It’s only just occurred to me that we’ve been gipped. I went in expecting a three issue contest of wits and fists between Dark Damien and the Cartwheeling Crusader and what I got was a lot of stuff in caves, and secret passages and wotnot.

Of course the reason why I’m not complaining is because the whole thing turned out great anyway, with the last issue a serious contender for best issue of the run so far, at least as far as exciting plot beats are concerned. A doubly impressive feat when you consider that Morrison pulled it off without the pencil-pyrotechnics of Quitely or Stewart. Not to do the art team down, their efforts certainly contributed, memorably on a couple of occasions.

But enough with the preamble and on with the awesome sauce.

wearingmelikeaglove

First, here’s something Bobsy thought was awesome:

“With last night’s re-read, a sexiness in this issue became a lot clearer – there is the Slade fisting thing ['Slade... wearing me like a glove']… but Dick also pins Damian to a tree and shocks him in the heart. Damian then begs for more. Damian’s confession to Talia then becomes a weird coming out scene. Slashmungous.”

Thanks, Bob.

99fiends1

The 99 demon chaps: C’mon, they’re totally bloody great with their symbolically laden demonic clubgear cum costumes and their flamethrowers and guns and black dogs (hellhounds) and the feeling that maybe they actually are from the fiery pit. That’s just how demons might look in a Batverse that likes to keep its occult elements shrouded in a +1 heavy cloak of ambiguity. Like Miller’s mutants before them, these guys are reminiscent of one of John Carpenter cult-gangs, but with better stylists and more Jedwood.

Amy: Bobsy mentioned in one of our email sessions that the 99 fiends is a fantastic idea for a Gotham gang, and I have to agree. I’ve never been that interested or convinced by gangs of everyday hoods following psychos like black mask, and certainly never very scared of them. But by providing the fiends with a raison d’etre, by personally empowering each and every one of them, by turning them into a cult/massive pop band, Morrison succeeds in ramping up the threat level very nicely, and most importantly makes sense of them as a unit.

Zom: And I love how all the criminals and most of the demons are wearing domino masks as if that’s the only way anyone will take you seriously in this town. It’s camp and silly on one level, and yet it feels absolutely right – the absurdity of it and all those dead white eyes being just this side of wrong in a good way.

signal1

I feel I should point out that last year I wrote an astonishingly entertaining Heroic Hype piece on the Batcave. A staggering work of heartbreaking genius that you really – really – owe it to yourself to read if you haven’t already done so, and if you have you should maybe – actually, definitely – read again. (You’ll probably cry). I argued that the Batcave is the heart of the Batmythos, that it should be spooky and mysterious and heavy with the weight of the aeons. That is should be a story generator, rather than simply a storehouse for wonderful toys, and that things wot aren’t wotted should lurk down there in the dark.

Typically Morrison went one better, he found a way to do all that and then some. We got secret passages and lost chambers, bat-demons, millennia of hidden history, and the Batcave as the ur-site of the myth. We got the Batcave that lived up to its story potential, rather than the Batcave as box to be ticked, or bruckheimeresque fantasy. The logical and very awesome indeed culmination of all of these ideas is of course the Batcave as mystery waiting to be solved by the world’s greatest detective team.

I would ask Chris Eckert to write an article on how Morrison has swiped my ideas, but come to think of it I wish more comic book writers would pay attention to my quiet brilliance…

Amy: And mine.

talkitout

The casual spite of “you look like something a dog threw up, Slade”, followed by the ironic understatement of “Oh, and did I mention the 100,068 people you killed in Bludhaven?” perfectly conveys Dick’s utter contempt for Deathstroke. This isn’t Johnsian dialogue, he’s not simply ranting and raging, he’s expressing his deep dislike for the man: in my petty idea of an ideal world you get to insult people you don’t like, you’re free to indulge in irony and sarcasm when you speak to them. There’s also the simple fact that Grayson is largely unconcerned that he’s beating on a guy who’s in his sick bed. Admittedly he doesn’t take it too far, and one gets the impression that its his own decency and desire to have a fair fight and not the machine gun wielding ninjas standing behind him that stay his fists, but, by having Batman beat up an invalid, Morrison leaves us in no doubt that there’s some real hate in the room. Fella gets extra bonus points for presenting an arch-supervillain, who’s killed thousands of innocent people, entirely lacking in gravitas (bedbound, weak, the target of abuse): Grayson’s beyotch.

aworthyone

Lights blinking in the darkness, a red glow, an evil parent, a good son, a shattering revelation, a profound temptation, the birth of operatic conflict. It could be Luke’s confrontation with Vader in Empire Strikes Back but it isn’t, it’s Damian and Talia. Much has been made of Robin’s closing dialogue, but there’s a reason why it hits so hard, and it’s not simply because his final words bring the weight of myth and tragedy to bear, or because this is the moment where he demonstrates that his loyalties lie with the bat-family, or because in a way this is him expressing his deep love for his mother, after all, a certain Detective is perhaps her greatest foe. No this moment, and all its constituent elements work so well because Talia showed him his replacement – the kind of rejection that would kill most people – and he stood there and fucking took it, blinked back the tears, and stepped up. This is Damian at his most hardcore.

