June 6th, 2010
PAGES 1, 2 & 3
One of the reasons Morrison loves working on Batman, even if he doesn’t know it himself, is because the character’s rapid response time, both intellectually and physically, suits his high velocity, compressed approach. Here, the guy, who I should probably add is experiencing catastrophic memory loss, has been booted thousands of years across time and half drowned, but does that slow him down? No, the fuck. He launches himself into the scrap with the uprooted sarlac pit (more on that guy later) without a second thought.
I’m fairly certain the idea that there’s a connection between Gaelic and Cthulhu-speak/fifth dimensionese isn’t an original one, and I wonder if Grant was thinking about the connection here. Annie is a first generation immigrant after all, and a pagan at that, so it would make sense that she’d speak some kind of aboriginal british tongue. Also, I’m choosing to believe she’s intoning a healing spell, which is interesting and a nice twist because lovecraftian magic is generally considered the blackest of the black. There’s the implicit suggestion that it was only later on, once the puritans were done with it, that the Cthulhu mythos gained the negative associations it has today.
The talismans represent the latest movement of Grant’s superheroes as gods theme, but because this is Batman there’s a hard(ish) sf explanation as opposed to the more fantastical noodlings of Flex Mentallo or ASS. They are pregnant with the idea, however, what with the DC pantheon zipping around the timestream like they’re popping down the shops or something, that should she clutch his sigil hard enough and whisper his name, even a slave in ancient Rome could summon Superman to her aid. Some future Superman I’m going to write in the future will definitely have this omni-hearing, that’s for sho’.
Annie is a refreshing love interest for Bruce because she’s not a glamour girl – although she is teh hot witch – and even though we only really get a quick character sketch really, she seems considerably more sympathetic and likable than these Jezebel Jet types, and she has a lot more in common with who Bruce is, at his core, than they do, being as she is an orphan and an outsider. But the most important thing, the fundamental thing, is that she’s good. She only summons Bruce because she’s afraid for her life, and while that results in the death of the real Mordecai, one could hardly accuse her of inhabiting a moral grey area – she’s easily the most decent member of the supporting cast inhabiting these pages.
Until the end of time…..
Always making sure he keeps the atmosphere suitably grimy, Grant opts for a Vanishing Point on the verge of destruction, as gloomy and abandoned as any Gotham alleyway, the time sphere taking on the air of torchlight, and Superman and co., some of the brightest lights in the DCU, reduced to shadowy silhouette. This is cosmic drama Batman style. BTW, originally I was thinking Grant’s take on Batman had evolved well past his take in JLA, but then I realised that it’s all a matter of POV. His JLA book viewed the character from its own perspective, bringing out Batman’s superheroic elements, and what shadows there were were necessarily rather glossy, but the batbooks themselves allow for a fuller tonality, one that is much more moody, creepy and gritty. It’s not that you can’t have fantastical elements in Batman’s world, you just have to make sure you get the town planning right and Gothic everything up.
And that explains why Rip and the rest of them accidentally show up when the place is about to go tits up – because that’s what happens when you tangle with the batverse.
I don’t know if the archives storing every event ever conceit is one of Morrison’s, but it should be. He’s the writer capable of loving it the most.
Hey, aren’t I ‘biorganic’? Are organic beasties so rare by this time that carbon based beings are a novelty, only recently having come back in fashion?
Mandelbrot Batman! Morrison is really good at this stuff, introducing the twistiest bat-variations in such a way that even the most seriously serious, furrowed browed fanman fails to notice the big grin and wink spread across it. I mean, I’m sure the internet has wanked on about how weird all the time stuff is later on and the rest of it, but I bet he hasn’t made the connection between mandelbrot bat and the throughline of sixties bat weirdness, from Zebra Batman to the Batman of Zur En Arrh. I have to say, I was as surprised as anyone by the reveal at the end, and it made me giggle when I noticed the little bat-horns. The cheek of it.
I like the fractal suit though, it’s a clever way of nodding to the idea of infinite information contained in finite space, which of course describes the archive of the Linear Authority perfectly.
I bet no other fucker’s got that one on their blog. That’s why we rule.
