Wednesday, April 25, 2012

1st Time For Everything: Some Random Thoughts and my 1st Q&A!

It's been awhile since I've addressed ANYTHING comic-book related except Batman and Grant Morrison.  Even my last blog (Owls) was indirectly about Batman in that it was inspired by the current Court of Owls/Night of the Owls arc running through the Bat-Family books.  So in that light I have decided to do something I have never done before in the year-plus I've been doing this blog, a Q&A!  For awhile I thought I would keep anything/anyone pro wrestling-related separate from my comic book blog but over time I have come to realize just how many comic book fans there are in the wrestling world! Who woulda thunk...the fantasy world of pro wrestling having fans of the comic book fantasy world?  A natural crossover I suppose.

So I reached out to one of the people I know thru wrestling who is also a comic book fan & huge horror fan: Rob Dimension, 1/2 of the Extreme Odd Couple Podcast alongside "The King of Old School" Steve Corino.  But before I get into that, I'm just going to shoot out some random thoughts about things I've been reading lately...hence "The Runaways" image at the top.

First off, my friend Pat (follow @patridings on Twitter) recently gave me 3 hardcovers of "The Runaways" series written by Brian K. Vaughan of "Y: The Last Man" & "Ex Machina" comic book fame AND "Lost" on TV.  I started up this book when it first kicked off in 2003 but due to financial constraints I only read it for the first 6 issues. I've seen the various characters pop up elsewhere, most recently in the "Daken: Dark Wolverine" book, but never had any clue what happened in their own story.  Well, after only a week since I started reading the 1st Hardcover, I have plowed through all 766 pages of the first 2 Volumes and am probably 150 pages into Volume 3!  I'm almost mad at myself for not being able to stick with this title after those first 6 issues, but so happy in this world of collections that I am able to read it all at the same time.  To keep this short & simple, let's just say this is a truly unique book and I highly recommend it to anyone who is a fan of Vaughan's work, or if you were ever a fan of "New Mutants" or "Power Pack" and the like.

Second up, I also recently plowed through the Ed Brubaker/Matt Fraction "Immortal Iron Fist" Hardcover for the first time.  Holy hell is this a great book! For reasons to myriad to list in a short fashion, I will just say that this is an exciting, intense, engaging read with beautiful artwork to go along with it.  Iron Fist has always intrigued me since...hell I think it was a "Marvel Comics Presents" story when I first read him & Power Man...but this story just makes him into a true badass.  I've enjoyed Bendis' portrayal of him in whatever "Avengers" title he is in (too many, get confused) but he's not exactly THIS version of Danny Rand.  I now need to read the Duane Swierczynski's issues that followed to see what/if the lingering plot threads were continued.  If you like Iron Fist, crazy martial arts action, and amazing art work, go pick this up!

I have both "Runaways" & "Immortal Iron Fist" in my Amazon Store linked over there on the side in case you're interested.

Thirdly, I read today that "Flashpoint" is getting turned into an animated movie.  Color my curiousity quite piqued because as you may (or may not) remember from an earlier blog, I was NOT a big fan of the story.  I even gave it a reread since I own the Hardcover (it has something to do with my compulsive need to own major story arcs in both companies) and STILL didn't care for it.  There were cool moments, great character potential, but overall it was just a disappointment creatively and an awful way to kick off the New 52.  The ending was sweet but hated the story as a whole even on 2nd & 3rd readings (Batman: Knight of Vengeance was the only good thing).  All that being said, I am very excited by the idea of this becoming an animated movie because I think it could make for an amazing visual experience if boiled down to just the story of Flash, Batman, and with some more detail given to the Aquaman/Wonder Woman story arc.  I've never been disappointed in the DC Animateds so bring it on!

And finally, DC Comics full court comic book press has fully begun for "Dark Knight Rises" as a million different trades are getting released in the coming months.  Already released were a Bane TPB called "Bane vs. Batman" containing "Bane of the Demon" (where Bane & Ra's Al Ghul join up...take that for what it's worth) & "Vengeance of Bane" (the origin story of Bane); a Darwyn Cooke "Catwoman" trade; the reissue of "Venom" which is the history of the drug that power Bane; a collection of "Birth/Bride/Son of the Demon" which are all Ra's Al Ghul stories; and just today a reissue of "Knightfall", the story of Bane breaking Batman, and the first collection of this story that contains the complete arc in one volume as well as "Vengeance of Bane". 

There's also a "Knightquest" TPB & "Knights End/Prodigal" Trade coming out as well in the next few months, the former making me super excited because it has NEVER been collected before! I'm a big fan of AzBats so I'm super psyched.  Oh yes, and there is also the random rerelease of "Prey" which features Hugo Strange in a prominent role...and he was a character many people hypothesized would be part of "DKRises".  It's a good time to be a Batman fan if you're looking to catch up on your history!

One more finally...just discovered I attended Michigan State University starting in '97, in connecting dorms no less (9 North Hubbard represent), at the same time as Jeff Katz (follow @katzmoney on Twitter) of "Booster Gold" comic book fame as well as a "Snakes on a Plane" associate producer, and the head of the "Wrestling Revolution Project". Just a small world to find this sort of thing out on Twitter  and an example of the amazing power of social networking. It's my blog so therefore it's amazing...

Now onto the main event of this blog, the Q&A!!!

That's Rob Dimension up there...and here's the batch of random Q's I sent him to give me some A's for; give it a read, give his plugs some love, and perhaps I will do some more of these with various other people I know who have love for the comic book world!  Be warned in advance, this one isn't necessarily for the easily offended as you can tell from the first question...

1) Give me some background info on just who Rob Dimension is and why Steve Corino wants him to have AIDS....

Wow, what a way to start off...lets see...Rob Dimension is just a guy who enjoys his family, horror movies and saying the wrong thing, at the wrong time. I've known Corino for over 12 years and since day one, we have enjoyed syaing the most hideuos things to each other, using Twitter and Facebook has made this things more exposed in the last few years. I've managed Steve in Professional Wrestling, plus have worked as his legitimate business manager. We both are a mess, mentally, so I think it makes a good pairing.

As for me, besides working in the world of Pro Wrestling, I have been fortunate to move onto film and Tv work. I'm usually a featured kill, seems Corino isn't the only one who likes seeing me die..haha...but, I really am a nerd for Horror, Comics and Comedy.

2) Do you remember your first.............................comic book?

My first comic book? Not really, I stumbled across titles growing up, they were pretty accessible. I really remember, the Uncanny X-Men (issue 147) being the comic that started my real love for comics. The double issue 150 was my prized possesion for years. Then, I followed Daredevil, Marvel Team Up and the Invaders. Growing up in a small town, we had a comic shop that was pretty friendly, they carried a lot of titles and I can remember seeing X-Men #1 on thier wall and always wanting it.

3) What were the books you read when you were a wee little Dimension? Did you find your tastes in comics changing as you got older?

Comics went through a rough patch, in the mid 80's with me...Arcades became a favorite pastime. I felt that comics exploded prior to that and they started to get watered down. As you get older, sure your taste changes, your interests change. Comics have always had these problems, only so much story can be told. As readers, we need this to happen, as long as they can pull us back in. TV helped, with Saturday cartoons giving us Spiderman and His Amazing Friends, Thundarr and shows like that, made me crave more, once those shows moved on, I grew less interested.  

4) How the hell did you end up running a comic book store and why would you ever stop?

Running a Comic shop is an uphill battle. Talk about outside distractions...TV, Video games, many things. I really loved running our store, we grew (and changed locations 3 times as we grew). It's a job that gives you no time off, as my kids grew, my Wife, Kim and I just decided we wanted a bit more of a normal life.

