Jul
8

The Morrison Batman Notes Part 2 – The (Aunt) Agatha Christie Period

Posted by on Tuesday, July 8th, 2008 at 10:55:55 AM

Going forward with part two!

Don’t forget to read yesterday’s part one as well.

Batman #667

Batman #667

Batman #667 – “The Island of Mister Mayhew”

(art: J.H. Williams III & Dave Stewart)

NOTE: Rather than recapitulate it here, I’d just like to point everyone towards J.H. Williams III’s commentary on the Club of Heroes and the particular artistic style associated with each one.

Page 1: The Black Glove, named for the first time. Note the roulette wheel, red and black, good and evil – it’s clear here that Mayhew, strung up, is making a bet. Judging by the actual wearing of black gloves, it seems clear this is the same character we saw at the end of 665. A friend of mine who for some reason wants to remain anonymous because this idea is fucking brilliant thinks that this might be a sort of retelling of the story of Job, with Hurt acting as Satan and Alfred as God, which fits in perfectly with the question raised by this bet – which is stronger, good or evil? It also fits in perfectly with Morrison’s use of the blind chessman figure in Invisibles.

Page 2-3: I just want to mention I love the look Tim gives Bruce for asking a question to which he himself is the answer.

Page 4: Tim mentions that Alfred is staying at home rebuilding Wayne Manor, which seems to place this after the Resurrection of Ra’s al Ghul crossover – which is after this arc, so I have no idea how that works. Anyway, that’s his alibi for now.

Page 5: The Knight was last seen in JLA: Classified #1-3 by Grant Morrison & Ed McGuinness, and before that in Morrison’s JLA run.

Page 6: El Gaucho, respected crimefighter from Argentina; Legionary, past-his-prime Roman-themed crimefighter from Italy; the Musketeer, French crimefighter who, as he says here, just got out of prison; and Chief Man-of-Bats, the Batman of the reservation. All members of the Club of Heroes.

Page 7: More details about Mayhew’s life. Just as all of the Club of Heroes are alternate takes on where Batman may have gone, John Mayhew represents a directionless, unfulfilling life for Bruce Wayne without a cause and a mission. This is where we first see the poster for the Black Glove film, which comes into play later during R.I.P.; Mangrove Pierce and Marsha Lamarr are both names worth remembering, both within and after this arc. The group shot of the Club of Heroes is new, and lacks Superman, whom the original story (Detective #215) featured.

Page 8: The Native American vigilante is an alcoholic? Seriously, Grant?

Pages 14-15: Someone wearing Mayhew’s face, presumably taken off with the switchblade at the start of the issue. However, considering Mayhew shows up safe and sound later on, it seems likely this is simply a parlor trick (which raises the question of what the use of the blade was). “Place your bets” again digs in the gambling angle, and Morrison really loves to use the wearing-skin concept.

Page 16-17: We later find out the explosion originates from Wingman’s ship, where he planted the bomb as an accomplice to Mayhew and the Glove.

Page 20-21: Mayhew, wearing black gloves, kills Legionary.

Batman #668

Batman #668

Batman #668 – “Now — We Are Dead!”

(art: J.H. Williams III & Dave Stewart)

Page 1: This is the original Knight, and the Squire is Cyril, the current Knight.

Page 3: The Knight is attacking Mayhew for a to-be-revealed reason.

Page 12: Spring-Heeled Jack will later show up as a member of the Club of Villains.

Page 18: Cyril’s breakdown mirrors the breakdown Bruce is later saved from in R.I.P. Perhaps the Black Glove destroyed the Wordenshire family as they’re trying to destroy the Waynes?

Page 19: Scorpiana and Pierrot Lunaire both show up as members of the Club of Villains.

Page 20: El Sombrero is also a member, and shows up for real in the Club – in this arc, he’s impersonated by Mayhew, whom Musketeer postulates may have formed the Club of Villains.

Page 21: This is not actually Wingman, it’s Dark Ranger in Wingman’s body. Wingman is wearing Dark Ranger’s suit.

Batman #669

Batman #669

Batman #669 – “The Dark Knight Must Die!”

(art: J.H. Williams III & Dave Stewart)

Page 3: Knight’s accusing Mayhew for killing his fifth wife; the relationship between the original Knight and Mayhew’s fifth wife is yet to be determined. Mangrove Pierce, the star of The Black Glove, was ruined and imprisoned for the crime he presumably did not commit.

Pages 8-9: King Kraken is also a member of the Club.

Page 10: Again, this is Mayhew impersonating El Sombrero.

Page 11: “The success is in the preparation” – Batman’s main credo.

Page 14: “I’ll stab out your EYES!”

