Mar
15

Batman and Robin #s 8 and 9 – “Blackest Knight” Parts 2 and 3: “Batman vs. Batman” and “Broken”

Posted by David Uzumeri on Monday, March 15th, 2010 at 02:56:54 PM
Batman and Robin #8
Batman and Robin #8
Batman and Robin #9
Batman and Robin #9

After the extensive infodump of last issue, these two issues are FAR more streamlined as we ramp up to “Batman vs. Batman” and the return of Bruce Wayne. In this installment: The Bug Black Voice of Gotham City! The Bible of Crime! And… Batwoman! Come back soon for Batman and Robin #10, and a look into the Wayne family’s lineage, but until then let’s see what further clues we can divine from “Blackest Knight.”

Additionally, I’d like to give a shout-out to the superb amypoodle at the always-sublime Mindless Ones, who put together an insanely compelling counter-theory to mine about Simon Hurt. It’s great stuff, and you should really check it out, as I’ll certainly be keeping it in mind in the months ahead.

Batman and Robin #8 – “Blackest Knight” Part Two: “Batman vs. Batman”

Page 1: Now we’re flashing back to Kate’s infiltration and arrival. It’s been forever since I’ve seen Mary Poppins, but I recall Van Dyke playing a lower-class coal miner sort of character with a soot-blackened face, so that certainly matches her description. The Prophet Martyr Mannheim is referring to Bruno Mannheim, former head of Intergang during 52. “Hail the rock and the rage!” is a cry that’s been going around the DCU for years now, associated almost always with Crime Bible cultists. It celebrates the first murder (Cain murdering Abel in rage with a rock). “The bomb and the blast” is a new chant, presumably to represent the more modern tool of murder.

Page 2: King Coal’s claim that Newcastle will be the New Jerusalem of Crime echoes Mannheim’s ambitions in 52 for Gotham City. The “hole in everything” that Coal makes echoes similar claims made by both Simon Hurt (“I am the hole in things, Bruce, the piece that can never fit”) and Darkseid, as well as the black hole at the bottom of the multiverse that Darkseid fell into, which is appropriate since Darkseid is behind this plot. The fact that the Crime Bible prophesied this implies that it didn’t get discredited after the events of Final Crisis. The guy in the van working intel for Batwoman is Colonel Jake Kane, Kate’s father and Alfred figure.

Page 3: The Gods of Evil being referred to are, of course, the Gods of Apokolips. Again, considering they’re all ostensibly dead, I’m not sure what’s left to worship – I’m starting to wonder if Morrison isn’t done with these guys just yet.

Page 7: Flashback to between Batman #683 and Final Crisis #6. Again, what’s interesting about this scene is that Darkseid is still planning for the future despite his imminent demise, and that those plans are still being carried out. Since these clones are all naked, I’m guessing Darkseid must have fabricated some kind of Batman costume to put on the corpse. Darkseid here clearly hasn’t been shot yet, so he must have known that he was going to Omega Effect Batman in the future and leave this clone body as a decoy. And considering what the Crime Bible prophesied, the entire thing is a startlingly complicated plan that would require considerable foreknowledge to know Dick Grayson would take the body on THIS night to THIS Lazarus Pit. Either way, it makes it clear the entire business of the prophecies in the Crime Bible is far from over.

Page 9: This is a stunning, stunning fight scene, and Cameron Stewart has really elevated himself to one of the absolute best fight choreographers in comics. I’m in awe of this stuff – the off-kilter panel borders is a trick that gets misused a lot, but Stewart absolutely annihilates it in this sequence (and throughout this arc). Amazing stuff.

Page 11: Lettering error!! “Gnn! Get him! Somebody…” is accidentally attributed to the crazy Bat-clone rather than Dick.

Page 12: The “twice-named daughter” is an ongoing Batwoman story that started in 52 and continued in her Detective Comics run. Originally it was implied to mean it was because she had two “names” (Kate Kane and Batwoman), but now Rucka’s been further complicating it to involve her twin sister Alice, who’s become a priestess in the Religion of Crime. I’m curious to see how much Rucka and Morrison dovetail their Crime Bible stuff in the future, if at all, since they’re both mining that well.

Page 16: I love screaming Clone-Bats on the gyro. Presumably the old dude with the lantern is Beefeater from last issue, as the clone takes the plane Dick flew there. (They probably should have taken Bruce’s voice out of the security system.)

Page 18: The batarang incident Batwoman’s referring to was back when Dick was Nightwing, and occurred in 52 Week 33.

