Friday, April 26, 2013

Batman Inc, Endgame

With three issues left in Batman, Inc. there's more coming than the story we've seen so far seems to require. Talia believes that a grand finale begins with the moment that issue #10 ended. But a battle won't last three issues. And we have seen, in #1, a look forward that includes a second funeral. In that flash forward, Batman once again appears to be a normal man, which means that he will have willingly reversed his transformation into a man-bat. And yet, that funeral leaves Bruce speaking of defeat, before being arrested by Jim Gordon, and that will require yet another series of twists. Where is this story going?

First, a list of the pending mysteries: Sivana's photonic crystal. The identity of the headmistress. The detail that Ra's says that Talia forgot. Whose death causes the second headstone in Bruce's vision? And overall, just where is this going?

Oroboros, Otto Netz's invention that allowed him to build a meta-bomb, a ring around the world, and Sivana's photonic crystal are both meta-materials. Unlike many comic book gadgets, these actually exist, and on small scales, actually do allow such otherwise impossible properties as a lens that pulls out detail smaller than the wavelength of the light that passes through them, and as mentioned in the comic, invisibility. If the importance of this is simply to give Batman one more weapon in his coming battle, then this will have its role, which should pass quickly. However, as this was introduced in the first issue of Inc, and has been mentioned more than once since then, it probably has a larger importance, related to the meta-bomb threat rather than as a mere battlefield weapon. The common language used to describe both and the explicit comparison of the two seems like more than coincidence.

The headmistress from Leviathan Strikes has been conspicuously hidden from full view in each appearance. We see her once with black nails, once with red. She wears a revealing dress in #10, and we find out that she's on Batman's side while she appeared to be on Leviathan's. And with the girls she trains wearing costumes in the style of the original Batwoman, others have guessed that she indeed is Kathy Kane, the original Batwoman whom Morrison has shown at several intervals in his epic. As of Inc v1 #3-5, she has been rewritten as a double spy, who was asked to betray Batman, and began that assignment but did not complete it. We know that Scorpiana is an underling of the headmistress, and we know that both Kathy Kane and Scorpiana dance the tango of death. Batman seems confused about the true identity of the headmistress, and he also seems convinced that Kathy Kane really is dead. Overall, the pattern is most easily completed if it turns out that Kathy Kane faked her death and has been seeming to work for Leviathan but will now fall in line and come to her former lover's assistance. For her to seem unscrupulous and turn out to be something more was even foreshadowed back in Batman #682, when Morrison's "Last Rites" story showed her leaving Bruce, prompting a young Dick Grayson to say, "There's something about her I don't trust." At the end of Leviathan Strikes, we see a woman speaking to Matron (the head of Spyder) about the death of Netz, and about her obvious familiarity and hatred of him, a hatred well explained in her recruitment into Spyder by Netz, who claimed to be her father. This woman has the Fifties hairstyle Kathy Kane was known for; it seems clear that Kathy Kane remains high up in Spyral.

Kathy Kane's death at the hands of the Sensei's men is a curious fact for Morrison to reference. The original Batwoman nearly disappeared from DC continuity in the early Sixties, but made a very brief appearance in which she was killed in 1979's Detective Comics #485. A fact of that story, which I will mention later, may prove to be a key plot element still to be seen in this one.

In Inc v2 #2, Talia visits Ra's, at his request. He announces that she will remain his prisoner, but she turns the tables and makes him her prisoner. The issue is full of flashbacks summarizing the history of Ra's, Talia, and Batman. The battle of wills between father and daughter is full of betrayals and reversals, recapitulating the events of #2 itself, in which he forbids her to fight a war against Batman, which seems only to strengthen her resolve. We don't see Ra's again until #10, in a scene that borrows atmosphere from the famous Batman-Joker scene in The Killing Joke, and again in DC Universe #0, when a captive foe seems to hold power over their captor. Just as the Joker plays cards by himself in both those scenes, Ra's plays chess by himself in this one.

The details of Ra's's chess game are obvious allegories to the main action, with red representing Talia's side (she wears red through most of #10), and black representing Batman's. First we see a red rook capture a black pawn. This is the Heretic killing Damian. Damian is even referred to as a pawn in #2. This is followed by a move in which the dark knight captures the red queen, and the meaning of the dark knight should require no explanation.

Multiple clues point to the fact that Ra's is not actually a prisoner at all, except in the literal sense. For Talia to have been revealed as the villain in this story came far too early, when the story has yet to climax.

1) In the aforementioned Detective #485, Ra's visits Batman and tells him that the Sensei was behind Kathy Kane's murder. He later says explicitly that he did so in order to use Batman against Sensei, so that the battle will weaken both of them, leaving him to emerge victorious.

2) The chess game itself, representing Batman and Talia is literally being played by Ra's. In that the pieces represent other people, we are seeing Ra's as the main agent, using others (as when he "forbids" Talia from fighting Batman) to weaken one another. In Detective #485, this was against Sensei (retroactively defines as Ra's's father by Morrison). Now the same dynamic skips a generation, with Ra's working against his daughter. Clearly he ends the scene smug, in control. His control is likely to become the central fact of the story's climax.

In addition, there is a very cagey geographical detail in the story which is unlikely to be a coincidence. The setting of Ra's's imprisonment is in Switzerland, by a mountain called Jungfrau, German for young woman. This mountain is invariably considered one of a trio, along with the Eiger (Ogre) and Mönch (Monk), all visible in one panoramic sweep. These map onto the key players in the story with Batman as the Monk and Talia as the Maiden. Perhaps the brutish and powerful of the Heretic indicate that he represents the Ogre, but the legend implies that the Ogre is a threat to the Maiden, whereas the story (and the chess symbolism) indicate that Heretic is a mere physical force serving Talia, alternately the Queen and the Maiden.

