Archivists go to great lengths to help Bruce. He takes off the burning gangster clothing from ROBW #5 and undergoes a revival, what they refer, biblically, as a Lazarus Transformation. Affirming the essential, mythic characteristics of the situation, and Morrison's love of sigils, they arrange themselves in a "cardinal configuration", like the four points of the compass, as they begin to work with a Bruce who has regained his memory. Bruce describes the situation as familiar, because the urgency of the moment, and being hunted, is how Batman has spent his entire existence. At that comment, the original menace to Bruce, a bullet, is recorded as the absolute last detail to go into the archive of the universe.
Reflecting Morrison's love of science and technology, Bruce cannot help but be curious about the beings, assessing their hairy appearance as a characteristic of what roboticist Hans Moravec calls "bush robots." They, in turn, are fascinated by him, calling him and his appropriation of Nichols' time machine as one of history's great mysteries. They converse of platonic, universal matters while addressing the specifics of Bruce's problem. The timeline of Morrison's larger story, which began with a being dedicated to knowledge appearing before Anthro, ends with Bruce being assisted by these other beings dedicated to knowledge. Exemplifying Bruce's mythic stature, these beings who record the final archive of the universe are "honored" to assist him. They also tell him that this is to be his new beginning, which reminds us that Morrison's next season with Bruce will be something different and tells Bruce that these beings who know the full history of the universe already know that he's going to win this battle.
When the search party arrives, we have the first of many times that a scene or dialogue from a previous issue is repeated, this time from ROBW #2. This cuts sharply to the origin of Batman -- not the shooting, but the scene from his first night fighting crime, based on a scene in Detective #33, revamped by Frank Miller in Batman: Year One, and tweaked by Morrison to give it the characteristics of Edgar Allen Poe's The Raven in Batman #682, illustrated like this issue by Lee Garbett. This scene is referenced three times in ROBW #6, highlighting the importance of the bell that Bruce rang in a way that only becomes clear upon the third instance.
At Vanishing Point, Booster Gold's assistant Skeets becomes the voice of wisdom, telling the search party that the trap Bruce created is actually a time sphere, and it carries them from their doom to the battle in which they will be essential. They escape from the timestream only moments before it ends; this is the third of three final significant events in the DC Universe. Let it be noted that Rip Hunter gets the universe's last words: "The big all-over!"
In the present, the Bruce/Hyper-Adapter hybrid easily takes down a group of JLA members which conveniently contains none of the original or Satellite Era members. When his rampage leaves only Tim Drake standing, Tim plays a card that Bruce used to stop the monster of the original Blockbuster story in Detective #345 -- he removes his mask and allows his humanity and familiarity to stop the invincible threat. Bruce, amnesiac, remains hostile, but slows to a creak, chilling the room because of the contact he made with the universe's heat death. His nose bleeding to reflect the internal struggle, Bruce's words turn tender. "I know you. Tim." More meaningful than first names, he later, more poignantly says, "Robin."
It is this measure of control that Tim helped Bruce achieve that leads him to submit when Wonder Woman arrives. In Batman #701-702, Bruce reminds us that while he is a man, these other heroes are themselves mythic and gods. Wonder Woman sees the story in her own terms, calling the Hyper-Adapter a Fury and probably in reference to Pandora, asking if Darkseid opened a box to let that demon out.
Under the power of Diana's lasso, Bruce speaks the truth while we see the words of the Hyper-Adapter struggling to manipulate him, associating the identity of Diana with Martha Wayne by saying "Mother betrayed you! Mother lied! Mother Box lied! Tell her nothing! Tell mother nothing!" Apparently compelled to obey the letter of its command, but not the spirit, Bruce continues to tell Diana everything she asks while triumphantly and hilariously vexing the Hyper-Adapter by punctuating his words with the non sequitur "Nothing." It asked him to tell her nothing. He told her everything and also told her, as it commanded, "Nothing."
As a hint of the Darkseid-Doctor Hurt association which is reinforced later, it continued its rant with lies about Thomas Wayne, much the same as Hurt would have had Bruce believe: "Father hated you! Stay lonely! Stay dead forever father fear!"
With his memory intact, the Hyper-Adapter goes on the attack, with "time" being shown to us, in the form of the Hanged Man tarot card, which symbolizes devotion to a worthy cause and also displays the petrine cross which was so notoriously removed from the cover of B&R #15. We also see the pearls and bullet and the Wayne murders, the eclipsed sun from Bruce's legend-inspiring adventure in ROBW #1, the "HAHAHA" of the Joker, symbols of games -- cards and chess, a bat and the bat-symbol, and a constellation. These tokens of what Batman is are alluded to with single-word speech balloons covering everything from the Wayne murders to the Joker's apophenia-inducing puzzles to a "ka-pow" right out of the Adam West television show.
