Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Batman Inc, #13

Batman and his allies square off against one of his oldest and deadliest nemeses, and this time, the battle almost destroys Batman. That's the story, as it was framed from early on, and that's how it ends. There is no swirling cosmic complexity added at the end, as we'd seen in Return of Bruce Wayne. The things we knew must happen happen, give or take a couple, and the artistry of the finale is largely in the soft touches, the feelings and how this battle staggered our hero and how he rises from it.

From the time Talia walks into the cave until Bruce walks out, needing stitches for the cuts on his face, probably minutes, only, elapse. Batman's allies are busiest as they go to work around the world neutralizing the threat of mass destruction, and Batman's allies come to his aid in the scenes that follow the end of his sword fight with Talia, one that she perhaps wins by cheating. Then two of Batman's allies enter the cave and cheat to save him. And then, intercut with all the action, Batman's fondest ally, Jim Gordon, helps to patch him up with words. And an extra surprise or two follows.

When Inc began, Batman and Selina Kyle stole a substance that Sivana had created, a meta-material that allowed him to turn invisible during his final battle with the Heretic. It also proved to have critical utility as an agent to neutralize Talia's ring of meta-bombs around the world, and in actions we see only in montage, the threat to the world at large is eliminated as Inc. agents make sure those seven bombs will never detonate. An old Morrison Batman principle at work: "The victory lies in the preparation."

But Batman loses the sword fight, succumbing to one or two poisons Talia snuck into the mix, and will die unless he begs for mercy. Just in time, Robin arrives. In this case, Jason Todd, who tricks Talia into giving Batman the antidote in return for the trigger to set off the metabombs. Talia accepts, but in vain, because with the metabombs neutralized, the trigger is worth nothing. And then, as she vows continuing revenge, Talia is abruptly taken down by a shot from the Headmistress, as expected, Kathy Kane, who briefly outlines her scope of operations in Spyral, and she departs leaving Talia dead and Bruce in a vacuum, the Leviathan threat at an end. But Batman is deeply shaken by the loss all around him. His child and the child's mother are laid to rest side by side, and he's unsure of continuing on.

This is the low point of Bruce Wayne in all of Morrison's run, the exact moment we saw in flashforward in Inc v2, #1, when Jim Gordon arrives to arrest Bruce Wayne, but in his interrogation of Bruce, Gordon plays the part of a sympathetic figure, a counselor, a priest. As Bruce talks through it, Gordon tries to understand the motives and how the madness was too large for him to control, and all throughout, Gordon knows that he might be speaking directly with Batman. And when it's over, he makes it clear that Batman is needed, and gives him the encouragement to suit up again, and return to his mission.

The events of #13 are full of mirrors to earlier stories. Bruce's lover enters the Batcave and belittles him, attacks him -- this is a key moment in RIP, with Talia serving a role now like Jezebel Jet did then. Morrison said that the image of a woman betraying Batman was the first thought he had for his run that began in 2006. Here, the same moment plays out, although the surprise of Talia's animosity has long been apparent. The sword fight itself is a mirror of one Bruce fought with Ra's in the desert in Batman #244.

Each of Morrison's long Batman arcs ends with a Robin coming to his aid. In RIP, Dick Grayson protects his blindside. In Return of Bruce Wayne, Tim Drake awakens the man inside the possessed Bruce-Hyper Adapter combination that returned from the future. And here, Jason Todd is the Robin who saves Batman, neatly giving each of the three Robins his turn. In fact, the coda of Inc's midpoint, in the Leviathan Strikes #1 special, gave Damian his turn to be the Robin who saves Batman, in a scene quite similar to this one, with Batman staggered and defeated at the feet of his enemy.

And so, in counterpoint to the grand message of RIP that the towering figure of Batman can defeat any enemy, rise above any menace, we have the grand message of Return of Bruce Wayne: Batman always had his allies; he was never alone. Inc #13 shores that up by showing Jim Gordon as the cop who comforted young Bruce Wayne on the night of his parents' deaths, a fact in Nolan's Batman films, but not -- previously -- in post-Infinite Crisis continuity. The appearance of a bat-themed woman ally who shoots the bad guy is also a key moment in Nolan's films, when Catwoman shoots Bane, remarking as Kathy Kane does here, that Batman's rule not to kill does not apply to her. And so the battle ends.

Bruce standing over two graves is a counterpoint to his childhood tragedy, he the only one left standing from a family of three. Jim Gordon's interview with Bruce Wayne is the counterpoint to whatever he gave young Bruce on the night of the Waynes' deaths (we may imagine it to be the same comfort we saw in the Nolan films). And we know from Gordon quoting it that Bruce saw all of this destruction as the "hole in things", Doctor Hurt's self-aggrandizing description, a void that nearly overwhelmed him until Gordon affirmed that Gotham needed Batman once more. So we see in montage that Batman does return, just as determined as before, and things really are much the same as before Morrison's run. Batman is Gotham's protector. Everything has come full circle. For Batman to rise again after having been taken down is how all of Morrison's runs have ended: Bruce returning from defeat while a narrator provides solemn acclamation is a fivefold Morrison ending/non-ending, something we saw in Batman #681, #683, #702, and Return of Bruce Wayne #6.

