Friday, March 1, 2013

Killing Damian Wayne

In 2006, the world’s greatest superheroes suddenly got three sons. In the film Superman Returns, we found out that Superman and Lois conceived a child way back in 1981’s Superman II. In DCU continuity, Superman and Lois adopted a Kryptonian son they dubbed Christopher Kent. And in the pages of Batman, Bruce Wayne found out that he had conceived a child with his lover/enemy perhaps during the same events narrated in the 1971 story that introduced Talia. Three sons introduced at the same time. Now, all of them are gone.

It has long been noted that Grant Morrison planned to kill off the Damian character as soon as he introduced him. In fact, the Batman and Son story ended with events that might have been interpreted as Damian’s death. But seven issues later, a quick scene established that Damian, thanks to his mother’s access to remarkable medical technology, would survive.

Damian played a major role in an al-Ghul crossover story, then reappeared briefly during the long storyline of Batman, RIP. After Battle of the Cowl, Damian had his longest time in the spotlight, as the second title character of the Batman and Robin title. While Damian has appeared in several titles over the past three and a half years, the centerpiece of his character development was in Morrison’s first sixteen issues of that new title, with Damian and Dick Grayson inverting the familiar dynamic of a serious Batman and a cheerful, punning Robin.

It appears to have been Morrison’s intention for this third long storyline, that of Batman, Inc, to have Damian be murdered by his own mother. It has been foreshadowed generally that someone would die, and specifically that Damian was the object of a murder plot, and now, with Batman Inc v2 #8, we appear to have seen this transpire.

We have also seen, in Batman #700, a future in which Damian becomes Batman, although this future was never guaranteed to take place. It resembles the one seen in Inc #5, and Bruce Wayne, following the information he saw at the end of time in Return of Bruce Wayne #6, took steps to prevent this from coming true. By firing Damian from the Robin identity, and as the heir as a subsequent Batman, Bruce Wayne effectively chose to save his city while sacrificing, on some level, his son. In the final scenes before Damian’s death, we saw the cat that would have been his pet had he gone on to be Batman in the future seen in Batman #666 and elsewhere. Small references taking the story backwards and forwards in time, like a double punch shared by Dick and Damian, and the minor character Ellie, first seen in the same story back in #664-665 where Damian returned from the dead.

Will he return from this death? Impossible to say. Inc v2 #1 ended with the apparent death of Damian, which proved to be a ruse. Batman: The Return opened with Bruce saving a man’s son from apparent death. The theme has been established. Whatever Morrison’s plans are, it could happen sooner or later in any case.

But what are Morrison’s plans for this story? A grand death has happened. Batman has suffered a tragic loss. The man who lost his parents to murder has now lost his son.

The solicits for upcoming issues run as follows:

9: The fallout from last month’s shocking turn of events has Batman on the run! Is The Dark Knight a murderer?
10: When only one can survive, which will it be: the man or the bat?
11: Batman’s world has been devastated by his war against Talia, but is he willing to give up on his own humanity?

These point to the flashforward seen in Inc v2 #1, where Bruce, mourning a loss, plans to quit the Batman role, upon which he is promptly arrested as a murderer. Clearly this is a plan on Talia’s part. Clearly, Bruce Wayne has to prevail on some level, and will save the world and Gotham from destruction, and also return to be its protector. But what of the loss of his son? When Grant Morrison took over the Batman character, he spoke of the grimness with which his predecessors had handled it. In an interview as well as in the pages of his stories, he included the death of Jason Todd as part of a pattern that had led Batman down too dark a path. How can Morrison feel that way then and kill Damian off now? We had Batman, RIP end with Batman climbing out of a grave to fight and win again. Jason Todd himself had died and come back, as did Dick Grayson in the old story Morrison cited, Robin Dies at Dawn. Will the grave, having let these other Batman and Robin return, prove inescapable for Damian?


  1. I would be seriously happy to read superhero comics for 20 more years and find Damian as the main Batman of the DCU. Sidekicks all over have grown into starring role. Dick Grayson, Wally West, Red Arrow in Justice League, Bucky as Captain America.

    Its only a matter of time before Kal El and Bruce Wayne go the way of Alan Scott and Jay Garrick.

  2. Sidekicks have taken over the starring roles, but this has all been undone. This probably hit its high water mark around 2004, when the JLA had Kyle and Wally. Now the Silver Agers are all back and Wally no longer even exists. The centrality of the Silver Agers has been reasserted multiple times, as Infinite Crisis restored a JLA origin with Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, the 2006 JLA title built around Silver Agers, and now post-Flashpoint, the previous versions of the JLA have not even happened.

    From the standpoint of cross-marketing alone, Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent are permanent fixtures. They've been rotated out of the lineup temporarily, but DC appears to recognize the cash flow from other ventures, particularly video games, which are not as amenable to plot changes because the audience isn't reading stories.

