“Batman and Son”, Chapters 5 & 6: Three Ghosts of Batman (Batman #664) and The Black Casebook (Batman #665)

Our first combined post. The reason I’ve decided to do this for these two is that I have very little to say about both, despite how good they are, so I figured I could kill two birds with one stone, especially since the second story picks off exactly where the last one ended instead of playing around with structure by focusing on events elsewhere. So then, let’s get to it.

Three Ghosts of Batman (Batman #664) begins shortly after the submarine explosion of Absent Fathers with Bruce, having dealt with all the man-bats in Gribaltar, receiving a call from Jezebel Jet. Their little date is…weird, to say the least. First of all, and I kid you not, Bruce arrives in a very James Bond style, which Jet even points out. That’s not the weird part. What is utterly bizarre is that Bruce responds to this comparison with a coy smile and the words, “Oh, I’m much cooler than he is” before later throwing his ski poles at a paparazzi watching them in a small helicopter. And if that isn’t odd enough, during a dinner in which Jet proves herself to surely be a bad guy by bringing up Bruce’s parent’s deaths for some reason, Bruce rather darkly responds to the memory of their deaths with, “I got over it”. Of course, we then skip back to Gotham with him as Batman, but still: what the fuck. How very, um, un-Batman-ly.

Anyway, back in Gotham things seem normal for all of seven pages. Batman beats up some pimps and cops after eavesdropping in on their conversation where a “monster cop” is mentioned as having killed some prostitutes. Then he investigates and things get strange again, starting with the return of his inner monologue boxes, this time presented in a typing format that actually makes it look like part of a report he’s writing, oddly enough. This probably isn’t the case though because this Batman’s thoughts are still weirdly poetic. You gotta give the guy points for being so wonderfully thoughtful, I suppose. Anyway, he runs into this mysterious cop who turns out to be a Bane-like character in physical appearance, only with the plot twist that he’s dressed similarly to Batman himself. Thus I shall dub him: Bat-Bane! This rather large chap beats the shit out of Batman, incidentally ending with a large KRAKT in the same way that the real Bane broke Batman’s spine in Knightfall, and there ends this issue.

So, we have things to talk about, although not a lot. First of all, there’s the comparison to James Bond which is quite funny. This is something I already missed a reference to back in Man-Bats of London where Jet asks if their future date is her chance to become a “Wayne girl”, an obvious play on the Bond girls of the countless films. But what’s funny about this joke of Morrison’s is that it’s true, I guess. 007 may have his nifty laser pens, but we’ve seen that Batman has a motherfucking rocket! On the other hand, Morrison has been poking fun at comics in this run, so he’s perhaps being sarcastic too, letting his Bruce believe that he’s cooler than James Bond when he maybe actually doesn’t think that himself. Still, I’ll be on the lookout for other little things like that, and see if they’re more relevant than mere jokes.

The more important revelation of this issue is the title itself. When I read that I wasn’t actually sure what to expect but it’s of course referencing the fake Batman we saw shoot the Joker in the first issue, and now this Bat-Bane fellow. The third I’ll talk about in my next post if he appears in the last issue, as we only get a glimpse of him in this one. Anyway, the reason this is quite curious is that it doesn’t appear to be coincidence that a pretend Batman decided to take matters into his own hand by shooting the Joker, but that these guys are actually related to Batman in some way. Reason being, during his fight with Bat-Bane, Batman suddenly thinks of “the files in the black casebook” after a “series of locks open in [his] head” at the thought of these two impersonators. It’s surely no coincidence either that, in the alleyway below the rooftop we saw the first fake Batman on, and now here in an alley where he finds out about this Bat-Bane, the words Zur-En-Arrh are spray painted all over both places. All the more mysterious is that this thought of the black casebook, which we know to be of Batman’s old adventures, means “everyone’s in danger”.

