Thursday, March 29, 2012

Batman: The Grant Morrison Odyssey - Finale 1

Part 1: Batman & Son
Part 2: Club of Heroes/Resurrection of Ra's Al Ghul
Part 2.1: Devil-Bats & The Bridge to RIP
Part 3: RIP
Part 4: The Missing Chapter/Last Rites/Final Crisis
Part 5: Batman Reborn
Part 6:Blackest Knight/Batman vs. Robin
Part 7: Batman & Robin Must Die!!!
Part 8: Return of Bruce Wayne Part 1
Part 9: Return of Bruce Wayne Part 2

Well it has been a long road to this point, 10 blogs in all (11 counting this one when it's completed), and I hope that it's helped some people connect the dots in the Morrison Bat-World, or discover some new stuff they didn't see before, it certainly has done that for me.  Once this is done, I think it's time to take a loooong break from anything Morrison-related, and aside from one idea I have, likely a bit of a break from the Batman universe as well. BUT before that happens, it's time to take a look at the culmination of Grant's pre-New 52 Bat-epic, phase 3 of this multi-year story: BATMAN INC!!!

When we last left our freshly returned to the land of the living in present day Bruce Wayne he announced to the world that he had been financing Batman's operations for years and was looking to...well...franchise it across the world essentially in the form of Batman Inc.  Before we get into that story though we had the Morrison/David Finch "Batman: The Return" production to lay the groundwork and it started with a return trip to the moment of Batman's birth...

Yup, the bat is back as he enters into the Wayne Mansion where a bleeding-out Brucie awaits some divine inspiration after his "Year One" failure at crime fighting.  This bat, who is old & may have been one of the bats the scared Bruce as a child, perches on the bust, Bruce is inspired, rings the bell (the Bell of All-Over as we learned in the "Return Of Bruce" stories) and " was born this weird figure of the night!"

There's your new & improved Batman...and we are dropped into the middle of chaos with a character named Hussain Mohammed holding a boy hostage, screaming about something called Leviathan as Bats leaps into action, saving the boy, disarming a bomb, and deploying an airbag landing all while in mid-air. Yup, this is definitely Bruce Wayne back in action! He drops a cloud of smoke, disappearing, but uttering something cryptic to the boy's father (Farouk) about knowing what he knows and how it will destroy him (Farouk).

Family reunion time in The Batcave!  Oracle, Robin, Red Robin, Batgirl, and Batman (Dick Grayson) are all in attendance (Cassandra Cain seems the only one absent) as Bruce lays out his plans to the group, how he has individual assignments for them all which include Oracle working on Waynetech's Internet 3.0 and Batgirl going to England for finishing school.  The big question on Damian's mind though..."What about Batman and Robin?"...referring to himself and Dick Grayson as a team.

No answer there as we jump to Waynetech R&D two hours later where Damian, Bruce, and a very Morgan Freeman-esque Lucius Fox discuss technology issues, specifically the G.I. Robot program which I am only familiar with from "Batman Confidential" but Wiki tells me has been around since the 60's.  Lucius shows off some jet-suits which Bruce has him modify to look like Batman & Robin, leading to Bruce & Damian's first real jaunt together as the Dynamic Duo.  Destination: Yemen...

Bruce inquires as to D's thoughts on Grayson, Damian wonders if he's on trial,  Bruce avoids the question by telling him that Farouk was involved in illegal bio-experiments including "...metagene boosters, synthetic superpowers".

They stumble on a host of dead things, failures in engineered superhumans..."all the rage among the mega-wealthy. Ask your mother", Bruce says to Damian shortly before he disappears and Bruce is confronted by something named Traktir of the Super-Collective as he checks on the body of a female who is alive but has her larynx crushed.  Traktir labels the woman as Spidra, references a final conflict with The Heretic, then attacks "Vampire Man" as he repeatedly calls Bruce.  Bruce saves Spidra's life, Traktir stops his assault, references someone called "Fatherless", while Damian is off on his own & encounters...

I assume this is Fatherless but whoever he is he looks a lot like a Batman with those pointy ears and utility belts across his chest.  He escapes, Bruce chastises Damian for leaving so upon return to the cave he rips off his "R" for like the 3rd time since "Batman & Robin #1", and Bruce tells Dick that he wants him to stay on as Batman (contrary to what Dick assumed in the last Morrison B&R story), Damian to continue on as Robin alongside him, and the two of them to continue operating in Gotham City, presumably while Bruce takes on the world (Planet Gotham just like the title).

Bruce tells Alfred that he can't believe how much Damian has changed, how "she can't be happy" referencing Talia Al Ghul, and fills Alfie in on just why he's doing what he's doing: "I have to protect them from what's coming...what I saw...".  I would imagine that would be something he saw at Vanishing Point when he had access to the totality of history.  Bruce mentions visiting Tokyo & Argentina, then hits up Catwoman to help him steal something. 

The story jumps over to Leviathan HQ where someone is addressing Farouk about the earlier events as the Bat-looking thing I assume is Fatherless creeps into the room with a child at his side.  The kid, Farouk's son Omar, raises a gun at his father, rants about purifying the world in Leviathan's name, then shoots his father " the name of all that is pure and true, strong and young..."

"The Return" was dense, setting plays into motion for Dick & Damian, Batgirl, Oracle, and Bruce himself, but nothing was said regarding Red Robin in that brief scene, hopefully that comes soon as we begin "Batman Inc" proper.

The pace of the "Inc" issues are quite rapid so I have a feeling my issue-by-issue stuff is not going to be quite as detailed, which is good considering I'm trying to cover all 8 issues plus the one shot here.  We start with Lord Death Man (a villain dating back to Batman #180) killing the Japanese hero known as Mr. Unknown (first appearance).  Some kid walks in on it, fights off Lord Death Man's henchmen (who look like Johnny from "Karate Kid" in their skeleton outfits btw), and feels the scene as someone (LDM presumably) shouts "Kill all Japanese crimefighters".

We catch up with Bats & Catwoman as they break into Dr. Sivana's lab looking for something he invented that Bruce doesn't want getting into anyone elses hands.  Someone else has gotten there first though, and the crazy lab also has invisible sentries to fight off (that crazy Morrison).  Selina finds the diamond looking whatever the hell it is that Bruce wants, and as she is about to get attacked by a giant robot rat, the scene cuts to a hotel where Selina watches herself on TV (under the name Elva Barr which is apparently from Batman #15) arrive in Japan with Bruce (there's also a little reference to The Super Young Team of "Final Crisis" fame). The two are obviously very much involved here, I suppose part of Bruce's new plan to actually let people in, and considering how deep Selina had gotten prior to his death it makes sense

She notes that it was certainly not a diamond they stole, Bruce mentions catching a glimpse of the big picture while "dead" and training a Japanese Bats, she basically says she wants to have sex, and then we're off to the our usual night time activities (capes, cowls, leather whips, and roof tops).

