For some reason, probably because I found the Chief Man of Bats issue so meh and the following one bloody awful, and because I was in the Isle of Man, I didn’t pick up this, ahem, *special* (way to throw a cover together, DC art dept!) when it came out a couple of weeks back, but I’m pleased I have now because this book’s back on track in a big way. We all moan about the Big Two, but DC aren’t stupid enough to completely overhaul one of their most popular titles, and, as with Snyder’s book, now that we know Batman Inc will stay pretty much on point after the reboot, I’m prepared to invest myself again.

Now that I know I won’t get hurt.

Sniff.

As was somewhat unsurprising, the second part of this story really divided fans. You know my take on this by now. There are problems with Grant’s writing, sure. I know all about them. I’ve been reading him since Zenith. But they have nothing to do with the writer being on bad drugs. If people want a more traditional take, they can read Snyder. If they want a more colourful one that’s not afraid to push the boat out, then Morrison’s the man for them. If you belong to the former group, you should know now that what you’re about to read is going to take it for granted that experimentation in comic books should be the norm rather than the exception. There certainly won’t be any time wasted on justifying such an approach.

PAGE 1

The first half of this zombie battlecry is one of Morrison’s evil secret societies’ typical sales pitches: ‘Join us! You’ll no longer be plagued by human concerns…. because we’ll cut off your humanity with a carving knife!’ It’s so close to the other side’s pitch, almost identical in fact, but with added soul castration. Superman achieves ego loss via supersenses which connect him to the beating heart of an ever needy humanity, Batman locks himself in a cave and engages in a month long blast of super-Chod, but Leviathan go the rock star route, drugging you up to the eyeballs and threatening you with extinction. This is the left hand path to enlightenment, the one that travels through Hell. The undead superhero look sported by the girls resonates really well with this – since the Invisibles – recurrent theme.

Further to that, the skull masks are reminiscent of the getups worn by Yale University’s Skull and Bones Society, which, purportedly, has for the last a hundredish years kept the CIA and in all likelihood the gosh darn Illuminati itself in secret agents, assassins and presidents.

Also, bright sexy youth juxtaposed with death? Always freaky. Both poles collapsed.

There’s a lot of information encoded into this scene. We’ll expand on the other stuff when the comic picks it up later on.

PAGE 2

Perhaps it’s stretching the scene’s symbolic potential to breaking point, but the image of Batman as gardener armed with weedkiller ‘disinfecting’ the bright young blooms could be read as a codified mission statement.

PAGE 3

This isn’t the first time Morrison’s posited a link between celebrities and global conspiracies. The Outer Church had these people coming out of its arse. Here he’s cheekily suggesting that today’s biggest female pop stars, Madonna, Katy Perry, Rihanna and Lady Gaga, are all former alumni of St Hadrians, returning to their alma mater as consultants and teachers, their blessed lives the product of their star pupil status during their time at the school. Giving something back, as they say – for a fee that would bankrupt Europe.

I particularly like Madonna in her role as the Deputy Head. The leather clad dominatrix role has, since Sex, always been an embedded aspect of her star persona, and the idea of her as a killer St Trinians girl grown up makes a lot of sense.

I should have known that Morrison would cram a reference to If in this issue. St Hadrians is the dark side of his original Invisibles’ as psychic boyscout army pitch. Hand grenades in the classroom, ninja training between dirty bomb construction classes…. But as I say, the equation is reversed. Instead of representing the potential to blow a hole in the establishment, here the pineapple serves as its prop, with the teachers offering it to the students as a kind of ‘bad apple’, a death apple, tempting them into a life of conformity with the promise of sexy anarchy.

Anyway.

‘St Hadrians girls are proud venus flytraps, not shrinking violets’

(cut to Stephanie’s purple caption box)

leads directly into what I want to talk about on….

PAGES 4, 5 AND 6

With her blonde hair and doe eyes, Stephanie Brown has landed herself the role of the Good Girl in the Killer Sorority movie.

But the exchange

‘You like to fight?’

‘I like to keep fit…’

contains another meaning. It’s not just what a Good Girl would say.

It’s a superhero’s answer too.

They don’t *like* to fight.

But, oh man….

This is the first of four instances where Batgirl abruptly reverses the power dynamic to fun effect. With her permanently hyperdefensive, indeed, utterly submissive rabbit in the Death Star’s headlights expression/demeanour, surrounded by jeering enemies at all turns, everything about Stephanie screams ‘PREY’. But then we turn the page and – WHAM! – she explodes into lethal Kung Fu action. It’s testimony to Stewart’s art that she sucker punches us as much as the bad guys every time.

As the script says, this skinny little thing contains the combined might of Cluemaster, Batman, Black Canary and Robin. She’s packing.

I can just hear her deliver that line about the other girls’ thanking their lucky stars they don’t know her Dad. Like all the best cover stories, all lies, to be convincing hers has to contain a grain of truth, and I’m sure her words would resonate with all the conviction of an abused child. Cluemaster may be a figure of fun in these pages, but I’m certain he isn’t any fun if he’s your Father.

