This thread is a part of our Grant Morrison Reading Project.

Though I read most of Grant Morrison's run on Batman, I wasn't paying too close of attention so I will re-read them, starting with # 655-658 (S'-D' 06), "Batman and Son".

 

#655:

Great opening. The Joker with his now signature crowbar. An imposter Batman beaten to death but not before shooting the Joker.

 

People imitating Batman was a staple in the Bat-canon since no one had to mimic any super-powers. That this poser was an ex-cop reminds me of the Secret Star, a 50s story where Gordon trains five officiers to replace Batman when the time comes.

 

The Joker's outrage at being shot by (a) Batman is like LOST's Ben Linus' when his daughter is killed. THEY changed the rules!

 

Wow! That "Zur En Arrh" graphitti sure stands out now!

 

Nice bits with Alfred and Tim. And that the Bat-suit is not just cloth and spandex.

 

Going to London is nice, especially with the line about the Earl of Wordenshire.

 

Kirk Langstrom is a wreck here, he's usually a lot more pro-active but he is SCARED!

 

The last page reveal of Talia, her son and Men-Bats was very effective!

 

More to follow! 

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Jackson might be Bat-mite.  Thematically Jackson's role is a denial of the assumption that underlies the dark vigilante Batman of the 90s onward.  Namely that Batman needs no-one and has trained himself to be utterly self-reliant.  Batman did a homeless guy a good turn - someone who looked like he'd never be in a position to help Batman - and here, when Bruce needs a friend most, when he's forgotten everything about his life, Jackson is there for him.  We all need each other, see?  All in this together, as it were, and none of us are so self relient as to not need anyone.

 

Jackson's brief friendship with Bruce is just a glimmer of that lesson when he's at his lowest, but the theme is pretty central later on, when more superfolk start to show up.

 

  • Thanks for all the info on the Villains especially the Jolly Swagman! See how more [interesting?] a little data makes them! ;-)

 

When you think about it, Pierrot and Le Bossu at the very least would have all their own cultural associations, just like I've outlined for the Swagman.  El Sombrero combines a Mexican wrestling mask with a Bullfighter's costume and Mexican 'Feast of the Dead' imagery.  Again, Morrison is adjusting the focus out beyond the pages of other superhero comics.  Something a little new and fresh.  Comics that reference the real world (or at least the wider culture) give you something more to chew on, more relevance.

 

(Dark Ranger gets his armoured look and name from Ned Kelly too. btw)

 

  • Seriously I just wanted some names to go with the costumes and what their motivations are. Why would an Australian criminal want to kill Batman?

 

You've never read a comic where a supervillain gets all the archfoes of a superteam he hates together to do his work for him?  I have, and didn't really want to see it all again.  True, Swagman etc aren't Batman foes, but I can see how Dr Hurt with his Club of Heroes connections would bring them together.  He's ludicrously wealthy and is probably paying them, or promising them that they can then gang up on their own archfoes.

 

I've already mentioned the incredible forward pull of this story when you read it at a sitting.  It's about Batman going through this trial.  Explaining how the foes he meets get there and the deals they strike or motivations they have, would slow down that exciting forward rush.

 

I was shocked along the way in this run as well, by how many foes make their way into the Batcave.  Everyone seems to know who Batman is and where he lives.  For what it's worth, the Robin RIP tie-in tried to patch up the aftermath of those female villains who knew that Batman lived under Wayne Manor in an earlier Morrison storyline.  (I vaguely recall.)

Batman #680

Red and black. Red and black. I read this issue four times before it hit me. Morrison played us straight. The clues were there all the time. It makes sense. The Joker wasn't warning Batman. He was telling him the truth! The ultimate psychological trap with the most deceptive bait!

Red and black. Brilliant, subtle and, in hindsight, logical.

More to follow!

My breath is bated...

Batman #680 (O'08): The Thin White Duke of Death Batman RIP Part 5

--------------------------------------SPOILER ALERT IS ON-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Doctor Hurt, wearing Thomas Wayne's Bat-costume, invites the immoral wealthy to witness and bet on his yearly game of human misery, pitting a tormented Batman against his nemesis with Jezebel as bait.