They hit up Mr. Unknown's residence/shop, find his dead body, Cats makes mention of a case Unknown was working involving three murdered John Doe's, they fight off some of Death Man's men who were waiting for Jiro, Unknown's protege.  Over to Jiro's house where Death Man has his girl hostage, Jiro shoots him, his girl falls into a vat of water, Cats actually dives into save her, and we get the weirdest death trap ever:

It plays off earlier comments Cats made "As long as it doesn't involve water I'm in" as well as the odd Japanese tentacle monster poster she saw; clever & cute:
Cats & Bats survive the deathtrap over the course of several awesome pages, Jiro's girl dumps him, Batman tells Selina he knows why she really came along (the Poseidonis jewels mentioned on the newscast she watched I assume), and those good old detective skills kick in as Batman takes Unknown's manner of death (nitro hydrochloric acid), uses its Latin name (aqua regia), and deduces who Death Man's next victim will be, Aquazon of The Super Young Team, and how the John Doe's Cats mentioned before also pointed to Mr. Unknown as his victim.

Bruce finds out that Jiro had been doing a great deal of the physical stuff for Unknown, who Bruce was there to recruit, as his age prevented him from all that. Jiro offers himself up to Batman Inc, Bruce shoots him down because of his use of guns to kill Lord Death man, which brings us to LDM as he's about to be dissected.

So Lord Death Man, who Bruce stated used yoga to fake his death, took bullets to the chest, fell out a window, and is still alive.  Yeah, there is definitely something more than meets the eye here and LDM blowing up the hospital totally screams of "The Dark Knight" movie. Maybe Lord Death Man had some upgrades (something Bruce mentioned) courtesy of Leviathan's artificial metahuman machinations mentioned in "The Return"?

Jiro takes on the Mr. Unknown identity, Lord Death man goes on totally random killing rampage, en route to Aquazon who is with the Poseidonis jewels.  Death Man rants about finding a way to resist death itself (something Bruce kind of knows about himself), gets beat up by the combined efforts of Jiro & Bats, but Jiro eats some bullets of his own as Cats actually locks Death Man in a safe. Another cute moment there...

Cats wonders what Bruce will do when Batman's enemies come after him, he cryptically responds with a "You'll see", and we learn that Jiro's death was faked as he is sworn into Batman Inc in a very familiar fashion:

Jiro faked his death to start over with a new identity, Lord Death Man is trapped on a space shuttle orbiting Earth, and we have our first new Batman who ends the chapter fighting a giant monkey who is apparently from "Batman: Manga" & is named Professor Gorilla.
Actually I'm wrong...I think Nightrunner from the Batman/Detective annuals is first Batman Inc member outside of the usual family...

Anyway, chapter three tosses us back to 1982 and some flashback world including an appearance by a random background character from "B&R #7", The Metaleks:

There's a war scene, a faceless voice mentioning Dedalus and a never-ending ring.  The body doesn't remain faceless for long as we hop back in time just a bit further to see a group of superhero looking chaps, including the original Knight whose appearance matches that of the hands we saw in the earlier scene thus putting an identity to the voice.

This group of heroes is there on the island, the Falklands based on the coordinates given in the ish, in order to lock up Dedalus in a tower and make sure he never leaves. Dedalus is apparently the "world's most dangerous super-spy", working for the Spyral organization, and he has turned double agent.

The group is engulfed by a black shadow that totally reminds me of The Shade and The Knight comes to holding this:

So that spider web thing completely reminds of Seven Soldiers & The Spider character in it but that just may be because I am conditioned to think all of Morrison's books tie together in some fashion. ...

We jump to present day where some guy named Cimarron (apparently from Flash Annual #13) is held at gun point by Papagayo (from Batman #56).  The first words we see are "...but there's always a sting in the tail", Cimarron mentions missing children, Papagayo mentions a "blue lady", and between the sting & blue lady comments, not to mention the fact that we are in Argentina, I think it's a safe bet that Scorpiana from "RIP" is involved here.

That Spanish in the corner there is translated as such:

"But the duende? The duende does not come at all unless it sees that death is possible. The duende must know beforehand that it will be allowed to serenade death's house and shake the branches of pain we all wear, branches that do not have and will never have, any form of comfort."

Papagayo runs for it, knocking over crates of blue scorpions in the process and verifying Scorpiana's involvement in this.  Bruce and crew hijack Papa's hot air balloon where he gloats about how the heroes will never guess who set this all up.  Then he gets bit by a blue scorpion and falls to his death while his pet parrot repeats "Oroboro! Boss! Oroboro!".  Oroboro is essentially the image of the snake eating its own tail, creating a circle, or perhaps a "never-ending ring" as mentioned by Knight earlier on.  Read more here...

More Spanish, filling us in on Gaucho's back story, here's a translation:

"In Buenos Aires, in the spring, the place where you have to be is the private race track in the splendid villas of Don Santiago Vargas.

Provider of miraculous racehorses to princes, sheikhs and potentates, the most eligible bachelor in Buenos Aires plays host to a who's who of beautiful supermillionaires!

Don Santiago Vargas! Extravagant! Irresponsible! Enigmatic!"

So essentially he is Bruce Wayne of Argentina and he is surrounded by beautiful women, one whom Bruce dances the Tango of Death with and they go on some more about duende.

BTW, Gaucho thinks Batman is just pretending to be Bruce Wayne in all this, proving how good Bats is at getting people to think Bruce is just a fop.

Bruce notes how he smelt poison on the women, Gaucho affirms that she is Scorpiana and that was her 15th attempt to kill him.  He also turns down the Batman Inc offer, likening it to the Club of Heroes debacle.  Bruce reveals the ring he lifted off Scorpiana while she was his dance partner and it is a ring in the shape of an oroboro.  Discussion turns to the three missing blind kids and if oroboro rings any bells. Gaucho mentions a writer who wrote a book by that name, "...a book of short stories about a sinister manipulative figure known as Doctor Dedalus".  The author was apparently killed by three blind assassins but in truth the author was never real, his life a fiction, a big old mystery for Bats to solve.  What's neat here is how Morrison ties in some real-life stuff into his tale in the form of The Florida Group that Gaucho mentions.

