BATMAN INC. 9
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Chris Burnham
Reviewer: Rob Patey (aka – Optimous Douche, Ain’t It Cool News)
Now THIS is a Requiem. We have an honest-to-God funeral, angst, conversations about Damian, you know…all the stuff you do to honor our flesh meat once it has expired. I wasn’t sure how we would get more action than Damian’s demise last issue, the kid had more shit shot at him than Sonny Corleone in a Jersey tool booth – and that’s not even counting the brutal beat down delivered by his clone self. But through some imaginative backwards and sideways storytelling we get just as much action and as I mentioned a second ago, a book worthy of the Requiem moniker.
The more I read this title; the more I realize how truly integral Burnham has been to its success. It may seem like an obvious statement, but I disagree. Sometimes…many times in comics these days, writer or artist can go on autopilot because of the immense talent of their counterpart. Normally I give all props to Morrison, as a comic writer myself, I get that the author is usually telling the artist what needs to be drawn. Burnham goes above and beyond those brief descriptions though. Whether Bats and company are laying Damian to rest or fighting their way out of the Leviathan occupied Wayne tower, this issue is very sparse on words. Instead Burnham aptly does the heavy lifting to show the disbelief, then fear and finally the ultimate rage Damian’s death has brought to the family. The escape from the tower is equally sans dialog, but rife with action as the Bat boys leverage some VERY heavy artillery to clear out a hole and bring Damian’s body back to the cave. Also the fight scene between Bats and clone Damian had some very very clever moves.
I also loved this issue because it looks like the concept of BATMAN INC. is about to be dismantled as the Gotham PD decides to kowtow to Leviathan’s demands. I won’t rehash it here, but I’ve droned on for thousands of words in the past about my issues with Brue Wayne publically funding Batman. It’s akin to Clark Kent doing advertisements for Pearl Vision. Don’t call attention to something we have all decried in the past as a comic contrivance that would never fly in the real world. Also, we see a final toe tag being put on Great Britain’s Batman, The Knight…sorta. Knight will return and I like the direction much much better than the Eliza Doolittle tropes of yore. There was true emotional weight to Britain’s mourning.
As for the family, the relationships are more tenuous than ever before. These events compounded with Death of the Family is pushing Bruce to a brink of solitary no return. If you don’t believe me look at the interchange between Bruce and Alfred. You seriously want to give the old limey a hug after Bruce rails on him for letting Damian leave the cave.
You know who else I wanted to hug? Bat-Cow. I’ve loved the animal additions to the cave from day one. Titus became Robin’s Robin and Bat-Cow was a symbol of Damian’s desperation to live some of the magic childhood should be rife with. Finally Bat-Cow has her true moment in the sun as a final remembrance to everything Damian was before Bruce ends the issue in a barbaric yawp of emotional agony. I will say this final panel could have used a word bubble though. Without a high level of imagination one might think Bruce is having a wicked back spasm.
Since the launch of the new 52, BATMAN INC. has been more a second issue of BATMAN & ROBIN each month. That’s a compliment. It’s also a sign of what’s to come in my opinion. Without Robin, without a huge amount of support both in story and in the real world for a publicly funded Batman and finally without Morrison, I think BATMAN INC. is bankrupt. It’s been a great ride though, and everyone involved should get their own Bat-Cow for a job very well done.
Gotham City, uhhh NY (we think) – On the steps of Wayne Industries’ headquarters in downtown Gotham today, Damian Wayne, the heir to Wayne Enterprises and sometime superhero (all the time brat), expressed his moderate sorrow for forgetting to die during the Joker’s recent slaughter spree some in the press dubbed Death of the Family.
“Tt,” Wayne said as he took the podium. He continued, “I’m not sure exactly why I’m lowering myself by justifying my existence to the troglodytes of Gotham City, but Father’s PR people said it would engender good will from the street. Tt.” At this point Wayne Industries’ director of PR, Harold Allnut, rushed the microphone and whispered in the petulant young man’s ear.
Wayne continued, “Apparently I was supposed to let Pennyworth or the street urchin, Jason Todd, shiv me in the Batcave as Father danced with the devil in the pale moonlight. However, Titus needed to go out for a walk and Bat-Cow required a thorough brushing.” “Honestly if we could get better help than a waifish octogenarian, I would feel far more comfortable shuffling loose this mortal coil.”
“My plan right now is to allow my Mother to be my undoing sometime tomorrow afternoon.” Wayne said with surprising little fear or remorse.
