Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Batman- The Grant Morrison Odyssey: New 52 Style V3

What Came Before:

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
Part 11: Batman Inc. Part 2
New 52 Part 1
New 52 Part 2

 Depart the origin issue and return to where we left off with Matches Malone being hung, Redbird fighting dogs, and based on this cover, Wingman in action!

Only, instead of Redbird fighting dogs & soldiers as in issue #3, we kick this issue off with two direct stabs at the heart of Bruce Wayne and the foundations of what created Batman:

The Monarch Theatre....Zorro's Restaurant...two direct shots at Bruce Wayne: NOT Batman, at Bruce Wayne.  The theater outside which where Thomas & Martha Wayne were murdered, a restaurant named after the movie that Bruce and his parents watched prior to their deaths, plus a Bible quote hyping up Leviathan; this is all a direct shot at Wayne by Talia Al Ghul because, as she says in the 3rd panel, "...he took my son from me".

What is rather intriguing about this sequence though is the relatively throw-away line by The Heretic that reads "I thought I was your son..."; that line, and Talia's follow about Leviathan having many children, betrays something more sinister and rather insidious about her plans for Bruce, Batman, and Gotham City.

The next scene returns to the "trial" of Matches Malone as he ignites that match, sets ablaze a gunpowder trail, and announces that he "...set a new record for holding breath" as the world around him goes batshit nuts (pun totally intended)!

As that page shows we've got El Guaucho and The Hood in action against Talia's assassins. In the subsequent pages there is a good deal of mindless ultraviolence as the Club of Heroes take on Merlyn and a horde of other nameless villains.  In the midst of this chaos we catch up to the activity of issue #4 as Damian Wayne, aka Redbird, joins the fray and Wingman steps up to the plate. The most interesting part of this, for me obviously, takes place in the fourth panel of this following page:

Obviously there is a recognition here between Damian/Redbird and The Wingman that flows both ways but before it can be explored much further we cut scene to Matches Malone getting away from his "trial".  I think my favorite part of this whole sequence comes from Damian's insistence that Bruce said ROBIN was grounded, not REDBIRD.  Oh yeah, add in the fact that D insists he knows Wingman's fighting style and I think the scene depicted below is multi-layered:

There is some humor to be found in Damian talking about the dog's blood I must admit...

Anywho, as we progress we see more of the Club of Heroes & Batman Inc. brought into the fray as Knight, Nightwing, and Red Robin come bursting through windows while Squire snips at power lines like Wolverine in the Hellfire Club.  This is Batman Inc in full-force and they are a tough lot!

Batwing arrives on the scene with some reference to the events of Leviathan Strikes! plus we get an appearance by Alfred who name drops Kirk Langstrom and his "Man-Bat Serum". We also get Damian showing off his own detective skills by noticing Wingman's voice, accent, and "unmistakable grating sound"...

GoatBoy rears his head again with Lumina Lux in tow as a hostage.  The two individuals who sought to play Batman & Matches Malone for suckers are in one place and ultimately only one of them wins the kindness of Bruce Wayne.  Lumina stabs GoatBoy with a fork, allowing her to escape, and Bats gives her the Multiple Sclerosis medicine she told Matches her sister needed.

So, according to Bats, The League of Assassins is broken and Brucie wants Talia to have a sitdown to talk about what's going on.  She in turn tells Bruce to reveal to Damian just who Wingman, his Double Agent, really is...

So I find the name Wingman especially intriguing given the reveal of his identity.  Now I was holding out some ridiculous hope that the introduction of a new Wingman following the events of the Black Glove story arc would somehow lead to a Jean Paul Valley. Now, given that the original Wingman was a traitor to the group and was responsible for killing the original Dark Ranger, the choice of Jason Todd to fill the role was...ironic perhaps.

