Funnybook Babylon

July 26, 2010

Batman and Robin #13 – “Batman and Robin Must Die! Part 1: The Garden of Death”

Filed under: Annotations — Tags: , , , , — David Uzumeri @ 10:14 am
Brief Bloom.

Brief Bloom.

Batman and Robin continues, beginning the “Batman and Robin Must Die!” arc, which Morrison has stated is “R.I.P. as farce.” Each issue is named after a classic gothic painting; this one is “The Garden of Death” by Hugo Simberg, pictured above. Many shots and events in this book are deliberate evocations of events in “R.I.P.”, so I recommend a rereading before engaging in any close analysis of this story.

And, as usual, the links to my other annotations:

Stuff here (original Batman run, current Batman and Robin)

Stuff at Comics Alliance (Return of Bruce Wayne #1, #2, #3; Batman #700)

Page 1: This is a deliberate inversion of David Mazzucchelli’s cover to Batman #404 , the first part of Frank Miller’s “Year One” storyline. Of course, Bruce and Thomas are transposed. And instead of “Mother. Father. Yes. I shall become a bat,” we see “My wife. My son. Yes.” And then the rest…

Page 2: The first panel represents the domino effect that the Joker talks about later, the chain reaction of death. Note the dominos are the first we’ve seen in the book so far that are white dots on black slates. This is the first big desecration of this arc, as Morrison basically places the cross of Bruce’s defining moment and inverts it into the birth of a complete monster. Obviously this is a version of Simon Hurt/Thomas Wayne that’s in keeping with the lies told about Bruce’s family in “R.I.P.”; he’s clearly afraid that Martha Kane-Wayne knows a major secret – maybe the secrets of Barbatos and Wayne Manor’s hidden room – and is trying to make sure it dies with her.

Page 3: “This is Simon Hurt, Who He Is and How He Came to Be” comes to a conclusion with the graveyard scene, Thomas Wayne paying Joe Chill off for the hit, again echoing Chill’s statements earlier back in #673 – remember when he said that someone paid him to kill all the Waynes? The third panel is maybe the pinnacle of superhero comics in the 21st century, featuring a full-out 120 Days of Sodom orgy sequence complete with Professor Pyg being used as a horsey by a dominatrix in a demon mask whipping two bound naked ladies and Simon Hurt pouring a bottle of champagne on an emaciated lady’s back, wearing Thomas Wayne’s original tuxedo batsuit.

Oh, and this entire sequence is red and black, of course.

So what *is* this sequence? Well, Hurt once said that he wore Mangrove Pierce’s skin like he’d wear a suit – I don’t think that was a literal thing, but I think Hurt is a master of disguise, much like Batman and the Joker; I think, further, that he’s actually fully created this entire fictional backstory for himself as the villainous Thomas Wayne, as a part to play. Morrison’s entire Batman run has focused on acting (both in stage and disguise form), and here we have Simon Hurt wearing Thomas Wayne’s skin. Of course, he may even be a Thomas Wayne (the one from 1765) himself, but that’s yet to be seen.

I don’t believe we’ve seen Hurt’s media rep before.

Page 5: The 99 Demons – who, I have a sick theory, are the descendants of the Miagani, because I mean where the hell did they go by now anyway? – have already taken up residence in Wayne Manor. It’s interesting that Hurt only pulled these guys out to use after the original R.I.P. affair – I wonder if he has little pockets of minions all around the globe.

The “black sun” that Hurt refers to is the eclipse that’s occurring every time Bruce Wayne jumps forward in time – note that it always occurs when Bruce LEAVES, though, not when he arrives, so it’s totally possible that Bruce is already back by the time this scene takes place. Hurt’s promise to corrupt Damian seems to imply that this is the event Damian was referring to back in #666 when he mentioned that he made a deal with the devil to save Gotham City.

Page 6: This page ends the flashforward, and serves as a total contrast to the first page of “R.I.P.” – just as that story ended with a declaration of Batman and Robin’s immortality, this immediately proclaims their very fragile mortality.