Page 19: Morrison’s portrayal of Kate here is in stark contrast to her portrayal of Kathy Kane back in Batman #682 – Kate isn’t an emotionally needy, lovestruck girl; when she’s going to die in Batman’s arms, she doesn’t ask him if he loves her, she just comes up with a badass plan to come back from the dead. “Well hard,” as Beryl says next issue.

Batman and Robin #9 – “Blackest Knight” Part Three: “Broken”

Page 1: This arc would have been really funny if it was Black Canary, because then they could make tons of awful canary in a coalmine jokes. Or I could. Yeah, that’d pretty much be just for me.

Page 2: “I promised I wouldn’t let her down” – Dick’s statement here mirrors his one about Bruce, and interestingly parallels Damian’s situation with Sasha, where he promised not to let her down, in the short run at least, did. It’s turning into somewhat of a mantra.

Page 3: Going along with the Bat/Devil similarity (that #10 has only solidified as a theme), it’s appropriate that Cyril would refer to Dick as a demon.

Page 4: And here we start hearing CloneBats’s voice for the first time as he speaks in a guttural, challenged voice reminiscent of Bruce’s mishearing of “Zorro in Arkham” as “Zur En Arrh,” like everything he says is barely comprehensible as English.

Page 6: I always figured Batman would use an ergonomic mouse.

Page 8: The “sour blud” CloneBats is referring to is a double entendre for both his own diseased blood and Damian’s presence in the Wayne bloodline.

Page 9: As established in the Final Crisis arc in Batman, these clones were indoctrinated with all of Bruce Wayne’s life trauma and none of the humanity and love that placed that trauma in context. As a result, this clone is the titular “broken” being, and his attitude and memories reflect that: all he remembers is the failure and heartbreak, the enigmatic and hurtful relationship with Selina, the Robins’ relationship with the Joker, the physical agony of Bane amalgamated with the emotional agony inflicted by the Scarecrow, ruminations on loss, death, insanity and failure. The lack of context for the trauma is what drove these clones insane, just as it drove the three replacement Batmen insane back in the first half of Morrison’s run – and this clone attempts to contextualize his reaction, and the reaction of all of his euthanized peers, in the body of the Batman’s ULTIMATE trauma – gunshots, pearls and the loss of a family. This is the Clone Batman, who he is and how he came to be. Basically every part of this page is an A+ effort.

Page 10: This is where the connection with Geoff Johns’s Blackest Night event becomes clear – thematic rather than plotbased, here we have a Bruce Wayne zombie making use of psychological warfare on a stoic but terrified Damian. The clone Batman appeals to his biggest fears; that his father has no place for him, that he’s tainting his memory and bloodline. Damian – and we – are worried this might actually be true, especially since the only experiences this clone has to draw on are Bruce Wayne’s actual ones – but remember, it’s all of the trauma and none of the love. This also confirms without a doubt that Damian is, in fact, Bruce’s genetic son.

Page 11: The Lazarus Pit has always had a relationship with alchemy, so the four doors for the four elements are appropriate symbolism.

Page 13: I have absolutely no idea what Ice Cube is in this context – presumably some kind of military research facility. Morrison’s pulling out the military codewords here – “oscar mike” is “on the move”, “P.O.C.” is “point of contact”, the M.O.D. is the Ministry of Defense.

Page 14: And now the Batman clone’s turned into an amazing parody/twist of Frank Miller Batman, going on and on about breaking bodies and pressure points. Also, “Maximum Pane” would be an amazing supervillain name.

Page 15: Appropriate that we end our British adventure arc in Gotham with the series’ most famous Brit wielding a cricket bat. The clone’s still going on with the Frank Miller stuff until he’s dangling Damian over the side of Wayne Tower, when things get really telling.

First off, the gunshots are the ones in his head he keeps hearing that are driving him insane, the accumulation of all the violence Batman witnessed in Gotham. What’s interesting, though, is his mention of the city’s “bug black voice.” The references made in the next issue heavily imply that that voice is very, very real – Barbatos, the Demon of Gotham – and it’s totally possible that this fucked-up dark-mirror Bruce Wayne is actually attuned to it. “The sacrifice of a son” – Bruce Wayne’s entire childhood was sacrificed to the demon of Gotham to provide him with a champion.

Page 16: This splash page feels evocative of the covers of both Detective Comics #27 and Amazing Fantasy #15 without directly homaging either.

Page 17: Batman got here quick on the experimental RSO transport Jake Kane mentioned a few pages ago.

Page 18: I’m wondering if the screaming about Kathy just about the fact that Kate attacked him, or remembering whatever traumatic incident was alluded to (but never outright shown) back in #682. The threat to rip out and eat someone’s heart is definitely a nod to Blackest Night.