Thankfully, in The Black Casebook (Batman #665) itself we find ourselves with some additional answers, or possible ones at least. First of all, after a dream of these three “ghosts”, Bruce makes the very curious, yet specific, suggestion that it were as if this Bat-Bane were “designed to trigger [his] worst fears”. Enter my not-too-wild theory that the mysterious Dr. Hurt we encountered in The Black Casebook collection of old stories before this run has indeed done something to Batman’s mind. Or, better yet, is it possible that these three “impersonators” are actually based on DNA samples of him? Quite like the thought of that one, though I’m not sure what the point of it all could be if Hurt really is involved. Still, it makes sense because the story we encountered that guy in was called Robin Dies At Dawn. That indeed would appear to be his biggest fear, perhaps theoretically planted in his mind during that story by Hurt. That would be pretty mind blowing if it turns out to be true because it would be like Morrison making a connection between that story and A Death In The Family years later, in which the Joker kills Jason Todd and Batman goes out of his way to stop him, no matter what. Even here, Bruce immediately goes out on the hunt for Bat-Bane, despite his serious injuries, when he’s told that Tim’s gone after him already.

Whatever’s truly going on, Batman remembers an old case where he did encounter three variations of himself – one with a gun, who has shot the Joker; a bestial one that he’s dealing with her; and the yet-to-be encountered one (though I’m certain we’ll see this one next issue, going by its religious title) that “sold his soul to the Devil and destroyed Gotham”. It sounds like another story that Morrison’s brought into continuity but it’s not one I recognise unfortunately. In another twist, though, Alfred suggests that this memory is probably due to all the Scarecrow gas and Joker toxin that Bruce and Dick Grayson have been exposed to over the years. Yep, Alfred knows of this black casebook and, in fact, has “coincidentally” (yeah, right) been looking at it recently when he’s transferred the cases to a memory disk. This actually worries me. Like the way Bruce doesn’t appear bothered by this, I’m sure many readers probably skimmed over what Alfred says without a second thought, perhaps even taking his side that Batman’s exposure to various chemicals is his cause for believing these things happened. However, that is some scary timing from Alfred to be looking at the cases and, furthermore, I must ask: why a memory disk? Surely Bruce Wayne, billionaire, isn’t running out of room on the memory drive of whichever computer these cases are on? Which begs another question, the most worrying: is Alfred an accomplice of Hurt, if he really is behind what’s going on? Well, I certainly hope not. Time shall have to tell, sadly.

One small detail I noticed, perhaps emphasising my theory of Bruce’s DNA being used in the “design” of the likes of this Bat-Bane is that we see, several times, that Bat-Bane’s speech bubbles are surrounded by a red background. It’s perhaps not a coincidence that, when Bruce appears to save Tim, his speech bubbles as he shouts on him are also surrounded by the same red background for a page. Curious, eh?

The rest of the issue’s straightforward enough though. After saving Tim, Batman fights Bat-Bane for a bit before being interrupted by the same corrupt cops he beat up in the last chapter, before reporting to Jim Gordon who also notices that strange things have been going on lately. Funnily enough, the prostitute who rescues Batman at the beginning of this chapter tells him that “there’s some fights you just can’t win“, and Gordon says something similar in this scene, asking Batman why he had to “choose an enemy that’s as old as time and bigger than all of us”, seemingly referring to the forces of evil, or going from my review of The Clown at Midnight in my last post, Chaos. After that we catch up with Talia and Damian. The former’s fine, but the latter, well, uh, he needs organ replacement and the last we see of him is hooked up to a machine with fresh stitches. It wouldn’t be worth mentioning if it weren’t for the fact that Talia didn’t seem concerned for him, in fact seeming more annoyed at Bruce’s two dates with Jezebel Jet. Indeed, we catch up with them on their second one in Venice, at which quite a lot of paparazzi capture them kissing…including someone mysterious wearing a black pair of gloves. The first appearance of Black Glove, or one of them if they’re a group or something.

But we won’t be following up on that ending immediately in our last issue of this trade paperback. The next story’s called Bethlehem and, though I can still hardly believe it after reading it, we’re going to the future…with Damian…as Batman. Yeah. That’ll be up tomorrow as I’m too tired now, so, until then, cheery bye.

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