Look at JT's previous roles; he was a Robin, a sidekick, a WINGMAN to Batman more or less.  Upon his rebirth (due to Superboy-Prime punching stuff in the pre-New 52 world), he was a traitor to EVERYTHING Batman stood for; he killed villains, took over drug dealing operations, and ultimately made a mockery of everything Batman stood for before the BS that was Countdown to Infinite Crisis attempted to turn him into something...awful.

In his post-rebirth world, thanks to Judd Winick and the Red Hood: Lost Years mini, Jason has a very strong connection to Talia Al Ghul which also puts him in a prime position to be a part of this mission despite his anti-Batman history.

The sad thing is that despite everything heroic he has done, despite all of the missions that Damian has undertook alongside his father, ultimately (as a result of seeing the future) Bruce still sees the threat his son represents.  So, in front of most of his New 52 family (minus Batgirl), Bruce essentially tells a heartbroken Damian that he must return to his mother or else we will see the world of Batman #666...

The next issue of Batman Inc, number 5 to be precise, take us on a journey through the world of 666...

 Yeah, I love using alternate covers, what can I say?

Essentially we pick up right where we left off with Gordon and his men arresting the various assassins that Tali sicked on Batman Inc but it turns into a tale of Bruce telling Jason and Damian just what happens if D ascends to the cape & cowl:

As Bruce saw in the future, presumably in his The Return of Bruce Wayne visit to Vanishing Point, and as we all saw in Batman #666, the future under Damian-Bats is a bit of a nightmare.  Previously we saw a Gotham under the rule of a Batman willing to slaughter anyone in his path (evidenced by the murder of Pyg) and one in opposition to whatever still existed of the GCPD (headed up by Barbara Gordon aka Batgirl).

As you can see in the panel above, the relationship between Barbara and Damian-Bats is far less contentious than previously depicted and, in fact, allows room for Alfred-Kitty! Also, in stark opposition to the version of the character published in the New 52 era, Babs is depicted in a wheelchair, totally in continuity with the pre-New 52 version of her character as well as with the original Batman #666 version.

Now this version of Gotham has been overrun by Joker toxin (as referenced in #666) and they remaining "heroes" are left defending Arkham Asylum against the hordes of the infected (Walking Dead influenced perhaps?).

The baby Damian saved (tagged as Batman Beyond's Terry McGinnis in #700) is apparently already immune to this chaos but the rest of Gotham isn't!  Jackanapes, in the original #666 story, pops back up here and confirms (whilst spouting biblical Revelations references) that the baby isn't just immune but he is also a carrier of the Joker toxin and has now infected all of Arkham.

So in the midst of the chaos on Arkham which includes Barbara getting infected with Joker Toxin and shooting Damian-Bats with a Tommy Gun, we also have a man who is likely Dr. Hurt/Thomas Wayne influencing the President to drop bombs on Gotham City!  Prior to that page...

We have amazing artist, and all-around awesome dude Chris Burnham replicating a Kubert scene, plus Dr. Hurt laying a guilt trip on Damian for being the one responsible for opening up "the hole in things" that lead to all of this drama.

This page from the death of Arkham, and essentially Gotham, is necessary to point out just due to its inclusion of a great number of other villain's Grant Morrison dealt with during his run.  Not only do we have Jackanapes prominently featured but it also includes Flamingo (first introduced in #666 before being featured in Batman & Robin) as well as Weasel and some Dark Knight Returns Mutant looking guy.  As you can see, Damian knows it's his mother Talia...

Still, the sad revelation after the bombs are dropped and Dr. Hurt's influence is felt and we return to present day is that fourth panel look from Damian to his father. "Don't make me go back to her" is one of the most heartbreaking lines I can imagine Morrison writing and Burnham's depiction of that moment completely conveys all the sadness I would imagine Damian is feeling at that moment.

Unfortunately for the Wayne family, resolution must wait as a building containing Knight, Squire, Halo, Looker, Batwing, and others, explodes into flames....

To be continued...