    Alan Scott and Jay Garrick have gone the way of Alan Scott and Jay Garrick. The characters in the Earth Two title with those names don't resemble the 1940s characters much more than Hal Jordan and Barry Allen resembled them. They've kept the names and the hair colors, but little else.

    Will there be another future era, like the 90s, when DC makes widespread changes to its lineup? I suspect not anytime soon, because of cross-marketing.

  3. I am concerned about Bruce Wayne's future personality.

    Morrison has commented a few times that he would put the toys back in the box after his run ended. Does that include shelving the well-rounded personality of Bruce Wayne that he cultivated since Batman #655 Vol. 1? Back to the "brutally physical vigilante of the ‘80s and snarling, paranoid soldier of the ‘90s?"

    That would be disappointing, but Damian's death guarantees a regression to that persona---to me at least. And it seems like something quite a few writers want(I think of Tony Daniel's desire to write Bruce Wayne as Batman instead of Dick Grayson for example). It doesn't take much craftsmanship to write Batman like that. But given the new 52's obsession with physical mutilation across the Bat books and more, it seems like what the editors want.

    Which sort of ties into your point on the cross marketing that DC is tied down to. Bruce Wayne as a bitter, coldhearted one dimensional loner has thrived on Video Games---- Paul Dini's Arkham City storyline.

  4. Because there is a timeskip, previous sagas COULD still be cannon, just not referenced until it is convenient. Pre Crisis Planet Lexor storyline, and Post Crisis Whats So Funny About American Way could each have happened if a writer chooses to reference it.

  5. Flaschemusik, from that essential 2006 Grant Morrison interview about Batman, one of the "outs" I feared was that his talk of presenting a lighter, less grim Batman consisted in large part of giving Dick Grayson a time in the bat-role, which certainly accomplished the goal very quickly. However, it's clear that Morrison felt like the the grimness needed to be replaced.

    It's interesting that B&R had metatextual commentary on the undesirable aspects of Jason Todd's death, and that Jason has been prominent in this story for his presence, but for no seemingly necessary purpose.

    While Inc is not a mystery, from this point forward, in the whodunit sense, I think there's enormous mystery as to where this story is going. What's it doing? Why? The last issue twice asserted that Talia is or could be a more meaningful villain than the Joker. Structurally, I don't know where the story is going. Bruce will come back as Batman... is that it? It wouldn't be like Morrison for that basic plot point to be it.

  6. Yes, Rikdad, I can't recall a maxi-series where two-thirds of the way through it, I have barely a clue where the story is headed. Is this a Shakespearean-level tragedy, in which the climax has occurred that informs the rest of the play? Is there an odd twist coming that will only make sense after it happens? My one hope is that Bruce and Talia have a meaningful confrontation/discussion before this is through (Azzarello's Thomas Wayne-Martha Wayne encounter in part 3 of Batman: Flashpoint comes to mind as a painful conversation that proved wrenching to readers.).

  7. ManWithTenEyes, I'm looking to see if there's an angle to address these questions. With RIP, I found it useful to sketch out the simplest possible ending that would be acceptable and see what options seemed to exist once that ending was fulfilled.

    Here, what would that be? It seems like it would be a series of Bruce-vs-Talia moves, with her winning at least one (the death of Damian) and him winning, with difficulty, the rest. That seems anticlimactic and "busy". We know that she seems to have the upper hand at the moment. We know more attacks from Talia are coming. We know from general principles (eg, Gotham will not be destroyed) that most of them won't succeed. But what else is coming? What point will it make? That's what I'm asking myself, and I'm looking at RIP and the Dick-and-Damian run in B&R to see if there's a general template that might apply here.

    1. In both RIP and B&R, their respective Batmans had an approach that outfoxed Dr. Hurt (Bruce's backup personality in the former, preparations at Wayne Manor in the latter). I don't see a similar ace in the hole for our hero at the moment. Batman Inc. was supposed to represent Bruce's penchant for preparation, but a lot has gone wrong these past few issues, as if he's recognizing the limits of even the most involved preparation. If so, what does Bruce Wayne do now?

  8. Things we having coming...

    1. Fallout of Damian's Death

    2. Bruce Wayne Frame-Up

    3. Whatever Spyral and Kathy Kane are up too.

    4. Confrontation between Batman and the Heretic.

    I think that's enough for 80-100 pages (The last issue might be big, we'll know by next Monday).

    I'm really curious how Bruce Wayne reacts to the Heretic. He's essentially Damian, and in some ways innocent, as he was completely manipulated by his mother, but I have a feeling Batman might try to kill him (Bruce Wayne apparently will 'lose his humanity' in issue 11, according to the solicits).

  9. Mac, there's definitely a lot coming up. Morrison has recently said that most of what's coming is Batman getting revenge on Talia, and that she has massively underestimated him.