Poor little guy.

Amy: I do enjoy Talia’s twisted justifications, especially the stuff about wanting Damian to feel no guilt. In Talia’s mind remote controlling Damian really was an act of mercy. She had to kill Grayson if her son was ever to replace him, and she found an expedient way to do it, but most importantly she didn’t want to upset her little boy. She wanted to take the situation out of his hands while still in some way reminding him why she was doing it, for him, because of him and what he is, and then let events take their course. If things had turned out another way, if Deathstroke had decapitated Grayson with the Slade-spade then, who knows, maybe things would’ve gone her way. Damian’s been on the brink for most of this run, perhaps he would’ve given in, accepted his powerlessness in the face of his destiny.

totemsculpture

“At least that’s how I remember it”

Talking of Morrison’s brand of is it or isn’t it magic, that Bat totem: lovely, just horrible enough. It needed to be understated, ragged, and primitive. It needed to look like something which would frighten kids at night, in the dark of their bedrooms, but when the lights go on it’s revealed to be… well actually something quite nasty but obviously not a real live devil, because you know there aren’t any real live devils are there, mummy? Of course not, darling, it’s just a statue of one made out of skinned stag and giant bat sitting beneath a picture of a black sun, so that’s all right then.

“Alert the Justice League”. This is Batman, it’s time for the big boys. Batman time is big boy time. No fucking silly urban vigilante nonsense over here.

Amy: Morrison loves wicker gates [Zom: what's a wicker gate?]. It’s all very nightmarish, very lynch,very Svankmajer - secret rooms reached by secret crannies in the shadows of your house where things go wrong and demons live.

muskateers

Yes we are. Batman, Robin and Alfie do their Three Muskateers impression under the watchful eye of the bat-demon-gargoyle thing. This is a moment that we’ve all been waiting for this past year, the bit when these guys fully acknowledge that they’ve become family, and that they’re the world’s premier crime fighting team. They have a job to do, a job that involves people like the Justice League (big boys). It’s slightly over the top, it’s chock-full of wanton momentism, and it’s all the more great because of it. Good old life in the Batcave.

On the subject of this moment being the culmination of the title’s major subplot – Damian’s integration into the bat-family – it strikes me that one of this title’s inherent strengths has been its ability to tell a fresh and satisfying story with a character focus. As we all know, superhero books do character notoriously badly mainly because you can’t change all those licensed properties much, but by getting rid of the central character and replacing him with an odd trio ensemble, one of whom isn’t saddled with decades of continuity, Morrison has been able to have his Batman and eat it. Where Damian is concerned character growth is possible, and through Damian we can get a better look at what makes those older characters tick, which is why it amazes me when I hear from people that they don’t like Damian, because when all is said and done Damian is one of the few titular characters capable of growth in superhero comics. I suppose some folks are just more concerned with whether he is actually straightforwardly likable. I’m not, I think likability is overrated, I don’t demand that of characters or indeed real people – I just want things to be interesting.

Amy: This sequence is a powerful reminder that we’re reading a team book, something Morrison’s previous batman books absolutely weren’t. Looking back, the Bruce Wayne who marched to his ‘deaths’ against Dr. Hurt and Darkseid was an incredibly lonely figure, but, for me at least, this is something that only became readily apparent upon the advent of this one-for-all panel, where dick, Damian and and Alfred consolidate the family dynamic that was always there right from the start but was hidden behind lots of sulking and infighting. It seems obvious to me that only dick, a naturally social and happy being, could’ve got batman to this place and I’m interested to see where we go from here. Perhaps part of Morrison’s project with his mega-run has been to resurrect the bat-family, not as a loose description of all the bat-themed gothamites, but as an entity drawing its inspiration directly, if not exactly replicating, the sixties books. Is part of Bruce’s healing process providing him with a genuine community again? And does this outcome surprise Morrison as much as it surprises me? Shame there’s no dogs…

And look at that, we didn’t even talk about the Joker…

Tomorrow: The Return of Bruce Wayne

64 Responses to “Batman vs Robin: awesome-tations”

  1. Tweets that mention Mindless Ones » Blog Archive » Batman vs Robin: awesome-tations -- Topsy.com Says:

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by David Al. David Al said: The Mindless Ones take on Batman vs Robin: http://bit.ly/agsajh In the grand old Morrisonian manner, everybody wins! [...]