Lebossu dons his mask and cloak that reflect the ugliness and depravity that lurks inside him as Nightwing awaits his lobotomy! He frees the Joker while bragging about his evil and how the Club of Villains admire the Grinning Ghoul so much. The Joker is unimpressed!

Batman invades Arkham as Bat-Mite warns him that his Zur-En-Arrh persona is temporary at best. His entry is like a video game with common foes, harder ones and then the bosses. Bat-Mite cannot enter Arkham as he is "the fading echo of the voice of reason!" Well that is a switch from most Bat-Mite stories! Batman asks him point blank if he's a "hyper-imp from the 5th dimension or just a figment of (his) imagination?" The Mite's reply, "Imagination is the 5th dimension."

I believe that this is the real Bat-Mite, helping his fallen idol rise again. The demonic parasite was sent by Neron or even Darkseid to stop him and we don't see his epic battle with it, But he cannot use his great powers because of it so must merely guide Batman along until he is too weak to enter Arkham!

Doctor Hurt's guests are doubting that it is really Batman as the Joker crashes the party, murdering henchmen and teaching them terror. But Hurt still sees him as a pawn while not seeing the mad rage in his eyes.

Meanwhile Comm. Gordon is rescued from Wayne Manor by Talia and Damian, the Son of the Bat. Help is on the way!

Once more, the Joker taunts the Batman as they do their dance but it's different this time. Batman is unbalanced, insane and the Joker is focussed and driven. And Jezebel screams for Bruce!

Red and black. The joke and the punchline. Love and death. Batman sees the pattern but not the solution but the Joker is almost encouraging him. He confronts his disturbed foe and the Joker speaks the truth as he sees it. He acknowledges their bond and how by Batman shooting him, any Batman, breaks that bond. They should team-up and defeat the Black Glove but he wants to see Batman discover the meaning of his clues. He even slices his tongue to look serpentine like the snake in the Garden of Evil that reveals a destroying truth. The Joker is amused that this all began by Batman wanting to solve the Joker, to know him to combat him but that was beyond him. His madness is a chaotic reality that changes with every new story. Batman cannot predict his actions because the Joker is above reason, beyond patterns and lies underneath rational thought. The Joker simply is. 

He sees Jezebel in a death-trap, calling out to him as the toxic red and black petals fall. But she banishes the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh, leaving only Bruce who fails to save her. "There's only ever one joke and it's always on you?" Doctor Hurt claims victory for the Black Glove, dismissing the Joker......for now.

As Bruce succumbs to the poison, the last thing he sees is the mocking face of Jezebel Jet, part of the Black Glove!

"Now do you get it?"

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Red and black. Red hair. Black as jet. From her first appearance Morrison has been building to this relevation. A wealthy beautiful woman putting up with Bruce's neglectful behavior. Learning his secrets. Driving a wedge between Bruce's heart and Batman's duty. Causing him to doubt himself and his mission. Telling him about the Black Glove. Telling him "Zur-En-Arrh" Betraying him to his enemies. Being his enemy.

Even her name was a clue. She was a Jezebel. Morrison decided to kill Batman by breaking his heart!

Next: The Conclusion?

I....guess you are on the money.  The Biblical Jezebel was a 'scarlet woman' too, don't forget.

 

Good going.  It does put a different gloss on what the Joker was trying to tell Batman in that little prelude. 

 

So we have an issue about Batman rushing towards his true love, and encountering the Joker instead/of course.  The Joker is more 'true' to Bruce than Jezebel.  He is what he is, as ever, and Morrison gets across how intense their relationship is.

 

Not many foes get the passionate exclamation "I'll kill you!" out of the Batman, but the Joker does here, only a few pages after Batman adds up "hearts and spades, love and death, the joke and the punchline."

 

The emotional intensity here possibly makes it more of a climax than the following issue.

 

You asked earlier how many books DC had published around this time starring the Joker, but I'm sure none of them depicted the Joker as such a cold, chilling and alien character as he is here, and also as passionate, in his way.  The Joker owns every scene he's in here.  Compared to him, the Club of Villains only think they are villains, depraved and evil as they may be.  They are as far below his class, as the Club of Heroes are below Batman himself.