As for the store, we really had a great gaming base. From role playing games 3 nights a week (Dungeons and Dragons, Vampire and the old Marvel RPG) to current popular card games like Magic the Gathering and even Pokemon. Our Pokemon league was the largest on the East Coast, housing nearly 90 players every Sunday afternoon.

I was always an action figure dealer...sounds so weird to say that, but I was there with the rise and boom of the market. Watching McFarlane's toys grow from simply Todd's Toys was great. It seemed everyone had a toy line, then the bubble popped and the market crashed. So, it, once agin, took away from potential in the comic book shop industry.

5) DC or Marvel? Or maybe it's Image/Dark Horse/Boom/Something totally different?

I have always been a Marvel guy, I just prefered their universe compared to DC. I have read some DC stuff, but still can't seem to get onboard with them. In the last few years, I have been the biggest advocate of the Walking Dead series. I feel that Robert Kirkman is a master story teller. His writing makes you care for the characters, he builds the story...when someone dies, you care. They aren't super heroes, they are families..they are alone. They are the Walking Dead. I'm a HUGE Zombie fan, love George Romero's stories...I enjoy Kirkman's world. Can't recommend it enough.

6) Since you mention Walking Dead, any thoughts on the TV adaption vs. the comic book?

The comic is soo good, to go against the grain, I will say this - The 1st half of Season 1 was great, the 2nd half, they almost lost me. I know that it can't be page for page of the comic. Characters like Daryl Dixon are a great addition, but having them to the Disease Control Center was horrible and uneeded. Now, Season 2 was paced so was slow, as it should be. The breakdown of Shane was much termoil made this season great. With Michonne being introduced, I can only hope the show does not jump the shark. The prison backdrop is really one of my favorite story arcs in the comic series, so I'm extremely hopeful.

7) Do you have any thoughts on the explosion of comic-centric movies & how they seem to be the keystone of Hollywood right now? And I guess in that same vein, why do you think the billions of dollars the movies make don't translate into actual comic book readers?

Yeah, the explosion of comics onto the screen, as a fan has been great, except when Hollywood turns out some turds. On the flip side, having fans see Hellboy and The Watchmen, knowing that the masses would have never given them a chance otherwise, is great. Iron Man, too me, is the best adaptation to film yet (I've heard The Avengers is better..but time will tell), it told the story so well, the casting was great! Robert Downey IS Tony Stark.

My thoughts on why it doesn't add readers...well, the stories they are telling are stories that have mostly been told, using characters that most know...we need these heroes to do something different. Plus, kids don't read...girls do, boys don't (hence why Twilight, Harry Potter and The Hunger Games have a huge following). Boys are often playing video games. It used to pain me to see kids never give this entire universe of stories a chance. Companies are trying though, some even released the motion comics to try to give you the best of both, but I don't think it made enough of an impact.

Online bootlegging has killed the market, plus they have no collectibility anymore. The "alternate" cover craze is over...that only excites such a small amount. I'm hopeful for comics, but we both's an uphill battle. Stores that are successful are often really involved with their community. Offering a variety of everything, you need to cater to everyone.

8) Since we're on the subject of movies, what's your favorite comic-book related movie?

As I said earlier, Iron Man was perfect. But, let me state for a corny addition, I love Roger Corman's Fantastic Four film that was never released. I just have soft spot for that's awful but, for me, its awful in a good way.

My biggest problem with the Hero-esque films are the orginality. Meaning, we all know the why the Hulk is the way he is..we all have seen Bill Bixby as the Hulk. We know he gets mad, he becomes the Hulk. I wanted to like both movies, the Ang Lee one especially, but just couldn't. The Dark Knight was amazing, but Heath Ledger really made it better...his portral was great. I still enjoy watching Batman nightly on the Hub channel.

9) One last comic/movie question, what do you think of rebooting Spider-Man/Superman after only a few years since the last movie?

Too soon, the Spiderman series that Sam Raimi did had it's good and bad points. The new release looks ok, but, will I go see it? Probably doesnt look like I'm the demographic.

Superman's reboot was horrible I thought. Christopher Reeves is embedded in my brain as Superman and its a tough act to follow. It would be like a reboot of Hulk most people's eyes, Reeves IS Superman. Now, granted, the younger kids probably don't know who Reeves is, but at the same time, will they even bother going to see the new Superman? I doubt it.

10) Now you're obviously a horror buff so what are your thoughts on the horror comics that have been done over the years?

Horror comics are sketchy...I'm a hard sell. So many have been done..poorly. I've always given the typicals like Michael Myers, Leatherface, Jason titles a shot, even Ash from Evil Dead. The titles that are similar to Tales from the Crypt types are tough...times are different, I just don't think I'm their demographic anymore.

Crossed - wow, that was an insane story, I LOVED it. Different take on the zombie/sickness story. Worth looking for.

Hack/Slash - Tim Seeley did an amazing job with this series. The Omnibus' are a must buy...Cassie Hack, she's a hottie and Vlad is the muscle, battling all walks of life killers. This is a great series. I'm not a huge fan of his newer stuff, but his older stuff with Herbert West, Chucky and the rest of their nutty universe was great.

The Living Corpse - another great series by Buz and Ken, a different look on story telling. Their art is a bit over the top, it's raw and gritty...I love their style. Look them up. 

11) Any favorite creators in the genre?

As I said, I often don't think Robert Kirkman is given enough's because of his work, that I have really fallen back in love with comics. Over the years, the Dark Knight stories were amazing...everyone has a different pick, it depends on what catches your eye.

12) Before we steer off the subject of horror, what's your favorite horror movie?

 My favorite Horror film is John Carpenter's Halloween. The movie has stuck with me ever since I was a kid. The use of music, shadows, the tricks that made Michael Myers seem mysterious is why it worked. How it borrows from Italian film making....I could get so technical on what makes this movie work..haha..but I will spare you my nerdness. Other favorites are George Romero's Dawn of the Dead & Day of the Dead. Plus, Tom Savini's remake of Night of the Living Dead.

I also am a HUGE advocate of Independent film making. I can't encourage people enough to give up and comers a chance. Hate what youre seeing in theaters? Then turn to the Indies.

If you want to read more about my Myers this -

13) And just because I've seen you reference it on Twitter, talk about Matthew Broderick's Godzilla....

I'm a huge Godzilla fan, I love the Japanese Daikaiju scene...the early shows like Ultraman, Johnny Sokko and His Flying Robot and Space Giants, but the US version of Godzilla was awful. It was a big lizard, plus..he wrecked Madison Square Garden!! Who does that?? I have given it several tries to put my true Godzilla feelings aside, but I just can't. The US is working on a new reboot, they seem to be trying to keep the Godzilla look intact, but who knows.

For Giant Monsters, I still think Cloverfield was worth the time, plus the Taiwan film, The Host is really good. I like the silliness of a guy in the rubber suit, not everything has to be CGI.

14) Every tried to create your own comic book?, I have enough trouble with developing other projects. I know a lot of talented artists and writers, it's tough. Web comics are getting bigger, while money is getting smaller...I always encourage people to support your local comic book shop. Try to get your kids to are so busy with other things, comics are more of an Adults market...I wish Kids would just grab something that could peak their interest.

15) Have you tried to turn your son (@LilDimension on Twitter) into a fan of comics at all? I plan on forcing my kids to read comics whether they like it or not...

Little D, my son, is 12 and is into video games, skateboarding and now BMX bike tricks. Getting him to read, its tough. He does enjoy Star Wars and Hulk comics, plus is a fan of the movies. He's VERY critical of stories...he craps on so much. Kids today are different than I was..I would amazed by what they did in Comics, today, these kids have seen everything.