  2. plok Says:

    I don’t think there’s anybody better than Morrison at bringing a character to life with such economy — little diamond throwaways, five words in the corner of a page, this series has been absolutely the BEST for that, it’s been All-Star Superman for that. Batman may be the richest ground for that, I think.

    You’ve got to think that what Johns, Meltzer, et. al. are really after, with their constant propping-up of characters for you, is just the same thing: they want to enlist the reader’s participation in “making interest” around characters so they shower you with intimate speech and self-consciousness and dramatic poses and fan-flattering references to days gone by, and just like Morrison they trust you’ll fill in their blanks. Except since it’s all so aggressively told-not-shown, and seems designed more to enforce brand loyalty than create character drama — you get the impression that those two things have been hopelessly conflated at the Big Two — then it just crashes out. I couldn’t touch a Flash comic now, but at the same time Damien’s like my favourite superhero character. And I thought he was a stupid idea, when I first heard of him!

    But now I’ll follow the kid anywhere.

  3. Rick Says:

    I see Orion’s helmet in the totem stuck to the wall, am I crazy or does anyone else see it?

  4. It Burns Says:

    I’m not sure I see New Godz Orion’s helmet, but you bring up an intereseting point. The constellation Orion has been referenced throughout this run, on the hearth, in Darius Wayne’s portrait…as well as Barbatos himself, who is described as a hunter, and who communes with animals. Stag antlers, if I’m not mistaken, are linked iconographically to Orion the hunter, so I think the whole totem is Orion’s helmet.

    There really seems to be a corellation between the Orion constellation-Barbatos-Bruce in the past.

    Was the Orion constellation what you were refering to, Rick?

  5. It Burns Says:

    And the black sun icon connects to the eclipse at the end of Batman: ROBW

  6. Jakesteraholic Says:

    Well, the sun icon is actually ON Orion’s helmet…

  7. plok Says:

    “40,000 B.C.! The Sky Tribes bring structure to a savage world.”

    Dick’s right — this is fun!

    Hmm, there’s something about the Joker’s top hat, too, now that I think of it…if I could just think of it…

  8. Zom Says:

    The Orion Connection sounds like the kind of very bad so bad its bad books on ufology that I would have loved when I was 14.

    But interesting point.

    Plok, I think there are very few writers working in superhero comics who can touch Morrison’s efforts at characterisation, and that’s despite the fact that he’s spent good chunk of his time developing a kind of anti-character approach: superheroes as icons, gods, metatext.

    As big names go, Jeph Loeb must be at the bottom of the pile when it comes to plausible characterisation, but Meltzer was fucking awful too. Johns is kind of middling but occasionally steers into crazy territory (the Predator), and seems to think that emotions come in one bland but powerful flavour: EXTREME. Rucka is okay, Brubaker can be very good and has a way of producing powerful scenarios but can also be strangely flat, Bendis’s efforts often work very well despite his dialogue quirks. As Preacher and some of Punisher attests, Ennis would be much better if he was less concerned with being shocking and telling shaggy dog stories. Morrison, like you say, is wonderful at small moments, at injecting a red hot hit of humanity into the red blooded vein of the superhero book, what he doesn’t do, unlike Bendis and Brubaker, is write many stories that revolve around character.

    Moore, his characters are all flesh and blood and cum.

  9. plok Says:

    That they is!

    Yeah, Morrison reveals character through action (or should that be the other way around?) in the true old-school four-colour way, I believe — one more piece of evidence for my theory that he’s not a “mad ideas” revolutionary guy at all, but instead the ultimate New Traditionalist! I mean you take someone like Busiek, he can write a story in such a perfectly textbook way, you would think he’s a shoo-in for that title…but although I do love reading a well-crafted Busiek story, he’s still mostly interested in character, meanwhile Morrison’s putting just immense amounts of action up on the…

    …Oh, got it. The top hat. Seven Soldiers again, maybe?

    I once claimed Steve Gerber wrote the longest graphic novel in mainstream comics history while no one was looking…Morrison may beat that record before he’s done.

  10. The Beast Must Die Says:

    “Moore, his characters are all flesh and blood and cum.”

    Apart from when they’re just pastiche.

  11. Zom Says:

    Knowing that Moore likes a bit of pastiche I was trying to think of one of his lead characters that could be accused of being pure pastiche when I was typing earlier and I couldn’t. Even the most sketchily drawn ones usually have a moment or two of blood and cum.

  12. amypoodle Says:

    yeah, there’s always some allusion to their sex lives or something. it can be a bit lame sometimes.

  13. Zom Says:

    Is true.

  14. plok Says:

    Writes good dialogue for cops, though! Like in Neonomicon…

    Oh no wait. One of ‘em was a recovering sex addict…

  15. Zom Says:

    Moore is capable of great character work and the same kind of truthful human insight that Morrison offers up, what inches him marginally ahead of Morrison, in my book, is his ability to keep his authorial voice to a minimum when writing dialogue.

