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).
Page 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.