Dec
24

Batman #683 – “What the Butler Saw”

Posted by on Wednesday, December 24th, 2008 at 12:14:31 PM

And thus, we end Grant Morrison’s first run on Batman. You’ll be missed. Lots to annotate this time around; lots of stuff referenced that’s more within our lifetimes. Let’s get to it.

Page 1: Not a direct representation of events, but loosely referring to Batman and Talia conceiving Damian in Batman: Son of the Demon by Mike W. Barr and Jerry Bingham.

Pages 2 & 3: Cribbing from Wolk’s pre-annotations, these are Batman #s 244, 251 and 255, respectively. The fourth panel is a direct reference to their wedding night consummation in Son of the Demon.

Page 4: Back to the “World Without Batman,” as Bruce sits in the back of his car and dreams about fighting Man-Bat.

Page 5: And Bruce dreams of being “someone exciting,” echoing the sentiment put forward at the end of R.I.P. that Batman is just as motivated by a swashbuckling excitement inspired by Zorro as he is by the pain. I’m not sure if the “Hh.” states that that affectation would have been adopted by Bruce even if he wasn’t Batman, or if it’s some of the Batman sneaking through the Lump’s illusion. The circus boy Bruce is talking about is clearly Dick Grayson, and illustrates (as much of this sequence does) just how much Dick needed him. “It’s a Wonderful Bat-Life,” I suppose. It’s also funny that the Joker ended up dying – is that a reference to Joker: Devil’s Advocate, where Batman stopped Joker from being executed for a crime he didn’t commit?

Keep the reference to never finding Dick Grayson’s body in mind.

And, of course, Batman thinks of chemicals again, which as we see later is less a statement on or retcon of his origins as it is a mental trick he’s playing.

Page 6: Elva Barr is the fake name Catwoman went by in her early appearances. As we can see, Batman is starting to break the illusion, since Mokkari is visible through the doorway in Batman’s dream world.

Page 7: Another life that never would have improved without Batman around; Selina’s prostitute days are certainly long behind her, and the morality behind her thieving has certainly changed as well, all due to Batman’s influence. “Half the contents of the pharmacy” – again, chemicals.

It’s stated here that this dream world is less his perfect world as much as his absolute worst nightmare – basically, he’s a complete incompetent, everything Clark Kent pretends to be at his worst. (I doubt the resemblance is a coincidence.) The last panel shows us that Bruce’s “mother”, presumably after the near-shooting, became overprotective.

Page 8: It was a common post-Miller-era take on Batman that Bruce wishes he had died that night instead of his parents, so this is a fun reversal (well, about as fun as deathwishes can get). Ace, apparently, was never in the well…

Page 9: And that’s where Dick’s body went! Bats show up, Bruce flips out, Simyan and Mokkari freak out too.

Page 10: Batman fighting Deadshot, from Detective Comics #474 by Steve Englehart and Marshall Rogers. “Only in the world of the MIND is the lump the master.” Alfred’s biking alongside Bruce on what appears to be the courtyard of the Wayne penthouse; the final panel is from Batman #408, the reintroduction of Jason Todd in his Post-COIE form, when instead of being yet another circus kid he was a wayward youth who tried to gank the tires off the Batmobile. Bruce was impressed at the size of his balls, and a Robin was made.

Page 11: Interesting that Jason chose the short-pants-and-pixie-boots costume. Is Morrison implying that he always really wanted to be just like Dick?

Page 12: But Jason was a rebellious Robin, and eventually ran off to find his real mother, leading him to the refugee camp where he got his brains beaten out with a crowbar by the Joker in Batman #427 by Jim Starlin and Jim Aparo.

Page 13: Batman carries Jason out of the fire. Mokkari seems to think the trauma will drive the clone army, like Simon Hurt did, but it’s pretty obvious by this point in Morrison’s run that no other human being on Earth is able to positively process trauma like Bruce Wayne can. The last panel is the Joker about to shoot Barbara Gordon, crippling her and ending her career as Batgirl, in Batman: The Killing Joke by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland.

Page 14: “He WINS when he makes you think like him” – a nod to the insanity Batman would reap from his previous attempts to think like him, especially the infamous Simon Hurt isolation experiment. Meanwhile, Bruce confronts Alfred regarding his revelation in the last issue that forced Mokkari to switch to the foppish-Wayne-world, while the clone army begins killing themselves from the trauma overload.

Page 15: The first panel is Tim Drake saving Batman from Two-Face in Batman #442 by Marv Wolfman, George Perez and Jim Aparo. Suddenly, Batman’s working on Tim’s Redbird instead of the Batmobile; the fourth panel seems to be a generic reference to Tim Drake starting to work officially as Robin, and the last panel references Alfred’s time as the Outsider from Detective Comics 328-356.

Page 16: Bane breaking Batman’s back from Batman #497 by Doug Moench and Jim Aparo; the bottom, with Bruce fighting Azbats, is loosely from the “KnightsEnd” crossover, likely Batman #510 by Doug Moench and Mike Manley.

