May 16th, 2011
First batchat. Then annotations
The Beast Must Die: by the way, this issue…?
Best comic of 2011?
Fuck off. I don’t even want to debate the motherfucker.
Botswana Beast: I will say, not only is Burnham post-Quitely, he’s also post-Stewart.
Illogical Volume: That lad Burnham… he’ll go far!
I could not be down on the Batminge. It’s my best £2.50, any week it comes out in.
Gary Lactus: There was something bugging me about how Burnham draws Bruce. I then realised, he looks like he’s had a facelift. I kina like the idea that Bruce has had a facelift.
Zom: Agreemence re facelift.
Even if you do think Batman Inc is inferior product, the most you’re entitled to say is that Morrison’s in a rut.
Botswana Beast: the point is basically: we should all wish for such ruts, then.
Bobsy: maybe I am over-loving, but it doesn’t seem clear to me that say: invisibles, filth, 7Soldiers are ‘better’ pieces than what we’re currently seeing, more dense, original, thematically compound etc. I guess the problem is an extra layer of metaphor – in the filth say, there is only one level of interpretation between reader and text, but here you have the extra bat-level, which is itself a whole huge web of allusion and geek-history etc., before you get to the ‘real stuff, which is I would maintain more politically charged, socially charged and interpersonally aware than anything he’s written since the end of the nineties.
Illogical Volume: I’d need convincing that MozBats is as good at The Filth, but Brother Bobsy, I want to be convinced!
Bobsy: Well, any not-as-goodness is in the content rather than the form. The ‘minge are technically dazzling comics, beautifully paced and structured. They are not about the self-disgust of too much wanking and therefore so easy to get into (by get into of course I mean ‘enjoy’ rather than ‘relate to the sorriness of the readers existence’), they are a little more opaque and less universal than that, but I would not say that the filth operates on a level of complexity or maturity that towers above the current minge run. It maybe says something more easily profound about people, because there are no batmans in it, but i wouldn’t say it’s a substantially finer work, really.
Of course, I might tomorrow.
Illogical Volume: Yeah, I’d agree with all that, but… well, it’s the eternal question, isn’t it?
WHAT’S BEST: Batman or Wanking?
The correct answer is Batwanking, of course, though it also occurs to me that The Filth benefits from getting its icky business over and done with in an orderly fashion, while MozBats is neverending. A strength and a weakness, that.
Botswana Beast: Yeah, I’ve fairly long thought it’s a pretty large critical malaise, how to treat – well, particularly, how to treat big* superhero comics (viz. the howling reception an even boot gets, albeit mostly deserved). It’s not massively important, but I think there is a lot of noise on the signal, the more people are paying attention to a book.
*i.e. the Miller Daredevil, Swamp Thing, Animal Man, etc. are viewed (and written, created) quite differently.
…hah, good spot.
Zom: Great call.
I bloody knew I remembered that African Batman from somewhere
for some reason that superfly Batman made a massive impression on me.
Botswana Beast: finite runs like the 12 issues of ASS or the 13 of The Filth or the 6 of Marvel Boy are generally far more lauded because of their very finitude, single artistic vision etc. and the non-allowance of more fallow periods thereby.
Bobsy: favoured moments: Damien failing to match Dick’s manly taste in coffee. Burnham’s witty blocking – there’s a shot where we look over Bruce’s shoulder to see the troops ranked in front of him, only we can’t see Damien because he’s just too wee (we still see Stephanie and other shorties).
but mainly this issue is all about us, isn’t it? not just Chris Sims’ corpse, but this whole issue is in no small part a nod to the blog army who re-read and re-write these comics for him, no? without but loving to blow our collective trumpet, the words Bruce types onto the message boards are almost word-for-word what I wrote in my Batwoman 0 review; similarly Bruce’s big ‘you’re the best Tim, well done’ speech felt like a deliberate rebuttal to the review I did of the ROBW Tim bit (I am a narky narcissist).
Zom: Whether it was a response to you or not, Bob, I love the bones Morrison keeps throwing Tim Drake. It’s so Morrison to be warm and caring about his superheroes, to make sure they all have something to do and a nice little subplot. The fanboy haterz have never understood that about Moz – that he loves all his lil guys.
Botswana Beast: for me, Tim’s expression – dyspeptic? afraid? – when surrounded by a bevy of busty beauties was very much an acknowledgement of your groundbreaking exegesis of his pure virginity, b.