Anyway, even without the Bruce lonely AIs on doomed, abandoned space-stations are brilliant, aren’t they?
The stuff about Vanishing Point’s information being packed into a black hole is probably a nod to Lee Smolin’s theory that collapsing black holes create new universes. Afterall, there would be no reason to store the entire history and make-up of Universe Zero in one if it wasn’t going to be used at some point. Let’s see how this plays into Multiversity, eh? And of course Mandelbat’s little lecture begins with a lesson in basic sacred geometry, with the infinite point of possibility, the godhead, extended into the line of generation…..
PAGES 6 & 7
One of the most annoying things about the internets boring droning about this sort of thing, all the endless talk about the drugs Morrison must be on etc., apart from the fact that it shows an utter lack of imagination, is that, whether or not it’s a bit loose and slapdash, this sort of weirdness is inspired by real science theory. Hypertime isn’t Morrison’s idea, he’s just another comic creator doing what comic creator’s have done since year dot, utilising the latest science poetically for his stories. I do enjoy the damned quality of Hypertime however, that it’s been disavowed by the Didio – it makes me doubly certain that it’s true. It’s the secret reality occasionally rippling the curtain but then, because its implications are too vast, too mind-boggling, quickly hotly denied by everyone.
On the day of the hypercrisis, will they be prepared?
‘It’s fascinating. It certainly fits with what I’ve experienced.’
The hypertime deniers could learn a lot from Superman’s childlike, enquiring approach here. It’s probably a disguised appeal for them to actually read whats on the page instead of the script going on in their head about weird and drugs, whilst at the same time one of those throwaway Morrison lines that tells us so much about the character in question.
Oh yeah, and I’ve just noticed that Mandelbat has Barbelith for an eye.
Morrison hasn’t been near cube time since, when? Zatanna? To quickly detour back to that, via King Ra Man:
‘Call it not a hexagon, call it a cube star from the Bright-World and Ra-Realm one of the calculations it performs. Call your home reality another?’
Higher realities scaling down into our own. Our universe nestled within higher dimensional intersections, the product of geometry. It’s pretty isn’t it? I bet this is neo-platonism via New Scientist too.
Rip Hunter is probably the billionth character to figure out he lives in a comic book. Are the hyperfauna he’s talking about micro-organisms in our reality? Bugs, dragged down into the paperverse (I particularly like this idea)? Or is it an infestation inhabiting the space between worlds. Is Starro a direct descendant? Whatever, I like the outer gods being reduced to the status of a pest.
Also, I refuse to vacate these pages without marvelling at the alien beauty going on. This is what cosmic looks and sounds like. Nuff said. I accidentally left a copy of this comic in the casualty ward earlier today, and I love the idea of some poor, unsuspecting parent picking this up and giving it to their child. I hope it found the right home.
PAGES 8 & 9
I’m not clear on exactly why Bruce hands Mrs Tyler the bat here. Is it just his way of letting her know he’s onto her? Aaah, superstitious, cowardly criminal, quake before the Batman.
‘I’m less inclined to lay the blame at the Devil’s door when an earthly explanation is more forthcoming.’
Here Bruce is restating the entire tone of the batbooks, their privileging of the rational over the supernatural, the earthly over the mystical. With or without his memories, this is still Batman. Jamming on this a bit, I’m beginning to think the supervillains who refer to him as a flying rat are completely off track. He’s not a rat ascended, but an eagle descended, casting his high altitude eye across the Gotham landscape, making sense of all the weirdness, seeing how it works, how it all fits together – defining and mapping the territory.
Hasn’t Bruce learned to talk ye oldey pretty fast? Well, if Morrison can do it….
PAGES 10 & 11
The Mordecai/Malleus war has an obvious real world correlate. Hello, the religious right. I’m rather fed up that Bruce doesn’t bosh the bloke at some point. Guess Annie does though.
PAGES 12 & 13
These are immensely beautiful pages. Gorgeous. Say what you like about the clarity of the storytelling in this issue, but the atmospheres Irving conjures are crystal clear. The way he moves effortlessly from the hot claustrophobia of the Vanishing Point sequences, the golden forests outside Gotham and the deep aquatics of the hyperfauna fights is simply amazing. The energy of each environment, each scene, summed up so perfectly – good boy.