Surprisingly, Gotham’s favorite son and Father of Damian, Bruce Wayne, was not present as his son announced his impending doom. Reporter Vicki Vale however was “somehow” able to issue this statement by Wayne from an undisclosed location, “Look, his (Damian) Mother and I had an affair like twenty years ago. I can’t help it the Al Guhl family has a gestation period longer than a prehistoric elephant.” Wayne brazenly continued, “I’ve had fun with the kid, but I’ve had fun with every small boy I’ve brought in my house and if Gotham is lacking in hope, it ain’t lacking in small young boys for me to live with and put in mortal danger.”
Wayne shocked the world a few years ago after return from a sojourn to a methadone clinic in Arizona when he announced that he was Gotham’s famous caped crusader Batman. Even though the announcement was merely meant to announce Wayne’s funding of the Batman, since the audience wasn’t occupied solely by Helen Keller, most put two and two together. This led to a wide depression across Gotham city for our collective mass stupidity and blindness over the years.
The conference concluded with the same little fanfare that began the event, “That is all, thank you, I guess, for your time. Tt!”
With this death of Damian Wayne, Gotham is left to wonder whether the Wayne legacy can prevail given it’s clear that God has a bigger vendetta against their survival than the Kenendy clan.
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artist: Greg Capullo
Reviewer: Rob Patey (aka Optimous Douche -Ain’t It Cool News)
The frenzied pace that has been Death of the Family doesn’t stop for the opening pages of its final chapter. The eyes are wide open, the narcotics and concussions have worn off, and at last the platters are ready to be revealed. What follows will be one of most divisive moments in comics this year.
The “reveal” that we’ve all been waiting for, the thing that was theorized so much it approached Godwin’s law seconds after the series was announced (and no the Joker is not Hitler, just in case those folks thought they were right), is a delight of massive morbidity. It’s an atrocity exactly on par…I mean exactly….with the fate that befell the Joker at the start for the New 52.
Face…it’s what’s for dinner. Dick, Damian, Jason, Tim and Babs are all served a hearty helping of their own puddum puddin. It was a moment of horror, insight into the true face of evil, and a poignant, if batshit crazy poem to Batman’s one Achilles’ heel as Joker uses this to moment to show just how soft the family literally is beneath their respective masks.
And then we find it’s all just a fugazi, a falsehood meant to satisfy the sensationalists of the world who needed this to culminate in physical, not emotional entropy. The truth is The Reveal has been in front of our faces all along. I would say, “No pun intended,” but I’m honestly not sure there isn’t some kind of meta level joke in all this being played on us as well.
The true purpose of The Joker’s plans in Death of the Family was revealed two months ago when the clan found out the Joker had been in the cave and Bruce never told them. Death in the Family was all about deconstructing trust. It’s ultimate purpose was to separate all of the Bat titles so each character can find a light to grow outside of Bruce’s shadow. And more importantly add much needed continuity distance from the carryover Flash brought back with him from the Flashpoint universe.
So, no one’s dead, the atrocity is that of the sprit: Babs’ limbs all function, Jason didn’t take another crowbar to the face, and Damian still faces more danger from his mother in BATMAN INC. than he does inside the Bat-Cave. I know there will be fans who will cry foul in the fact the worst thing to happen to any character is a waft of ultra potent Joker toxin. But, when I’m asked the inevitable question of whether I liked Death of the Family the answer will be, “Yes, but only if…
Only if Bruce truly has to fight his way back into the family’s hearts and souls (including Damian). Only if once Snyder sets his sights on Metropolis we see other writers truly embrace the foundation Snyder laid before them. Only if DC commits to taking a break from Bat cross-overs for a while to let each character develop independently. This last point is most important. Snyder did what he does best, he built mythos through history. Now its time to honor this path and tread it truly, press forward with more tales of detective work in the now and let history come organically moving forward.
Death of the Family is a tragic story of love unrequited. This is the Joker’s tragedy. Even though he knew who Bruce was all along, it was never about exposing Batman, it was about keeping him hidden so the game could on and on and on….
Writer: Pete Tomasi
Artist: Patrick Gleason
Reviewer: Optimous Douche
So good and gory I almost threw up in my mouth. Gleason get the creep award in this week’s “DEATH OF THE FAMILY” offering through the unraveling of a young Boy and the most grotesque puppetry since the recent news about Elmo.
