January 28th, 2012
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 hu….
(The quiet lapping on the shores of the Infinite. Netz could never convey it. Somehow all the gold got turned to shit)
Lucius’s speech comes with sound – you can hear Morgan Freeman. Just in case we forgot, this is Grant reminding us that his Batcast have relocated to the Nolanverse, or a universe nudged just a fraction of a nano-inch away from it – the new DCU, say. Little did he know when he wrenched the bat out of the Totemic and gave it life, that soon the entire DC line would follow it into a harder, more measurable, researched and developed sandpit. That’s the problem with magic, eh, Morrison? You asked for everything to concretize…. you have to be careful what you wish for…..
But saying that – the Dark Crystal Batman?!?
(Check the black light crawling across the floor beneath the crystal’s chamber!)
What Morrison said in the Invisibles about everything becoming coming true (although I’d put the word in quotes myself – metaphor, reality and all that)? I really can’t argue the point with him. If you have an outlandish thought there’s bound be some scientific theory that’ll back it up. I’m sure there must’ve been a time when science wasn’t quite so strange. S’probably what drove Sivana mad, the fact that in the forties or whatever he was talking like New Scientist is today. No wonder these people never had had any friends, not after explaining to the other students how they were grown in a 2D continuum harvested periodically in all time directions by vast three dimensional outer-space gods.
As noted over at Deep Space Transmissions, Borronean rings are the subject of scientific study. Here’s a link to the New Scientist article that Morrison must’ve read. It’s the right time frame and everything. And they *might* have practical application:
‘If groups of particles can be made to bond in this way, they would create matter with previously unseen properties, Baas reckons. “When you go to a higher level, something completely new happens mathematically – and I would suspect it does in the real world too,” he says.
From there, it might be possible to create new quantum states in the lab. This in turn might provide new ways to build super-powerful quantum computers, which manipulate information carried in the quantum states of particles. Such quantum information can be in many states at once, so quantum computers can carry out enormous numbers of calculations simultaneously.’
UPDATE!! Was reading in the newspaper today about how meta materials may well mean invisibility in the not too distant future promised by these sorts of articles. Got a link here. Turns out the story’s about four years old.
As we’ve discussed before, and as most of you probably already know, the Ouroboros is a symbol that crops up in many cultures and is understood in alchemy as the ultimate closed circuit, the unity within the system – the ur unity in fact. The single, indivisible God who is both Alpha and Omega, Above and Below. The highest consciousness to which the mystic can aspire, the fusion of the material and the divine, etc. It makes poetic sense, then, that Grant connects this symbol to a kind of transcendent matter, as though the ancients intuited the Brunnian Rings all along. This is in keeping with Grant’s new bat-take, and his post-Kathmandu worldview, where what was once *up there*, ineffable, magical and mysterious, is now revealed to abut, indeed to have it’s roots in, the physical realm as well.
As is usual when one explores these spooky territories, bizzare coincidences spring up. As part of my research for these annos I dipped into one of my Dad’s books about geometry and symbol and I dug up some weird facts. To begin with, although the most famous Brunnian Rings are commonly referred to as Borromean Rings, this label was actually predated by St Edmunds Rings, an Archbishop who lived, and for whom the rings were a symbol, long before the Borromeo’s appear to have adopted them. In fact, according to my Father these triple vesicas were used in Gothic trefoils all across Europe and represented the unity of the Trinity (interestingly their commonly understood symbolic meaning, the idea of strength in unity, is the core tenet of fascism, and Netz of course is a neo-fascist, or is that a proto-fascist?). The other freaky stuff? Well, it seems during his formative years these things haunted the margins of my Dad’s life and may well have contributed to a life long interest in sacred geometry:
‘I spent twenty-one years under St Edmund’s aegis. He happened to be the patron saint of my junior school, secondary school, and the theological college where I spent six years studying for the priesthood. He was also the patron saint of the hall of residence, now a college, where I lived while at Cambridge University [....] St Edmunds rings were my first introduction to a form of geometry that was conceptual and metaphorical at the same time…’
And, again, you only need to turn to google to find science fiction materials theorised about or already being made for your new bat-robots. The biggest miracle to me is the price. Amazing.
