Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Batman Inc, The Path Ahead

With three issues to go in Batman, Inc., we see Batman utilizing at least three weapons of last resort as he charges into battle with Talia's forces. Clearly, he will gain at least a partial tactical victory in this battle. But where do things go? We know at least the following events must be visited:


T1) A second death of someone close to Batman will take place. Because the cover of #11 is still being withheld, it is likely to refer to this second death.
T2) Bruce reverts from man-bat form to his normal human appearance.
T3) At the funeral for this death, Bruce Wayne is arrested.
T4) An eventual resolution of all of these problems, except the two deaths.
T5) At least implicitly, the future timeline as seen in "666" may be referenced.

The solicits for the upcoming issues say:

#11 - Batman’s world has been devastated by his war against Talia, but is he willing to give up on his own humanity?
#12 - Leviathan and the Heretic are on the ropes...could Batman be on the verge of avenging all he’s lost?
#13 - Batman saves the world and loses everything.

As I mentioned in my last post, I believe the death will be that of Kathy Kane, the original Batwoman, who will first be revealed as the mysterious Headmistress from several brief appearances beginning with Leviathan Strikes, and we know to be a sexy brunette who is associated with Spyder, allied with Batman, and puts old-time Kathy Kane costumes on the agents she trains. For her to die now fits a theme of three-part family: the father, the wife, and the son. This is the family arrangement of the Waynes when Bruce was a boy, and now, although Kathy is of no relation to Damian, Bruce has a "good" wife and son in Kathy and Damian, and a "bad" wife and son in Talia and the Heretic. For the father to survive while the wife and son die is a theme also shown in the wonderfully enigmatic opening to Batman and Robin #13. Kathy's role in Batman's life has gotten significant attention earlier in the Inc story, with Bruce having told Dick Grayson, "We're going to be a Bat-Family!"

It is possible that the plot will also kill off the Heretic, although this seems less likely to produce the deep grieving that we saw in the flash-forward to the funeral at Wayne Manor.

The main battle, and thematic crescendo, in the next two issues will involve Batman and Talia. Morrison gave extensive interviews after Damian's death, and a selection of key quotations from those follows:

Q1: "the entire run is being based almost constantly on this sort of confrontation between parent and children."

Q2: "We want to make Batman driven by his vengeance again, and that drive to shoot him in to places where he does good for people, he helps people, he's a superhero and I think that can never be forgotten. Batman turns grief into something positive every time."

Q3: "These last four issues are kind of the vengeance of Batman and the iron fist of the Dark Knight."

Q4: "I always knew I was going to give Batman back kind of like, 'This is the way I found the guy.'"

Q5: "We deal with the Lazarus Pit in the very next issue."

Q6: "I just hope people like the end. It’s kind of a big end and obviously we’re dealing with big emotions now. And we’ll be dealing with the whole red-and-black thing that’s been in play since almost the very beginning and ultimately resolves with the Dark Knight versus the Red Queen. It all makes sense in the end! But I hope it’s got a big opera-like ending and that people get into it."

Q7: "The basic symbol of this story has been the serpent swallowing his own tail. And it was this idea of family destroying themselves, you know? And watching the kids having to deal with it.
And so because Damian is the child of Batman, Damian is killed by the child of Damian via Batman — this monster that Talia has grown and accelerated and turned into a monstrous warrior.
And so it just seemed right in the story of the serpent eating itself and families destroying themselves to take it from, you know, the little perfect child into this broken Frankenstein child who then destroys him. And obviously, Batman's going to have to deal with this thing."

Q8: "I could have written Batman and Robin a lot longer, and Damian could have had more of a life. 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."

Q9: "The conclusion is finally here, with only four more issues to go. Four issues which take Batman to dark places he has never had to visit before. Four issues and I’m done, while Batman himself continues into as yet unimagined future adventures."

Q10: "Batman, Inc. is now the vengeance of Batman. This is what happens when you push him too far. He underestimated Talia, and now Talia has underestimated him.
But at the same time, Batman's dealing with something much bigger than he's ever had to deal with. Talia runs a gigantic, international criminal empire. She's no pushover. So it's kind of Batman going to places he's never been before.
But yeah, all the Batman, Incorporated characters come into it, and the world is threatened. Everyone's in trouble.
And find out where Batman goes when his son dies. What kind of Batman emerges from that?"

Q11: "A lot of stuff happens that you've never seen before in a Batman comic. The death of Damian is quite a big thing so I wanted to make sure all of the issues after have equally huge ramifications for Batman in the future." There will also be one final confrontation between Batman and Talia, where all the real drama lies, Morrison says. "It's not only what they've done to one another but what they've done to their son and what they've done to the world just over a misunderstanding, over a relationship gone wrong."

