Batman Incorporated Volume 2 #6

January 24th, 2013

Script by Grant Morrison. Art by Chris Burnham and Nathan Fairbairn. DC Comics.

NO JOKER.

[The term 'Batman' here simultaneously refers both to both the well known character/intellectual property featured in a variety of widely distributed cultural products that bear his brand, and to those products themselves.]

Darkseid God of Evil, rampant and triumphant both yesterday and today, with hope for tomorrow growing fainter, defeated Batman with a weapon called the Hyper-Adapter. With the contours of time itself as its teeth, it appeared in various forms across history, but struck its fatal blow as a large, beaten old bat that one night crashed through a window in bleeding billionaire Bruce Wayne’s mansion. Darkseid’s victory against Earth’s favourite superhero IS: Batman was his servant all along.

The Batman’s career heretofore was an elaborate shell game: to build trust; neutralise (recruit) potential enemies; and establish networks, infrastructure and materiel. The fascist Incorporated project represents the culmination of Apokolips’ plan – open appropriation of transnational military-security processes.

Talia Al Ghul (Leviathan) plots to dismantle and replace the energy systems currently destroying the human biosphere. Despite the usual misogynistic slurs – bad mother, wrathful and irrational, holder of deathly mysteries – it is clear from this alone that she is the necessary hero of the piece. Batman (Behemoth) - polluted and possessed by malignant extraterrestrial entities from the moment he reached for a bell to summon his first servant to his conspiracy – opposes her. The desired catastrophe resulting from continued use of existing energy systems is i) crisis to precipitate global imposition of Batman Incorporated control solutions (Anti-Life) and ii) terraforming.

This is an unusual direction for a superhero narrative to take. The form in its monthly churn is as hungry for novelty – or its appearance through superficial recombination of standard elements – as any other facet of showbusiness, so it’s not as if the Batman’s turn into villainy real and fictional was impossible to predict.

The casual – and almost deliberately self-deluding – revelation of Batman himself as planetary-level threat does however bespeak a genuine perversity beyond that which other current examples of the form commonly strive for, making this an unusual and noteworthy example beyond its considerable thrill-power levels. In any form a high thrill count is often a successful mask for subcutaneous irregularities in the text, but here they actively draw attention to them. The splicing of The Raid with The Ten Ox-Herding Pictures, forced and fuzzy as it gets (who’s the ox again?), is the kind of dazzling placatory gesture that all adventure-combat narratives should be able to deploy as necessary. But Talia’s mockingly over-effusive commentary of Batman’s explosive acrobatics oversell the misdirection: if the putative villain is being employed to tell you how good the hero is being, you’re probably being lied to. You should not have to be told that the superhero is doing well. The superhero should be engaged in pursuits that do not require context or description – their goodness should be self evident.

This is a Batman with ulterior motives. It might not, for instance, want you to notice the skin colour of the people the superhero is assaulting.

Ethnicity

The Hyper-Adapter has weaponised the paper in your hand to further Darkseid’s agenda. It does not have your best interest at heart – it just wants your money and your mind’s eye. In the face of Talia’s strategy, her understanding and instrumentalising of king mob (the realisation of proletarian desire being an important aspect of Batman’s ultimate nightmare, as we saw last issue), the comic itself will play dirty in its attempt to get the reader back onside.

Talia’s critique of the Batman Incorporated project is so devastating it can only be counterbalanced by an appeal to the reader’s crudest sympathies: go for the heart strings and pray the head stops working. Here the emotional manipulation is a generic staple – kill the hapless helper / sadface sidekick: poor old never-quite made it Cyril Sheldrake aka The Knight, dead and shown dead – just to remind you in the basest way who the baddie is supposed to be here.

There lies the crux of this problem, the toxic nature of the vile poison leaking from the comic, the invisible serrations on the paper’s edges. Wear gloves. Wash your hands. Because childishly redrawing the battle lines in a super hero comic that’s in danger of getting too complex and discovering something important about itself by having a Muslamic Bat-Wrong coldly execute a lovably bumbling member of the British ruling class (one of the world’s longest running and most murderous crime organisations), today, places you firmly on the wrong side of human decency. Bending your knee before the Queen of Evil England lets everyone know.

If you assert or advocate the existence of a ‘meritocracy’ you invoke its logical corollary. If the good are rewarded, the rewarded must be good. Your masters deserve their wealth, you deserve your subservience. This is one of the many ideological positions enforced in recent years to keep reactionary social relations like the British class system in place. Plucky strivers like Beryl are allowed in, because their labour is required – temporarily – and can be counted on to continue supporting the existing system, at the expense of the welfare of who she left behind: She’s super now, so she needn’t worry about the little people, the victims to be fought over, kept obediently safe to validate the adventurism of the overlords. Justified by Batman-Darkseid’s flattery and lies she needn’t recognise the reality of their desire or seek to empower it.