Now, my Daughter, who is 18, is a comic book fan. She is an Art Major, so she appreciates the creativity. She only reads certain titles though, she's a Walking Dead fan, but often reads small , independent company comics. She also enjoys some of the Zenescope titles. She's a freak for the artwork, the more abstract and odd they are, the more she loves them. She likes the dark, twisted side of stories.

All you can do is just show them that there is a whole world out there...try to let them decide and hope they try to read some.

16) On that note, any thoughts on comics as a learning tool? My first exposure to Shakespeare, Milton, Poe, etc was via Chris Claremont X-Men comics...also certainly expanded by vocabulary and forced me to learn new words like antithesis (Shadow King & Xavier moment in Uncanny #278 I think it was).

Sadly, TV is the learning tool now. I think the way to introduce kids to comics again is get them into schools..but, I don't think thats going to happen. As a comic reader, I feel we can detect evil easier, we would have a better thought process in the event of a giant, world eater was to appear. I feel they are a great learning tool, they shaped me into the person I am...maybe that's not that great of a statement, actually.

17) Because it's kind of fun to torture him, I can't let this end without asking about you trying to turn Colby (@colbyisrising on Twitter) into a comic book reader just to drive Steve nuts...

Steve never had much nerd exposure, he was a baseball kid. Colby, while an athelte, is into comics & video games. Colby and I have had talks about the Walking Dead, about classic games like Burger Time..haha and a few others. The last road trip we had, he grabbed an "Civil War" trade that was in my backseat and read it. It does make Steve crazy, he yells at me about how awful of an influence I am...but deep down, Steve knows Colby is a great kid and times are different. Plus, Steve realizes I havent grown up...haha...I think he's happy knowing he has a great kid.

But, yeah, he hates I do instigate it a little.

18) Thanks for your time Rob, now Insert Plugs & Self-promotion Here:

You can here Steve Corino and I ramble every week on our popular Extreme Odd Couple Podcast at and subscribe on iTunes and Stitcher Radio. Plus, you can always visit and read my movie reviews, our video reviews and hopefully soon our new web series "Dimension Monster Chronicles".


That's it for the latest edition of "20 Plus Years..."! Join me next time as I think I might tackle the story that got my interested in the Wally West Flash in the first place, "Rogue War"!

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Owl - Myths, Facts, and Symbolism

So ever since the start of the "New 52" the lead Batman book has been penned by Scott Snyder, penciled by Greg Capullo, inked by Jonathan Glapion,  and had a complete fascination with those lovely nocturnal birds: owls.

Starting in the "Court of Owls" arc that has run the first 7 months of the book, and continuing into the "Night of Owls" crossover that will infest the Bat-Family of books in April & May, the owl has been growing to become synonomous with Batman & Bruce Wayne as well as Gotham itself.  Owls seem to exist everywhere in Gotham City, even back in the days of Jonah Hex...

So the proliferation of owls in the land of Gotham has provoked something strange in my own life, something that seems to haunt me everywhere I go...

Owls!  Freaking owls at every turn!  In department stores, antique shops, architecture, paintings...I swear there are owls on everything I look at now!  I blame Scott Snyder...all these hidden Gotham owls have made me paranoid.  Or have they? 

Well it is with this thought in mind, and with "Night of the Owls" on the horizon, that I decided to engage in the most tangentially connected to comic books blog I have done to date, and likely will ever do.  From this point going forward I don't expect to be addressing comics in any fashion, instead I want to take a look at something comics have inspired me to investigate: owls. The facts surrounding them, their symbolism, their mythology, all the details about owls that offer some explain as to why they seem to pop up everywhere I look. 

If you have any interest than read on, if not and only want more comic book talk, then jump off now, and come back next time.  Either way, thanks for your time and I hope that comics inspire you to explore something outside the box as well...

Little Owl (Athene Noctua)

The basic facts are this; owls are generally nocturnal creatures of the order Strigiformes, an order that consists of over 200 nocturnal, solitary birds.  There are some exceptions to these rules of owl-dom just as there are with anything.  The Pygmy Owl is considered crepuscular (which means active during dusk & dawn rather than at night) while the Burrowing & Short Eared Owls are daylight creatures.  Oh yes, and in large groups they are called a Parliment, which surprised me as I kind of expected to discover they were referred to as a Court.

Owls have binocular vision, their eyes are fixed in their socket which is why they turn their entire heads (as much as 270 degrees) to follow things.  Owls are farsighted, meaning they have difficulty seeing objects closer to them, and use their feathers around their beak to feel prey (something like a cat's whiskers I reckon.) 

The smallest owl is the Elf weighing something like 1 oz and measuring around 5 inches while the biggest are the Eurasian Eagle-Owl & the Blakiston's Fish Owl which average about 2.53 cm (1.00 in) shorter in length than the Great Grey, can both attain a wingspan of 2 m (6.6 ft) and a weight of 4.5 kg (10 lb) in the largest females.

In terms of their physical makeup, owls tend to have distinctive facial and head markings, including face masks, ear tufts and brightly coloured irises. These markings are more common in species inhabiting open habitats, and are might be used in signaling with other owls in low light conditions. Thanks Wiki!!!  Given the very distinct nature of owl coloring, I find it very interesting that the comic book Court of Owls, except for the Talons, all have those very nondescript masks.

The owl hunts as stealthly as possible, something evolution has made easier with their coloration and the very interesting fact that the make-up of their remiges (flight feathers) allows for near silent flight. This little mutation is something that some fish-hunting owls don't come equipped with either, showing that evolution truly does exist.  In terms of the hunt, they apparently use their beak & talons to kill their prey before SWALLOWING THEM WHOLE, and as if that wasn't enough, THEY REGURGITATE THE INDIGESTIBLE!

Another interesting note about their habits is that owls don't build nests, instead they look for a sheltered site, or they co-opt an abandoned nest in trees or buildings.  Something that we saw put to use by The Court when Bruce first discovered them...

Page from Batman #3                       An owl stealing a crow's nest

If you would like to learn more about the biological details on owls, click here and check out the Wiki page.  Otherwise I'm turning my attention more towards the mythlogical, symbolic, and cultural power given to these nocturnal birds...

Every nation has its own ideas of what the owl represents, but many of those notions are shared across oceans by varying cultures.  Let's take a look at some of those region by region:


Owl, or Fukuro in Japanese, is written as フクロウ (梟) and can be written in different sets of characters. One with the meaning of Luck (福 fuku, luck; 来ku, to come ;郎 ro suffix used in boys' names) and the other as protection from hardship (不 fu, no, 苦労 kurou suffering/hardship). Source

What this means is that for the Japanese culture the owl is a symbol of luck and protection from suffering, and apparently has led to a great deal of merchandise depicting owls being made available in Japan.  For example:

Also there is some belief that the color & shape of the owls has some effect on the luck embued on the holder of the charm.  There is also the notions of wisdom attributed to the bird as well as an older idea that it could be used to predict the weather.

Greek & Roman

The owl in Greek & Roman mythology is frequently depicted at the side of Athena/Minerva.  In fact the owl even had a name, Glaucus, and was frequently depicted on on Athena's blindside.  The owl represented wisdowm as well in this culture but more than that was depicted as the guardian of the Acropolis, a protector who accompanied Greek armies to war. 

To the Greek, an owl flying overhead was a certain sign of victory and, under different circumstances, in Rome, an owl served as a way to avert evil when a dead owl was nailed to the door of a home (which makes me think of the dead bat nailed to a door in "Return of Bruce Wayne").
There was also a Roman belief that the owl's hoot predicted impending death, specifically that the deaths of Julius Ceaser, Augustus, Commodus Aurelius, and Agrippa were all predicted by the bird. 