This is Damian’s story all the way and takes place a very close heartbeat away from the moments of BATMAN 15 when the family turns against one another. You can read one book without the other, but some of Damian’s motivation and inner dialog will be lost.
In three distinct acts, Tomasi gives us one of the best portrayals of Damian to date.
Confined to monitor duty, in usual fashion Damian gives a resounding “F this noise” and begins the hunt for Pennyworth. Great moments abound as Damian and Titus, the Batdog, begin their sleuthing for clues. A boy and his dog story are Americana at its finest, Titus is Damian’s Robin and the interchange between them is exactly what you would expect from a ten year old. Damian truly believes Titus understands him, and it as endearing as it is sad when set against the atrocities in the rest of the issue.
In Act II Damian’s clues lead to Alfred’s whereabouts at the Hyena cage in the Gotham Zoo. “I hate the zoo” are the only words Damian mutters throughout his battle with the Joker venom carrying hounds and with that Tomasi unpeels another layer of the Damian mystique, the boy who hates being a boy.
Of course the Joker finally gets some alone time with Damian after an inventive knock-out and here is where I truly almost lost my lunch. You know that face the Joker has strapped on and probably should have rotted off by now? Well, it’s finally starting to show some of the gummy elasticity of necrotic wear. The Joker molds, stretches and contorts the face in a macabre puppet show as he unhinges Damian in a game of verbal cat and mouse. Especially creepy was the complete inversion of the face where the Joker’s beady pupils are in the mouth. This is also the part where Damian shines as the true son of Bruce Wayne. When he makes a solemn vow to kill the Joker, you can see and hear honest-to-God fear from the Joker towards this new Robin. He is more than a sidekick, he is a true successor to the throne of the Bat. Given the newfound revelation of the Joker’s adoration for Batman, you can imagine how far off the edge this sends the putty faced price of crime.
Steely calm, petulant annoyance, and snippets of an innocence not completely lost are the essence of Damian. Tomasi hit every chord in this issue with pitch perfect execution. This is more than worthy of the DEATH OF THE FAMILY die-cut cover, it is an essential entry.
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artist: Greg Capullo/Jock
Reviewer: Rob Patey (aka Optimous Douche – Ain’t It Cool News)
The nature of Batman and the Joker’s relationship has changed with the sensibilities of the time. As we readers get deeper in touch with our feelings and have more free time to lament the human existence, so to have our heroes and their foils sought deeper introspection.
The Golden Age, when men were men and our enemies were eminently clear showed few emotional tethers between Bats and Joker. During the days of WWII, good was good and evil was evil — period. And of course good always triumphed. Flash forward to the silver age and you see the sanitized fifties bleed copious campiness into the title and little insight into either man, simply a goofy game of cat and mouse rife with ludicrous gadgetry and even more ridiculous crimes of grandeur. Go Bronze and we start to see a few chinks in each characters’ emotional armor, albeit the zaniness carry over of the silver age still forbade either from too deep of introspection. The 70s was the me generation and we began to see that essence in the pages of Batman. We began to know who the men were behind the masks and mayhem. The Dark Age propelled us into the ID of both characters as opposite sides of the same coin. Who made who was the question that plagued my mind leaving Tim Burton’s BATMAN, and can one really exist without the other was my walkaway from Frank Miller’s THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS.
Now, we have Scott Snyder, the modern man in an age where self-discovery isn’t a luxury, it’s a requirement for societal success. In a time when the term Bromance can easily cross the lips of guys who are straight as an arrow, is it any wonder that the transformation of BATMAN and Joker’s relationship is one of an obsessive affection? Love, ladies and gentlemen is the new emotional bedrock between BATMAN and the Joker, and the penance for that love being unrequited is, “DEATH OF THE FAMILY.”
BATMAN 15 bleeds motivation for the Strap-On Jokers’ need to squelch all things Bat. In essence Joker wants to be part of the Bat family, he wants to be that crazy cousin at Thanksgiving who someone has to go bail out of jail for drunk driving when they go to get more stuffing from the store. Joker needs to be chased by the Bat like the earth needs the son and Lindsay Lohan needs to smell the inside of jail cells.
Now, even though I’ve said words like Bromance and Strap-On, let’s please not get puerile with the often associated act of love. This is an obsessive love based on an unhinged desire, not the higher state of intimacy and becoming one in flesh. Spirit perhaps, but that’s it.