And here’s Rihanna.

I’m sure it was unintentional, but there’s a horrible irony to her inclusion here given what the real life Rihanna’s been through. However it’s cool to imagine a parallel universe where she’s a ninja badass and those bruises were battlescars, mementos of an especially deadly and exciting mission.

PAGES 7 AND 8

So along with Madonna, it seems Scorpiana and a host of other female supervillains schooled at St Hadrians. Who sends their kids to this school? I suppose it’s a question not worth asking in the real world, and the answer’s obvious enough. There’s probably a million crime dynastie who want to see their daughters get a proper education, as is evidenced over the page when Jolisa reveals her parentage.

‘She trained here and was personally selected by Miss Delicias [that never fails to get a chuckle] to test the Leviathan technology.’

This is the first indication that, far from being a front set up by Leviathan, St Hadrian’s has always been a school for super assassins/spies. and has only recently been co-opted for its malign purposes. More on this later.

The ‘Leviathan technology’ referred to here must be the mind control wafers, etc that show up later and poor, smiling Una the first unwitting test subject. We already know Scorpiana has a kinky nurse fetish and I can just see her conducting the experiment herself in an imagined scene where Morrison’s script suddenly performs one of his trademark u-turns into antiseptic, white tiled horror……

Does Scorpiana teach at the school between missions?

Jolisa is a typical morrisonian double agent. Smarter than everyone else, always one step ahead of the well worn bright-young-things-inducted-into-evil-secret-society plot that both she and Stephanie find themselves in (‘Well either we’re in trouble, or they want to recruit us to their mysterious elite… What do you think?’). Heck, even her colouring marks her out as a black sheep, Jolisa is the last person we’d ever suspect of being a baddie…. and therefore the first.

Given that the Highwayman was originally conceived as a rogueish cross between Russell Brand and Adam Ant, his place at the top of the villains poll makes sense. *Sigh!* – I’m sure Morrison would handle the character well, and I love his dancing around his new creations, the tease, but frankly I think the Highwayman’s a missed opportunity. For me the name evokes some godawful ballardian nightmare of a supervillain, British, but in an utterly modern way, the man from the road sign climbing down from his triangular perch and terrorising the M25 – the Harrower of Heathrow, the ghost haunting suburbia, his base a concrete island, his kid sidekick the child from the school crossing sign.

It would be awesome, if a bit high concept. And not sexy.

PAGE 9

One of the weird things about seeing pop stars in this issue is the intrusion of contemporary fashions within a superhero book. The zeitgeist doesn’t normally make its way into capes and tights comics. Even Frank Quitely, who many people laud as the guy who’s able to reflect current trends, had Jimmy Olsen sport a haircut which at the time of All Star’s release was already becoming popular with estate agents (seriously, they still wear it). The woman on the cover to his latest book, the one with Millar, looks like an indie girl circa 1995, not modern at all (we love you Frank, but it’s true). Jamie McElvie’s about the only one who gets it right, I think. Oh for the days of Zenith when superheroes were designed with one eye on the high street (dig the Fall badge!), with Billy Whiz as a young Soul Boy, a smiley face bedecked robot and the titular hero himself conceived as a cross between Morrisey and Luke Goss. If comics ever want to attract that ‘hipster’ crowd Grant was always going on about in the early zeroes then artists need to pay attention to this sort of thing. I wouldn’t bring it up, but after reading Supergods I’ve overdosed on Grant’s belief that comics are some kind of barometer of cool, and, you know, they’re not.

Stormers…. I ask you.

(But in the spirit of fairness I’ve included a well argued link in favour of the Sekhmet Hypotheis anyway. Aren’t I nice? Still a load of twaddle though….)

Inspite of the thigh highs and stockings, which are a nod to genre convention more than anything else, this is is a book on the side of the angels. To begin with Cameron takes what in other hands could’ve been one dimensional, exploitative material and gives his characters actual personality, and then there’s the big reveal about who’s running Leviathan that puts the whole thing into stark relief. That Talia, a woman, so effortlessly co-opts the narrative, the entire bat-novel Morrison’s been writing these last six years, transforming Hurt into little more than a footnote, is a tiny comic book victory from an equal opportunities point of view. We thought we were in a another kind of story, where titanic masculine archetypes fought over a narrative which was always their’s in the first place, but it turns out we were wrong, and now, whoever wins the final battle, I’m pleased to see that Grant respects women enough to position Talia as the real threat. Okay, she’s neurotic and hysterical and a baddy and this isn’t perfect, but the reveal made me shiver. How often, and in how many writers’ hands, do you think that would happen? I want more badass girls in my comics. Women have had a real presence in Batman Inc, and whether or not their inclusion has been a conscious decision on Morrisons part – and for the record I think it has – this is a very good thing. The bullet holes in Green Lantern’s crotch confirm the writer as someone who’s not afraid to hit the Status Q where it hurts. And, again, regardless of intentionality, the final blast piercing Superman’s eye reminds us that perhaps the bullet in Return wouldn’t have crumpled and bounced off if Luthor understood the Super Man’s true weakness, and had a woman pull the trigger.

