Monday, January 20, 2014

Batman- The Grant Morrison Odyssey: New 52 Style V5

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
New 52 Part 3
New 52 Part 4

We left Batman being tossed a window towards the Gotham pavement below and we return with a cover for issue #7 that is possibly more terrifying than anything that could be contained within.  Children, psychotic Leviathan brainwashed children with the masks of Batman, Man of Bats, Wingman, El Gaucho, and the rest of Batman Inc. on's like the scene in Natural Born Killers or Game of Thrones minus the gore:

Open the pages and we pick up immediately where the previous left off as Batman plummets to his potential demise only to be saved by one of Talia's Ninja Man-Bat soldiers right before the very eyes of three of his four "children". In this case his adopted ones: Red Robin, Nightwing, and Wingman.

The Man-Bat severs the head off a Robo-Bat as he departs and the trio of Boy Wonders are totally helpless on the ground below.  Jason Todd's "circus boy" comment towards Dick Grayson I think encapsulates the relationship between these individuals pretty nicely just as Tim Drake staying  on point ("I'm tracking the signal from Batman's belt") captures his essence as well.

Now even though I summed up the page quite sufficiently above, I felt it necessary to include so as to address one of the major points of contention I had with Jim Gordon's revisions for the New 52, one in particular.  As a long-time reader I experienced, via back issues I must admit, the story of Commissioner Gordon nearly dying back in #459 as a direct result of his smoking and who can forget these house ads:

So when the reboot/relaunch/reset went down and Gordon was a smoker once again, suffice it to say that I wasn't the happiest camper.  It was a long journey in the Old DCU that led to Gordon quitting smoking so it is my hope that perhaps this is a tale that will play out once again.

Off the tiny soapbox and back to the story itself....

That final panel of the page with Smokin' Jim also depicts Halo and Freight Train being loaded into ambulances while a third gurney, likely Looker, is close behind.  Cute how Train is on two different gurneys; he's a big guy after all.

Alongside Traktir and Spydra we revisit the location from Batman: The Return where we, and Damian, first met The Heretic/Fatherless as well as Traktir & Spydra.  It was there her larynx was crushed during the Super Collective's fight with Heretic and the decaying carcass was the whale from which he was apparently "born".  Damian confirms as much from the images Traktir passes to Batwing which he sends to the Batcave: "Damage to the whale's pelvic region is exactly what we'd expect. Mother made a monster."

Talia's troops hit the Yemen factory to take out Traktir, Spydra, and to remove all evidence of what happened there. Batwing verbally confirms the death of The Knight to Commissioner Gordon as Squire breaks down in Nightwing's arms and an all-too familiar image of death is presented:

Familiar right?

I doubt the similarities are accidental, whether it be due to Morrison's script or Burnham's own artistic choice, and it is far from the last echo we will see throughout the close of Morrison's Bat-Opus.

Also on the page that features the image of Knight's death we get an idea of how overworked Gordon is ("My shift ended three hours ago, Nightwing") as well as how high the stakes are getting ("The hostages are dead. Your people are dead...and Batman..").  In addition, in a nod to the Leviathan-affiliated cop who was established a few issues ago, Gordon orders the new guy to call in back-up.

I love Burnham's portrayal of the Bat-Cave as well as the image of Damian's pet family over on the far right in the first panel.  On top of that, this entire page perfectly nails Damian's character for me.  From the words Morrison has pouring out of his mouth regarding Alfred and Jason Todd to the face Burnham draws as the vegetarian Damian feeds Alfred the Cat chicken, it nails the essence of the youngest member of the Bat-Family.  The change in Damian since his introduction is just so evident between this page and the next, particularly this image:

He says it only took him a few hours to tame Alfred but in reality, what we are watching, it really is the taming of Damian Wayne.  Perhaps taming isn't the proper word though in this case, perhaps GROWTH is a more accurate choice of verbiage.  It also shows a particular kind of growth as Damian address Bruce's fears about his son's future in a very straight-forward fashion before detailing for all of us the origin of The Heretic.  It's one amazing page of Burnham work with nods to earlier work in the Morrison Bat-Opus...

Remember last blog when I said something about seeking out Burnham for a sketch at NYCC? I essentially told him to draw anything Batman-related that he wanted and it seems appropriate, given the subject matter of the above image, to include that thing right here:

A  thing of beauty isn't it?

Jason Todd has arrived at Batcave East (which Wikipedia tells me is an abandoned oil refinery owned by Wayne Enterprises) and communicates back to Alfred & Damian at Central (Wiki says this is located under Robinson Park but that does not seem to be the case in the New 52, Central seems to be under Wayne Manor). Damian, rather logically, questions the loyalties of Jason given his prior connection to Talia Al Ghul (she is essentially the reason he didn't die at the Joker's hands) to which Alfred expresses his belief in second chances.  Damian's own distrust of JT stems from two things I'd say, the first being how Jason is responsible for Damian being temporarily paralyzed which led to his mother using spare parts to fix him up which led to Talia using Deathstroke to hijack Damian's body which led to Damian nearly killing Dick (an all too brief summary of Batman & Robin Vol. 1).  The second would be how much Jason's own story reflects that of Damian...

