Okay, I know, I know – I said that I wouldn’t be combining any more posts, yet here I am doing it anyway. The trouble is that these two issues fit quite well together, in the sense that the first is simply a set up for the second, in which we get a ton of information sent our way, the last piece of which leads us into the issue after that and then finale of the book, bringing us to the real beginning of the end in the second hardcover. So, yeah, I think it’s for the best that I do things this way, especially since I probably couldn’t have scoured even 1000 words up for the two posts if I did them individually.
Alright, so here’s a quick rundown of the first of these issues, just so we can move on to the second as quickly as possible: Bruce is in the guise of a man called “Matches” Malone, an old alias of his that Morrison’s brought back, his purpose being to infiltrate Leviathan, whom we see at the beginning of the issue are spreading stealthily through Gotham. This leads him to a meeting with a young boy, apparently in charge of a gang, and the help of a singer named Lumina, who requires his help later on, but actually leads him into a trap with a character called The Hangman. The assassin that lied to Talia in the first issue is also present, having sold Bruce out. We also saw the members of the Dead Heroes Club under the guise of Matches’ bodyguards. Meanwhile, Damian isn’t happy with being grounded, gasses Alfred and sneaks out under the new identity of Red Bird after Dick accidentally suggested creating a new name for himself since he’s longer Robin.
Okay, so that leads us into the second and more interesting issue, one that begins with Talia and that mysterious fellow who apparently knew Damian back in Batman: The Return. My theory about that guy has always been that he’s an accelerated-aged clone of Damian and it appears I was on the ball, Talia saying that Bruce, “took my son from me”, to which this large guy replies, “I thought I was your son…”. Not sure what other conclusion you could possibly draw from that, so a Damian clone he is, as far as I’m concerned or until a character says otherwise. The other interesting line on this page is Talia’s plans for Bruce: “I want him to suffocate in the womb of chaos”. A very good line, that, said as we zoom in on Talia’s skull mask so that the eye socket takes up the last panel, creating complete darkness. If you don’t remember, the colour black was associated with the Joker back in Batman R.I.P.’s prologue, and I made the case back in The Clown at Midnight that he is symbolic of pure chaos, which makes it kind of intriguing to have Talia say this, suggestive of a very dark plan indeed.
It perhaps isn’t so surprising then that the violence is being escalated a lot higher than before. Not just more bloody but, quite shockingly, we’re seeing children being killed, perhaps in itself indicative of Damian’s impending doom, Boy Wonder or not. Like I said, Bruce finds himself trapped at the mercy of a sinister looking fellow called the Hangman, the assassin from the first chapter having betrayed him. Apparently Leviathan required sacrifices, which is why Bruce has been led here under the identity of Matches. Where the violence comes in is through the fact that the little boy Matches met with before – who didn’t actually seem influenced by Leviathan in his actions, but just a young gang leader – and another kid can both be seen hanged. The reason I mention this now is that I’ll be doing so again in the next chapter for one brief, horrible scene.
Anyway, of course Batman has help. The Dead Heroes Club make their real appearance, kicking butts but suffering a few injuries until the Knight, Squire, Nightwing and other characters carry out “phase 2” of the attack, joining on the fray whilst Batwing disables attacking man-bats with the use of an ultrasonic gun. All goes well and they win this round. Then Wingman is finally revealed to be Jason Todd right enough. For some reason it never occurred to me before to notice that Jason is basically what Damian would be like grown up, but the kid seems to realise this himself, yelling how Todd dishonours the family by being a murderer, finishing his sentence there, you might argue, because he realises that so was he once. But the other thing he quickly catches on to is the fact that everyone else knows something that he doesn’t.
Finally comes the big revelation. We’ve had two stories featuring future Damian and I’ve always considered both to be quite like “elseworld” stories – not real, not canon; just a bit of fun from someone wondering, “What if this were the case?” Which I think made sense because we didn’t actually see a lot of Damian prior to Batman and Robin, so these helped fill out some of his character. It turns out, however, that the future Bruce has seen is of Damian as Batman, and Gotham City covered in flames – it has all been a real future for the boy. The next issue, therefore, is essentially what Bruce has seen happen that has him so frightened into believing that Damian must return to his mother, and I’ll talk about it some more then, naturally. But one point of note in this scene, besides Damian’s terribly sad expression, is one of Bruce’s lines, which I think annoys me greatly: “Son, I wish it wasn’t true but I know now”. Yes, that is the first time that Batman’s called Damian his son, and he’s saying it just as he plans to make the boy leave his life. Seriously, he has completely given up on the boy: “I thought it could be different. But I was wrong”. Goddamnit, Bruce. Of course, I believe he’s missing the other way that Damian can bring around the destruction of Gotham – by dying. This is truly leading up to a sad ending for the kid, though we’ll see that he meets an equally depressing end even if he were to become the future Batman.
Since this was a fairly short post, I thought I’d finish off with something that I’d intended to mention in Talia’s own issue. Chapter 4, as I said, opens with her and Damian’s clone having a chat, and we do the whole zooming in on one of her skull mask’s “empty” eye sockets – incidentally, the exact same that’s the eye of the Gorgon, turning men to stone – until the last panel is all very “stare into my heart of darkness”. The thing is, her whole connection to the Lazarus Pits should make this an unusual choice of headpiece, seeing as her father is a man who will never look so decayed. That had got me curious in her little chapter when she pulled it on in front of him, particularly since what that whole issue was really about was her growing hatred for “daddy”.
This reminded me of two poems I studied in my last year of high school, written by Sylvia Plath: Daddy and Lady Lazarus. Have a read of those if you like. You could chalk it up entirely to coincidence but I see some lines in both that put me in mind of Talia’s position, especially if you read each poem from a feminist perspective, keeping in mind that it was Talia’s mother who urged her to become independent from her father’s clutches. The first poem, Daddy, is the one that mainly puts me in the mind of Talia though. One thing I can remember from my essay on the poem was the fact that Plath’s father had already died before she wrote it, and according to my teacher, she idolized him at a young age. This seems like it could apply to Talia as well, particularly since we see that he does die at an age where she still calls him “daddy”, yet resurrects and hits her when she approaches his Pit, after which we begin to see her rebel – he’s no longer the God-like figure she looked up to, but a monster instead. The poem, as I argued at least, is about closure for Plath, and in a sense, so is Talia’s little chapter, the last time she calls Ra’s “daddy” being as they stand opposite one another, a circle representing Oroboros between them, she revealing that his men are now hers. Not what I call coincidence, but I’ll leave that up to you.
Until next time.