Monday, November 11, 2013

Batman- The Grant Morrison Odyssey: New 52 Style V2

What came before:

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
Part 11: Batman Inc. Part 2
New 52 Part 1

We left off with Batman Inc. #3 and Damian "Redbird" Wayne surrounded by a pack of dogs; a cliffhanger ending that is left dangling for the following issue due to a number of factors.  The first factor was the delay in that issue shipping due to the Aurora, CO shooting at The Dark Knight Rises and you can read more about the delay here.  The second factor that plays into the cliffhanger left dangling was the decision by DC to run a Zero Month to celebrate the first anniversary of the New 52 with the issues looking back on the history of the New 52 while also introducing a few new books of which only Talon and Phantom Stranger remain. For a book that was only a few months into its run, at least this iteration of it, it was kind of an abrupt cut but given the nature of this book I don't think there would ever have been a natural breaking point to insert this issue:

Page one throws us into the "old" DCU with an in-between the scenes look at the close of the Club of Heroes/Black Glove arc from Batman. We are watching the Island of Dr. Mayhew blow up as Batman and the surviving members of the Club escape.  We clearly see Knight, Squire, El Guapo,  and The Musketeer while the shadow of Man-of-Bats is noticeable in another scene.  It's a brief scene but it puts some historical context to this issue as well as establishes the mindset of certain characters following the events on The Island.

The following page (the one on the right) pulls from the very first issue of Batman (the one on the left) with the title of the page.  It may use the title from the original #1 but it's also an amalgamation of Year One as well as elements of Grant Morrison's take.  The bell, its ringing, and what it represented was an important story element throughout the pre-Batman Incorporated issues that I talked about previously.

What is most important about this entire sequence on the next page, maybe the most important panel in the entire series, is the very first panel:

"I was never alone."

Alfred Pennyworth, James Gordon, Dick Grayson, Barbara Gordon, Jason Todd, Tim Drake, Damian Wayne: some of the members of the Bat-family that have been there in various forms at one point or another during the crime fighting tenure of Bruce Wayne.  Since day one Bruce has had Alfred for support and that is what is so significant about ringing that bell as it pertains to the idea of Batman Incorporated.

The next eight panels represent first Bruce's fall into the cave, then the blackness, then the "death" at Darkseid's hands (or whoever it is in the New 52) that sent Bruce spinning through time, and the final 5 panels in the sequence represent what I would have presumed he saw during that look at time which presumably took place inside Vanishing Point during Return of Bruce Wayne. Unfortunately my presumptions are somewhat shaken when Bats says this happened inside the cave which I assume is the cave at the close of Final Crisis/beginning of ROBW; then again it could be the Thogal cave too.  Also of note, "two headstones...", look back at the image from issue one of this volume of Inc...

The world isn't in flames but there's a pair of tombstones. Could be Martha and Thomas, could be anyone else...

Scene jumps to another background piece as Bruce is now proposing, rather telling, his board about the Batman Incorporated program.  I suppose this would situate the scene post-Batman & Robin #16 when he announced it to the world.  A historical nod to Victim's Inc.(a program established many moons ago, #217 to be exact) is tossed in there but my favorite moment of this page is the final panel as Bruce singles out one Mr. Treadwell as looking...uncomfortable.  It's a play off Damian's calling out the same guy during B&R:

In that case it was in reference to an abundance of money being diverted to a Thomas Wayne foundation set-up for railroad victims. Thomas, as you may recall, is also known as Dr. Hurt/El Penitente and that point of the arc was revolving around the Mexican train.  In this case Treadwell is being popped for for embezzlement and accepting bribes amongst other things.  It's also nice to see Dick & Damian side-by-side one more time in the Batman and Robin gear.

The most curious part of this entire page is not the Bat-Robots (last seen during Vol. 1 of Inc I believe) fighting but rather how the story is tagged BEFORE THE NEW 52! That's the same way the Leviathan Strikes! story was tagged as well and it the title "Brand Building" harkens back to the "Building a Better Batmobile" story title for me as well.