For the story to end, we also need another death to take place, one that makes Bruce mourn greatly, and for him to place a grave on the grounds of Wayne Manor. The best fit for this may be Kathy Kane, who could die as soon as she returns, just as she did in 1979.

Ultimately, something big is at stake. The battle with Talia is due to begin at 11 o'clock and what is 11 o'clock but an occurrence before the climax, which Morrison has twice (once with the Joker, once with Doctor Hurt) set at midnight. Morrison has also made mention of midnight in reference to Darkseid and Mandrakk. 11 o'clock is a pointed choice on his part to say that Bruce's battle with Talia is not the climax, but the thing that comes before the climax. We've seen enough mention of apocalypse and the Devil to wonder if the Heretic, Fatherless, is that climax, and yet Heretic appears simple, easily dominated in a battle of wills despite his enormous physical power. Ra's, on the other hand, looks calm and collected, and calling the shots. The endgame, the midnight battle, may show us what happens between Batman and Ra's once Talia has served her purpose as Ra's's tool.


  1. Rikdad -- Thank you. As always, a rich analysis, pulling from what is right in front of the reader and what is not. The Kathy Kane sequence in Inc. V.1 was so lyrically written, it would make sense that she returns, turns the tide and then tragically dies. And if you are correct about Ra's, then going forward he is once again among Batman's greatest villains (and not Talia, who suggested she might become that back in issue #7.)

  2. The constant rain is also something that will be addressed. Weaponized rain has been a feature of the future-Batman world, and will play a part in the present. Is it part of Talia's plan? Is it something Kathy has bene working on (after all, her father was able to control the weather)? Or has Batman anticipated things and weaponized the rain himself so that it would protect his city?

  3. Maybe we are misreading the symbolism of Ras' chess game, and the mountain trio. What if the red queen piece is actually supposed to symbolize Kathy Kane? (Batwoman wears read).
    What if Ras plans on placing his mind into his daughter's body like in Batman Beyond? HE is the maiden, not truly a prisoner. The Monk is on HIS side. What if Batman is not the Monk, but rather the Ogre?

    What would that symbolize, Ridkad?

    Also, since Damian clearly has a double, and body-switching/possession IS an Ah Ghul family tradition... What if Ras actually IS Damian. As in Damian is in his father's body to manipulate Talia and defeat Batman's enemies from the inside.

  4. Strong analysis. I'm embarrassed to admit I hadn't considered that Ra's' comments to Talia foreshadow more than her inevitable defeat, but rather imply that Ra's is in fact the true driving-force who is pulling the strings in the background. It makes a lot of sense, especially considering the Kathy Kane-Sensei-Ra's connection from 'Tec 485. (I remembered her death, but had forgotten the context.) Ra's as the mastermind would be interesting because (1) it would indeed tie-up the last lingering tidbits of Morrison's arc (Ra's' resurrection) and (2) because I've actually read an interview (don't remember where) wherein Morrison sort of impugned Ra's al Ghul as a character he doesn't have much affinity for because he doesn't find him very interesting or something to that effect.

    Also, great pick-up on Dick's comments re: Kathy's trustworthiness in Batman 682. I think 'Last Rites' (Batman 682 & 683) is often overlooked for it's significance in both explaining that which had happened up to that point in Morrison's run, and foreshadowing that which was yet to come.... I agree that Kathy Kane as the headmistress makes a ton of sense, so much so that I hope there's no "twist" to it other than the clues we've been handed thus-far.

    So here comes some uninformed speculation not supported by anything other than a plot-twist that would more or less make sense: The only other character whose death might rise to the level of being interred on the Wayne grounds along with Damian might be his mother, Talia, for whom Bruce has historically had both great affection and consternation. He might be more inclined to honor her with such a grave if her death is the result of Ra's machinations and/or comes at Bruce's hands inadvertently or overtly (which would be a significant twist in itself since BATMAN DOESN'T KILL).

    Anyway, my only other quibble is that insofar as I can tell, it's "Ra's" and not "R'as" -- at least that's how all the online sources spell it. Of course, I could always be missing some original spelling from the 1970s or something....

    As always, thanks for the great insights!

  5. Things I would like to see before the end of the run:

    1.Batman defeating Leviathan and honoring Damian with a 'tt'

    2. Heretic eventually removing his armour and revealing the shaven-headed Batman of 666.

  6. Kathy Kane must have a more sinister role in this story. Bruce and Kathy's atavistic transformation as depicted in Batman V1 #683 and Batman Inc. V1 # 4 prominently features a grotesque whale like beast with bat wings. In the Last Rites issue, the beast has a heart-shaped tongue. The second appearance, Fairburn highlights the creature in blue amongst a pink background. Also Burnham discreetly drew in a soldier among the foliage with an oroboros symbol on the chest.

    Is that simply foreshadowing? Or could it be a plot by Kane to make this hallucination happen for real?

    1. WHUPS! I'm sorry it's Batman V1 #682, not #683.

  7. Man with Ten Eyes,
    Talia's discussion of being Batman's number one enemy is definitely worth noting, as is her level of ruthlessness. She feels she has to be especially evil, but we've seen in her grief for Damian that she really isn't. But Ra's (thank you for the correction, Nairu; I'll edit my post later) is. This makes it still more clear that Ra's is really a bigger villain in this story than Talia.

    Another Ra's-related loose thread: The British authorities mention a Lazarus Pit with regards to reviving the Knight. This mention is unlikely to go without having an active role later.