 

Nice pick-up on the computer game structure here too.  Morrison slipped in the term 'Bosses' so it looked quite natural.

 

Your Bat-mite theory is plausible, especially given how little we're given to work with.  Another story we only encounter glancingly.  Things like this annoy many readers, but isn't that how the narratives of all our lives play out, glancingly encountering other epic stories that we know next to nothing of?  Morrison has argued elsewhere that he's deliberately trying to reflect this in his scripts.  In real life we don't find out the true motivations and natures etc of those whose actions affect our own.

 

I've been thinking about your complaints as to the lack of information on the Club of Villains in Batman RIP.  I guess Morrison's writing here is at a certain stage of the Thesis-Antithesis-Synthesis process regarding the amount of character exposition and info-dumping that is appropriate in a superhero comicbook.  For years comics have followed the Claremont-Shooter model of (some would say) far too much information.  Morrison here is swinging waaaay to the other extreme here, only giving the bare minimum of information that might be dropped as these characters converse with each other.  It's a deliberate choice to see how little information he can get away with, and to show other writers new possibilities.  It's not to confound readers (why would any writer want to do that as an end in itself?) but to experiment with how comics are presented.

 

It doesn't bother me at all, but there is one little advantage to it.  In later issues, when these characters get more screen time, it does make it all the more satisying to see the gaps filled in during a narrative, rather then having the information just dumped on us at the start.  It's one of the things that makes these Batman comics very re-readable (or very good value for money, as I think of it.)

 

Finally, forgive if this is ultra-obvious, but the Thin White Duke of the title is a reference to David Bowie.  Bowie has different colored eyes, as the Joker is sometimes shown here, and with one pupil fixed open wide too, as here.  Come to think of it, that's a Bowie knife the Joker threatens Batman with, as well as a cutthroat razor...

 

Like Morrison's Joker, Bowie was famous for changing his personae every so often, and even sang about Ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-changes!

I'm not so much perplexed by the lack of info on the Club of Villains as I am amused by it. The indexer in me might be a bit peeved but it didn't affect my reading of Batman RIP. They are cast as the lower tier opponents that tie into Morrison's successful use of the Club of Heroes. He could have easily used Killer Croc, Mad Hatter, Black Spider or any of the secondary Bat-foes.

In all the Joker's scenes, he does not physically harm Batman. He allows himself to get struck. He has Nightwing helpless yet mutilates Le Bossu. His rage is directed at Batman yet he takes it out on the other villains, his "peers". So while he says that he's not teaming with Batman, he does not want the Black Glove to win.

I sense that you have other views on Jezebel Jet, Figs. Please elaborate!

Next: The Return of the Bat or I Was Acting, People!

No, I only hesitated because I'd be reluctant to say that Morrison was doing one thing with the red and black.  It means many things, and even the dead man's hand can be interpreted in many different clever ways.  Love and death etc.  Even being seen as code for H.A.H.A., which was incredibly clever.  The red and black and the cards mean everything and mean nothing.  The mention of apophenia in the last chapter is hugely relevant.  Morrison and his readership have sort of evolved together.  He has said that he's been amazed at some of the meanings and patterns that fans have found in his work, so he is playing with that aspect of his style here, knowing that many of his readership will be interpreting every little thing and looking for patterns where there may or may not be any.

I hadn't seen Jezebel as embodying red and black herself, but she does, in a way that's at the heart of Batman's journey here.  It's hidden in plain sight as you say. That the Joker's message could be mainly about her heightens the tragic romance of the run.  There's a lot here that is hard to get in the first reading, but it seems to get better and better, tighter and tighter each time I pick it up.

Batman #681 (D'08): Hearts In Darkness Batman RIP: The Conclusion

"Batman thinks of everything." A simple statement and a simpler truth. It is the basis of every arguement of why Batman could defeat the entire Justice League if he has enough time to prepare! Fitting for the ending chapter of Batman RIP that Batman is buried alive though in his "official" costume. Doctor Hurt knows the value of appearances and their symbollism.

