“Batman Incorporated”, Volume 3, Chapter 1: Belly of the Whale (Batman Incorporated #7)

The end begins, and in a funny way, it does so just as the run itself began. The very first page is similar to that which began this run – where Gordon fell all the way to street level, however, here he is as spectator to Batman’s near lethal descent, being caught at the last moment by one of Talia’s man-bats. Later on in the issue, a subject which I’ll give its own paragraph, a girl that Batman saved all the way back in the Bat-Bane storyline rears her head for one last time. Even though I vaguely suggested in my last post that Talia is Bruce’s ultimate foe, here we also see her lock him into a safe that she has Damian’s clone throw in a pool, very reminiscent of the moustache-twirling sort of villainy that we saw from Hurt early on in the run. We really are coming full circle in a big way.

But we’ll get to that. This issue, as you might imagine, is quite chaotic in nature. Though Gordon seems to sum the situation up early on when he tells Nightwing that, “The hostages are dead. Your people are dead”, that’s nothing compared to the onslaught that unfolds, ready to lead us into the next issue. The first curve ball thrown our way is The Hood turning out to still be working for Spyral, zapping Jason Todd unconscious when he finds him alone. This is quite curious to say the least because the least we heard from this group was at the end of the first book, where it appeared that Kathy Kane was their leader. But she hasn’t been heard of since, so does this mean she has a role to play in the finale? Well, I certainly hope so – if she doesn’t then I’ll be sitting here after I’ve finished the run wondering why Morrison brought her back at all, so hopefully The Hood’s betrayal is suggestive of her having a hand to play in all this. That The Hood brings Jason to Talia at the end of the issue is possibly an indication that Kathy’s plan has something to do with Talia. Maybe she and Bruce are secretly teaming up? Can’t say I buy it myself, but I’m not sure what else she can really do that could help, if lending a hand is what she’s planning on doing.

Elsewhere in this chapter, Nightwing and Gordon are set upon by children. Kind of a messed up situation since they can’t exactly shoot the kids or anything, but I expect that when Damian arrives on the scene in the next issue, beating up some kids around the same age as him probably won’t be a moral conundrum. Yep, our young hero wears his Robin costume once again. In another reflection to the beginning of this run, though, and indeed his recent escape as Red Bird, he doesn’t harm Alfred but actually has help from the faithful butler, who promises to lie to Bruce so he doesn’t get in trouble. Which is a little sad because, as you’ll see, I expect that Damian’s dying in the next issue, making this sign of friendship and respect from Alfred, as well as the boy’s farewell to his cat and cow, quite sad.

As this is going on, Tim Drake goes off in pursuit of Bruce, but obviously only stumbles into a trap staged by Talia, only to then escape and head towards Wayne Tower instead, where shit is going down. This is indeed where Bruce is brought in a safe. It’s actually quite funny because we don’t see that he’s in there until after he’s been chucked in the pool, where I guess he’ll have to prove himself a magician of some sort. Anyway, at Wayne Tower we find that one of his own security guards is an undercover Leviathan operative, shooting another guard and trying to kill Ellie, a girl who we first saw back in Batman and Son – about halfway through that book – and has occasionally turned up since. This is one of the nice details in Morrison’s run. It’s layered heavily with symbology and clever imagery but, underneath all that, there are recurring secondary characters that are fleshed out ever so slightly.

However, Ellie, I feel, is quite unique, and I believe has a pivotal role to play in the next issue in which I expect Damian to sadly come to his end. You wouldn’t think it from the few times we’ve seen her, and the once or twice that I believe she’s been mentioned in conversation. In her first appearance she was a young prostitute that Bruce, as Batman, casually gave the telephone number of WayneTech to, telling her they were looking for a receptionist. Sure enough, when we next saw her – I believe this was in Time and Batman, in the story that took place between the end of Batman R.I.P. and Final Crisis – she had accepted this job, and even had a boyfriend if I recall. Here she is again, caught in the middle of what’s going on at her job.

Frequently I’ve said that Damian’s death would probably be ironic, caused by either of his parents in a pointlessly tragic way, but in her I see the opportunity for him to die as a hero, saving the life of a girl who Bruce already reformed himself through a simple action. But here’s the best part: though no one seems to have stepped forth to take over Morrison’s story of Batman after he’d finished with it – soon in our case – there is a very clever hint here that, if he had continued, she would be the new Robin, for the security guard that’s shot calls her by a nickname that made me smile: Ellie-bird, which sounds curiously like Jason Todd’s nickname as Robin, Jaybird. Not a coincidence, I’m betting. So, yeah, Damian may die a hero after all, saving, of all people, Morrison’s choice for the next Robin. Now that would be quite an ending for the kid.

We’ll find out soon if that’s the ending he gets. In my mind, it’s the one he deserves. The chapter ends with four panels: Nightwing being beaten by the children; The Hood delivering Jason to Talia; Red Robin arriving outside Wayne Tower; and young Damian flying off in his jet pack from Batman: The Return (incidentally, Traktir and Spidra from that same story find out that his clone burst out of the whale carcass they found in that tale, and seem to put up a final stand of their own against incoming man-bats) to apparently save the day. The trouble is, below these panels there is the word “Next” followed by an image of the Robin insignia, bloodied. More worrying still is that the cover for the next issue is that of the book itself – that image of Robin as a ghostly figure, mirroring the same used for Batman that J.H. Williams III used in Batman R.I.P. Of course, Bruce never died in that story, yet I see this as being more literal, marking the end for poor Damian completely. The night’s nearly over, but I’ll make sure to get that post up at the very least.

Until then.

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