Funnybook Babylon

July 9, 2008

The Morrison Batman Notes Part 3 – From Here We Go Sublime

Filed under: Annotations — Tags: , , , , — David Uzumeri @ 12:48 pm

Part one

Part two

Part three is HERE:

Batman #676

Batman #676

Batman #676 – “Batman R.I.P. Part 1: Midnight in the House of Hurt”

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

Page 1: We shoot forward in time for a page. The background, with red skies and lightning, fairly definitely dates this page as being during or around Final Crisis. Batman and Robin’s identities are vague; Robin looks smaller, like Damian, and seems to have a white cape, while Batman is completely ambiguous (but, given Final Crisis itself, is likely Bruce).

Page 3: Hurt’s description of their coverup for Le Bossu’s murder sets a clear precedent for the Black Glove’s methodology, falsifying documents and destroying reputations. It’s certainly in line with the framing of Mangrove Pierce for Mayhew’s murder of his fifth wife, and the way they destroy Bruce Wayne.

Pages 4-5: We meet the rest of the Club of Villains – Charlie Caligula (Legionary), King Kraken (Wingman), El Sombrero (the real one this time – El Gaucho), Pierrot Lunaire (Musketeer), Scorpiana (El Gaucho) and Springheeled Jack (the Knight). Dark Ranger appears to be unrepresented by a nemesis in the group.

Pages 8-9: Finally we see the new Batmobile, under construction since #655. It’s shockingly functional.

Page 11: The hobo with the shopping cart is Honor Jackson, who plays a very important role in #678. The money Bruce gives him is used to buy heroin, which he overdoses on. The Green Vulture is yet to reappear, but may; he could simply be a representative of what Alfred calls on the next page “the American Idol era of equal opportunity supercrime.”

Page 13: “Miss St. Cloud” was Bruce’s love interest from the Englehart/Rogers Detective run; much like Jezebel, she was a smart lady who figured out who Bruce was, but ended up driven away. “Miss Bordeaux” is Sasha Bordeaux from Greg Rucka’s Detective Comics run, who similarly found out but got burned (by taking a murder rap) and ended up becoming the Black Queen of Checkmate after playing a huge role in 2005’s OMAC Project.

Page 14: Here, Alfred’s manner of speech becomes much more learned and curious – not subservient, but especially the “His is a mind like NO OTHER” speech seems to evoke Hurt’s scientific study of Batman.

Page 15: Note, also, how he practically goads Tim on to feeling insecure about Damian, sowing discord in the ranks of Batman’s trusted.

Page 17: Establishes the Black Glove as a group of “incredibly rich and mysterious people”, in line with Mayhew’s comment about how the wealthy are beyond law and morality.

Page 18: Arkham Asylum.

Page 19: This is all a creepy fantasy in Joker’s head.

Pages 20-21: Joker is utterly insane, surprise surprise. It’s shown this is his fantasy lookin gat a Rorschach blot held by an in-disguise Le Bossu, who’s apparently infiltrated Arkham (so this must take place a while after the opening scene ‘six months ago’ with Simon Hurt) and is inviting the Joker to work in the Glove’s plans.

Page 22: The blood on the Joker is a coloring error, according to Morrison; this is the real world, and the Joker hasn’t actually killed anybody. He’s still stuck in Arkham. Also notice his obsession with flowers, his instruments of death in #663.

DC Universe #0

DC Universe #0

DC Universe #0 – Excerpt from “Let There Be Lightning”

(art: Tony Daniel & Alex Sinclair)

Page 8: Good = red, black = evil. The page is split in half to reflect that dichotomy. The Joker is playing a Dead Man’s Hand in successive colors of black and red.

Page 9: Four panels on each side, left side tinted red, right side tinted black. Joker recognizes the name Black Glove, meaning this takes place in between 676 and 677.

Page 10: The panel layout becomes a 4×4 red-and-black checkerboard. It seems like Joker is trying to honestly clue Batman in, which makes sense – according to #663, he *needs* Batman; having him taken down by the Black Glove would be nothing short of an insult, so it’s in the Joker’s best interest to keep Batman alive. The message seems to be a pantomime of suicide – perhaps telling Bruce that *he* is the Black Glove? The final card is a black Joker with a spot of red blood, which makes more black than red in the hand.