Bobsy: Goodth: Bruce’s loud and wacky tie-shirt-handkerchief combo, giving out all the right ‘what me guv?’ signals. Grateful that he’s still rocking the whistle at all, it would be awful if the new him was some wannabe dotcom Jobs-worth business-casual casualty. His vibe’s more maverick politico than exploitation in the morning/charity in the afternoon Gates/Buffett cuddly-capitalist.
Regretth: Missing Beryl and Cyril – it feels like they should have popped up by now. Have they been properly ruined for ever? Was Knight & Squire the worst comic of All Time?
Quethtion: There are still Metaleks around, no? So we have killer kids potentially teaming up with killer toys?
The whole Tim/Bruce scene works slashtastically well if the important conversation, which they’ve just had and we missed, was Bruce declaring his undying love for Tim.
I really love the panel where the Outsiders are introduced – you all know that the pure meat of superhero comics for me is just a matter of folk in weird costumes just standing there unannounced, easy as you like. This issue is a veritable feast for the likes of me.
Illogical Volume: Haha, yeah, I’m weirdly bitter about Knight and Squire – <PATHETIC>possibly because I fancied writing it myself.</PATHETIC>
Also: because it was dogshit.
I’m missing Beryl and Cyril too, but I’m hopeful that we’ll see them before this is through.
Botswana Beast: I like the red Hulk character; apparently he’s a terrible Dan Didio creation, youse goise, called Freight Train (I actually know the names of the other Outsiders, as I own The Outsiders #1 from one of these terrible comics packs – “Featuring one #1!!” Outsiders vs. the Nuclear Family. It’s maybe a Mike Barr, like the conception of Damien Wayne*? Anyway-yay – no Geo-Force, which is always massively good news)
*oh duh, how could the Son of the Demon be named else? I just got that.
It’d be entirely understandable if Tim was in love with Bruce; I couldn’t see Batman exploiting him like that, but you have to think: well, he’s been a massive influence, how could any girl live up to that?
The structure of the issue – and I think what gives further credence to Teatime Brutality’s theorem as to “Who is Wingman?”, the only concrete mystery out of about 5(?) introduced – is much akin to two comics starring his suspect, these one-page-a-story confluences; one by Morrison, one by Millar, when he was exemplifying his best phase of his career by doing Morrison off-cuts*.
All-Star 10 and that issue of Superman Adventures, whatever # it was
The thing of, yeah, these hateful, rebellious kids – it unnerves me a little as broad allegory because, hey, it’s almost as if Batman is like a gigantic conservative fantasy? Working men, children denied their futures – these are the enemies of Batman and also neoliberalism. But I think there’s another layer, which is Dedalus and this Hooded Figure (who is also called Leviathan(?))
Bobsy: So is Cassandra Cain the one who takes over the helicopter and dumps the heroin? And she’s the batgirl who used to be mute from No Mans Land? And the other Batgirl in this ish, in the cave, is Stephanie Spoiler, right?
And who’s the chesty outsider who’s standing next to Metamorpho? her and Fr8 Trayn were the only ones I didn’t recognise.
Illogical Volume: The Teatime Brutality guy said that in a sensible world, and with a sensible writer, Batminge #6 would have been Batminge #1. I definitely get what he’s saying (thought, you know Batman: The Return), but I like it better here. It’s – and I know Bottie Beast got to this point before me, the fucker – bit it’s almost a reverse polarity ‘Neverending’, aka All Star Superman #10, aka The Best Superhero Comic Ever.
“Reverse polarity” because instead of being about one guy, on the verge of death, trying to do everything, it’s about another guy coming back from death and trying to do the same.
Good thoughts on Leviathan and aww that Botswana Beast – I think a lot of this depends on how it’s played, and… from the end of issue #5, I’ve taken it that Leviathan is all about exploiting and absorbing these “children with no future”, which could lead to the question of whether Batman Inc can do any better for them, maybe?
This could all be very “It’s okay, we fought the problem – WITH SUPERMONEY!”, but then Brucey is a supercapitalist, like a good rich man from a Dickens novel but with a better fighting style and an army of machines to get rid of the smog, so.