  8. Arvind,
    Good catch on the rain. Although we've seen rain as a motif in many of Morrison's Batman issues before and it doesn't always play an active role. Eg, The Clown at Midnight, and the scene of Batman's burial in RIP.

  9. Alfred mentions in the third issue that it's curious weather for the time of year, but the discussion gets cut off. Batman just comments that it's 'changeable'. It has been raining intensely over the run, and it's still raining in the scene we saw in the first issue of volume two.

  10. Arvind, it's definitely worth reconsidering the rain. I'd like to see all of the uses of it.

    The conversation between Batman and Lane at the beginning seems to point towards the Heretic being the future Batman from Bruce's vision, although one detail, his size, would seem to make that impossible. Perhaps that's to be swept under the carpet. Perhaps Morrison's run will end with the #666 future looming as a far-off threat that is neither prevented nor fulfilled. Or maybe Bruce will produce a definitive removal of that threat now. It's curious how it might fit in with the rest of the story, as it seems to further neither Talia's nor Ra's's goals. We saw in #2 that Talia had a mole inside the Black Glove. But the vision in #5 seemed to show Hurt as the only one who gets what he wants in that outcome. And yet, if Ra's is the central figure in the Inc saga, perhaps the destruction of Gotham is his goal.

  11. Jacob, the old-school Batwoman mainly wears yellow (with a lot of black, in some versions). If there's a symbolic trio at the center of this run, there's no question that Talia is one of the major players.

    The amount of attention given to Batwoman, as with Ra's, is suspicious if they have no further roles. But this can't turn out now to have Batwoman end up a bigger player than Talia.

    I think there's little doubt that Damian is truly dead until/unless a later team of creators brings him back. And Ra's's role in the story precedes Damian's death. I don't see any chance that the Ra's speaking in #10 was anyone but Ra's.

  12. flaschemusik, the grotesque creature originally appeared in Batman #153, which was, I believe, the first single story to fill an entire issue of Batman. The imagery of this has been reused by Morrison three times now: Once in the Black Casebook when Tim reads it in #678, once in Last Rites, and now in Inc. In the original story, it's an actual alien on another planet. In Morrison's retelling, it's a hallucination Bruce and Kathy share after exposure to a villain's mind-control compound.

  13. Nairu, thanks. I also saw the interview where Morrison seemed to put down Ra's, which caught my attention at the time. We have to ask why he put Ra's and Kathy Kane into this story so much if they don't have larger roles to play. The interview struck me as odd at the time; now I think it was probably deliberate misdirection.

    I meant to mention that Kathy Kane, being family, would make sense for being buried on the Wayne grounds (although if she is believed to be dead already, she should have a grave, even if a fake one, already). However, if either Kathy or Talia die, this in a sense kills Bruce's family, a wife and a son. And this is a pattern we've seen before, including in the evil Thomas Wayne scene in Batman and Robin #13. In fact, there has been a high number of situations in Morrison's run where a man kills his mate (I've counted it before; it may be in double digits), so perhaps we'll see that pattern continue if Bruce brings about the death of either Kathy or Talia. In fact, if Bruce is to be charged with murder, as the solicits hint, that leaves us a murder victim, real or false, yet to come.

  14. I don't have anything to add, except I seem to remember Burnham referring to the 2 issues of The Resurrection of Ra's al Ghul a few weeks back on his twitter, seems like I (we) might need to re-read that story quickly, I know we all sweep it under the rug because it's not part of the Black Glove/RIP story, but maybe there are small clues there. Just a thought. I have a hard time seeing how this can all wrap up in 3 issues, but I believe in Morrison, it's going to be Epic. - @kukheart

  15. kukheart, the Resurrection story has interesting elements that reflect the same theme. In the first of Morrison's two issues, Batman stops a threat that he believes to be from Talia and he is told later that it is from Ra's. Then Talia's men refuse to obey her because they serve Ra's. We've seen this dynamic go back and forth between those two.

    I think we'll see Bruce beat Talia in one battle, with his allies coming to help. This may take one or two issues. Then there isn't much time for the significance of the Ra's reveal to play out. It may simply define a new status quo rather than run its course in a battle.

  16. I would not at all be surprised to see Hurt rear his head a final time in this run. His death was supremely non-definitive for Morrison, who seems to sort of relish in the jarring effect that brutally killing off a major character (good or bad) can have on the reader. Hurt's been referred to as The Devil countless times and despite his apparent demise, the references keep coming. We saw him in future-Damian's nightmarish endgame. Lane alludes to him at the beginning of the latest issue. For nearly the duration of Morrison's run, a "deal with The Devil" has been referenced with great regularity. We've been led to believe that Damien makes that deal, but Damien is dead now. So that leaves two options as far as I can figure. Someone else has or will make the mistake of striking a deal with Hurt, or Damien will do it in an upcoming issue, which seems unlikely to me. I see three candidates for this deal: R'as, Joker, Talia. Perhaps this is the stone Talia has left unturned that causes R'as to laugh so manically in Inc #10. As far as his chess game go, red and black may represent Talia and Bruce respectively, and R'as is indeed playing, but the image of the board itself is tied to Hurt, The Joker, and Batman's endeavor to best The Devil; an objective that is again referenced in #10.

    What intrigues me is that though Talia seems to be losing her shit, Bruce has become a monster potentially worse than the ones he's been fighting. He's wearing a mech-suit that's hurt every wearer, body-armor that corrupts him, and has injected Man-Bat serum that seems to have not done much but make him feral and super-scary, but regardless... He's become the twisted version of himself that Hurt aspired to create, and he didn't have to kill anyone for it to happen. Though I suppose he may yet. That would be one shocking, potentially rewarding and game-changing event that this could all be building to.