Page 20: Mayhew’s discussion about the internationally rich living beyond the law and morality reflects the nature of the Black Glove as a group of high-stakes gamblers and con artists who “operate at the highest level” (Simon Hurt, 676). As a side note, this entire arc also establishes the level of parlor trickery and illusion the Black Glove tends to use, which calls into question numerous things throughout the entire run, and suggests that the Black Glove is at the very least someone with background in theatre.

Page 21: The Black Glove points to Mayhew’s plane as Batman turns it around.

Batman #672

Batman #672

Batman #672 – “Space Medicine”

(art: Tony Daniel, Sandu Florea, Jonathan Glapion, Mark Irwin & Guy Major)

Page 2: This is the Third Ghost from Batman #666, in the present.

Page 3: I can’t believe I just noticed this – the wanted posters are for “F.M.” and “Jim Lee.” Ow.

Page 4-5: The Third Ghost is looking for a Commissioner Vane, who is, as far as I know, another newly-introduced part of Gotham’s past.

Page 6: “The Scene” is DCU’s version of “The View”, apparently including former Bruce Wayne flame Vicki Vale. Alfred is oddly not wearing any gloves.

Page 10: Alfred’s gloves are back!

Page 11: Once again, Bruce relies on Alfred to clean up his mess, giving him ample opportunity to shanghai things.

Page 13: Branca is the first cop with the gun, Muller is the Bane knockoff.

Page 14: Again, more of Lane/the Third Ghost’s Satanic obsession.

Page 18: Batman hallucinates that Lane’s face is now the Stone Idol from “Robin Dies at Dawn”, Batman #156.

Page 19: Just as “Zur en Arrh” was graffitied on the walls around the appearance of the first two Ghosts, now Batman traces it in his mind when having a heart attack in front of the Third.

Page 20: A recreation of the inspiration for Batman, in checkerboard red and black. A trigger image set by “Zur en Arrh”?

Page 22: Grant Morrison brings back Bat-Mite. There’s a lot to talk about regarding this reappearance – namely, is he real or a hallucination/imaginary friend of Bruce’s? For the purposes of these annotations, while I’ll weigh the evidence for and against, I think there’s textual reason to believe that Bat-Mite is very, very real. Also note the green eyes in the background – there continues to be a bizarre spider attached to his back, the identity of whom is as of yet unrevealed.

Batman #673

Batman #673

Batman #673 – “Joe Chill in Hell”

(art: Tony Daniel, Jonathan Glapion, Sandu Florea & Guy Major) (based on stories by Bill Finger)

A few notes before I start:
This is a really weird but kind of excellent issue, which retells both Batman #47 and the indescribably brilliant #156 (“Robin Dies at Dawn”), both by Bill Finger. The entire issue’s narrative is an extended almost-hallucinogenic dream sequence, in nonlinear fashion, so I’ll try to spot all the references. Morrison classily shares the writer credit with Finger, which is nice because he reuses quite a bit of dialogue wholesale but also sad because he gets more credit here than he did on the original issues. However, while it matches up almost perfectly with 156, it diverges from 47 in some ways I’ll go into, for reasons that could be simply creative license or a deliberate clue.

Page 1: The criminal is Joe Chill, the murderer of Batman’s parents. This picks up fairly late in #47, after Batman’s been following Chill and the Land/Sea/Air Transport Company for a while. The Thogal ritual Bruce refers to was undertaken in 52, and mirrors the isolation experiment in Batman #156. Like the snake shedding skin or the red and black motif, the experience represents death and rebirth. The experience of Thogal is apparently coalescing with his heart attack, suggesting some kind of Invisibles-esque time compression, or that he’s just delusional.

Page 6: Bruce mentions his “self-conscious, hard-boiled style that Alfred loves to read” for the Black Casebook, mirroring much of his internal monologue and the prose of #663. Alfred’s insistence on keeping a record also indicates his possible culpability in these crimes, as part of the Black Glove’s methodology is the psychological study of Batman and his motivations.

Page 7: The guys in the desert with the swords are the Ten-Eyed Tribe of the Empty Quarter from 52 Week 30, who used their swords to “cut out” Bruce’s demons.

Page 8: Is Joe Chill lying about his mother? In Untold Legend of the Batman, Morrison favorite Len Wein said his mother was Alice Chilton, Bruce Wayne’s childhood caretaker. Was she later driven to prostitution?

Page 9: According to Detective Comics #235, the story where the Thomas Wayne Batman costume comes from (which later shows up, so it must be in continuity), crime boss Lew Moxon hired Joe Chill to kill Thomas and Martha Wayne but leave Bruce alive to testify that it was a failed mugging.