I would never have got that the robats are doing Burt Ward style palm punching – thanks Ben!
I love the idea of the robats as the world’s robo sidekick, with the chirpy personality of a young Dick Grayson via an F-35 Lightning II.
But in the space of one panel we plummet from this gleaming, strutting, hi-tech bat-heaven into the depths.
‘All your plans, your schemes, your tactics. All for nothing. Rats in a trap waiting to die.’
All that firepower made everything seem so straightforward. What enemy could withstand an army of iron bat-warriors?
But, just like that, we’re lost in the maze.
PAGES 4 & 5
‘Leviathan is Jezebel Jet?’
Morrison’s been reading the DCU message boards again. Jet has been the (fan) favourite for Leviathan for a while now, even before last issue’s big reveal – a red herring possibly inspired by reader speculation.
The occult symbolism persists with the five doors. I told you Netz was a puffer, didn’t I? Drawing from his extensive esoteric knowledge and what he knows about Netz, Batman correctly assumes that the only way forward is through the white door – the door of Ether. But in the post-material all the rules change. There is no time. No solid ground. As we shall see.
The image of Bruce pushing at the white of the comic page – the ultimate ground upon which the original four colour process echoed in the doors (check them – magenta, cyan, yellow and black), and therefore all comics, rests – represents our hero travelling beyond the confines of the 2D and scattering across the comic Faculty X style. The higgledypiggeldification of Batman.
‘Batman, no! Remember what happened last time!’
Over at DST, Ben’s left scratching his head as to how these events could repeat themselves. Well, I’d hazard: for effect. The Labyrinth of Dedalus has to boil over out of the panels if we’re going to properly feel the peril Batman’s in. From this point on the subjective and the objective start to lose all meaning. We can’t trust what we read at all.
There’s another explanation, too. We’ll get onto that.
PAGES 6 AND 7
Given the stuff above about time breaking down, it stands to reason that this story, and Dedalus’s whole schtick, draws so heavily from the comics of the late 60s/early seventies. It’s not just the mise-en-scene and the death traps, but the little things too, like Dedalus’s constant punning, his quips about bats and parlors and sticky wings, etc. Leviathan Strikes issue two represents these stories resurrected and updated to bite us, and Batman, in the ass. Steranko’s revenge! Before Morrison, I thought I’d never see pages like these in a Batman comic. A big thank you to both him and Burnham for proving me wrong. This is Batman as super-spy in one condensed blast.
(I particularly enjoy the slowly swivelling chair.)
Speaking of time distortions and mind bending, these two pages have no clear reading order. Everything happens out of sync, with Batman entering wearing his rebreather (sixth link down when you run a search for ‘ouroboros’! And, well – rebreather! An ouroboric technology if ever there was one) to find the guards defeated, only to don said rebreather and do battle with the guards a few panels afterwards.
I like to imagine that in reality the Alzheimer’s riddled, amnesiac Dedalus converses in non-sequiteurs which Batman’s powerful mind, resistant to the last, organises into something resembling sense. But it’s a permeable sense. We’re all at sea here. Dedalus completely inhabits his condition, he owns it, and he balances things out by forcing his enemies onto his very un-level playing field. The psychedelic wall effect captures this completely – the way it’s running in two directions at once, uncertain of where it is.
‘You met the warden of my jail – the last man to walk the Spiral – on an insland in the South Atlantic, with his mind irreparably damaged.’
Batman Inc five left me a little frustrated because it failed to include an explanation for how the warden in question’s personality was overwritten. It’s simple. Mind control – Leviathan 101. And now we know how he took out the Victory V’s so easily and what was going on with Knight’s temporal distortions too. Dedalus didn’t need brawn, everyone got the same treatment as Batman here: his cloak of smoke fried their minds (a quick aside, back when I was annocommenting #4, I didn’t mention just how creepy the image of the petrified Iron lady was. An (un)dead seaside sculpture. It would’ve screwed with me even more if there’d been the page count to go into a close up. Imagine the rust in the eyes and around the mouth…..).