Kathy Kane, from the shadows, arranges for all charges against Bruce Wayne to be dropped. And then there is a surprise. As Ra's al-Ghul hinted in mocking comments he made to Talia in #10, he is the larger figure who will rise when she falls. Was he pulling the strings behind the Leviathan plot all along? No, but he saw opportunity lay on the other side of it. Ra's readies a continuation of his war against Batman and has the bodies of Talia and Damian as well as the lab and embryos to build an army of Damian clones he will control in the future. This opens the door for Talia to return, and in principle, Damian.

Inc was in its larger strokes more conventional than Morrison's other long Batman stories. The ambiguities and unreliable narration reached their peak in the middle, when Batman got lost in the traps and mind games of Otto Netz. The key distinction of Batman, Incorporated's war with Leviathan is in its scope. This story was 25 issues long, grander even than Morrison's long run up to RIP. It turned around the world and pivoted from literary references to Borges, to deep dives into Batman lore from the Fifties, Sixties, and Seventies, and it ended by renewing Batman in terms of his origin in the Thirties.

The power of this finale, unlucky #13, is in the extent that the reader shares the feeling that the sprawling epic which twice poisoned Bruce and left him waiting for a mortal blow at the feet of his enemy, succeeded in taking him to a dark place. Perhaps we're too certain by now of his ability to rebound to feel that it ever got so dark. Damian's death five issues ago and the mourning that followed were the psychological low point of the story, and for Bruce to rise from that surely indicated he could rise from this. After having seen Bruce face off against the Devil and Darkseid, to stand up after nearly dying in the past and in the future, we can't be surprised to see him rise again now. Perhaps what lingers longest from this finale is the clipped tone of his interview with Gordon, the caring Jim Gordon showed him, and the obvious sense that the two men were both shaken by all of the destruction this brought to Gotham. When Morrison was just seven issues into a run he didn't know would be anywhere near this long, he put Batman and Jim Gordon on a rooftop and let them share this kind of a moment when all the evils that awaited Batman in Morrison's run were just beginning to unfold. And with the same shared devotion, reverence, and mutual respect, they discussed the Replacement Batmen with Gordon asking, "Look at you, all beat up to Hell. Why did you have to choose an enemy that's as old as time and bigger than all of us, Batman?" And Batman answering, "Same reason you did, Jim. I figured I could take him. This isn't over." But now, for Morrison's glorious portion of the Batman legend, it is.


  1. Well, that was certainly a conclusion, huh?

  2. It was a conclusion with a series of "To be continued..."s tacked on. Talia's dead, but in the hands of someone with Lazarus Pit research in progress. Bruce spends a few hours, perhaps, retired then immediately comes back. This "He's gone... but he's back!" has happened at least five times in Morrison's Batman run and three times with Superman, and that of course fits the serial format. Nothing ends inside the world of the stories. But for the writers and readers, things do, and it feels like a kind of wake is in order for this long, great era of Morrison's Batman.

  3. nice recap. anyway you didn't get or didn't want to talk about those cynical and sarcastic comments Morrison gave of Snyder and his "bleak" Batman and the overall state of Batman in his current books?

    not all of them were obvious but somehow I think he left Batman in a way he didn't want. he just had to accept this is the end of his run. then comes the epilogue and I thought it fitting to leave a possible continuation open. I also think he'll go back writing Batman in the long run...

  4. I'm not sure if you're referring to comments Morrison made in interviews or veiled in the story. I wasn't thinking of Snyder when I read #13, aside from the two words "Zero Year." Certainly Morrison has used his stories as well as interviews to celebrate many others' work, and to skewer a few.

    Way back, Morrison said that his goal was to write stories that were untoppable and leave it to the next creator to worry about that. Given the similarity of the Black Glove and the Court of Owls, and the fact that Snyder had the Joker dancing in Arkham, I'd say we have some indication that Morrison succeeded in that goal.

    On multiple occasions, Morrison really lambasted all of the dark events in Batman's life from the death of Jason Todd up through his "What do you deserve?!" outburst in Infinite Crisis. He cited the need to get Batman past that, although I'm not sure in which ways he carried that out. Most spectacularly, by making Dick Grayson Batman, Morrison certainly gave us a non-dark, non-grim, non-haunted Batman! By Inc #13, we're back in many ways to a figure mired in tragedy, but who gets back up again. I'm not sure I saw a condemnation of the current titles, but that may be my oversight.

  5. Hey Rikdad,
    Nice analysis as always. Seeing your reviews during the Batman & Robin run in 2010 really enriched my reading experience, being an especially novice bat reader back then. It was like being a great literature course in University. I hope to see your reviews when Multiversity comes out and Wonder Woman Earth One.

    I loved this issue. I wasn't too disappointed about the lack of explanation of Kathy Kane's brief appearances in the last few issues. It's kind of like real life where there are some mysteries that you'll never find out completely. People who appear and disappear without saying goodbye properly, you know.

    diFace may have a point about Morrison not wanting to leave Batman in the state he does at the end of this run. But, for me, I got some comfort from a lengthy comment Retrowarbird left in the CBR threads. He said that each volume of Morrison's bat-run evokes a period of Batman's publication(kind of like Flex Mentallo's four issues are reflections of the four-ish periods of comicbook history). Here it is:

    "I laughed at the interview, and then had a momentary facepalm when I realized the obviousness of the structural parallel between his run and Batman's publishing history.