    That’s not to say it never gets in there!

  16. The Beast Must Die Says:

    Milligan is a great character writer when he’s got his concentrating hat on.

    But Mozzer has that precise ability to make you like a character in one panel. Alternatively he can dig into the characters liek no-one else. I still don’t think there’s been a more touching relationship than between Cliff and Jane in Doom Patrol.

    I find it frustrating that people carp about B&R being character-lite – it’s such balls. It’s peppered with wonderful moments of insight, and a big and genuine affection for the characters.

    It’s a comic with heart dammnit! And Bat-rockets.

  17. Zom Says:

    What doesn’t excite me about the return of Bruce Wayne is the possibility of a return of the way Morrison’s written the character previously. I’m bored of uber-bats – a guy for whom the word consequences was most definitely not invented – as he’s barely a character at all and personally I’ve seen enough of his tricks*. Batman and Robin heralded the introduction of character into the Morrison batverse, and for the time being at least that’s what I want to see continue, and hopefully it will.

    *Batman must of course continue to be a complete bad arse

  18. The Beast Must Die Says:

    ‘I’m bored of uber-bats – a guy for whom the word consequences was most definitely not invented’

    Was RIP not all about that though? I think Morrison’s run has been characterised by an attempt to not only shake up the status quo, but to put ol’ uber-bats through the mill in new and frightening ways?

    I love the current team, mind. I’m just equally excited about the return of Bruce to this precarious mix. I think it offers an awful lot of storytelling potential, and I don’t doubt that Grant will milk it for all it’s worth, as well as bending it to some strange new shapes.

  19. It Burns Says:

    I share Zom’s concern, but I think Morrison is aware of what would happen if an Uber-Bats were thrown into the Batrob mix. The way Morrison writes Bruce, I would think the consequences of his actions (Damian as Robin…) would affect him profoundly. Whether the effect is good or bad…fuck if I know.

    Also, I thought the references to the constellation Orion throughout this arc were interesting. Not sure how it qualifies as ufology. Unless you meant the Orion New Godz connection, in which case I will eat my shit.

  20. David Says:

    I’m with Zom on this one.

    BatRob feels like the closest thing to The New Adventures of She-Beard (w/Seaguy!) that we’ve got so far, if you read the ending of Slaves of Mickey Eye optimistically. It’s proof that creating new stories is easy, so long as you’ve got the right dynamic (between characters, artists) and so long as everyone has a reason why.

    Bruce Wayne’s reason why seems to be: BECAUSE! Hence Return of Bruce Wayne #1, with Batman stepping back in time to become the primordial instigator for all that is, was, must be and will become Batman!

    I admire the lengths Morrison has gone to challenge that answer, but I’ll be far happier if he’s changed it by the time Bruce has finished returning. If not, then hey my analogy is plenty versatile! Expect to see me here reading the end of Seaguy2 in a suitably cynical light.

  21. amypoodle Says:

    i’m fairly certain it’ll be a new status quo with two batmen. that should be suitably weird.

    i don’t think morrison will jettison his new, fan fave, batfamily just like that. see above.

  22. David Says:

    Yeah, DoubleBats would be GoodBats. Here’s hoping!

  23. Zom Says:

    I don’t think he’ll jettison it either, but I want to see Bruce the man as part of it, and not a return to stories about a bloke who has more in common with some dramatic tableau than he does with people. RIP didn’t do away with that stuff, if anything it heightened it and showed how you could tell some interesting stories with it, and that’s absolutely fine, and I’m more than happy to see RoBW play out and the end of the thogal initiation (surely that’s still going on), etc… but after that I’d like to see stories that are in part about Bruce finding a place for himself in the new bat-family, because as Morrison has shown he’s great at that sort of stuff too, and we’ve had soooooo much of the other.

  24. Zom Says:

    Actually, thinking about it, I’m not sure if I do want to see more of man-Bruce. As long as I get some ongoing character stuff, maybe in the form of the rest of the bat-family, I’ll be happy

  25. RetoWarbird Says:

    I was hoping to see Dick Grayson become Robin once more. Grown-up Robin. It becomes clearer and clearer throughout Morrison’s run that “Batman” as a concept has no charm without Dick Grayson deeply involved and that The Adventures of Bruce and Dick are the heart of the thing, regardless of how lol-coolz the new members are. (I have a current theory that goes something like: “Joker killed Jason Todd because he wasn’t as fun to play with as Dick Grayson” – think about that next time you see a broken zombie clone triptych memory of Joker wearing a Robin uniform!)

    Plus it fits the current trend of Silver Age revivalism to see a grown-up Robin running around. (The -ism in revivalism means it’s overused!)

    As for Damian … he’s more of a “Batboy” anyway … being a micro-Bruce who over the course of B&R has clearly lived stages of Bruce’s life “in vignettes”. Micro-Bruce can’t be Robin. He needs Robin, he’s a little envious of Robin, but he’s just too grim and bad-ass.