There’s one thing which is creepily irreducible about the Warden, however – his response when he first meets Batman, ‘I knew it when I felt the snow. The Time Voyager!’, and I’m not going to bother trying to explain how this imposter knew about Bruce’s time jaunt here. Something I might mention, though, is that the time displaced Netz with his super-Alzheimer’s may possess a heightened sensitivity to disturbances in the chronosphere, perhaps experiencing them as a fluctuation in the signal; static, white noise. Snow.
I like that the Spiral is a place as well as an organisation. The heart of the mystery should be surrounded by endlessly collapsing mystery, I think. Secrets blurring into secrets blurring into secrets, like the rotating rooms. At the very least it would totally fuck up Nick Fury when he came a knocking. Or would it? I think people were more at home in this aesthetic back then. Those old guys probably hate the Nolan-greys (see the opening scene) of modern space stations and deep sea bases just as much as the kids today hate the trippy design sense of the secret agencies of yesteryear.
‘The labyrinth was designed to break even the strongest enemy agent. For Lazlo Valentin, the only exit was via violent paranoid schizophrenia, drug abuse and DIY surgery. Lazlo became Professor Pyg [...] Like him you burrow blindly into the belly of the beast. Alone in the spyral sink of the Labyrinth of Dedalus…’
Found it! (from Batman and Robin #16)
Down, down the brightly flashing rabbit hole we go…. into abject insanity.
‘The rebreather I’m sure you’re wearing ran out of its oxygen supply some time ago.’
This is an unpleasant twist. Batman’s number one rule doesn’t work if he doesn’t know when to apply it, and his utility belt, which normally has an answer for everything, can’t help him if he doesn’t know when he should dip into it. He’s outclassed here. Netz is old school. A total badass.
The rotating rooms Batman passes through conform to the elemental symbolism of the entrance hall’s doorways. We start with Air – all high tech, high concept design, where the trap is outlined, the structure of the comic book explained and…. Batman’s plans falls apart. The intellect, the rational mind, would, I think, be the first thing to go.
A lost recording of bizzare transmissions received from the Leviathan sometime during the late 1960s! Many of the more reliable researchers into the weird backalleys of ‘the secret world’ believe these noises to represent the last garbled ‘distress signal’ sent by Andrei Glazunov, a russian intelligence operative sent to infiltrate the top secret Spiral facility shortly after its construction in June of ’68.
(1968, of course, was an eventful year for spies in general.)
Stockhausen aficionados dismiss any such claims as utter rubbish.
PAGES 8 AND 9
Locating the New DCU Batwing in the DRC was always an awful idea, so naturally any right thinking person is going to prefer the fictional Mtamba as Des Zavimbi’s base of operations. But it’s not just satisfying from an I’m-less-likely-to-be-offended-by-this point of view, it also ties neatly into Grant’s backstory, Mtamba being the former stomping ground of Jezebel Jet, which since her death now appears to be squirming under the iron thumb of a military junta. It’s unclear from the script exactly what Zavimbi’s role is in all this, whether he’s a puppet ruler or just a popular member of the ruling class they leave hanging around to encourage the people’s support for the regime, but what I do know is that he’s a Mtambian Bruce Wayne. A wealthy, decadent dilletante by day and an avenging angel by night, fighting insurmountable odds. Just check the stand-in Batwing’s dialogue: ‘You genuinely thought that shallow, privileged snob was me?’
Obviously he’s trying to deliver the message that they’ve recovered Jet’s decapitated body when….
YOU IS FUCKED, MATE.
I love that we have to wait until this issue’s final pages to make sense of what’s happening here. When we realise those birds in the distance…. aren’t birds.
This room, which sees Netz compare memory with our emotional selves, describing the erosion of our pasts in terms of departing lovers and friends, and with its rippling surface reflecting the previous room back at us, must be Water, the realm of emotion.
Other than the speech balloon we are given no clear indication of where the real Batman resides in the feedback plummeting into the screen. In fact we are shown no room beyond said screen – it takes up an entire panel. Batman is lost in these mirror images, and like those pesky memories we can see him beating a hasty departure through the doorway at the far end of the room even as he’s only just emerging through the door into it. Present and Not Present. This is a model of consciousness as an endlessly self-referential system, a strange loop, with a leak. Alzheimer’s. The imagery is so dense.