Fixed Capital

I’m glad Cyril’s dead, only sad he’ll be replaced. Where do I sign up for Leviathan?

 

50 Responses to “Batman Incorporated Volume 2 #6”

  1. abutt Says:

    Holy. I’m pretty new to deconstructing (or even competently reading) comics and what a joy it’s been scouring this site over the last year! I’ve been linking your BatMoz stuff to anyone who’ll read it. So brilliant. And it’s readings like this that absolutely blow my mind (figuratively). The reading is there like an aftertaste, but a quick sip of soda, perhaps taken unconsciously washes it away. Then someone points it out and it’s all your mouth knows. Holy.

    This reading is distressing. As a kid, I LOVED Miller’s DKR. This grew to be troublesome, as I’m a Muslim and well…you can guess the rest. Felt like such a betrayal. I’ve likely willingly ignored the acerbic elements in Inc Volume Two that parallel the *cough* aggressive *cough* ‘war on terror’ and the otherizing bigotry that often comes with, but damnit, your post took my soda away. The drone/robot stuff alone.

    I now await the completion of this arc with dread. What is Morrison up to here? I hope I don’t lose him too…my adoration of him is more mature than mine for Miller was. It’s not puppy-love anymore.

    Ummm…but thanks for the post! You all are great!!

  2. Simmered Says:

    >The superhero should be engaged in pursuits that do not require context or description – their goodness should be self evident.

    This sentence is absolutely insane.

  3. James W Says:

    Well this is very good, isn’t it?

  4. Quantum Says:

    “A weak-willed child is easy to manipulate using product hypnosis. Look at their clothing, for instance. The new breed are simply mobile hoardings, advertising the multi-national corporations which control their minds.”
    Sir Miles Delacourt
    Invisibles Volume 2, issue #14, Only Lovers Left Alive

    Boy: “That’s the thing about conspiracy nuts; you start off laughing at them and then a strange thing happens… you wind up seeing them in the mirror.”

  5. Illogical Volume Says:

    New book proposal, Grant Morrison: The Wolfram and Hart Years. You can send us the money whenever you want Sequart!

    Great post Bobsy, I like the way you managed to fight the Empire using its own methods without being totally infected by its derangement, A+++ work, I kiss ur face.

  6. Ed A. Says:

    Very clever. I like this angle – there is some undercurrent of conservative repression to Batman Inc, particularly regarding Leviathan’s stated aims (besides the – you know – Bat-homicidal bit) vs BI’s upholding of global status-quo.

    Perhaps Morrison has, a few segments further down the five-dimensional millipede body of his life-span, metamorphosed from a counter-cultural magician into a pseudo-mystic company-man and finally into an MBE-decorated, Hobbesian gatekeeper of super-truth…

    Or maybe I’m talking complete guff.

  7. bobsy Says:

    No, I think you’re talking unguff. Perhaps we shall see, with the inevitable attempt at a redemptive synthesis, in the remaining issues. I am not convinced I will be convinced.

    (The resolution of the series overall is moot really – the issue under review says what I have said it says, quite incontestably.) (Though I would say that.)

    Thanks for the kind words.

  8. ZodiacFirebroom Says:

    To follow your logic Quantum, the Hyper-Adapter has its teeth in Morrison himself?

  9. RetroWarbird Says:

    If Gotham was intended to be the Darkseid’s new capital city of crime, I always wondered how that reconciled with the fact that contextually, in the DCU, it already was. Barbatos already occupied it. The Goat’s in it’s Gotham. Leviathan’s got the answer; use its own designs against it.

    I don’t know if I’d conflate it with Morrison’s reality-avatar, though … I’ve been looking toward his Action Comics run with an eye for the working-class, poor P.O.V. buried within its grand cosmic revenges, and I can’t help but see Leviathan through those eyes, too – like this mommy & daddy Bat-fight is an extension of two opposing aspects of a writer and reader’s lives. Because the working class will ever strive to be granted access up the ladder to the ruling class, or else they’ll try to find “illegal” short-cuts, and that is the nature of most crime. It can’t exist in a world where all men are equal.

  10. Mark Brett Says:

    Very nice! This is a great reading that digs down to the heart of what Batman Inc’s been about all along. Difficult to argue with, too. Though if I were so inclined, I might suggest that it ignores the troublesome cult-like aspects of Leviathan. Talia’s followers, ultimately, aren’t rebelling for their own betterment so much as they’re subsuming their wills to hers.