Seen from outside, and the perspective of this story *is* firmly outside, Hal and Kal’s (just saying the names like that – URRGH! so annoying!) easy, nothing-can-hurt-me! posturing is revealed as smug and irritating, and it’s so satisfying watching them get de-cocked. I can envisage a deleted scene where one of the girls sneaks into the firing range later that night and draws motion lines on either side of Hal’s wrist. Seriously, take Leviathan out of the equation and we’d be rooting for these plucky little castraters.

But as I concede above, none of this is to say that the women in the comic aren’t problematic from a feminist point of view. As it is much of the comic’s cast, all the students basically, with Stephanie as a notable exception, are currently the victims of terrible exploitation, regarded by Leviathan as little more than a resource and by their other employers as pretty, karate kicking trophies. In the last panel, Stephanie’s description of a student’s typical life beyond the school gates is shot through with the predatory whiff of the paedophile, and while no-one’s denying these young women can look after themselves, they’re weird relationship with powerful (indeed, super) men, which, reading between the lines, seems to vacillate wildly between teenage infatuation and antagonism, coupled with their eventual commodification, makes for a potentially icky picture. This is how supervillainesses are born. Yeah, i’m sure their conversations are ‘creepy’. Very creepy indeed.

PAGE 10

‘The Headmistress is dedicated to insuring that her girls achieve their personal and professional goals, according to the prospectus.’

More evidence that whoever’s running the show may have set out with a different kind of school in mind, before the dark days, before Leviathan.

‘I still remember rule one. Proper planning and preparation.’

This is Batman’s no. 1 rule, and that she follows it rigorously confirms Steph as a true Robin whatever Didio and a certain section of the sexist fanbase say.

PAGE 11

‘In my experience, it’s so often the rebels who turn out to be the most loyal soldiers.’

The Outer Church to a T. And in hindsight we can see that in Jolisa’s case this has already been proven true.

PAGE 12

Now we know where the Mind Control tech comes from.

And so Johnny Valentine, who, when last we saw him, we dismissed as little more than a hired hood, is revealed as Janosz Valentin, Son of Pyg. I dread to think what the (barbed wire) mother looked like.

Janosz represents another iteration of the child abuse theme running underneath the action (maybe it’s a bit dodge that one of the key people behind this child slavey ring happens to be of eastern european extraction, but that’s another conversation), which of course connects to the larger narrative in that it’s yet another signpost pointing to Talia and Damian, the ur abusive relationship upon which the whole run hangs.

This scene includes a very clever reimagining/reappropriation of Batwoman’s make up bag of tricks that shouldn’t pass without comment. Like the hand grenade in the previous scene, the cosmetics, laid out in front of the students like holy relics on an altar, represent an exciting, glamorous future – womanhood, unpacked. But a highly specific kind of womanhood. Because these objects contain a second, hidden meaning beneath their sweetly scented surface, which only becomes apparent when they’re used: all of these things – hairdryers, brushes, lipstick, perfume – are in reality lethal weapons. The make up table is a poisoned chalice. Here the process of becoming a woman contains a sinister self nullifying aspect; one that destroys. Beneath the surface glamour hides a grinning skull. These aren’t the symbols of transcendence one expects to find in a church, but their opposite: unholy symbols of ego, vanity and capital.

the zombiefication of the school’s best students clearly contains this metaphorical dimension, an accusing finger pointed squarely at mindless consumer culture and a self, in this case a female self, comprised of shored up objects. We’re back to the old good corporation versus bad corporation theme I’ve discussed before, where Leviathan represents passive consumption and the attempt to keep death at bay by distracting him with silky skin and an all over tan, and Batman incorporated fearless, active agency, life. An investment in people and tomorrow.

The inverted christian imagery continues with the drugged communion wafers and Janosz’s half hearted cruxifiction. The Son of Pyg, Dollotron the First, has come to bring the Bad News.

It’s also worth noting, because I didn’t before, that the make up bag makes even more sense as Batwoman’s utility belt when you consider that Kathy was a spy. We know from James Bond films that secret agents use weaponry disguised as everyday objects. I wonder if Morrison intended this rationalisation, because it’s latent in the text. It’s a confident writer who doesn’t flag this stuff, one who likes his readers to dig deep.

PAGE 13

Leviathan’s focus on children reflects traditional al-ghullic concerns about recreating the world. But whereas Ra’s came off as a rejigged villain in the Dax from Moonraker mould, an old man dreaming of a chrome suited future of sexy Adam and Eves presiding over a new Eden, Talia’s goals are far less clear. Perhaps she fully intends to continue her father’s work. Perhaps she’s a tyrant. There’s also the awful, and given the preponderance of zombies and Kali yantras on display (another clue) highly likely, possibility she’s taken a leaf out of her Grandfather’s book and just wants to kill everything….
Afterall, she never seemed that enamoured of Ra’s's mission, did she? And now she intends to turn the whole world into a substitute child, broken and loyal at last, but empty. Talk about displacement activity. The remote controlled child army was probably always the biggest giveaway that it was Talia behind the curtain. The scene at the end of Return, where she has Farouk’s son kill his Father, now reads like wish fulfilment.

