Well, this is certainly an unexpected, though very welcome, issue. Unlike when The Black Glove, and Hurt in particular, were the bad guys, here we get an entire issue centred around Talia al Ghul, which is really great. To be fair, I suppose it makes sense that she gets an issue to herself compared to Hurt getting only clues dropped here and there – after all, this whole run began with her as the lead villain in Batman and Son, and she’s the character who has raised the stakes in the war between them to killing her and Batman’s own child. So, with that in mind, I think it’s only fair that we look at things from her perspective.
And what a fascinating perspective it proves to be. For readers more familiar with the al Ghul family, I suppose there’s the possibility that this issue treaded over familiar ground, but it was an interesting read for me. All I’ve really ever seen of the al Ghul’s before this run was in Son of the Demon, a short graphic novel that I reviewed before this run since it’s technically within that story that Damian’s conceived – albeit under more romantic circumstances, which Morrison had contradicted in Batman and Son and again here by having Talia drug Bruce in order to sleep with him – so it was nice to get a little more background on the characters, Talia in particular of course. To start with her father, R’as, seems like a good idea, however.
The first piece of news is that he’s alive and well again. For some reason, his whereabouts hadn’t been a thought that crossed my mind at all during this run, despite the fact that his daughter has always been playing a significant role. Sure, we’ve always seen Talia at any number of her own secret bases and not home like in this issue, but you’d still think that it would occur to me to wonder what he’s been doing. Which I suppose makes it a little jarring to see him just step in from nowhere, commanding the arrest of his daughter who has actually been keeping herself busy, but that may well be the point seeing as it’s she who arrests him at the end of this issue, using his own men against him. Indeed, one of the many things this chapter is an indication of would be his daughter’s rising dissent over the years, but which, funnily enough, makes him “proud” at the end, and “afraid for our detective”.
Mind you, it’s no wonder she came to rebel against him, because what this issue also shows is that he’s a pretty lousy father. It’s no coincidence, I feel, that the first page begins by showing how he and Talia’s mother, Melisande, met, which was at what I guess is a Live Aid concert, where he seduces the hippy by being an even bigger hippy with some words about class warfare destroying the earth and how they both must protect it for the children of the future. That this scene is juxtapositioned with a two page spread of R’as holding baby Talia above deserted mountains, like Simba in The Lion King, promising her the entire world, kind of foreshadows the rest of his fantastic parenting. Though he throws gift after gift her way, we never once see a scene between the two that’s truly affectionate. Even once she’s fallen in love with Bruce, this king of fathers takes the whole concept of challenging one’s daughter’s new boyfriend to proving his worth to new levels, by testing Bruce in a duel to the death.
But perhaps what really sparked her rebellion is as simple as she puts it: “I needed a mother”. Indeed, the turning point in her life was when she met a fortune teller, who just happened to be called Melisande. In fact, her mother starts their meeting by saying that she “knew today was the day you’d disobey your father and come to me at last”. As you might expect with her being a fortune teller (for some reason), one of the more important themes in this issue is the idea of destiny. In this scene, her mother gives her a crash course in astrology, pointing out that she shares the constellation of Perseus with her father, specifically within the eye of the Gorgon, Algol (al Ghul). But the interesting thing is that the Medusa’s head itself is a third person, in this case Talia’s mother. The myth behind the Medusa is also explained: she was a woman who found herself scorned, despite her beauty, which angered her so much that her gaze began to turn men to stone and she became monstrous, the Medusa often being depicted as a woman with snakes for hair.
As is revealed, this applies to Melisande, who wasn’t allowed to join R’as in the Lazarus Pits and has now grown bitter towards him for quite natural reasons, warning her daughter not to believe a word he says. But the interesting, and quite tragic, fact of the matter is that it also applies to Talia, even more strongly than her mother, from the moment Bruce rejects her after their night together. Indeed, we turn the page after he realises that he’s been drugged into sleeping with her, and the first thing we see is Talia watching Damian sadly, naming him then and there, as well as repeating R’as’ words to her: “One day you will rule the world”. That she chose Damian for the baby’s name in this full context is interesting for obvious reasons. Though it isn’t the name’s actual meaning like people believe (it meaning “to tame” is also quite appropriate, however), it’s often associated with the film, The Omen, in which the young child of that film is presumably the son of Satan, or in this case the Demon. But you could argue that Talia isn’t meaning herself, but Bruce instead. After all, in her mind, it’s he who betrayed her. Sure enough, straight after the panel in which she names Damian we see Bruce telling her that they’ll never be together, which is in turn followed by a scene of Damian being trained to fight as a young boy, almost in response to Bruce’s actions.
Of course, I’m not saying she’s without blame herself, but what this issue really goes to show, and why I’m so grateful for it, is that both she and Bruce are figures raised under tragic circumstances, the son they share now stuck in the middle of their feud. Hell, that we see this fight scene of Damian’s as a reflection of one of Talia’s as a child also ties into the role of Oroboros, representing the cyclical nature of life (note too that she and her father, in the present day, stand opposite from one other, a painted circle on the floor between them). As I’ve been emphasising for quite a while now, none of this is going to end well, I’m afraid. Apparently aware that Damian’s death was faked and now seizing control of her father’s empire – oh, and that General we assumed was a member of The Black Glove was one of her own men, making her fully aware of Hurt’s every move and explaining her random appearing act with Damian at the end of R.I.P. – it looks like she’s preparing some grand attack against Batman Inc. that may well have casualties.
See you next time.