    But I am, of course, not at all inclined to make that argument. Yours is a hell of a lot more fun.

  11. RetroWarbird Says:

    I’d go so far as to say that Batman, Incorporated and Leviathan are facets of the same force, trying to outcompete each other for their own personal, not necessarily “right” methods of bettering humanity. “A Batman in every household, Lucius?” is no different than “Leviathan is everywhere. In your schools.” And both would-be tyrants share a legacy in Damian.

    One way or another, he will rule (and feasibly, destroy) the world. It’s a false choice – Mom’s way, or Dad’s way. They’re both demon-lords. Where Bruce’s positive attributes manifest, Talia’s falter, but where her finger is on the pulse of hypocrisy, his isn’t. And if they’d just settle their differences and get back together, they could regulate one another and be a superior force. But they won’t. Because men and women, folks.

  12. Ian Says:

    A few things this essay conveniently ignores:

    Batman beat Darkseid. I’m not talking about the gun, I’m talking about how he took Darkseid’s hyperadaptor and turned it against itself by virtue of his will. Batman’s psychic attack on the Lump was a specific example of his larger strategy against Darkseid. Darkseid’s most devastating attacks are against the soul and the intellect, as evidenced by his Omega attack against Batman’s heart and mind, and Bruce Wayne has proven his to be incorruptible. This was also one of the main themes of The Dark Knight: that even though everyone lost in that movie, Batman was the one major good character that stayed completely true to his principles, even if events didn’t allow him to “win”.

    Leviathan could be looked at as a grassroots retaliation against the blue-blood, corporate expansion of Bruce Wayne/Batman…if you ignore the fact that Leviathan is sacrificing the poor and the children in order to get what it wants. Once you look at the people Talia has trampled in her war against Bruce Wayne, any argument that she’s the good guy goes out the window.

    Regarding the colors of the people Leviathan employs, that ignores the colors of the people Batman Inc. employs. Or is Bat-wing not African enough? This is the same error that people made when they said that Batman was representing the wealthy and fascists in The Dark Knight Rises. Bane and Talia weren’t leading the poor and victimized to take back Gotham from the wealthy and privileged. They were leading the criminals of Blackgate and Bane’s mercenaries as a ruse to hide the fact that they were going to destroy the city. Talia is her father’s daughter, in the comics and the movies, and their goal is destruction.

    That’s the awesome thing about comics: Bruce Wayne can be a truly good billionaire genius control freak superhero. Those things aren’t at odds, especially when Morrison writes him.

  13. Anonymous Says:

    Damn good work here, boss. The site is best when discussing men-in-tights, and it looks like the resentment of the betrayed works just as well as the love of the obsessed for that.
    Of course this post disregards the fat that the whole concept of Batman, INC was devised by consent engineers of the already victorious Leviathan to trap any resistance in easily identified formations of exceptional individualism. There is a class war, but it exists to divert attention from thoughts of an actual class war.

  14. amypoodle Says:

    I entirely disagree that this site is at its best when we’re writing about superheroes. I’d hazard that it’s the superheroes you want to read about, but that doesn’t mean Andrew’s Who posts, etc, are uninspired or uninteresting.

  15. Illogical Volume Says:

    Ian, you’re right – Darkseid lost, and in defeat he *definitely* didn’t weaponise Batman, or his external global merchandising system (a system that exists in YOUR world even more securely than it does in his). The comic you’ve poured over, held in your hands, sat in a dazed rapture with as its ink seeped into your fingers? It’s not toxic, could never be toxic, its keen emphasis on the goodness of the good guys and the badness of the bad guys is nature at its purest & most refined, the whole world captured in the clash between symbol and sky. The poor & the downtrodden can only ever be pawns, their needs and grievances mere ammunition for evil geniuses bent on destroying benevolent billionaires. See, for example, the live-action chess board that has been carefully deployed in widescreen in Christopher Nolan’s anus.

    ///////—>”As in Batman, so in life” you say–\\\–>You hadn’t even been aware that you were going to speak until you did. These thoughts, which seem so rational now that they hang in the air in front of you. The following day you find the conversation in the lunch room less stressful than normal. You can’t say why exactly, but you decide to go with it, trusting that it’s what Batman would want you to do if he was there with you, sharing your jokes and sandwiches–///–++

    Darkseid lost, and Leviathan will lose too eventually. The will of the strong always triumphs over the will of the weak, and one must always celebrate this – no need to worry about the skin colour of the people on the losing side. After all , some of the winner’s best friends are black.