Botswana Beast: There’s two chesty Outsiders, but I think that’s Looker, the one by
Rex ‘Metamorpho’ Mason: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Looker_(comics) Halo http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halo_(comics) is the other one unnerving young Timothy, with her shit-eating grin later. The girls just feel comfy with him, like they can be themselves.
ALSO ON THAT PAGE: I really (not really) want to know how Batman resolved his differences with Huntress, after kicking her the fuck out the JLA.
Paquette is amazing, don’t get me wrong, perhaps perfect for the opener with his action movie tough guys, bootylicious babes and million dollar set pieces – he, like Finch in Return, framed the event in a way that was easy for the post-Nolan generation to understand, any concerns about camp lost in a sea of face shredding motorbike tyres and superstealth jet fighters, like storm clouds spraying electric rain – but now that most of us are sold on the Inc concept, it might be time for it to drop the tough guy act a bit and bare its toyetic roots. And so Burnham, whose art nudges Quitely just that little bit more towards Quentin Blake than it does Moebius, and represents a softening and fuzzifying of the macho certainty present in the hard line of most superhero comic art. It’s not just that drawing Squire hanging on Knight’s shoulders as he swings into action represents a creative decision on Burnham’s part, although it does speak to the an understanding of who they are, but that his art style almost demands they arrange themselves the way they do. There’s an inbuilt lightness, humour and playfulness to Burnham’s – and I use the word in its precise sense here – Illustrations, just as there’s always been an inbuilt lightness, humour and playfulness to the Inc concept, based as it is in computer games and the Brave and the Bold cartoon, and the two marry very well indeed.
If Superman embodies the futurist spirit of Metropolis and Batman Gotham’s brooding alleyways and skyline, then obviously Joe Average and the Average Joes are concentrated essence of hardworking Pennsylvania. They’re good bad guys, evil but honest, conquering the world through hard graft, one $1000,000 ransom cheque at a time.
Good old boys, with pregnant wives at home and bills to pay.
Poor bastards. This is Gotham, and they never stood a chance.
I like the inclusion of the distracting detail, the stuff about Nykto not feeling the heat. It’s cool that Morrison understands that Batman, like a good magician, would understand the psychology of how little lies like this sell the big lie, both to the reader and the baddies.
The black bionic goggles are neat too, the way they occlude rather than enhance vision. Black vision. For an Underworld detective who needs to see (in) the dark. I always enjoy the way Morrison plays poetically with superpowers. Nothing beats ‘slow vision’ though.
Okay, so the rhythm of this book is great. We go straight in with a breakneck four issues of recruiting and threat establishing and just about the time I’m catching my breath and wondering what’s up with the man behind the mask and Wayne Industries generally, we get these questions tackled head on. This is the right time for this beat. Before I read any other reviews I knew people would be arguing that six should’ve been the first issue…. and they’re all wrong. Morrison’s playing this thing like a musician, or a film director, only his fast paced intro sequence has lasted five issues.
I don’t think this issue would’ve worked at the beginning of the run. Or at least I think it would have had a lot less dramatic impact if it did. We needed to get to the point where the ad pitch was necessary, where we were all bursting to see the thing in operation, for this to fire off the page.
Anyway, here’s some thoughts I posted elsewhere about Batman, Bruce and Inc.
‘Now we’re getting all Christopher Nolan-y it makes sense that real world conditions are foregrounded. I mean, it would be very, very hard to finance Batman’s operation in secret and Bruce coming clean about it probably smooths out most of the wrinkles. It also means he can do away with all that play acting, aligning both his personas in a more convenient and psychologically healthy way. The guy’s spent the last ten years pretending to be a berk and that can’t have been good for him or the city he feels such a profound responsibility for – indeed, the city he is profoundly responsible for. One way of looking at it is that far from endangering Gotham’s citizenry, he’s actually ensuring their safety. Suddenly this wayward city, which has historically been riddled with crime and corruption, has a leader, a figurehead, a reason to believe in itself, and isn’t it wonderful that the reason is Bruce Wayne, a man who at long last is publicly making good on his Father’s legacy? One also needs to remember that the revelation in question followed hot on the heels of one of Gotham’s darkest hours, when the city was co-opted by Batman’s greatest enemies and effectively broken, when, more than at any time, it needed a beacon it could rally around, a hero it could see. ‘
Bruce Wayne has become Nolan’s Harvey Dent. Clever solution, Morrison.
