Funnybook Babylon

October 2, 2008

Batman #680 – “Batman R.I.P. Part 5: The Thin White Duke of Death”

Batman #680

Batman #680

I dunno what kind of overview to give here other than “holy shit, this issue was incredible.”

So holy shit, this issue was incredible. Annotations below, and Tim Callahan‘s got his take up on his site as well. (more…)

August 14, 2008

Batman #679 – “Batman R.I.P. Part 4: Miracle on Crime Alley”

Filed under: Annotations — Tags: , , , , , , — David Uzumeri @ 12:15 am

Oh hell yeah. This issue was incredible.

Batman #679

Batman #679

Page 1: Batman’s fully enveloped himself in his new persona. Note his weapon, the baseball bat, making him a literal bat-man. (I can’t believe I had to have this pointed out to me.)

Pages 2-3: The tailor doesn’t seem to be Paul Gambi, the Crime Tailor. As an aside, as I stated on Tony Daniel’s blog, I utterly adore Bat-Mite’s little cheering expression while Batman gets his interrogation on. Fantastic.

Page 4: This is where things, obviously, start getting weird. Batman’s always been associated with perching next to gargoyles; however, the rapport with the city here is new. Le Bossu’s gargoyle henchmen go along with his Hunchback of Notre Dame theme.

Page 5: “A machine designed to make Batman.” This is perfectly in standing with Morrison’s assertions about the nature of urbanism from The Invisibles, as well as the The Magus/The Game-inspired aspects of this whole arc. How deep does the rabbit hole go? Is the entire city of Gotham a playground designed to create such a wonderful human creature, or is Bruce Wayne fucked up and listened to his imaginary friends? The way Morrison’s managed to make it so it could really go either way is fantastic. (more…)

July 9, 2008

The Morrison Batman Notes Part 3 – From Here We Go Sublime

Filed under: Annotations — Tags: , , , , — David Uzumeri @ 12:48 pm

Part one

Part two

Part three is HERE:

Batman #676

Batman #676

Batman #676 – “Batman R.I.P. Part 1: Midnight in the House of Hurt”

(art: Tony Daniel, Sandu Florea & Guy Major)

Page 1: We shoot forward in time for a page. The background, with red skies and lightning, fairly definitely dates this page as being during or around Final Crisis. Batman and Robin’s identities are vague; Robin looks smaller, like Damian, and seems to have a white cape, while Batman is completely ambiguous (but, given Final Crisis itself, is likely Bruce).

Page 3: Hurt’s description of their coverup for Le Bossu’s murder sets a clear precedent for the Black Glove’s methodology, falsifying documents and destroying reputations. It’s certainly in line with the framing of Mangrove Pierce for Mayhew’s murder of his fifth wife, and the way they destroy Bruce Wayne.

Pages 4-5: We meet the rest of the Club of Villains – Charlie Caligula (Legionary), King Kraken (Wingman), El Sombrero (the real one this time – El Gaucho), Pierrot Lunaire (Musketeer), Scorpiana (El Gaucho) and Springheeled Jack (the Knight). Dark Ranger appears to be unrepresented by a nemesis in the group.

Pages 8-9: Finally we see the new Batmobile, under construction since #655. It’s shockingly functional.

Page 11: The hobo with the shopping cart is Honor Jackson, who plays a very important role in #678. The money Bruce gives him is used to buy heroin, which he overdoses on. The Green Vulture is yet to reappear, but may; he could simply be a representative of what Alfred calls on the next page “the American Idol era of equal opportunity supercrime.”

Page 13: “Miss St. Cloud” was Bruce’s love interest from the Englehart/Rogers Detective run; much like Jezebel, she was a smart lady who figured out who Bruce was, but ended up driven away. “Miss Bordeaux” is Sasha Bordeaux from Greg Rucka’s Detective Comics run, who similarly found out but got burned (by taking a murder rap) and ended up becoming the Black Queen of Checkmate after playing a huge role in 2005’s OMAC Project.

Page 14: Here, Alfred’s manner of speech becomes much more learned and curious – not subservient, but especially the “His is a mind like NO OTHER” speech seems to evoke Hurt’s scientific study of Batman.