This issue also successfully divided the family, and we are left wondering whether it was of the Joker’s devise or merely a side effect to the Joker’s grand plan. It’s a cool little mind-fuck “later reveal,” that more serial books should remember to use. I won’t ruin the details on how the Bat Family splits, but I will say it involves Bruce being odd man out for living in a state of delusional deniability regarding the Joker’s prowess and wiles.
The back-up story continues to delight, mainly because of Jock’s eerie ass way of seeing the world of the Joker. Even the point of view in the panels gives pause for creepiness. The backstories have been trips down memory lane to moments before the crossover started and how the Joker set all the main story’s plans in motion. I have to admit this one didn’t give me the same ick factor as the Harley episodes, but seeing the first signs of the Riddler in the Bat-Verse as more arrogant than maniacal gave me great hope for future Bat tales.
Everyone who keeps saying, “Robin’s going to die. Robin’s going to die.” Please kindly shut the fuck up. That’s a hack move neither Snyder nor DC can afford right now. If after reading BATMAN 15 you still believe this inane theory, I suggest you take a class in understanding subtlety. It’s not Robin that’s going to die, or Barbara, Dick, or Jason. BATMAN 15 clearly shows that death does not have to be a physical state of being, emotional death or untethering can sometimes be the most painful end of all because you must continue living afterwards.
P.S. When is that freaking face going to rot? I’m not a Sciencey guy, but I always thought faces needed more nourishment than leather and dental floss to avoid becoming necrotic.
Writer: John Layman
Artist: Jason Fabok
Reviewer: Rob Patey (aka Optimous Douche – Ain’t It Cool News)
Here’s a little SAT question for you: DETECTIVE 15 is to “Death of the Family” like…
A) My taint is to my balls
B) Whitney on NBC is to comedy
C) Serenity is to Firefly
D) A Mohel is to a baby
It’s not A, my taint is directly connected to my balls. It’s not B, Whitney has nothing to do with comedy. It’s not C, Serenity was a direct continuation of Firefly.
The correct answer is D. Why? Because like a Mohel, DETECTIVE 15 focuses on just the tip of this triumphant return of the Joker.
Remember that really cool scene in BATMAN 14 where the Joker strong armed the Penguin into helping him with his Machiavellian plan to destroy the Bat? I hope you do, because the Joker’s sole appearance in this book is a shadowy shot of his torso retelling the Penguin, “time to giddy up ole chap.” Well, there’s also the Joker’s face on the cover overlay, but I think you get my drift. If you’re following this series to see a ton of Joker moments, this is not the place to find them.
However, while short on Joker, DETECTIVE 15 is not short on story. Layman deserves a ton of credit for giving us a complete Freytag pyramid within the modern day page count constraints. One-offs seem to be a verboten phrase in the age of trade writing, but let us not forget this hasn’t always been the case for comics. In this day and age, writers feel that serial is synonymous for incomplete when it comes to individual issues. Layman’s story of unrequited love in this issue though, shows you can develop characters, complete their story and leave with a final cliffhanger for future issues — and no one needs to play friggin softball to make it happen (oh, sorry that’s the other publisher).
It’s been a long time since I’ve seen Clayface. The last story that really resonated was a DETECTIVE from back in late 80’s where ole’ Playdough man had risen to the top of Gotham’s crime pyramid. These days his life isn’t so affluent and exciting. He’s now been relegated back this status quo of dumb muscle, which worked fine because this is A) a new 52 and B) the brains of the outfit is none other than the alluring Ms. Poison Ivy.
Usually Ms. Ivy uses her powers to simply control men for a short time and short term gain. In this tale though, she’s taken her evil female wiles to a new level of testosterone mind fucking – fabricated memories. That’s right, Ivy creates a whole other reality for Clayface where they have lived in marital bliss as a modern day Bonny & Clyde. Husbands across the land know that a man is much easier to control once he’s locked into wedlock. We either don’t want to be nagged or we want to get laid, either way it makes us extremely compliant. Which is perfect since Ivy is looking to repad her coffers one mark at a time.
As much as I love Damian and the extended Bat family it was refreshing to lose the gimmicks and simply see BATMAN being…well…a detective.
There’s no tidy resolution to this story and that’s where Layman shines at just a slight taste of what’s to come. While Clayface gets to settle his score with Ivy, the Gotham underworld is left ripe for the picking with Cobblepot now a servant of the Joker.
For those that love BATMAN, but find enough sustenance in the other Bat titles (like yours truly) this is a wonderful little one-off to see BATMAN do what he does best. For long-time fans of DETECTIVE you will be in for a huge treat in coming issues with the rise of Emperor Penguin.
