“Batman Incorporated”, Volume 2, Chapter 5: Asylum (Batman Incorporated #5)

A third post? In one day? My god, I’m just knocking these out the park today, aren’t I? Highly that I can squeeze in the final chapter of the book tonight, but I can certainly do that and some more posts tomorrow, seeing as I’ll still have no life by then.

This chapter picks off immediately after the ending of the last, with Bruce breaking Damian’s heart like a right bastard. The story that follows is another really fun episode of future Damian, as they’ve all been. Even though it was Andy Kubert who drew the previous two, Chris Burnham does a really good job taking over, depicting many familiar faces really well, so that’s good too. Alas, it shall be the last such episode, which is a dying shame. There is actually an Andy Kubert written and drawn series about this whole future Damian but, from what I understand, it’s pretty shit, which is a little disappointing. At least under Morrison’s pen the character goes out in style, if you can call fucking everything up a memorable way to go.

What happens is this: apparently set shortly after the Joker’s gas toxin was released throughout the city in Time and Batman, Gotham City is aflame and its psychotic population has cornered the remaining survivors in Arkham Asylum of all places, which is where Damian arrives, presumably the same little baby he rescued last we saw him in tow. This little child is believed to be immune, the source of a cure that can help save Gotham before the President of the United States decides to nuke it off the face of the planet. Also, I did a search about the kid online, and it turns out that this baby is the same that is supposed to become the Batman of Batman Beyond. You might notice the word choice of “believed to be”, and “supposed to”. It’s…for good reason.

Remember how I said the two hanged children was quite shocking in the last couple of issues, but there was something even worse here? Uh, yeah, well, it turns out that the kid is infected, so Damian rushes over to the Infirmary where he left him with Commissioner Gordon and finds that, um, Barbara has snapped the baby’s neck. It’s not often I say anything as I read, but a “Holy fuck…” did leave my mouth. What makes it all the worse is the detail – Chris (who I now consider an evil human being) adds some lovely touches like having the baby’s eyes rolled back and some last tears, you know, if your mouth hadn’t hit the floor already. But you know what’s the real kicker? Poor Barbara’s too late, already succumbed to the Joker’s toxin, and like that scene out of George Romero’s Day of the Dead, opens the gates to Arkham Asylum, letting in every psychopath that have been waiting beyond like zombies. Oh yeah, and then the President nukes the city off the face of the earth to truly make you feel bad. Did I mention that Doctor Hurt’s the man by his side as he gives the command?

Yep, this issue just gets fucking better. Back in Batman and Son’s Bethlehem we saw that Damian was shot to shit by Gordon and her boys, yet pulled himself to his feet unharmed, as he does here too. This is because, as he told the third ghost of Batman who he killed in that story, he sold his soul to the Devil the day Bruce died for “Gotham’s survival”. Since I never took that story too seriously, nor its sequel, it never occurred to me for one second after the Joker buried Hurt at the end of Batman and Robin that Hurt could well be this Devil. Colour me bloody well impressed. It makes an incredible lot of sense when Damian realises that this is all Talia’s trap for him, the equivalent of Bruce being ensnared by Darkseid’s Omega Sanction, because what it actually means is that Damian is the third ghost of Batman – not Lane after all. Oh, he certainly was the third replacement Batman of Hurt’s, but he was only engineered – programmed if you will – into believing that he was some spawn of Satan when, ironically, it would be Damian that became the true Beast. It’s even foreshadowed at the end of his first story when he tells Barbara, “The apocalypse is cancelled. Until I say so”, something he’s saying in the spur of the moment, not actually seriously. That’s what I call fucking amazing. Bravo, Morrison – you got me.

The somewhat “good” news is that none of this will happen, seeing as Damian’s for the axe. Indeed, once Bruce finishes his story, ending with the image of two gravestones exploding with the letter W between them (which I’ll talk about again in just a moment), we come back to he and Damian. This sad scene is beautifully drawn by Burnham. As Bruce tells the boy that he must return to his mother because he can never be Batman, the background of the panel begins to shatter until he and Bruce stand alone in white space, any hope of a future between either of them crushed. Don’t even get me started on the look on Damian’s face – Morrison is ramping up the emotions and Burnham is delivering the powerful expressions. It’s horrible.

The issue ends with the two being interrupted. The Knight, Squire and some other characters have been led by a lead that Bruce started investigating in the third issue to a building he owns at Crime Alley. It’s a bit of an obvious trap, but they fall for it too late anyway, as a bomb detonates, the issue ending with an image of Kali the Destroyer, the skulls of some of our heroes wrapped around her neck, symbolic of one of our characters dying in the next issue, or so I presume. It would certainly be a good idea for Morrison to end this book with a bang, and I can’t think of any characters that I want to see die less than the Knight or Beryl, or perhaps both. Frighteningly enough, though, those are the two characters closest to the blast. Oh, fuck.

Before we go I did say that I would be bringing up the two headstones again. We saw these at the beginning of the first issue too, Bruce shown to be totally beaten and Gordon arriving to arrest him. It’s easy to presume that they’re the graves of his parents but, in light of Talia’s tragic upbringing recently, and the obvious fact that Damian’s going to die, I have a new idea: what if the graves belong to her and their son? It hadn’t occurred to me that their war could end with her death too, but then, how else could it? One of them, I’m sure, is going to be responsible for Damian’s death, or perhaps they’ll both be. God knows, they’re lousy parents, so either way, I’m expecting them to fight it out, perhaps even duel like Batman did with Ra’s all those years ago. But wouldn’t it be fitting that Bruce finally accepts both characters as family only after they lie dead at his feet? Can you think of anything more tragic? Not me.

Thankfully we won’t have long now until we find out. But first, I’ll see you for the finale of this first hardcover, which I’m sure won’t be any picnic itself. Until then.

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