Funnybook Babylon

December 4, 2008

Batman #682 – “The Butler Did It” (A Final Crisis Tie-In) (A Last Rites Tie-In)

Batman #682

Batman #682

Double crossover banners, bitches! THIS ISSUE IS IMPORTANT!

And the title of this post isn’t even a spoiler, I ain’t doin’ my victory dance just yet. Note time. Also, this issue? Less straightforward than the last two.

But first, a note.
If you’ve dug Grant Morrison’s run on this title, and the sort of philosophical psycho-thriller approach he’s taken, then I highly recommend you check out this week’s X-Men Noir #1 by Fred Van Lente and Dennis Calero. It’s a gorgeous book, and Van Lente’s script is incredibly smart and bursting with novel ideas in a way I haven’t seen on an X-title since, well, Grant Morrison. It’s astonishing how well he translates the X-Men’s core themes – and I don’t mean the Claremontian “wah wah we’re persecuted just like real world minority” themes, I mean the themes about evolution and natural selection and the generation gap – into a world without powers, but everything remains intact, and the manners in which this is accomplished are absolutely inspired. It’s a great book, totally worth both the admittedly high price of $3.99 and the considerable amount of hype Marvel’s given it, and may have actually been my favorite book I’ve read this week. (I haven’t hit up Jason Aaron’s Punisher X-Mas Special, though, which Tim Callahan seems to have adored, so that might change. But I doubt it.)

UPDATE: I just read the X-Mas Special. Tim’s right, it really is brilliant, so get that too.

Lo, there shall be… annotations!!

Page 1: This opening page is evocative of the beginning of the last issue, as Batman awoke in the coffin. The orphaned word balloons belong to “Alfred,” the true nature of which in this story will be shown near the end. His wounds come from his encounter with muggers in the latter half of Batman #404, when he wore a fake scar and a military jacket to try out the vigilante thing and failed due to the fact that, well, he wasn’t yet an abstract symbol rather than a man.

Pages 2-3: I’m not sure what timestream/interpretation Alfred about to resign is from. The fact that Bruce is still holding the bell indicates that the bat must have just flown in, so this is *directly* following #404.

Page 4: Alfred disposes of the bat. The “Miss Madison” is Julie Madison, Batman’s very first love interest in the original stories (for a great retelling of the Madison Era, check out Matt Wagner’s Batman and the Monster Men and Batman and the Mad Monk).

Snake ManPage 5: Interestingly enough, in #404, the window *did* break. The image of the bat resting on the bust is straight from that issue, though. I’m not sure how this relates to Alfred’s decision (or lack thereof). The imaginary Mothman and Snakeman, however, are hilarious, because I want to read the continuing adventures of Snakeman, set to this dude’s theme song. I also love how the Snake Man’s car runs off of a “cold engine”, just like a cold-blooded reptile. Cold blooded.

Man, that song rules.

Page 6: Dr. Death, Batman’s first supervillain, from Detective Comics #29.

Page 7: The woman in the picture on Gordon’s desk is probably his first wife, Barbara. Batman hanging over a vat of acid is a generic enough image to be from anywhere (although these all seem to be specific references).

Page 8: So is Batman having guns pointed at him (although I do recall the image). Chris, I can safely say, is happy to see Batman continuing to ignore food.

Page 9: Apex Chemical is the chemical factory from the very first Batman story in Detective Comics #27, “The Case of the Chemical Syndicate.” In the comics it was Ace Chemicals; as we’ll see, Morrison soon deals with this. Also, problem-solving microsleeps, fantastic.

Page 10: The scene of the Batplane shooting the dirigible is from Detective Comics #33. The hand placing the letters (assumedly from Julie) unread in a pile is presumably Batman’s, since the finger is blue.

Page 11: Batman fights Hugo Strange’s Monster Men from Batman #1. The fact that Alfred suggests Batman go to the circus is interesting, since he always seems to be the one setting Bruce up for all these life-changing events (like the trip where he met Jezebel Jet in #655). Obviously, the kid whose parents just died is Dick Grayson.

Page 12: And now, Grant Morrison’s two-panel version of All Star Batman & Robin, the Boy Wonder.

Page 13: How convenient that just as Alfred started being concerned about Bruce’s sanity and future and sense of humor which vanished as a boy (see page 8), he gets that entire part of him opened back up due to his new friend. In any case, I love Morrison’s take on Dick Grayson here; the Hamlet bit is just the kind of especially insightful point you’d be delighted to hear from an eleven-year-old.