Morrison outhinks the chatrooms too. ‘Of course Bruce cares about security, you idiots!’, Morrison seems to say, ‘His whole life has been founded on the consequences of a lack of it!’ Part of me can’t help speculating about Bruce’s psychology, actually – his need to place those he loves, his babies, in serious danger, so that they can survive, THEYWILL SURVIVE!!!. He’s all about the tough love that’s for sure.
Anyway, that third panel….
Firstly the argument that most criminals wouldn’t want Batman or Bruce Wayne’s attention is pretty solid, though we weren’t really worried about ‘most criminals’…..
Secondly, the detail.
So what have we got here?
That’s Elly, isn’t it, the young sex worker from earlier on in the run? Judging from the interviews I’ve listened to Burnham’s as into Grant’s Batman as any of us, which means it’s hard to tell whether or not Elly was in the script or a detail the art team added later. In some ways I want it to be the latter. Morrison often has difficulty keeping all the plates spinning and a truly collaborative artist who remembers things he forgets would be a real blessing. I swear that’s one of the reasons why Grant and Frank work so well, because they actually communicate with each other. Well, an artist in conversation with Grant’s work generally and who clearly privileges detail is the next best thing.
The image of Elly in Batman’s fortress, in ‘better, safer world’, a million miles from harm, is quite a powerful symbol. This is what Wayne’s offering now, the extension of the umbrella Elly’s sheltered under across the entire city. The good people in the city getting organised and helping each other. The bad have had it for too long.
Morrison’s Batman saga is Elly’s story too.
Now look to the right of Elly’s shoulder. What’s going on with that penny? And to the left – are those bat-storage tubes? And inside… BATSUITS? I don’t know if I’m even remotely right about this, but, man, if I am that’s too cool. The bloody Wayne Tower foyer transformed into a Batman museum! Awesome! Talk about instilling pride in the citizenry. Wayne’s not just flexing his muscles here, but saying:‘Look! He belongs to us! To YOU! Part of YOUR heritage. YOUR protector.’
Sorry, I got a bit carried away there.
Someone over at the DCU forums described Burnham’s Bruce as looking ‘like a child molestor’ and while ewwww! they sorta have a point. Because there’s something else behind that shit-eating grin, a mischieviousness, a manic glee – a menace – that’s barely contained.
So begins the lesson. Part the first: YOU CAN’T GET ONE OVER ON BATMAN. You plan on turning up at Wayne Tower guns blazing? Really. Well, mate, you’re just part of Bruce’s demonstration of bat-might.
I guess the Emoticon Gang (the Emotimen!) are an information age update of Gotham’s Kerrrrazy themed criminal outfits. I like the way the guy with the big eyes and the question mark literally has his emotions written all over his face.
‘Who? THE WHAT NOW ?’
That’s Alfred, sucker. Extreme Butler.
And here the subtext becomes text, all that suppressed bat-mania breaking the surface – from the close up of Bruce’s insane Galadriel eyes on page three, to the terrifying low angle shot here. Is it me or is Bruce actually scarier than his robots? Quite a feat. I was wondering when the robots would be back. I love it when a writer’s skilled enough to intuit when these kinds of questions need answering.
Of course the robots are part of Grant’s every-bat-story-ever approach, bringing Kingdom Come into the canon, or at least vigorously nodding to it.
I don’t know anything about the frame job being referred to here. What’s going on is clear, but I’m wondering if we’re dealing with plot threads from another book. That’s fine. It’s all just background noise to help sell Bruce’s cleaning house and Gordon’s quiet induction into the ranks of BI. Which is amazing. Not only is it a straight up admission of just how important Jim’s always been to the bat operation, but it allows for a lovely character moment. Look at the way Burnham’s Gordon responds with quiet pride to his shiny new badge, his gratitude at being included in the bat family (covertly, yes, but not as afterthought, and he knows it).
Man, it’s good to have an artist on this book who can do acting.
And does anything else need to be said about that final panel?
Jeez, these five pages are a million times more exciting than any other superhero book out there.
Zom says everything that needs to be said about Morrison’s approach to Tim Drake above. ‘Freight Train’ is bollocks, though. What the hell is wrong with Daniel Didio? You can just imagine Morrison showing up to the latest bat meeting and being waylaid by Didio on the way in.
‘I’s gottsta show ya my new character.’
‘My new character. He’s gots all the superpowers that ya gonna love.’