    ///—>You put the comic down, licking fresh ink from your fingers–//~¥~//–>Batman prevails, in this reality as surely as in his–//–Now relax & smile–//–swallow your sandwich & smile, safe in the knowledge that the world will keep on turning–+++>>>>

  16. Illogical Volume Says:

    In other news, it turns out that Eddie Campbell *does* exist & money is the potent fiction. Egg on my face. Egg. On. My. Face.

  17. Quantum Says:

    @ZodiacFirebroom I hesitate to call it ‘logic’ but yes, Morrison’s hyper-adapter/barbatos seems to have him in it’s clutches almost as though it leapt from the page, across some unseen, impossible barrier!
    http://www.cesspit.net/drupal/storeroom/misc/filth2.gif

    GM has always been one for recursive self-aware art-reflecting-life wankery, so it’s possible he is acting out the themes he is writing as a complex ritual etc. etc. but I think it’s more likely he has got old and been assimilated into the establishment. I await the movie adaptation of The Invisibles any time now starring Ryan Gosling and Zooey Deschanel.

    Bobsy put it better than I ever could.

  18. Thrills Says:

    I ‘hilariously’ asked GrantyPants at a signing if he now signs his name as ‘Grant Morrison MBE’, and he replied “Me and the Queen are like THAT!” (makes ‘fingers-crossed-representing-closeness’ gesture).

    Was the eternal embarassment at tonelessly asking a shite question when I met him worth it just to have his signiature on my cover of Wildcats #1?

    Dunno.

    I do think Quantum is right with “I think it’s more likely he has got old and been assimilated into the establishment”, and Bobsy’s reading of Batman Inc is also pretty dead-on, whether Morrison intends it to be or not.

    The fact remains, it’s a comic where a white old-money American capitalist/vigilante uses creepy mechanised robots to battle a threat posed by baddies who are led by a female, and contain many people who are poor and non-white.

    For all the stuff Morrison has said about it being a ficitonal reality where corporations can actually be unambiguous forces for good, it’s difficult to ignore the privilege imbalance between the Bat-goodies and the Talia-baddies.

    Doesn’t mean it’s not a fucking enjoyable comic, though. It’ll be interesting to see if any of this stuff is satisfactorily addressed by the end of the run.

  19. Illogical Volume Says:

    Aye, I’m not sure that any of the tensions Bobsy’s highlighted will be satisfactorily resolved, but in terms of pure superhero thrillpower, Batman Inc >>>> everything else right now, reckon.

  20. PapaPopGuru Says:

    I’ll hold my breath to see where Sivana’s meta-material end up. If Bruce does end up hoarding it “for the good of *man*kind” (just as elitist and wank-ishly as Talia’s contemptuous dream of a Ghul led Eon over the huddled masses) then I’ll be slightly disappointed at the outcome.
    Upcoming promo’s indicate some kind of showdown between Man and Bat, the Rabid, totemic force of nature so captured by Talia for her shock-troops at the very beginning, against the hypocritical, interchangeable man in tights. Could we get a better batmobile out of this?

  21. Klimey Says:

    On a more clearly obvious level batman is a horrible idea. A rich man, unable to develop nourishing romantic friendships who exacts perpetual revenge for the murder of his parents upon the forgotten classes, the mentally ill and rival psychopathic billionaires, beating his victims to within an inch of their lives just so that he may return again with a weightier, meatier, stud encrusted gloved fist. Yet batman is solidly thought of as a pop culture hero, more so even now, as we enter the 6th year of a global recession in which real Bruce Wayne analogues have been seen to profit at the expense of the majority population. I have not read the comic reviewed here but the poster’s enjoyable analysis suggests the plot and action described are a contrivance by the author to explain how a figure like batman could come to be seen as a hero in our world, using the narrative tropes he has become famous for, in order to be consistent with reader expectations, his own worldview and the demands of superhero publishing firms. Thrills says as much above in one paragraph, but I add the concept of authorial self-loathing. The author is saddened by his own part in making this horrible man, this disgraceful idea – rhis Batman – seem so attractive. It sounds like a book about guilt.

  22. bobsy Says:

    Mmm. Yesgood.

  23. Mindless Linkblogging! « Dork Forty! Says:

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  24. Ian Says:

    Dear lord. Having read some of the further comments, I feel really bad for people who can’t just enjoy a fantastically written and drawn Batman comic anymore. What sort of imagination has a person lost when then stop believing that Batman is unambiguously the good guy? Even in the creative disaster zone that was Infinite Crisis, Batman still remained true to his morals and ethics, even if Johns chose to make him an insufferable dick about it. Recriminations everywhere, and the enjoyment suffers for it.