While this makes clear that a confrontation with Talia will dominate the final three issues, we also know that it will include some significant resolution after the battle, because at point T3 in the timeline, Bruce is ready to accept defeat, but he still has to deal with the arrest and then return to his war just like when Morrison "found the guy."

As I emphasized last time, Ra's speaks knowingly of a bigger picture, one which includes sacrifice and which pleases him more than it will Talia. How active his role in this plot turns out to be may be that of a puppet master controlling Talia, or a much more subtle and passive role behind the scenes, but we've seen that Talia regrets the death of Damian and that it took place when events slipped beyond her control, and yet Ra's seems completely pleased by these events. His reference to a "required sacrifice" has strangely religious, satanic overtones akin to the dark future seen in "666", and if Ra's is not working to achieve this end, he at least seems aware of it, and in favor of it. And his reference to one single detail that Talia forgot may be as simple as leaving Langstrom alive so that Batman could get a man-bat antidote, or it may be something bigger still.

Speaking with Michael Lane in #10, Batman says of the "666" plot, "My son is dead. The future I saw wasn't his, after all." The bolded "his" seems to indicate that someone else will take that place, either to save or destroy Gotham in the future, or to save it now. Perhaps Bruce will play that role now. Perhaps the Heretic will play it now or later. This higher level of plot, where Batman, as the solicit of #13 says, "saves the world" may concern the meta-bomb, playing a role like the Joker's nuclear weapon in Batman and Robin. And the final note of the plot is likely to be the final line of Damian in Batman #666: "The apocalypse is cancelled. Until I say so."


  1. Excellent synthesis, sir. I'm struck by the Morrison quote promising an "opera-like ending." It could mean the stage will be littered with bodies, but he certainly means more. These next few issues are his final observations on his entire Bat-saga, so there must be some "meaning" embedded in what occurs and in what's said when the proverbial fat lady sings.

  2. Opera-like truly is evocative. Given that we know that a lot of events have to take place to get us through that timeline, the open question is the meaning, and this is what's been gnawing at me since several issues ago, seeing where it may be going beyond the necessary plot details.

    Looking back at Morrison's past stories may be a bit of a guide. I think he bundles a few larger meanings into most of his runs or maxi-arcs, motifs and payoffs.

    For his "Batman" run, I think the single, central thing Morrison wanted to convey is Bruce Wayne's unique toughness. A new idea? Not at all, but then we have the motifs by which he conveyed it: Replacement Batmen galore, none of whom could live up to the original. The ultimate mastermind villain who had seemingly covered every angle.

    I have more trouble identifying a unique payoff to Batman and Robin, although perhaps we may say that as Dick Grayson did not resolve the double Joker-Hurt threat until Bruce returned, there's an implicit message that Bruce could not be replaced even by Dick, and yet I'm not sure GM was trying to highlight that message. Along the way, we have a motif of the playful Batman and a grim Robin, but that was established at the beginning, not as the payoff.

    So here, certainly we will see Batman rise to great heights, as Morrison describes in many of those quotations. But is there another device to convey that beyond what we've seen already? Maybe it's unguessable in advance.

  3. When Ras mention a forgetten piece to Talia, I immediately thought of Joker. It's the same mistake Hurt made by underestimating the Joker. So, while Hurt including Joker but underestimating him resulted in his death, what could lie in store for someone who didn't include him at all.

    Also, the whole family motif. Bad family = Batman, Talia and Damian (now Heretic). Good Family = Batman, Kathy and Dick.
    Not sure what that means though.

    Exciting times ahead.

  4. Another thing to look out for is a possible resolution of the Thogal ritual plot thread (I remember some scenes related to this were colored only in red and black). I think Bruce once mentioned that during the ritual he had discovered he was his own worst enemy. We might see some sort of grand expression of this idea, which could tie into many other plot threads (and the Joker would love to be around to relish in Bruce's realization). We've seen the red and black/good and evil dynamic flipped in many ways already (for example Talia is wearing black in the last issue).

  5. Brad, good focus on "underestimating." This has been a huge part of Morrison's plotting over the years. Before Batman breaks into the White Martians' headquarters in JLA #3, he ponders how they underestimated him. Hurt underestimates Batman and the Joker (although the Joker didn't kill Hurt; Hurt is apparently still alive down there). Morrison's quotations indicate that Batman and Talia underestimated each other. And the Ra's-Talia interactions that Morrison has shown in three comics (Batman #670, Inc #2, Inc #10) show multiple scenes of Ra's and Talia underestimating one another.

    It's a good way to build to a climax. Morrison didn't invent it (it's a big part of the Superman story in Action #1), but he utilizes it a lot.

  6. mr. donut man,

    It's interesting that Bruce now says his vision of the future came to him in a cave. Before, he said it came to him during the events of ROBW #6. Maybe that was retconned out.