Back to Knight and Squire, a reference to a Yemen mission which I do believe is the mission from Batman: The Return that gave us the torn out whale, the first appearance of Heretic, and bridged the gap between Morrison's Batman & Robin and Batman Inc Vol. 1.  This also marks the first of what turns into a running gag throughout Inc. with a shrink ray reference.  Other people on the internets inform me that some of this is also a reference to the Danger Mouse cartoon which I grew up watching on Nickelodeon but I don't remember it specifically enough.

By the way, reading someone else's interpretations of this same material has been very helpful in making some sense out of certain points that I didn't quite wrap my head around initially or in giving me specific issues to reference when I couldn't remember them myself. 


From Knight & Squire the scene moves to the Club of Heroes Dark Ranger, or rather his sidekick Scout, who has taken up as a tattoo artist.  Not sure if there's anything to the Crystal Creature or Cyclops creature but it does seem like the kind of thing we may have seen in a Batman comic from the 1960's. I mean those are the books in which we got this:

Knight, in disguise, attacks Scout as a test but Scout states he gave up that mantle after Dark Ranger died back on Mayhew's island.  Knight still puts the decision in the hands of Johnny Riley, telling him to hit up Squire if he needs to talk, then we cut to Russia...

Ravil was killed off in the New 52 Batman & Robin #1 by Nobody before he ever did anything, but he had a Bat Bus so therefore he is awesome.  Also we get a nod to Damian's age and I am not entirely sure how it jives with any other non-Morrison points where his age has been noted, it is nice to see it acknowledged.

The Musketeer pops back up, reinforcing his statement on page one that he is out of the game, but we see The Nightrunner come back into the picture.

Back to Scout as he is somewhat tormented by the choice to take up the Dark Ranger mantle.  He obviously took Knight's advice to contact Squire since we are seeing her hologram.  Scout's struggle comes from the fact that he wasn't there on Mayhew's island and a measure of guilt about his predecessor's death being due to his absence.  Squire gives the pep talk, telling Johnny he's cute when he scowls, and sowing those romantic seeds I suppose.

Time for catch-up with Man-of-Bats and Red Raven:

There focus has always been on the community and obviously continues to be.  That Jeff Moon guy did make an appearance in their Vol. 1 story in issue #7 as well.

Our world tour then takes us to Japan where we revisit Jiro, the Batman of Japan, rocking new duds which make it so he no longer look like a Batman. The gorilla and Doubleface are references to the Bat-Manga (putting it in continuity I suppose) while anyone who read Final Crisis is aware of the Super Young Team and this would likely be their first reference in the New 52.  And yes, Jiro gives us our second shrink ray reference of this book...

The El Gaucho page is one deep in history as it references his previous appearances in both Vol. 1 & Vol. 2 of Batman Inc and also shows us he is the only one of the group who Bruce gave zero choice to when it came to joining the group.

Finally we wrap things up with a return to the new Dark Ranger on his first outing alongside Batman before we return to the Batcave.  Bruce is doing one-armed pull-ups on a stalactite...

Alfred notes the burgeoning relationship between Ranger & Squire as well as shows us a side of Bruce we don't frequently see; a thankful one. "...You always have food waiting on the table for me. Thank you."

I must note that I find it extremely purposeful that the final line in the book is " all comes around in the end" given the circular nature of this entire epic.  The Ouroboros, a snake eating its own tale, a ring around the world, the fact that this is in a 0 issue, it started with Talia in Batman & Son and has come back to Talia.

So, despite having originally wrapped up my zero issue blog like a month ago, I am only now publishing it because yeah I originally intended to write about 3-4 issues at once like I did with the pre-New 52 Morrison blogs.  Problem was I finally realized that (a) they turn out ridiculously long and (b) it is insanely time-consuming to for me to do that. 

So I am going to keep putting them out there, one or two issues per, depending on my free time. If you have any interest in reading more of the stuff that falls out of my brain in the interim, you can check me out on Sequart!