  17. Andrew, definitely one would think after all the buildup around Hurt that he might occupy the ultimate villain position in Morrison's bat-universe. His appearance in #5 seems to cement that he is alive, and given that he's over 200 years old, that seems natural. Moreover, the very symbolism of Leviathan has at several points in time pointed to the dark, devilish, even biblical evil that is a match with Hurt. The question is whether he's an active party in what's happening or if he's more like a force of nature that Talia or Ra's might (unwittingly) unleash. In fact, that's what #5 asserts, as it's Hurt who causes Gotham's destruction.

    On your second point, you're quite right, and the solicits seem to emphasize this: Will Bruce become something terrible in his effort to win this battle? In the short run, he has, but it seems like Morrison has to put all the pieces back as they were before he ends his stint with DC.

  18. Nairu, here is the interview snippet where Morrison is asked about Ra's and Morrison throws Ra's under the bus, so to speak. Earlier in the interview, Morrison notes that he writes more about fathers than mothers. This is from August 2011. Note: This was written before it was revealed that Talia is Leviathan, so it is already sharply contradicted by the story, because Morrison is saying we'll see a "bit more" of Talia AND Ra's, of course hiding the big reveal that was to come 1.5 issues later, that Talia is Leviathan. That was greatly delayed by Flashpoint, but would have appeared only weeks later if Flashpoint hadn't happened.


    CA: So we'll see a lot more of her and Ra's and...?

    GM: We'll see a bit more of those characters, because... I don't like Ra's al Ghul much, and I think it was actually a good idea to get rid of him.

    Read More:


    With three issues to go, I don't know if there's time for the story to evolve into a big Ra's-vs-Batman plot; it may suffice simply to show Ra's gloating over his design, as revealed on the chessboard, that red and black take one another's pieces. There's a bit more to look into this idea, which may merit another full post, tracing how Talia always defies Ra's in Inc v2 #2, as well as in Batman #670. Surely by now, Ra's has figured out that he can goad Talia into actions by telling her to do the opposite.

    The question is, what happens next in this story after the 11 o'clock battle concludes. I think it would be interesting to line up all four of Morrison's long Batman stories and see what the overall design of them has been, in a comparative sense. What his goals were, the motifs used, and how he ends them.

  19. Two quick thoughts:

    * The goat references proceed apace in Inc. #10. These date back to at least Prof. Pyg's oddness in B&R #14. Some message there, although I'm not always sure what.

    * The final image of Inc. #10, of Batman as bat flying toward Wayne Tower, is an echo of Damian rocketing to the rescue at the start of #8, when a henchman says it sounds like the screeching of a bat. Parallel moments, in Morrison's mind, no doubt.

  20. Hey Rik, I was wondering if you've ever put out a prefered reading order. For instance I'm wondering what the best way is to read B&R and TROBW, when to read the missing chapters for RIP, etc. Also do you think that Morrison's old JLA series is relevant to his current Batman work or Final Crisis? Thanks.

  21. Man With Ten Eyes,
    "Goat" seems to stick on the idea of "Gotham" being derived linguistically from it as "goat town." Incidentally, in Lane's lines, Morrison quotes himself again on the upside-down star having the two upraised points like a goat.
    Good point on the parallel. Morrison loves those, too.

    In an interview, Morrison cites the importance of Ouroboros to the story: That it turns back on itself. The amnesia in the various Netz plots produces repetition that is a cycle. The al-Ghul family provides a lot of opportunities for things to turn back on themselves. Note that Morrison put a time loop into both Final Crisis and Return of Bruce Wayne, and perhaps Action.

  22. Bones, that's a great request and I've given it some thought. There are three ways to put Morrison's stories in order:

    1) Publication order (how we read them as they were published).
    2) Chronological order (calendar time within the DCU).
    3) Order of Batman's experience (tangled because of the time travel).

    One quirk I always think is interesting: Final Crisis began when RIP was in progress, so it was unclear who was Batman in FC #1. If you read the stories according to (2) or (3), that's not even slightly a mystery, but it was for us who read according to (1).

    In fact, because issues skip around in time, it's hard to actually do (2) or (3). Moreover, Bruce and Dick have different timelines during the overlap between B&R / ROBW. So I might think about this and go with a blend.

    There are definitely elements from GM's JLA relevant to Final Crisis. There was a timeline in Rock of Ages that showed the Earth after Darkseid had conquered it that had obvious overlap with FC. And Morrison's depiction of Batman as supremely effective (as in JLA #3) shapes his portrayal in "Batman", etc. His story in JLA Classified #1-3 used the Knight and Squire and overlapped with both RIP and Batman, Inc. I suspect a careful reading would find at least dozens of connections. I also remember noticing a borrowed phrase as when the Joker says "I don't know whether to laugh or cry" in both Rock of Ages and in the Arkham scene in DC Universe #0.

    That reading order, I should do soon. I have a bit of it organized already.

  23. Anybody else thinking we'll see the Joker in issue #12?

  24. Mr. Donut Man,

    The reference to "the great Joker" in #10 is certainly provocative and not coincidental. (The original Nostradamus uses the words "grand Iouialiste.")

    In Morrison's 70+ issues on Batman, he has had almost every plot end up being the work of one of five master villains: The Joker, Doctor Hurt, Ra's, Talia, or Darkseid. Many plots which had some other villain seem to be at work ended with the other villain being revealed as a pawn or subordinate of one of those five. That's a remarkable focus, probably unprecedented in any comparable comic run. What Morrison reveals is a desire to make each battle ultimate, definitive, with a villain who is almost cosmic in their evil.

