“Batman and Son”, Chapter 2: Man-Bats of London (Batman #656)

Welcome back. Having already read this issue, and knowing what I want to talk about that I couldn’t in our last post, hopefully it’ll be a shorter in length, so I can actually read the next chapter and begin reviewing them one by one at that point.

Before we pick up where we left off, however, I would like to talk about something that I neglected to mention last time, and that’s Andy Kubert being on art duties, an artist we last saw on this blog in Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? Unfortunately he doesn’t have the same inker or colourist as he did there, who I think did better jobs, but this looks good enough. Anyway, he’s the illustrator of all the stories in this book, except the prose one, and the reason that I didn’t bother to mention him until now is because that it’s in this issue where he does some particularly amazing things. Like I briefly mentioned in my last post, Morrison wants to do some fourth wall breaking stuff with the pop art exhibition, and Kubert frames these instances perfectly, especially combined with all the action that’s going. This is my favourite example of the kind of thing he does throughout this issue, but even his character designs fit with what Morrison was clearly going for, such as the attractive Jezebel Jet and the “Wow!” behind her. So bravo, Mr. Kubert – you hit the ball out of the park on this one.

Then again, Morrison does too. The idea of the pop art displays taking the place of usual lettering is simply terrific and I’m surprised to have never seen anyone else try it until reading this. But he certainly seizes the opportunity, and I imagine was revelling in the fun of it all, most noticeably, I think, when Bruce claims that comics are “too high brow” for him, obviously quite a funny thing to read inside a comic. It’s also him poking fun at comics again, an “Ouch!” in the background perhaps meant to be the reader’s, and indeed other writers, hurt feelings at Bruce’s statement. Having this panel followed by one in which Bruce is concentrating on a weird sculpture, insistent that “there’s a message here somewhere”, is also kinda funny because there are messages hidden in this run already, so it’s as if Morrison is winking at the reader. But he’s also being kind of clever too. Having a comic book character try to understand a sculpture that’s 2D from our perspective feels like a joke. The biggest gag – and, yes, this chapter’s also quite humorous – has to be when Batman smashes a fire alarm to throw off the man-bats and thinks to himself, “More noise. Lots of it.” And when that doesn’t work several panels later he hilariously thinks, “Sounds great on paper”, a reference to the phrase on one hand but also another joke about comics because the sound effects of course make no noise at all, existing only a bunch of sheets of paper we hold in our hands that make no noise. Needless to say, you can almost picture Morrison with split sides as he wrote this issue.

It’s not all fun and games, however. The man-bats that we saw in the last chapter launch their attack and they do so hard, so much so that Batman loses. The guys put up an impressive fight, of course, but he’s completely battered by the end of it all, at which point he’s finally brought face to face with Talia. Their confrontation is actually quite unusual. She makes him recall the night they had sex – though Morrison indeed does this incorrectly, it taking place in a desert whilst Batman’s drugged; certainly not the case in Son of the Demon’s…um, wedding after party – and then explains her plan to raise an army of these man-bats for the apparent purpose of world domination, before leaving with the Prime Minister’s wife as a hostage, at which point Batman is “acquainted” with his son, Damian, to end the chapter…at sword point. Well, that’s certainly an interesting way to say hello to a father you’ve never met. By the abrupt way in which Talia just leaves him behind, I believe I am correct in my assumption that he’s a secret weapon of hers, trained to study and kill his father. Which should bloody well be interesting, I imagine.

But that last page is all we of him until next time. A character we do briefly meet for a bit longer is Jezebel Jet, someone who I am calling out now as Bruce’s love interest of this run. Although a Google search revealed to me that this is her very first appearance, she and Bruce already know each other by the time they meet here, more interesting structure from Morrison with the back story being filled in like that. On the other hand, she’s a character I don’t trust either. Though not personally religious, quite the opposite in fact, the name did ring a bell as one used in the Bible and, sure enough, an extra search on Google had me find what I’m looking for. Basically, it’s the name of the Israel queen who apparently manipulated her husband into worshipping another God, which of course was considered blasphemy and ended with her being killed, probably in quite a grisly fashion. It could be a coincidental choice of name, but fuck that: I’m taking everything in this run as nothing other than on purpose, and I would assume in this case that this story is a metaphor for the character making Bruce change his “God”, I guess being Batman. Another thing we’ll simply have to wait to find out.

Anyway, the only other thing I have to talk about is something that stands out from last time: the addition of inner monologue from Batman, which emerges as the man-bats attack (or, as Bruce says, “Ninja man-bats. Alarming twist.”). Why I point this out is because this Batman’s thoughts are…interesting, to say the least. As well as doing a countdown of the number of were-bats that are left the entire time, he’s comparing things like the smell of them to “wet carpet, dog breath and incense”, and the sound of their wings to a creaking Bible being opened (perhaps relevant in connection to Jezebel, I might add). And then the thoughts that we perhaps would expect to be more in touch, like what his Plan B, C and D that he mention are, are merely a quick succession of thoughts. It’s really quite strange and I wonder if it’ll remain this way, simply being the manner in which this Batman thinks. Or, again, does it connect to my theory that he’s a little loopy in the mind department? Questions!

Other than that, the only other thing worth pointing out is that we get another random panel at one point in the middle of all the fighting, like the one of Langstrom that I mentioned last time. Our Batman makes an inner comment on the man-bats’ meatiness, which suddenly makes him think of a Thanksgiving dinner with an Aunt Agatha that I’ve never heard of, someone else with him who I presume to be Dick Grayson, and then we’re back in the fight. But, unlike the Langstrom scene, which just felt like a piece of interesting structure, I wonder if this is maybe Morrison toying with Bruce’s memories. That would certainly blow my mind if it were the case, and perhaps we’ll find out if it is at some point.

But next we’ll see how Batman gets away from being at Damian’s apparent mercy, and in this issue onwards I’ll be reviewing them immediately after I’ve read them before going on to the next. Until then.

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