    Season 1: "Batman" - Batman faces cultists, secret societies, mad scientists and eccentric millionaires. (Drugs and chemicals are present.)
    Season 2: "Batman and Robin" - Batman faces Pop! criminals with ridiculous names and get-ups, freaky alien invasions and historical magic, and time travel. (Drugs and chemicals ... still present!)
    Season 3: "Batman, Inc. Vol. 1" - Batman faces international spies, team-ups and secret conspiracies. (Drugs and chemicals ... yeah, still!)
    Season 4: "Batman, Inc. Vol. 2" - Batman faces bleak occult death assassins and non-stop personal melodrama. (Drugs and chemicals are still present, of course.)

    Season 1 is basically Golden Age Batman. Season 2 is basically Silver Age Batman. Season 3 is basically New Look Batman. Season 4 is basically Bronze Age "Post-O'Neil" Batman."

  6. Sorry for being loquacious, but I really like this sentence that Bruce says in Gordon's narration near the end:

    "I looked into that hole in things over and over again until it hurt Jim...and you know what I found in there? Nothing...

    "...and a space big enough to hold everything."

    That second line, with the panel of Bruce looking into the empty graves is beautiful to me. It's almost like that scene in the end of Miller's DKR, where Clark is at Bruce's grave. You can sense a mixture of regret, sadness and a little hope, almost like a distant joy. That combination of words, colors and images is so wonderful to experience.

  7. Flaschemusik, thanks for adding your comments here all along. Thinking of B&R, I find myself with a curious reaction to many of Morrison's stories that the more I liked the body of each of his runs, the less I was wowed by the ending, and vice versa. I think B&R was his best work issue-by-issue, then had an ending that downplayed the greatness of Dick Grayson and Doctor Hurt, respectively. Whereas Morrison's "Batman" run underwhelmed me to the point of my quitting it, for one issue (#671), then hooking me in the most profound way immediately thereafter. Just a tangential comment around the fact that I think B&R was the best of the Morrison titles for breakdowns and analysis. I neglected, for various reasons to comment on the Argentina issues of Inc, which I regret, because the Borges references are so extremely worthy of breakdowns, and coincidentally, literature I've been very familiar with.

    I hadn't seen Morrison's seasons as mapping onto the various eras in sequence, seeing them more as rotating in focus across the eras. Kathy Kane, for example, appeared in the Black Casebook, Last Rites, and Inc. We saw the most Golden Age villain of all -- Hitler! -- in Inc. The Seventies kept cycling back into focus as well. The dark era centered on the Nineties appeared all the way back in "52" and again in Last Rites. So I see the notion of the framework of the overall story as perhaps fitting the eras, but there was extremely salient shifting of "era" focus within each season.

  8. well it can be only who sees it that way but I thought the whole issue with all of Talia's and some of Gordon's and even Batman's remarks shouting that something's wrong currently in comics.
    if I have time I'll quote the exact sentences I'm referring to but the whole issue for me was a real parody of Snyder's Batman and the hype circling around him. and I _did like_ Black Mirror with Jock on art.
    I think Grant had enough of this already and somehow I think the delay he needed to maybe rewrite his ending spawned that fill-in by Burnham/Lucas.
    I liked this issue overall and he left it quite open but somehow I think no one will follow this up except maybe Tomasi/Gleason... sadly.

  9. anyway it's a fairly known fact that Grant is not too happy about what Synder is doing with Batman and essentially "stealing" whole concepts from his run. even if Snyder always says that he was heavily influenced by Morrison.
    I will do a re-read of the entire Batman saga by Grant including the non-essential ones (Arkham Asylum, Gothic) soon and try to see everything at once. and nothing too ;)

  10. diFace, interesting. I thought at the time that the Batman of Zur En Arrh was a critical take on the then-contemporary All Star Batman (ASB) of Frank Miller. They certainly bore some resemblance, but in retrospect I'm not sure if this was Morrison trying to comment on ASB, or Tony Daniel doing so with the pencilwork alone, or none of the above.

    I think it's apparent that the Court of Owls is much too much like the Black Glove for coincidence, and it's also much too soon for such a duplication to be a good idea. As opposed to, say, Morrison taking an approach similar in some ways to that of Steve Englehart -- but decades later.

    I have my own thoughts about Snyder's work, and just haven't had the time to focus on them. Was Inc #13 commenting on Snyder? I'm not sure: Look at Jezebel Jet's comments on Bruce/Batman in #677. I thought Talia's comments were quite similar, and so they originate in 2008, before any current work was in progress.

  11. well, for me it was a relatively obvious shout-out to Snyder and the "zero year" comment is most certainly in a negative meaning, almost degrading. he isn't even writing "year one", he writes "zero year" referring to the now running Batman: Zero Year by Snyder.
    as for this theory of mine nobody has to agree and probably there isn't a universal truth but as always with Morrison's work you all can interpret these symbols like you want, each their on way. this is my way ;)

    1. "Zero year" has been referenced by that term previously in the comics by Jim Gordon during Scott Snyder's Clayface story. The precedence has already been established by the writer who created it.

    2. well I'm not saying Snyder didn't create the "zero year" term, I'm saying the exact opposite and Morrison's remark is bitter there. that's for sure.

  12. I found it interesting how, in the very last panel of this last issue, the shadow being cast by Ra's looks very much like the demonic shadow cast by Dr. Hurt in Batman & Robin #14 and again in Batman & Robin #16. Plus again the red and black color scheme.

  13. diFace, no doubt that "Zero Year" refers to the current Snyder story, and an interesting one if it means that the title of Snyder's story is somehow known to the characters in Morrison's story. It made me think that the event will somehow be known by that name in the world of the story itself for some reason we haven't seen... or not (and the discrepancy will be swept under the carpet). But even if it's curious on a logical level to use the story's own name, I don't see how it's degrading. But I'll definitely look for that when I get my next chance to reread it.