    This is one reason why I've always been underwhelmed by Talia as the master villain of Inc; she hasn't traditionally been portrayed as ultimate, and if we wonder if Morrison is trying to make her ultimate, I think the last two issues have dissipated that: Ra's is more pleased by events than she is, and he knows he will witness her defeat. He's the bigger villain.

    However, we may wonder if Doctor Hurt or the Joker will step up to play a symbolic or direct role in the finale. In fact, we already saw that in #5, where the destruction of Gotham was triggered by an attack by the Joker (quite a bit like the one the Joker imagines at the end of Batman #676) and then finished off by Doctor Hurt.

    Perhaps the mention of "Joker" was a deliberate red herring, perhaps it heralds his arrival in this plot, but it was certainly not accidental.

  25. Rikdad, love reading your blogs, always good stuff. I share your reservations about Talia as the master villain in this story, I've long suspected that Dr.Hurt is manipulating events behind the scenes.

    I've elaborated on some of the reasons I suspect this over on the DC message board:

    What are your thoughts on this story ending with Batman defeating Dr.Hurt?, or are we done with the involvement of Hurt/Darkseid?

  26. Hey, rikdad.

    Glad to see you're been writing commentaries again!!! The Ra's angle is definitely interesting, and not something I noticed until I read your commentary.

    In an interview, Morrison claimed that "what I did was base my entire run on this idea of the bad father, the bad mother, and the bad son ... And the bad father was Dr Hurt. And in the story the bad mother is Talia and the bad son is Damian, and he becomes a good son in the end but it's too late and he dies because really what he represents is this whole twisted loss that's at the heart of the Batman myth. But yeah, it was all based on that original idea about Batman watching his parents die and how that must have affected him and how it affects all his relationships and all his battles with villains, it's all in there. So we just made it a bit more obvious by playing on, very specifically, is it a bad father, is it a bad mother? And here's a bad little kid who becomes good, which is Batman's story as well" ((

    This lead me to believe that Ra's may simply have been included to showcase the Talia/Ra's relationship, which parallels in may ways the whole Damian/Bruce relationship(this is made pretty explicit in #2 as well with the vignettes from Talia's life story). Still, as you note, there are tons of parallels. After all, Bruce had Damian locked up in the Batcave before his final battle just as Talia has Ra's locked up. Still, I don't think Morrison wants to say much about Ra's and really wants to comment on the character flaws of Talia and Bruce that led up to this whole conflict (and Damian's death).

    I'd be interested to know what you think about the whole bad parent angle.

  27. Boston,

    We know explicitly from #5 that the real problem posed by the Leviathan threat ends with Doctor Hurt. We don't know if he'll appear for even one frame in the present narrative.

    Morrison said that if he'd had more time, he might have followed a different path:
    "I would have taken him up to the age of 14, where then he sells his soul to Dr. Hurt, or to the devil, and I'd play out that story. But you know... it just didn't play that way."

    As I see in in sheer terms of page counts, there's not enough time to make this story into a whole new epic war between Batman and anyone else (Hurt, Ra's, Joker, or Darkseid) but there is certainly the possibility of showing in quicker fashion that someone was behind the scenes, and it seems clear that Ra's expects things to go his way, not Talia's. The future shown in #5 is the complete fantasy of both Hurt and the Joker come true.

    The Flashpoint/DCnU change creates a complication with Darkseid, and I'm not sure what the timeline and history of Darkseid and Final Crisis is in the new continuity. I think it consists of contradictions that nobody at DC has tried to work out. Batman Inc depends on Darkseid having sent Batman into the past, but is that somewhere in their timeline between the DCnU JLA origin story and the events of Inc? Or did it not happen at all, in which case it needs a new backstory?

    Morrison has used hallucinatory/kaleidoscope sorts of ending as we saw in Final Crisis #7, Action #18 and Return of Bruce Wayne #6 where we see all kinds of cosmic implications rotating in and out of the narration rapid-fire. This story hasn't had that sort of reality bending so far, so maybe that would defy the rules Morrison's playing by in this story.

  28. darkside, that's a great link I hadn't seen before. Morrison did several similar interviews in response to Damian's death, but with different key comments here and there.

    In one, Morrison said that the key theme of Inc is Ouroboros, of things looping back, and it seems like to really do that, he'd need to have the youngest person in the line (Damian or the Heretic) "get" the oldest (Ra's or even Sensei, who is long dead). We saw Talia fight Sensei's forces in #2, with Ra's pointedly doing nothing but standing there directing. That is a family-generation loop, and like the chess game, Ra's is just watching, benefiting.

    We also see in #2 a repeated pattern of Talia doing the exact opposite of what Ra's tells her to do. It is easy to imagine him seeing this pattern and using it to control her. When he forbids her to continue her war against Batman, it plays like that's what he's doing. (He offers no reason why he would forbid it.)

    In a 2011 interview, before Talia was revealed, Morrison notes that he's done a lot of stories about fathers but not many about mothers, and that maybe that would change when/if Morrison's actual mother dies. Now it's clear that when Morrison gave that interview, he already knew that Talia had a huge role coming up and he didn't want to give it away. But it is compatible with the idea that the story is really about a father -- Ra's.

    That said, nobody can argue that Talia's actions dominate this story; she clearly is the one doing things, and the only question is if she's being manipulated into doing them. Talia was the main villain of Morrison's first story arc in 2006, even though the Hurt story was in progress. Morrison wrote that with no idea that this Inc story would ever be written, so clearly Talia has a central role in his vision. Her personality and her relationships are a big part of the story.