Page 19: Tremendous fight scene.

Page 20: First double-punch of the issue. Now the clone’s playing off Dick’s worst fears – that he’s going to become the single-minded, socially inept Frank Miller Batman caricature himself, just like Bruce was in danger of being shortly before Infinite Crisis.

Page 21: Dick previously dated (and got engaged to) the redheads Starfire (on the Teen Titans) and Barbara Gordon (Batgirl/Oracle). Kate’s being enigmatic with Batman about his chances with her because she’s a lesbian and opposed to… okay, I can’t finish that joke. Dick brings up the fact that the Crime Bible’s prophecies are still in play.

Page 22: Squire and Knight must have gotten that neutrino comms tech Colonel Kane used to find them, because they were able to find King Coal through all that rock. Also, issue’s second double-punch, which is definitely becoming a recurring bit.

Page 23: I like the reference to how Dick works “without a net”, since that’s what killed his parents when their trapeze swings broke. Alfred’s comment about Dick’s prior warning is referring to the events of the Resurrection of Ra’s al Ghul crossover, which Morrison himself was involved in – basically, he gave Tim Drake a bunch of shit for wanting to take up Ra’s deal on resurrecting his parents. Dick’s reasoning here seems pretty spurious, but whatever. The last panel is a nice echo of the one of him staring at the Bat-suit in #2.

Posted in Annotations · Read more by David Uzumeri

31 Responses

  1. I completely agree re the fight sequences. Cameron just fucking gets how to do that stuff.

    Before I go must pilfer a few readers, by linking through to our Amy’s alternative solution to the mystery of Dr Hurt’s true identity

    I prefer your theory, Dave, but I think Amy has it right.

  2. What’s interesting, though, is his mention of the city’s “bug black voice.” The references made in the next issue heavily imply that that voice is very, very real – Barbatos, the Demon of Gotham – and it’s totally possible that this fucked-up dark-mirror Bruce Wayne is actually attuned to it.

    Lovely observation

  3. Zom, I meant to put that link in the intro and totally spaced. Thanks for the reminder, it’s essential reading.

  4. According to Promethea, the more “perspectives” (IE: The fucking crazier you are, or the more eyes you have) the easier it is to perceive things like what would be our Demon of Gotham, Barbatos. Joker’s shifting personalities perceive him. Insane Bruce-Clones perceive him. Riddler was just crazy enough to be possessed by him back in Dark Knight, Dark City but just sane enough to not perceive what was happening to him. But Batman himself? Batman only has his two eyes, so to come close to perceiving him, he had to do it through upper-level meditation of the Buddhist tradition (And come close to becoming the Rainbow Man).

    (I imagine that the Ten-Eyed Men perceive him as well – nothing screams “Promethean ‘eye’ reference” quite like the Ten-Eyed Men. Not only do the later mentioned “99 Fiends” sound vaguely like the “Fiend With Nine Eyes”, if there are ten Ten-Eyed Men there should be 100 eyes, all-together (counting all their fingers). Except that we know there’s a Nine-Eyed Man missing a finger. 99 eyes. (Or, alternatively and more simply, there are 100 members of the Tribe, but one (Nine-Eyes) has gone AWOL).

  5. Crapdammit, should’ve been “According to The Invisibles” … the Promethea reference was building in my head as I realized how much Aleister Crowley we’re about to be subjected to.

  6. ” … Kudos, Dave Uzumeri. Dick Grayson practically quoted your article.” (About Bruce becoming the source of urban legends about bats and devils, of course).

  7. It struck me how many nods to Knightfall there were in issue 9. It being titled “Broken,” the super-violent fake Batman, Damian in a wheelchair with a damaged spine, Alfred (on page 4) lying in almost exactly the same way as he did on the first page of Batman 497 (the issue where Bane breaks Batman). Even the cover plays into it, being inspired by the first two pages of Detective Comics 664 (the issue which takes place immediately after Batman 497). And of course there’s the vision of Bane on page 9, who’s also wearing Jean Paul Valley’s Batman armor (partly obscured by the speech balloon).

    It’s as if Morrison is touching on the various famous Batman stories of the past in Batman and Robin. The first storyline and The Killing Joke, the second and A Death in the Family, and now Knightfall. Also, the idea of Bruce Wayne being replaced and his eventual return ties in nicely with what Morrison is doing.

    Also, a couple of other thoughts that I had while reading: King Coal’s plan to remake Newcastle into the New Jerusalem of crime reminded me of British-Israelism, and in turn to the myth of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel (the British-Israel Movement wanted to transform London into the New Jerusalem, because they believed that the British were the true chosen people). Coal seems to have taken the idea and turned it around on London.

