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...

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