  14. diFace, has Morrison hinted at any distaste in interviews towards Snyder or do you think he's just hinting at it through the comics alone? Also, I can definitely say that Zero Year is something that's known to all of the characters in the story because I've seen the same thing done in other comics. Someone will mention the event in passing without revealing what it is. So I don't think Morrison is saying anything about Snyder there but I do think that DC probably asked him to slide that in there to further hype that event, because again I've seen it in other comics so they're probably telling everyone to do that.

    1. there are multiple interviews where he says he's not content with how Batman is run now by Snyder and he stated he didn't like that there's this Court of Owls thingy near Black Glove and also Death of the Family parallel to Batman INC. if you look for his interviews you can find his sayings I don't have time to go back but I remember.
      well I don't agree about this one, I don't think DC persuaded Morrison to write that line in just for their pleasure. but who knows one day I'll ask him ;)

  15. I just re-read the line. Gordon says "It's like Zero Year all over again." Is that a comment about the situation being negative? Absolutely. Is that a comment on the story being a bad one? I don't see that at all. Most superhero stories are about something bad happening or potentially happening. Anytime in the last 26 years that a character mentioned "the Crisis" for Crisis on Infinite Earths, is that a comment that the story was a bad one? No. It's a comment that the events of Crisis were largely unhappy ones for the characters and worlds that went through it.

    I personally think that Snyder is stepping on Morrison's creative toes, but I haven't seen any indication that Morrison is saying that.

    1. then I have to find those interviews where he clearly states he's not happy with what Snyder's doing with Batman and all... ;)
      because it's a remark that has symbolic meaning other than in the story itself. on the other hand I may be completely off but so completely I can't even imagine :D

  16. Thanks for the thoughtful commentary Rikdad, I always look forward to it and hope you continue with Wonder Woman and Multiversity.

    It's hard to imagine the run is finally over. I can't wait to see it all collected. A part of me wishes this issue had more pages to get to tell the story. Still a great finish. I wonder if any writer will pick up the threads with Spiral and Kathy Kane, I hope so but right now outlook not so good.

    I feel like I have similar feeling to you about Snyder's run. You definitely hit the nail on the head about the Court of Owls, that really bugged me (especially with the twist ripped straight out of Doctor Hurts playbook)

    Back to this issue, I think we really need to give it up for Cameron Stewart who drew the hell out of this thing. So many great pages, great layouts, it was gorgeous.

  17. Sypha, I had to wait to get my hands on the story again to check out your comment on the shadow. No doubt, both Ra's and Talia (at first) have horned profiles which is very Hurt-like... as well as very Devil-like in general. The name of this issue's story was "The Dark Knight and the Devil's Daughter" so it point-blank asserts Ra's' primacy and calls him (not for the first time) the Devil.

    There's no doubt: Ra's has always been likened to a/the devil, and so was Hurt. At one point in the Black Glove mystery, it seemed like Hurt was almost defined as an alternate Ra's, although they certainly ended up having their own character. Morrison has also made devils (capital 'D'?) of Darkseid and Mandrakk. Yet, nobody has ever suggested that Ra's is literally, cosmically, or biblically supernatural (beyond being a man who's used the Lazarus Pits), whereas the other three have had that suggested at one time or another.

  18. Thanks, as always, Rikdad. I echo everyone else's comments about the utility of your coverage of Morrison's Bat-run, as well as the hope that you'll continue in some capacity through Multiversity and/or Wonder Woman Earth One. Any chance you'll review the pending Andy Kubert written and drawn Damian Wayne: Son of the Bat miniseries? Could be interesting to see how the 666 future comes to be (at least that sounds like the concept). Kubert seems to have taken a level of "ownership" of the future Damian character and the story (given his redux in #700). I personally think that's pretty cool. (There's also the Batman, Inc. Special next month, though that sounds like more of a DC homage orchestrated by Chris Burnham -- again, not directly Morrison, but probably fun and full of shout-outs to his run.)

    I'm just curious to get your thoughts on the revelation that the second grave was indeed Talia. You made comments in at least two separate posts speculating it was either Kathy Kane or The Heretic, but you never explicitly entertained it could be Talia. I was just curious if you ever considered it, whether you dismissed it, and if so why. (I thought all along it would end up being Talia -- this isn't to crow, but just to get your thoughts and whether you're surprised.)

    I really appreciate the ending. I do find it curious he basically ends on a "down" beat with Ra's plotting revenge, considering he's on record saying he doesn't like the character. I know diFace above is adamant he thinks Morrison is frustrated at the state of Batman and/or contemporary writers (Snyder). Though I haven't seen or heard any rumors of Morrison's contempt for Snyder or others specifically, it wouldn't surprise me if the ending with Ra's is in some way another subtle message (as with so many of the events throughout the run) that Batman can never escape the sum weight of his history; outdated, megalomaniac, villains from bygone era will always be lurking to make a comeback. Of course, it can also be read as Morrison leaving open the possibility for future stories by himself or other writers that deal with further fallout of Talia and Damian's deaths. I don't personally think he cares about that, but it wouldn't surprise me if the situation is picked up by someone in the future -- Tomasi and Gleason would be my choice for the obvious reason that they've been the two writers who have hewed as closely as anyone to Morrison's 7-year-run. (All that said, I will agree that in light of Morrison's recent work, Snyder's suffers both for its timing, similar content, and by comparison; I find it perfectly adequate, but it's just bad timing and too similar -- whether it was "ripped off," no one knows, but I try to give him benefit of the doubt. The one thing I can appreciate are his attempts to explore the Wayne-Kane family ties and the history of Gotham that was originally seeded in B&R 7-9 and ROBW #5.)