The owl is so much a part of Greek/Roman culture that it even became a part of their ancient currency:

5th Century BC                                                                            2nd Century BC

And  a side note, something to touch upon a bit later, that image on the left is now the Smithsonian Secretary's badge of office as designed by Leslie Durbin in 1965.

Other Roman owl-based beliefs included that the Army was warned of impending disaster by an Owl before its defeat at Charrhea, on the plains between the Euphrates and Tigris rivers; that to dream of an Owl meant that a traveller would be shipwrecked or robbed; that witches transformed into Owls, and sucked the blood of babies.


It's likely that much of the English opinion on owls was based on Roman beliefs as well given that they were conquered at one point under the leadership of Emperor Claudius in the 1st Century.  As such the British believed the owl was essentially a bird of doom due to its nocturnal nature.  There was a certain belief that an owl getting inside your home was a bad omen and the bird needed to be killed before it escapes lest it take away all your luck and good fortune.  Here too they were considered capable of predicting weather, there was also a very creepy traditional idea was that if you walked by an Owl in a tree, it would turn and turn its head to watch you until it wrung its own neck! That's seriously twisted....

But it wasn't all bad because there were some positive folk medicinal uses for owl eggs. It was used to cure alcoholism, there was a belief that a child given this treatment was also thought to gain lifetime protection against drunkenness. The eggs, when cooked into ashes, were also used as a potion to improve eyesight AND a Broth made from owl eggs was given to children suffering from Whooping-cough.  A 12th century preacher named Odo of Cheritan even came up with a reason for why owls were nocturnal; essentially they stole the rose (a prize awarded for beauty) and were shunned by the other birds.


In this culture the Owl is sometimes a part of a Zodiac, occupying the Nov 23rd – Dec 21st timeframe and here's a quote from my source:

"Changeable and mutable as the wind, the Owl is a tough one to pin down. Warm, natural, with an easy-going nature, the Owl is friend to the world. The bearer of this Native American animal symbol is notorious for engaging in life at full speed, and whole-hearted loves adventure. This can be to his/her detriment as the Owl can be reckless, careless, and thoughtless. Owls make great artists, teachers, and conservationists. However, due to his/her adaptability and versatility – the Owl would likely excel in any occupation. In a supportive, nurturing environment the Owl is sensitive, enthusiastic, and an attentive listener. Left to his/her own devices, the Owl can be excessive, overindulgent, bitter, and belligerent"

The owl was looked upon as a keeper of sacred knowledge for its wisdom & foresight, the Lakota Tribe even had an "Owl Society" that fought at night and painted their eyes like an owl in order to gain their powerful vision.  But not all Native American cultures viewed the owl positively; Apaches viewed it as the most feared creature, representing the spirits of the Apache dead. Hopi Indians have taboos that surround owls because they are are associated with sorcery and other evils. The Aztecs and Mayans considered the owl a symbol of death & destruction so much so that the Aztec god of death, Mictlantecuhtli, was often depicted with owls. According to Wiki there is an old saying in Mexico that is still in use: Cuando el tecolote canta, el indio muere which translates as "When the owl cries, the Indian dies".


Another thing may point to origin of the negative associations with owls may come from the biblical corner of the world.  Apparently, based on the information from the Medieval Bestiary, owls were fowl birds and according to Leviticus 11:13-18,  "The law says that a variety of owls are included in 'the birds you are to detest and not eat because thy are detestible'" & in Leviticus 11:17-18 - 'Laws about Animals for Food', the following 'Avoid the Unclean' : and the little owl and the cormorant and the great owl, 18 and the white owl and the pelican and the carrion vulture."

There is some indication in the Bestiary that owls were representative of Jews, who showed that they preferred darkness to light when they rejected Christ and that the human face was purposely given a "hook nose" to portray it as Jewish.  According to Hrabanus Maurus the owl signifies those who have given themselves up to the darkness of sin and those who flee from the light of righteousness.

In addition to those cultures listed above there are also the beliefs of Egyptian/Celtic/Hindu cultures in which the owl revolves around guardianship of the underworlds and protector of the dead. In Arab mythology they are bad omens,  in Armenian tales owls were associated with the devil,  in parts of Asia feathers of the Northern Eagle Owl were valued as precious amulets protecting children & livestock from evil spirits.  In certains parts of medieval Europe there was even belief that owls were actually witches & wizards in disguise and that the owl was as much considered their familiar as a black cat is today.

That picture on the left is terrifying btw....and the Halloween association likely comes from the idea that an owl's screech sounds like a witches cackle.
In opposition to those negative images though there are a great deal of positive owl images in popular culture including:

How about the "how many licks does it take" owl, Woodsy the Forest service mascot owl, and the ever wise Owl from Winnie The Pooh just to name a few?
The symbolism of owls is essentially broken down into 8 items: wisdom, mystery, transition, messages, intelligence, mysticism, protection, and secrets.  In some fashion, whether it be in a positive or negative manner, those traits are evident in some form in the myths & superstitions listed above.
So now that brings me to not only the excessive amount of owl-age I now see in my every day life, but also its impact (real or implied) in things like architecture, government, and secret socities.  Yeah, if you look closely, there's even owls wrapped up in all of that too!
Just take a look at these examples of architecture from around the world:


A gate at Central Park’s Bethesda Terrace (Note the bat)

Vienna - Secession buiding

There is even an entire Owl Tour in Leeds in the UK due to the sheer amount of owl related architecture in the city!

But all of this owl architecture pales in comparison when you get into some of the more conspiritorial beliefs entrenched within, such as the Freemason connections and a belief about the layout of our nation's capital:

or on the US Dollar Bill:

The owl has been used as a symbol for the Illuminati:

For the National Press Club:

In Disney films:

And most importantly as it's the key to most of these theories, The Freemasons as they built the capital city and a whole mess of other buildings around the world over the years.  Freemasons have been presidents; George Washington, James Monroe, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, and Gerald Ford just to name a few confirmed ones, and a whole mess of other famous people throughout history.  Check out the Wiki list here, but take it with a grain of salt as with most things Wiki...
It's claimed that members of the NPC are Freemasons, that Walt Disney was associated with a Freemason group called the Order of DeMolay when he was a youth, so if you give any creedence to these notions than that explains the prevalane of owls here too.
Then there is Bohemian Grove which is just littered with owls:

The quick version is that the Bohemian Society is a group of famous & influential figures, all male & mostly white, who gather once a year for two weeks of the summer to do....well that's where enormous amounts of speculation begin and if you're interested you can read about it in further detail here or just Google search it for all kinds of theories about it's activities.  Suffice to say that its members include the likes of George H. Bush, George W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, Henry Kissinger,
Dick Cheney, Malcom Forbes, David Rockefeller, William Randolph Hearst Jr., & Walter Cronkite just to throw some names out there.  The owl plays heavily into this...escape...beyond just the images shown above as there are to locations with owl-themed names, The Owls Nest which is for a camp for U.S. Presidents/Military/Defense Contractors & The Owl Shrine and the Lake which is the locale for the burning owl above & you can read more about in the Wiki.  Suffice it to say that there is more information on the web about Bohemian Grove than I can do justice here....

As for me, right here, in the Philadelphia suburbs, well I have began seeing owls all over the place.  Not so much the living creature but in pieces of home decoration like the one immediately above & the one at the start of this blog, as well as on buildings & homes. I have seen an owl statue randomly sitting on top of a gas station, the post office, and on churches. The aforementioned home decor images, as well as those below were all found in the same store on the same day which is quite freaky....