ThenNow

Page 7: Damian’s silhouette entering the hospital seems similar to Hurt entering the mansion a few pages ago, doesn’t it? Or to Le Bossu entering Hurt’s castle at the beginning of #676. And the lineup of cops is similar to the lineup of 99 Fiends waiting for Hurt’s entrance, too.

Page 8: Joker’s phrasing that something “went out in his head” is similar to Lane’s phrasing back in #672, that the sleeper personality awoke when “the Bat-Signal came on in [his] brain.” Obviously Joker’s lying, though – this IS his latest incarnation, whatever silver-tongued demon it may be – notice that his word balloons are normal, and his entire speech pattern is at complete odds with all of his previous depictions. Since when has he said “So I mean, obviously”? Dick then recaps everything we’ve already discussed up in these annotations about dominoes, bones and the boneyard, confirming that Joker was “digging up” the “bones” of his own crimes, and that he faked searching Naberius, and essentially planted the domino on him, back in #11.

The domino Dick’s holding seems to be different from the four-one model he “got from” Naberius, so I’m not sure where it came from.

Page 9: AND I was right about the double meaning of domino! But not its connection to the 99 Fiends’ domino masks. Dick gives his version of Scott Summers’s “I’ve been outsmarting you since I was a teenager, Magneto” speech from New X-Men. And the Knight shows up to clear up that, unfortunately, Joker did not in fact write an entire true crime novel to back up his cover.

Page 10: I’m not sure why Dick just says “sane?” – is he questioning Joker’s claim to sanity? I guess that’s the easy answer. I’m not sure what Joker’s referring to with “that first Domino of Death” – is he referring to the Joe Chill incident in Hurt’s memory, where we saw the first domino fall? Or does he mean the first Black Glove member he killed to get revenge and planted a domino on? I guess we’ll find out later.

Page 11: I love how Irving and Morrison portray Gordon’s barely contained atomic rage; we’re talking about the dude who shot his daughter in the spine, killed his wife and forced him to undergo hours of extreme psychological and physical torture while placed in the most degrading conditions. Jason’s come back; at this point, Gordon’s suffered infinitely more than anyone wearing a costume by the Joker’s crimes, but he knows the only way to truly win against him is to do things by the book and not go all Vic Mackey on his ass. The last panel is clearly the Joker trying to provoke Dick, continuing to push down dominoes; the only major question is why. If the Baron Samedi thing last issue was on purpose, then he’s not acting as bawdy as he should be for the Loa of Lasciviousness. (Grant, you can use that one.)

Page 12: Of course Dick takes Gordon in the Bat-subwaycar; can’t pass up the chance for yet another train reference. Again, the Bruce whose odd behavior Gordon is referring to is Hush, whose adventures as Bruce are being chronicled in Batman: Streets of Gotham especially.

Page 13: It certainly seems like the mayor IS in league with the Black Glove and Hurt, doesn’t it? First he disseminated that fake info to the press back in R.I.P., and now Gordon’s refusing to keep him onside. Not to mention that Hurt’s rolling in with Senator Vine, who I expect to die in spectacular fashion at the Joker’s hands. He couldn’t let a finger go free.

Page 14: Here we see Gordon arriving in the Bat-Bunker, encouraging Dick to shed all doubts that the Joker is planting in his mind – the complete inversion of the scene in #677 where Bruce brings Jezebel Jet to the Batcave for the first time, and she does nothing BUT plant doubts in his mind. Dick’s starting to see the big picture with the solar eclipse, but he apparently hasn’t made the connection with the black sun over the cape and cowl in the Batcave; either that, or he makes it in this arc and then goes off to the events of Return of Bruce Wayne. I am also choosing to believe Gordon’s use of “big black boots” is a clue to the rumored upcoming Morrison/Reznor collaboration; it is also possible I am retarded, but sound off in the comments!