Gaucho & Bats hit El Casa D'Oro (the house of gold, also note how "oro" is in the word as it is in oroboro) where the fake author's death too place and find themselves in a deathtrap, with a voice that Gaucho finds all too familiar talking to them.  This being a death trap, and with Gaucho finding the card, who else could it be but the NOT dead El Sombrero, last seen being hung by The Joker in "RIP"!

And besides...the cover itself was kind of a tell for this little reveal anyway if you're familiar enough with the symbol dead center....

So that old man on the island is back again in the next chapter, ranting about his web, his prey, how he controls the weather, and most importantly, about "...his perfect plan and the ring around the world. And about Oroboro."

Abruptly we jump to Kate Kane, the modern day Batwoman, as she chases after Johnny Valentine (Pyg's last name was Valentin, connection?), following a lead which just so happens to be a necklace in the design of the Ouroboros serpent, a necklace that Johnny dropped when  he killed 3 Marines. 3 marines, 3 blind kids, 3 blind assassins....lots of 3's in the last couple issues...

The chase takes place in Kane's Kolossal Karnival which just so happens to have been owned by Kathy Kane, the original Batwoman, and cutely enough, I suppose it brings the Batwoman story full an ouroboros.

The story jumps again, this time to the past, as Kathy Kane is hearing out the offer of an Agent-33 to join some intelligence agency, ANOTHER intelligence agency, which means she was involved with one previously. 33 mentions an "Agent-Zero" who has assembled this team, and passes off a business card for this group, called Spyral, with a very familiar symbol: the eye in the center of a web, the same card The Knight was holding in the Falklands raid at the start of the last chapter.  Oh and that old guy was talking about webs and what not in the open of this too. Another oh, this Agent is named additional reference to the number 3, only this time in double.

Kathy shows off her "plan to flirt with death until his bony little heart breaks in two" by her little stunt ride while the captions (which may be notes) tell us she was born Kathy Webb, inherited the circus from her dead husband Nathan Kane who bought it with the money he inherited from his parents, Roderick & Elizabeth Kane, who we saw in "Return of Bruce Wayne #5" expressing their suspicions that Thomas Wayne had their daughter Martha killed. So Kathy Kane, as a result of marriage, is essentially Bruce's aunt.  It all connects...but still kind of creepy given how this story goes.  There's also a list of various film & writing projects Kathy conquered included here and thanks to David Uzumeri at Comics Alliance I have some idea of their references. Check it out here.

So it seems that, on assignment to someone, Kathy worked her way into the Bat-Family as Batwoman, getting the idea from watching TV footage of Batman & Robin chasing Lew Moxon's people.  Long story short...Moxon is the guy who threatened Thomas Wayne at the Halloween party where he wore the original Bat-Man costume that inspired Bruce's design, the one Dr. Hurt wore.  I think in some version of Bruce Wayne's history he hired Joe Chill to kill Thomas & Martha but in Morrison's version I believe it was Thomas "Dr. Hurt" Wayne who did the hiring...and all these are new additions to Kathy Kane's backstory btw as the original version of this character was indeed a circus performer, no intelligence background, who became Batwoman due to some infatuation with the man.

Back to where we left off last chapter with Bats & El Gaucho in Sombrero's death trap where the two men put on this Shock-Knucks that remind me of those Dick wore when he fought the reanimated Bat-Clone in "Blackest Knight".  Scorpiana drops some knowledge that Gaucho, then known as Agent-33, is responsible for the death of Kathy Kane.  Bats references her death at the hands of Sensei's men (Detective #485). Gaucho tells Bats he too loved Kathy, Bats hits him harder, and we go back to Kate Kane at the circus...

Apparently Valentine's killings were done so that the bullet wounds spelt ORB in braille...three letters. Johnny calls someone for back-up, they tell him to head to the Ghost Train which was also used during Dick & Damian's fight at Pyg's circus.  Inside Batwoman finds someone looking a lot like the Kathy Kane version...

Back to Kathy's story as we learn just how she got to the point of being able to parade around Gotham in a Batsuit as well as get to see the first encounter of Batwoman, Batman, and Robin.  I really dig the way this is written btw, may be a better description. They're light but at the same time not...

So Dick is upset about Batwoman's presence at the moment of meeting, Bruce & Kathy meet at a party and it is interesting to note that she says they've never met before...which likely means that Bruce had no contact with his uncle since Kathy stated earlier they were together for 7 years.

Bats & BW fight crime together, they kiss, Dick flips out to Alfred about the whole situation, mentioning a bogus Batgirl who I presume is Betty Kane (her niece but I couldn't find any reference to who her parents may be in relation to Martha Wayne). It's also quite funny to hear Dick ranting about how "Even the dog's wearing a mask. It makes it all dumb instead of special" which is certainly how I feel reading about some of the crap from the Golden/Silver Age.  Dick also catches Bats & BW making out in the Bat-mobile, and the caption mentions a year passing...making Kathy Kane now 33 years old (MORE 3's!!!)...

Sidenote, some of these pages are modified versions of ones from the original Batwoman stories, some scenes took place inside The Lump from the "Last Rites" stories, it's all kind of tied together which I dig. 

See what happens when the Bat-people get stoned on hallucinogens...the original of this story is also in "The Black Casebook" trade DC put out collecting several of Morrison's reference points for his Bat-run. Also, if you blow that up, you may note that the guy to the right of the alien creature has that Ouroboros on his shirt...

Another scene has Kathy meeting the old man from the beginning, Agent-Zero, the Doctor Dedalus we have heard mentioned before, also known as Otto Netz "The Spinner of Snares", another spidery reference as that giant eye/web logo is on the wall over his head.  Oh and btw, he's also Kathy Kane's father (cue ominous music)...and he points out that Bats knows her secret but she doesn't know his.

Back to the rooftops where BW teaches Bats the Tango Del Muerte, the same dance he did with Scorpiana in present day, and she uses it as an opportunity to break up with Bats (who she calls Bruce so apparently she knew all along) before he finds out about daddy.