  25. Thrills Says:

    “I feel really bad for people who can’t just enjoy a fantastically written and drawn Batman comic anymore”

    please don’t feel bad for me, I’m already dead.

    plus, I’m really enjoying the comic.

  26. Ales Kot Says:

    The sort of imagination that’s grown past unambiguous interpretations, I reckon.

  27. Ales Kot Says:

    That was in response to “What sort of imagination has a person lost when then stop believing that Batman is unambiguously the good guy?”

  28. amypoodle Says:

    Yeah, I think the question isn’t whether or not people are enjoying the book. As IllVol says, it’s easily the most readable and fun supercomic out there. Also, while not being entirely convinced by Bob’s take, I think appealing to notions of innate unambiguous goodness and ignoring textual evidence that points in the other direction isn’t really making a strong case for the opposite view.

  29. James Says:

    Apart from mirroring Batman Inc. Vol. 1 #6, there’s a lot of lines from ‘Last Rites’ that seem timely here: ‘Isn’t this what you wanted, sir? A war?’ And the kicker: ‘When will the absolute failure of your mission to defend Gotham become as apparent to you as it is to others?’ For every traumatic event he pulls through (and L.R. went through the lot), for every time he comes out bigger-faster-stronger-smarter, he’s only a few months away from his next big bat-branded balls-up. His whole career’s been about ‘building a better batmobile’ – but at the same time, he’s always building himself (and most importantly here, others ‘dragged into [his] mad dream of vengeance, death and madness’) up for a bigger fall. Twas ever thus!

    Didn’t Morrison say in an interview (I think this was in 2011 – around the time of the Supergods signings) that the story (Inc, but also his reading of Batman as a whole) was meant to be a tragedy, i.e. no neat, clean, happy ending? I don’t know how far ahead Morrison is re: writing this book – I know he’s had things outlined since Batman and Robin, but is there any chance he’s been tweaking it in order to respond to recent criticism?

  30. J_Smitty_ Says:

    I think the obvious answer is that Mindless is best when the contributors follow their interests regardless of genre or medium.

  31. amypoodle Says:

    Indeed.

  32. daniel Says:

    I think Morrison has been open about the fact that Batman is a right wing concept. He described Bruce Wayne as a “a rich man who beats up poor people” There have been references to class warfare all throughout Batman Inc. including, most recently Ras Al Ghul noting how millionaire rock stars abuse and steal from the poor. As you correctly note Morrison purposely has set up Talia Al Ghul/ Leviathan on the Left and Batman on the Right. But I think that yr assumption about this is a simple good guy vs bad guy story is incorrect.
    And everyone who dislikes the Right wing Batman can always read Action Comics which continues to feature Morrison’s “Socialist” Superman. Action Comics #9 gave us the African American Superman (based on Barack Obama) fighting off a Lex Luthor/ Tea Party analog. How much more left wing can it get? Except that it isn’t clear who the actual hero is when the Tea Party Lex Luther ends up saving the day. His blind hatred for Superman makes him the only one prepared when an evil Superman shows up… apparently an analogy to the Right-wing being part of the natural checks and balances of power. I expect similar twists and turns in the conclusion to Batman Inc.
    I personally love when Morrison injects politics (Right or Left) because the politics usually fall apart to make way for a larger point. This is something that Alan Moore used to specialize in (most obviously when he undermined the readers assumptions and his own political agenda by revealing the Left Wing Ozymandias as the evil mastermind of Watchmen). I’m more interested in writers who can challenge our preconceived notions than I am in being preached to by Ed Brubaker or Judd Winnick

  33. RetroWarbird Says:

    Ales Kot: An imagination “grown” too much for unambiguous interpretations, or “shrunken”? Either adequately signifies the level of change required to question even a system as basic as a super-hero’s function in his own super-hero-verse, but flipping the script to a Supermanic interpretation, I feel like “growth of imagination” would represent the beauty of simplifying rather than complicating – summation of the stark contrast between Bat and Super, for sure.

    Shades of Bukowski’s “An intellectual is a man who says a simple thing in a difficult way; an artist is a man who says a difficult thing in a simple way” in their disparate souls. And welcome to Suicide Squad, I may actually read it now.

    James: There’s plenty of neat, clean and thoroughly unhappy endings, or, tragedies which end neatly. It’s modern sorts of things like Film Noir where you’re not sure how you’re supposed to feel about it at the end; not much ends cleaner than say, MacBeth, with a literal clean severing of a head from a neck.