That dialogue is excellent actually. Chilling. Grant’s seen this up close and personal, has he? Reads like it.
The Hood gets killed. Shame. And we discover that the Headmistress, Kathy, may well be working for or controlling Spyral too. We’ll see.
Now this is probably way off base, only I can’t let is pass without commenting on it – the white on black dialogue, the ‘deuces high’? The double agent couldn’t possibly be somehow related to Hurt, or at the very least the Omega Adapter that possessed him? I know, I know, it seems like overkill. That little space-slug couldn’t have come crawling out out of the carcass’s ear, out of the grave and into… someone else? That story’s over. Isn’t it?
And here’s a map of all the rooms: Earth, Air, Water, Ether and….
The reds, yellows and oranges, raw elemental bat-sound effects, pared down *blazing* imagery and the stripped back core of the Batman myth indicate we’re in the realm of Fire, of spirit and energy. The gunshot on the page preceding it reverberates across the first panel, and across the entire Batman mythos, as the fire burns away everything until all we’re left with is that one fatal night, that one gun, that one bullet. BAM! converts effortlessly into BLAM! eternal – the blast never dissipates. The bubble type cushions the blow, bevelling out the edges so it can be squeezed into the boy’s soul.
The Dark Knight never got there in time to save Bruce, forever rushing to his rescue, here, at the molten core.
And so the Barbed Wire Mother, the unnurturing mother. The empty mother with her ‘gown of flame’. Pyg leaves a way-sign marking the place where he was lost forever, where Bruce was lost forever. That Poor little kid: Bruce, Pyg, everyone.
The pearls hang weightless in the air. The smiling child’s last memory before…. the memory eats him, and the room rotates back into position.
The mirror is black and cracked, calcified like coal.
The pearl a scuttling monster.
PAGES 14 AND 15
Seriously though, did you see what Morrison did there? He turned Martha Wayne’s pearl into Batman’s personalised Rover.
(Here’s a look at the new Rover mist-tech those secret government bastards are using now. These were leaked from the original field tests. Someone’s been reading M.R. James.)
Let’s take a second or two to gawp at Burnham’s fight scene. His line is so fluid, the eye can’t help but get carried downstream.
(Robin’s impatient. He’s been waiting simply forever (see below))
I have no idea whether or not it was specified by the script, but the way Burnham draws the smoke as an almost solid substance, like giant rabbit droppings piling up around the edges of the room, is pretty creepy. Good articulation of the meta-material idea. What is that stuff, part cloth, part smog?
Those doors are wonderful too. Are they plastic, metal, or just fields of (Bardo) light? That they’re all of a sudden gone, as though they’ve been turned off, and suddenly there’s guards standing in the doorway certainly favours the latter. Robin’s ‘What just happened…?’ underscores the point.
Another interesting feature of his dialogue is the way it not only serves as a tentative response to the final words spoken in the previous entrance hall scene (‘Batman! Remember what happened last time!’), but also to Dick’s warning at the end of this one (‘You know what happened…’). The dialogue creates a pair of closed loops that suggest the gas around the rim of the room has started to take hold and that Batman’s back up team have begun to succumb to its effects.
You can find these loops all over the comic if you pay close attention.
In fact this scene is full of circles. To begin with there’s the repetition of the number three – the three heroes – which in sacred geometry and numerology represents the first dynamic process, and then there’s the shape of the room itself, which, Morrison goes to great pains to point out by providing an aerial shot, is an enclosed circle with no apparent entrance and with four overlayed circles, the grooves formed by the rotating drum mechanism, in its floor.
The only way out of these loops is by jumping off the game board. The team are stuck in the room forever until their most unaffected, single-minded member, Damian, pushes through the doorway and exits the page.
One final thing I think needs to be remarked upon here, which ties into the distortions experienced by Knight in Incorporated #4, is Morrison’s linked understanding of time and identity. The ontological, along with the chronlogical, drift that defines many of this issue’s weirder moments is deliberate and has its roots in the idea that individual consciousness is an illusion of the third dimension. Unshackled from the 3D, Morrison believes our sense of self detonates into the billion mouthed chatterings of the fifth dimensional Biota of which all life is a part – Bruce, Tim, Dick, Damian, Pyg and….