It’s never made clear whether or not Annie and Bruce have a sexual relationship, and to be honest she’s not typical of the girls who get him hot. I think the emphasis here, are they snogging or hugging?, is on companionship really, and the solace they give one another. It’s sweet and kind of chaste. I get the feeling that sex is a big part of Bruce’s love life and he could probably do with a relationship that doesn’t put this first, if only because his s&mey desires often lead to a bad place.
Not that I have anything against s&m and its practitioners mind.
PAGES 14 & 15
Malleus is a penis. Van Rijn is Rembrandt.
I wish we’d got a couple of panels of the ‘dragon’ making its way through the forest. That would be really creepy and gross. Like my recurring nightmare about waking up to find an octopus nestled next door to me in bed. I can imagine it, crawling across the forest floor. The rustling of the leaves. Urrgh.
PAGES 16 & 17
Nice gloom in these panels. Irving is another artist who doesn’t so much colour his comics as light them.
So here we have confirmation that Bruce quantum leaps when an eclipse occurs. There’s something weird and cool about Darkseid being associated with this kind of hammer horror stuff. It creates novel tensions in the brain, this sci-fi, supervillain devilgod who inspires crime bibles and whose techno-magic relies on an eclipse as a trigger. I’m wondering if Grant’s riffing on the idea he introduced in the Invisibles, that given the right circumstances, the eclipse can act as a door to the fifth dimension, one which in this case opens directly under Bruce Wayne’s feet. I imagine the vast, celestial time machine Bruce is trapped in whirring away like clockwork, which, when the moon slots over the sun, clicks into action. Scary, and so biiiiig.
PAGES 18, 19 & 20
Look at her with those bloody animals! Annie is so obviously a witch, right from the start. I guess maybe it’s not so much that she’s denying this fact, it’s just that she doesn’t identify with or want to do justice to this christian term.
So the Miagani are still around somewhere, but hidden? That’s cool. We’ll be seeing them again then. It’s been a little while since we’ve seen Grant get worked up about the trees and flowers, but the character of Annie suggests he still cares, even if his wilder cosmological ramblings seem a bit pro fossil fuels and deforestation. Personally I *hope* we’re consuming all this stuff to fuel our imminent metamorphosis, but it seems a bit of a gamble to me. Don’t get angry with me, Grant. There are little children I love in my life – I’m sure you understand.
Is the link intentional? Are we – are Grant and Irving – her bright gods, here in bright world? There’s more light here that’s for sure. Actual sunlight, not paint on a page. Hmm. She’s probably just referring to the new gods.
On first glance Annie seems to contradict herself. Does she want an avenging angel or a man to end her loneliness? Well, she wants both. She’s summoning her ideal man, and fuck me if he isn’t a lover and a fighter, just like I hope YOU all are.
If you’re all (he)man that is. Otherwise we know what you want.
The track record for people (read: women – and take from that what you will!) performing love magic in Grant Morrison’s comics isn’t that great. In fact it’s downright disastrous. Both Zatanna’s and Annie’s attempts to summon their perfect men have ended in total disaster. In the former’s case resulting in her friends’ immolation, and in Annie’s…. Everyone disapproves of this love magic stuff, even chaos magicians it seems. Don’t do it kids!
One other thing. For those of you who aren’t familiar with how we deal with this sort of thing already, the answer to the question ‘Was it the omega effect that time-teleported Bruce to the seventeenth century, or was it Annie’s magic?’ is both. A synchrocity magnet was activated. That is all. You know, I have a theory about synchronicity magnets. Perhaps it’s not the magician creating them, perhaps the events are simply drawn to them. Are we feeding them? Wha..? Huh? Yeah, that’s right…
Shut your mouth, hippy buddy! We all know this is a Batman comic, so its none of the above. It’s a coincidence that Annie had just cast her spell when Darkseid’s really real, rock hard science-tech dumped Bruce at her feet. Statistically speaking these sorts of coincidences happen all the time. Hippy.