Back to modern Batwoman as she fights the impostor Batwoman-Classic while her father searches for ORB references and stumbles across Oroboro, references to "advanced meta-materials" and Nazi Scientists, as well as a British spy called The Hood (remember "Knighquest: The Search" anybody?).  Kate Kane beats fake BW, drops that it was Argentinians (ya know the country where Bats is now, the country the UK was fighting in the Falklands in the 80's) who ordered the hit on the Marines. Kate's dad finds Oroboro as a military codename for some kind of ultimate weapon, that there's something going on in the South Atlantic (The Falklands), and his daughter reopens the Kathy Kane murder case...

Back in Argentina Gaucho & Bats continue to fight it out while Sombrero & Scorpiana watch, discussing how "...the ordeal has only begun" and how an international incident is brewing that "...will plunge at least THREE countries...into war".  More three's, everywhere it's three's, like Zur En Arrh's in "Batman & Son".  Meanwhile Bats proves how badass he is as he was essentially using the fight as a cover (suuuuure) to infiltrate & disable Sombrero's security network "...with a device that's barely as sophisticated as a cell phone". What a braggart...

A quick cut to the Falklands where Dr. Dedalus sits with dudes in raincoats & umbrellas watching over him as the caption/notes overhead talk about his "tattered cloak of smoke" and his "epic of death and betrayal, mutilation, genocide, and cruelty".  And apparently snow is a sign that "they" will be there soon to set him free...

Scorpiana bails on Sombrero, leaving him to Bats & Gaucho, he mentions a "Maestro" who I presume is Dedalus, and notes how in 24 hours the world will be at war. The caption reads "Most days is does not snow on cue" as the monitors turn to static (what we often refer to as snow) and when they come back...

What you can't see in this cut of the image is how the kids in the background, now freed from their death trap, are smiling and laughing.  I guess that's because they're blind and can't see the scary ass Batman about to rain hell on Sombrero...

And this is the part where I realize that it's damn near impossible to succinctly write about 11 issues in one blog, much less 11 Grant Morrison written issues, especially when they are as dense as #4 was here. 

So it is at this point I think it appropriate to take a brief pause, allow readers to catch a breath, and return with the final finale looking at the last 6 parts of Batman Inc early next week.  It's been a fun venture and it is almost over.  When we return, more with El Gaucho, The Hood, the whole of Batman Inc in action, and the mystery of Oroboro solved.  Until then read over the over parts of this journey, drop by my Amazon Store linked on the left and pick up some of the books I've talked about, or be a kind soul & grab me something on my wish list.  If you love me you'll do it...

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Batman: The Grant Morrison Odyssey - Level 8, Part 2

Part 1: Batman & Son
Part 2: Club of Heroes/Resurrection of Ra's Al Ghul
Part 2.1: Devil-Bats & The Bridge to RIP
Part 3: RIP
Part 4: The Missing Chapter/Last Rites/Final Crisis
Part 5: Batman Reborn
Part 6:Blackest Knight/Batman vs. Robin
Part 7: Batman & Robin Must Die!!!
Part 8: Return of Bruce Wayne Part 1

Right off the bat we are dropped into a murderous situation with a dead dog, a man being hung, and a woman being dragged by her hair out of a house. One of the thugs seems intent on rapping the blond woman but one of his compatriots stops him while a third man comes out of the house with another red headed woman in his grasp and a now-familiar Bat Casket in his hands. The possession of said casket would mark this family as the Van Derm's whom were seen with it last issue when Jack Valor gave them certain papers after his encounter with Pirate Bruce.

The thugs, who I presume are the ones seen hiring Hex at the end of last issue, making these story beats take place BEFORE that scene, kill the young son, kidnap the blond daughter, and leave the redheaded woman clutching her dead child's body wishing for an angel of retribution (akin to what Annie in #2 claimed she did). She gets her answer in a similar form too:
Briefly we are given a piece of a journal entry from some heretofore unseen narrator and we are dropped now from The Old West to Gotham with our thugs & Jonah Hex. They reference the "ghost" who attacked them as they lead Hex to "Monsewer Sauvage" as they call him, or Vandal Savage, the once & former leader of The Blood Tribe, as we know him.

Savage is apparently the money here, the one looking to hire Hex to stop the "cowboy in black", as he chugs on laudanum & laments how "that dwarf Bonaparte" betrayed him; "They all betray me.." Savage says, obviously in reference to The Blood Tribe as well.

A Native American (Midnight Horse) comes out of a room, smoke coming off his body, talking about Bat-People and how opening the box (the Bat-Casket presumably) will be the end of the world. Hex wants more money which is readily given with more to come "...just as soon as you lay our DEMON to rest"; there are lots of references to ghosts, demons, gods, throughout "Return"...

Cowboy-Bats hits the scene, engages in a little gun-fighting, using makeshift batarangs rather than guns to stop his foes (always non-lethal even without a memory), and Midnight Horse begins to freak out, thinking Bruce has come for the box, something Savage agrees with, so he wants Midnight to open the box immediately despite his end-of-the-world warnings. Savage even says "The end of the world could only come as a relief", having lived for so many centuries already.

Savage, in the midst of ranting about immortality, tells Hex that the blond woman is with a "qualified doctor" and is Catherine Van Derm. That doctor, as it turns out, is named Thomas and it's safe to assume that this is none other than Thomas Wayne aka Dr. Simon Hurt, and he wants the box open for the "secret of life eternal". Catherine, in some sort of trance, begins to mutter out loud:

This isn't the first reference to bells in this story, last issue mentioned the "Bells of the All-Over", and for Thomas it equates to the "Bells of Barbatos" as he flashes back on the "Dark Knight,Dark City" ritual when he drank the "starry venom" of "batwinged Barbatos".

Catherine, a drooling mess with blackened eyes that look like an eclipse, rambles on about "a dark god opening his box and there's bells...but the bells at the end summon another...from the who won't stop until the wicked are brought to account."

I think it's safe to say that the "dark god" is Darkseid, that the box he is opening is the hyper-adapter as seen in "Missing Chapter", and that the other "from the shadows" is Bruce himself.

Midnight attempts to draw on Thomas, calling him an "old gambler" which is cute in light of the Black Glove, but the doctor shoots firsts, killing "the only man who could translate anything at all of the lost language of the Miagani tribe" according to Savage. Vandal also confirms that Thomas is a Wayne when he calls him Doctor Wayne, meaning Thomas is still alive 100 years, or so, after the Barbatos ritual in "DKDC" (meaning he already kinda has the "life eternal" he's looking for).

Also, something I never noticed, something I honestly read elsewhere, something that could be given significance is how Savage mentions going to Mexico to build a new empire...which is exactly what Dr. Hurt did after the end of "RIP" with The Black Glove falling apart. Neat...

