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.