‘Well, maybe later….’
He’s called Freight Train. Youse gottsta see him against Joker!’
‘Youse gottsta see him. All bets’re off, I’m tellin’ ya!’
Since that day Morrison’s been working towards this moment, the beginning of his epic Freight Train saga, ‘HEAVY FREIGHT – BULK MATERIAL’. This is what Batman Inc’s been all about. Expect the focus to veer sharply very shortly.
To be honest, I can actually imagine a buff early nineties action movie hero being done really well. The superhero equivalent of a Van Damme, Seagal or Schwartzenegger mixed with a bit of John McClane. Lot’s of hijacking of prototype supertrains and weapons, lots of explosions. European baddies. Super mercs galore. Stupid dialogue about the protagonist being able to cook while he’s caught up in the middle of a firefight. Suddenly I kinda like Freight Train. I’d read this comic – the steroidal Image thing revisited and done really well, without going all Ennis on it.
All that in seven pages. Morrison doesn’t waste time faffing about.
Are Oracle’s pointy horns a new addition?
PAGES 8 & 9
Is this Damian’s first encounter with coffee?
It’s nice that Bruce nOds to the Joker here, just to remind us what kind of a threat he is. I think the whole Hurt mega-arc kinda proved that if the Joker’s on the loose other baddies will just end up looking like nobs. He can’t be brought into play for this story. It’s a shame in some ways because Grant never did make good on that ‘population explosion’ art show exhibit in issue two of his Batman run, which would make more sense than ever now the bat’s gone global, but I like Leviathan and co. and I think the guy’s rightfully wary of wearing the character out.
I’m sure there’s been a ton of bandwidth expended on talking about how meta this whole scene is. Although it’s probably a mistake I enjoy the way moneyrider completely contradicts himself here. Morrison quickly and economically captures the weird commotion of the internet. The lack of signal and amidst all that bellowing noise. It’s reminiscent of the strange porno/tabloid headline poetry in the Filth, the way the conversation devolves to such freewheeling nonsense by the end.
I’d probably find the ‘New World Order’ stuff funny if the wound wasn’t so raw – did anyone else feel mentally scarred after reading those Comics Alliance threads? Urgh.
You feel as though Bruce should have whole teams working this mess, pumping out bizzare nonsense 24/7. But, oh yeah, he’s got Oracle.
One thing that does make me wonder when I’ve got nothing else to do is how the federal government feels about all this. Wayne’s obviously never going to be taken to task by Gotham’s authorities, but Obama might have a problem with this Batman Inc. deal. Perhaps this’ll be Grant’s get out clause by the end, that Inc. was always going to be short lived, a golden window of opportunity for world saving designed to last only so long as it was needed before the powers that be got organised and shut it down. Then again, maybe not. Who cares? When Morrison’s gone, in all likelihood so am I.
I wonder whether the whole time jaunt ‘seems like a dream now’, or just the knowing everything bit. The point is, though, that Bruce probably knows quite a lot more about Leviathan’s plans than he’s letting on. He’s definitely going to pull some hefty info-artillery out the bag before this is over.
PAGES 11 & 12
As Zom says, Alfred’s the only guy who’s allowed to get one over on Bruce. We should take his words very seriously here.
Seeing Bruce jetsetting around is the best. Batman comics could have always had glamour in spades…. and now they do.
The panel of Nightrunner at the top of page 12 is probably my favourite in the entire book. The action. The detail. The way the supercool imagery’s plays off the dialogue: ‘So what happened next?’ Something supercool, obvs. Pure pop art. Wallpaper worthy. This is what Morrison does best, distilling a character down to his core supercoolness. What does Nightrunner do? He runs. How do we make that cool? We have him running across traffic. I know the density of the cars suggests a traffic jam, but the direction of the lines in the mise-en-scene – horizontal – and the road-as-speed-line indicates otherwise. It’s not perfectly conveyed, but I think the traffic is moving, and probably quite quickly. I’m going to talk some more about the point behind all this distilled badassery before the end of this piece, that’s for sure. It serves a purpose.
Grant probably thinks he’s being funny with the whole ‘les Stereotypes’ thing. It’s not that funny. Does make another quick, albeit oblique, nod to internet craziness, however – the furore around an OMG!!!! Muslim Batman.