    Oh, and finally: I think his comment about people hating the issue has to do with the bleakness of Talia's end. It's very sudden, almost perfunctory -- her demise is telegraphed both by Ra's as well as the grave foreshadowing, in addition to the tenor of her comments to Batman prior to their fight ("To the death!"). I found the suddenness and brutality of her execution by Kathy to be incredibly cold -- I really thought it was interesting, given "Batman doesn't kill." (The one "hole" in my theory that the grave would end up being Talia was who would kill her -- I thought maybe Morrison would break the sacred rule and have Batman go over the edge, which was why I thought he speculated people would hate the issue.) To be a little "fanboyish," I would read the crap out of a Kathy Kane/Spyral espionage series if done by the proper creators (paging Chris Burnham!)

  19. One final comment: Though there wasn't a lot of focus on it, I do like that Morrison went out of his way to "redeem" Jason Todd. It can be read as another of his jabs at the past and the way Jason has been handled since his post-Infinite Crisis resurrection. With Jason, as others observed above, every Robin has now had an opportunity to shine and "save Batman" in Morrison's run. I think there's hope and optimism in that, which runs counter to his criticisms of the grim, dark Batman of yesteryear (or next year) -- after all, the death of Robin was Batman's darkest moment historically. Obviously this issue was a mixed bag of tragedy and triumph, and darkness and hope.

  20. Nairu, thanks for your comments!

    I don't think I ever posited that Talia would be the occupant of the second grave, but I read other people saying so and was neither convinced nor in any way opposed. The question in my mind was whether or not Talia was too big for Morrison to kill, although with the Lazarus hedge, he didn't perhaps need editorial approval.

    But I think there's no doubt that Talia was the occupant. That headstone wasn't there when Damian was buried only days ago. The only other conceivable possibility would have been the Heretic, although Bruce perhaps never had the body, and it was never in any way suggested. The parallel with the Waynes is strongest if the other grave was Talia: A father-mother-son family of three with Bruce as the only survivor. In fact, that parallel was one reason I thought Kathy would end up in the grave, since she was a near-wife to Bruce, but had no relationship with Damian.

    When it comes to future runs, I'm not sure what my interest will be. I've taken long pauses away from reading comics altogether in the past, not out of severe or pitched disappointment, but a lack of interest.

    Morrison had already made a name for himself when I didn't even know who he was: I'd read and admired both Arkham Asylum and Gothic, but didn't pay much attention to writers' names. Then I read very few comics between 1993 and 2005, which is when he became a star writer. I can't reconstruct now how much of his JLA run I read before his Batman run began; I read it all fairly rapidly after the fact, but I don't recall when, circa 2006, that was. But I was soon impressed, not without reservations. By and large, I give the work of some writers in vastly higher esteem than others, and may find my interest lost by many or even potentially every single writer DC has at work at any indefinite time in the future.

    The only titles I've kept up with have been Batman, Batman Inc, and Justice League, full stop. I'm a few issues back on several others, and joined others mid-stream, and will choose which ones to catch up to now that Inc is done.

    I'm also quite apt to re-read old runs to the possible exclusion of new output. I can't really predict how that'll go. I'm extremely interested in the history of DC's various eras and how this still-new one fits into the big picture; I've mused over and drafted posts about this since 2008, but I'm also certain that not a lot of people find that as interesting as the new titles.

    It may be a good time to revisit Morrison's run as well. I'll have to see how my thoughts settle now that this run is over.

  21. Nairu, it was interesting how Morrison took Jason Todd through his B&R arc into Inc. It was quite a redemption. I'm not sure how other writers will reference it, with its inordinately complicated relationship to two past continuities, however! This felt like an especially Morrisonian pre-New 52 wrinkle that's hard to reconcile with the DCnU.

  22. Johnny, thanks. I look forward to Morrison's upcoming stories. I felt like this issue seemed to have the space it needed. It wasn't super-dense like Return of Bruce Wayne #6, or Final Crisis #7. I felt like the pacing of the interview with Gordon was wonderful; the time Bruce needed to think spoke volumes about the thoughts inside his head.

    There've been so many great artists in Morrison's Batman runs, artists who are by and large more expressive and less photo-realistic than we've seen in, say, Green Lantern. This issue, however, like most of Inc, was Chris Burnham, not Cameron Stewart. I'm sure you just put the wrong name in there. And it was good. I sure loved Cameron Stewart's work in B&R, too.

    1. I ment Chris Burnham, wish I could edit that comment, embarissing error.

  23. Thanks for the replies, Rikdad. I'll keep your blog on my RSS roll to see if/when/what you review in the future. I'm actually reading Morrison's '90s JLA right now. Your experience with comics actually sounds a lot like mine -- I read religiously from 1993-98, then lapsed until 2008. Batman Begins and The Dark Knight (along with what I thought was an really fun, cool big screen take on Iron Man) brought me back to comics in 2008. Morrison's Batman was the first run I picked up, as Batman & Son and The Black Glove were both out in trade, and R.I.P. was just starting up. I read through those and caught up, read Final Crisis, Last Rites then B&R and the rest in real-time. Meanwhile, sort of re-familiarized myself with the industry landscape, and filled in the gaps over time.