Bruce descends on the house, using some tried-and-true tricks to shake things up (gas pellets, darkness, fear), and ends up fighting inside a casino, smashing some thug (the one who shot the child I believe) into a roulette wheel (BLACK AND RED).

Swooping out of the sky onto Savage's carriage, the old caveman seems to recall how this happened to him before, issue 1 again. Bruce attacks, breaking Thomas' hold on Catherine in the process, freeing her to smash the Bat-Casket across his face. The journal entry narrative returns with references to Pinkney, the narrator's father, a Judge, and the revelation that this is all being written by another Wayne; Pinkney was commissioned by Judge Solomon Wayne to build the Gothic structures of Gotham AND the only child of Solomon's was Alan Wayne, our narrator.

Alan is apparently trying to off himself, ending the Wayne lineage ("Better a house unfinished than one forever haunted"), by standing in the path of the rampaging chariot upon which Bruce, Catherine Van Derm, Thomas Wayne, & Vandal Savage are engaged. The carriage overturns in the nick of time, bringing Alan & Catherine together for the first time, and allowing Bruce to give his great-great grandmother White Fawn's necklace which was apparently in the possession of Catherine's mom. So that means to me that at some point (especially considering Catherine refers to the necklace as being from "the olden days") the Miagani Tribe & The Van Derm family crossed paths, married, something like that, to bring that Prehistoric artifact into their possession.

Catherine hands Bruce the Bat-Casket, whistling it open in the Miagani language, quoting her grandfather Jerome Van Derm "All the days of the world is one day and he must be strong for us all"; all time is simultaneous being one of Morrison's favorite themes.

Thomas tries to claim the Casket, getting brained himself by Savage who then hallucinates Bruce as the giant Prehistoric bat only to eat a knee to his face. Thomas questions if Bruce is "one too?" (one being an immortal or perhaps a Wayne, not sure here) and threatens to get them all in the end. Hex, fulfilling his deal, shoot Bruce, sending him into the water as is the theme with each of his death/rebirth moments. Only difference this time is that there is no eclipse to accompany art error perhaps?

The journal of Alan Wayne notes his wedding to Catherine, the birth of their son Kenneth that also caused Catherine's death, and how the rumors of Thomas swirled (150 years old?). The visuals show him boarding a S.S. Orion bound for Liverpool, perhaps establishing The Black Glove while in Europe, and making another connection to Orion as in the "B&R" issues during Dick & Damian's search of the mansion.

The journal also goes on to note how Alan & Catherine completed the construction of Wayne Mansion, how Catherine's final request was to keep the Bat-Casket safe, thus the building of the "Garden of Death" in which it was hidden until Dick & Damian recovered it in modern times. As for Bruce, his next stop on his magical history tour brings him to one most painful moments of his own life as he spins ever-closer to the present...

Before we check in on Bruce though, it's time for our visit to the JLA as they still try to figure out what to do about the Omega-Bomb that is Bruce. Being a Tim Drake fan, I am loving this stuff as he is essentially dictating to the big guns. I also appreciate how Morrison puts a little time-stamp on things, mentioning how Tim had been Robin longer than anyone else. We hear a little of the recording Bruce made in the "Missing Chapter" before stepping out into the prehistoric world, and Tim mentions how Bruce will essentially blow "a hole in time" if he gets back to the present. "A hole in time" makes me think of the "hole in things" as Dr. Hurt referred to himself, which is also indicative of the hole created by Darkseid's fall through time...

Now to Bruce, waking up in a hospital bed after arriving in a very noir scene, a dame walking into the scene, looking for help. This time the help is finding the murderer of Martha Wayne...

Yeah...he has to wear the costume his own father wore, the one that Dr. Hurt trashed in the present, the one that is inspirational for the Batman outfit, while solving his own parents murder. How twisted is all this!

The woman asking his help is Ms. Lamarr, one of the actresses from The Black Glove movie, and the only thing on Bruce's person when he was shot was his journal of notes. Yup, it's got a hole in it....another hole in things...

Bruce gets some clothes, begins reading through the book which was started by Mordecai, but in handwriting Bruce recognizes as his own. A group of guys seem to be harassing Ms. Lamarr, but Bruce dispatches them while cutely remarking "I don't much like jokers with guns".

Ms. Lamarr references John Mayhew and how he wants her to be in "The Black Glove" movie, they pay a visit to Martha Wayne's mother who essentially trashes Bruce's father to his face (thankfully he has no memory of his identity). She believes Thomas Wayne had her killed and that the pearls were a means of identifying her to the gunman. Betsy Kane also notes that they were a Van Derm heirloom, bringing the connection to White Fawn's necklace full circle, that necklace that is so symbolic in Batman's history ties into the dawn of time AND is only still in circulation because Bruce returned it to Catherine Van Derm last chapter.

Roderick Kane sits there, trapped in an iron lung or something, having suffered a stroke after selling Kane Chemicals to Ace Chemicals (where The Joker was presumably "born" years later), Betsy mentions the drugs & rape surrounding Thomas Wayne, charges leaked to the modern press by The Black Glove in "RIP", and how Patrick & Silas covered it up. Silas would by Bruce's great-uncle, & Patrick his grandfather. There's mention of a secret room (which we've seen several times over now) where Thomas was treated while Bruce was at boarding school (a reference to Morrison's "Gothic" story perhaps).

The crazy really kicks in when Betsy mentions how Thomas told her, AFTER his death, how he turned Martha into a drug addict. Betsy swears that it wasn't Thomas that was killed with Martha while Roderick grunts something that resembles "Hurt" from his iron lung-y thing. Betsy mentions him having a new face & a new name (Simon Hurt perhaps), and essentially hires Bruce to find him. Now, remember back to "RIP" where it was mentioned how The Kane's hired a PI to investigate Martha's death and he abruptly disappeared...

Bruce goes home, more or less, with Marsha at his side and she begins to explain to him the history of the manor; the underground caves, the bat-people, the Black Pirate, etc. Bruce finds the tomb of Catherine & Alan and the words "deep into the darkness, peering..." are carved into the mausoleum. Bruce notes that the door was opened recently despite Marsha's claim that the manor had been empty for months. She mentions the total eclipse coming that night then tells him they need to go to Willowood Military Psychiatric Hospital...last seen, in brief, during the "Missing Chapter".