    The question would be if she's being used without her knowledge, and is essentially a subordinate villain in the same way that we've seen the three replacement Batman, Club of Villains, Pyg, Flamingo, etc., serve as subordinate villains to Doctor Hurt. Talia's role in the story can't be erased after the fact, but it may be framed as a subordinate role by the end.

  29. Rikdad,

    Thanks for responding. It would have been great if Grant had more time to bring Damian up to the age of 14, and tie back into his earlier stuff even more directly. But the events leading to the apocalyptic #666 future are malleable, I suspect that the only constant is Darkseid/Hurt using his new Batman as the catalyst to make it happen.

    Back in Inc vol.2 #5, Damian looked 10 on that fateful night to me, not 14. We also know that there are several more clones of Damian, and it's been heavily suggested in the last issue that a cursed Damian Wayne isn't the only candidate for the role of Dark Destroyer, "the future I saw wasn't his, after all", "we're all your sons Batman, any one of us could end the world, or save it".

    The amount of issue's remaining, and the possible continuity problems associated with introducing Hurt to mainstream continuity, are also my main concerns in regards to bringing Hurt back. His reappearance wouldn't necessarily have to be a big story, he could come back into the story at the end of #12 and be defeated by the end of #13, to my mind anyway. Another possible problem with Hurt's reintroduction could be the undermining of all the great work Grant has done to make a credible villain out of Talia. But personally I wouldn't see it that way.

    Going back to an older interview Grant gave to David Uzumeri:

    It's interesting that in response to a question about seeing more of Ra's and Talia in his story, he answers "We'll see a bit more of those characters, because... I don't like Ra's al Ghul much, and I think it was actually a good idea to get rid of him.". Of course the effect that his personal feelings on the Ra's Al Ghul character has on the wrap up of this story, remains to be seen!

    Despite how I feel about the return of Dr.Hurt, there is also a possibility that the Apocalypse could happen without him, perhaps the deal that Batman interrupted between Hurt and Damian after returning from his time travelling adventures and armed with his "vision", immediately changed the future that Bruce saw, by ending not just Damian's, but also Hurt's involvement in it.

    Hurt wasn't KILLED by the Joker though, and Batman does have other sons....

  30. Boston, several great comments. Some replies:

    1) I would guess that the probability of Darkseid being in this (or emphasized) is low. For one, because we seem to have a significantly different Darkseid post-Flashpoint, so the idea that Final Crisis even happened might not make it past editorial. Secondly, while Darkseid and Batman faced off in FC, Hurt was really a significantly different entity, who certainly never spoke like Darkseid.

    2) Hurt is at least a tangential part of the story, but the question is if he has any role in the present. The structure in #5 leaves Hurt as a sort of catastrophe that Talia could unwittingly unleash, not as a puppetmaster who was controlling Talia in the present. But I don't see any obstacle to referencing him as in-continuity, which has essentially already been done. Not only in #5 but in #2, where Talia arranges for General Malenkov to infiltrate the Black Glove for her. Thematically, the introduction of the Court of Owls makes it hard to believe that they and the Black Glove could have co-existed, but that's a detail that can be swept under the rug.

    3) The reality of the vision in the future is a strange thing to consider: Bruce feels like it has validity, but he also is taking an active role; he's not just lying down to concede it. #10 indicates that someone else besides Damian could be the evil Batman; the immense size of the Heretic makes it seem like the Heretic couldn't be him. But how many details of the three Future Apocalypse stories (#666, #700, Inc v2 #5) count? Those stories made it very explicit that that Batman believed he was Damian. I note again, Damian seemed to be linked to the apocalypse all the way back in #665 when in Bruce's dream a dark Damian seemed to taunt him with the warning that the third Batman (Lane) was the worst of them all. Although it's clear that when Morrison wrote that, he didn't foresee this story coming.

    I think it's worth trying to organize:
    a) What Morrison has said of the rest of the story.
    b) What the look ahead in #1 requires the rest of the story to do.

    More thinking to do...

  31. An additional comment on Morrison's disavowal of Ra's (as cited by Boston):

    There are some indications that this is misdirection to hide the upcoming details of his story.

    In 2007, Fabian Nicieza commented on how the various writers collaborated on the Resurrection of Ra's crossover, and he said that "there was already a skeletal outline created from an editorial organization of Grant's initial ideas." Mike Marts said the "idea about resurrecting Ra's was something Dan talked to Grant about. [...] It must have seemed like a fun idea to Grant..."

    That's not courtroom evidence that Morrison was in favor of bringing Ra's back, but it's clear that Morrison's used Ra's more than he strictly had to, especially now in #10. And it's obvious in a very straightforward way that Ra's is pleased with how things are going, and Talia is not. Ra's says "The grand theme is served. The required sacrifice has been made, the scapegoat of Gotham." There's something very specific there which sounds like Ra's wants to see a devil-sacrifice sort of apocalypse (key terms: goat and Gotham) like #5 take place.

    Something is coming up with Lazarus Pits. Morrison said so in an interview, and there was a teaser/cliffhanger regarding them in #9, on the possibility of the Knight being revived with one. This will be a significant piece of the puzzle in the final three issues.

  32. Ah yes, good stuff again Rikdad.

    Regrading Hurt:

    I've spoken over on the DC boards about Morrison's aforementioned "circle in the plot" being taken more literally, and ending at the same point it began, with the defeat of Darkseid by Batman. It's all here under the name "TheBatmanDigsThisDay":

    I found it interesting that "The dragon shall be loosed" was one of the Nostradamus prophecies referenced by Lane. When Lane himself referred to Hurt as "The dragon" back in #666 (granted he could have talking about Bruce, or just about anyone really).