    I agree that the Jason Todd redemption doesn't necessarily fit with the DCnU and is of questionable value editorially. Nevertheless, it was nice to see Morrison give him an arc in his run. I also understand your reluctance to dive in too eagerly into someone else's continuation or interpretation of characters/stories Morrison created. My main reason for picking up the aforementioned Batman, Inc. Special and the Damian miniseries will be the involvement of the original artists. (I've met Chris Burnham and he's a really nice, thoughtful, funny guy. He seemed to have a real affinity for Batman and Grant Morrison's work.)

    FYI Grant Morrison also has a new independent series through publisher Legendary coming out called 'Annihilator.' Frazier Irving is the artist. Here's a description of the series for anyone interested:

    Also, if you're looking for something else to read, Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang's New 52 Wonder Woman (currently at 23 issues) has probably been the best written and drawn title of the relaunch from a creativity, story, and consistency standpoint. There's a lot of fun themes to be mined in it, and it also introduces elements of the New Gods in the New 52 -- which is kind of interesting considering they "died" right before Final Crisis. (I never understood why DC didn't simply reboot after Final Crisis rather than waiting another three years for a mediocre miniseries like Flashpoint.) I'm eager to see or if Morrison's Multiversity ties into or establishes the Fourth World in the New 52.

  24. Nairu,

    I was reading Wonder Woman and a few others until I lost the time to keep following and got behind, and I agree, it was extremely good.

    I think it's clear that the DC reboot of September 2011 was a command performance made on cue for business reasons; it interrupted many plans that were just underway and accommodated none. It was a response to an urgent change in their business model, not a creative plan.

    In mirror fashion, it's also clear that Final Crisis was the utilization of a plan that Grant Morrison had that was not a "Crisis" in the sense of the previous two, and then they slapped the "Crisis" word onto the cover and made it a bigger crossover.

  25. Rikdad, as always, thanks for your excellent work.

    These are just some thoughts that I wanted to air:
    After reading this issue last night, I can't shake an overwhelming sense of malaise -- possibly calculated by Morrison? Talia's "victory" sort of got to me; I didn't like to see Bruce humbled like that! I also didn't like her condescending speech that he is matching wits with lunatics ... it's calculated to bug him, and even though Gordon's speech reaffirms Batman's meaning that it's not all a "game" and that Batman is necessary, her speech is still bugging me!

    The fact that he nonetheless *had* defeated her larger plan with the meta-bombs and with the very existence of Batman Inc. is tough for me to reconcile with a poisoned Batman, narrowly saved. It's a far cry from the Batman who busted out of a grave in RIP or the Batman who smashed through a torture chamber to bust up Hurt in B&R.

    All in all, something's not sitting right with me. Maybe in time I'll come to appreciate it more, but I find it a shame that this was the conclusion to his run -- the ending of the Return of Bruce Wayne was immensely more satisfying to me personally, having substantially the same message. I re-read all of Inc. leading up to this and it was just fantastic, but this seems like an almost too-critical look at Batman to rap up what has otherwise been an amazing tribute to the Bat-legacy and Bat-ideal

  26. Lance,

    I share the sense of malaise, perhaps for similar reasons. Morrison's other stories struck grand notes on various levels near or at their end. While Inc. was of high quality throughout (I'd rate it ahead of Morrison's "Batman" run and ROBW on that count), it seemed to follow familiar ground in the general lead-up to the end, without the same payoff. If we accept that Talia had Bruce at her mercy, we should note that Doctor Hurt did the same multiple times, with Bruce unconscious and killable after encounters with two Replacement Batmen and in the Batcave after he heard "Zur En Arrh" and in the basement of Arkham. Four times! Not to mention during the original brainwashing. Each time, he was spared by Hurt having a higher agenda. So we accept that Bruce had been beaten tactically, but won the moral victory (against the Devil) in being incorruptible and underestimated.

    So for Bruce to bounce back from RIP so forcefully, to go on the offensive after Damian's death, and then develop a sense of futility at Talia's funeral seems almost arbitrary. Before her death, he stood triumphant. Was it Kathy's brief speech? The destruction around Gotham? Reflection on Talia's dismissive comments? Talia's death? It seems arbitrary on his part, as well as on that of Jim Gordon, who saw the city and himself fall under the mass drugging of Doctor Hurt.

    Clearly, this was intended to be similar to the loss of the Waynes. I recall having posited during RIP that the Black Glove might kill Damian and cause Batman to suffer such a soul-searching moment. But here, Bruce rose after that moment, causing even Talia to marvel that the man wouldn't quit.

    I appreciate the moment that Morrison captured, the poignant scene between Gordon and Wayne. I don't think the immediate lead-up to it very well explains why he had the doubt he had at that moment, when he had moved past seemingly equal or greater crises before.

    1. "I appreciate the moment that Morrison captured, the poignant scene between Gordon and Wayne. I don't think the immediate lead-up to it very well explains why he had the doubt he had at that moment, when he had moved past seemingly equal or greater crises before."

      Well said; the thing that struck me on reading this issue was -- wait a minute, this is the guy who literally shot the platonic evil with the platonic gun, and then survived a trip through time to defeat the essence of evil yet again, but Talia was somehow "too big" for him?

      On a metatextual level, I see what he's saying -- it all seems like a not-very-veiled metaphor for the new52 and superheroes at large, but thematically it was unsatisfying and even discomforting.