Page 14: The first panel, obviously (seriously, if you don’t know Hamlet what the fuck is wrong with you), is the end of Hamlet. The Jokercopter is the same one we see Joker using later in his life back in #655. It’s interesting that they’re still using that font; I figured it was to represent Joker’s post-surgery/therapy speech patterns, not the way he always talked. The talk of Arkham Asylum reopening is a nod to Arkham’s history as written by Morrison in the Arkham Asylum OGN he did with Dave McKean.

I’m not sure where the giant crown Alfred’s holding is from; does anyone know? The red cube in Batman’s hand is the real Bat-Radia from Batman #113, which was supposedly a hallucination of Bruce’s, which inspires the question: how much of this actually happened as Batman remembers it, if he still has an actual Bat-Radia? Bat-Mite stated pretty definitively back in #679 that the trip to Zur En Arrh was a flashback from Professor Milo’s fear gas, so what the Hell is that thing actually doing here?

Page 15: Ace the Bat-Hound! This is the original Batwoman, Kathy Kane, who was later killed off by Bronze Tiger and the League of Assassins in Detective Comics #485. She was very much… of her time, and spent as much effort trying to get in Batman’s pants as she did busting criminals. She had, I shit you not, a utility purse.

The ‘chair’ Robin’s resting on in the last panel seems to be a giant typewriter, perhaps with a Riddler association judging by the question mark. Morrison uses this opportunity to relate the chemical company from the first Batman story to the one that created the Joker, and sets up an interesting throughline to be turned into a story regarding the source of all of Gotham’s toxins (unless this is something we’ll see in the next issue).

Page 16: The trippy-ass adventure with Batwoman is from Batman #153, where an alien’s teleporter ray made Batman and Batwoman’s energy beings travel to a dimension with birdmen where they had to fight that huge monster. It was really weird. Here, though, Batwoman refers to being “given” something, so it seems they’re basically having a shared drug trip. Batwoman’s line about loving Batman and being willing to die is straight from the original comic.

Page 17: I found this transition a little confusing, but my best guess as to what happened is that he dumped the Kanes and told them to stop operating since he realized she was more about him than she was about the mission. The experiment with Simon Hurt, obviously, is the isolation experiment from Batman #156.

Page 18: The Lump is a creature powerless in the physical world but with ultimate power in the “domain of the Id,” introduced in Mister Miracle #8 by Jack Kirby and your first clue as to why there’s a Final Crisis banner on the cover. The funeral is Alfred’s apparent death in Detective Comics #328, before he spent time as the supervillain the Outsider and was returned to his normal state in #356. The contraption we see Batman in pain in is the syringe mask from Final Crisis #2. Alfred’s returned by the last panel, as Batman waxes nostalgic about the days when everything didn’t involve tripping balls.

Page 19: The first panel is a paraphrase of a famously nonsensical line of logic from the ’60s Batman movie. The last panel has a Joker henchman, the Eraser, what looks to be a Penguin goon, Joker, Penguin and a very early costume for Catwoman.

Page 20: A few years have passed by now, as Dick’s now Nightwing (which means he’s already gone to university), and Bruce has started forming the psychological profile of the Joker as a hyper-evolved MPD that Grant Morrison’s always used as the guide to the character. The “original persona” Bruce refers to is the ruthless killer from Batman #1.

Page 21: Lump’s only repeated two words; one by Simon Hurt and one by Alfred, except he’s only supposed to be impersonating Alfred. Hm. Batman shows the kind of badass resolve he always has throughout the Morrison run, except that Lump isn’t an invader in Bruce’s mind, Bruce has been shoved into Lump’s. I’m not sure why Alfred just gave himself away here, though; as far as I can guess, Lump, as Alfred, is trying to take the contents of the Black Casebooks to use them to discover what drives Batman, much as Simon Hurt did.

Page 22: I’m guessing this page is Lump activating Alfred’s account of the world without Batman.

Page 23: These are Simyan and Mokkari, the Evil Factory, Darkseid’s Josef Mengeles who have been operating on and studying Batman since his capture in Final Crisis #2.

Page 24: And that’s the machine he’s stuck in.