PAGES 14 AND 15

Stephanie’s no messing appropriation of the enemy’s tools to her own, superheroic ends, her ability to instantly see through the glamour to the cosmetics’ true meaning, frames her as exactly the kind of agent I was talking about before. She owns these things, they do not own her.

PAGE 16

‘I said there’d be a bat-daughter!’

Isn’t Jolisa giving herself away a bit here? The rumour began with her. Afterall, she did say she knew ‘everything’.

PAGE 17

This is a nice reversal. Again, we’re lulled into thinking Batgirl’s outmatched and that she’s fleeing, only to turn the page and see her lock the school gate, penning herself in, with only one option left: to fight until she drops.

PAGE 18

‘”School of Night”? All I see here is young girls under the spell of unhealthy roll models.’

It couldn’t be made any clearer.

‘Outstanding work, Batgirl. When you’re done here, meet me in the headmistress’s office.’

I love Batman’s absolute confidence in his co-workers. Morrison appears to want to erase Batman’s lck of belief in Stephanie from the continuity. And damn right. The only time a girl gets a proper look in in years and she’s not only rejected by Bats, but tortured to death too. Fuck all that. This comic’s a great final salute to a superhero I now wish I knew a bit better.

PAGE 19

I don’t need to tell you how skill Batgirl’s dialogue is in this scene. The final reversal.

Damn right. We don’t need to see what happens next.

PAGE 20

Batman lays down the history of the school up till this point, just in case we weren’t paying attention. And Hexley?

I missed it the first time around, but now it’s as clear as day.

‘But you don’t have HER, do you? The Headmistress. You never did and never will.’

But Batman gets it.

‘I know who runs this place now.’

(Or does he? It could be that he still thinks the headmistress is Jet.)

Kathy Kane of course. Still playing hard to get with the Dark Knight even after all these years. I mean, the outfits the girls wear (which I’m sure most of them would’ve worn to their graduation ceremony in the pre Leviathan years – St Hadrian’s cap and gown…) couldn’t be more of a giveaway, or the make up bag, but rereading again now the biggest clue has to be the kind of girls St Hadrian’s produces – lethal, supremely self sufficient young spies with a suicidal streak and a love/hate relationship with mystery men. All of them adolescent Ms. Kanes.

It certainly seems in keeping with Kathy’s wayward personality too, the selling out of her school. The kind of grand fuck up someone as gloriously, glamorously rash and narcissistic as Batwoman would make. But we know she’ll regret it. She’s one of the good guys at heart. I reckon the school’s going to get another client soon, someone who can easily compete with Leviathan’s bank account, someone whose name rhymes with Shane.

And Kathy will throw away her death mask for something more fitting. An old favourite. In scarlet.

PAGES 21 AND 22

AWESOME.

Stephanie’s a creature of the night through and through.

But I don’t think we need the inset panel. Of course Batman caught the damn thing.

Goodbye, Steph.

And see you guys next/last time…..

40 Responses to “Batman Incorporated: Leviathan Strikes! annocommentations part 1”

  1. Thrills Says:

    “Fuck all that. This comic’s a great final salute to a superhero I now wish I knew a bit better.”

    Totally! I don’t think I’ve ever read any prior Stephanie stuff, other than internet posts about her, but this comic makes her seem pretty great. Capable, intelligent, confident, and pure dead tough.

    “One of the weird things about seeing pop stars in this issue is the intrusion of contemporary fashions within a superhero book. The zeitgeist doesn’t normally make its way into capes and tights comics.”

    So true! Comics are really not cool, culturally plugged-in things, are they? There’s the worry that a lot of the people involved in them don’t have any reference points other than comics themselves, so it’s always good to see ‘real’ fashion and things cropping up. Though that should maybe be the norm instead of the exception?

    A bit of a shame it was old-style Lady Gaga, but I suppose that’s her most iconic look, maybe? The big ‘Last Son of Krypton’ shades?

    (When I bought this comic, the guy at my wonderful ‘local comic shop’ didn’t seem to know how much it cost in scottish pounds, and I kind of had to haggle to bring it down to anything less than £6.99. Very odd. Makes it feel more ‘special’, though, the whole ‘Paying more than I needed to’ thing. And making purchasing it an ordeal.)

    But aye, ace post, Mindless. Good to see the return of both Batman Inc, and the ancommentations. They really do make the comic even better, so they do.

    Wankhand Hal Jordan!

  2. Thrills Says:

    (Though I do recognise the wretched hypocrisy of me getting on at folk for only having comics as a reference point, right before I compare Lady Gaga to someone from an early-90s Superman crossover)

  3. Papers Says:

    Someone somewhere (which escapes me at the moment!) connected the teachers to Talia’s old henchwomen AND the pop stars, so that might be something to take into consideration.

  4. amypoodle Says:

    That was Deep Space Transmissions, Papers. I just didn’t want to regurgitate what Ben had already said over here.