Writer: Gail Simone
Artist: Ed Benes
Reviewer: Rob Patey (AKA Optimous Douche, Ain’t It Cool News)
I’ll admit now, my dalliances with Barbara Gordon once she became the wheelie cool Oracle pre-52 was a “just the tip experience.” If Babs helped Bats, I was all over her L33T hacking skills, but as for her soo adventures and time with the other gals of Gotham – not so much. I have no regrets from a canon perspective, but I am woefully heartbroken and mildly embarrassed to have missed so much of the scrumptious Ms. Simone’s musings until this late in my comic collecting career.
I read BATGIRL #1 last year, but I’ll admit my analysis was rushed at best. There were a lot of titles churning out that month and my diligent commitment to broad coverage made me rush through the adventures of the now mobile Barbara. Also, I was carrying the butthurt of change into the reading experience, so no matter how wonderful Babs new life was I was damned and determined to scoff at her miracle of newfound mobility. Yes, even though she was no more than a necessary Google search to me before.
I realized the first error in my choice to shun Babs, inside the pages of BATGIRL 0 2 months ago. Then I had even more egg on my reviewing face with BATGIRL ANNUAL #1. Sweet Jesus what a beautiful tale about a lady Talon and the Frenemy relationship between BATGIRL and CATWOMAN. Finally, I was drawn into the die-cut cover that sat atop BATGIRL 13 heralding the beginning of “Death of the Family.” And even though the story was a wrap-up from the prior arc and had less Joker in it than the premiere of The Dark Knight Red Carpet, I was still moved by the relationships Barbara had formed in her life and fearful at the prospect of Joker once again darkening her doorstep.
When I received this week’s offering of Bat Fam Death, I immediately bragged about my new treasures on Facebook. About an hour later Dan Didio wrote me with the sage advice, “Read BATGIRL 14, you won’t be disappointed.” Despite my new infatuation with Simone and Batgirl, and the ringing endorsement from the EIC, I still went to my safe place inside BATMAN 14. It was great, stupendous even. Alfred is still being held by the Joker, and being subjected to some wonderful torture involving eyeballs and shock treatments. While Bruce and Dick are so fearful of being watched they speak in code even when alone and Harley Quinn becomes more unraveled as each of the Joker’s plans come to fruition.
It was BATGIRL 14 though that delivered the true terror as well as the spark of insight I needed to see what the Joker has in store for this bat-bonanza. Despite this being a new 52, we’re all rolling with the fact that at some point in the last 5-12 years Barbara Gordon was shot by the Joker and spent time paralyzed. The whys and hows have changed (I think), but the terror of the event still haunts Barbara and the rest of the bat-family.
Speaking of family, it seems the Joker has finally found the Bats’ Achilles heel after all these years and it has nothing to do with Bats himself. While putting the lives of those close to superheroes in danger is a staple as old as comics itself (honestly how many silver age swords of Damocles swung over Robin and Lois Lane over the years), “Death of a Family” is making it personal by not only going after friends of the Bat, but their civilian loved ones as well. This twist of strategy for the most twisted villain in comics is what sets Barbara out into the streets of Gotham this issue in search of her dear old ma. There’s another player here in cahoots with the Joker, a man close to the Gordon clan who played a pivotal role in Snyder’s Pre-52 DETECTIVE story. This issue was gruesome and emotionally brutal thanks to Barbara’s internal dialog, but the little twist of Joker’s new little friend took the expected and made it extraordinary.
Ed Benes tore things up this issue, keeping the emotion high and the action even higher. I also think he found a way to make Joker’s strap-on visage even creepier than Capullo’s rendition.
It’s hard to quantify what makes Simone such a breath of fresh air for me, and I fear my reasoning might sound misogynistic, but alas here it goes. She has the ability to write strong female characters with the true voice of womanhood. It’s a voice where relationship is just as important as plot, where each action scene is carefully balanced with nods to how these events make the character feel. In short, women are far more concerned with the why of life over the simple what. And there is simply no better showcase of this talent than when a character is faced with their greatest fear as Barbara was this issue.
By my count I’ve crafted well over 300 comic reviews over the years, now I would like your help. Tell me the essential Simone’s in your opinion and why. I want more and I want the best to help keep my comic budget somewhat constrained. Help me TalkBackers and commenters, you’re my only hope.