UPDATE: Last-minute brainstorm: The pantomimed suicide could be Joker saying that, if the Black Glove succeeds in taking down Batman, he might as well kill himself because he’ll lose his only playmate. It makes perfect sense with what was going on in #663 and the codependent relationship being outright stated.

Batman #677

Batman #677

Batman #677 – “Batman R.I.P. Part 2: Batman in the Underworld”

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

Page 1: Batman is beating up one of Le Bossu’s gargoyle henchmen.

Page 4: The same poster from #667. One of the black casebooks is missing from the drawer, and Alfred claims he “left the original at his desk” – in the next issue, we see that Robin took it on his trip, which he went on after a conversation with Alfred. Alfred previously referred to transferring the contents of the Black Casebooks to computer storage in #665. The plot synopsis of The Black Glove certainly seems evocative of what they want to do to Bruce and Jet, but it could also refer to Mayhew and his ex-wife, Martha & Thomas Wayne or any number of people the Glove might have swindled.

Page 5: Alfred puts on white gloves, and Bruce’s parents are linked to the Black Glove. Also notice Alfred continues to sow the seeds of distrust regarding Bruce, Tim and Damian. Bruce blows him off and asks him to go see the movie for him, an action that may very well end up being a mistake.

Page 6: The Black Glove, again with the black and red roulette wheel.

Page 7: “NO ONE knows him better than I do.” His confidence in his knowledge of Batman’s mind lines up with Alfred’s statements about that mind’s uniqueness. Librium is a hypnotic sedative, and the trigger phrase referred to is, obviously, “Zur en Arrh.” The original adventure occurred before Batman’s time with Hurt, so it’s very possible Hurt read about the adventure in the Black Casebook, dismissed it as lunacy and used it as the trigger word because it already had psychological resonance? If Alfred is working with Hurt, it’d certainly give Hurt access to the casebooks.

Page 9: “When we met in London, it was like I’d known you all my LIFE. It felt like meeting you was always MEANT to happen.” Could his attraction to Jet have been implanted into him by the Black Glove, at a younger age?

Page 10: The Black Glove’s Thomas Wayne smear campaign begins.

Page 11: Alfred’s actor background is discussed, and a possibly-doctored photo of John Mayhew, Mangrove Pierce & Marsha Lamarr (the stars of The Black Glove), Thomas Wayne, Alfred and an apparently drug-addled Martha. Whether this is doctored or just presented out of context is unclear, but this information was almost definitely provided by the Glove. Wayne’s survival is presented as a possibility, placing him on the Black Glove suspect list.

Page 12: Jezebel begins breaking down Bruce’s world and mission.

Page 15: And Bruce begins to say what we’re all thinking, as Morrison begins to present all of the common theories.

Page 16: Here, Morrison explains the Dead Man’s Hand from DCU0, although recent interviews have implied there’s still more to the scene beyond the “HAHA” comment. Jet then presents the most popular fan theory of the Black Glove actually being Bruce Wayne, which fits well but eliminates it from being an actual shock later on, something Morrison has promised.

Page 18: Someone, possibly Alfred, must have refocused all the cameras on the Zur en Arrh graffiti. “Kane Inc.” is the company owned by Kate Kane, the current Batwoman from 52. His post-hypnotic suggestion is blocking him from seeing it, making him ask Jezebel what it says…

Page 19: And Jezebel unwittingly? says the codeword, triggering Batman’s seizure and placing the Robin Dies at Dawn image on the screen in his perception.

Page 20: The Black Glove’s logo displays on all screens as Le Bossu and his henchmen restrain Bruce.

Page 21: King Kraken shows up, as Alfred returns from the movies (if that’s where he went) gloveless. His mock shock at the content of the movie further suggests his guilt, since he clearly worked in the theatre with both Pierce and Lamarr and may even be somewhere in the movie for all we know. King Kraken surfaces. “La bas” means “down there” in French – Le Bossu is simply pointing Alfred out to his henchmen.