And while I didn't have a camera to take a picture, just this morning I saw a bunch of owl stickers in the school supplies aisle at a Wal-Mart.  Like I said...everywhere....and now I hope that you too will see owls everywhere you turn your head. Just don't keep turning it until you snap your own neck like those silly Englishmen believed once upon a time...

And I hope you got something out of all this owl talk, because while this is technically a blog for comic book subjects, for me THIS particular writing stands as the sort of inspiration you can get from comic books.  In the same way I mentioned how comics exposed me to Poe & Shakespeare in my "Mish Mosh" blog awhile back, I can saw that Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, and crew inspired me to this with their phenomenal build-up to the "Night of Owls" event that officially kicks off this week in Batman #8!  I just wanted to learn more about the nocturnal bird, about what makes them tick, and maybe a little about why I am now seeing them everywhere.  And if it enhances my readings of "Court & Night of Owls" than that is an added bonus.

Thanks for your time, and come on back next go-around as I get back to a little more of a comic book focus.  Got a couple of ideas I'm juggling in the meantime, maybe show some love by ordering from my Amazon Store, getting me something off my Amazon Wish List, or at the least by throwing some feedback my way.  Good or bad...just avoid the ignorant ;-)

Oh, and go check out the latest Extreme Odd Couple Podcast with Steve Corino & Rob Dimension as they show lil' old me some love this episode.  Go to ITunes & subscribe, rate, and comment as well.

Until next time, check out the "Night of the Owls" list below and see what's in store for Gotham City in the coming months...

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Batman - The Grant Morrison Odyssey: Finale 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
Part 9: Return of Bruce Wayne Part 2
Part 10: Batman Inc. Part 1

We left our intrepid heroes, Batman & El Gaucho, as they broke out of the wheelchair bound El Sombrero's death trap. We join them in mid-interrogation as Gaucho, rocking those Shock-Nucks, lays into Sombrero, demanding to know who he works for.  The villain's response: "The greatest of them all...", Batman pulls Gaucho away to pursue Scorpiana, and we jump back in time to Nazi Germany on the next page.

Essentially we get a crash course on the origins of Otto Netz/Dr. Dedalus in one page from his Nazi scientist origins searching for Oroboro, running on the belief that "He who finds this treasure will be the master of the world".   Hitler passes on a walking cane to Netz as appreciation for his efforts, the panel above depicts him finding that snake eating its own tail as he is captured by he planned apparently.  He mentions his intent was always to exploit his new masters, he wears a cloak of smoke, talks about how he studied the pattern made by his masters (whomever they may be).  He notes how he was secluded in Argentina but emerged to head up Spyral, a United Nations agency, the same one that Kathy Kane & El Gaucho (as Agent 33) worked for.

Dedalus has operated under several alias over the years apparently; Agent-Zero, Daddy 8-Legs, Sleipnir, The Spinner.  Aside from the zero, two of those are very spidery references while Sleipnir is a Norse mythological beast, an 8-legged horse ridden by Odin. Very arachnidesque with it's 8 leggedness...

We are now back in The Falklands and Dedalus' island in the present day as he talks to his caretaker-type guy, rambling on, imagining the caretaker's death via poisoning (digitalis aka foxglove) that he injected into the guy's apple.  It seems to be 2 panels of wishful thinking (or perhaps time distortion since Knight mentioned that back when we were first led to the island) since the guy is still alive one panel later.  Anyone's guess I suppose...

During his ramblings, the old man mentions how he was trapped on the island before he could destroy civilization but "...I have made a ring around the world...a noose...a hangman's noose..." which is essentially the shape of oroboro.  Dedalus passes his caretaker guy a note intended for his daughter, who we learned was Kathy Kane, who has been dead for an undetermined amount of time.  It would seem he would be aware of this but it may just be a case of Dedalus' apparent alzheimer's/dementia.  As for what's on the note, it's looks like a drawing of oroboro...its 3 colors too in case you're wondering.  That number coming back again...

The Hood hits the island, meeting Batwoman in the process, hitting on her of course.  He works for T.H.E.Y but I have no idea what that acronym means and the story certainly doesn't enlighten us. He's a British superspy, Batwoman knows who he is, and as they are busy bonding, there are several little blue scorpions creeping up on them. 

Hood mentions the three marines that were killed as they were on their way to the island as a war between the UK & Argentina is ready to pop over the land.  He mentions the Knight's team from the 80's getting wiped out when they tried to go after Dedalus, Batwoman knows a lot about what is going on here, about some ultimate weapon, some power source capable of replacing oil & nuclear energy.  Oh and Hood mentions someone called "Matron" several times which I forgot to paragraph earlier...

So for the first time Batwoman meets Batman and I love his response to her be accurate though, it isn't their first meeting, just the first time Bruce has met her as Batwoman rather than in her civilian guise when he helped her with a mugger.  Check out J.H. Williams III "Elegy" story for's awesome.

Some racism gets bantered back and forth between the British Hood & the Argentian Gaucho, actually it's more just Hood being a racist and Gaucho getting pissed.  He calls him Zardoz which is an apparent reference to a Sean Connery film and a character I guess Hood feesl that Gaucho looks like...decide for yourself:

That's just creepy.....

The fight is broken up by Scorpiana, Batwoman's dad gives us more background on her abilities in one panel than Morrison had given us in the several years since her debut, "A-list assassin...bionic fight reflexes...", Batwoman is unimpressed...

She recognizes Scorp's fighting style as similar to the Batwoman imposter she fought in the Ghost Train, we learn the dead Marines were psy-ops who were killed and replaced before their tour of duty on the island.  Gaucho helpfully points out that everyone here is tied to Kathy Kane in some fashion.  Is she the Maestro that Sombrero mentioned in the previous issue?

Batman creeps up on Dedalus and his caretaker, and the old man creepily recognizes him as "the time voyager".  Okay, so how does this guy immediately have an inkling of the ordeal Bruce Wayne had just experienced in "Return"????  Is he a time traveler????

Gaucho, Batwoman, and Hood walk the island and discover the remains of Knight's team, particularly the corpse of Iron Lady, meaning no one has cleaned up this mess that went down in the 80's! Gaucho connects the dots between Dedalus being Spyral Agent-Zero and mentions how all the agents were told he was dead when Spyral was shut down. 

Batman chases the caretaker guy into the lighthouse, he tells Bat's he is in Dr. Dedalus' maze of death, shows off a weapon constructed from the hammer of Mr. Albion of the 80's team that assaulted the island.  Dedalus made it into a meta-bomb...the caretaker dies, digitalis after all, so I guess he was poisoned, but before he dies, what are his final words?

"Hail Leviathan."

Batwoman & company stumble on Dedalus, who has apparently been replaced by a fake, playing a tape recording presumably of the real Dedalus' voice.  The fake recognizes the voice, rewinding and replaying the tape, while Hood's inner monologue reveals that he was sent by T.H.E.Y to infiltrate Batman Inc for whatever purpose. 

Gaucho apologizes to Batman for never telling him about Spyral & Kathy Kane, Bats basically tells him whether he wants it or not, Gaucho is now part of Inc.  Bats confirms this old man is a fake, the real deal monitoring the situation via these crazy looking goggles.  Dedalus is somewhere else, talking to some hooded figure who is likely the true force behind Oroboro.  He mentions several countries (Argentina, Japan, Hong Kong, Australia, England, & France, "a ring around the world") and most of them have Batman Inc reps already.  The exceptions being Hong Kong & Australia...although the land down under has been represented in the past by Morrison with the character of Night Ranger from the Club of Heroes.