    And no but yes, Thrills. The fat 80s glasses are very Superman, so even though you are a geek, it’s also a perfectly good ref. You could’ve said Run DMC though, and then all the girls would like you. And the tigers.

    One reason, other than the fact that I like fashion, why it’s nice when current trends make their way into comic books though, a *serious* reason, is that it helps heighten verisimilitude. Zenith felt like it was happening somewhere I actually recognised.

    Superman’s mid 90s mullet – THE FUCKING MID NINETIES! NO ONE WORE MULLETS THEN! – really tore me out of whatever I was reading with him in it. Proper dissonance.

  5. Zom Says:

    As we agreed at the last mindless AGM, in America people wore mullets then

  6. Deep Space Transmissions Says:

    The henchwomen/popstars thing was me, and very pleased with myself I was too. Then Cam Stewart told me it wasn’t in the script, so make of that what you will.

    Excellent work amy, glad to see you back on an annocommentations tip. Really looking forward to next issue. Totally agree regarding Batgirl by the way, though I suspect this issue is the best thing the characters ever been in by a country mile. Its a real shame DC can’t find someone to write a Batgirl book as good as this every month…

  7. amypoodle Says:

    Well, Ben, given that we don’t give a shit for authorial intent around here (well, not all the time), I say: you were absolutely right, and ya boo sucks!, Cameron.

    I’m sure you’re right about Batgirl too. Shame. Reading through the Girl Wonder page I linked to, I began to feel really sorry for female comic fans. If you’re a woman, and you care about such things, you have to read a lot of shit in the name of feeling represented… and then, because most of these books seem to be written by shut-in males, of course the whole things turns round and bites you on the arse.

    The whole death of Stephanie Brown Robin thing sounds about as horrible as comics get.

  8. Zig Zag Zig Says:

    “Superman achieves ego loss via supersenses which connect him to the beating heart of an ever needy humanity, Batman locks himself in a cave and engages in a month long blast of super-Chod, but Leviathan go the rock star route, drugging you up to the eyeballs and threatening you with extinction.”

    Nice. In the Morrison-verse, the hero is capable of removing impurities of perception, thereby allowing a transcendence of self. Through this process a super-self is born. The super-self has access to the hidden mysteries and subtle connections of reality. It brings calmness and fluidity.

    But to embrace impurity is to destroy or bury the self, to become a creeping poison and a blunt instrument.

    As usual, it’s very Neoplatonic.

    Whatever the case, this is an interesting counter-point that I hadn’t considered very well. It makes me think again about the number of times that Batman’s villains have threatened to lobotomize or otherwise ruin the minds of others. The battleground, as well as the stakes of any battle, is always located in the soul. And the choicest soul is the super-soul.

  9. Deep Space Transmissions Says:

    My wife was a big fan of Will Pfeiffer’s run on Catwoman, jumping on just as the One Year Later thing was happening. A big part of that was Catwoman trying to juggle superheroics with new motherhood.

    The book was totally derailed, first by Amazons Attack and then by the Batman Reborn reshuffle. Selina gave her baby away (!?) in the final issue so she could go look all sexy-like in Gotham City Sirens and my wife totally gave up on super-hero comics. Can’t say I blame her really…

  10. amypoodle Says:

    Yeah, that’s fair enough. Sounds totally rubbish. Why on Earth she can’t be sexy Selina on rooftops and a Mum is beyond me. This is comics – where’s the bloody imagination? I think motherhood (and, BTW, they succeeded in conclusively wiping that under the carpet, because I had NO IDEA Selina had a child) would add a really nice dimension to the Catwoman character. Tiger and her cubs and all that.

    Bruce is fine as a Dad, no one cares about that anymore, but men are allowed to be both Dads *and* sexy.

  11. amypoodle Says:

    Thinking about it, Selina-as-a-mum makes loads of sense. Catwoman’s always, or since Year One at least, been a character with dependents. It’s part of her schtick. Arrgh.

  12. Deep Space Transmissions Says:

    I think Pfeiffer’s (editorially mandated) Amazons Attack was so badly received DC have taken a Year Zero approach to anything he worked on and never referred to it ever again, even pre-reboot.

    In some ways I can understand the reticence at superheroes becoming parents; it shifts the focus from (allegedly juvenile) readers identifying with the hero to presumably identifying them with their parents, and also poses no end of headaches in the ‘time passing’ department (I just looked it up, Franklin Richards is 43 years old).

    On the other hand, I don’t understand why its okay to be a parent to kids who aren’t biologically ‘yours’ (Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, Chris Kent etc.) as surely this just creates the exact same set of problems. Can it really be as simple as not wanting to allow sex into the world of the super-hero?

    In forget how Morrison has framed it with Damian. Did Bruce and Talia actually have sex or was he drugged/cloned from his DNA or something?