    Also, in the midst of all the religious allusions, the idea of “the sacrifice of a [son]” reminded me of the story of Abraham’s almost sacrifice of his son (Genesis 22:1-24). The fact that the clone says “sun” might be a nod to the recurring myths of the death and subsequent rebirth of solar deities (which fits well with everything that’s going on).

  8. The “Bug Black Voice” observation is very intriguing. Great stuff.

  9. Derk, Morrison’s been busily trying to elevate Knightfall into the pantheon of Bat traumas for a good long time now.

  10. @retrowarbird: “the more “perspectives” (IE: The fucking crazier you are, or the more eyes you have) the easier it is to perceive things like what would be our Demon of Gotham, Barbatos. Joker’s shifting personalities perceive him.”

    Yes, and I also always suspected that getting shot in the forehead (in Batman #655, Morrison’s first issue) may have opened up the Joker’s “third eye”. Also, referring to the “BUG BLACK voice”, in Batman #663 the Joker seems to communicate telepathically with a mosquito which rode into Arkham on Batman’s back and then curled up into a dead “black fist” (glove?). I always thought this mosquito was the first connection between the Joker and Hurt.

  11. “I always thought this mosquito was the first connection between the Joker and Hurt.”

    Ah, and see Joker is a true example of “sour blud”. Downright toxic, in fact. Yes, definitely his perception was awoken by the symbolic third eye. I’m in the “Oberon is Joker” camp, and I believe Oberon Sexton is Joker’s “tribute” to Batman.

    Here’s a question: Could the amusement park that Riddler-Possessed (Dark Knight, Dark City) clued Batman to, where he had the goat in the hall of mirrors … could that be the same amusement park from The Killing Joke and Batman Reborn?

  12. [...] Comics | David Uzumeri provides annotations for Batman and Robin #8-9. [Funnybook Babylon] [...]

  13. Zom: “Derk, Morrison’s been busily trying to elevate Knightfall into the pantheon of Bat traumas for a good long time now.”

    Oh, I know and agree, but he’s never done it to this extent before, which is why I thought the various nods and allusions were worthy of note (and also made me wonder why they’re there, in this specific story, beyond just referencing Knightfall as a major trauma).

  14. Speaking of the city’s “bug black voice”, I remember back in RIP some sort of insect-like creature (that I don’
    t believe I’ve yet seen an explanation/theory for) climbing on the back of the Bat-Mite, particularly during the scene when Bats sees Gotham as a “checkerboard machine for creating a Batman” (TOTAL paraphrase there; I don’t have the issue handy). Batman, at this point, was fairly unbalanced, which fits Morrison’s ideas about his perceptions being opened/expanded at the time.

  15. Speaking of the city’s “bug black voice”, I remember back in RIP some sort of insect-like creature (that I don’t believe I’ve yet seen an explanation/theory for) climbing on the back of the Bat-Mite, particularly during the scene when Bats sees Gotham as a “checkerboard machine for creating a Batman” (TOTAL paraphrase there; I don’t have the issue handy). Batman, at this point, was fairly unbalanced, which fits Morrison’s ideas about his perceptions being opened/expanded at the time.

  16. Finally the bug on Bat-Mite is starting to get some context. That’s been one of the biggest things nagging at me from RIP for some reason. Now we have the connections for that. Sweet.

  17. the creature appears behind batmite in numerous scenes; it’s almost as though batmite’s some kind of glove puppet it’s using to speak through. i took it to mean that the mite, a shrunken impish Batman, was a metaphor for the last vestiges of personhood before the darkness, the terrifying Other, NOT-SELF. quite a lot of batmite’s dialogue supports this too.

    ‘the bat’s ain’t so bad when you get to know them…. they can even be funny. to tell the truth…the dark ain’t so bad when you learn how to make friends with it.’

    so speaks batman’s number one pal.

    We’ll see.

  18. The monster on Bat-Mite’s back, I’ll just point out … has green eyes (jealous of Batman, which frankly, Barbatos would be, as would Thomas Wayne) … has FIVE pinion-like fingers … and is a rather blatant case of Fifth Dimensional visualization of demonic possession (demons as small, petty, ugly little creatures acting like parasites on your mind).

  19. “‘the bat’s ain’t so bad when you get to know them…. they can even be funny. to tell the truth…the dark ain’t so bad when you learn how to make friends with it.’”

    That, by the way, if you take Bat-Mite to be “Bruce’s mind” … is EXACTLY what it would seem like if a Demon was trying to possess him. We’ve read before (In Dark Knight, Dark City, in Crowley … and seen in R.I.P.) that a Demon if it isn’t directly possessing you can still make you think thoughts that you think are your ideas, but are really the Demon manipulating you.