We head over to Africa where Leviathan has a school essentially brainwashing kids into their service, and Batwing is checking in on them.  Interesting note about Batwing, he's kind of another case of Morrison pulling from history in that Batwing is very reminiscent of a character from #250:

So we jump from Africa to a group of laborers who are apparently criminals operating under the name Joe Average and The Average Joes.  They are looking to expand their criminal franchise and hire some strange looking guy named Nero Nykto to do some underworld PI work for them.  He offers them up evidence and that provides the framework for our story. First off we get the tale of the "Emoticon-Man" who "...chose to take his grievances directly to Wayne's door...."

Bruce Wayne is being interview by a newswoman named Mercedes about the Batman Inc, addressing the questions of whether or not there have been multiple Batmen in the past, of the original Batman's death, when a group of masked gunmen (whose masks are indeed emoticon symbols like "^_^" or "0?0") come down on what I assume is Wayne Tower.  Bruce's response:

So cool...

I guess these are the finished products of the suits Bruce had Lucius Fox put together in "Batman: The Return" for him & Damian...definitely similar to the Bat robots in "Kingdom Come".

Bruce, Dick, and Damian clear Jim Gordon of a murder charge with some typically badass detective work, then Bruce heads to the cave with Red Robin to introduce him to his new team: The Outsiders.

In the exchange prior to that panel, Tim mentions something Bruce told him that Bruce says is only for Tim to know.  It's good to see this considering how awesome Morrison portrayed Tim Drake in the "Return of Bruce Wayne" mini, and really shows the bond between the two.  Tim's mission is now to take over the Batman Inc. stealth team for undercover international work...

Bruce then gathers the collective Bat-Family and fills them in on Leviathan, on their reach into Mtamba in Africa, and then decides to tell them what he experienced when he was lost in time.   Just them though, not us, we don't get to hear what he has to say.  I must note how odd it is, but refreshing, to see Bruce open up like see that his experiences did change him.

When it boils down to just Dick and Damian in the cave Bruce loses the cape & cowl, we learn that people are buying into this Batman Inc by buying shares in Wayne.  The Joker is in deep security lockdown at Arkham following the events of "Batman & Robin", and Bruce is now dinking around in chat rooms & on message boards, essentially putting out more white noise as to Batman's identity; essentially using the internet to put out even more absurd rumors and heresay about Batman.  I think we all know that it's perfect using the internet to do that, I mean look at the amount of "facts" on Wikipedia...I say after using it frequently to fact check stuff on this blog.  Oh and in the little visual we get of the website Bruce is on, Morrison digs into some more ancient Bat-material with a mention of "Victims Inc." which was from Batman #217.

Bruce tells Dick & Damian everything he knows about Leviathan, off panel of course to leave us all wondering, and Dick wonders how the future that Bruce saw turned out (if it's anything like the future we saw in ish #666 in which Damian was Batman it certainly wasn't good).  Bruce says it's like a dream now, fading, but he knows something big & bad is coming and not everyone is going to survive.

We jump to Bruce looking to Alfred for some war advice which he delivers in a chess metaphor during a game Alfie wins.  Jump to France where Nightrunner pursues some felons, then back to Nykto & Joe Average as they peruse his files on Batman Inc.  He informs them that Nightrunner was in pursuit of of "Les Stereotypes" who were transporting child slaves.  Back to Paris where Bruce & 'Runner stop the slave runners, open up the truck, and find...

Blood soaked little kids carrying knives and scissors with a headless body, amongst other corpses, in their wake.  F'n creepy...

The story jumps over to Hong Kong where Cassandra Cain, now known as Black Bat, is working as the Inc operative, and also gives us the tie to the country when Dedalus mentioned it...

She stops the heroin trade going down, following a lead on Jimmy Song who it seems Bruce believes was going to be receiving the children, then we hop over to Australia (the only other locale not covered by Inc at the moment the old doctor mentioned it) where we find Bruce with Dark Ranger, on the heels of the slave ring's clients.  Bruce swears Ranger in to Inc in a now familiar fashion...

Nykto informs the Joe's that Batman tattooed "child molester" on the client's foreheads, mentions Bats may have been in Africa, and we see a quick image of that with Bats, Batwing, and surprisingly Spydra & Traktier from "Batman: The Return", dismantling the training facility we saw before.

Then check out the lower panel on the middle right....

Bruce is putting someone under the guise of Wingman, the guy who turned traitor back in the Club of Heroes arc, and insists his identity remains a secret. Mystery man calls him Bruce so it is someone who knows the secret, leaving the possibilites still wide personal hope in mystery scenarios is always Jean Paul Valley...or at least it was until Geoff Johns had his dead body walking around as a Black Lantern in "Blackest Night".  I mourned...

The bottom panel is pretty intense as well, essentially stating that Bruce is building his own Oroboro-esque machine, but this one is a bat instead of a snake.

Back to Nykto as he reveals himself to the Joe's as his truth's Batman ya'll!  Nero Nykto translates to Dark Night after all...

So intense!

We go into space, a satellite of some sort, where Dedalus watches the Earth, mentions how the FIRST battle formation is made of 500 agents, the youngest being 18 months?!?!?  Leviathan has some serious issues pertaining to children!  The African school, the truckload of bloody kids, the statements from "Batman: The Return" ("In the name of all that is pure and true, strong and young..."); serious child issues.

Cute mention of the Dark Knight becoming a god (pre-Final Crisis rumors & one Nykto put out there to the Joe's too), the skull-chinned leader of Leviathan seems unconcerned, Dedalus says the first 500 are trained to imitate a virus, "Infiltrate. Contaminate. Destroy" and I'm wondering if the space station they are on is the same one where Lord Death Man was contained.  Then we get this awesome last page...

All of Inc in one page plus a Clayface cameo in the Bruce panel! And that words means "imagined figure of the night", appropriate for Batman Inc for sure.

We head over to the reservation where Man-of-Bats & Red Raven are helping out their people in anyway they can, whether it be handling black mold or drug problems, they are going door-to-door offering assistance until they find a woman, dead from overdose, with a baby on the floor watching cartoons with either food all over himself, or urine/feces from neglect.  I'm leaning towards the latter...

So apparently Man-Of-Bats is a doctor in his civilian identity which I didn't realize but now makes perfect sense considering he is the one who removed the bomb from The Knight's innards in "Club of Heroes". I just didn't catch the off-handed remark by Knight calling him "doc" while the operation was going down...

So unlike Batman, Man-of-Bats identity is public knowledge and he still finds time to be a doctor when he's not on patrol.  Nice counterpoint to Bruce Wayne's existence...

He and Red Raven head out looking for the Redz Gang who are doing bad things in the reservation area, Raven whines about not feeling/doing anything important ("In a year I'll be too old for the Teen Titans).  They find Sam Black Elk who I find is the son of the villian Bats & Man of Bats fought way back in Man's first appearance in Batman #86.  The son likes kicking dogs and dealing drugs....

Yup, don't do those things...

He finds something he believes to be drugs on Black Elk but the cops who arrive mock him, noting the "drugs" taste like spearmint candy, causing Red Raven to leave, and they toss Man-of-Bats in the back of the squad car.  Raven heads to the Bat's Cave and I notice for the first time that their truck has a Bat-Logo painted on the side, Batman meets him there and informs Raven that he & his father have been targeted by Leviathan.

Back in the cop car we disover that the new cop is in fact a Leviathan agent, that Sam Black Elk's father at some point is the one who exposed Man-of-Bats identity, and that Sam is also Leviathan! Even though he is older, this is still the child of a major figure in Man-of-Bats life that is Leviathan.  He stabs Man, saying that "Everywhere the standard of the bat rises, it will be chopped down.", which to me says that there is definitely something personal between Leviathan & Batman.