In a flashback, we see Bruce preparing for his mental breakdown because he feels something is wrong. There is "a hole in his mind" and he wants to create a second personality, seperate from the invasion. Bruce mentions cover personalities that traumatized children use to protect themselves from the pain. This is, of course, ironic since Batman is Bruce's cover personality, but also the public image of Bruce Wayne, Playboy, as well. He also is a big fan of The Princess Bride apparently. But at least he didn't get involved in a land war in Asia. ;-)

Meanwhile, Pierrot and the Jolly Swagman finally wear down Robin who is rescued by the JLA, the Teen Titans, the Club of Heroes including the Dark Ranger II, formerly the Scout; continuing Morrison's themes of cycles, mentoring and legacy. They will protect Gotham, freeing Robin to find Batman who is still underground.

Doctor Hurt, the Black Glove and Jezebel Jet are boldly displaying overconfidence, scorn and superiority, planning to continue to torture and torment the Dark Knight but they forgot about the wild card....the Joker. Considered by the Black Glove members as beneath them, he casually kills one of them as they now see the horror amid them. They are not above the Joker's wrath nor, as the Grinning Ghoul tells them, Batman's. Almost with pride, he explains that Batman will rise up and defeat them because that is what Batman does! At that moment, as if on cue, the "Bat-Radia" activates which deactivates the security grid of Arkham Asylum which (somehow) frees Nightwing who prevents his own lobotomy (!!) and handily thrashes Le Bossu, scarred by the Joker, and Scorpiana. 

Predictably, Batman rises from his grave with vengeance on his mind. Of course, had the Black Glove merely shot him in the head while he was unconscious instead of putting him in (another) death-trap that Houdini could have escaped easily....  I mean, a straightjacket? Locks? Buried Alive? Batman freed himself from thing like that numerous times!

Doctor Hurt sees his plans evaporating with the coming dawm, illuminating by the Joker's killer's smile. He is rooting for Batman now and seems giddy to see Batman stymie them as he has been stymied again and again. But don't, don't call him servant! The Joker leaves. And the Bat arrives!

He claims that he suspected Jezebel was part of the Black Glove but when? He states her "origin" as if he knew it all along, much to her surprise and chagrin. She plays her trump card, saying he'll never trust or love another woman again. Another "good" woman, maybe but he still know a couple of "bad" ones! :-) He claims to never have loved her, that it was all an act but with these two, what is the truth and what are they hiding?

Maybe symbollic, or for the story but we briefly see Bruce and Dick fighting side-by-side and it still feels right!

Another nice bit is that the ambulance that the Joker drives off in is knocked off a bridge by the Batmobile being driven by Damian. Perhaps this is a homage to the many previous watery demises that the Joker had and always came back from, rebooted each time with his sins washed away with no explaination needed!

Doctor Hurt tries to trigger another phrase to eliminate Batman and again claim to be Thomas Wayne but the Detective has found out his true (?) identity. Discarding his cowl, it is Bruce Wayne defying Hurt, being the better man. Leaping at Hurt's heliocopter, the Evil Gambler claims that the Black Glove always wins but it is the black glove of Bruce that causes it to crash as the Dark Knight's allies watch with dread. Talia vows retribution and starts with the trecherous Jezebel Jet whose private plane is attacked by Men-Bats!

Six months later, Le Bossu claims that the Bat is dead but the light of the Bat-Signal says otherwise!

Epilogue: The Mask of Zorro, the walk home, the Chilling shadow....the cycle begins again.

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As an ending, it seemed rushed like Morrison forgot to explain a few things, particularly if Bruce really suspected Jezebel after a while and the true identity of Doctor Hurt. Also Robin never gets to Bruce nor does Damian. The Joker escapes.

The one word that comes to mind with Doctor Hurt is hubris. He believes himself so superior that he could play games with both the Dark Knight and the Clown Prince, controlling each by having them do their dance but both figured him out long before he realized that it was he being played!