33 Comments »

  1. I assumed page ten was literally scores of letters from All The Girls Bruce Has Loved Before, not just Julie.

    Comment by Chris Eckert — December 4, 2008 @ 4:56 am

  2. The Eraser seems like a very specific character to be using there. Considering his name and abilities and what’s going on in this issue, do you think there might be a higher reason why Morrison included him in that page than as an easter egg?

    Comment by Super-Dad — December 4, 2008 @ 7:53 am

  3. Isn’t that huge crown from King Joker? I think it was from a crossover with Hulk or something.

    Comment by Dweller — December 4, 2008 @ 9:37 am

  4. The Bat Radia could be a reference to the ZEA adventure actually happening, or it could be a false memory caused by Batman’s constant exposure to fear gas, Joker venom, plant pheromones, and Croc’s sewer smell.

    Comment by HitTheTargets — December 4, 2008 @ 12:58 pm

  5. Not only does it have a “cold engine,” the Sidewinder’s wheels are mounted sideways. GENIUS

    Comment by Ryan — December 4, 2008 @ 2:19 pm

  6. So, obviously my brain doesn’t work anymore but how, exactly, did Alfred give himself away? I read that bit a few times (albeit while sick) and it’s just not sticking…

    Comment by Jack Tango — December 4, 2008 @ 2:19 pm

  7. I’ve got a few thoughts about that (& other things) over at http://finalcrisisannotations.blogspot.com/2008/12/batman-682.html . But I want to state for the record that David totally beat me to it.

    Comment by Douglas — December 4, 2008 @ 2:25 pm

  8. Just to put the X-men in perspective, you could say that Chuck Austen also touched on the issues of evolution and natural selection…..except he used unkillable wolfmen as a seperate path of human evolution and every issue of it was god-awful…….there’s always something to be said about the execution…

    Comment by Nick — December 4, 2008 @ 2:29 pm

  9. Hey, thanks Douglas Wolk!

    Comment by Jack Tango — December 4, 2008 @ 2:31 pm

  10. Nick, I think it’s fair to say I wouldn’t be shilling the comic like a cheap whore if I didn’t think the execution was pretty damn good as well.

    Doug, that’s a really good point about the Outsider thing. More than any other story Morrison’s told in Batman, this issue really depends on being a Batman nerd more than the others – I guess if you don’t know ANYTHING you can just roll with the punches as they come, but anyone with cursory knowledge of Alfred or Kathy Kane would be really confused by this.

    Comment by David Uzumeri — December 4, 2008 @ 2:31 pm

  11. Hey, are you cats sure the love letters are all from different women? A cursory glance at the handwriting made me think they were all from the same person.

    Comment by Squashua — December 4, 2008 @ 2:53 pm

  12. Hm, I’ve never read any Kathy Kane or Outsider stories and was okay with this. Actually, of all of GM’s fractured memory narratives (from those pre-RIP stories right back to the solo Rebis issue of Doom Patrol), I thought this was one of the most clear-cut…

    Comment by Paul I — December 4, 2008 @ 3:27 pm

  13. David, I read Noir and I wholeheartedly agree with your hard pimping of the book. I think the crushing realization that I both read and (more damningly) paid cover price for the Chuck Austen X-Men issues just drove me to take a potshot at him, not so much you.

    Comment by Nick — December 4, 2008 @ 4:53 pm

  14. Y’know, I figured that was the current Batwoman. I figured when Robin said he knew about her, he was talking about her being gay. After all, Alfred says she broke Bruce’s heart.

    I know that doesn’t gel with her saying she loves Bruce and all…

    Comment by Cahse — December 4, 2008 @ 5:34 pm

  15. Maybe the thing with the Bat-Radia is a clue that Batman is somehow DELIBERATELY gumming up the plans of his captors by fictionalizing aspects of who he is? This would also explain why his ostensible life story would include scenes of him as Mothman and Snakeman and also never becoming Batman at all.

    Comment by John Pontoon — December 4, 2008 @ 8:38 pm

  16. Very nice annotations. X-Men Noir looks interesting, but it’s too expensive to bother with on a monthly basis. If it maintains high praise over its entire run, then I’ll look into the trade, but then again if $3.99 becomes the norm for 22 pages of story, I’ll be purchasing a lot of comics as trades.