    Part of Bruce's vision of the future was two headstones. Damian, obviously; the Knight could be the second. If not, that leaves one more death to come, and the cover of #11 has not been released, which is intriguing.

    There's a swirl of mystery around this: We have the second headstone, Bruce Wayne being under arrest, and the possible forthcoming fate of the Heretic. Are those three different items, two, or one? eg, if Bruce kills him, it may not be a frame-up. But the Heretic is mentioned in the solicit for #12. Note that the issues may skip around in time, so what happens and what is in the solicits/issues, may not be chronologically arranged.

    I expect to post soon again on Inc, although I've put many of my loose thoughts into this comment.

    1. Rikdad, check out the interview this week with Morrison. He says the red and the black theme from RIP comes back in these last few issues. Hmmmmmm.

  10. ManWithTenEyes,
    That's a great pointer; I'll check it out at once. Some people may have noticed that when Batman awakens in the safe that he has to escape from, the red-and-black checkerboard pattern appears as a background element. My interpretation of that is that Bruce and Talia are playing a two-sided strategy game, no more no less. In that light, the red and black may be a motif. But it does conjure memories of RIP and the power Morrison showed in making the slightest things seem potentially highly meaningful.

  11. When Heretic is unmasked I am pretty sure we will see the Damian of 666. There is always a possibility that this future will be left open as a 'possible', with Damian's invulnerability explained, as well as Barbara's hostility, and his promise never to kill again becomes more poignant. Would mean this Damian was not necessarily aware of his past, and may genuinely not remember the things he did - now hazily remembered as a death at a crossroads.

  12. Arvind, Talia says as much that Heretic is the Devil-Batman of the future, although his size alone makes it seem like he can't be, at least as drawn.

    Looking at the "dark" Superman that Morrison criticizes in Action (and even in Animal Man), I wonder if all of his takes on Damian from #666 forward portray him as the sort of Batman that Morrison thinks should NOT exist. An interesting line in Batman #700 is when Dick Grayson says that Damian would be the worst Batman of all time. Grayson is kidding, but perhaps Morrison was not.

    For what it's worth, Damian appeared in Injustice: Gods Among Us, so in other continuities, he lives on.

  13. So, can we all agree that the scene in Batman Inc. #1 is not from Batman Inc. #9?

    Batman Inc. #1 shows a second grave and Batman Inc. #0 explicitly states that Batman saw "two headstones and the world in flames". So, who is going to be the second major death?

    If it's Talia, who usurps her in Leviathan? My guess is either Kathy Kane or Heretic and his clone army.

  14. Mac, you are definitely correct. The scene in #1 shows:
    a) Two similar obelisk-shaped tombstones. Damian's in #9 is one of those, but the second one has not yet appeared.
    b) The GCPD shows up before Bruce walks away from the grave.
    c) Bruce's attitude in #1 is of defeat. In #9, he vows revenge.

    After #8, I thought the Knight might possibly be the second death, but his burial takes place in England, so he's definitively not the second one.

    Also, note that in #9, the GCPD have broken with Bruce Wayne / Batman Inc as a concession to Leviathan, whereas in #1's flash forward, Bruce Wayne is under arrest.

    With three issues to go in Inc, I remain very uncertain of where the story is going. Bruce will ultimately make Talia regret that she tangled with him; of that, there is no doubt. But if there is a grand finish being planned, what is it? Will it be like Action, a flourish that wraps up the plot points and leaves future writers a relative blank slate? Will Morrison close with a status-changing thunderbolt? (Damian's death in a sense does this already, but then why is the story continuing?) Will we see, as we did in Morrison's "Batman" and Return of Bruce Wayne a bigger picture, in which Talia / Leviathan is at (or not at) the top of a humongous pyramid of all crime and criminality... or is it just Talia, as it seems on the surface?

    I'll try to put the questions and other observations such as I see them together this week.

  15. Consider for a moment that Damian will not stay dead. Bruce didn't stay dead, Jason didn't stay dead, and Joker never stays dead. It could even be faking his death ala DKR

  16. Jacob,

    I think Damian's really dead. That's not to say that he couldn't be revived in the future by other creative talents, but DC is investing in the statement that Damian is dead: The other Batman titles are assertive in pushing this idea forward, and it's abundantly clear that the various writers aren't generally working together in any useful way. This isn't the "Triangle Era" of Superman where the plotting is coordinated. It's very uncoordinated. But Damian is dead in all of them.

    Jason didn't stay dead, but the DC braintrust of 1988 PLANNED on him staying dead. This is like that. Different creators years later brought him back.

    Nobody ever planned on Bruce staying dead. This is not like that.

    Incidentally, the series will now run to issue #13 (not #12), then end. And the solicits are not strictly adhering to the issues anymore, as of #9. Both of these have been regular occurrences with the ends of Morrison's runs, so there's no great surprise. But we have four issues of Inc to go.