“The Black Glove”, Chapters 2 & 3: Now We Are Dead (Batman #668) and The Dark Knight Must Die (Batman #669)

Well, as I suggested I might do, I’ve merged these last two chapters of the first story arc of the book together as there isn’t that much to add to what I’ve already said.

In fact, I have very little to say about Now We Are Dead (Batman #668). We find out a little about the Club’s past, specifically a little fight that we get the full context of next issue, and then everyone’s attacked – the knight’s poisoned; a bunch of the heroes are shot at by robotic suits of armour; and Wingman turns up dead. But there’s nothing to really gather and talk about from the dialogue. There’s the artwork again, though nothing as significant as what I talked about in my last post. The story opens with a flashback and Williams’ artwork is made to look like some of the older comics that we read in The Black Casebook. What’s really cool, though, is that he makes the panels look like they’re actually set against the pages of a worn old comic – not just mimicking older artwork – by which I mean the pages are yellow and designed to look stained from use. Hell, the contents of the panels themselves even “leak” outside of their borders, I suppose emphasising how far comics have come in terms of production value. But the only other thing to point out in this issue, which I could’ve done last time, is that we see black and white tiles in use again, representing a chessboard of course. To be honest, I should have pointed this out sooner as there have been quite a lot of examples of this, even prior to The Clown At Midnight, but better late than never. It’s all a big game to Morrison, isn’t it?

With all that said in the one paragraph, I suppose we might as well get The Dark Knight Must Die (Batman #669) out the way too. Got a bit more to talk about this time at least. The story is wrapped up rather abruptly. Yes, it turns out their was a traitor – the Wingman we saw killed last issue turned out to actually be Dark Ranger, Wingman having stolen his disguise – and, yes, John Mayhew was involved. Both men’s motives are a little unusual, perhaps even quite cheap. The former makes a short speech about how no attention as a hero – which is Morrison’s way of pointing out these Club members were only in a few stories, and then completely forgotten – led him to become a villain instead, and the latter is just your typically bored rich man, which is a funny thing he points out to Batman of all people because he does understand the life of a rich man.  Anyway, it turns out that, a Jack of all trades after all, he made the clubhouse for the heroes for the sole purpose of creating a crime fighting team. Of course, like Wingman, this was forgotten, so he thought, “Fuck it”, and turned to villainy as well. But, boy, did he ever. There’s a brilliant scene where Robin and Meryl must keep pulling a rope, as letting their strength falter means Red Raven will fall into a tank of piranha fish. As Mayhew points out, this is a classic elaborate scheme of the old school bad guy, or even a James Bond villain that we’ve seen Morrison reference in this run. It certainly feels like he’s stating that he misses this kind of simple fun when Mayhew angrily says, “[…] now it’s all cocaine and a bullet to the head”. So I guess this means that we may well be seeing some of these goofy set-ups in the future, and that’s fine with me if it’s the case.

Anyway, both men of course work for the Black Glove. Yet, as I said, the story ends suddenly, leaving us with no explanation towards there having been any spectators after all, or any clues as to who the members of the Black Glove could be. Which is fine, and unsurprising. Perhaps even less of a surprise is that the next chapter in this run doesn’t bother to follow on from this one’s ending. We’re back in Gotham and I don’t see any members of the Club in sight. We’ll see them again, I’m sure, but who knows when? We are getting closer to answers, though, or so it would seem. Although I’ll be talking about the first chapter of the next story arc in my next post, after I’ve read it, it would appear that Batman’s third “ghost” will finally be making a real appearance and my hope is that with him come some answers.

The last thing I’d like to talk about before wrapping things up for this post is J.H. William’s artwork again, though this time for good. No, I’ll no longer be doing a separate post on the guy, even though he certainly deserves one. Before I talk about the quality of his work in general for these three issues, I would point out one thing about this last chapter: the very first page, 55 of the hardcover and I presume trade paperback, is literally a window. You’ve got six panels, as I talked about in my last review, but this time they’re bordered by a wooden window frame, and bricks border that. So I was on the ball about the whole spectator thing, which I’d like to call my own intuition if it weren’t for the fact that this man is simply a genius artist. Where I’ll really be going crazy over his artwork is when I come to read Promethea but even over the course of the three issues we have here the man outshines, I suspect, everyone else on art duties on this run. What I don’t mean is that they’re terrible in comparison or anything. Quite the contrary for, at a glance, Frank Quietly, Frazer Irving and one Chris Burnham seem to do a wonderful job.

But Williams does things I don’t believe I’ve ever seen before, in any medium. Look at this, this and this to see what I mean. You know what all three of those gorgeous examples have in common? They’re all complicated images, taking advantage of panel composition and structure, yet so easy to follow. Sometimes he even throws in motifs of a certain character around a panel of whoever this, like wings bordering an image of a dead Wingman.  Judging from his artwork in Batwoman and the new Sandman, this guy must be a joy to work with. Just imagine you’ve written your script. Yeah, you’ve taken advantage of the fact that you’ve got Williams doing the art, so you make him do some fancy things. But imagine actually seeing the result of what he does and the additions he adds to your script. That must be something special. Yet, criminally, this is all we’re seeing of him in this whole run, a fact which makes me very sad indeed. So I might as well get this massive compliment out of the way, again judging by what I’ve seen from the other series’ I own in which he’s the artist: this man is very possibly the greatest artist I’ve ever come across in comics, and I love a lot of artists. Thankfully I won’t love them any less but those are favourites are over there in their own spotlight, huddled together, whereas William’s stands proudly on a pedestal. If I didn’t love all my books so much I would literally tear some of the pages out of these last three issues and use them as posters – that’s how amazing I think this guy is.

On that note, we’ll be moving on to an artist who takes up the remainder of our stories in this book and seemingly the only one on duty for R.I.P. – Tony S. Daniels. Let us hope he fares well. See you next time.

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