Page 22: The henchmen and Le Bossu attack Alfred, seemingly absolving him of guilt – however, they keep him alive for some reason, and it’s a classic misdirection to seemingly take Alfred out of the running early to remove suspicion. Alfred’s an actor and a former military surgeon; he can take a beating.

Batman #678

Batman #678

Batman #678 – “Batman R.I.P. Part 3: Zur En Arrh”

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

Page 1: The first explicit reference to Batman #113, the original Zur-En-Arrh story, as the Batman of Zur en Arrh (the alien planet) uses his “Bat-Radia” to stream forth “electronic molecules” that disrupt machinery. The second panel features the Rainbow Monster from Batman #134, the third panel is the casebook from “Robin Dies at Dawn”, and the last panel is an adventure in Batman #153, featuring the apparently-now-in-continuity pre-Crisis Batwoman. The first line of his narration, “It would be far easier to consider this a dream, but how can I??” is repeated at the end of the issue and comes verbatim from the final panel of Batman #113.

Page 2: Man, Bruce Wayne’s prose is melodramatic. Tim Drake’s still eating – it’s clearly him, as it’s the motorcycling outfit he wore in 655.

Page 3: Pierrot Lunaire and Springheeled Jack attack Tim. It’s unclear how they would have discovered Tim’s location; perhaps they just followed him, but it seems like he’d been there for a while. Perhaps Alfred told them?

Page 6: Honor Jackson, back from the dead. Callahan posits he’s a figment of Batman’s imagination, but I disagree; his opening line “…maybe that’s how it is on the planet of the little bat fairies… but we got RULES on Earth and…” implies that his dead body was recently resurrected by Bat-Mite for the express purpose of saving the Sensational Character Find of 2008, Hobo Bruce Wayne.

Page 7: Honor recognizes Bruce’s face – presumably by remembering who gave him the cash right before his death, or because Bat-Mite told him.

Page 8: Bruce is flashing back to the end of 677 now; Simon Hurt has arrived at the Cave as Batman has a seizure. What happened to Jet is unclear.

Page 9: “How you’ve GROWN” implies that Hurt has known Batman since before the isolation experiment. He then proceeds to get Batman as fucked up as possible.

Page 11: Tim Drake: Still Eating!

Page 13: I totally love this page, and the childish glee with which Honor and Hobo Bruce escape the KO’d “Psycho Riderz.” Honor’s entire benevolent-hobo-junkie attitude seems evocative of Bubbles from The Wire; perhaps it’s just a really general archetype, or maybe Geoff Johns made Morrison watch all of it, who knows.

Page 14: Still detectin’. The shopping cart seems to be filled with goodies from Bat-Mite, since the material to create the Zur en Arrh costume is on the bottom.

Page 15: Honor gives Bruce the Bat-Radia (which is actually an old AM/FM radio), in – of course – a red and black checkerboard scarf. Also note Honor’s lack of right glasses lens, giving him the appearance of missing an eye; the drug dealer he’s pointing Bruce to is “Lone-Eye Lincoln” (Lincoln and Jackson? Are we going for presidents?), continuing the missing-eye theme.

Page 16: Honor disappears, presumably to actually die, as he’s served his purpose. While the immediate instinct is to think Bruce was hallucinating Honor, he interacted with the real world too much, collecting the change and giving Bruce the Bat-Radia and shopping cart. He even leaves the bottle behind when he’s gone, and it’s away from Bruce. He was there.

Page 17: Honor Jackson is revealed to have killed himself from Bruce’s initial gift of cash, but his ghost apparently pointed Batman to Park Row, now Crime Alley, the site of his parents’ death. Nearly buying a dollarbag of horse at that location seems to trigger his memory of who he is.

Page 18: Robin’s looking for Nightwing, but he’s been insititutionalized in Arkham and doped out of his mind by Le Bossu, in disguise as the short doctor. (He revealed his identity to Joker at the end of 676).