    Oh yeah, and then there’s Joker (doing his best Batmobile impression … doing his best Shade impression … doing … something tied to Britain, and probably Pearly King … and pretty much convincing me that before he became a career criminal he went to drama school.)

  26. The Satrap Says:

    Bah! Morrison has just pulled another Xorneto! What a hack!

    Fucking great issue, I thought.

    Re: the return of Bruce Wayne. All the bad juju associated with the big boring authority figure re-assuming the mantle is being embodied right now in the figure of Hurt/El Penitente, who’s also coming back to reclaim what’s rightfully his. So, since the bad vibes have beeen given a convenient fleshy shell, Wayne’s return will be sweetness and fuck yeahs.

    The old Morrison trick of making characters embody things may look like anti-character, but it’s not since: a) the things that are embodied tend to be things that people care about; b) people do become little avatars of different things several times a day.

    The only problem I may have with all this is one of scope, rather than character. Very often, Morrison’s villains end up embodying little more than mundane pettiness. After having built them up for issues on end, you realise that in the end Sublime or Darkseid are really just your idiot boss, the one with coffee stains on his tie. I don’t think I need uplifting heroic narratives to deal with my idiot boss.

    Luckily, the Joker’s no idiot boss. Baldy, he loves him some Joker.

  27. The Satrap Says:

    And I’d say that Hurt is one very scary boss, which keeps him interesting. Here’s why (painfully obvious, pedestrian stuff, really):

    1. Faceless dollotrons, the mind-wiped, face-eating Flamingo, drugs and viruses that enslave. Throw in the zombie Batman, for good measure. The upgraded Black Glove operation is all about the destruction of individuality.

    2. By donning and discarding the identity of the Penitente, Hurt is being presented as a mutable beast on par with the Joker and the Batmen.

    3. El Penitente believes in the cleansing, regenerative power of pain and blood.

    4. He fortifies himself through a most cynical appeal to authority, by forcing a priest to bless him.

    1 to 4 add up to a pretty convincing picture of a fascist leader. Rather than imagining him holding torch-lit vigils on the Wayne Manor lawn, however, he puts me in mind of the brilliant, scary reactionary polemicist and alleged proto-fascist Joseph de Maistre. The fact that I’m reading up on de Maistre right now has nothing to do with this association, of course. Nothing whatsoever.

    What? Wasn’t he (kind of) the Devil? Now he’s a fucking fascist? Well, yeah, fascists=daemons is the bedrock of political belief of our age. Besides, it makes sense for Hurt to embody the kind of ugly, violently reactionary message that the Batman thing will never manage to get rid of entirely.

    Things to note:

    -The Joker as Oberon Sexton. Obviously, in a “Midsummer’s Night Dream” Oberon is one of the few characters that don’t fall in love against their will due to that druggy flower thing (the loss/manipulation of individuality, again). Now, if we got carried away we might even postulate that Puck=Pyg, but that would be a bit of a stretch. It seems fairly clear-cut that Pyg is a product of Hurt’s fuckup factory and his minion in the fascistoid, viral drug trade. Pyg is a bit of a Joker analogue to match the replacement Batmen manufactured by Hurt, after all, the first thing the third bad Batman (who was a great villain and now is wasted as Azrael or something) does in #666 is to kill Pyg, i.e. he does the thing that Batman would do to the Joker if he had proper grim, gritty stones.

    -In the eponymous game of dominoes, the “Mexican Train” is a train open to public play(whatever the heck that means), as opposed to the “private trains”. Ties in well with the fascist undertones of the operation.

  28. The Satrap Says:

    Also:

    -He has a train, faceless minions, stands for “fanatical superstition”. The very British King Coal is not that different from his furriner allies. Through the local, the universal manifests. Goatee-stroking lefties approve!

    -The faceless, sadistic Red Hood: a fascistoid hero for fascistoid times.

  29. RetoWarbird Says:

    “Faceless” minions is something often seen in pulpy movies about Cults. Masks that steal away identity (as opposed to “Masques” like Joker and Batman wear that reveal “true identity”).

    The KKK … the Penitentes … that sex orgy in Eyes Wide Shut. Faceless minions are nothing new to the super-hero genre, either … but I’d be interested in a tally of just how many kinds Morrison has given us … Dollotrons … Chimbley-Sweeps … Ghost Miners … 99 Fiends … Ninjas … Ninja Man-Bats … (In fact, Morrison began his run with Joker having his one “individual henchwoman” murder all of his old faceless minions. To distance himself from people like Hurt, things would require that “one-on-one” touch.)

  30. amypoodle Says:

    i don’t think the fiends are faceless at all. they’re minions though.