Unfortunately for Jason we next see The Hood expose his true colors as an agent of Spyral, the spy organization ran by the late Otto Netz that also included Kathy Kane and El Guacho/Agent 33.  Netz is also the genius who created the Oroboro and who wreaked hell on our Bat-Family in the Leviathan Strikes! one-shot.  Talia reminds us of the essential function of the box, "One touch activates a ring of death, a choke chain around the world", and tells Heretic (left eye still bloodied from Squire's slingshot and utility belt in tow) to bring the empty safe for some nefarious purpose.  Also we again see the Kali/Shiva images that have become part of Talia's motif throughout Batman Incorporated.

Red Robin finds the belt inside the building, and led like a lamb to slaughter, it explodes just as he makes the leap out the window. We see Nightwing and Gordon with a bus full of kids beginning to unload behind them while Tim pleads for everyone to head to Wayne Tower.  The kids pour off the bus with weapons in tow, chanting "Leviathan", as Gordon realizes how boxed in they truly are...

As we saw in Volume 1 of Inc when Batman and Nightrunner fought together in France, this is far from the first-time Leviathan has used kids:

The scene cuts to Wayne Tower where we are reintroduced to a woman named Ellie who we first saw way back in #664:

Again in #701:

And once more in Vol. 1 #6:

She seems to be a favorite of Grant's doesn't she?  Then again she ends up trapped under gunfire as Talia and The Heretic take over the building, which has the same decorative appeal of the Batcave, and leave her hiding behind a desk.  How much of a favorite would that make you feel like?

We also learn just why Talia wanted Heretic to bring the safe:

It is an element that feels pulled straight out of some much older Batman tale, or perhaps the Adam West show, with Bats locked in a safe and tossed in the water while the enemy details their plan, but in Morrison's hands it feels...greater.  Maybe because with this page Burnham pulls the red/black motif of The Black Glove back into the picture and we see just how much Talia has planned this out.  The gauntlet from last issue was designed to monitor every aspect of Bruce's conditioning while he was drugged with just enough to keep him under until now.  She wants Bruce to know how much effort has gone into this, Talia wants him to look at her as his greatest villain (perhaps since she can't be his great love)! Or,  perhaps, she is simply mocking Bruce, Batman, and all of the tropes of the superhero life, "...know that I've beaten you at your own stupid, childish games of clues and traps, masks and toys".  Even her parting question, "If I'm especially evil, will I be your number one arch-enemy?" seems just as much a taunt to me as a genuine question.  That's the beauty of the printed word sometimes, the context is pretty much left in the reader's mind.

In these two pages it is demonstrated just how much of a family affair this all is and how strongly it revolves first around Bruce's final rejection of Talia in Batman & Son then Damian's subsequent rejection of his mother during Batman & Robin V1.  This page also shows us just how much trust Alfred has in the youngest Wayne to do what needs to be done here.  Yes Damian pulls the the "you did it for Grayson" card but still, this just shows how far their relationship has come given that not so long ago Damian knocked Alfred out to get away from the Wayne Mansion. It demonstrates how capable this Robin is as well as shows his care for the animals that have come under his care in recent months (or days in the case of Alfred the Cat & Bat-Cow).

And while this is going on in the cave, that first panel on the right page shows just how bad things have gotten in Gotham, particularly if Gordon is shooting a hole through a fellow cop (safe to say this is the Leviathan Cop mentioned earlier).

What a final page huh? Nightwing falling under a mob of psychotic children as Jason Todd is laid out before the heels of some woman courtesy of The Hood.  Looking back over his earlier appearances, Hood made reference to a person known as "Matron" which is defined a couple of ways that fit into the Morrison Bat-Opus: 

- a woman in charge of domestic and medical arrangements at a boarding school or other establishment
- a married woman, esp. a dignified and sober middle-aged one

The first definition fits into the Stephanie Brown story included in Leviathan Strikes! while the second definition fits into the depiction of Kathy Kane in V1 of Batman Incorporated.  All I can say is that I predicted her involvement way back on April 3, 2012 so we shall see if it pans out.

On top of the fate of Nightwing and JT, let's not forget about Red Robin preparing to storm the Leviathan-controlled Wayne Tower while Damian Wayne comes to save the day!  It's a hell of a cliffhanger and next up is in one of the most important issues of Morrison's entire run with Batman and family!

To Be Continued....

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