Page 19: Hurt’s going overboard in taking a piss all over everything Batman holds sacred, wearing the costume Bruce’s father wore in Detective #235 when he pissed off Lew Moxon (leading to Moxon’s later hiring of Joe Chill to off the Waynes). Also note Hurt’s intonation – “When Batman has finally seen the error of his ways, we may allow him to RETURN, broken… perhaps as MY butler.” The emphasis on “my” implies that it’s a twist on an existing master-butler relationship – perhaps he’s speaking for Alfred? Yeah, Alfred’s beat to shit sitting next to him, but that could just be to provide a layer of misdirection between him and the Club of Villains, never mind anyone else who might be around in the Cave. What happened to Jezebel Jet is still unclear.

Pages 20-21: Bruce sews up the material from the shopping cart to create an outfit evocative of the alien Zur en Arrh Batman’s outfit from Batman 113. It’s possible that this means Zur en Arrh was a figment of Batman’s imagination; however, in the original story, Batman *wasn’t* the Batman of Zur en Arrh, he just visited him. His narration echoes the final panel of Batman 113 as well.

Page 22: Batman debuts his new “I’m fucking insane” costume, a reinterpretation of the Batman of Zur-en-Arrh’s outfit. Now, the original Zur-en-Arrh story took place before Batman 156, so it can’t be written off as a residual effect from the isolation chamber unless Morrison’s playing fast and loose with continuity. Bat-Mite seems pretty pleased with the result of his labor, although the implication of Bruce’s transformation, new word balloons, etc. is extremely unclear. Keep in mind, though, that these colors are the ones mentioned in the prose piece, #663 – could this be a new glam Batman, inspired by the lights rather than darkness of Gotham? I’m sure this isn’t the permanent new outfit.

Moving Forward

batmanbatmite2lgWe’ve got three more issues of this storyline left, and after that there’s the mysterious two-issue Final Crisis tie-in (which I am hoping will feature Jerry Robinson as he’s mentioned as a guest for Batman on DC’s SDCC list, but they are probably just referring to his original work and I’m having a pipe dream). There’s also Batman: R.I.P. tie-ins, but considering the copy of Detective #846 I read this morning featured the R.I.P. banner and the tenuous connection of Hush hearing about Black Glove and deciding to fuck up Batman before they can, I’m not very optimistic regarding their potential importance.

Right now, Simon Hurt is glamming around in Thomas Wayne’s old Halloween bat-costume and metaphorically soaking his piss in every thread, the Club of Villains have Gotham at its knees, Nightwing is foaming at the mouth in a padded cell after being institutionalized by Le Bossu, Robin’s alone, Damian’s on his way, and Batman is hanging around with this fifth-dimensional imp childhood friend and is convinced he is an alien, wearing the most garish superhero ensemble since someone finally told Daredevil the yellow costume made it really obvious he was blind.

I seriously cannot wait for next issue.

12 Comments »

  1. Is there any chance any of the R.I.P. tie-ins not written by Morrison are going to be anything but superfluous? I gotta think no. But the main story is rockin’.

    Comment by Aaron Poehler — July 9, 2008 @ 3:30 pm

  2. I feel certain that the all the non-Morrison tie-ins will be totally superfluous. Imagine the Nightwing and Robin ones will deal with some fallout but wont in anyway efrect the main story.

    Comment by Mel Longum — July 14, 2008 @ 6:48 pm

  3. Detective’s first R.I.P. tie-in really connects up only if, while reading Morrison’s Batman, you thought to yourself “But how does Hush feel about these events?”

    Comment by Aaron Poehler — July 15, 2008 @ 6:03 pm

  4. Something about Springheeled Jack doesn’t ring true. The bucket-headed villain seems to be based on Ned Kelly and would make a better match to the Dark Ranger. Springheeled Jack is traditionally depicted in a more sinister, devilish or even bat-like manner. More like Dr. Hurt in the halloween bat-suit maybe?

    Comment by Pete Taylor — July 22, 2008 @ 6:49 pm

  5. I don’t know if your evidence for Bat-Mite being real and not a hallucination is strong enough to be conclusive. It’s been noted in this arc that Bruce studies everything he possibly can, and given his experience with Zrfff in Crisis Times Five, he may have learned about Space B from JLA, JSA or Superman files on the Fifth Dimension. Even if he didn’t, the lone reference to Space B doesn’t prove that Bat-Mite isn’t a hallucination.