    The Rest: I think it’s impossible to expect that a story about an Arabic female villain rising to become Batman’s greatest foe using an actual fixation on “Eyes” and loads of Pagan, pre-Greek, pre-cultural mysandry iconography will not address in the very least the notion of Male Gaze in super-heroic fiction.

    I really feel bad for Catwoman. Grant rapidly threw out a two-part Catwoman tale where Selina wasn’t slut-shamed for being on equal emotional and sexual footing with Bruce, only for the New 52 to destroy her with Guillem March art designed purely to titillate. And has everyone seen the Guillem March variant cover of Talia (Inc. # 10) yet? Is it truly evil to want to grow your offspring in a jar so you don’t ruin your perfect body? Or is it an incredibly self-conscious admission of not being 20 anymore …

    Here’s a stray thought; is Talia younger than Catwoman?

  34. RetroWarbird Says:

    Tangential: While I’m in the middle of addressing somebody (Ales Kot) who is actually writing a book about a character I’ve been thinking about; have you (Ales) ever noticed what a keen position Harleen Quinzel is in as far as getting front-row observations of the most psychologically damaged individuals in all of comics fanboy obsession?

    They call her crazy, but when Harley finally gets around to writing her thesis or her book, it’s going to be the definitive statement on comic book mental ailments. (It’s only too bad her willingness to dive into non-objectivity means it’ll never be accredited by her former peers.)

    But it always struck me that the opportunity was the perfect way for Amanda Waller to tempt her into indentured servitude.

  35. Zur En Arrh Says:

    I like to think that Batman has emerged from his 90′s Millar pupila as a new fresh more holistic character but I can dial in to your reading of Batman INC as just another McDonalds. Where your reading isn’t convincing me is on the Talia side of things.

    Yes the Al Ghuls have been weakly painted as eco-terrorsist here and there throughout their run but not once has Talia mentioned that as her goal. Her goal is a wold ruled by the dynasty. To do so she will feed the poor drugs, weapons and their own flesh. Ras is a Naturalist at best, the kind of guy who would have been on the board of that committee that released pigeons in NYC so it woud be more like good old England. I don’t care if Talia is a woman or her underlings are black, that doesn’t make Bruce’s agenda sexist or racist by default, particularly if your response to the valid counter argument that Batman INC is a diverse equal opportunities employer is the rhetorical sleight of hand “Oh just because they have a few tokens doesn’t mean they aren’t imperialists”.

    I think if you long for a solution to this problem, All-Star Superman’s answer to the Sphinx’s riddle, you will have to look to Damian. The boy stuck in between two waring parents. God I can relate to him. There comes a point when you can’t really believe either of your parents’s horror stories about the other. A vegetarian with attitude stuck in between two mad worlds! But I think he’ll be the one who manages to strike the magickal bargain with death in the end.

    Like he said “If I don’t save the day no one will!”

  36. Zur En Arrh Says:

    Also I think we can all agree on two things: 1) Deeper readings aside, Batman INC is one of the most viscerally exciting comics in the game right now 2) QUESTION EVERYTHING

  37. ADL Says:

    Hi, I hope I’m not too late to join the party.

    Bobsy, I just have to say I found your analysis of this comic intellectually stimulating but emotionally wanting. You posit that Batman is actually the villain of the piece and not the hero. I challenge you to dispose of dualistic interpretations and consider with greater patience and humility the the meaning of the Ox Herder pictures.

    Perhaps, also consider the meaning of the “demon star” referred to so frequently in this work. Morrison gave us a key in Batman #666 where Damian observes, “The two upright horns represent the triumph of matter and duality over spirit and unity.” How interesting is it that the figure of the five-pointed star remains the same no matter which angle you look at it?

  38. bobsy Says:

    I’m not sure I follow you – surely if you draw a pentagram with the single point in the ascendant it in fact doesn’t ‘look the same’ as the reverse? And it’s attendant meaning as it has been traditionally understood shifts too?

    I’m not especially enamoured of attempts to bypass the very real problem of human suffering by gesturing towards a higher unity – “zen bollocks for ‘I can’t be bothered’”, as a once-wise man wrote.

    By giving arms to the world’s poor Talia has hit upon a better strategy for dealing with said problem than Bruce’s bold idea of industrially producing attack robots to maim them when they attempt to exercise political power.

    Batman Incorporated continues to use emotional control paths to evade this obvious conclusion by killing off its most interesting characters.

    I challenge you to take your head out of the clouds and devise a critique that will improve life-as-it-is-lived.

  39. ADL Says:

    Challenge accepted. I apologize in advance if I go on too long.

