Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Batman- The Grant Morrison Odyssey: New 52 Style V9

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
New 52 Part 5
New 52 Part 6
New 52 Part 7
New 52 Part 8

I believe due to the nature of issue #11, and the fact that I think the final issue Grant Morrison's Batman Opus deserves its own solo spotlight, it looks like this blog is going to be pulling double duty with Chris Burnham & Jorge Lucas' Batman of Japan-focused ish #11 and issue #12!

In the same fashion that issue #5 diverted us from the core story into a glimpse of the Damian Batman, this issue splits from the main narrative with an issue written, rather than art, by Chris Burnham and art from Jorge Lucas.  It gives us a look at the adventures of Jiro, the Batman of Japan, in the costume that is a far cry from the one he was originally given when he signed on to The Inc:

Editorial edict? Creator preference? So there was only ONE guy in a Batman costume? For whatever reason, Jiro's official Inc. costume was changed from his bat-clone original to the one featured on the cover of this issue.

I love the very first image on this page:

It's such a sad image of Damian's pet cat Alfred sitting in front of his owner's graveyard but it is very temporary as, almost like a TV screen getting an overlapping signal, the picture goes static and we turn our attention to Japan and some cleavage-wielding biker chicks.

Immediately we see that these women are not just T&A, one of them rips a guy's tongue out of his head because of his coffee choices! They are more upset about blood & coffee getting on their uniform (a choice of word I found interesting because it implies this look is intentional) and seem just as likely to fight one another as the police.  There is obviously something more to these ladies as well given that White swings around a human body with an ease that makes it seem as if you or I were hoisting a piece of paper while Green takes three bullets to the helmet while talking about being bulletproof.  She could be referring to her "uniform" or to herself, not exactly certain at this point.

As the police call for a Bat-Alarm, our scene then head on over to...

Jiro Osamu (aka The Batman of Japan) and Shy Crazy Lolita Canary of the Super Young Team. The members of the SYT are another of Grant Morrison's creations circa Final Crisis who became mega-celebrities in their native country.  Canary, much like the American heroine of similar name, has a sonic scream but is tiny enough to fit in the palm of someone's hand.

The initially awkward interaction of these two is cute, very first date-ish, as Jiro tries to spout off some Casablanca material that initially goes over the head of the 20 year old Lolita.  References are made to Jiro's probationary period, to Lolita's 20th birthday in which Jiro was apparently the vomiting one, and that Jiro has been trying to make this date happen for a bit as evidence by his shrink ray request to Batman.  There is something about that request I just find insanely humorous, the idea of a shrink ray in the midst of the Bat-World I find so insane yet the concept of monster clones and tiny little winged girls doesn't phase me in the slightest.  Silly...

We quickly learn, as the aforementioned Bat-Alarm reaches its target, that this entire date scenario is taken place with the world of Internet 3.0 that was the centerpiece of Batman Inc. (Vol. 1) #8.  Lolita makes a joke about how she wishes she could get 3.0 on her phone which leads Jiro to say it's possible with a "chip in your head and a port in your neck"; I read that all I think of is Johnny Mnemonic and The Matrix.

We get a quick glimpse into the Batcave of Japan and see its similarities to that of the Batcave proper (old costumes (including the Mister Unknown & original Batman of Japan outfits), a dinosaur, a coin, and computers) before jumping back to the Biker Chicks.  They come off as total badasses (SARCASM) in their threatening of school girls and their hurling of childish insults.  In fact, once Jiro & Canary jump into the fray, the insults continue to get even more ridiculous and childish:

I mean comparing a vagina to a Tardis is quite clever and insanely insulting at the same time.  This is banter unlike any you would get from the more quippy characters (say a Peter Parker or Dick Grayson) and unlike any I have ever seen in a Batman comic: "The Pink Ranger's Silicon Sisters", and "Better Than Being Built Like A 12 Year Old Boy", or how about "...Her Whole High School Baseball Team"!!!  You aren't getting banter like this in a Spider-Man comic!

Suffice it to say the fight does not go the way of Jiro & Canary, they end up encased in Jiro's riot foam after the bikers steal his version of the utility belt and turn it on him.  In the process of the fight though we learn that the ladies are apparently immune to Canary's cries and that, after Jiro cuts it open, their helmets repair themselves.

Upon Jiro & Canary's return to the Batcave-Japan, the reader is introduced to just why this young man was made part of Batman Incorporated.  Yes he can fight, but we get a look at his detective skills as he analyzes the facts gleamed from his battle.  Canary operates in much the same fashion as a Robin might, working as a soundboard for the hero to talk his ideas out, and she also demonstrates that youthful enthusiasm that might come along with being a sidekick.  Then again, so does Jiro as they banter about the varied locations they hope their foes use as their bases. There is a joy in their mission, a stark contrast to the mission currently being undertaken by Batman in the main arc.