    Honor Jackson being a ghost revived by Bat-Mite depends on Jackson being dead at all. Bruce only knows he died because “Lone-Eye” Lincoln told him, but what is Lincoln is a hallucination? The Lincoln hijacked by the Green Vulture would be fresh in Bruce’s memory, and a comment on geniusboyfiremelon.blogspot.com brings up an interesting connection;

    “Great annotations. I think that Lone-Eye Lincoln is a reference to the giant penny in the Batcave. Lincoln is seen in profile, so only shows one eye.”

    Lone-Eye Lincoln could be entirely imagined by Bruce. If so, then Jackson’s death may be assumed or imagined by Bruce, and the ghost of Jackson is just a hallucination. That explains why Jackson would know about Bat fairies too.

    Given Bruce’s severe brain-fuck by Hurt last issue, he’s obviously in a very flexible state of mind. Jackson doesn’t do anything that Bruce himself could not have done: he could easily pose as a Gulf War vet with his “special forces” muscle [“put these on and get in character”] and he knows what materials are needed to build a Zur-En-Arrh suit [“put these on and get in character” again]. The appearance of two men is hallucinated, Honor Jackson is not necessary for anything in 678 to occur.

    I think 678 is a spirit quest of Bruce Wayne. There are the helpful spirits Bat-Mite, Honor Jackson and Lone-Eye Lincoln who give Bruce guidance and advice and magical tools. Bruce gets more and more lucid as Jackson takes him on his “odyssey”, and under Jackson’s guidance he arrives at Crime Alley, the one place in the world that can remind him of his purpose.

    I know that Bat-Mite being entirely hallucinated doesn’t satisfy the main tension of the story, that Bruce has experienced things and knows things that are impossible to explain rationally or scientifically. He wants to dismiss it as a dream, that would be the rational solution, but how can he when he has his memories and his experiences that say otherwise? Here’s a list of bizarre experiences referenced in and occurring in Morrison’s run:

    Vivid dreams (Batman of Zur-En-Arrh)
    Hallucinations (the totem from Robin Dies at Dawn, the Rainbow Beast)
    Isolation (Robin Dies at Dawn, Thogal)
    Meditation (Thogal)
    Near-Death Experiences (Thogal, Batman Dies at Dawn)
    Out of Body Experiences (Batman 153)
    Innumerable drugs

    Batman also has a seizure as the hypnotic keyword kicks in. All of these are traditional methods of achieving shamanic ecstasy, used by shamans and magicians and psychedelic users (Morrison would be familiar with all three). Is Batman having mystic visions? During his near death experiences, time and space cease to mean anything. Batman can’t tell which point of his life is the present, they all seem like the present [compare this with The Invisibles]. Traditionally, these ecstatic methods are believed to make contact with the world of spirits. The Spirit world is inhabited by the spirits of the dead, the ancestors, and some helpful or harmful or playful spirits. The shamanic experience also parallels the Hero’s Journey archetype; journey into the fantastic, complete the quest, gain the boon of wisdom, flee home, apply the boon to everyday life. “These are the secrets of death we teach.”

    The ideas of the Spirit World are present in Terence McKenna’s work [which Morrison is certainly acquainted with]. He calls it Hyperspace and instead of being filled with spirits of ancestors, it’s filled with Five-Dimensional Self-Transforming Machine Elves that also impart wisdom. The similarities to 5-D imps of the DCU are pretty obvious here. Space B is Hyperspace is the Spirit World, outside of space-time and powered by imagination. Buddy Baker’s experiences with the aliens from Space B match up nicely with this, including a shamanic flight through the spirit world as a shortcut through regular space-time. Space B/The Fifth Dimension seem to be filling in for the spirit world of the DCU, that exists only in imagination.

    The relevance of this is that the Black Glove has broken down the structure of Bruce’s mind, the rational, scientific detective that was Batman. Now there’s no tension between his mystic experiences and his perception of reality. Shamanic and magic models of reality include the immaterial worlds. Batman’s finally abandoned his materialist dogma and accepted that all experiences are equally real. Batman is an urban shaman now, and Bat-Mite is his companion spirit.