PAGES 21, 22 & 23
Frazer Irving’s good with monsters. The lumbering rubbery liferaftness of Fearnaught, the quick feral lines of Leviathan, the I DON’T KNOW WHAT THE FUCK of Horigal, and now this, this lurching, curling sea thing festooned with star barnacles.
Here ‘Lords and Ladies’ refers to the fair folk, not ‘our saviour’, Malleus, you weirdo.
I’d really like to see a DCU profile of a christian, or anyone from one of the major theistic religions for that matter. Judeo-christian religion is a subject that seems to be avoided in most comics, except where vampires are concerned, and then it’s only the trappings on show really. Sure, Jesus gets a bit part in Secret Wars 2, but are there any popular explicitly religious (and by that I mean that its something more than just built in and taken for granted, like the fact Captain America is probably a christian) supers out there? I suspect that even the believers reading these books inhabit these universes as atheists. After all, it’s quite plain to see these places are pantheistic isn’t it? Hmmm. Perhaps this is why Malleus comes across as especially ignorant and brutal. Stupid bastard couldn’t be more wrong about the sci-fi story he’s living in, particularly because this is a Batman comic where everything is sci-fi, or has a scientific basis – even ghosts and sociology. This is actually why Batman’s best baddies, the Joker, and for a few minutes here, Dr. Hurt, are so good: their irreducibility.
PAGES 24 & 25
This isn’t the clearest fight in the world, but it is a murky, writhing tidepool of a thing in a good way.
‘Something terrible is happening.’
Cryptic line that. Does it mean Bruce knows, via psychic witch powers, that something’s up with Annie? Or is it that the fight with the starfish has jogged some of his memories? It’s a good creepy moment whatever it means. Heck, it probably means both things. The uncertainty makes it scarier too.
PAGES 26 & 27
Is Bruce just supremely confident that his mates will get out of the death trap he’s left them in? Will his future actions somehow free them? Or does Grant even care about plot points like this when he’s possessed by the idiot glee (not an insult – a Brian Enoism describing what happens when the creative process takes one over)? Who knows.
What we do know that MandelBRUCE techno-cracking his eggshell…errr ….helmet is very cool.
Take a look at that fracture on the first panel of his transformation again, and then marvel! The way the fissure explodes into light and then the way the thing depixellates….awesome. Whoever came up with the exact ins and outs of that sequence, Morrison or Irving, is a total dude. BTW, Bobsy’s theory that Bruce is downloading into the archivist doesn’t hold water now that I’ve figured out what ‘biorganic’ means. That BIorganic! ‘Bi’ meaning ‘two’. Two organisms combining to make one.
Also, truly this is the hairiest love Bruce we have ever seen. If only Annie could see him now too.
Another clue. So now we know the Wayne line is cursed. Aaah, Annie, you know not what you have done! Irony!
It’s important that there are villains in the Wayne line. Most of them should be goodies, but mixed in with a bit of baddieness. All Superman’s ancestors should be goodies though, maybe with one exception, just for drama and nice tensions.
Finally for this page, I assume this is the bat-waterfall we all know and love from the comics. You’d get to her much faster Bruce if you had your batmobile. Aww.
I also assume that’s Malleus hanging from the tree there. Fuck YOU Malleus.
What I can’t presume to know is how on Earth the painting of Mordecai ends up on the walls of Wayne Manor. Perhaps he does it himself when he’s a cowboy. I bet web forums are buzzing angrily about this one as we speak.
So how long is Bruce spending in each time zone? I reckon roughly two weeks. I suppose Grant can get around this by saying that because he’s Batman he can just pick stuff up – ye olde talk, seamanship, whatevs. That’s probably enough for me.
It’s funny about Bruce Wayne. He seems to conjure these convulsive, feverish narratives. Maybe that’s because the madness is more starkly framed and perhaps encouraged by his cold rationality. Maybe it’s that he’s unwell. Bruce arrived at the madhouse when he was ten or something, but Grayson was born to it. He got to play awhile before it got serious…
And, no, I can’t fanwank a connection between Mordecai Wayne and Klarion’s Dad. I nearly got there but then I realised what century we were in and I realised my wank would have to include time travel, and that was a wank too far.