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...

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