Page 16: This must take place after #700, since Dick is getting ready to rock the escrima sticks again. Morrison seems to be really going with viral themes in a lot of his recent works; or, perhaps, there’s a more literal connection between this viral addiction infection and Darkseid’s Anti-Life dissemination system. I can’t figure out any apparent symbolism in the name Lieutenant Bilbao; Bilbao’s a city in the Basque country of Spain founded by a dude named Don Diego (like Zorro!), but that’s all I can think of.

img_0019Page 19 : The first two panels pretty definitively provethat everyone’s right, and it’s all a terrible put-on. Which almost makes me wonder if Joker’s game is that he actually IS trying to help – but the joke is that he expects nobody to believe him, so when they all go down in flames he’ll be able to gloat on the ashes for proving him right about some point about human trust. This entire interrogation scene is evocative of the Batman/Joker interrogation from “Dark Knight”, including the discussion about chaos. And the last panel, of course, is Joker’s “bat-signal” turning back on in response to Damian. It’s difficult to know whether he truly expected this development or not.

Damian’s speech in general, about how there’s no such thing as chaos for the Joker and it’s all planned, is also a direct inversion of Joker’s speech to Batman about how only Wikipedia works with rules, structures and clues. This is the complete counterargument.

batman-019
Page 20: Damian’s obviously read his case files, since the symbolism of beating on the Joker with a crowbar can’t be lost on him. Much like the Black Glove threatened to destroy Batman’s mind in R.I.P., here we have Damian basically calling the Joker’s bluff, threatening to beat him in the brain until he’s mentally retarded (much, again, like what happened to Jason! Remember when he came back, he was brain-dead for a while until Talia threw him into a Lazarus Pit).

Page 21: The dominoes on the bottom are a clear visual cue that what’s going on here is a direct consequence of whatever occurred in Hurt’s screwed-up memory of what happened in Crime Alley. I imagine we’ll have to wait to see exactly what that means.

Page 22: R.I.P. debuted a new Batmobile, so Must Die! has to blow one up.

And as for the last panel? The ominous shot of a White Glove? Is that Alfred, or perhaps a Dollotron (unlikely, since the wearer seems to be wearing a sleeve, and the glove ends at the wrist rather than higher up like the Dollotrons’)? Or could it be a new anti-Simon Hurt? Bruce Wayne himself? I have no idea.

Page 23: And here we have Blackgate as the big prison set-piece rather than Arkham from R.I.P. Don’t forget that Jason Todd got thrown in there too, so I’m sure we’ll see him in the next arc or two. The final panel, with one of the 99 Demons presenting the mask, is reminiscent of when Le Bossu brought Joker his weapons in R.I.P.

Page 24: And, of course, this full-face shot of Professor Pyg is a reference to the last page of #676, which featured an almost identically framed shot of a villain (this time the Joker) in a cell being recruited/broken out by the Black Glove/Simon Hurt. And, of course, it’s sort of momentous for Pyg to finally declare something perfect.

ThenNow

20 Comments »

  1. I figured that Damian’s spech about “chaos” when beating the Joker was primarily Morrison’s rebuttal to the portrayal of that same character in the film The Dark Knight.

    Comment by Carl Walker — July 26, 2010 @ 10:26 am

  2. That last panel of Pyg… It’s very “Nice Pete.”

    Comment by Steven — July 26, 2010 @ 11:56 am

  3. I can’t help but wonder if Doctor Hurt has “two gloves”. While a cursory glance says the Black Glove feels like it has more than five members (Is Jezebel truly a member? Her fate isn’t the same as the others – she may not even be dead, if Talia has her?) … that perhaps there is a “Red Glove” as well. And it’d be cute if Jason Todd kind of hinted at it without even knowing it – he quoted Milton for his slogan – Vengeance arms its red right hand. And his arc was about “red”, whereas we’ve had other arcs about “black” (Blackest Knight, for instance).

    We’ve constantly had red and black as a theme, and what good is a “Black Glove” without a “Red” counterpart?

    While I believe El Penitente’s cartel of 99 Fiends covers the same bases as the Club of Heroes (Actually I did some cursory math and figured out that 72 classical demons + all of Hurt’s agents we’ve seen somehow freakishly coincidentally equals 99) … I can’t help but expect the Devil to have a red right hand in addition to his black, sinister left hand.

