Jeez, that was a long wait. After last month’s wacky surprise pit-stop in the land of Burnham’s Japan, we finally return to the root story – and thank goodness, it was mostly worth the wait.
Last time we saw Batman he had put on a badass suit of war and injected himself with a special strain of Man-Bat Serum in an effort to stifle his base humanity so that he may defeat the monstrous Heretic. Bringing the mythos full circle (full ouroboros) with its defining premise; “Yes father, I shall become a bat”, while still managing to parallel Bruce and Damian’s relationship in a clever call-back to a call-back turned on its’ head.
So Bruce swoops in, an army of bats in tow which are all carrying the antidote to Talia’s Man-Bat formula and they dispatch her flying ninja army in seconds. Bats then proceeds to swoop up Heretic for an all out, and quite cathartic beat down – full of the type of focused rage that brings all those memories of Damian’s death right back into the fore.
Holy hell, Bats is going Frank Miller on Heretic’s ass, and for as much as Morrison likes to reject the “psycho” Batman, it seems like he would do it quite well, of course we readers have context of the previous story components, so we feel the justification of these actions – and they definitely are justified. That being the case, this isn’t the true ‘psycho’ Bats, but as close as Morrison will ever get, so let’s just bask in this rage beat down for all it’s worth.
As I said, very cathartic.
As Bruce and Heretic continue their battle, we catch up with Red Robin and Nightwing, who are still off trying to rescue Wingman/Jason – who as we saw ‘last’ issue, wasn’t really in any danger anyway. As always, Morrison manages to throw in some great dialog between the two Wayne boys and yet on the same hand is still, for some ungodly reason, laboriously dragging out the Kathy Kane reveal.
For christ sakes – is there anyone that doesn’t already know that the mystery woman is Kane? I mean, it’s been obvious for a long while now; just let it all hang out and let’s move on from it.
Move on we shall, because, taking the unknown mystery woman’s advice (WHO COULD SHE BE??????) Dick and Jason go help out Batman, and once again, we get a nice, satisfying bit of cathartic comeuppance; this time from Dick and Beryl:
Oh, yes. You could feel the impact of that one.
Burnham did a great job on that panel. This leads into the most disturbing and shocking reveal of the issue; Heretic’s gross baby head. I mean, ‘shudder’… it somehow really solidifies the fact that this Frankenstein monster of Talia’s was truly not a heretic at all, he was a victim; an artificially created and unwitting slave who was used without compassion.
Looking into that face, which looks just like young Damian’s face, was amazingly effective.
I always assumed he’d have an “adult” Damian face, but seeing the young boy’s face on that monstrous body was truly a touch of poetic genius. It makes us realize that Bruce’s revulsion comes off as emotional, rather than physical. Looking into the face of his dead son, seen through the prism of Talia’s distorted, hellish revenge fantasy, brings that much more emotional import into the forthcoming final showdown between Lady Talia and Bruce.
And that line Heretic speaks as we get the full reveal of his face for the first time? Fucking brilliant.
I mean, christ, I’m getting emotional just looking at it again while writing this review. The way that line ties into Damian’s life and the depraved, bestial perversion of his monstrous doppelganger – who suddenly, in a flash, is solidified as the manipulated and naive beast that Morrison has hinted at a number of times throughout his appearance, is brilliant. It brings the character into full relief, and in turn, makes his inevitable death that much more impactful.
In closing – BRAVO.
It’s good to see Morrison is still swinging and hitting some real home runs this late in the game. The plotting remains tight, intricate and the emotion is still here; bringing everything together, mirroring the past, predicting the inevitably tragic futures of these tortured souls and still, even at the ninth hour, bringing character’s into full flower and exposing them to us in masterful ways.
It is also really satisfying to see Burnham handling the art duties across the board, as having the past few issues switch back and forth between styles and artists caused a bit of dissonance and pulled me out of the narrative every so often, so I’m glad to finally return to the coherence of the aesthetic that the first slate of this volume benefited from. We’re back to being able to focus fully on the story and are treated to Burham’s great portrayals of weight, movement and choreography (I still think Burnham is doing some of the best fight choreography in the business right now). Hopefully our final, giant sized issue #13 will have all 32 pages done by Burnham as well. On the art note for the next issue though, look out for Morrison’s 1:25 variant cover – I think it’s quite apropos that he’s doing one and I can’t wait to see it.
Overall this was a fantastic issue and I’m on pins and needles for the final chapter in the greatest goddamn Batman story ever told.