  13. Zom Says:

    Sex. See Son of the Demon

  14. Thrills Says:

    Amypoodle said: “One reason, other than the fact that I like fashion, why it’s nice when current trends make their way into comic books though, a *serious* reason, is that it helps heighten verisimilitude”

    Oh, completely. One of the details that I LOVED in this comic that helped to make it feel set in, like, a ‘real’ place, was the pupils’ guns being personalised with things like mobile phone decorations (as seen in the image at the top of this post) or one being all spangly. Seing that was a proper “of COURSE they’d do that!” moment, for me. A small detail, but it made all the difference.

    “Superman’s mid 90s mullet – THE FUCKING MID NINETIES! NO ONE WORE MULLETS THEN! – really tore me out of whatever I was reading with him in it. Proper dissonance.”

    Terrifyingly, I have just read the 1993 (?) novelisation of the death/reign/rebirth Superman stuff. It makes no mention of the mullet, and it’s all the better for it. My excuse for reading what was basically just a 300-page wikipedia article? It was 99p in a charity shop and I had a 10-hour bus journey. I am a winner.

  15. Thrills Says:

    Also, speaking of Catwoman having a child (I did not know that, either), didn’t Stephanie Brown have a kid in the 90s? I remember reading something about that in Wizard, for my sins.

    (A quick wikipedia search reveals she did have a baby, but put it up for adoption. Teen Single Mother Superhero could have been quite interesting, though?)

  16. werdsmiffery Says:

    Yes, yes and yes! I love every word of this piece, and while not knowing much about Stephanie Brown, your account has me convinced she deserved better than what DC Comics gave her before this.

    I think having Stewart on board is a real plus, as his style of good-girl art reads as sexy without being skeevy. I mean, the climactic fight sequence builds to a Bond-film-level sight gag/double entendre, but still comes across as light-hearted.

    And yes, the little details like the girls’ blinged-out handguns were great. Can’t wait for you to get to the next issue. It’s very obviously Morrison’s Prisoner tribute issue, and there’s plenty of Mindless-friendly themes to dig into there.

  17. Zom Says:

    Poodle’s pretty much got it in the bag already, Smiffery. Expect it over the next few days.

    Given the kinds of expectations heaped on the superhero genre I’m not at all surprised to see Catwoman and babe being binned. It’s an interesting direction, to be sure, but not one that I’d expect the readership to eat up. I’ve always thought that Morrison was sailing pretty close to the wind with Damian, for that matter – I say that as a big fan of the character, you understand.

  18. mad_arab Says:

    So glad you got around to this amy, excellent as usual!

    Bryan Miller’s Stephanie as Batgirl run was actually ‘solid’ and ‘fun’, taking advantage of the character’s eagerness to write 24 issues that were always enjoyable, in the same way that Waid’s Daredevil is enjoyable (this character’s been through a lot of…ah fuck it they like being a superhero, let’s have fun with that).

    Stephanie’s enthusiasm was extremely endearing, and her supporting cast (with Oracle as a Miyagi figure) well fleshed out. Miller should also get credit for writing the best damn Damien outside of a Grant Morrison comic (a particularly poignant scene has the kid undercover at an elementary school on Stephanie’s behalf, and upon being asked his name, replies ‘My name is…Bruce.’)

    Pere Perez, Lee Garbett, and Dustin Nguyen also made for a great rotating art team, with Perez in particular really coming into his own over the course of the series. He really has fun on the last issue, a ‘For the Man Who Has Everything,’ riff with Stephanie hallucinating a great, long life as Batgirl.

    It was one of DC’s most well-rounded, well-executed series pre-reboot, carried by Miller’s love, the freshness of the much too short Dick-as-Batman era and Stephanie’s charisma.

    Oh well.

  19. Jonathan Burns Says:

    There’s music coming from somewhere …

    Pink Floyd, post-Syd. The sky’s unraveling into superspeed threads as windowpane acid explodes into the ape brains of Gideon Stargrave and the lovely Jenny Shaw. Cold thrill of Thames spray. High velocity!

    Jenny, 15, proud possessor of the Miss Evelyn Cruikshank Hockey Shield and former Third Form Dux of St. Hilary’s in Kent, aims her M-16 and fires.

    I liked it well enough, but as a secondary reaction I was thinking: he’s getting tired of this, he’s taken superspies and the awful girls’ school as far as they can go. He knows they’re both exhausted.

    But now I’m thinking of dear old Greyfriars in the Black Dossier, incubating O’Brien and Big Brother in just the way Cambridge (so I’m told) incubated Burgess and Maclaine. What a sordid fucking mess.

    How much brighter … how much worthier … if there had been a young ladies’ finishing school incubating endless Cathy Gales and Emma Peels? With the effect of bringing stuffy John Steeds up to scratch?

    [wp: The Avengers]

    During the Gale era Steed was transformed from a rugged trenchcoat-wearing agent into the stereotypical English gentleman, complete with Savile Row suit, bowler hat and umbrella with clothes later designed by Pierre Cardin. (The bowler and umbrella were full of tricks, including a sword hidden within the umbrella handle and a steel plate concealed in the hat.) [...] With his impeccable manners, old world sophistication, and vintage automobiles, Steed came to represent the traditional Englishman of an earlier era.