There, a very familiar looking doctor talks to another man with a familiar name, Carter Nichols (ish #700) about his time hypnosis technique & its applications. The other doctor is quite obviously Dr. Hurt and he offers Nichols a deal, just as he did with Bruce & Damian in the present, and I think it's safe to say based on how Nichols was living in the present that he did not accept. Hurt also confirms my suspicion that he is responsible for the condition in which Roderick Kane now lives in.

A man in a wheelchair, very Metron-like, mumbling something about "Batman beware the hole in things", but Nichols enters the scene to inform Bruce that he can't speak since the war (Final Crisis?). Marsha officially introduces Bruce to Carter Nichols who asks what Bruce is reading, he responds that it's a story close to his heart but "The plot's got a few holes, but I think it's starting to make sense", some Morrison meta-commentary perhaps?

Loeb (from Year One) and some other people arrive for whatever the hell it is Marsha has planned to root out Martha's killer. Bruce puts on the Bat-costume, kisses Marsha in a scene very reminiscent of his kiss with Jezebel Jet, although in that one he was de-masked. She calls him her "dark knight", which seems to strike a chord in Bruce as he reflects on the content of his journal. Ever the detective, Bruce realizes that this is all a show, a "black mass under a black sun" as he calls it in light of the impending eclipse.

Yup, Marsha dolls up like Martha, while Bruce gets dolled up in the bat costume, feeling like he's done this before. Apparently he has, way back in 'Tec #235, where he used the costume to catch Lew Moxon.

At the Wayne tomb Carter Nichols, alongside several other robed men, one of them presumably Commissioner Loeb as his arrival was mentioned earlier, and including Dr. Hurt, enter the mausoleum where Hurt (or Brother Simon) insists Barbatos will lead them to the hidden casket of immortality & life eternal...the bat-casket. Hurt tells Brother John (Mayhew) to fetch his camera and the performance begins...

The eclipse is in full effect, thugs & Marsha attack Bruce, he realizes he was poisoned by her kiss (like Ivy) and comes to with Hurt explaining the situation, of how he tried to summon Barbatos 200 years prior with no understanding of what he was doing. They have arranged the scenario to look like Martha Wayne committing murder , the murder of the detective her parents hired, making this the footage leaked to the press in "RIP" AND the footage used in "The Black Glove" movie!

So in this early version of The Black Glove we have Hurt, Nichols, Mayhew, Loeb, Mayor Jessop, and the Kane's butler Groves as members...crazy that Morrison tied the Black Glove's foundations in Gotham all the way back here.

So this sacrifice of a "human bat" (i.e. Bruce in the costume) is designed to free Barbatos and grant them all eternal life. What makes this all really intriguing is that Hurt is reciting passages from The Crime Bible in this ceremony. Here's the short of it, The Crime Bible is the text for Intergang and The Religion of Crime. They worship Cain, Cain is Vandal Savage who has had roles in "Return", and their God is Darkseid. The Crime Bible played a role in "Final Crisis" too...

So what this all means to me is that Barbatos is Darkseid, or at least a form of Darkseid, in the same way that Boss Darkside & Turpin were avatars for him in "FC". I suppose that also makes Dr. Hurt/Thomas Wayne a vessel for Darkseid given the original Barbatos ceremony in "DKDC".

Marsha tosses a lit cigarette on the gasoline-soaked body of Bruce, Betsy & Roddy Kane are watching the eclipse and she hears bells ringing, Carter Nichols refuses to use his device to open the hole in time & summon Barbatos, and his box looks a lot like a Mother Box btw.

Bruce takes the box, hops into time with Barbatos riding shotgun it seems, Roderick dies, Carter Nichols actually wins the wager, and we jump to present day where Red Robin & the JLA have removed the cape & cowl from the caves under Wayne Manor. Remember the Miagani said if it was removed it would bring about the "All-Over"....

Bells are bad...

We start the next chapter back at Vanishing Point, last seen when Bruce, dolled up like an Archivist, stole a time bubble and left Super & The Time Masters crew behind:

So we're at the end of time, "everything that can ever happen has happened", and Bruce's story is the last to be archived, freezing his defining elements in time.  The first, as seen above, is the pearls which we have now seen endured from the prehistoric times of The Deer People all the way through to Martha Wayne wearing them at the moment of her death at which time they were trashed.

Also archived are a bell (the sound heard several times over) and the gun while the Nichols engine is also secured for archive.  I assume the Nichols Engine is either the Mother Box-like contraption Carter Nichols made in the last chapter, or it's Bruce himself, loaded up with chronal & Omega energy from his travels through time.

Upon his arrival to Vanishing Point he is dying, presumably from being burnt alive as his body still is smoldering & smoking, thus the Archivists shove him into some suit, a "lazarus transfusion" they call it, as the timeline counts down to its eventual fall into the black hole at the end of time.  Another "hole in things"...

The archivists detect the infestation of hyperfauna that has followed Bruce through time, officially labeling it an Apokoliptian Hunter-Killer "Curse" Machine.  Bruce acknowledges his curse being that the successive iterations of the Omega Sanction are bringing him closer to his present and closer to death, "the only escape".

And there's the bullet...

Bruce refers to the Archivists as "bush robots", as the archive being the entire history of the universe (important to "Batman Inc." I belive so remind me to bring it up there) thus the most precious thing ever.  The Archivists refer to him as "the solution to one of history's greatest mysteries", and confirm that he is the Nichols Engine, another "hole in things", a "gap in the archive", and I imagine that these gaps are Bruce's own history which will be filled in in due time.  One of the archivists acknowledges that Superman's search party, as seen in ish #2, hasn't arrived yet, putting this particualr moment in a chrono-context.  Bruce realizes that if things proceed without his intervention than the Hyper-Adapter will be free to trash the archive and maybe even hitch a ride with Supes & crew.  So he asks for a disguise (the one we saw when Supes & The Time Masters visited) and for his memory to be wiped.

The Archivist makes mention of Batman's "final adventure...and his new beginning" before transforming him, and while this happens another "infestation of hyperfauna has been detected" warning pops up.

Supes & the crew arrive, Rip leaves the keys in the time sphere, and the events of ish #2 happen in between panels.  We also flashback to the moment of Batman's birth, as seen in "Last Rites" & "Year One", and there's that bell! The bell marks the moment of Batman's creation, when the bat crashed through the window and gave a bloody Bruce his inspiration. 

We also "hear" the voice of Darkseid from just before Bruce's "death" uttering the words, "There you are", although it looks like a bat talking, which could be significant in that the Barbatos/Bat-Demon that Dr. Hurt summoned was seemingly an avatar of Darkseid.