In the case of the characters on the page, we are the Biota, our minds the divine solvent.
PAGES 16 AND 17
Combining the ur-spy aesthetics of Steranko, Bond, U.N.C.L.E and the Prisoner, the control room seen in Air could well be viewed as a cathedral, a holy monument to the golden age of superspying in the sixties and seventies. A shining triumph of modernist design here fallen to Earth and become a tomb (check the gothic, Goreyesque line work!). Even the opening beats of this scene, Batman entering the room with Netz’s spider-chair slowly swivelling to face him, play out identically to those of its lofty twin. But scratching the gleaming surface of the ideal body has revealed a carcass – beneath the shiny metals and colourful plastics, a skeleton.
I’ve mocked up a time scrambled, vector collapsed un-page to give you a better sense of what’s going on here…. and with this comic and Batman’s head more generally.
(Is the page alive or dead?)
This is the way of all ‘flesh’, and there’s nothing left for Batman to do now that his extended body, his team, has betrayed him, but to die. Netz, too, is dead, always dead, nothing left but an empty recording. No thoughts, no emotions, no spirit – no friends and no enemies left – just Batman face down, unconscious, in the centre of the Labyrinth.
There’s something nauseatingly horrible about this room and the way Burnham’s smooth lines are now infested with fuzzy, wriggling materiality. The juxtaposition of this space with its airy double is as good an example of the Abject as any I’ve seen. Et in Arcadia Ego. The terrible tension between subject and object.
This is as good a place as any to bring up the constant switching between Netz’s ‘real’ and ‘recorded’ voice. I put both words in quotes because they’re interchangable. The decisions Morrison made as to which extracts of Netz’s speech would fall into which bracket were in all likelihood arbitrary, the intended effect an impressionistic approximation of the dialogical (if that’s the right word) confusion that renders it impossible for Batman, and the reader, to *place* Netz. As with Memento, the recordings represent the cigarette burns in the narrative, lacuna’s in memory. Netz is the man who is there and not there, happening in the past, present and future, or, as we come to suspect when we enter Earth, sickeningly pregnant with the idea of never having happened at all – the spook in a vast, undead machine. It makes a great deal of poetic sense that he left an empty shell on that beach in the South Atlantic. Netz is nothing but shells. Shells within shells. A russian doll of a man.
These pages remind me of Fall Out, the concluding episode of the Prisoner – the bit when No. 6 pulls the mask off No. 1 and meets the eyes of a snorting ape. I still find that scene creepy even today. The flight of cast iron spiral stairs leading to a tiny attic of a control room, the hooded figure hunched over a video screen…. It’s like a sci-fi Don’t Look Now, and somewhat spoiled by the No 1. is No. 6 reveal.
Can Batman be beaten by a recording? The ultimate humiliation, surely? Our caped crusader crushed by the blind flailings of a long dead villain’s masterplan. Batman vs The Emptiness.
‘Governments paid me to kill their troublesome superhumans…their heroes. [...] I led them into elaborate deceptions, scenarios costing millions of dollars.’
Is that what the Victory V’s mission was really? One big deathtrap?
I always wondered what the Knight meant when he said ‘We trapped him there and he’ll never get out’. Perhaps, before getting slaughtered, the V’s choked Netz on his own mind warping cloak of smoke. Maybe that’s how he contracted Alzheimer’s.
PAGES 18 AND 19
Is the space station another example of one of Netz’s ‘elaborate scenarios’?
I’d never given much thought to the deadliest aspect of Lord Death Man’s immortality power; his ability to kill himself along with whomever he’s fighting. That’s the superpowered branch of Batman Inc well and truly fucked then.
Also: Burnham’s unremitting countdown – the remorseless repetition of the same font in each scene, here reaching 4:… just before we…
….cut to the explosion that finishes the thought at the top of this next page.
The grid pulses and Oracle springs into action.
Someone’s got to publicly recognise the sheer amount of unadulterated imagination that festoons every inch of these panels. Like the ro-bats here, sleeping, hanging bat-like in n-dimensional virtual space, where up is down and down is up simultaneously.
Oracle steers a path through the wayward chronology as time, the beginning and the end of Batman’s adventure, flattens to a point – here at the singularity, the centre of the Spiral.