We then learn the link between this side quest and the core story as the biker gang return to their master:

Leviathan!  It has been many issues since we have seen the presence of Talia's organization outside of Gotham but here it is, a Japanese chapter, albeit a chapter that does not seem to rank highly in the larger scheme of things.  One interesting item of note in the big bad's dialogue: her remark that it they have been part of the organization for years.  It adds a larger scope to Leviathan's operations, emphasizing how this has been a long game for Talia, not just some fling. 

Canary and Jiro track down the base of operations, utilizing their combined skills to uncover its hidden location, and when confronted once again by the bikers, Jiro utilizes technology and his brains to get the better of them.  This in turn leads to the unveiling of their unique origins:

Yes, Leviathan tried to use the world of competitive sports to conquer the world...so awesome!

The villains team up with the heroes, the big bad is named Lady Tiger Fist and actually has tiger heads for fists, and we are subjected to some seriously violent death scenes for Canary (stomped to a bloody pulp) and Jiro (ripped apart by a tiger head).  Ingeniously though, and so subtle I didn't notice it until I reread the page several times, Canary injected Lady Tiger Fist with the Internet 3.0 and allowed her to play out these death scenes virtually: another excellent display of Jiro's brains over brawn approach to handling his foes.

The ending comes full circle as Jiro & Canary go on their BIG date, she gets to hold an apple, and we are treated to one terrifying image heading into next issue and our regularly scheduled program:

While it was an overall pleasant visit with one member of the Batman Inc. family courtesy of Chris Burnham & Jorge Lucas, and it did lightly tie into the core story, it was nowhere near the pain-filled, sorrow-extravaganza that is to come next ish:

What a cover with the Bat-Bots and the assorted members of Inc. watching Bruce taking his vengeance against Talia.  You could even interpret this as he's about to break her back a la Bane if you'd like (obviously I do otherwise I wouldn't have mentioned it).  It's another powerful cover in a series filled with them and it is followed up with a powerful first page that encapsulates the very ideal of Batman:

An amazing page of art from last issue's author, and in that final panel, Skull-Faced Talia hits the nail right on the head there, "Why won't he stop?"  Sums up Bruce Wayne in so many ways...

This is another issue where I could really use every single beautiful page to illustrate some of the story points.  From Bruce essentially speaking Bat, to the way the rain falls, to the facials on this monstrous incarnation of Batman, each image is just so powerful that words do not do them justice.

Man that electricity!

The fact the blimp is labeled Damrung which is most certainly a play on Dammerung/Gotterdammerung, which is something Morrison also used in The Invisibles...

...the child-like fashion in which Heretic behaves as Bruce taunts him, everything about this issue is masterful and playing off all the build of what has come before.  Bruce has undergone change after change under the watch of Grant Morrison: father, the Thogal ritual, R.I.P, Final Crisis/Return, and now this Man-Bat Cyborg Revenge Machine.  He has seen his only son murdered by his mother, seen the DNA of that son twisted into the monster who served as the murder weapon, and still her perseveres.  Batman does not break...

We cut to two of his "sons" (Red Robin & Nightwing) on the hunt for the third (Jason Todd/Wingman) who was abducted by and then tracked down by Knight and Ranger. Turns out, according to Hood, that the Assassin's Girl's School that Spoiler infiltrated during the Old DCU-set Leviathan Special was all part of a Spyral operation.  Also the Headmistress of that school, the one we have heard Hood make reference to before, turns out Nightwing recognizes her voice and she in turn seems to know him...
I love the take on the DOUBLE PUNCH that Nightwing and Knight bust out here using their Escrima sticks, and it also shows us all that Batman is far from alone in his quest.  Not only is does he never quit, neither do the members of his extended family.

So it is then, on the doorstep of the Wayne Tower, that Bruce discovers the ugly truth of just what Heretic really is and what Talia, the mother of his son, did to create this monster...

That image is horrifying...truly and utterly disgusting really. A child soldier, the face of Damian Wayne on the body of a forced-grown man, with a bleeding hole in his head.  It's quite grotesque and yet this creation is not yet the the worst thing Talia does in this issue.  Heretic, for his failure, receives the following reward:

Talia's calling card, as it was in Leviathan Strikes! with the head of Jezebel Jet next to the red phone, and the utter destruction of Wayne Tower.  Even with all that, the game still isn't done because Talia needs to put on her party clothes.  Donning her own Bat-Mask, her own cape, she descends into the bowels of the Batcave where Batman is waiting. The endgame is here...

She calls herself Tiamat, Kali, Medusa, and The Wire Mommy. The next issue caption calls her The Devil's Daughter.  Her aim, since she can't be the LOVE of his life, is to now be THE villain in Batman's life. She killed his/her son, blew up his Tower, decimated his city, and now it comes down to the two of them in the heart of the place where Batman was born...

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