  31. RetoWarbird Says:

    You’re right, of course. The Fiends are exhibiting a level of individuality amongst henchmen that doesn’t fit the general facelessness of other henchmen we’ve seen. The domino masks combined with a particular style or motif show a real diversity. Each being “named” bucks the curb as well.

    Part of the new “modern day empire of crime”, perhaps. Grassroots … viral … and equal opportunity/egalitarian? That could explain the briefcase full of dominoes … and Santo’s meeting with the very colorful gangsters. Recruits wanted. Sign up, get a domino. Sorry, no insurance policy for “five-way revenge” style Joker related death.

  32. The Satrap Says:

    orrison began his run with Joker having his one “individual henchwoman” murder all of his old faceless minions. To distance himself from people like Hurt, things would require that “one-on-one” touch

    Exactly. At least for the moment, the Joker and Hurt are on different ends of the badness spectrum.

    “Faceless” minions is something often seen in pulpy movies about Cults…faceless minions are nothing new to the super-hero genre

    That’s kind of the whole point. Hurt has “originality is overrated” written on his forehead. So far he’s been shown as:

    -a daemon (of sorts)

    -a fascist (of sorts)

    -a drug lord

    -an evil twin (of sorts).

    In other words, he’s every villainous cliché that ever became overused, all rolled into one. We may think that all of the above has lost its bite through overexposure, but Morrison is trying to prove that it hasn’t. Which is an appropriate thing to do, in a comic devoted to an overused franchise.

    This also explains why Morrison can’t be arsed to lift the veil of ambiguity surrounding Hurt’s origins. Does the reader really need a ponderous origin story –like the one Dini crafted for his pet villain Hush– to understand a guy like Hurt?

    The 99 fiends are not featureless cyphers, but they are certainly organised in a hierarchy. They are the elite of Hurt’s host, anyway, and they enjoy the perks of greater individuality. Darkseid also allows the ruling class of Apokolips a degree of autonomy.

  33. amypoodle Says:

    well, i think morrison will be lifting the veil of ambiguity surrounding hurt very, very soon. if he’s not thomas wayne, i’ll eat my bat-hat.

  34. RetoWarbird Says:

    It just occurred to me that Bruce doesn’t have a middle name. Wouldn’t happen to be “Thomas”, would it?

  35. The Satrap Says:

    Fair enough. There’s always the possibility that the origins of Thomas Wayne himself are left ambiguous, though…

  36. Zom Says:

    I’m not sure I follow the logic that leads one to view Hurt as a fascist. He seems considerably less fascistic to me than any number of villains.

    Also, there is something profound about Hurt that all the bad boss comparisons in the world can’t account for. Whatever his true origins Hurt resolutely occupies Batman’s pain centres. That’s the point of him, and Morrison needs him to be very untrivial indeed right up until the moment that he doesn’t – the moment that Batman is healed, and the initiation ends.

  37. Zom Says:

    I have a current theory that goes something like: “Joker killed Jason Todd because he wasn’t as fun to play with as Dick Grayson

    That is an excellent theory, RWB. New fave.

    I do, however, like Dick Grayson as Nightwing. Nightwing is Disco – burning hot night time crime fighting. I could write the shit out of that

  38. Zom Says:

    Heroic Hype here I come

  39. RetoWarbird Says:

    Nightwing is also in it for the “super-base”, rather than the dark introspection of “The Cave”. As Robin he pretty much coined cliches like “the super-hero team-up”, the “world’s finest”, and “super secret hideout”.

    He doesn’t need all that space for his mission. His HQ is just the “backstage” for his act. It’s where he puts on his makeup and goes out on the stage to perform. And it’s located smack dab in the heart of Gotham City, much the same way Dick himself is the heart of the Batman books.

    But The Cave is the book’s deep, dark soul.

  40. The Satrap Says:

    I’m not sure I follow the logic that leads one to view Hurt as a fascist.

    Yes, I’m making a leap from “violently reactionary, fascinated with the redemptive power of violence, with destiny, holds individuality in contempt” to “fascist” which may not be entirely convincing. Perhaps “proto-fascist”, in the vein of that de Maistre chap I’ve mentioned, is better.

    What can I say, I’m reading stuff and I need to tell the world about it. Silly Satrap.

    Also, there is something profound about Hurt that all the bad boss comparisons in the world can’t account for. Whatever his true origins Hurt resolutely occupies Batman’s pain centres.

    And yet, we agree that Wayne is “barely a character at all”, no? To hurt Batman is to lay bare the underlying ugliness of the high concept for all to see. Morrison is confronting a high-concept hero with a high-concept villain. Which is indeed dangerous because said villain can appear trivial. So far, this is not the case thanks to:

    -good old fashioned strong Morrisonian moments. Having Hurt coerce a priest into blessing him is brilliant because it is a warped expression of Batman-like pragmatism (“hmm, I need absolution…that may prove complicated, with me being who I am and all. Quick, blackmail me a priest!”), an appeal to tradition and authority for self-aggrandisement (in line with the “proto-fascist(oid)” thing I’m going on about), and a way to underscore that Hurt is wiping the proverbial slate clean by discarding the Penitente persona.