Surrounded by the Redz Gang, Man-of-Bats stands tall, ready to fight, but is saved by...

How cool is Batman riding horseback?

Man-of-Bats takes a bullet saving Red Raven, Raven takes one tending to his father, we learn Man-of-Bats was in Iraq, Raven is okay because he was wearing the Ghost Shirt which is apparently bulletproof.  Red Raven gives his dead some blood, Batman offers the full support of Inc but Raven honestly tells Bats it won't help the problems they are trying to take care off on the reservation. 

Bats informs Raven that the "spearmint wafers" were indeed mind control agents, likely the same ones given to the kids involved in the child slavery ring...another attack on kids having the drug taste like candy.

Man I dig that image....

Now we jump to Internet 3.0 which Bruce also mentioned in "Bats: The Return" as he is playing host to some sort of corporate meeting within its confines.  Of course everything goes to hell immediately with the skies turning Crisis red and zombie looking terrorist-viruses invading the program.  Good thing Internet 3.0 has anti-virus software preprogrammed in the form of: 

Digital Batgirl!!! Well at least Barbara is getting to step into the role somehow, and it also gives Bruce an opening to become Digital Batman as well...but still maintain his Bruce avatar at the same time.  That's serious mental work I'd imagine..

Oracle realizes that one of Bruce's guests had to have brought the virus into 3.0 with them in order for it to have gotten through the firewall, she also mentions Batgirl & the UK finishing school for evil introduced in "Batman: The Return", and drops three words that seem to keep repeating throughout Inc: mazes, webs, and nets. 

The investor crew run around in virtual Wayne Tower as the Mutation Engine takes over 3.0 and begins to mess with the situation.  It transforms a woman who "...sacrificed her handicapped daughter to a nursing home..." into a dog (more parent/child issues) for example.  Batgirl figures out which of the people here carried in the virus, a Mr. Tanaka who created a video game called "Judgment in Hell City 666".  Perhaps that's what this scenario is with Gotham being portrayed as hell of course...

That's the image of Tanaka transforming into the virus but the "all your files are mine" line just makes me think of "all your base are belong to us".  Virtual Batman & Batgirl, along with the other investors, gain armor & weapons, Tanaka attempts to flee, repeating what Sam Black Elk said about the standard of the bat, before Oracle shuts it all down.

Oracle discovers that Tanaka's goal was to launder the moeny he stole from the investors through a certain small African country, Mtamba, which Bruce says is the land of Jezebel Jet, the missing-since-RIP ex-girlfriend of Bruce who was in bed with The Black Glove!  Bruce think he's found the answer to who is behind Leviathan...

Time for the wrap-up but first a quick backstory for the unfamiliar! What is contained in this oversized book was supposed to be issues #9 & #10 of Inc. but for whatever reasons they were severely delayed, the new 52 happened, and this book came out AFTER the DC-wide reset that was "Flashpoint".  So it is interesting to note that this book is marked right off the bat as taking place PRIOR to that event, allowing Morrison to wrap up the Batgirl/Finishing School story (since Stephanie Brown doesn't exist in the DCnU yet) that was teased in "Batman: The Return" and referenced by Stephanie as having happened in a pre-new 52 issue of "Batgirl".  It also lets Grant give some closure to what happened in #8 with the Jezebel Jet revelation...

So we start this final part of our venture in the UK, more specifically inside the Finishing School...
The blonde one is Stephanie Brown with a noose around her neck, a circle, an oroboro, a ring around her throat...and all those girls are wearing replicas of Kathy Kane's Batwoman outfit too.  Jezebel & Kathy Kane involved here??

The other girls of the school accuse Steph of being Batman's daughter which is funny considering she, along with Barbara, are the ONLY members of the Bat-Family not adopted/blood-related to Bruce.  He adopted Dick, Jason, Tim, and Cassandra at various points and Damian is his actual son...

Steph and another girl get sent to the principal's office, the other girl busts out a picture of the missing gymnast mentioned many issues back by Batwoman, and informs Steph that she too was trained at the school & selected to test the Leviathan technology.  This girl knows that Batwoman got her and someone named Miss Delicias who I assume is Scorpiana since that's the only other person who have seen Batwoman "get" (plus there's a Scorps pic on the wall).  As to the identity of this girl Steph is talking to, well she is the daughter of The Highway man, one of the UK villains introduced during "Batman & Robin".

The headmistress/master of the school, nice and shadowed, learns about Stephanie's father (The Cluemaster), the girls take target practice on pictures of Supes & GL, they fight it out on a soccer field, Steph & Jolisa make the cut which brings us to that opening scene with the noose.  We also get the reveal on who the mystery headmistress/master is:

Johnny Valentine from the Kane Kollosal Karnival chase scene with Batwoman, aka Janosz Valentin aka The Son of Pyg!  So does that mean that Prof. Pyg was also tied into Leviathan as well as The Black Glove/El Penitente or is it just happenstance that his son would fall into the same trappings?  Sorta like Bruce & Damian Wayne...more parent/child stuff...

First he stigmatas himself, then brings out those spearmint drug wafers, turning this into a f'd up form of communion I'd say, especially considering the girls take the wafers in the same fashion in which one can take communion (no hands, just use your tongue...that's dirty).  He also has a table full of lethal beauty products which is along the same lines as the weapons the Kathy Kane Batwoman used in her original incarnation.

Steph changes into her fighting togs after using those weapons to escape the situation, Pyg Jr. and his "Death Girls Of Leviathan" give chase only to find the "skin" of a gardner hanging from a tree.  I think we all know what comes next.  Batman jumps out of a tree, takes out Pyglet, heads into the Headmaster's office while Steph is held at gunpoint by Jolisa who's all "Hail Leviathan"...

Batman confronts one of the teachers, finds out that Pyg wasn't the headmistress/master after all so I go back and take a look and what do you know, the shadowy figure has fingernail paint on. Doesn't mean it COULDN'T be a guy...

So the blonde chick pulls a crossbow on Bats and...

Steph is a bad ass in her own right which makes me miss her Batgirl series rereading this book...

We jump over to an investigation of Sivana's diamondy thing Catwoman stole back in issue #1 as Bruce & the very Morgan Freeman-esque Lucius Fox discover just what it is.  A photonic crystal that "... interacts with light & other forms of energy in ways unknown in nature", Lucius says it could potentially make someone invisible.  Sounds like a handy tool for Batman...

Bruce shows Lucius the picture he confiscated from Dedalus' caretaker of the oroboro-esque shape which Lucius identifies as a Brunnian Ring.  Bruce, using that super deductive brain of his, connects the symbolism of a perptual energy source to the perpetuating ciricle that is the oroboro, the endless loop.  Bruce also gets another look at the Bat-Robots we saw a few issues back...

Bruce, Dick, Tim, and Damian fighting side-by-side for the first time, searching for Jezebel Jet who they believe to be behind Levithan, and standing in a circle in their order of appearance. Also I may note, the number 3 pops up again with 3 Robins, and more father/son stuff with them all being the children of Batman.  If only Jason Todd could play nice with others...

Batman ends up in a room with Dedalus, appropriately introduced with "Come into my parlor, Batman" which would end with "said the spider to the fly" if completed.  The Doctor, whose real name is Otto Netz, and has a daughter with the last name Webb, has used spider references on many occassions since his debut.  He tells Batman that the gas he is breathing is mind-eroding, possibly why Batman thinks he has done this before, and mentions how Lazlo Valentin, Professor Pyg was a former Spyral agent, who cracked when exposed to the gas, finding his salvation in drugs and do it yourself surgery.  I am now asking myself if there is any connection between The Black Glove and Leviathan with all this mind-control gas & chemical experimentation, makes me think of Dr. Hurt's experiments.