      The thing I keep coming back to is that this would have been a perfect middle arc; but as an ending, it just makes the entire run of the character seem impotent.

    2. Lance,
      It's interesting that Morrison designed his first two runs in hierarchical fashion, with battles against the underlings leading to a battle against the Big Bad... but in his run as a whole, it certainly didn't follow that pattern: There's no arguing that Darkseid is a bigger bad than Talia. Morrison's plans were not constructed years in advance, and so when he chose the biggest ideas he could in his first run, and the next, he had nowhere to go but down.

  27. I thought this issue was superb despite the lack of big surprises. Operatic indeed! For me it all came down to a realization that Bruce truly loved Talia. That provided the emotional punch to the reader as well to Bruce, when she died. At least this is how I read it. Why else would Bruce kiss Talia? I found myself wondering if Bruce was trying to poison her! But then I remembered Bruce admitting he loved her a few issues previous (something about her being a "bad-girl"). And in this issue he says something like "I'm sorry I couldn't love you the way you wanted me to", which I took to mean he did love her but obviously couldn't inherit a criminal empire. Plus, we get a line from Talia about her father dying just like Bruce's. This had me thinking back to the issue which was all about Talia, and wondering in what ways was she a victim to upbringing.

    Also expected, were the new lines about the hole in things, but to me it was extremely satisfying, and actually tied up the concept neatly. Made me think of the idea of the necessity of a hole, to be whole (see here:

    And the image of the empty graves to me was the symbol that tied together Bruce's fundamental loss of his parents, and this new loss of loved ones. Truly unsettling, we got the low point we expected, yet strangely hopeful! There were other important things I'm forgetting now, but maybe I'll remember later.

  28. It's somewhat interesting to me that as Bruce admits that the hole in things started with him, he has achieved what Dr. Hurt attempted to achieve (as seen in Batman and Robin Must Die!) - him alive with the Wayne fortune and his "wife" and son dead at his feet.

  29. Rikdad -- Been reading your insight on Morrison's run since 2008, as well as that of your fellow comics fans. Thanks for offering up so many cogent essays -- often written on deadline.

    To carry through the theme of opera and the personal level of the Leviathan conflict, I suspect that Bruce sagged after Talia's death for a few reasons:

    * The most obvious is that he lost both a loved one and an antagonist when Talia died. Her death ended the threat but only brought back to the surface all of Bruce's pain and loss through this arc and by extension since his own parents' death.

    * Secondarily, Talia was killed in deux ex machina fashion by another of his former lovers -- one he'd truly been hurt by back in Batman 682 and Batman Inc. V1 4. Kathy Kane was obviously operating at a much higher level of organization and ability (through Spyral) than Batman generally does. And her sudden appearance and words almost reinforced what Talia said about Batman being meant to fight Gotham madmen, not operate in the larger world. Kathy's presence must have roiled Bruce emotionally while making him question and doubt his most recent mission and even his overall mission.

    * Finally, I think he was just exhausted on every level. At what point does even a hero just wear out? Bruce had reached that point.

    Morrison ultimately did what he said he would -- he put all the toys back in the box for the next writer. And key to his last story was an element central to the very first Batman story -- Bruce Wayne talking to Commissioner Gordon about Batman.

  30. mr donut man,
    The comment about love really seemed heartfelt. We saw many fragmentary looks at Bruce and Talia's sincere affection/attraction in Morrison's run. Yet his comment to Gordon implied that the death of his parents took away his ability to love. It must have come back... we saw many instances of that, none more obvious than Kathy Kane.

  31. I'll echo all the sentiments re: Batman's "defeat" by poison. I think it can be read in a number of ways as many have pointed out: Batman undone by his ex-lover whose international criminal empire is just to much for him to handle, Batman at the very real point of physical and emotional exhaustion, Batman relying on his allies (sons/family) to help him out in his hour of need, etc. I do think the idea of Batman as a "Halloween" gimmick dressing up in a "little cape and boots" while he pummels madmen is a very cynical (if not realistic) take on Batman. So, I understand why people would hate this issue or interpretation. If there's a silver-lining or hope to found, it obviously lays with Jim Gordon. I think Morrison has gone back to him over and over and pretty clearly views him as fundamental to Batman's war on crime for both logistical and psychological reasons. I'd nominate the rooftop conversation about taking on evil/The Devil as the greatest, most important scene in Morrison's entire run -- it embodies everything both characters are about and really lays out the notion that Batman (and Gordon by proxy) simply refuse to lay down in the face of any evil -- because they can take them.

  32. Bob,
    Morrison has cause-and-effect work in some weird ways sometimes, and I don't think he's implying that the Hole In Things in the whole universe began with Bruce, but that there is one in him. Darkseid/Hurt are another matter, and Hurt is in a curious way tied back to Bruce's time travel, but Darkseid is definitely a bigger entity.

    The recurrence of man-wife murder scenarios in Morrison's run is perversely common. After having thought about this a lot, I think it may have originated with the David Lynch film Inland Empire, which came out right when Morrison's "Batman" run began and had a plot quite similar to Morrison's plot with Mayhew, his wife, and her co-star lover. I'd love to ask Morrison about that connection.

    1. I was musing this today, and I thought that once Bruce becomes aware of the hole in things (ironically thanks to devils and demons trying to fill it with hate and evil), once you're self-aware and vigilant, you've somewhat mastered the hole in things.