Obvs ‘Nykto’ doesn’t fill Joe and the boys in on what really happened. Batman doesn’t kill, but there’s no harm in criminals thinking he does. The ‘Batman is everything you fear’ line can be taken in two ways, as a confirmation of Joe’s concerns or just a clever comment on how criminals project onto Batman.
The Leviathan gag is hilarious here. I wonder if Les Stereotypes were working for Leviathan and the kids were getting rid of the evidence, so to speak, or if it was pure dumb bad luck that human slavers ended up with a of gang seven year old killing machines in the back of their truck.
Again the economy in evidence here is just amazing: Nightrunner and Batman (who just appears out of nowhere, like a bloody nightmare (‘everything you fear’)) waylay baddies, Batman and Nightrunner shake baddies down for info, Leviathan gag and….
I thought that was Bruce’s Gotham penthouse for a minute before I realised it was Kuala Lumpur. This is probably because I think Bruce should be spending what little time he does in America in Gotham, watching over everything. In the heart of everything. This is the new Bruce. In the world. Morrison likes to literalise his metaphors. Superhero books are perfect for this.
Now I don’t know much about chinese mythology, but I’m betting Cass’s raggedy cloak is nicked from it. Burnham’s redesign is beautiful. The sort of thing an actual artist would come up with. The guy’s making an effort, he wants to be drawing this book. Thank the Lord for Burnham.
The dialogue here – all the ‘talk like business men’ stuff – shows Bruce is in the driving seat, and also why that makes Inc so effective as a crime fighting outfit, far more effective in fact than almost any other superteam. A straightahead super could punch that helicopter out of the air, but they couldn’t bring Bruce Wayne’s empire to bear on the drug lords. They don’t have the ultimate weapon: money.
‘Wayne’s in Kuala Lumpur, Batman’s in Hong Kong. Batman’s a girl. Then Batman’s in Melbourne, Australia.’
It seems clearer and clearer to me that Bruce is using his meeting with the Average Joe’s for myth making. He wants them to land in jail with a truckload of creepy, contradictory bat-stories in tow. This is ‘striking terror’ in operation.
I love the swearing in scenes. They’re the polar opposite of the scene where Hurt attempts to claim Damian’s soul at the end of Morrison’s B&R arc. Does anyone know the words?
He did what? He tatooed ‘child molestor’ on the guy’s forehead? Wow. Not sure about that. I guess the right wing vigilante bit can’t've been completely ditched then.
If we can believe what we hear.
Now, about David Zavimbi… Yes, yes Africa is a continent and a Batman of Africa is a stupid, borderline racist, idea.
Only Batwing has never been described as ‘the Batman of Africa’ in the comic. In fact no one has been alloted a title of this kind in the comic. This is the stuff of Comic’s Alliance posts and comics from the fifties. Until the dialogue straight out refers to Zavimbi in this way I’m not going to get het up about it. Is there any point mentioning that Batwing comes from that old seventies’ bat story? Probably not.
And now on to Wingman. My first instinct was ‘He’s Superman!’, but, wow oh wow, Teatime brutuality actually comes packing an argument.
What a fantastic rationale for the whole thing.
‘Some say Batman died and came back as a kind of God…’
Who says? Did Bruce spread that one himself, or was it team-disinfo? Was it a loose lipped JLA member? That huge bear thing? This is probably a nod to the message boards again. There are people out there who now only refer to Batman as ‘the God’. Seriously. It’s all true, of course, Darkseid *touched* Batman and created the mythos, retroactively hijacking our entire reading experience and converting it from entertainment to legend. We talk about the reframing at the end of Return of Bruce Wayne, where the lone avenger becomes the Brave and the Bolder we see in Inc., but ROBW saw a far grander reframing than that. It was very clever indeed.
So who’s whispering ‘Hands off, Wayne!’? Why?
‘Guess it never occured to them I’d go to so much trouble just for you.’
I don’t read many other Batman books – well, apart from Snyder who is rather good – but I don’t very much that Other writers have quite such a handle on scaaary Batman. I mean, that’s about as intimidating as it gets. Someone so driven, so insanely fixated on crime that he’d go to the effort of building up a whole reputation in the crime community just to get his hands on one small time villain. Obviously Bats went to barely any trouble at all, but its the illusion that he did that counts.
Anyway, just to say this page had me giggling and mind-punching the air (I was at work when I read this issue, but I promise if I was at home it would’ve been HADOUKEN! time).