    Now where I have “effect” there, I first wrote “essential mission”. Can’t have that, though. Spy girls aren’t there for the men. If John Steed insists on his drab trenchcoat he’s not going to last the season. Likewise, the middle-aged movie director isn’t going to keep his fortune or his figurative balls attached if he can’t keep up with a schoolgirl ninja marine. Ph.D.

    It’s very easy to say, I’m a master criminal billionaire, I can hire Pussy Galore for his bodyguard, part of the perks. If you say that though, all you get is curves in black leather.

    When you look, what makes Cathy Gale and Emma Peel is education. Anthropologist. Polymath. They’re a grade or two higher than you. They ask questions you don’t. They slip into specialist domains you can’t.

    Now ask, what makes Kathy Kane? Scholar. Filmmaker. Investigator of WWII residua, traverser of mazes.

    What has she gained? What position has she attained?

    Gotta think, one in which she talks with “Matron” with equal formidability.

    While Miss Hexley, I think, is just a very sleek package of curves in black leather.

    And Bruce Wayne is panting to keep up. Points for trying, though.

  20. amypoodle Says:

    I’m gonna read Batgirl.

    Will respond to some of these comments when I’m not editing a post…..

  21. Botswana Beast Says:

    The thing of Damian’s conception is – in Batman #657, is it? Bruce relates a tale of being “drugged senseless”, which does not match the iirc fairly consensual, and actually genuinely just quite sexy, if you read it aged 12 or whatever, stuff in Son of the Demon. I think Morrison has admitted to a memory fuck-up wrt that, just as he did with Sebastian Shaw’s powers in NEWXM3N.

  22. Zom Says:

    Fanwank: Isn’t “drugged senseless” just a big old excuse for reckless sexy behaviour with a supercriminal with the added bonus that it could also be a poetic way of claiming helplessness in the face of sexy hormones and chemical urges?

  23. Comics A.M. | Persepolis trial resumes amid uproar in Tunisia | Robot 6 @ Comic Book Resources – Covering Comic Book News and Entertainment Says:

    [...] Comics | The Mindless Ones annotate the gigantic last issue of the pre-New 52 Batman Incorporated. [The Mindless Ones] [...]

  24. amypoodle Says:

    Yeah, Talia does go on to say ‘You performed spectacularly…’ And then there’s *that* image of them kissing, bat-masks on. They definitely screwed.

    Was a memory fuck up too, though. You’re both right. Batman wasn’t drugged before sexy time in Son of the Demon.

  25. taters Says:

    BQ Miller’s Batgirl with Stephanie was an excellent, fun book which made me *happy* each time I read it (although the first two issues were fairly shaky). And Miller’s take on Damian was more enjoyable than Morrison’s, as well. Everything Moz has put Steph up to in this book is just building on the structure and persona Miller created. She *was* in a book this good – one that was focused on her, where she absolutely exuded agency. She didn’t take orders from anyone, even Oracle, although she might take advice. I hope to see her return that way someday and not as a batlackey.

  26. taters Says:

    Wow, @Zom, if you said any of that about a female who claimed to be drugged senseless you’d be a rape apologist. Morrison admitted he got it wrong, but I think it’s actually fun to throw both Bruce and Damian under the bus as unreliable narrators.

  27. Zom Says:

    I take your point, I really do, but I wouldn’t say that about an actual for real person, male or female! I said it about Batman, the world’s most dangerous man, in the face of tacit accusations that he had a love affair with a world class supervillain hell bent on destroying the world as we know it.

    I’m quite happy to throw Batman and Damian under the bus as narrators, but I’m also happy to throw them under the bus as reliable reporters of their own inner lives. I like the idea that Batman wouldn’t like to admit to having fallen in lust and possibly love with Talia, that it all had to be about mind control drugs (which, I think you’ll agree, have a different set of meanings and connotations in the comicbook world than their real world analogues do).

    Uptight superblokes, innit, all controlcontrolcontrol.

  28. mad_arab Says:

    Hell yeah for Batgirl!

    I totally forgot (as it must have happened a half-year ago) that there was a prequel to this issue in Miller’s Batgirl that has a Squire-Batgirl frolic through London as Stephanie rushes to make her appointment with Batman.

  29. amypoodle Says:

    As I say, definitely going to be reading that book. Better take on Damian than Morrison, eh? Well given that I thoroughly enjoy Morrison’s take, that should mean it’s pretty gosh darned good.

    The ‘Bruce’ name thing sounded really touching.

  30. Anthony Says:

    Great annocmmentations (as always). I just wanted to put in a good word for Cliff Chiang regarding fashionable attire in comic books. I’ve read interviews were he details how he tries to make sure the characters are wearing recent fashions (if it is in their character) and I think he does a good job of it!

  31. Zom Says:

    Chiang’s good work hasn’t gone unnoticed by the mindless.