But even her voice is caught in the web.
‘This is what happened last time….’
Before we cut to the next page, however, I want to take a look at the Leviathan itself.
Notice how it sits there, not so much as a ripple around it, the sea a perfect mirror, completely undisturbed – it’s waiting. It’s also, like Netz, un-dead, an empty shell alive with ghost lights, recordings of a past that won’t stay submerged. Because that’s where the great and rotting steel whale came from, you know? The depths to which it is now(?) returning. This is a fantastic revisioning of the ghost ship.
The Spiral Sink technology generates hauntings, shearing strange loops off its victim’s lives. While Batman and the rest appear to escape the prison, a part of their story will remain trapped, doomed to wander the maze forever.
Nobody else does spooky quite like Grant Morrison.
And I haven’t used the word hauntolo[SHUT UP! - ed]
or Spirit with a capital S.
And at last the Spiral Sink, naked. Like the entrance hall, this room is enclosed, a smooth sphere. You do not enter the realm of Spirit – it is revealed, always immanent. The trap already sprung.
From Outside everything is laid bare, the World (as in the classic spy story prop, the video screen adorning the centre of the first panel) seen from above, along with Netz’s masterplan, the exact location of his meta-bombs.
Beyond time and space the guards are reduced to crime scene chalk marks. Pure abstractions, pure ideas. And so they flit back and forth in our consciousness between the dead soldiers in issue 4 and the fallen brainwashed superheroes of Batman Incorporated. In the Otherworld, where everything is made one, where everything is connected by the Ether, pure thought, Nous, there is no difference. They may as well be the same thing.
‘She told me he liked puzzles, so I made a puzzle he would never solve.’
She? Who? Kathy? Jet?’
Or Talia? The hidden third.
Always the Spiral Sink of threes. The chalkmarks contain multitudes. Batman can’t choose between the women. They’re all happening at once.
‘I have hung a necklace of deadly meta-bombs around the world like precious pearls.’
It took me a little while to pick up on this reference to Martha’s necklace. How on Earth does Netz know about it? Is this information Bruce shared with Talia in an uncharacteristically unguarded moment after they’d untangled themselves and he’d stepped out of the tent into the desert night for a ‘bit of air’, with her following him a few minutes later wondering what all the creepy sobbing and bellowing was about – all that ‘MOTHER!’ stuff?
Is she using this most intimate of bat-moments against him? Is Netz taunting him with his one, primal failure? Whatever, this is the World as Martha Wayne, with a gun to its throat.
Same old same old then.
It’s amazing how Morrison continues to excavate this myth, still digging up gems. This issue posits a problematic relationship with the necklace. Notice how Batman tears it from the Bad Mother’s throat in Fire, as though retreving it from a thief, refusing her ownership over it. Over him. In the preceding scene, Bruce rushes to protect the last memory of his mother even as the pearl threatens to obliterate him, consuming the entirety of bottom middle panel along with his mind – even threatening the Reader hirself! The question of who the necklace belongs to, Martha Wayne and the Smiling Child or the dark forces that would destroy them, is, I think, a central theme.
This is a wonderful illustration of the tension between Bruce’s last, cherished memories of his mother and the venomous bug that hides inside them, ready to burst forth and bite at a moment’s notice. Again, this is the divine at home to the monstrous. The pearl-smooth surfaces of holy bat-history exploding with wriggling spider’s legs. Bat-sacrilege.
PAGES 22 AND 23
The story’s gravity becomes crushing here, with, inspite of his resistance (perhaps because of it – no diff same thing), El Gaucho flattened into the role of the Countdown’s next victim. The plot is being drawn down the rabbit hole, converting everything into the necessary narrative fuel it takes to get there. The pages are shattering under the pressure too. Check the panels.
Agent 33, Agent 33…. could point to a lot of things. It *feels* like Gaucho was Netz’s man, his most trusted agent. Smiley to Netz’s Control. Assuming that was the case, that Gaucho was cleared at the highest security level, then his code name riffing on the Freemasons’ 33rd and final degree makes a good deal of sense. All the top spies and lizards are Masons afterall. 33 is also, in modern numerology, one of the three Master Numbers, known by some as the ‘Master Teacher’, front loading Gaucho with a messianic narrative that he goes some way to fulfilling, in fast forward, in this issue, collapsing the stories of Judas and Jesus into one. Reaching? Probably.