Okay, so here’s a bunch of my thoughts I’ve cut and pasted from other websites to get you up to speed on what Dedalus and Leviathan are about.
‘So Dedalus is hunting for the fifth form of matter, the prima materia of the alchemists, which has been linked to the ouroboros serpent by modern occultists and psychoanalyst Carl Jung. Morrison’s already dealt with this magic matter before in the Invisibles: the fundamental substance of the universe condensed in space time, a perfect hologram containing all the information for everything on every point of its surface – finite, but endless, like a snake eating its own tail, forever devouring and begetting. Dedalus represents the Magician from the Tarot deck, a combination of both his Marseille and Rider Waite incarnations, with his wide brimmed hat, his staff, ouroboros girdle and all the trumps arrayed in front of him – just tools in his box of tricks. By dissolving all the fundamental elements represented by the trumps within the prima materia of his soul the magician commands them and becomes ‘master of the world’.
Only Dedalus is the magician inverted, what the alchemists called a ‘puffer’, because for him this isn’t a metaphorical, internal substance, but something you can hold and hit the universe in the face with. A nasty nazi materialist, like the nasty nazi materialists in the Indiana Jones films…. and we all know what happens to them when they mess with the divine. Heads melt.’
‘It’s highly likely he *does* have altzheimer’s. Again, it’s the, err, demonic correlate of the spiritual ideal he’s seeking to attain. Quite a good horror moment in Batman Inc #5, too, the abrupt earthing of Dedalus. The man with a thousand identities devouring and begetting each other, the man transforming himself into the serpent, suddenly reduced to what really happens in the real world when the self gets lost: mental illness. Sure, it’s inverted again over the page, where the real Dedalus reasserts himself, but just for that moment it’s deeply unsettling. All the younger Grant’s spiritual aspirations and 4d love-ins crashing against the rocky shores of middle age.
Why else the obsession with evil old men (two so far – one too many for most stories), children indoctrinated into what seems to be a death cult and legacy? Age has become something Grant’s afraid of. I imagine Dedalus is bald under that hat.
Really, you want some serious underlying themes? Look no further.’
‘Further to this stuff, I think trying to identify exactly what’s happening in the digitalis scene might be barking up the wrong tree. It’s like asking if Dedalus, when he’s addressing people in his memories, is doing so aloud, blabbering at the UN agent (who by the way is a Leviathan agent) about intending to be captured, etc. We can’t know. It’s confused. The confusion may well be the point. You want to demonstrate a subjectivity that can’t tell the difference between memory, present day and fantasy? What it’s really like to be in that space? Well you put your readers in that space, just as Grant did when he had Hurt overwrite the entire bat-mythos at the beginning of Batrob 13. I’m not saying there isn’t another explanation, just that the muddle is interesting in and of itself.’
‘The dedalusalike’s mental state is interesting. This being the DCU there are a thousand different explanations as to how and why he possesses another man’s memories, but it’s telling that the discombobulated Knight at the beginning of this arc is also suffering from a collapsed sense of identity (‘Who am I now… etc.’). Perhaps the weapon used to trap Dedalus on the island resulted in this ontological short circuiting and Knight’s experiencing the feedback – if that’s the case then it was probably also deployed against the Doctor/UN agent when the time came for Dedalus to make his escape. I wonder if we’ll ever know or if Grant will get so caught up in the other cool stuff whizzing round his head that it’ll always remain a mystery.
Also, did the weapon cause the Alzheimer’s? Some studies suggest EMF bombardments can be linked to the disease and also that they can screw with one’s sense of place and being. Still wouldn’t account for the xeroxing of another man’s self, but it does sound like the sort of thing Morrison digs on and a team of superheroes employed by a government agency in a high tech s/f comic might use.’
Or maybe it was just the Hammer of Wayland Smith all along? I got a real kick out of seeing a super weapon transformed into a dirty bomb. God knows what kind of power you could unleash – nuclear weapons eat your heart out. I wonder what happens when it ‘detonates’? A brain frazzling magnetic pole shift? Scary.’
‘Perhaps Dedalus wants to see our fallen world supplanted by an incorruptible Fourth Reich without beginning or end. The Ouroboros serpent can easily map across fascist narratives about incorruptible purity and we know Dedalus is a fascist. From one point of view the serpent’s condition is akin to death – it does not recognise difference or change – so Leviathan, a cult of Kali, probably share his goals.’