    Then again … the “Red Right Hand” could be Bruce, Dick, Jason, Tim and Damian. Bruce, and his four red Robins, his sons.

    Or I suppose the “Red” side of things could be completely up to Jason. Frankly, next issue I’m hoping to see him go full auto on an army of Dollotrons and rescue Gordon.

    Comment by RetroWarbird — July 26, 2010 @ 4:25 pm

  4. Dr. Hurt did quite literally wear Mangrove Pierce’s skin during the Club of Heroes arc.

    You see The Black Glove (as he was known then) with a scalpel, headed toward an upside-down hung John Mayhew lookalike in the first page of that arc. Later, he’s wearing the skinned flesh of Mayhew’s face during the evil threat video in front of the Triumph of Death painting – but Mayhew was clearly still alive at the time.

    So the implied explanation is that the man murdered at the beginning of that arc was Mangrove Pierce. Presumably at Mayhew’s request.

    Comment by Anonymoose. — July 26, 2010 @ 5:09 pm

  5. Also, as for page 22, it seems pretty obvious to me that that preview image is Professor Pyg standing over a restrained Gordon, not Alfred or a Dollotron. See surgical gloves and stained apron from the first BatRob arc.

    Comment by Anonymoose. — July 26, 2010 @ 5:12 pm

  6. I really, really doubt that Hurt is going to turn out to be a regular human disguised as Thomas Wayne. Hurt’s speeches, New God possession, El Penitente’s villain making and Morrison’s own thoughts on demon summoning (ala Pop Magic) are all a little too similiar to convince me that there’s an entirely rational explanation for all this.

    Comment by Shiny Jim — July 26, 2010 @ 6:41 pm

  7. Dick’s “Sane?” is in reference to the real Oberon Sexton who’s been buried alive. Dick is asking the Knight if the guy is still sane. To me it seems like Morrison wanted the placement of this bit of dialogue to be such that we consider it in reference to the Joker as well. It’s actually a bit awkward the way it is; it seems like Morrison reached too far into the subtext or something. But, narratively speaking, it makes the most sense in reference to Sexton.

    Also on the eclipse symbolism, maybe someone’s mentioned this before, but in #10 the trapdoor that Dick falls through looks like it has a bat-symbol on it…and if you look at the symbol close, since the bat is larger than the yellow circle behind it, it really looks like a bat CAUSING an eclipse. Morrison is suggesting that the bat-symbol always has been a drawing of a black bat eclipsing the sun.

    And, in response to Anonymoose, I think that’s definitely one interpretation of what happened to Pierce, but I think the jury’s still out. Pierce was/is a Wayne lookalike (“Mangrove Pierce, my father’s double and mine”), not a Mayhew lookalike. (Of course, maybe Hurt could have changed Pierce’s face after he skinned it, IF he skinned it, IF “Hurt” isn’t one and the same with “Mangrove Pierce, the ACTOR”.) And I’m not sure whether the “party” Hurt refers to is the “Club of Heroes” arc or the old costume party where Thomas Wayne wore the first bat-suit.

    Comment by TMarls — July 26, 2010 @ 7:38 pm

  8. I don’t think he needed to change the face, it’s just some flesh and a mustache – and the party Hurt refers to is specifically Mayhew’s: “I skinned Mangrove Pierce alive and wore him to Mayhew’s party.”, from that same final RIP issue.

    Comment by Anonymoose. — July 26, 2010 @ 8:51 pm

  9. Hmmm, a bat eclipsing the sun as a logo. That kinda reminds me of the logos designed for the cover banners for Knightfall, Knightquest, and Knightsend several years back. I’m sure there’s probably no other substantial connection (other than a possible inspiration)or story ties there, but it seemed interesting to me as I was typing this.