We catch back up to the last page of ish #5 as Batman, looking like a cross between his costume & that of the Archivists, arrives in the present via time sphere, greeted by Red Robin & some version of the JLA (or maybe just a gathering of available heroes).  Cyborg freaks out, of course causing the rest of the group to jump the gun and attack the Bat-God. 

As for Supes, they are stuck in a time sphere watching the end of everything , trying to fight the bubble, with Skeets playing the lone voice of reason, "Batman did tell us him...".  The group finally realizes Bruce left them inside a time sphere in mid-construction, the "ultimate time machine" according to Skeets, and their way home.  Rip makes an off-handed comment about how Bruce "...could have known potentially knowing everything for awhile" due to his bond with the Archivist, which, as I said before, plays a part in Inc.  So essentially the Time Hunters crew is there to witness the end & rebirth of time, a recursive loop, the big All-Over is finally happening.

So I'm calling him a Bat-God right now because he single-handedly decimates Cyborg, Jesse Quick, Congorilla, Starman, & Starfire in large part due to the awesome power of his Archivist get-up.  Wonder Woman is watching the relic costume as you can see above, while Red Robin attempts to contact Dick & Damian but notes they are unreachable, Gotham City is on quarantine, and The Joker is on the loose.  So essentially putting a time-stamp on these moments, telling us they're going down at about the same time as the events of "Batman & Robin #13-15".

Red Robin steps up to the plate to confront Bruce, this time without violence, talking him through the problems of, ya know, being a walking Omega Energy Bomb.  Only problem is this Bruce asked the Archivists to take his memory so he's not quite remembering the names and events Tim Drake is schooling him on.  He tells Bruce that Dick is now Batman, that Damian is Robin, and Damian's name seems to strike a chord of memory.  He reminds Bat-God that he is Bruce Wayne to which he responds "...not yet...", reminding me of how Zur-En-Arrh Batman was also essentially a version of Bats without Bruce Wayne present.

Once again Morrison lets Tim shine in these scenes...just want to say how cool that is!

Wonder Woman confront Bruce as well and her mention of a box brings back memories of Ancestor Box and the hyper-adapter as well as those wierd words Annie spoke to "Mordecai" & the iconic WW & Supes emblems that hung in her room.

Diana uses the Lasso of Truth on Bruce which forces him to remember that he is Bruce Wayne but also give the hyper-adapter a foothold as well, something it apparently didn't have when Bruce had no memory of himself. WW points out some details about The New Gods that are pure Morrison concepts, describing them as "...self-aware ideas. They use concept weapons, anti-life equations, hunter-killer metaphors", she requests Bruce to let The Archivist speak and all hell breaks loose again!

The hyper-adapter has infested the Archivist which we got a hint of when Bruce was transformed in the first place, and all those images seem to be scattered memories.  The pearls, an eclipse, a bullet, a rose, the WW & Supes sigils, "HAHAHA", the horse, Martha's murder, Orion's belt, and a bat of course.  The symbols that have repeated themselves throughout this book as well as in "Batman & Robin". Tim wonders if this is what time looks like...

The Hyper-Adapter is trying to turn Bruce into Darkseid's weapon, he in turn uses his memories to fight back at the H-A....wait H-A...HAHA....Hyper I just seeing things there?

Supes & the Gang show up in the present as the H-A points out that only in death can he & Bruce be separated.  So GL takes the first step to do just that with assistance from Supes, WW , and Bruce himself.  Bruce orders Supes & WW to toss the H-A into the time sphere which he has set to turn back on itself.  Still, the H-A adapts as it is designed to do, becoming a giant bat, the very same bat that scared the crap out of Dick during his search of Wayne Manor during "Batman vs. Robin" AND ultimately becomes the giant bat that Vandal Savage had on a stake back in the first part of "Return". perhaps it was also the H-A Bat that Dr. Hurt/Thomas Wayne encountered during the "DKDC" Barbatos ritual in the 18th century.

I wish I could have just found the first image by itself because it's the main reason I used this image. The "gotcha" is a reference to what Bruce said just before the Omega Effect made contact in "Final Crisis", it's what was on the note inside the Bat-Casket when Dr. Hurt opened it, and as Bruce learns us in this image, it's what Jack Valor contributed to it a century earlier.

Supes makes reference to time distortions, which is what I assume the Tetris symbols on this page represent, and a dying Bruce essentially verifes that Darkseid was/is trying to incarnate inside Hurt just like he did with Boss Darkside & Turpin in "FC" (think I said that already).

Wonder Woman's statement of "Batman Must Die!" makes me think of the "Batman and Robin Will Never Die" that closed out "RIP"...

Such an awesome spread there depicting everything from Bruce's experiences in "52", the Isolation experiements, Nanda Parbat & the Thogal, and Metron...basically confiriming that he was the wheelchair-dude at Willowood Hospital and is kind of controlling this whole thing. "The 5th World is my experiment..."

Bruce summons the All-Over by ringing the bell, conceptualizing the Batman, but that moment was also Bruce reaching out for Alfred's help, which agains makes me think of how "Batman Inc" was conceptualized in Bruce's mind.  More on that next blog...and maybe bells aren't so bad.

Bruce is dying, rather dead for two minutes, again making me think of a moment from earlier in the series, just prior to "RIP" when he died at the hands of Devil-Bats for a few minutes, but Red Robin, every the loyal partner knows just how to bring him back: show him the cape & tell Bruce Gotham needs him.

A flash to the help Bruce had over his time travels from Valor, a casebook-type entry covering what I stated earlier, how 250 years ago the H-A infected a human being...Thomas Wayne.  The entry also goes on to point out "The first truth of Batman...the saving grace...I was never alone. I had help."

Bells are still ringing and now "Return" meets "B&R" for the final part of Phase 2 of Morrison's Bat-Saga!

But first, a flashback to the "Dark Knight, Dark City" Barbatos ritual definitively binding Morrison's first two phases to this story due to Thomas Wayne/Dr. Hurt's involvement in it.  These pages are both an interpretation of the pre-existing material as well as a fresh take on it, the take that binds the original Thomas Wayne to the Omega Adapter, the product of Darkseid, the H-A we just saw Bruce & company toss into time.  Thomas Wayne, obviously ignorant to the words "Barbatos" is saying to him believes he's being called "Omega Adeptus" which Wiki tells me is essentially the most adept magician. Wayne also takes on the name Simon at this moment in reference to Simon Magus who was a biblical figure, a powerful magician, and may have buried himself alive to be resurrected like Jesus. Thanks Wiki and David Uzumeri!