    And that’s why his word balloons turn blue.

    Comment by Jum — July 30, 2008 @ 3:20 pm

  6. I know I’ve gone off rambling, but I feel I’ve left off something that justifies my ravings and mystical interpretation.

    For Morrison’s ‘inclusive continuity’ to work, it’s essential that Batman reconcile his ridiculous 50’s adventures with his grim and gritty, realistic modern personality. Dissolving the tension over whether the Black Casebook is true or false (or whether that even matters) is key to Batman’s reconciliation with himself. This of course fits in with Morrison’s idea of Supersanity; all the bizarre contradictory personalities co-existing in a perpetual doublethink (manythink?). RIP appears to be Batman’s Supersanity crisis, when he can either remain schizophrenic and lie in the gutter, or unify his past selves and adapt (mirroring the Joker’s last death/rebirth cycle and the dangers of Thogal; madness or death/rebirth). At the end of 678 he adopts a new personality from his Supersanity pool and becomes Tlano.

    It’ll be interesting to see the role reversal in the next issue; grim and gritty Joker versus crazy and colourful Batman.

    This is where Morrison’s retcon comes in, the motivation he gave Batman for undertaking the “space medicine” experiment. Batman of Zur-En-Arrh finally understands the mind of the Joker as he embraces his own Supersanity. Ultimately, RIP is the most important death/rebirth cycle Bruce ever undertook. “We will wound your soul, forever. And if it is strong, it will survive the wound.” (Batman 674, Ten-Eyed Brotherhood) What else has the Black Glove done but wound Bruce’s soul, so badly that “Batman” has died and been reborn? I think the only questions left are who the Black Glove is, why they did this, and whether they know what effect it’s all having on Bruce.

    Something I missed in the first comment: two of the “secrets of death” that Bat-Mite taught may be what he says in 674, when he leans in to young Bruce during his realization that everyone dies: “The bats ain’t so bad when you get to know them. heheheheh They can even be funny!” and “To tell the truth… the dark ain’t so bad when you learn to make friends with it.” Maybe his fear of the bats [fear is a traditional trigger to ecstatic states] lead to his very first initiation into Space B?

    Another little note: “23rd day of Thogal. Eyes. I can feel eyes watching me. Eyes with human intelligence watching.” is a quote from Robin Dies at Dawn. “Eyes with human intelligence watching” is associated with three different ecstatic states now; revelation as a boy, isolation as a man, meditation as a monk. More of the ever-present, the unification of spacetime.

    Comment by Jum — July 30, 2008 @ 9:58 pm

  7. Notice also the parallel between the Batman/Joker confrontation in DC Universe #0 and the opening of “The Killing Joke.” They’re almost panel for panel the same…

    Comment by Graham — August 8, 2008 @ 9:10 am

  8. Regarding the line spoken by King Kraken, “La Bas” is also the title of a novel by J.K. Huysmans, the centrepiece of which is a scene where a man attends a Black Mass (described in great detail) as the culmination of his research in to the life of Gilles de Rais.

    Morrison would most definitely know this. It could have some significance or it could just be a “spot the reference!” sort of thing.

    Comment by Tzeenj — September 16, 2008 @ 1:18 pm

  9. Wow, I never noticed, but the first page of Batman #676 is a reference to JLA #8, Morrison’s “Imaginary Stories”.

    There, Tim is Batman, and “Bruce Jr.” is Robin.

    Comment by Jbird — September 24, 2008 @ 3:43 am

  10. Maybe I’m reaching, but perhaps the single eye of both Honor Jackson and Lone-Eye Lincoln represents the knowledge they have which aids Bruce in his quest? I thought of it because of Odin’s sacrifice of an eye to gain knowledge in Norse mythology.

    Comment by VagabondSaint — September 9, 2010 @ 1:22 am

  11. So…

    I guess Alfred wasn’t the bad guy after all.

    Lol.

    Comment by Rob — February 22, 2013 @ 3:08 am

  12. […] Part 3 – From Here We Go Sublime […]

    Pingback by David Uzumeri deconstructs Grant Morrison’s Batman comic series « electricinca.com — July 12, 2013 @ 11:05 am

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