There have been numerous villainesses who fell for their hero/opponent: The Harlequin, the Green Sorceress, the Witch, the Enchantress, The Iron Maiden, La of Opar, Star Sapphire and of course, Catwoman and Talia. But never had a hero's lover turned on him as Jezebel did and NOT reform. She could have theoretically. She had that tragic past but Morrison (and Talia) would not let her.

Now I have a problem: the next issue (#682) takes place during Final Crisis so should I start up with that? Is there a bridge between Batman #681 and Final Crisis #1? Can I write about Justice League of America #111 first? Or shouldn't I? Where do I go from here?

Good insights, as ever, Philip.  I don't know that Morrison 'forgot to explain a few things'.  This finale ties up just about everything he set up in the lead up to RIP.  In the best pulp tradition, Morrison is saving up Dr Hurt's true identity, for a later payoff.  It's going to be one long whole story, after all.  Likewise, comics marketing, as we have learned over the last few years is all about delaying the gratification.  Bruce's full reunification with his 'boys' is a big example of this.  We just get a 'teaser' before SHOCK Bruce is whisked away from everybody by the next turn of the screw.

 

Reading #681 again tonight, something of the art and depth of it came across.  The Joker puts his finger on it when he says that the final joke is the now you are here, now you are not which the red and black symbolises.  The most terrible truth there is in life is that we who are here now, will cease to be one day.  Everything we are will cease, and that goes for everyone we love too.  It is the 'hole in things', 'the black radiant core' at the centre of our lives, to use two pointed phrases from this issue.  In this great Batman story, Morrison pushes our hero up against this truth to see how one of our culture's greatest heroes deals with that.  Batman is always prepared, and we see how he prepares for it, by the Thogal ritual, which is a replication of death for the living.  Batman even goes that far, to face his own mortality. 

 

This final issue concentrates on this essential aspect of Morrison's run.  We have the Joker's insights on 'now you see it, now you don't', and then the 'red and black' coloured sequence where Bruce ducks drinking the poison while discussing the existential void of death.  Traditionally, last chapters of these pulpy superhero tales have some info-dumping where the hero says, "but you see I had prepared for this by ...".  Instead Morrison gives us yet more story: in this case, another example of our hero cheating death in exotic surroundings.  That's laudable, even if it is frustrating to linear thinkers!

 

And then of course we have Bruce actually being buried and having to crawl his way out of his own grave.  Batman dies and rises again over and over in this story.  They say it's good to meditate on your own death, and live each day like its your last.  Batman does this just by being Batman.

 

The thing is that it's all very well to say 'This is about Batman facing death', but Morrison is really trying to mean it.  Batman doesn't just want to learn about death so he can face it. As we see over and over in Morrison's work, you can only learn the important lessons by experiencing them, and living through the extremes of emotion that they involve.   Morrison is using our involvement in an exciting superhero story to draw us into the next best thing to living through something and experiencing it.  Instead of just intellectually learning about something - in this case death - we are experiencing it vicariously through our imagination and identification with the hero.  Morrison is trying to illustrate in this pulpy story what we all know - death is the ultimate reality- but which we don't really know at all, being in a constant state of denial.

 

Even if we do have experience of what death really means from sad experiences in our own 'real' life, for many it is just a function of a meaningless universe.  Now you are here, now you are not.  Morrison manages to give this meaning-negating revelation artistic shape and form in this grand bat-story.  That's worth something.

 

I've read the comics covered in this thread so far several times now. RIP, which seemed the most inaccessible section at first, I've reread even more than the others. The more I read the run so far, the more I can see it's like a dense self-reflecting poem, a cape-opera focusing on some of the most central aspects of what it means to be alive. 

 

Is that a bit OTT of me?

 

Or maybe it's just about a guy in a cape with a cool car who punches people?

Interesting point about the Joker escaping by falling into water in so many stories.  (Water often symbolises the subconscious/ mass consciousness, which is where the Joker bides his time between appearances.)  He did in the first real Joker story I can remember.  The Joker's birthday, I think where Robin, Gordon etc were tied to the candles of a giant cake.  Even there, Batman mused that the Joker definitely didn't die in the watery explosion at the end.  Metacommentary on these stories from the Batman's own lips.  (It was in the 1982 UK Batman annual I discuss owning here.) 

