The #6 annotations are so late partly because the issue seemed rather sparse to me and partly because Gavok over at 4thletter! just completely demolished the landscape of any of my commentary, so what’s below regarding that issue is heavily indebted to his realization about the nature of the story. Then, below, commentary on today’s #7, which is detailed and byzantine and littered with references and basically my wet dream as an annotator.
Cover: A clear reference to Prince’s classic Purple Rain.
Batman and Robin #6
Page 1: Fanservice for fangirls (and, I guess, pedophiles) of Dick Grayson and Damian Wayne. The phone poll metajoke is even more prominent this issue, and certainly on this page. I have no idea what to make of the way they produced the video – for a while I thought the colorist stuck a panel from an earlier issue in there, but I can’t seem to find it, so I have no idea who’s responsible for 1 8XX XXXX as a phone number, but it’s pretty distractingly amateurish.
Page 6: Jason Todd’s most famous alien-fighting experience was back in Superman Annual #11, the famous Alan Moore (there’s that name again!)/Dave Gibbons “For The Man Who Has Everything” story where he won the day by dropping the Black Mercy plant on Mongul and got a boner from staring at Wonder Woman. He traveled through parallel worlds in the Countdown weekly series/publishing disaster while a member of the never-called-such-in-the-actual-comic Challengers from Beyond alongside Donna Troy and Kyle Rayner. The middle panel with the old couple’s a pretty direct commentary on the bloodthirsty-public mentality that led to Jason’s death and, subsequently, what was really his modern origin story. (Does anyone really care about his time as Robin anymore? Let’s be honest here, Jason’s real origin story/central tic is that he’s the Robin who died under Bruce’s watch.)
Page 7: It seems a bit big on the inside, but the implication of the middle panel seems to be that Red Hood and Scarlet’s hideout was in the back of a huge truck – was that supposed to show that they’re trailer trash, maybe?
Page 9: Jason speaks the truth – he seems to have a real fourth-wall-breaking awareness of the nature of his appeal, so if Morrison chose to have Flamingo actually shoot Jason in the face, there’s really very little chance he’d stay that way for long this time.
Page 13: Three shots, nearly point blank, to the spine – the incident that Gavok references in the above link that neatly aligns with Barbara Gordon’s role in The Killing Joke, much as (as we will soon see) this arc and especially this issue act as a weird revisiting or mirror of that canonical story.
Page 15: The industrial garbage grabbing truck is a pretty strong metaphor for Jason Todd’s entire crimefighting approach – heartless, impersonal, the easy way out that causes a bunch of unexpected damage. Contrast with Batman #655, when Bruce Wayne throws Joker in a dumpster personally – Jason Todd is more than happy to throw the baby out with the bathwater.
Page 17: As Gavok’s above link shows, Dick’s offer of help here (and on the next page) are highly reminiscent of Bruce’s offer of help to the Joker at the end of The Killing Joke.
Page 19: Robin only looked shot three times at close range earlier, but that’s a small detail.
Page 21: This whole arc was really heavy on identity and masks, wasn’t it? Which is pretty well-worn, well-trodden ground for a Batman story. With the exception of Scarlet, everyone in this comic is wearing a mask or adopting an identity that used to belong to someone else – Dick as Batman, Damian as Robin, Jason as Red Hood. Everyone was trying to step up into someone else’s shoes, and then Flamingo, the “Eater of Faces”, arrives at the climax to ‘eat away’ at the characters’ roles and faces. The story begins being about Batman and Red Hood, morally incompatible vigilantes in conflict; it basically finishes like a Wayne Family episode of Intervention as Dick offers Jason help and then they drag Jason away screaming about daddy issues. Their entire conflict was a mask in and of itself – it was never about Old vs. New Testament justice, it was about – as Jason put it in the first issue – “the revenge of one crazy man in a mask on another crazy man in a mask.” Flamingo may have tried to eat Scarlet’s face, but the face he REALLY ate upon his arrival in Gotham was that of their conflict.
Page 22: Oh hey, El Penitente is Simon Hurt! I jotted down a bunch of thoughts about that a while ago, and what the “W” scar on his back (and his predilection towards Bat-suits and self-flagellation) might mean. Oberon Sexton’s hotel room is littered with newspapers, the visible one of which is identical to the one at the end of Batman R.I.P. reporting on Talia’s killing of Cardinal Maggi due to his involvement in the Black Glove. It certainly casts Sexton’s red-and-black ensemble in a sinister new light, and brings into question the nature of the killer he’s supposedly following.
Page 24: According to Morrison, this body was (presumably) put back together, thrown into a bat-suit and placed in this secure location after the desecration of Bruce Wayne’s grave back in Blackest Night.
Batman and Robin #7
Page 1: We pick up right from the end of #6 with this direct reference to the final page of Final Crisis #6, with Superman holding the same body that Dick Grayson’s holding here. Cameron’s reference is pretty exact, down to the locations of the holes in the costume and the emaciated skeletal structure. The only thing that’s really different is that here Batman isn’t still smoking.
The issue’s title, “Pearly and Pit,” carries both a literal meaning (since the issue is about the British crime figure the Pearly King and his assistance in finding a Lazarus Pit) and a figurative one (Heaven and Hell – the Pearly Gates and the Eternal Pit). And, of course, pearls themselves always play an important part in the Bat-mythos because of Martha’s pearl necklace. (Get your mind out of the gutter, you back there.)
Page 2: An indeterminate period of time then passes and Batman’s evidently gone to Europe, for reasons we’ll soon discover. The gigantic Ferris wheel he’s saving the girl from is the London Eye, where he then jumps on a boat and heads south.