But saying all that, spinning out of the other side of the Spiral there’s a ‘real’ Agent 33. It all gets messy at the highest reaches of global control. When these people talk about double agents, they mean double U agents, policing two realities at once.
There’s even a rumour that this…..
…was the intended theme tune for an uncompleted Bond Fim that attempted to explain, in literal terms, 007′s transition from Connery into Moore. The switch was effected in the final act, which saw Bond as Connery infiltrating an enemy sea vessel purported to house body swapping technology and emerging, victorious, as Moore – the climax to a nailbiting sequence during which the audience actually watched Bond ‘die’, amnesiac and fatally wounded amidst the flashing lights and unearthly bleeps and drones of the ‘Bodyswap Basin’. The reasons for the film’s shelving aren’t clear. One of the more offbeat rumours doing the rounds at the time was that the outlandish plot, poor script, terrible acting and ‘disco’ decor of both Bond and SPECTRE’s bases embarassed Fleming to such an extent that the ex-spy threatened the lives of both the studio boss and the director! Other sources suggest this is only half the story, and that Fleming was only the mouthpiece for far more sinister forces commited to the film’s destruction. Not because it was a lie that made the intelligence services look silly – but because it was too close to the truth.
(Obvs none of this is true, Fleming estate. Or is it?)
See how the ceiling, with the white curling into the black, inverts the design scheme on the floor. A White Hole and a Black Hole polarised. This room is a three dimensional Yin Yang, its shifting quality emphasised, perhaps by happy accident, by the shadowy black seat carved out of the white sphere at the centre of the White Hole and the white sparks from Netz’s cane in the centre of the Black Hole pictured above.
A picture of Heaven and Hell. The First Spiral.
When we last saw this dialogue it signaled the descent of Batman into the eye-crushing darkness, but here, with the emergence of Robin, we’re exiting out the other side into the light. Black holes, white holes, everything turning itself inside out and ejected into a new universe. This thing is so cleverly constructed. And, here, even the form of the comic is colluding with the plot, tipping Robin into the centre of the Labyrinth.
‘Your sons, your allies, your symbol will die. Like you killed my daughter’s love for me.’
I don’t remember Kathy and Otto having much of a Father/Daughter relationship. I suppose the good Doctor might be referring to the love Kathy may have felt for him when he was her superior officer – afterall, Gaucho seemed to hold him in very high esteem, so why not her too? Perhaps the Doctor’s just deluded. Whatever, as I’ve said before, everything in Batman Inc seems to boil down to familial and parental relationships.
Man, you know it’s not just Inc that’s family focused, it’s the entire Batman mythos. Batman’s a really good site within which to work out these issues, a fantastic symbolic tool kit for a Chaoate like Morrison.
PAGES 24 AND 25
Those aren’t minutes crushing Batman into the floor, but fractions of seconds. Or are they minutes? It’s all the same now, the pulverising iron curtain of inevitability.
The golden button is probably my favourite image from the entire run. See how the seconds have shrunk down to breaking point, where the countdown, like the snake, inverts itself at the beginning of every cycle – the 10 reversing into 01, propelling the process eternally forward. The button is where time stops. The centre of the cyclone, where the world is ended and saved forever.
The universe as a golden ring – a golden bubble! Bubbles within bubbles, the whole hologram held in place by the borronean knots of thought and language.
But the whole thing reverses. Black becomes white becomes black becomes white….. The world saved from the plughole one more time. And it looks like maybe the Black Lodge is Heaven after all.
This is the eternal comic moment coiled inside every superhero story, activated by the push of that golden button. The baddie defeated, the goodie saving the world…. without end.
Leviathan’s contractive, millions guided by one mind, Batman Inc’s expansive, a unified group of individuals spreading out from Batman at the centre. One’s self consuming, the other self propelling. It all depends on how you *see* the snake. The fallen elements are devoured, the golden reborn. Everything turns out just as it must.
But as Batman tells us:
And the room turns.