So homeboy eats the bat, taking the Hyper Adapter into himself essentially, and gaining the immortality he has always been searching for (and was still searching for at the time of Bruce's parents murder).  Wasn't the fact that he was 200 years old and still breathing a sign? WIth the history lesson completed, Bruce officially reenters the scene:

So cool....out from the fireplace, right at the secret room where Thomas Wayne/Dr. Hurt was treated (I think) by Bruce's father Thomas.  The 99 Fiends attack, Bruce has Dick & Damian at his back, leading to another awesome multi-panel fight sequence as well as some catch-up dialogue like Bruce reminding Dick how he told him not to wear the costume (I believe this was in "Battle for the Cowl" or the Nightwing "Last Rites" issues) followed by Dick's retort of how Jason Todd would be wearing it otherwise.  Oh yeah, and a little reminder of how Hurt shot him in the skull.

With some of the 99 beaten there's a little catch-up, Dick reciting to Bruce what he figured out about Hurt, Thomas Wayne, El Penitente, and what not.  More of the 99 wander in but burst into laughter, presumably induced by The Joker who is still down in the Bat-Bunker with a nuke in hand. The moment of Dick having to tell Bruce that The Joker is "...on our side, kinda" is painful and funny.  Bruce finding the desecrated portrait of his parents is just painful.  Bruce instructs Damian to get Dick home safe while Damian, in a rare moment of showing his true feelings, tells his father "...we can entrust the rescue of Pennyworth to you, I hope".  He does care about Alfred after all...and Grayson as well given that he saved his arse from a gunshot during the fight montage.

Hurt, speaking to Bruce via speakers in the Bat-Cave perhaps, informs him that he has Alfred captured and while Alfie begs Bruce to not come looking for him until he's done. Bruce, in light of his "first truth of Batman", totally ignores that request while Hurt, reverting to his gambling motif, drops a "place your bets" comment. Bruce searches the cave, Hurt mentions a "truth chamber" which I have no idea about so I looked that one up...

Wierd shiz huh?  And the return of Morrison's love for the old no longer canon Bat-stories...

Hurt continues to taunt Bruce via speaker, "That's how it feels to be the devil in hell", "I am the hole in things! I bring hell on earth and to the world debasement".  He references the isolation experiments, makes his own version of Batman R.I.P, this time meaning "Rot in Purgatory" as he leaves Bruce trapped in the mirrored Truth Chamber:

Meanwhile in Gotham, Pyg has gone completely nuts, Dick & Damian have arrived to save the day, turning his drug-addled Dollotrons on him before Dick collapses again, sending Robin after Joker.  Oh yeah, and Pyg is still the creepiest villain in a loooong time: "I made you to love me but remember I'M NOT WEARING PROTECTION, MY DARLINGS!"

Bruce breaks out of his "trap", it's a trap he created so if he couldn't it would be kinda sad now wouldn't it?  He also tries to explain to Dr. Hurt who he really is, what happened to him with the H-A, how Bruce's father Thomas tried to treat him in that hidden room, but Hurt refuses to accept that, still spouting that he is Bruce's father, that he "...built this endless puzzle for you, my poor, insane son!"

Hurt puts some distance between he and Bruce, hoping into the water in the cave, reminiscent of both "RIP" and every "rebirth" scene in "Return of Bruce" (minus the eclipse)...or wait, scratch that, there is any eclipse going on during this fight as scene in the window during this DOUBLE PUNCH scene:

Bruce elects to save Alfred, trapped in what I assume are the remains of the helicopter from RIP OR the remains of the spaceship from "Return" #1 that was launced in "FC".  While Bruce saves his life-long friend & surrogate father, his life-long enemy & faux-father escapes only to stumble upon a trail of dominoes. So remember that banana peel Joker discarded so haphazardly....

The "devil", the personification of evil, the "hole in things" gets undone by the oldest trick in the book, a freakin' banana peel.  That's actually amazing and leaves Hurt in the position to get Jokerized & buried alive (like his namesake Simon Magus), and just like happened to Damian at the hands of The Joker and to Batman at the hands of The Black Glove.  Full circle I suppose...but there's still that pesky old nuke.

Damian is on that one while Bruce tracks down Joker, catching him just before he escapes Wayne Manor grounds, just as he caught him right before he escaped Arkham Asylum in "The Clown at Midnight" prose ish.  What I dig about Joker's ramblings here is this: "The Joker fights crime! When there's no Batman...the gravediggin' clown gets to be the good guy...what could be funnier than that?"

So in the moment, thinking that HIS Batman is dead & gone, Joker actually wants to become a hero? Amazing...and possibly the inevitable conclusion of his Super-MPD. Alas we will never see that world as Bruce decks him...

The world settles, so we think, as we learn the quarantine has been lifted after three days, the Mayor whom Gordon thought dead still lives, Pyg has been locked up in Arkham, and the corruption in City Hall & the plot to smear The Waynes are under investigation.

So with Bruce back Dick naturally assumes he will revert to being Nightwing now that he's recovered from his gunshot wound.  Bruce, in a somewhat surprisingly compassionate move, orders him to take 2 months off.  Damian worries that he will be forced out of his Robin role, Bruce busts out the "Batman and Robin will never die" line, and tells him to get ready to meet the public.

A press conference, the half-truth revelation that Bruce Wayne has been financing Batman in secret for years, and then the whole world changes as Morrison's Phase Two ends & Phase Three begins:

The Era of The Black Glove is over!  Dr. Hurt was 18th Century Thomas Wayne kept alive by blood & contact with Darkseid's H-A (who he thought was the demon Barbatos) for 250 years! Bruce Wayne created his own inspiration and Barbatos' inspiration, by tossing the H-A, then in the form of a bat, into the time sphere! Darkseid essentially started it all by tossing Batman into time in the first place! Batman, only the 2nd man to survive the Omega Sanction, can escape any trap! Hurt paid to have The Wayne's killed! DOUBLE PUNCH!!!

Thanks to whomever created this piece I found in a Google image search, I think it's only missing the Knight & Squire one...

So now we venture into the territory of "Batman Inc" where Bruce Wayne's support of Batman is public knowledge and his experiences lost in time have shaped his outlook on the mission.  Most importantly, always remember the first truth of Batman: "I was never alone. I always had help"