    If while in “Zur En Arrh” mode, Bruce sees Bat-Mite – can literally “see his other personality” – he’d be able to see the Demon influencing it as well.

  20. yes, but batmite is only ever helpful to bruce – not something you’d expect from a demon.

    also, batmite’s little speeches about assimilating the forgotten, denied aspects of the self are a theme morrison’s been harping on since the invisibles. fuck, it’s the backbone of the filth.

    it may well be that there’s something else going on with the creature lurking behind batmite, but grant doesn’t need to take it any further than my metaphorical interpretation above.

  21. oh, actually, i see what you’re saying – batmite is bruce’s mind in its purest form and the demon’s some sort of parasitic, cancerous presence attached to it. yeah, why not? i think that interpretation’s pretty good actually.

  22. one more time to get it right: that wasn’t what you were saying, but i think my last post’s a nice fusing of both ideas, jettisoning the bit about batmite being somehow bad. he’s clearly not.

  23. Yeah, that makes more sense. I can’t imagine any version of Bat-mite being played up to be too evil(and as you said, he was always helpful in Morrison’s run so far), but that bug on his back always bugged me. If it was just the last vestiges of Bruce’s personality, why would the bug need to be on his back? Bat-mite would be enough. This, I think, starts to give some explanation to that hopefully.

  24. it could be that the demon is simply a personification of the zur-en-arrh codeword though.

    or, if not, maybe bruce really does get possessed by barbatos during his time jaunt. the imagination being the fifth dimension and all, bruce gets to see the infestation *before* it happens.

    i am actually driving myself mad with speculation. i will definitely stop now.

  25. Yeah, that’s what I was getting at – exactly. Within his crazed back-up personality, he can actually “see” or visualize his real mind in the form of Bat-Mite, and he can see the demonic parasite latched onto it. Bruce had mentioned somewhere or other that he was prepared for a “psychic attack”. So the Demon attempts to latch onto his mind and begin influencing him subtly, and when it makes its move, surprise, surprise, Bruce has a back-up. (Which just happens to remind Bat-Mite of “Superman-Envy”, because Superman defeats any foe.)

    Bat-Mite’s advice all sounds like something he should trust. I really need to go back and re-read it and see if there’s anything he says that seems like something Bruce Wayne might “think he was saying, but was really fed to him by the demon.”

    But yes, on the nail with your second response there. Bruce can not only “see” his own consciousness, he can see the stowaway as well.

  26. (Secondary to that … one can’t help but notice that whenever Bruce’s “demons are exorcised” whether by the Ten-Eyed Men or Thogal, we see a bat-like shadow fly away from his body. I took it as a sort of artist’s metaphor, but could Morrison have intended it to be literal?)

  27. And off the top of my head I immediately just realized, at the same time, he’s talking to gargoyles – which are supposed to ward off and defend against demons. That could explain all the Gothic architecture in Gotham … if there’s a very old-school demon associated with the town, it stands to reason that a particular tendency toward protecting against demons would arise.

    (Yes, on a second reading, Bat-Mite’s warnings and rationale do feel a little “overly cautious”. “Be careful, Bruce, the Batman of Zur En Arrh is meant for short-term use against a psychic attack, you can’t run at this speed all night.”)

    And of course, Arkham is a building with gargoyles on the roof (historically, although here I believe it’s Le Bossu’s henchmen). Another reason he may not be able to enter – although that doesn’t much explain how Hurt is inside.

    (Unless Hurt/Thomas Wayne’s immortality doesn’t always require possession. He’s a servant, whether he’s host to the demon or not.)

  28. That comment Morrison made about fusing the 60′s Batman show with a David Lynch movie is starting to make more sense. Twin Peaks focused a lot on possession with “Bob the demonic inhabiting spirit”.

  29. Also, in “Dark Knight, Dark City”, another Thomas appears in Jacob Stockman’s journal entries; Thomas Jefferson, who was apparently involved in the ceremony to summon “Barbathos” (that’s how it appears in DKDC).

  30. Not related to the overarching stuff of Morrison’s Batman but Morrison’s intertextuality in general: the Black Bug Voice reminds me of the Black Bug Room of New X-men, which, in contrast to the White Hot Room, is a complete submersion into the negative aspects of the characters’ egos. Like a negative Thorgal meditation and so forth.

    A little bug on the back of Bat-mite? Sheeda’esque?

    And Morrison has played with the idea of tiny little imps influencing everyone negatively back in his JLA run.

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