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.
Anyone notice Talia is wearing Bob Kane’s original concept for the Batsuit? It’s stuff like that which makes me love Morisson’s work.
Indeed, thanks to Isaac’s comment below it has just come to my attention – I can’t believe I missed it! it also seems that thematically and visually it perfectly ties into Hurt in that it’s the same theme Hurt used, way back when.
Ah I thought it would be about 25 pages! Nice! I’ve noticed that superficially this is the least complicated of Morrison’s works..not to say it’s straightforward but I think it’s purposefully set up in this way: every ‘mystery ‘ has had the most obvious solution..I don’t mean that as a criticism, far from it. I wonder if Morrison has purposefully set up these mysteries so that fans can have satisfaction knowing they’ve been right?
Also another thread G Mo needs to wrap up..what became of Traktir and Spidra???
Replying to myself.. A thought I had on my first read through ..Dick mentions ‘we talked to wingman’ and bruce says something along the lines of ‘she needs batman inc ‘…so either this is an Inconsistency on G Mo’s part, Bruce has had an off panel conversation about ‘the mystery headmistress ‘ or Grant is bringing back the ‘ultimate batman who fuckin thinks of everything and is three steps ahead of every other fucker’.. My point being..how does he know that ‘SHE needs batman inc’ ?
To reply to this point – I’m assuming that this is just Bruce being 3 steps ahead. He knew Kathy was in the wings the whole time presumably. The way he just matter of factly brushes it off and says he’ll do the rest makes it seem pretty clear that he’s in the know.
I definitely agree with it being his most straightforward work (which is still labyrinthine compared to other contemporary comics writers!) I think this was absolutely purposeful on his part in order to present the character as he has; the embodiment of the entirety of the character’s disparate history. Batman is an iconic archetype and much like Morrison did with Superman, he is preserving the main conceit of the origins of the character (archetype) and the medium that gave birth to them; the serial, pulp adventure – however, even though he has retained the original, core mechanics, he has refined them and made them more in step with contemporary milieus. Sure there is some abstractly plotted mystery (yet entirely fair play), and surrealism at play; but these are stylistic flourishing part and parcel with the author’s unique style. I think this dissonance is what people dislike about his work; it’s like a David Lynch film; there is a point where the facade is broken down and people can never tell if he’s winking at the audience or drooling madly. People don’t like to have to “figure out” what things mean and they hate it even more when they have to consider what things represent – and this extends beyond the page, to the way he works in the medium itself, so most of his work involves some sort of meta commentary on itself. So, that being said, really, he has retained the soul of the character, while broadening the confines of the original medium which holds him, that admittedly, needed to be broadened without being broken. That’s why Morrison has been able to utilize tropes in an engaging and refreshing way; he’s revitalizing the original thrill of the comic book format; the death traps, the larger than life plotting madmen and shadow organizations, etc. yet he’s doing it all through the skewed and subversive lens that his voice invariably lends to all his work. It’s a throwback but it’s futurism, it’s staid and logical but it’s a surrealistic mind puzzle, it’s tightly plotted by shamelessly non-linear. He has revitalized the form in these ways and more and certainly brought the character back to his roots while simultaneously transcending them. He is celebrating and destroying history all at once and that is the most subversive art of all; one with equal parts reverence and disdain; the kind that evolves mediums and makes viewers more aware of the failings of said medium without being mean and without being pretentious. He allows the work to speak for itself and I highly respect that of him.
Wait… what was your original reply about? :)
Excellently put!!! I think that you’ve pretty much summed up the appeal of Morrison’s take on the Batman, and what makes it cohere so well in the historical and cultural framework of the character/his world/the tropes and elements which surround him.
At the risk of infantilising myself, there are only two comics on the go at the moment which for me recapture that childlike anticipatory excitement which we often lose as we ‘grow up’: Dial H and Batman Incorporated. However, alas both are ending in the next month or so. Whilst Morrison’s Batman work is vastly superior to Dial H (had Dial H been able to run for a few more years I think Mieville would have been able to produce a true classic), but they both have that huge, vastly imaginative exuberance where ideas and cool moments flow left, right and centre..but none of it is shallow, amid all the spectacle, there’s real substance there to be unpicked as the reader sees fit. I don’t know what I’m going to do come August when both are gone for good…
(A lot of people online reckon Hurt will make a comeback, especially since G Mo promised ‘a coda’ to the Hurt thing, and I feel so dumb for just now realising, it’s Talia in the Red and Black ‘Thomas Wayne Bat Costume’, it’s thematic, not literal.)
I’ll have to pick up the trade of Dial H – I read the first issue and was let down (I’m a fan of Mieville’s prose) so I never went back for a second chance. However, if you put it up there with Inc. then I’d say that’s a heady endorsement!
GOOD CATCH on Talia’s outfit – I can’t believe my brain glossed that visual cue over. Definitely significant!
Great review as always!
There is a heck of a lot to tie up, but if anyone can do it, morrison can eh! (If only an issue hadnt been wasted on batman of Japan nonsense )
I think this whole ‘shadowy headmistress’ non-mystery is deliberately being played with a wink/ for laughs; a kind of theatre technique where the actors and audience know the answer to the mystery and can give a wink and a nudge
While that’s an interesting concept I’m just reminded of Morrison’s handling of the Wingman reveal as well; I knew from the very first mention and panel from way back when that it was Jason under the mask, yet he kept the ‘mystery’ alive for a looooooong time. Either way, it’s all a small nitpick in a hugely successful work.
This was a good issue but I’m not sure if he can tie everything up in just one issue.
We get a 32 page issue, remember – and I think he has well tied it all up. At this point all that’s left is Kathy’s place and Talia’s defeat. Shouldn’t be a problem.
I didn’t know it was 32 pages. I thought it was only about 22 pages.
Yep, according to the solicit we get 32 pages. I’m always amazed at what Morrison gets into 22 pages, so an extra ten will probably feel like a damn novel in and of itself!
I hope its all 32 pages. But I can’t seem to validate this rumor.. all 2.99 comics are 32 with now 20 pages of actual story. I’m afraid 7 years builds to 20 pages. i wish DC gave him more (like the amazing Batman and Robin finale)
And i need more Dr. Hurt.. he’s gotta be coming