Page 17: First panel is the “No Man’s Land” crossover event, where Gotham was hit by an earthquake, Arkham was let loose and the government withheld federal aid for a year. The third panel is Batman fighting Hush in Batman #619 by Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee; the last panel is the death of Jack Drake, Tim’s father, in Identity Crisis #6 by Brad Meltzer and Rags Morales.

Page 18: The Lump reveals himself, as Batman overloads the clones with tragedy. The “What do you deserve?” panels are a reference to Batman holding a gun to Alexander Luthor’s head in Infinite Crisis #7 by Geoff Johns, Phil Jimenez, George Perez, Ivan Reis and Joe Bennett.

Page 19: And Mokkari probably takes the single worst action he could, by shooting the Lump and giving him a reason to cede control to Batman. Which he does.

Page 20: The first panel is Batman being cleansed by the Ten-Eyed Tribes in 52 Week 30 by Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Mark Waid, Keith Giffen and Joe Bennett. Thogal occurred in the space of a few weeks later in that same series while Batman was in Nanda Parbat, and the third panel is Damian, his son, at the end of Grant’s own Batman #656 with Andy Kubert. The second-to-last panel is from #680 a few short months ago.

I love Mokkari’s line – “What kind of man can turn even his LIFE MEMORIES into a WEAPON?” Superman called him the most dangeorus man on Earth in the first story arc of Morrison’s JLA, and this is the ultimate example of that, the pure strength of Batman’s will and ability to adapt. ANYTHING can be a weapon to Bruce Wayne.

Page 21: So apparently, Batman got called to the Justice League meeting in Final Crisis #1 mere hours after the conclusion of “Batman R.I.P.” This issue and DC comics in general seem pretty confident that Batman never came back from that meeting, so his promise to fix everything will likely to unresolved, as does, for now, the mystery of Simon Hurt and the Black Glove. In the final panel, the narration of the actual Alfred Pennyworth, apparently speaking post-Final Crisis, takes over.

Page 22: We never saw this scene in the series proper – I guess this means Batman still has the radion bullet – could Final Crisis see Batman using a gun for the first time to cap Darkseid in the face? That would probably be the greatest thing ever. As we know from two pages ago, Mokkari decided to leave his belt, so when Batman wakes up at the end of that page that bullet will still be there. Poor Lump, though – just crumbling like that, but at least he gives Mokkari and Simyan a good scare. And frees the Bat. (We know that Mokkari and Simyan are later killed by Darkseid for this failure, as seen in Final Crisis #5).

Page 23: Well, I guess I was KIND of right about “the butler did it!” Fine, I give up. This page…

Page 24: and the next are probably a perfect final eulogy for Bruce. This certainly convinces me that, at least for a while, Bruce’s run as the Bat is pretty much over, although he’ll be forever remembered for his tenacity. Morrison has repeatedly gone out of his way to make it more and more clear that Batman is a concept that can’t be transferred; it’s so unique to Bruce and his psyche that I’m not sure how “Battle for the Cowl” will figure into his plans.

Speaking of “Battle,” Didio put up a teaser for the project right here, so I thought I’d give my thoughts on all of its HIDDEN CLUEZ!!!! Black & white and large colored versions at Tony Daniel’s blog.

God help me, this actually looks kind of cool. Daniel’s art looks better than that cover, too, but that might just be because the picture is blurry.

A) The “J” on the Joker card is backwards.
B) The Batman with the yellow chest oval on the left has a bo staff, so that’s probably Tim. He seems to be wearing the Batman costume that Bruce wore when Tim became Robin.
C) Harley, lamenting the Joker’s absence? Seems kind of crazy, but Daniel is definitely aware of all of Grant’s run so it’ll probably follow from that.
D) Alfred Pennyworth, loaded for bear. He looks pretty great here, actually.
E) Almost definitely Dick Grayson, wearing the Batman costume that Bruce wore when Dick first became Robin.
F) RIP.
G) Two-Face, no doubt, especially since he’s positioned right in front of the penny, and he’s covering what would be the scarred side of his face. Probably following up on his time as Gotham’s protector during 52, as shown in James Robinson’s “Face the Face” arc.
H) Jason Todd (who else would have a costume that fucking stupid with all those guns), apparently standing over the coffin of Wayne Enterprises. (Whose arm is that coming out of the coffin – Bruce’s? It looks like a woman’s…)
I) Batwoman, apparently investigating something, judging by the magnifying glass. I doubt she’s actually battling for the cowl (and neither are Harley and Alfred), but she’ll probably play a fairly major role.
J) Damian, lookin’ sly, tuggin’ on the bandage around the leg of…
K) “Bruce Wayne”, who, judging by the bandage, is probably actually Hush, who performed plastic surgery on himself to look like Bruce Wayne back in the “Heart of Hush” arc in Paul Dini’s Detective Comics. I assume Damian’s using Hush to angle for a place in Bruce Wayne’s will, or a spot in Wayne Enterprises or something.
L) There looks to be a wheel from a wheelchair behind “Bruce,” which probably symbolizes Oracle walking again or something.

Merry Christmas, everyone. I’ll be back next week to talk about Secret Files, which features the Origin of Libra by Len friggin’ Wein!

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