  32. bonnie the wonderdog Says:

    thrills – if you’re in auld reekie i might owe you a pint. i got my copy for a pound after a very festive comicshop owner tried to let me have it for free. ( i felt like i was taking advantage and gave insisted on giving him a quid. Maybe he needed to make some money back

  33. amypoodle Says:

    Yeah, obvs all times are collapsed into one in this postmodern stew in which we live, the fifties next to the eighties next to the guy who’ll always wear jeans and a T-shirt no matter what decade he’s in, so everyone shouldn’t look up to the minute or anything, but given that many superheroes are young, and superhero books are supposedly aimed at young people, etc, I think current trends should get a look in more than they do.

  34. Thrills Says:

    Bonnie the Wonderdog – I do indeed live in Auld Reekie, and I know a wonderful dog called Bonnie. I don’t think she can type, though, so you may not be her?

    But yeah, the Edinburgh Local Comic Shop is super-friendly, but the service can be somewhat, well, erratic, I suppose…

  35. Carnival of souls: Katie Skelly to Sparkplug, Lisa Hanawalt, Shawn Cheng, more « Attentiondeficitdisorderly by Sean T. Collins Says:

    [...] * The Mindless Ones’ Amypoodle has begun annotating Batman Incorporated: Leviathan Strikes. [...]

  36. RetroWarbird Says:

    Bruce and Talia have been shown getting busy enough in the “How Damian came to be” flashbacks that we can assume Bruce just doesn’t want to remember his very male moment of weakness with Talia happening that way. But that’s the make of it, ain’t it? The Batman believes in victory in preparation … but can any Man really prepare for an equal-or-greater-than Woman?

    Great analysis, guys. Yeah read that Miller Batgirl book some day if its all collectible … I don’t know what teenage/college girl Miller was channeling but it rings eerily true. BFF with Supergirl, fighting holographic Draculas on Segways. It was the only book not “Batman and Robin” I could stomach.

    Incorporated really repositions (or reveals) several women as superior. I can’t help wonder if its telling that their superiority is actually in spy/secret/deception/cleverness, but that’s the way of it. Talia pulled the rug over Bruce’s eyes. Stephanie pulled the rug over the eyes of young girls training to pull rugs over eyes. Hell, she got more of a showing than even Tim Drake (well, at least until the second half of this issue where Grant finally throws a bone to the kid who’s ultimately “Batman’s greatest student”, if not brother-in-arms, prodigal son, or heir to the throne.)

    Kathy Kane pulled the rug over Bruce’s eyes to legendary proportions.

    Batwoman demolished Scorpiana the same way Batgirl demolished the schoolgirls (MY. PEOPLE. ARE. SMARTER.) and took down a woman who took down Nightwing pretty handily.

    For a run that started with Jezebel Jet, with her Bond-girl name, being so obviously a 2-dimensional fake, evil actress and who only “thought” she was pulling a fast one on old Bruce (and Talia still being completely jealous), women have really stolen the Bat-Thunder. I’d been in the camp who thought Jez was running the show, too … but critical analysis should’ve shut that thought up. Jet is no St. Hadrian’s girl.

    The Headmistress disappeared awfully quick when Hexley showed her Brown’s Cluemaster pedigree. Figure she saw through Bruce’s plan, just then. “Oh right … exchange student from Gotham. Good try, that. Didn’t think this Leviathan jazz would bring the Bat-Heat down on me. Off to my Caribbean island!”

    And lastly one has to wonder at how long collusion between Kane and Talia was happening. A school for assassins would be a good resource for the daughter of the League of Assassins … and Talia and Ra’s were in the room with Kathy when she “died”. Sounds like a fair deal – we fake your death, get you out of this “Spyral” mess your dad’s constantly sticking you with (he goes mad from it, rebels, kills some British heroes … or was he paid to do that?) and all she’s got to do is run a school that trains new killers. And the Kathy/Scorpiana connection is now explicit. (Still waiting on the finer details of the Kathy/circus/Spyral/Pyg/circus possibilities.)

  37. RetroWarbird Says:

    As for the divisive, experimental Part 2 … hard to follow? Bat-Memeneto. Even with an homage to that film’s cover art. But more on that in due time.

  38. Bovva Boy Says:

    “Perhaps it’s stretching the scene’s symbolic potential to breaking point, but the image of Batman as gardener armed with weedkiller ‘disinfecting’ the bright young blooms could be read as a codified mission statement.”

    Stretch it a bit further and it’s pure Magick: GM’s run has been a climb through the upper branches of the Tree of Life, from Geburah onwards, and here he is as Magister Templi, as Nemo tending the garden in dark Binah…

  39. Mindless Ones » Blog Archive » Indigo Batman: Leviathan Prime Says:

    [...] so I’m going to have to respectfully disagree with amypoodle’s assertion that issue #7 of Batman Incorporated (the “Chief Man of Bats” issue) was in any way [...]

  40. paleo recipe book Says:

    Flax seed contains: potassium, folic acid, omega
    3, omega 6 fatty acids and protein. These recipes will focus on the items listed above.
    Following our evolutionary counterparts may provide an important insight into how we have evolved to eat, and why our present day
    diet is largely responsible for our declining health and excess weight gain.

Leave a Reply