    You are entirely correct when you say the inversions of the pentagram neither ‘look the same’ nor have the same meanings; however, looks, as well as interpretations, can be deceiving. The figure-work, the geometric design, the integrity of the star structure remains fixed regardless of position, does it not? Similar to the idea that in space, conceptions of ‘up’ and ‘down’ become irrelevant. A book is a book whether we read it right side up or upside down, forwards or backwards. What is more changeable? A solidified object or the perspective of an observer?

    My overall point is that, to a large degree, we decide. We tend to take sides and entrench rather than explore the whole. An objective reality exists within and despite all subjective interpretations. It’s a beautiful thing about life and art that a singular object will evoke different responses in different people. And it follows that a comic book will be either toxic or purifying depending on the beliefs of the beholder. Please forgive me if I am getting too personal, but as someone who does not know you, it was hard to tell whether or not you really enjoyed reading this book. You seem to be a smart and lovely person so I wouldn’t want you to waste your time and blogging talents promoting such a cynical and pessimistic P.O.V.

    I did not mean to suggest the existence of some lofty but vague “higher unity”, instead perhaps a unity that is tangible and qualitative, intentional and decided, physical and most likely messy. Are Bruce and Talia merely at odds, or does their struggle work to keep the two in check? Is it really a matter of whose extremist, totalitarian goals will prevail, or does one force necessarily arise against the other? “This town ain’t big enough for the both of us,” is more dramatic and attractive than saying, “Let’s agree to disagree,” or “Let’s put aside our differences and work together for the greater good!” It is unfortunate that such attitudes are often dismissed as trite, childish and impractical. But far from unbothered detachment, I’m suggesting bothersome engagement as integral to Spiritual Unity. The dreaded ‘c’ word–compromise.

    Morrison has made obvious in his run that Damian represents the union of Batman and Talia. But he also represents the center that cannot hold, the tension between moral absolutes of good and evil. His parents have willfully adopted opposing viewpoints, and any sort of reconciliation has been spurned. “Do I have to choose? I would much rather we were all together,” from Batman #658 is the dismissed solution to the problem, so the only other choice is the Solomon option: the babe must be rent in twain before one side will concede to the other. It unapologetically works toward the preservation of both Bruce and Talia’s immense egos that they fight and sacrifice the life of Damian, rather than make sacrifices of themselves by raising the child as one. As such, the action for all involved is stalled on the fourth Ox (or Goat) Herder image: Catching or Struggling with the Ox. Everyone has a clear view of what they want, yet they are not able to make it happen. What are superhero stories if not unending, eternal conflict? Or in Buddhist terms, Samsara. Here are some interesting links explaining the meaning of the Ox Herder pictures:

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/36940783/The-Ox-Herder-A-classic-Zen-Buddhist-Tale-on-the-Spiritual-Journey

    http://www.jaysquare.com/ljohnson/ox-herding.html

    The beauty I see in the Ox herder pictures is that it depicts a life that faces challenges, yet it is largely peaceful and more importantly, within human reach. It says that we don’t necessarily have to be any better, or smarter, or stronger, or richer, or more spiritually developed than anyone else; we just have to learn to let go of ideas of permanence and live more involved in the present, trying, finding our peace and joy within ourselves and sharing it, not preventing it, or worse, destroying it.

    Improving life-as-it-is-lived might have less to do with deciding what will work for all people in all situations, and more to do with making changes and differences within our personal sphere of influence, learning all the while that there is more than one way to live well. But if we allow suffering to persist within ourselves, we only add to the sum total of the world’s suffering. Why not instead attempt to lessen the world’s suffering in smaller, more manageable ways, starting by accepting the things we can’t control and minding the things that we CAN control? Like our own thoughts, emotions, and actions.

    I’ve studied and practiced Buddhism, but I never heard of these Ox pictures until I read this issue. I’m glad that Morrison and co. shared them with me and I hope that by sharing with you we all become a little bit more enlightened! Don’t let the toxic influences of the world steal your joy. That’s all.

  40. mad_arab Says:

    “You have to agree with her a little bit. I mean, you’ve got a character here called Talia al Ghul, and that name suggests the Middle East immediately. So you have this character on one side, and then you have Bruce Wayne who’s an East Coast billionaire, which pretty much represents the Western capitalist industrial side of things. There’s an undeniable, inescapable and interesting picture of certain global conflicts going on.”

    Grant Morrison

    An indoctrinated Middle Eastern terrorist (Kid) moves to America to meet his forgotten American Father. The Kid’s is heavily indoctrinated, and has no respect for Human Life or the Values that make up Father’s World.