 

There have been numerous villainesses who fell for their hero/opponent: The Harlequin, the Green Sorceress, the Witch, the Enchantress, The Iron Maiden, La of Opar, Star Sapphire and of course, Catwoman and Talia. But never had a hero's lover turned on him as Jezebel did and NOT reform. She could have theoretically. She had that tragic past but Morrison (and Talia) would not let her.

 

Excellent point.  Another example of how Morrison has studied what is out there and deliberately fashioned something that runs counter to it.  Hardly the 'wild and crazy, drug fueled nonsense' that he so often gets accused of.

 

Now I have a problem: the next issue (#682) takes place during Final Crisis so should I start up with that? Is there a bridge between Batman #681 and Final Crisis #1? Can I write about Justice League of America #111 first? Or shouldn't I? Where do I go from here?

 

I can see how you would be very keen to deal with Final Crisis in this Batman thread.  It is the next chapter in this extremely longform Batman tale.  But I have seen that Morrison often writes two seemingly seperate stories that just overlap with each other like two circles in a venn diagram.  That is what we have here.  Final Crisis is a massive story that does and says a lot besides Batman's involvement.  For that reason, I'd like to see Final Crisis get it's own thread.  It's a biggie, after all!

 

If you gave it it's own thread, then you would be justified in throwing in JLA no111 etc.

 

Still, whichever way you go, keep in mind that the title of this thread is Morrison's Batman.  Likewise, you should also  concentrate on Morrison's Final Crisis.   I wouldn't advise reading it until you are finishing Final Crisis, but Morrison's exit interview for Final Crisis contained his recommended reading order for the full series as he invisaged it.  As follows:

 

FINAL CRISIS # 1- 3

SUPERMAN BEYOND # 1- 2

SUBMIT

FINAL CRISIS # 4 – 5

BATMAN #682 – 683

FINAL CRISIS # 6 – 7

 

That's also the order they are collected in the hardback copy of Final Crisis that I have sitting beside me here (except Batman 682-683, which are omitted.)

 

Of course something like JLA 111 is much more a part of Morrison's text than one of the DC tie-ins like Final Crisis:  Legion of Three Worlds.  Things like those can be safely skipped if your quest is to see what Morrison is trying to say with his Bat-epic.

 

Incidently, an earlier example of the two massive seperate stories intersecting at a narrow overlap was where Mister Miracle's story interesected with the Seven Soldiers maxi-story.  Mister Miracle's story was part of Seven Soldiers the same way Batman's is part of Final CrisisMister Miracle is very pertinent here because his mini-series was actually a prequel to Final Crisis, and sets up much about the later series.  (One of the reasons, I thought to bring your attention to SSoV:Mister Miracle here a few weeks back!) 

 

However, Morrison wrote Batman #701-702 after that exit interview, and #701 seems to be exactly the bridge between Batman #681 and FInal Crisis #1 that you mention.  I don't think it gives away anything from later in the mega-story, but it does a wonderful job of showing us Batman's psyche between the events of RIP and the fateful events of Final Crisis.  It follows on directly from the helicopter crash at the end of #681, and ends with the opening scene of FC.

 

Many readers found Batman's appearance at the beginning of Final Crisis to be poorly handled and even alienating as a follow-on from the events of RIP, but #701 remedies that.  I was going to read #701 tonight and confirm that it is 'spoiler-free' as a prelude to the next half of the Batman mega-story, but I've stayed up late doing these posts and will have to report back on it tomorrow, if I get the time.

 

Issue #702 is a different kettle of fish, and is probably best kept until near the end of 'Return of Bruce Wayne', as it has crucial revelations about the whole run.  (Actually, flicking through it now, I do declare that #702 contains the scene which inspired you to do this whole thread, Philip!  You might recognise it when we get there...)

I always intended on giving Final Crisis its own thread as I already have every FC title out now and read #1-2. Should I cover Batman #701 first by going chronologically or later in publishing order?

BTW, I enjoyed Legion of Three Worlds as it is no secret that I'm a HUGE Legion fan!

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