    -the “long novel in serial instalments” format which Morrison is using, which lends itself to dropping tidbits of info and theme here and there, which makes them tastier. IMO, this is a far more successful application of the technique than New X-Men ever was.

  41. RetoWarbird Says:

    “-the “long novel in serial instalments” format which Morrison is using, which lends itself to dropping tidbits of info and theme here and there”

    It’s downright Holmes-esque. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle would be proud.

  42. The Satrap Says:

    I’m also influenced by the well-known fact that the political leanings of Mexican and Colombian drug lords are often placed close to the rightmost end of the political spectrum.

  43. The Satrap Says:

    X-post.

    I’ll shut up now (yeah, right).

  44. plok Says:

    Satrap, so on the nail with the anxiety about Bruce coming back being externalized into Hurt! That is the old-school superhero-comics way, and it still works, just like (shocker!) the character of Dick Grayson still works.

    Yeah, I want to see two Batmen. It sounds crazy. But I don’t know if I can abide the idea of Dick getting “back to his life” — his non-Bat life kind of sucks. And wouldn’t it be great if he was always trying to get back to it, but never could? Increasing age brings responsibility after it brings freedom, and doesn’t Dick make a better teacher for Damien anyway?

    Oh, it’ll never happen, I guess. Plus it’s insane. But then Morrison does have a knack for happy endings!

    And TBMD: yeah, Doom Patrol. “Jane. Hi.” Gets me right between the ribs every time! Oh God, don’t let me start blubbering all over this keyboard…!

  45. Papers Says:

    Random thought about the Bat-Totem. It reminds me of Pyg’s Dollotron idol in the “Pyg Pen.”

  46. RetoWarbird Says:

    I was under the impression Pyg’s skeletal prime doll was his Mum. (Mommy Made of Nails and all that …) … the man may well have a Medusa Complex. Had a neighbor like that once. Mother was the village bicycle and he resented humanity because of it. Had to make our town a better place by playing Guns & Roses at 3,000 decibels every night. I hope he and Axl Rose share a room in hell.

    But there’s certainly some idolatry going on, much of which seems to be symbolic of parental issues.

  47. Marc Says:

    So, the Joker is Oberon Sexton.

    Oberon Sexton has apparently published a number of mystery novels, a more prolific output than the Joker could reasonably have produced in the time since RIP.

    Does this mean the Joker has kidnapped, murdered, or otherwise done something horrible to the real Oberon Sexton?

    Or does it mean the Joker, while licking his wounds during his Arkham downtimes, has secretly been writing and publishing mystery novels under an assumed name?

    I know which one I’m pulling for.

  48. Sex Bicycle Says:

    RetoWarbird, the doll is definitely his mom. It looks like the wire mother from the surrogate mother experiments they carried with chimps. http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/biology/b103/f01/web3/fig4.jpg

    In that same issue Pyg mentions the “despair pit” which is the name of another experiment by the same guy.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_Harlow

  49. Papers Says:

    The Joker: Mystery Writer. It’s just so fucking perfect. Maybe he has the Riddler ghost-write.

  50. bobsy Says:

    So Alfred’s been reading the Joker’s novels, while sitting in the Rolls, waiting with the TCP handy?

    Awesome.

  51. Zom Says:

    I hadn’t picked up on the novel thing at all. Your latter suggestion, Marc, is the best bit of fanwank I’m likely to read all year.

    I love our comments

  52. The Beast Must Die Says:

    It could also explain the lurid purple prose of ‘The Clown And Midnight’ – this is literally the Joker writing himself.

  53. RetoWarbird Says:

    Presumably Gordon has read the novel “Masks of Evil” as well … because my god, they were chummy at that policeman’s banquet at Wayne Tower.

    (I feel so bad for Gordon – the guy had only one issue prior mentioned how much he hated the Carnival grounds that Pyg was haunting, and now here he is unwittingly schmoozing with Joker.)

  54. Anonymous Says:

    Speaking of those carnival grounds, in light of all this, it seems likely that the Joker is the connection between all the villains of the run so far, including Jason Todd.

    In the first scene of issue 1, Mr. Toad is delivering payment, in dominoes, to somebody – possible payment to the Joker for Professor Pyg’s european circus crew setting up in Gotham, in his old ‘Killing Joke’ digs. After killing Mr. Toad for failure to deliver, the Domino Killer helpfully left Batman a Domino by the antidote for Pyg’s mind control drug. I like to think The Joker’s the one who helpfully wrote ‘Antidote’ on the proper vial.