    After Father’s disappearence, Kid quickly does an about face and embraces his father’s world while rejecting Mother’s upbringing. He runs Father’s corporation for a while, and helps Father police the world.

    Kid’s Mother, hysterical about rejection received at Father and Kid’s hands, declares war on Father and Kid. She has vague ideological claims, but at the end of the day, she is just Irrational (probably due to her being a Middle Eastern woman.)

    Mother’s Irrationality has her build up Kid’s Brother to be an even more indoctrinated version of Kid. He does not wear Converse All-Stars, but dresses in Traditional Middle Eastern Garb. He is also mostly illiterate, and communicates in grunts and broken sentences.

    After Father is Kidnapped by Mother, Kid is Murdered by Brother.

    Everyone is Sad.

    “Sure, Batman is the hero and he’s got to win. And yeah, he represents a form of capitalism – a good form…”

    Grant Morrison

    Hyper-Adapter’s got to win, because we live in Millar World, and the Empire has already won.

    Sucks Being an Other…

  41. madarab Says:

    Am i stupid for expecting more of Morrison?

  42. Illogical Volume Says:

    Not at all. Despite his reputation as a “mad ideas” guy it was Morrison’s affinity with the lost and the vulnerable that kept me coming back to his work, from Doom Patrol to Seven Soldiers and beyond.

    To see him write a comic story that comes so close to mirroring our current vicious orthodoxy is legitimately disappointing, I think, no matter how much zen language it comes packaged up in.

  43. El Macho Says:

    Very interesting article, but I have to disagree….

    If Bruce has been Darkseid’s agent from the beginning, why did it take Damian-Bat to bring his plans for Gotham and indeed the world to fruition?

    The creation of Batman Inc was a direct response from Bruce to that apocalyptic outcome, which he witnessed when bonded to the bio-organic archivist machine at the vanishing point. This response from Bruce is already successful, his allies and Ro-Bats have saved saved him more than once (Leviathan Stikes and this latest issue spring to mind), prevented the detonation of a worldwide string of meta-bombs (I had previously assumed that they were nothing more than a false threat, but at this point they appear to be real…) and ended many of Leviathan’s operations (human trafficking, brainwashing and dealing in weapons and narcotics) globally.

    In the apocalyptic #666 future Bruce died before Damian, but after the formation of Inc, that outcome has been reversed. The beaten bat that crashed through Bruce’s window may have been another iteration of the Hyper-Adapter (the first being sent back to the stone age and killed by Vandal Savage, while an entity calling itself the Omega-Adapter bonded with Hurt), but, in the words of Metron, Batman confronted evil’s challenge by “turning it upside down”, taking control of Darkseid’s design (becoming Batman), and summoning the all-over (asking for help with his mission/creating a global Batman organisation with Batmen “all-over” the world).

    As for Talia being the real hero of the piece, defeating Batman and replacing the the world’s failing energy sources, that notion ignores the methods she chose to accomplish these things (hardly heroic), the fact that she intends to use her new energy source to leverage herself into a position as ruler of the world, and its other applications as a devastating weapon.

    “The skin color of the people Batman’s assaulting” is representative of the poor, disenfranchised and 3rd world classes that she predominantly recruits from, as well as the large base of operations she recruited and brainwashed in, in Mtamba.

    I will admit that Talia’s propaganda contains elements of truth (which is a large part of what makes Leviathan so interesting), but doesn’t all good propaganda?

  44. Mindless Ones » Blog Archive » Future Crimes Says:

    [...] in my duties as a reviewer if I didn’t point out that there are certain plot similarities to Batman Incorporated vol 2, #6, and while I don’t know how Peter Travis and Alex Garland were able to travel through in time [...]

  45. Reviewing comics: process and theory | self-indulgent drivel Says:

    [...] of a given comic, occasionally from a consciously subjective perspective. A good example would be Mindless Ones’ Batman Inc #6 review or their retrospective of Grant Morrison’s Action Comics run. This is a fairly broad [...]

  46. SUPERHERO SOCIALISM | the CHRONOLOGY blog Says:

    [...] underground in the form the anarchic “Sons of Batman”—I think it will happen because he sees capitalism fail so miserably in the microcosm of his own Batman Inc venture. Through the failure of Batman Inc and the death of his loved one(s) he breaks down and sees the [...]

  47. Collin Colsher Says:

    Hopefully Morrison is subtly hinting at all of this and LESSONS WILL BE LEARNED by both the writers and the characters… as I say here——–> http://www.therealbatmanchronologyproject.com/blog/193/

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