    Red and black was said to be a complete smokescreen by the Joker, a puzzle with no solution just to waste Batman's attention. And in the Joker's speech in #681, he admits to being frustrated that Batman figured even THAT out. Certainly, the theme is at least symbolic of the two sides in a game, which hides no grand meaning, but is right there in front of us.

    The idea of Bruce possibly being his own enemy is an important one and I'm glad you raise it. That was the surprise ending of The Untold Legend of The Batman miniseries in 1980. Some people guessed that would be the ending of RIP, a red herring that Jezebel voiced in #677. When Bruce and Lane talk at the beginning of #10, we get the sense of someone filling the role that Damian cannot play. Is it the Heretic? Bruce? Or no one?

    We clearly see that Bruce has become a monster, and by putting on the Suit of Sorrows, he may face corruption from it, not to mention the man-bat serum itself. Perhaps he will be placed in the situation now of nearly causing the apocalypse, if not from the exact events of "666" (which seem certain not to fit into the present), from the meta-bomb threat that has been built up too much not to be front-and-center later.

  7. "It's interesting that Bruce now says his vision of the future came to him in a cave. Before, he said it came to him during the events of ROBW #6. Maybe that was retconned out."

    I interpreted this as Thogal or the cave from ROBW#1. It stinks that the New 52 has messed with Morrison's masterpiece of a Batman epic.

  8. rikdad, great analysis and comments. so good to have you back. i can't wait for the last inc issue to come out and try and read all of grant morrison's run in order, and compare it to your articles.

    thanks for making these issues interesting on so many more levels.


  9. Haven't seen any comments on this news yet, anyway what do you guys think about this?


  10. Wow, Bones, looks like we really have two more issues, not three, on the Leviathan plot. That's a serious reduction in terms of the space. Things will have to move much faster than I thought.

    I suspect this means Morrison saw he was going to be late with a script, which pushed the finale from #12 to #13. We've had fillers and delays with Morrison's Batman many times before.

  11. The good news is that issues 12 and 13 will surely have all of Burnham's art, no fill in since he will get an extra month I would assume. But yes, it's going to be pretty crazy how we can wrap this all up with 40-44 pages to go, knowing Morrison, don't doubt that #13 will have extra pages, yet, there still seems to be a lot left to tackle to make everyone happy, and if there is something MAJOR that happens at the end it's also interesting that Snyder and Capullo are doing Year Zero, and with Morrison leaving what will be the main Batman book? I'm sure it will be great, but it worries me some that once Morrison is gone, the other bat writers will not even think about Inc. or anything and just write their own stuff with this really being the end, it's just kind of hard to imagine to see though. Respectfully, @kukheart / twitter

  12. Jonny, I agree that it now refers to Thogal, but I found this curious. There's no particular reason why anything seen in Thogal should have been accurate prophecy. In #5 (post-Flashpoint), Bruce says the vision of the future was "in a dream", but I didn't take that as contradictory of it being during his experience in ROBW. Such a dream was also referred to all the way back in Batman #665 when Bruce awoke having had a dream that showed Damian seemingly on the side of the Replacement Batmen (including the Devil Batman who was later Lane).

    This could be an issue that's potentially huge in implication, but may get swept under the carpet in a handful of phrases, but the question is how much of pre-Flashpoint Inc "happened" in the DCnU. Stephanie Brown was retconned out, so having the Headmistress return is going to have a void left to explain. The Court of Owls plot is too much like the Black Glove for it to make sense that they never interacted with one another, and that Bruce didn't think of the Black Glove while trying to solve the Court of Owls mystery. I think it's all to be swept under the carpet and forgotten.

    1. The Court of Owls / Black Glove similarities REALLY bugged me when reading that storyline, but most don't seem to notice or care. (The New52 in general bugs me, but I don't want to open that can of worms here) --
      I hope it's not all swept under the rug and forgotten, as you say. But I wouldn't be surprised. :-/

  13. pablo, thanks! I will post my Morrison omnibus reading order this week. There are a lot of options for the reading order, producing different experiences, and a loose halo of related readings that would top 100 issues (Morrison's Batman sagas alone total 72 issues plus other features).

    It's hard to imagine that in only two more issues, we'll have a grand wrap-up. We've seen Morrison wrap up Superman recently, and other epics in the past, but he's never been as deep into a work as he is into Batman. It seems like something huge could be coming.