    Comment by Kris Krause — December 4, 2008 @ 11:54 pm

  17. David:

    I asked this of Timothy, so thought I would ask you, too. How do you see “Joe Chill in Hell” fitting into this? I can see how the other storylines (maybe excepting Resurrection) are tied into RIP (Club of Heroes, Black Glove, Three Batmen, 666, etc.), but Joe Chill didn’t end up playing any more of a role in RIP than he did in the traditional stories.

    I imagine the last three panels had some significance, but what?

    Comment by Kevin — December 5, 2008 @ 10:29 am

  18. In the panel with the giant typewriter Robin isn’t sitting on a chair. He is sitting on a key and what looks like a backrest is actually the typewriter’s type guide (with a question mark on it).

    Comment by Andres — December 5, 2008 @ 3:53 pm

  19. OOh I know this one – the big typwewrier wih the lone Q-mark is from that Gaiman Riddler Secret Origins story. That’s about Silver-Age loss as well. And an image of Batty’s rising realisation that his life is being ‘written’.

    Comment by bobsy — December 5, 2008 @ 10:22 pm

  20. Great notes as always.. I am curious to know (and perhaps it is too obvious) what anyone thinks of Darkseid as the Black Glove– given Darkseid’s recent history of occupying other bodies…

    Comment by mike-robot — December 6, 2008 @ 1:50 am

  21. I have to second Cahse’s comment regarding Kathy Kane. From the transition, I figured Kathy dumped Bruce. They seemed to want to imply that the current version of Batwoman existed in continuity.

    Where this puts Batgirl Bette Kane, I’m not entirely sure. :P

    Comment by markPoa — December 6, 2008 @ 2:23 am

  22. The lesbian Kathy Kane is really quite different from the original, plus if Morrison’s really keeping everything, she was killed off by the Bronze Tiger. Bette Kane, post-Crisis has used the Flamebird identity.

    Comment by Joe Gualtieri — December 6, 2008 @ 2:55 am

  23. […] to do so on my DCU history site.) However, it’s no surprise that the story has provoked some mixed reviews… not to mention confused reactions from readers, since its references even to recent […]

    Pingback by SmartRemarks » Batman #682: Morrison’s Last Writes? — December 6, 2008 @ 4:28 am

  24. Pages 1-5: Perhaps to belabor a point that’s already obvious… but there’s a really fascinating layering of “alternate” versions of variant versions of Batman’s origin.

    “No, that’s not how it happened… the window was open, not broken.”

    IIRC, the “original” origin had the bat flitting through an open window; Miller tweaked that in YEAR ONE, Chapter 1 (aka Batman #404) — where the Bat crashes through the window and perches on the bust. This becomes even more dramatic in THE DARK KNIGHT, where the big ass bat crashes through the window in a way that he damn well ought to have been smashed all over the floor.

    From the word go, Morrison is implying that all the BATMAN stories are true… and maybe they kind of aren’t. Distorted memories get in the mix; self-mythologizing aggrandizes events. And memories aren’t all — there are, of course, the drugs.

    There’s a pointed subtext of “chemicals” / drugs affecting the characters throughout this… which ties into earlier comments by Bats re: the Black Casebook — that some of these strange events from his Silver Age weirdness era may have been hallucinatory experiences from the drugs inflicted on him by enemies (and by himself).

    A few significant beats:

    Pg 6: Dr. Death is significantly holding a chemical vial.

    Pg. 7: Batman suspended above a vat of ‘acid’

    Pg 9: “Hm. Of course. Dr. Death was supplied by Apex Chemical.”

    Pg 15: “I’m beginning to think all of these poisons and designer drugs Gotham’s criminals specialize in can be sourced back to ACE Chemicals’ buyout of Apex…”

    [Any connection to the “ace card” gag on 19, or the “Ace the Bat-Hound” reference?]

    Pg 16: Batwoman and Bats tripping balls: “…don’t know what they gave us…”

    Pg. 17: Dr. Hurt’s Altered States style project

    Pg 18: “What’s the connection between the chemicals and the crazy people?” (Implication that “pop criminals” are drug-fueled loons.)

    Pg. 22: “Some grinning mental patient has poisoned the reservoir.”

    Hm… it leaves me wonder where this thread will go into the second half.

    One half-wonders if GM is not inspired by his own INVISIBLES era history — where his famously drug-fueled / sigil charging experiments were designed to blur the lines between fiction and reality. Does he look back on those days and wonder what “really” happened?