    I totally agree that Darkseid himself won't be mentioned specifically in the last 3 issues, but I believe that Hurt is intrinsically linked with Darkseid. I've seen people post online about who or what Dr.Hurt is, and to be frank they often make an over complicated mess of it.

    Dr.Hurt is the Incarnation of Darkseid. He is to Darkseid, what Jesus Christ is to God.

    Directly after Bruce was separated from the Hyper Adapter and bio-organic archivist machine (a machine that temporarily gave Bruce a knowledge of not just the future, but of everything that ever has and ever will happen in his timeline) and right before he passed out, he said: "...Darkseid trying to the Doctor". Hurt himself has worked tirelessly to continue what Darkseid was doing before Bruce shot him with the god-killing bullet, bring about the apocalypse, using his own dark Batman as his weapon.

    For me, defeating Hurt would be a defeat of Darkseid, and it's a great way of getting back to that battle without upsetting editorial too much. As you said, Hurt and his black glove have (perhaps indirectly) been brought up in DCnU continuity through issue #2, and #3 (Talia's web).

    By the way, while I loved seeing Hurt re-appear in #5 (and especially disfigured with that creepy Joker grin, which could mean he dealt with Damian after the failed attempt in B&R, or that he was just very pleased with himself), and would love to see him again at the end of this story, he's not actually my favorite villain of the run. That honor goes to the maniacally brilliant Dr.Dedalus!

  33. Regarding Ra's:

    Like you said, that interview line I quoted could have been a bit of intentional misdirection from Grant, and Ra's presence in the overall plot does seems to be growing by the issue.

    I spoke to Chris Burnham before about how Talia could't have been involved in the formation of Spyral or Netz's initial plots to destroy Batman. Batman was involved with his FIRST LOVE back then (as confirmed by Scorpiana in Inc vol.1 #4), this was before he ever even met Talia. Interestingly Chris agreed, and went on to say that it seems plausible that Ra's and Dedalus were buddies back then. Talia piggybacking off the ingenious schemes of an old ally of her fathers, brilliant (but pure speculation of course).

    The line you mentioned regarding sacrifice does bear connotations of satanic rituals, and in the chess game the sacrifice of a black pawn ensures blacks victory. Perhaps Ra's thinks that Damian death will drive Batman over the edge, leading to Bruce becoming the cursed Batman of Gotham's apocalypse.

    I find it interesting that in Grant's recent Action run, Mxy's is imprisoned and usurped by his evil brother. But Mxy gets one over on him and returns to the status quo, by betting on Superman. Which seems very similar to the Ra's /Talia dynamic here.

    Regarding the Lazarus pit:

    Based on Grant's interview before issue #9, I suspect its use in the plot may be to demonstrate that Damian can not be revived by Lazarus pit, perhaps through its destruction or a resurrection of the Knight gone wrong, but again, that's a guess with little to no supporting evidence.

    Regarding the remaining puzzles:

    The Photonic Crystal has a negative refractive index, that could allow for invisibility (as already demonstrated by Sivana's robots, and possiblly the Knights invisibility suit in Inc #0), magnification and imagery beyond the diffraction limit of light, the heightened and altered transmission of electromagnetic signals, and nanotechnology, among other things.

    Thanks to the notes at the back of Leviathan Stikes!, we also know that a post "vision" Bruce thought that the crystal was "too dangerous to fall into the wrong hands". That's all great, but what does Batman plan on doing with it?, I still can't be sure.

    It now seems that Kathy Kane is opposed to Leviathan. Was she supplying teenage assassins to Leviathan as a cover, while really infiltrating them?, were her girls brainwashed with mind control drugs against her will?, I suspect the former.

    Otto Netz came close to stirring up world war 3, by effectively projecting stories about the power of his great new discovery "oroboros", from the strategic and politically sensitive Falkland Islands. Is Talia's "world bomb trigger" really what she says it is?, why did she give it to the Heretic before sending him into a war zone, why did she not berate him for losing it or demonstrate any concern whatsoever?, is it now exactly where she wants it to be?

    It seems to me that oroboro is, above all else, a new form of matter, or perhaps a process to form exotic kinds of matter, but we've yet to actually see it.

    I hope we get a definitive answer/clarification to at least one of these questions in the next issue.

  34. Thank you Rikdad and commentators for the tremendous insight. I have been obsessed with Grant's run since the beginning and this past weekend couldn't resist giving it (yet another) re-read. This time I had my Absolute B&R to add :-)
    I just wasted the last hour of work reading all these great comments too, lol
    Someone asked about the preferred reading order of the run. I have spent a lot of time thinking about that, and having re-read this many times, here is mine...
    Batman: The Black Casebook
    “52” Week 30 and Week 47
    Batman The Black Glove Deluxe Edition (contains Batman and Son and Black Glove)
    Batman RIP (stop before reading “Last Rites”)
    Batman RIP The Missing Chapter (Batman Issues 701 – 702 which can be found in the “Time and the Batman” trade)
    Last Rites (to be read in the middle of Batman issue 702 – right after he is captured by Darkseid’s forces)
    Batman and Robin vol. 1
    Batman and Robin vol. 2: Blackest Knight
    Batman Issue 700 (can be found in the Time and the Batman trade)
    Batman and Robin vol. 2: Batman vs. Robin
    Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne issues 1-5
    Batman and Robin vol. 3 (read until the end of issue 15)
    Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne (issue 6)
    Batman and Robin vol. 3 (issue 16 – the end of the volume)
    Batman Inc.