Page 15: Note, also, how he practically goads Tim on to feeling insecure about Damian, sowing discord in the ranks of Batman’s trusted.

Page 17: Establishes the Black Glove as a group of “incredibly rich and mysterious people”, in line with Mayhew’s comment about how the wealthy are beyond law and morality.

Page 18: Arkham Asylum.

Page 19: This is all a creepy fantasy in Joker’s head.

Pages 20-21: Joker is utterly insane, surprise surprise. It’s shown this is his fantasy lookin gat a Rorschach blot held by an in-disguise Le Bossu, who’s apparently infiltrated Arkham (so this must take place a while after the opening scene ‘six months ago’ with Simon Hurt) and is inviting the Joker to work in the Glove’s plans.

Page 22: The blood on the Joker is a coloring error, according to Morrison; this is the real world, and the Joker hasn’t actually killed anybody. He’s still stuck in Arkham. Also notice his obsession with flowers, his instruments of death in #663.
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July 8, 2008

The Morrison Batman Notes Part 2 – The (Aunt) Agatha Christie Period

Filed under: Annotations — Tags: , , , , , , — David Uzumeri @ 10:55 am

Going forward with part two!

Don’t forget to read yesterday’s part one as well.

Batman #667

Batman #667

Batman #667 – “The Island of Mister Mayhew”

(art: J.H. Williams III & Dave Stewart)

NOTE: Rather than recapitulate it here, I’d just like to point everyone towards J.H. Williams III’s commentary on the Club of Heroes and the particular artistic style associated with each one.

Page 1: The Black Glove, named for the first time. Note the roulette wheel, red and black, good and evil – it’s clear here that Mayhew, strung up, is making a bet. Judging by the actual wearing of black gloves, it seems clear this is the same character we saw at the end of 665. A friend of mine who for some reason wants to remain anonymous because this idea is fucking brilliant thinks that this might be a sort of retelling of the story of Job, with Hurt acting as Satan and Alfred as God, which fits in perfectly with the question raised by this bet – which is stronger, good or evil? It also fits in perfectly with Morrison’s use of the blind chessman figure in Invisibles.

Page 2-3: I just want to mention I love the look Tim gives Bruce for asking a question to which he himself is the answer.

Page 4: Tim mentions that Alfred is staying at home rebuilding Wayne Manor, which seems to place this after the Resurrection of Ra’s al Ghul crossover – which is after this arc, so I have no idea how that works. Anyway, that’s his alibi for now.

Page 5: The Knight was last seen in JLA: Classified #1-3 by Grant Morrison & Ed McGuinness, and before that in Morrison’s JLA run.

Page 6: El Gaucho, respected crimefighter from Argentina; Legionary, past-his-prime Roman-themed crimefighter from Italy; the Musketeer, French crimefighter who, as he says here, just got out of prison; and Chief Man-of-Bats, the Batman of the reservation. All members of the Club of Heroes.

Page 7: More details about Mayhew’s life. Just as all of the Club of Heroes are alternate takes on where Batman may have gone, John Mayhew represents a directionless, unfulfilling life for Bruce Wayne without a cause and a mission. This is where we first see the poster for the Black Glove film, which comes into play later during R.I.P.; Mangrove Pierce and Marsha Lamarr are both names worth remembering, both within and after this arc. The group shot of the Club of Heroes is new, and lacks Superman, whom the original story (Detective #215) featured.

Page 8: The Native American vigilante is an alcoholic? Seriously, Grant?

Pages 14-15: Someone wearing Mayhew’s face, presumably taken off with the switchblade at the start of the issue. However, considering Mayhew shows up safe and sound later on, it seems likely this is simply a parlor trick (which raises the question of what the use of the blade was). “Place your bets” again digs in the gambling angle, and Morrison really loves to use the wearing-skin concept.

Page 16-17: We later find out the explosion originates from Wingman’s ship, where he planted the bomb as an accomplice to Mayhew and the Glove.