Page 10: “The son I lost.” Joe Chill’s son is a new quantity. Batman, in the albino-with-dreds mask, is actually intrigued by this. Note Chill is playing with cards (black and red).

Page 11: Chill’s pose in the final panel reflects the traditional Bruce-Wayne-cries-and-swears-a-vow pose from his origin.

Page 13: The original “Batman falls down the well into the Batcave” moment from Year One and Batman Begins, slightly reimagined, as Bruce has an awfully young existential awakening. (The price of genius!)

Page 14: Bruce’s corpse, held by his friends Clark Kent, Hal Jordan, Dick Grayson and Ollie Queen. Alfred (with white gloves) and Oracle follow behind. Bat-Mite shows up to give some creepy advice, and the final panel is from the unnamed doctor in Robin Dies at Dawn who initiated the isolation experiment, now named as Dr. Simon Hurt, agent of the Black Glove.

Page 15: A symbolic representation of Batman’s guilt and fear of more children dying in his name.

Page 16: Morrison reveals Batman’s darker reasoning for the isolation experiment – to attempt to emulate the Joker’s mind.

Page 17: A reimagining of the confrontation from the end of Batman #47, with modified dialogue (in the original, Batman actually takes off his mask and reveals his face).

Page 19: The difibrillator is being used by Lane/the Third Ghost to resuscitate Batman for torture. The cave being opened is Tim freeing Bruce from the cave on the last day of Thogal.

Page 20: It’s implied here that Chill shoots himself as Batman looks on satisfactorily, which is quite a difference from the original tale, where Chill goes to his men at the LSA Transport Company for help and is killed by them out of anger. The end result is the same, but this is a bit darker and makes Batman look more revengeful.

Page 22: Batman wakes up in Hurt’s lab.

Batman #674

Batman #674

Batman #674 – “Batman Dies at Dawn”

(art: Tony Daniel, Sandu Florea & Guy Major)

Page 1: We’re shown the selection process for the Three Ghosts, who were created by Hurt using the data gained through the isolation experiment and, possibly, access to the Black Casebooks.

Pages 2-3: The Third Ghost references meeting Batman long ago, proving his original vision of them was not a dream/hallucination but reality.

Page 5: Bat-Mite, again with the ultra-creepy spider-thing, implies that Hurt implanted Bruce’s decision to quit. Robin’s insistence otherwise saves him.

Page 7: Bat-Mite claims he came from “Space B” (the method Sun-Eaters use to migrate through the universe quickly, almost as if viewing it from a higher dimension, that Animal Man taps into in 52) and at the Fivefold Expansion of Zrfff. Zrfff is in the Fifth Dimension (like Space B – outside time), and is the home of Mr. Mxyzptlk, Quisp the Thunderbolt, and numerous other characters. Morrison last wrote about it in the “Crisis Times Five” arc of his JLA run. While it’s possible Batman used his knowledge of this region from his JLA adventures to create a convincing backstory for his imaginary friend Bat-Mite, I don’t think he’d know about Space B. The Ghost’s mentioning of posthypnotic keywords (such as “zur en arrh”) is important.

Page 10: Ah, I guess the Third Batman’s ears used to be farther apart, explaining his appearance back in #665.

Page 13: Here, Lane identifies Dr. Hurt with the Devil from #666. Whether the mentions of him in #666 refer to Hurt specifically or the Black Glove is unknown, but I can’t imagine what Damian would have to offer Hurt.

Page 16: Batman begins positing the near-omnipotence of the Black Glove.

Page 20: This implies that the Black Glove “reactivated” the three Ghosts for the purposes of leading up to the events of R.I.P.

Page 21: The black glove is left deliberately as a clue to torture Batman.

Batman #675

Batman #675

Batman #675 – “The Fiend With Nine Eyes”

(art: Ryan Benjamin, Saleem Crawford & Guy Major)

Pages 2-3: An interesting bunch of exposition regarding Alfred, which I analyzed back when I first posited my Black Glove theory.

Page 6: This appears to be an outcast from the Ten-Eyed Brotherhood from 52, who’s now just a hired killer.

Page 11: “Your father’s enemies” – keep in mind Jet is old money too; we still don’t know the circumstances behind her father’s death, which very easily may have been related to the Black Glove. The Glove certainly seems to want Bruce and Jet together; whether Jet is a willing or unwilling pawn is unclear.

Page 15: Bruce is in full-on Batman mode now, presumably by the Glove’s design.

Page 17: This effectively absolves Talia and the League of Assassins from guilt regarding the Black Glove.

Page 22: Considering the Glove’s standard level of manipulation, I highly doubt the assassin was meant to kill Jet as much as it was meant to force Bruce to unleash himself, leading to this result.

TO BE CONTINUED!

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