    Comment by ink-stained wretch — December 6, 2008 @ 11:38 pm

  25. Re: The Bat-Radia, it seems quite possible that “in reality” it’s just some bit of electronic debris from his fight with the Joker or whatever (interesting, though, how he’s putting stuff in his *belt*, rather than “storage” or something.)

    And then, whether by accident/free-association or design, Batman’s imagination uses this particular gizmo as the stand-in for the imaginary “Bat-Radia.”

    Comment by suedenim — December 7, 2008 @ 1:38 am

  26. I kind of have the same impression as Cahse – that the “old” Batwoman and the “new” one are one and the same (or, perhaps, the new Batwoman was the original Bat-Girl?)

    And that the gist is “She dumps Bruce for another girl,” with Dick realizing this either because he knew something specific based on Katy and Dick both being circus folk, or perhaps because being a circus kid gives him better “gaydar” than Bruce?

    Squaring it with the previous page’s declaration of love? Maybe the drug-induced invention made Katy “see her inner self,” and realize that she was really a lesbian (or, in a cruder, more improbable interpretation, “turned her gay.”)

    And an additional somewhat amusing implication of this line of interpretation: Batman going in for Dr. Hurt’s experiment, and thus Batman, RIP itself? All the result of Bruce trying to get over being dumped for a girl.

    Additional possible hypothesis: Maybe the current Batwoman is the original Bat-Girl, and her heir? Perhaps even, in a wacky Wertham parallel, *not* her juvenile lover, but just an innocent lesbian “guardian and ward” duo?

    I have no idea how much, if any, of the above makes sense, and how much is my overactive imagination, but it sure seems like there’s *some* interesting story Morrison has yet to tell us involving Batwoman!

    Comment by suedenim — December 7, 2008 @ 1:58 am

  27. Oh yeah, the ellipsis in Page 20, panel 3? I think that’s the longest jump-cut ever. It’s a dream-like scenario, but note that the page begins with the “reawakening” of the Joker’s original persona and ends with Nightwing’s debut… thus glossing over 10? 15? years of 197?-198? where the Joker was a pretty nasty piece of work.

    Comment by suedenim — December 7, 2008 @ 2:06 am

  28. In case anyone’s interested, here’s amypoodle’s thoughts on #682

    Comment by Zom — December 9, 2008 @ 12:35 pm

  29. suedenim-

    “I kind of have the same impression as Cahse – that the “old” Batwoman and the “new” one are one and the same (or, perhaps, the new Batwoman was the original Bat-Girl?)…”

    Methinks you’re looking for more than is there… especially given that Grant was co-writer on 52 and could have had significant input on how things were set up, it’s quite a stretch to argue that the current Kate Kane Batwoman, a young, redheaded, Jewish lesbian, is the same character as the original Katy (formerly Kathy) Kane Batwoman, a brunette who fell in love with Batman and who Grant took pains to specify was actually a decade older than Bruce (…and who, in a tangential branch of DCU history, has been dead for years).

    Nor is it likely that the new Kate Kane was the original Bat-Girl, who (A) doesn’t even appear in this story, (B) was originally named Bette Kane, (C) was Kathy’s niece (thus strongly mitigating against any “juvenile lover” angle), and (D) has an independent if minor existence in the post-Crisis DCU as “Flamebird.”

    Yeah, I’m a fount of trivia!…

    Comment by Chris Miller — December 10, 2008 @ 12:03 pm

  30. OTOH, you’re absolutely right that Page 20 skips one helluva big chunk of Batman’s history, including the entire classic O’Neil/Adams era. Of course, Grant does allude to that on the next page, where Bruce remarks on how suddenly years seem to have passed…

    Comment by Chris Miller — December 10, 2008 @ 12:05 pm

  31. Christ talks in red. The Joker talks in green.

    Comment by Jbird — December 15, 2008 @ 5:28 am

  32. I really respected how this comic left it open for anyone to abandon any part of Morrison’s origin for Batman in the future. Of course this flashback has the Bat-Radia – it also has a thought-mining lump as Evil Alfred. It is supposed to be all sorts of wrong and fucked up.

    Comment by Jbird — December 15, 2008 @ 5:32 am

  33. The text in the top panel of #7, with Gordon talking to Bruce Wayne about the mysterious Bat-Man and Bruce dismissing it as ” a very lovely fairy tale indeed” is straight from Detective Comics #27, the first Bat-Man story ever.

    Comment by Dorey Mifaso — July 22, 2013 @ 5:12 am

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