    It’s also likely he was spending time in England with the Pearly King and crew shortly after – while doing character studies for the big role as Oberon Sexton.

    I like that Jason Todd idea above, it makes a lot of sense. Thinking back to the 2-Part final crisis tie-in after RIP – in Morrison’s bat-history, the Joker went homicidal again after Dick Grayson stopped being Robin and Batman’s mood darkened – so there’s precedent that he simply likes Dick, and hates/hated Jason Todd. That he figures Bruce Wayne and/or Dick Grayson need an archnemesis whose mood reflects their own.

    The lurid novels by the Joker thing is sharp, and nicely mirrors the Black Casebook being written by Bruce in “self consciously hard-boiled” style that “Alfred loves to read”.

  55. Zom Says:

    I would love to see Morrison write some Sexton, if you see what I mean

  56. Shiny Jim Says:

    Hurt’s a two-part man. You don’t just obliterate their personality, (ideally a noble one, ala RIP and Flamingo), you’ve got to replace it, like an empty glove for the new guys to wear. Makes me wonder who the wheezing engines of meat the 99 fiends drive used to be.

  57. RetroWarbird Says:

    On Oberon Sexton being a mystery novel writer … I’ve read through the whole run of Batman and Robin a few times, and can not distinctly recall any evidence saying that Sexton has written more than just “Masks of Evil”.

    Can I get a line specifically indicating that he’s written more than one book as Sexton? They call him a best-selling author, an amateur detective and often refer back to his made-up “ex-cop, slight twist on Killing Joke” backstory. In fact, his backstory almost sounds like he’s talking about Gordon and what he’s done to Gordon over the years (Killing Joke by way of Sarah Essen).

  58. Marc Says:

    I took “The Riddle of the Corn Dollie” to be another one. But even if there’s only the one book, the six months since RIP isn’t nearly enough time to write, submit, publish, and promote a manuscript. I think Sexton had to have some kind of existence (if only as a pseudonym) sometime before the latest breakout.

    I love Sexton’s scornful reference to other criminals who’ve called themselves the Red Hood in issue 5… Morrison certainly can play fair when he wants to.

  59. RetroWarbird Says:

    I’ve been thinking more and more about Sexton’s made-up back-story being a riff on Gordon’s history. That’s a pretty sick fucking joke – that his backstory at the time, from multiple sources, is he’s an ex-cop whose wife was killed by criminals.

    And certainly reflective of his history with Gordon.

    I also like the fact that the reason we never see Oberon/Joker in the first three issue story arc is because he’s behind the scenes in just about every scene. He IS there. The whole time. He’s there just before the car chase breaks out. He’s there in the Police Station. He’s there at the Carnival Grounds.

    And the fact that Joker introduces himself as “Sexton, Oberon Sexton.” in classic James Bond fashion.

  60. amypoodle Says:

    it wouldn’t surprise me if the sexton book stuff was just morrison being sloppy – tho’ i hope not. we can always fanwank it though.

  61. RetroWarbird Says:

    Personally I’m hoping Joker plays Cesar Romero next issue and explains his elaborate scheme, complete with amazingly antagonistic alliteration and devious puns.

  62. drazer90 Says:

    Great comments here from all, with the slight exception of the “Hurt = fascist reactionary” stuff, which I think is kinda a product of the reader looking at things with his own (red?) colored glasses on. If anything I’ve actually had a bit of a problem with Morrison himself being a little “reactionary” by including something so close to a “REALLY bad devil” villain in the mix. Of course, there’s more to Hurt than that, but still.

    I certainly DO see the maniacal side of Hurt as a leader, and it’ll be interesting to see how he might make a quasi-political powerplay in Gotham as Thomas Wayne.

    But still, megalomania cuts both right and left, and I don’t think it makes much sense to view Hurt as particularly fascistic (though I’m sure the character would have had no problem befriending Hitler to his own advantage). Hurt seems to bear resentment to his own family (no fascistic blood-tie) and doesn’t seem to have any respect for his home country (whereas fascists tend to be nationalistic). And for what it’s worth, the Black Glove is an international organization composed of various races; that doesn’t fit with backward-looking reactionaries who love borders and the seed and blood of their own people.

    I mean, if you really want you can tie the Devil to any political slant. There are even books out there about the overlap between Marxism and Satanism (of course, I don’t respect those books, but they make no less sense than Hurt-as-fascist does). If anything, yeah there’s an overlap between Hurt and fascists–but that’s only because there’d be an overlap between the Devil and ANYTHING bad and powerful.

  63. amypoodle Says:

    i didn’t really see the connection myself.

  64. Danilo Lanphier Says:

    Hey there! I know this is kind of off topic but I was wondering if you knew where I could find a captcha plugin for my comment form? I’m using the same blog platform as yours and I’m having problems finding one? Thanks a lot!

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