Page 3: I don’t recognize the building in the top panel; the W1 that Squire is referring to is slang for London’s West End (from its postal code designation). Batman is boat-hopping to Westminster Bridge.
Page 4: Now Batman car-hops while going west on Westminster Bridge, before jumping onto the Route 15 bus, which doesn’t appear to go anywhere near Westminster Bridge, so I should probably stop trying to take this scene so literally with regards to location.
Page 5: “Harridges” is a reference to monstrous London department store Harrods, into which Squire barges in, goes up an escalator and crashes through a window to pick up Batman, who swing off that crane after jumping off the bus on the previous page. (These fight scenes are exceptionally well-choreographed, even if I can’t work out the geographic details – I was gonna do a Google Map of the chase and everything!)
Page 6: St. James’s Park Station is the closest to Westminster Bridge, so that makes sense.
Page 7: Old King Cole is a British nursery rhyme, “Burning Black Heart” might be a reference to the Keane song, and King Coal is a term used to describe the now-dying British coal industry, a concept which comes up later. Smooth Eddie English, the “Pearly Prince”, is all dressed up as a Pearly King, the uniform of a charitable working-class British organization that’s apparently been co-opted by these costumed criminals. In other words, this book is WORKING-CLASS BRITISH AS HELL, going right along with Beryl’s background. The idea of pirate subway trains harkens back to Morrison and Stewart’s last DCU collaboration, Seven Soldiers: Guardian, where “All-Beard” Alan Moore and “No-Beard” Grant Morrison battled for control over the NYC subway system.
Eddie’s reaction to Batman’s appearance makes me wonder if the Pearly gang, like the Coal gang, are also familiar with the Crime Bible and the “Knight of the Beast” prophecy Batwoman references later.
Page 8: The man next to Batman is, despite my earlier statement (thank you, Internet and living documents!), the obscure DC Comics superhero Beefeater. The structure he’s in is royal British prison the Tower of London; all of the supervillains mentioned here are new creations – I imagine Dai Laffyn is a pun on “Die Laughin'”, Don Drummond might be a reference to the reggae trombonist, the Morris Men could refer to Morris dancing, the Highwayman is a pretty straightforward, obvious reference and I have no idea where Metalek the xenoformer comes from, although it certainly resembles Marvel’s Trull the Inhuman. The Pearly King of Crime is presumably the father of the Pearly Prince.
Page 9: It’s interesting that the King already has the dominoes in the map position.
Page 10: This conflict obviously isn’t limited just to London, as Newcastle is practically on the opposite end of the country – so it’s the old British city vs. country thing again, working class versus working class. I expect Pearly playing dominoes is a coincidence regarding the Domino Killer, since Pearly can’t do much in prison; then again, he apparently knew what Batman was looking for before he even arrived, so perhaps there is some sort of connection. I can’t seem to find any references to what “Donna” and “davina” mean, although from context clues I can guess they mean “woman” and “balls.”
Page 11: The comment about the Cauldron of Rebirth – clearly referring to the Lazarus Pit – hearkens not only back to Celtic mythology but also Morrison’s Seven Soldiers, where the original Cauldron had been taken to New York and used as the personal resurrection machine for Don Vincenzo. Also in Seven Soldiers, it’s revealed that the Cauldron of Rebirth was a gift from the New Gods to Aurakles – so, like the Omega Effect Bruce is trapped in, the Lazarus Pit is ultimately based on New God technology and magic.
Pearly’s hand is following a path on the domino-map, allowing him to maintain his vow of silence while also helping Batman for what he did for his son. The song he’s singing is, of course, a working-class folk song. I’m guessing Dick takes a picture or recording of the domino pattern and sends it to Cyril; Shipment X, as later revealed, is Bruce’s body.
Page 12: Well, at least Talia has the courtesy to call him MISTER Pennyworth. The surgery tank very faithfully replicates the one in Batman #665.
Page 13: Talia’s little note as Alfred leaves is probably a reference to pulling the trigger on some sort of kill order, leading to the next arc, “Batman vs. Robin.”
Page 14: Lazarus pits generally lie on ley lines or junctions of them. I’m not sure why midwinter has such a meaning to King Coal’s group, but I’ll trust Beryl (and any commenters who want to chime in) on it. Rendle Colliery seems to be fictional on Morrison’s part; I’ve got no idea if the name is a reference to anything, so, again, British assistance appreciated. The footprints are from the dudes carrying Batwoman’s coffin.
Page 17: Oxford Street is apparently a very busy street in the aforementioned W1. The chanting and twice-daughter are our first hints of what’s coming on the next page; back in 52, Batwoman was referred to the “twice-named daughter of Cain” by the Crime Bible cultists, who it seems the Coal gang are affiliated with. Hammer Films is a British group that made low-budget horror flicks.
Also, just like the Cauldron of Rebirth and Omega Effect are New Gods concepts, so is the Crime Bible that apparently led Batwoman and the Coal guys here.
Page 18: Batwoman, object of desire for Crime Bible cultists, makes her grand appearance.
Page 19: So midwinter is an excuse to use the whole Blackest Night title reference without actually having Black Lanterns around, it seems. The dialogue is accidentally switched around in the middle panel.
Page 21: Insanity has long been a standard side effect of the Lazarus Pit, used to explain the mental states of both Ra’s al Ghul and Jason Todd. The “what the whole world’s just been through” that Batwoman’s mentioning is likely the zombie epic that was Blackest Night.