‘Batman will play into the bad guys’ plans by solving the riddle of Oroboro – locating this Fifth Matter.’
‘Now for some stuff about themes. How does one survive old age, by ‘material’ solutions, a bloody minded attachment to the body (Dedalus and Leviathan) or via one’s family (Batman Inc)? Does one embrace death and accept that things change – that after Bruce comes Dick and after him Damian and… – or does one cower behind a shoring up of things, objects, like Leviathan’s brainwashed automotons, that, far from ensuring immortality, serve only to reproduce and reify our anxieties. The servants of Kali are afraid of death, they’re death fixated, in stark contrast to the members of Batman Inc who understand the alchemy of living on through others, the unbroken conversation of human relations and legacy. In the sense that he inhabits a stronger and more psychologically healthy philosophical position, Batman’s already got the baddies beat. We can expect Morrison to make much of this as the series heads towards its end.
This also feeds into a critique of Capitalism, which is another of Morrison’s stated aims for Batman Inc. Batman Incorporated is an example of a ‘good’ business where profit can be equated with helping others and the company’s gross worth with the net result of its ability to save – in our terms ‘change’ – the world. Leviathan is the ‘bad’ model, the old model, where Capitalism is a blind machine that finds its moral base only within the whim of the market and exists not for the betterment of humanity, but for the reproduction of itself and the desire to consume. It doesn’t matter where you fall on this debate, I’m just outlining the dynamic. In the end it’s down to competing products. The kids are getting hooked on Leviathan now – and notice it is largely kids – but, come on, they’ve been into the Bat-brand forever! We all prefer Brave and the Bold, basically – making friends (community), all those gadgets (possibility), all that colour, fun and life….. in stark contrast to Leviathan’s gloomy promise of uniformity and grey forever. Expect Business tactics to come into this at some point and a corresponding foregrounding of Bruce Wayne. Part of me also expects Batman Inc to extend far, far beyond its current borders. What happens when it really catches on?’
So, yeah, Leviathan is definitely the Sensei too, just even more fucked. As I said last time, the death cult thing is pure Sensei. If I’m right then Grant gets to tick all the boxes and retroactively make sense of that crappy Ra’s story.
The girl’s school in Batman Inc #9′ll be a Leviathan training camp, won’t it?
Oh yeah, and this entire page guarantees Batman in outer-space action.
PAGES 20 & 21
Where to begin at the end? The double page spread here is yet another reminder of how incredible Burnham is and how much Morrison loves and cares about writing comics. This page isn’t just about Batman being badass, it’s about comics being badass. This isn’t something that would translate to any other medium. Normally I’d complain about the visuals telling the same story as the words, but here I don’t mind at all. ‘Nyktomorph’ – night shape. In Batman Inc’s case, an answer for whatever shape the night takes, a shape-changing ‘terror made of shadows and flapping wings’. See how the fallen baddies in each panel bleed into the next, a seamless tide of bat destruction. In France the Nyktomorph kicks the ass of the anti-templars, in Haiti the bad ju ju houngans shipping kids out of the disaster zone and into captivity, in Kuala Lumpur it makes short work of the custom job clayface bodyguards and in Gotham…. This comic was never a story, you were confused. It’s an advert for Batman Inc. It answers all customer queries and demonstrates the product. That’s why it’s so compressed, that’s why everyone loves it even though its narrative free. Because it’s just superheroes being the best superheroes can be. And this is why the Inc brand will pummel Leviathan.
One thing we see very little of is superheroes actually loving what they do – pleasure’s normally reserved for villains. The hero’s always long suffering, always taking a beating before joylessly triumphing. It’s all duty, responsibility, not fun. Well Batman, always the most libidinous hero, says ‘Fuck that!’. This is what this comic is – one big ‘Fuck that!’ Go on, look at that spread again. It’s just heroes winning and winning and winning and winn…. Absolutely ecstatic. I haven’t read one review that captures why this issue is so good, but it’s right there! If this stuff doesn’t move you, you’re a cold, miserable, desexed bastard basically.
The great thing about Inc is that it makes us see Batman and his supporting cast in a new light again. It reherofies them. It’s the burst of energy after the dissolution of RIP and Final Crisis and the recombination of Return.
World, welcome to Gotham.