And we flip over to the enemy. To… Kathy Kane. Is she intimating that Netz isn’t dead? That, like all those pesky villains of yesteryear, like the serpent, he’ll return. I hope so. Doctor Dedalus is too creepy to die. Anyway, can you kill a recording?
‘I’ll send flowers, of course. He hated flowers.’
Even now he’s dead, Kathy still feels antagonistic towards her Father. What game’s she playing. It’s all intrigue and doublecrossing with these bloody spies. And in the year I became a massive fan of Le Carre.
Eyes and serpents: gorgons. Algol. Well done, Tim.
‘But it can’t be her.’
It can’t be her because she’s just a silly girl with her pet manbats and a crush on Gibraltar.
You know, before things got serious with Hurt and Jet and….
The Gorgon Queen, snuck in when we weren’t looking.
Forget Jezebel Jet, she was nothing. A stupid human not a supervillain. And now all that’s left of her forms the skull and crossbones buried deep within the pirate ship’s sunken innards, her decapitated head the calling card of those ‘silly’ 1970s manbats. Suddenly there’s nothing cutesy, fun or pop about the opening story of Grant’s run. It’s the most important story of all. And the consequences of ignoring it, of Batman ignoring it, are here to behold in all their gruesome glory.
Kali, the anti-mother, we should have seen it right away.
We should have got it the minute ‘Leviathan’ referred to Batman as the ‘Detective’ in Return.
Batman should have got it a few panels later.
This wasn’t a confident opening battlecry, but Batman’s unconscious clamouring for his attention, reminding him of her parting words on that dreadful, storm lashed night.
While a woman was always the most popular candidate for Leviathan’s true identity, I think it’s fair to say that the reason many of us dismissed Talia out of hand may have had something to do with our dismissal of the story she was part of – a narrative damned as essentially light, frivolous, and inconsequential, a colourful gnat nibbling at Batman’s side, a nuisance not a threat, similar to the way men, at their worst, view women generally.
There’s also the distinct possibility that Batman was blindsided for another reason: he still has feelings for her.
There’s a poetic rhythm to the final beat taking place on Crime Alley, or its environs, I’m never sure. After all the globetrotting, it’s only natural that as the story gets more close, more personal, we arrive back in Gotham, the heart of the mythos. It makes me wonder, though, is there more Milking of Batman #666 yet to come? And if that is Crime Alley where Damian kneels over his dead Father, how’s this all going to play out? More tricks with time? The time serpent’s still revolving….
However things go, this is surely the site of the final battle. Talia’s got her claws into Batman’s home. Is her apparent rejuvenation of Crime Alley’s neighbourhood a deliberate form of sacrilege? Is she pissing on the gravestone?
And so, whether intentionally or not (I’m guessing not, but who knows?), this image really serves as the beating pictoral heart of the whole thing – the fiery motivating force. It’s a proper Tarot card of a panel, everything unfolding out of it. And I don’t just mean the Batman Mythos, but this story too. Because from the vantage point of today, the figure towering above Batman is Talia, she of the iron wombs, protein tanks in place of a healing touch and a school of assassins for a guiding hand. Will Batman get there in time to save his son from the horrors wrought upon his soul by this monster or…. is it too late?
I’m aware that this story does have the potential to veer into some dodgy territory, though, with the antagonist conflated with the worst kind of ‘female’ archetype right off the bat – she’s a girl, she’s bad, oh look: she’s KALI! Like I said before, this isn’t unproblematic, but I’ll go with it for now. Maybe things will get more complicated by the end. Also, I guess this probably is what a DCU custody battle looks like, and the book’s balanced out by the other female characters, none of whom are total psychopaths with inflamed wombs.
And, as I say, it’s refreshing to see a woman lined up as the real heavyweight.
But regardless, it was only natural that Batman and Robin would have to ‘team up’ for the last story arc. Bruce has to prove himself to be the father Damian deserves. Their relationship hasn’t been explored in nearly enough depth yet, and with the presence of Talia looming large in both their lives, it’s time to put their dynamic under the microscope. Batman: Leviathan! is the denoument Batman and Son always promised and deserved, and at last we can put this story to bed.
But there’s still miles to go before we sleep.