Wednesday, July 3, 2013
The events of the issue are straightforward: Batman, armed as a man-bat, with the Suit of Sorrows, and the power of invisibility, neutralizes Talia's man-bats with the antidote, then thoroughly bashes his genetically-engineered son, the Heretic, in battle. We see that the Heretic has a child's head on his herculean body. When the Heretic is defeated, he reports back to his mother who slays him for his failure, and goes to Wayne Manor to fight Bruce in battle.
An interlude shows Dick Grayson and Tim Drake arriving at the location where Jason Todd was a captive of Spyral, and the three former Robins find themselves not in a fight, but being told that Spyral is on Batman's side, but in perhaps the issue's biggest teaser, we are told by the Hood and the Headmistress (more clearly than ever, Kathy Kane) that the fight between Batman, Inc. and Leviathan is a minor facet of a much bigger picture, and describe Bruce Wayne's efforts in patronizing fashion.
This issue is filled with references to earlier stories, both by Morrison and his predecessors. Defeating and shaming the Heretic (now referred to, by both Talia and Bruce, directly as "Leviathan") in front of his troops is a mirror of Batman beating the Mutant leader in The Dark Knight Returns. Dick Grayson and the new Knight give the Heretic a double punch, a motif of Dick and Damian's in Batman and Robin. The Headmistress says "How you've grown" to Dick Grayson, a further clue that she is Kathy Kane, and moreover an exact quote of Doctor Hurt from Batman #678. Talia says that there are dozens more Damian clones in tanks waiting to be born, which was Darkseid's plan in cloning Bruce in Final Crisis. Talia identifies herself as Kali, Tiamet, Medusa, the wire mommy, an intriguingly direct reference to the upbringing of Professor Pyg. And finally, when Talia takes up arms to fight Bruce mano-a-mano in the Batcave, she says "To the death, my dear detective," a near quote of her father's challenge to Bruce before their desert duel back in Batman #244.
The perplexing matter is how much is left unresolved with only one issue left in Morrison's epic run. We know that plotwise, Bruce must fight this battle with Talia, then after a funeral marking a major death, will decide to end Batman, Inc, and will be charged with a crime, charges that will presumably be dealt with before Morrison's run ends.
It remains possible that the Heretic will fill the second foreshadowed grave. Even so, we need to see the aforementioned plot points play out, as well as the newly-raised tension regarding a bigger picture that will put Bruce and Talia's war in context.
In several ways, this story has subtly linked the forces of the Black Glove with those of the al-Ghuls. Talia had an agent inside the Black Glove. Her plot threatens to create the apocalypse we've seen in the future, with Doctor Hurt playing a role in that. Now, with Talia describing herself in the terms of Professor Pyg's upbringing, this raises the prospect that Talia and the Black Glove were somehow operating in parallel. Morrison has promised a coda for Doctor Hurt, and now we know that a plot involving Spyral overarches Leviathan. It seems that the events of #13 will be thematically and literally very expansive.