  14. Looking forward to your reading order Rik. If you could answer one other question though, I'm about to start reading Morrison's JLA run and I also have his Flash, Aztek, and DC One Million TPBs. Do you know whether or not I should read them after JLA or are there good spots somewhere within it? Thanks a lot and if you haven't seen this yet then take a look, very exciting: http://collider.com/grant-morrison-dc-comics-batman-superman-interview/

  15. Bones, great interview there for the outlook on the upcoming Wonder Woman and Multiversity stories.

    I've never actually read Morrison's work on the Flash. Aztek and DC One Million fit very specifically into Morrison's JLA timeline. I think you could read Aztek in its entirety before starting JLA and there's no loss of suspense, but you don't want to do it in the other order. DC One Million fits in to a very specific point in JLA, and in fact every other DC title that was in print at the time, and I know there is a reading list out there, because I used it when I read it (which was well after it was published). But I think there's no stunning giveaway if you read them out of order.

  16. As we head towards the conclusion rikdad have you ever gone back over your posts and seen how much of your/our analysis over the years has been accurate vs off track etc. I've seem to have gotten the impression that our analysis' often get pretty out there while the conclusions Morrison gives us end up being fairly straight forward.

  17. Hi Brad,

    I don't have all of my posts in one place: It's a mixture of DC Message Board posts (which aren't preserved online anymore), this blog, comments, and a few posts elsewhere.

    Hard to summarize all of it, but I'd call out a mixture of accurate prediction, inaccurate prediction, and some useful explanation of what has already happened.

    My original guess for the Black Glove was Talia. I tried to read into the card scene in DC Universe #0 and while my take on that was apparently much-admired, I don't think anything I said ended up being correct.

    I was the first to mention the Devil as the identity of the Black Glove, which Morrison said was his idea for the story, although he didn't intend it to be literal. I spelled out the mechanism of the Black Glove's plan against Batman and the defense he was using about 1-2 issues ahead of the story. There's actually a lot more I've thought of posting about the whole Black Glove/RIP story, although it's now such ancient history, the readership for that might be close to zero.

    I didn't identify the Joker as Oberon Sexton. I saw other people suggest that before I took a guess one way or the other and I tried to list all the evidence I could find for that outcome and others, but I never backed the Joker answer. One of my wilder suggestions was that Oberon Sexton could be Grant Morrison himself. Much the same is true of the Batman seen in Blackest Night being a clone from Final Crisis.

    I explained two of the three murder jokes that the Domino Killer committed in Batman and Robin after they were revealed; I've never seen an explanation for the third one.

    I may have been the first to say that El Penitente was Doctor Hurt, although that may have blossomed in multiple places on the day we first saw El Penitente.

    I had no clue at all where Final Crisis was going, even why it was written, until after it was done.

    Overall, I did a lot of research, like identifying all the Joker quotes from #663, and reading the old stories that led into the RIP storyline. There were more observations than I could even try to list now, and some played out as likely true, some false, some open to interpretation.

    I'm more comfortable identifying my mistakes than my successes: Rattling off a list of accurate predictions without mentioning my false leads would be obnoxious even if I never made any wrong guesses, which I certainly did.


  18. [to Brad, continued]
    I found some things about all of this positive and useful:

    1) Approaching Morrison's stories as literature, with various sorts of patterns underlying them, and intense study as a way of finding those patterns.
    2) "Crowdsourcing", the activity of a whole community to understand things better than any of us alone could. In this, I think it's useful if people throw ideas out there tentatively, even if they may be wrong, in case someone else knows something that can prove/disprove the theory. In this, throwing out some ultimately wrong ideas is actually essential. This sort of dialectic can also take place without anyone else contributing, but I think it's best when many people participate.

    I think this sort of investigation does more to promote the enjoyment of reading rather than solve mysteries. For me, having two or three possibilities in mind and then seeing which one materializes is a real thrill. For example, whether the "wealthy gamblers" clues in RIP was real or a smokescreen. Or right now, if Kathy Kane will be the death leading to the second headstone in Batman, Inc. I think I'm the first person to suggest that. If it happens, do I win? That's not how I take it. If it doesn't happen, do I lose? Likewise. To me it's interesting to have that possibility in mind, and to have thought about what it might mean in the big themes, and then when we get to the point when we find out, to have all of that meaning come together while you're reading the page. "Ah, Batman's good 'wife', his good 'family."" It just adds more meaning to the moment of reading. And if there are three other ideas out there and one of them is right, then knowing THAT one in advance will add to the meaning. That's more what I'm going for, rather than being the winner in a betting pool about who was the Black Glove, who was Oberon Sexton, who is the Headmistress, etc.

    Reading Batman #680 was probably the best experience I'll ever have reading a comic book because I'd spent so much time anticipating the crescendo of the story, and to see Morrison's story unfurl, along lines that I and others had guessed, not guessed, predicted, not predicted, made every page wildly more meaningful. Even seeing what kinds of characters were IN the Black Glove organization, which was 95% unguessable, was more meaningful after having spent so much time thinking about the Black Glove and what it might mean. That's the kind of improvement of the experience I hope to feel and to impart. Just knowing an ending in advance is less than that, and not my precise goal, although I'm never trying to be wrong, either.