Page 20-21: Mayhew, wearing black gloves, kills Legionary.
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July 7, 2008

The Morrison Batman Notes Part 1 – This Is Your Brain On Drugs

Filed under: Annotations — Tags: , , , , , , — David Uzumeri @ 12:01 pm

I’m seeing a whole hell of a lot of confusion about Batman R.I.P. out there, which is perfectly understandable – it’s a pretty damn opaque story, even more so than Final Crisis. In the interest of art appreciation, I’ve decided to try to go through Morrison’s recent Batman work and see if I can help shed some light on this fairly byzantine plot, as well as point out the myriad continuity references Morrison makes.

Also of considerable interest are Tim Callahan’s annotations and musings about this run – as always, this article is just one dude’s opinion. Apologies to the numerous people I’ve talked about this run with over time whose ideas and comments I’m probably about to partially steal, but thanks to you anyway, especially Chris Eckert.

This was originally going to be all in one go, but when I finished I realized I somehow wrote 8500 fucking words, and nobody in their right mind wants to read that. So I’ve split this up into the Kubert issues (655-658, 663-666), the Williams/Daniel issues (667-669, 672-674), and the R.I.P. issues (672-678) (which are jam fucking packed). I’ll have it serialized out throughout the week.

Before we begin, I just want to mention many of the recurring themes/phrases/ideas throughout this story, that you’ll see me pointing out:

  1. Hallucinogenic drugs/through isolation: Batman tripping balls is the overriding concept throughout this entire run, and the seed from which almost every other aspect and plot development takes place. Drugs, and their effect on the human psyche, especially in combination with living an iconic fantasy life, have brought Batman to a very fragile point. None of this is new, half of Batman’s enemies use hallucinogenic poisons (especially the Joker and Scarecrow), and he’s been poisoned or on drugs like every third Batman story since 1960.
  2. Nature vs. nurture: This is especially evident in the rivalry between Tim and Damian for the right to be Batman’s son, as well as the ruminations on Batman’s own upbringing. This theme generally extends more into the Resurrection of Ra’s al Ghul crossover, which I won’t be discussing here since it seems to have little relevance to R.I.P., and I’ll also probably feel like an idiot when it becomes important and I have to do an appendix, but ah well.
  3. Red and black: These two colors show up everywhere representing good and evil, with special relevance to the colors on a roulette wheel.
  4. Zur en Arrh: self-explanatory after the latest issue, this is Batman’s implanted Manchurian Candidate codeword and the identity of a planet from Batman #113 that Bruce was abducted to (no wonder Morrison is referencing that story; he loves alien abductions) and on which he had the powers of Superman. The guy who summoned him was the “Batman of Zur en Arrh”, who had on that horrendously/hilariously ugly costume Tony Daniel reintroduced at the end of 678.

Throughout, I’ll also be taking a look at the various suspects for the identity of the Black Glove, whose identity Morrison calls “the most shocking Batman revelation in seventy years.” Taking a look, then, at the likely suspects:

  1. Bruce Wayne: Batman’s fucking with himself, a la Len Wein’s seminal Untold Legend of the Batman miniseries, where he got hurt in an explosion and started blacking out and being his own worst enemy, in a very personal and similar manner to the Black Glove. He’s supposedly cured by the end of the story, which was also a rather excellent round-up of his origin and life up to that time in continuity, and contained a lot of elements Morrison seems to be reusing (Thomas Wayne’s original Batman suit, for instance).
  2. Thomas Wayne: Batman’s father is alive, actually a con man, and out to reclaim Wayne Manor. I personally think this is actually going to be an issue four or five fakeout Morrison employs, a la Jason Todd in Hush, and it was hinted at in Batman #677. However, I just think this would be too crazy to stick, and would also harm Greg Rucka’s (in my opinion underrated and brilliant) Death and the Maidens, a story Morrison’s expressed fondness for.
  3. Dick Grayson: Pretty damn unlikely, considering recent events in R.I.P..
  4. Tim Drake: See above.
  5. Alfred Pennyworth/Beagle: Anyone who’s been reading my stuff on this site knows that this is who I think it is, and I’ll be pointing out instances of his absence and evidence of his guilt. I’ll be taking a look at the reasons against, too, but I’m not going to lie, I’m pretty damn sure this is the culprit and recent issues have only backed that up.

So. Let’s go.
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