Hello again. We’ve another short post ahead of us – something that will probably be true of a lot of my other blog entries until the end of the run, seeing as I’m doing the remainder of them one by one – so I thought I’d start by talking about something that I found a little sad about this first issue, apparently an effect of it being under the New 52 subtitle. At the end of the third Batman and Robin book there was the, by then, usual extras section and in the latter half of that part of the book there were notes from Morrison about the design of Bruce’s new Batman costume for Batman Inc. and, in books before that, there was a little about Dick and Damian’s outfits as the Dynamic Duo as well. These were interesting pieces and made me appreciate the costume design quite a bit. Sadly, the costumes are now changed, a small but sad little thing indeed. Although it makes sense for Bruce to be partnering with Damian now that the boy has had a price put on his head, the other sad piece of news is that Dick and Damian are no longer Batman and Robin, the former returning to his position as Nightwing I guess. Like I said, it at least makes sense and I’m sure Damian’s death will be all the more powerful if his own father is the partner that fails him, but I presume it will also mean no more smiling Batman and cheeky Robin for the rest of the run. Hopefully the two characters will get the chance for some last pages together though.
Alright, so the issue itself. A particularly interesting start, this. It opens with a page set one month in the future, not a narrative tactic unusual of Morrison by this point. However, this is probably the most intriguing use of starting in medias res yet simply because of what happens in the scene itself. We’re apparently in the Wayne family cemetery with Bruce and Alfred, the former telling his butler that “it’s over[…] Batman. All of it”, to which the faithful servant replies with a question: “Isn’t that exactly what they want?” Anyone who has been following the run will know that that’s actually true of The Black Glove when they were the main villains, their purpose in Batman R.I.P. having been to destroy Bruce Wayne’s entire life, the private side and family. Although he’s no “vegetable” like Doctor Hurt intended him to be, Bruce does appear quite defeated here. Not battered and bruised, but sad. Of course, as he’s standing in his family’s graveyard, my immediate assumption is that Damian has died by this point, which seems like a fair guess.
What I can’t work out, though, is why the last panel is of Gordon and his officers showing up to arrest Bruce. What could that mean? Well, a while ago I suggested that the Joker knowing Batman’s identity was no big deal, but I do wonder if that would be true if Gordon were to ever find it out, you know, seeing as he is an enforcer of the law and Batman, helpful or not, is a vigilante. But it’s maybe not as complicated as that. With Talia’s declaration of war on Batman being quite sincere, and Bruce having created Batman Inc. to fight back, Gotham, you could argue, is what stands in the middle, so my other guess is that something terrible happens to the city for which Bruce is held responsible as the man funding Batman’s side of the battle. Whatever it could be, I’m very curious and more than a little excited to see what will happen.
The rest of the issue is a fairly straightforward affair. We follow Bruce and Damian in pursuit of a guy through a slaughterhouse, falling into a trap staged by an assassin who, in another narrative thread, is explaining to Talia his reasons for taking up the hit on Damian, who he has seemingly killed at the end of the issue, showing her a photograph of a furious Bruce cradling Damian’s apparently dead body. Obviously I didn’t buy this for a second, being an advocate to the idea of Damian’s death being the final blow of this run, though you can quite easily tell it’s a fake out anyway. On the page before that picture’s shown he tells Talia that he shot Bruce in the head, not killing him but leaving visible damage to the kevlar protecting him. Yet on the last page this is missing. Though I couldn’t tell you how Bruce managed to strike a deal with this assassin, knowing he wouldn’t tell Talia the real truth that he failed in killing Damian, even though he’s beaten the guy up and broken his arm, the reason seems obvious enough. No doubt she’ll put two and two together sooner or later but, for now, this means that Talia will believe that Damian has been killed, calling off the pricey bounty on his head, which gives Bruce the opportunity to strike back just as she think she’s won whilst Damian is put into hiding…until he inevitably disobeys orders, I’m betting.
So that’s one point of interest in the plot. The other major one, as I see things, is the response to my questioning of what had happened to some characters at the end of the last book. We saw Batwing apparently being set upon by Talia’s man-bats; The Hood was seemingly shot in the face by a man he was acting as a double agent for; El Gaucho was stabbed in the neck and was bleeding like all kinds of hell; and some other guys, who I forget the names of, were up in Leviathan’s satellite when they encountered the invincible Lord Death Man, who manically declared, “Welcome to the Dead Heroes Club!” So, yeah, the fate of those characters was quite murky to say the least. But, just as I hoped, we get our answers fairly quickly.
Though we don’t learn what became of the epic Lord Death Man, we do know that the heroes who encountered him were caught in an explosion, presumably a trap, but like everyone else, all survived. Cleverly, and as is now the case of Damian, all their deaths have been faked – though, funnily enough, they’ve chosen the Dead Heroes Club as their actual name – which makes them Batman’s secret army, operating from what Batwing calls “Batcave West”. Their leader is the new Wingman we saw back in Nyktomorph, quite an appropriate choice for a team of “dead” heroes if I’m correct in my theory of the man behind that particular mask being Jason Todd, the notorious Red Hood, formerly Robin, who has actually died for real, before being resurrected by a Lazarus Pit.
To finish off this post, I have two more things to add. First of all: the art. Oh my fucking god, the art. Besides the few, small contributions from other artists that I said were being replaced for the Absolute edition of Batman Inc. in my last post, Chris Burnham is the only artist we’ll see for the rest of this run (not including the Special issue), and he starts his take on the beginning of the end with a bang, and then some. Where he isn’t being incredibly detailed, like in the two page spread where we see the title of the issue, he’s doing something interesting visually, such as the splash page of Bruce and Damian zip-lining their way through the city in which the other panels are actually portrayed as graffiti on the sides of buildings, and when he’s doing neither of those things – which he never does – it doesn’t matter, because Nathan Fairburn is there as well, doing some of the best colouring I’ve ever seen in a comic. To say I can’t wait for the Absolute edition of the series for this kind of stuff alone is an understatement.
The last thing I’d like to talk about before signing off for the day is that the humour appears to be back in full force. It hadn’t exactly gone missing since Batman and Robin, but there was noticeably far less of it. Well, no more. There’s a lot to make you crack a grin here, from the opening scenes of Bruce and Damian chasing and fighting a group of slaughterhouse workers wearing ridiculous goat masks – the goat motif, incidentally, has ties to how the Devil is often portrayed, which ties us to the al Ghul family, the Demon Star of the title – to Talia having her man-bats drop a disloyal man (who had unknowingly been eating his brother, funnily enough) to the streets of Gotham, where he lands in front of our father and son, who exchange a mildly surprised look. Also, there’s this, officially the funniest thing in the run so far, and one of few scenes from any comic for that matter to make me laugh aloud. If Morrison were to ever make a sequel to all of this, it should be Bat Cow’s revenge over Damian’s death. Just sayin’.
On that amusing note, I’ll see you next time.