Scene switch to Mtamba, Jezebel Jet's home, where Batwing and several unidentified hero-types are operating on a mission and Batwing finds out something important:

Things aren't what they seems with Jet, Batwing says she's not in charge, and the bat wings moment harkens back to the end of "RIP" when Talia sicked her Ninja-Bats on Jet.

Back to Bats in the maze of Dedalus, the gas seems to be playing havoc with Batman's memory, his sense of time, it's all just Netz baiting Batman deeper into his maze/web/labyrinth. 

We cut to The Hood hitting on a woman then jumping on her computer to send a message to Oracle about Leviathan being "An inescapable interrogation facility sailing international waters, answerable to no laws".  Behind him a mustached man enters the room (the Matron?), talks about them both being double agents, and then:

...Dead Hood...

But it transitions right into this pivotal moment in Bat history except Bats is cradling the Netz dummy.  Then he sees this...

The Prof. Pyg structure wearing Martha Wayne's pearls (ya know the ones that have been in circulation since the dawn of time according to "Return of Bruce Wayne") which he rips off the barbwire mommy.

Tim, Dick, and Dmian fend off their attackers only to find out that they are in fact Nightrunner and Dark Ranger under the influence of the mind control.  So between whatever happened to Batwing, Hood being shot, and now this, it seems that Leviathan has struck a mighty blow against the Inc.

Batman finds the center of the maze only to stumble upon ANOTHER tape recording and the skeleton bones of someone.  The recording apparently is a fan of The Dark Knight movie as it says "Recordings cannot be bargained with. Netz cannot be reasoned with." which is basically what Alfred says to Bruce when they are in the Bunker talking about The Joker.

Bruce gets sucker punched in the back of the head by El Gaucho, the double agent in fact & name given that his number is "33", then a bomb blows out the hull of the tanker they are apparently on.  In space, on the same space station we saw the Headmistress & Dedalus on before, The Outsiders team have boarded only to find Lord Death Man roaming around free as a timer counts down to zero and the place blows up with Halo, Looker, Metamorpho, Freight Train and Katana on board...

Batman crawls towards a map of the world, marked with the locations in which Batman Inc operatives work, Oracle puts the Robo-Bats on-line, Dedalus mentions how "she told me he like puzzles" which of course presents the question of who "she" is...Jezebel presumably.  Also there are three chalk mark outlines on the ground around Batman, likely representative of the 3 dead Marines....

Batman himself questions the "she" and actually mentions Kathy on his own as well as Jet.  Gaucho actually ends up saving Batman, making him a triple agent (MORE THREE'S), but to no avail as Dedalus stabs him in the throat with a blade hidden in the Hitler cane, then proceeds to electrocute Batman to death.  Gaucho tries to help but dies, bleeding out from the neck as Bats crawls to hit the button (Oroboro shaped of course) that will stop the meta-bombs Dedalus says he has ringing the world.  The only thing that saves Batman; Damian, in a very difficult fashion...

Damian broke the main rule, he killed, yes it was to save his father, but he killed nonetheless, and that pained look on his face tells the whole story.  The Bat-Bots raise the Leviathan, we get a single image of a shorter-haired woman sitting overlooking the ocean, talking to the Matron, and talking about oroboro.  Oh and how she'll send flowers because "he hated flowers".  If this wasn't intended to be Kathy Kane, the original Batwoman, I would be absolutely shocked...

On the freighter the Wayne family searches and it seems Gaucho may yet live as the blade missed his carotid artery barely.  Bruce mentions his visions of the future, "The world in flames...two headstones...Kali the destroyer...Jezebel Jet's revenge...", Tim completes the message Batwing sent out, that they found Jezebel's body, missing one thing, and something about an eye, the eye of Gorgon which is a star in the constellation in Perseus also call Algol...Al Ghul...Demon's Head...

And the one thing Jet was missing:

What this image doesn't show is the red Batphone (from the West/Ward TV show) next to the head which rings and Bruce answers...

Saddest face ever...

The scene turns to what is obviously Gotham as we see a Park Row street sign and the abandoned Monarch Theater (now being turned into a restaurant according to the sign).  The voice on the other end of the phone tells Bruce that a 1/2 billion dollar bounty has been placed on Damian's head, that
"We are now at war, as I promised", and ask the mask is removed, the voice becomes immediately familar to both Dick & Damian.  The face behind Leviathan:

Talia Al Ghul with "Fatherless", or whatever he is called, from "Batman: The Return" at her side.  All I can say is that I figured it out only a few panels before the reveal because of the "We are now at war, as I promised" line. It was that quote on my original reading that told me just who Leviathan was, and also blew my mind that it was based on one panel all the way back in "Batman & Son":

As I wrote in my very first part of this blog series regarding "Batman & Son" Pt. 3 -

There is obviously more to the Damian story than this, and reading closely I can see the foundation of Leviathan being laid out by Talia in the two panels on page 101 where Talia states "Then it's war. And you're responsible...For people like us, the world is the gameboard, and nations are pawns."

With mother, father, son, we've got our significance to the repeated usage of three's.  We have had the continued usage of children and parent/child issues throughout Inc. in the form of the Pyg family, Bruce dumping Damian on Dick, the larger Bat-Family, and the usage of kids as assassins within the Leviathan organization.  It also makes sense why the mind control agent has been turned into candy essentially.  This has all been a commentary on family, and now Talia has done whatever she could to take away Bruce's family throughout this story.  He still has Dick, Tim, Damian, and Barbara but most of the Batman Inc. family has been put down. 

I just have to wonder if this is another case of organic storytelling and it just turned out this way OR if Morrison has had this plan for over 5 years.  If so then that means all the Black Glove/RIP/Dr. Hurt stuff was really just the sideshow and this was the main event all along.  We have just been reading the establishment of Damian as a hero serving as fuel for Talia's motherly rage towards Bruce.  He took her son away, he is the reason Damian isn't following the Al Ghul plan, and now the whole world will pay for Bruce's perceived sins. 

There are a few lingering plot the identity of Wingman, who the other woman sitting at oceanside was, the fate of all the Batman Inc members who were assaulted/shot/blown up, and that last page does say it will be continued in 2012.  That is true, the release date is set for May 23, but DC Comics is in a whole different world now due to the New 52.

So the big question is just how that will affect the culmination of Morrison Bat-Story.  Will it?  Maybe it won't require any changes to what he had planned but with certain Bat Inc. characters (Stephanie Brown & Cassandra Cain in particular) not seeming to exist in the new world yet who knows.  I just can't imagine there NOT being some fundamental changes made...

Still, I for one cannot wait until May to see where this story goes.  The saga of the Al Ghul family has always been one of my favorite points of the Bat-Canon, largely due to The Animated Series where Ra's was my favorite villain beside The Joker, which I saw long before I read any comics he was featured in.  Damian has evolved into one of my favorite characters over the years as well and since I certainly foresee this being a story very much about father/son issues, I am very intrigued. 

So well this may bring my Morrison odyssey to a close as it pertains to my blog world, the door is a little over a month away from being kicked wided open in the actual comic book world.  This has been one long, strange, interesting, confusing, and educational journey for me in these last few months of rereading the Morrison Bat-Library and I hope I've offered some insight for anyone reading this as well.  I am most certainly taking a long hiatus away from anything connected to Grant Morrison, and will likely give Batman a break too just not right away.

Because the idea I have for my next blog is Bat-connected but also likely the most tangentially related blog I will ever likely do.  Suffice to say something in the Bat books has sparked some non-comics curiousity in me and I want to explore it.  Here's a tease...

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