  35. Having read more of the comments above, I'd just like to address a few points that were raised.


    The "unusual weather" was mentioned in the DST anno's for issue #3 way back, and obviously it's been fairly consistent since. The Joker zombie plague of the #666 future began when climate control was reprogrammed to lace the rain with Joker venom. Rain before the end of days, mightn't mean much, just noteworthy. In the present, Leviathan's already poisoned the food chain.

    More importantly though, back in Inc vol.1 #4, we learned that Netz would regularly speak to his captors while on his island "prison", about oroboro, his perfect plan, and how everything was under his control, "EVEN THE WEATHER". Could this unusual weather be the result of oroboros use?...


    Firstly we already know the heretic has a shaven head, I believe we saw it in issue #7.

    It's being made clear now that the dark Batman of #666 (Darkseid's weapon) could be one of several candidates. Darkseid initially targeted Bruce, and later Damian through his incarnation on Earth, Dr.Hurt, (Hyper) adapting, having failed to turn Bruce. Damian's off the table now, so he will have to adapt again, a Damian clone perhaps, or if not a blood son of Batman, perhaps an adopted one.

    However, Heretic is NOT the same future Batman seen in the 3 issues of the 666-verse. As Rikdad said he's too large for one, but more importantly, we were flat out told that that Batman was Damian Wayne in issue #666, the same Damian Wayne who spent time as Robin, before going on to strike a deal with Dr.Hurt.


    I mentioned this earlier but made a bit of a mess of it. Spyral's calling card, an eye (of the Gorgon) within a web, was what tipped Batman off to Talia being behind Leviathan. The thing is, Talia had never even met Batman when Spyral was formed, and they were using that same symbol (headed by Netz and targeting Batman) back in Inc vol.1 #4, once again, before Bruce and Talia had ever met (going on the continuity in which those issues were based).

    Now, either Spyral choosing that particular symbol was a spectacular coincidence, or Ra's Al Ghul was heavily involved at the time of its formation.

    Talia was never a member of Spyral, it was dissolved years before she started working with Netz. There is a strong chance that Ra's knows more about Spyral than Talia, and of course its former agents, such as Kathy Kane. It could be any one of a number of things, but my money is on Kathy beings the detail that Talia overlooked, an ace in the hole for Batman.

  36. Jonny, that's good work. I've put together my own take, which is quite similar. I think, in a nutshell, most of it maps quite closely to publication order, except:

    Two pairs of series interleave: First, RIP and Final Crisis; then Batman and Robin and ROBW. They are connected, but usually not on an issue-by-issue basis.

    I'd suggest someone read all of RIP and Last Rites before starting Final Crisis. But read #701-702 afterwards, because it gives away clues (e.g. the hidden room under Wayne Manor) that we weren't supposed to know about until much later.

    I think most of B&R should be read before any of ROBW, but then at the end, it makes sense to alternate them. Also, it seems like publication delays may have reversed the intended order of those two finales. You make the same correction that I would make. Although, I thought ROBW #6 was the best issue of that entire sequence, so it was nice in a way to have it come last.

    Also, ROBW #6 actually comes logically before B&R #15, and it gives away the surprise reveal of Bruce at the end. But maybe it's nice to leave that surprise by keeping them out of order.

    In fact, many other temporary mysteries are given away early by putting things into logical order. For example, we didn't know who the Batman was in Final Crisis #1 because we didn't know what would happen to Batman at the end of RIP. It turns out that almost nothing happened to him.

    1. I agree Rikdad. I love Final Crisis very much, but don't think it's completely necessary to include on the reread since the RIP "Missing Chapters" do a good job of explaining in an entertaining way the pertinent information you need from that series, without getting too sidetracked :-).

    2. I prefer Chris Burnham's reading order that he posted to CBR. I think it keeps the mysteries in the right place. Its also because I think its cheating to skip Final Crisis :)

      Black Glove Deluxe
      RIP (minus Last Rites)
      Absolute Final Crisis (including Last Rites)

      And then from Chris' post:
      BR 1-9
      BR 10
      ROBW 1

      (I think its too bad Absolute B&R includes Batman: The Return, they should have saved that for an Inc Absolute!)

      Like Grant said in a recent interview: "Bring on the Omnibus!"
      Can't wait to see what order they use when they're eventually released in that format.
      (Which I'll happily buy, even though I own the floppies, deluxes, and absolutes that have been released.)

  37. Boston, those are great points. The timeline of Ra's, Talia, and Kathy is a great observation, and Kathy, being an obvious surprise to come, is a good fit for the overlooked detail. And I think the rain is also likely to be given a meaning; the contagion threat has been used by Morrison several times in his run.

    The resolution of the "666" threat can play out so many ways. Lane thinks the End Time is now. The three stories set in that time are overtly about the future, and are also not strictly compatible with one another or the current timeline. Bruce "saw" it, and felt motivated by it, but also felt it could be prevented, even though he didn't seem to think that the deaths in the present could be prevented, and moreover didn't know about the probable Kathy Kane / Headmistress reveal. So the entire status of this is curious. Morrison said that he would have shown a Damian / Devil deal if he could have. It seems like possibilities are:

    1) It's been totally averted.
    2) The battle with the Heretic now will "be" that future, even though the details are different. The meta-bomb will be the major threat.
    2b) Possible role switch: Lane or Bruce or someone else as the figure who might cause the apocalypse.
    3) There'll be a battle now and STILL be a threat mentioned in the timeframe of the "666" stories.