    Comment by Fearing — July 26, 2010 @ 9:27 pm

  10. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Matt Rowbotham, David Uzumeri. David Uzumeri said: Batman and Robin #13: Annotated. 701 coming in mere hours. http://is.gd/dJUmA […]

    Pingback by Tweets that mention Funnybook Babylon · Archives · Batman and Robin #13 - “Batman and Robin Must Die! Part 1: The Garden of Death” -- Topsy.com — July 27, 2010 @ 1:41 am

  11. Nice stuff Dave, it doesn’t feel like the issue’s finished until you’ve done your thing with it.

    Worth noting maybe that the medieval death iconography that this arc’s taking its chapter titles from arose in Europeean art as a direct reaction to the plague.

    The ‘Sane’ bit is Richie asking Joker if Sexton was sane before he killed him – the Joker’s answer ‘he killed his wife’, is another way of saying ‘no’.

    The white glove is surely just a dollotron, no? The panel is clearly the close-up set-up shot for the crowd of them in the next panel – htey just appear from thin air unless you have this panel settnig up their sudden appearance.

    Comment by bobsy — July 27, 2010 @ 8:37 am

  12. no, bobbeth, it’s clearly pyg, for the reasons the moose outlines above. pyg’s an ancilliary villain, there to fuck with ancilliary cast.

    i wonder if grant’s noticed bruce only departs when there’s an eclipse? grant, bless him, does screw up a bit sometimes.

    Comment by amypoodle — July 27, 2010 @ 10:53 am

  13. I mean the white gloved figure standing near the batmobile as it hits the pavement, not Pyg’s hand in the Next Issue preview.

    Comment by bobsy — July 27, 2010 @ 11:13 am

  14. You’re totally right, it MUST have been a Dollotron. I don’t know why I didn’t register that the army of Dollotrons on the next page was right after, in the same place. Brainfart on my part, apologies.

    Comment by David Uzumeri — July 27, 2010 @ 11:16 am

  15. ah! sorry.

    @ shiny jim

    i don’t think there’s anything supernatural going on at all, actually, for a few reasons. firstly, because of grant’s decision to play his current book in lynch mode, where one of the defining features of the story is the subjectifization of reality to the point at which events tip over into the apparently supernatural, but where rationalisation is still possible (laura palmer’s bob = her abusive father, etc.). so if we’re in that kind of story, then there’s probably going to be a real world, or superscientific, explanation for the weirder events – as we saw with batmite, the batman of zur en arh, bird aliens and probably countless other things – but one wearing a powerful, perhaps temporarily utterly convincing, supernatural glamour.

    this also fits very neatly with the grrrrtier tone of a batman book, a book where the great old ones are just 5d animals and darkseid isn’t a god, just an alien.

    the final reason is that this arc is intended as farce, and what could be more farcical than all of our, at first glance, very convincing fears and the supervillain’s plans to be utterly baseless? barbatos as bruce.

    Comment by amypoodle — July 27, 2010 @ 11:50 am

  16. Eh, maybe not supernatural, but at least sci-fi. Hurt might be from the black hole at the base of the universe and not hell, but he’s not just Mangrove Pierce.

    Comment by Shiny Jim — July 27, 2010 @ 6:55 pm

  17. I think there’s a good chance Dr. Hurt is Joe Chill’s ‘lost’ son. Mentioned only once, but the two artists in Morrison’s run who’ve drawn both Joe Chill and Dr. Hurt seem to apply similar features to both.

    Comment by Anonymoose. — July 27, 2010 @ 7:37 pm

  18. It’d be a dramatic bit of irony if one Joseph Chilton, Sr. was the last impoverished descendant of the ruined Van Derm family.

    Comment by RetroWarbird — July 28, 2010 @ 7:35 pm

  19. Scratch that bit … it’s certainly impossible now.

    Comment by RetroWarbird — July 29, 2010 @ 2:27 am

  20. Could Lt. Bilbao be Bruce Wayne returned? The choice for the name could be an allusion, as you say, to the city with both the city and Bruce being “founded” by Zorro, in a way.

    It’s a bit of a stretch and completely wrong if Bilbao is meant to be the presumably African-American cop we see outside the door while Damian beats the Joker.

    Comment by ericrhouston — August 5, 2010 @ 10:46 am

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