We know that Batman must win. But he once again out-plans the enemy plan. Batman needs a time sphere for his plan to work and though the Hyper-Adapter disabled one, the search party arrives with a second one. Batman reckons that urban pollution alone is one weapon against the Hyper-Adapter -- for air to pose a danger to an alien threat is as old as The War of The Worlds. But he hits every right note at once with the masterstroke of his plan -- he has brought the monster to fight the strongest members of the Justice League on their home ground. They are empowered not only by who they are but because this moment now is the Age of Superheroes (the importance of the era itself being a thing that Libra acknowledged in Final Crisis) and presenting a theme to be developed more later, the monster must moreover fight his friends.
The superheroes, however, cannot tear the Hyper-Adapter out of Bruce -- he has to do that on his own. But once it is out, it stands no chance. In the grip of Wonder Woman, Superman, and Green Lantern, it is helpless, and they throw it where Bruce instructs them, into the time sphere. As they do, Bruce tells us that it, like the New Gods, is an idea made real. He says of it what Vandal Savage's evil thugs said of him at the end of ROBW #3, that it "never tires, never stops." Becoming the image that has defined Bruce, it becomes a bat, as it begins a trip backwards in time to its own defeat. Along the way, it makes the appearance during which it briefly fought Dick Grayson during B&R #11-12. Compelled by the time sphere, it goes back like the time-traveling bullet from Final Crisis, probably making the stop along the way to encounter 1765's Thomas Wayne as part of this voyage and not as a residue from Bruce's previous visit in 1718. Finally, it arrives in 9,000 B.C. where it is killed by Vandal Savage. Its skin later adorns the site where Savage's tribe binds Bruce to the ground and Bruce wears it in triumph, creating the bat-legend that carries forward in time, ultimately linking back to this story and itself. DC Message Board poster dangerdrventure notes that consuming the flesh of this bat form of the Hyper-Adapter may be the source of immortality for both Doctor Hurt and Vandal Savage. Its death is a part of the same story that it thought it was using to doom Bruce and his world, another dramatic example of the folly of working against Batman.
A powerful fever threatens to kill Bruce in the wake of his possession. As he falls, he puts clues together, telling us that Darkseid had tried to incarnate in Doctor Hurt. Given the evil with which 1765's Thomas Wayne began, this does not meet the requirements of incarnation from Final Crisis #4, "the ruin of a powerful, noble spirit." Maybe because of this, Darkseid was not able to use Hurt as he was Turpin.
The narration switches to pure symbols and flashbacks as a near-death experience with Kirbyesque art shows us a conversation between Bruce and Darkseid in the silent battlefield full of tombstones and broken Ozymandius-style statues where the "war in heaven" that beat the good New Gods before Final Crisis had taken place. Moments after Bruce had expelled one bat-demon, we see a flashback to what was truly Morrison's first Batman issue, the scene in 52 #30 in which the Ten Eyed Men cut away Bruce's demon -- a scene that RetroWarbird notes showed a Barbatos-like demon floating away. Lines from throughout ROBW and Batman #701 appear in fragment and show the rush of the story to this one end. We also see that the man in the wheelchair from ROBW #5 was, as many suspected, an avatar of Metron, who reveals that he has set up the Fifth World and says that Bruce can end this threat to his life, and the threat of Darkseid, by articulating the first truth of Batman. And at that, we see the third flashback to the "bell" scene and realize its true significance -- though Joe Chill's gunshots left Bruce alone, vulnerable to the fear of loneliness, he was never alone. He is staring at a bat, perhaps a stop of the Hyper-Adapter on its path to the past. In Batman #682, it is called a "peculiar, beady-eyed specimen, quite unafraid." It ends with Alfred disposing of it in humiliating fashion, sweeping it up and burning it. But at the moment of Bruce's impending mortality -- as in Return of Bruce Wayne #6, he had salvation awaiting. In that story, Bruce's help came the moment he rang the bell -- it was Alfred, who looms gigantic over this story though he is never shown and is named just once. In this story, it is Tim -- Robin. It is Wonder Woman and Green Lantern. Superman. Batman's friends.
The ringing of the bell in the flashback sends a pattern of sound across the whole world. Batman is a figure far more prone to give his assistance than to need it himself. Tim, his partner, recognizes that the way to revive Bruce is to tell him that Gotham is in danger. This is not just a claim they make for its therapeutic value. It happens to be true -- these events take place during the culmination of Doctor Hurt's attack which played out in Batman and Robin #16. Bruce's thoughts reveal in flashbacks that wrap up the mystery of the casket, that it never held anything of power. It was always a red herring for Doctor Hurt to pursue. Its note reading "Gotcha!" was a second barb aimed at Darkseid and his servants using that word, because Bruce knew that it would eventually be seen by them, as it was when Hurt went on to open it at a moment that is probably just slightly after Bruce rises from the icy bath that cools his fever. He thinks of the evil that is Doctor Hurt, and underscores for us, speaking to a mystery that has spanned two years, exactly what Hurt is: "A pure strain of platonic evil." And that there is still time to stop it. Going alone to join the battle with Dick and Damian, Bruce reminds us that his mission is not done, and will not be until "the night is over." As the Archivists knew, the knight's not over yet.