      Bruce has alluded to the hole in his soul all along, but it was various devils in the dark who were discussing it in more detail. When Bruce went into the cave in 'Black Mass' to smash Doctor Hurt's face in, he was descending into a cave to face his darkest inner demons (in his case, doubt, perversion of his personal ideologies and continuity errors - puzzle pieces that don't fit).

      The mirror here, in spite of her donning the Bat-Mask and cape, is that it's Talia descending into the cave to face her own demons. Bruce is aware of his hole, now. His inner demons. His personal ills and evils. He's studied evil and become evil by doing so. He's stared into the abyss and had it stare back. Deep into that darkness peering.

      Here, at the end, Bruce is the devil waiting patiently in the dark.

      Talia was shot in the same place the Joker was by "The Original Ghost of Batman".

  33. ManWithTenEyes, thanks for being here! The deadline aspect was about as challenging with this issue as any -- I was up before daylight to write it up.

    It's certainly explicable that Bruce fold at this point. I'm sure just about anyone real would. It's a matter of convenience it happened when it did, but that's how fiction works.

    I wonder how Morrison would have ended his extended run if it had happened sooner. He started the other two seasons not knowing there would be more, but he didn't END them with that belief. (RIP actually began by showing Dick and Damian silhouetted, and B&R ended with Inc's first couple of pages.) I wonder what the coda would have been if Morrison knew he'd been leaving DC in 2008 or 2010?

  34. Nairu, to respond by echoing a thought I just posted at CBR: This note of existential darkness concerning Batman's inescapable mission is only one perspective Morrison has offered on Batman, and just because it comes last, it doesn't erase the notes struck earlier concerning his triumphs and moreover his joy in being the ultimate winner. We saw a particular moment of maximum doubt, when the menace at hand had been eliminated. We should expect Batman post-Inc to feel, no more or less than before, exultation when he tells an enemy "Ready when you are" and then, after his victory, "Gotcha."

  35. I've been reading the Neal Adams Batman collection that came out this week. Very fun revisiting these stories, especially in light of Grants finale, as a bunch of these stories concern Talia and Ras.

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  37. so, after having sat on this for a few days, I'm processing it more. I think what was "too big" for Bruce about Talia wasn't *her* so to speak -- the guy did take down Darkseid -- it was love. Batman can't love, and that's what whole arc is telling us. Batman can literally defeat evil, but can't deal with love -- that's the tragedy of the character. His two former loves show up, the one has moved past him killing the one who can't.

    All of the talk about Batman being a boy still is right in that sense. But when it came to the actual "evil" of the plot, Batman heartily defeated that, with the "victory in the preparation" -- back down to stealing the meta-technology and forming Batman Inc.

    On that former point, I think there's something telling that Batman's victory over evil came from the height of his "boyish" activities -- sneaking around with his fetish-girlfriend (before sexing it up in the hotel).

    When Batman says it stopped being a game, he's telling the truth: he's mastered the hole in things enough to beat evil. (Remember, Morrison's run started with Batman coming back and cleaning up Gotham essentially off-panel!) But he can never fill it with love. Beautifully done, if a big downer.

  38. "so, after having sat on this for a few days, I'm processing it more. I think what was "too big" for Bruce about Talia wasn't *her* so to speak -- the guy did take down Darkseid -- it was love. Batman can't love, and that's what whole arc is telling us. Batman can literally defeat evil, but can't deal with love -- that's the tragedy of the character."

    I think that pretty much nails why Talia seems to get the upper hand when so many greater evils didn't. I may be speaking from personal experience here but suddenly feeling or admitting love again, after closing one's self off to it can actually be more painful than any heartbreak. This certainly ties in to the whole grand family opera/Borga motif.

    The whole Kathy Kane reveal would have worked better as a non linear plot piece, the revelation and exposition coming after she kills Talia and emasculates Bruce. Told as a flashback by Jason as he comforts Bruce perhaps?

    That said I have thoroughly enjoyed Grant's run. He hasn't baby sat us and he's challenged us both mentally and emotionally. Now it's complete I shall have to reread it, possibly in tandem with Supergods.

    Also, thank you Rikdad and all you comment posters you have all helped me fathom out some of those trademark Morrison mindjobs.

  39. Well said, David. I thought the Kathy Kane reveal was handled really well -- we all knew she was in it, so that surprise was gone, but we had no idea what role she would play -- and jesus, what a role.

    And yes, a billion thanks to Rikdad and the whole community he started, and of course to Grant Morrison for giving us so engaging. Way better than comics deserve, and it's been an absolute pleasure.


  40. The more I read about this, in an attempt to somehow make sense of the new 52 continuity and the place of Grant's run in this, and the more I look into future solicits the more the whole statement about past continuity being valid seems fickle and hollow. An attempt to keep certain writers and readership on board.

    I don't mind so much that this new continuity is being fleshed out with disregard to much of what has gone before, I just don't appreciate being lied to and having great talent squander themselves in an attempt to conform to a continuity that ultimately negates them.

    This isn't it seems just happening in Batman but also now threads in Green Lantern have been resolved hints are being dropped that certain things never happened anyway.

    Have your new continuity, have your new imitative ideas, I'd like to see what you make of it but why oh why did you lie and force great talent to, for all intents and purposes, betray itself only for you to ignore it in the end?

  41. I know I'm showing myself to be extremely dense here, but here goes... so by the end of this issue does Gordon know Bruce is Batman or not? I know he kinda hints around it, but at the end of it all, does he or doesn't he know?