I've been annotating "Batman R.I.P." and discussing Morrison's Batman run nearly issue-by-issue since his "Clown at Midnight" story. Click HERE for all my relevant Morrison Batman posts, and comment below to tell me everything I missed.
Batman #679: The Annotations
Cover: This cover has absolutely no bearing on the story inside. It's not even the same costume. I'd like to see Alex Ross's version of the "Tlano Batman" with the red, yellow, and purple. But instead we get a nice but generic Bat-pose.
Page 1: No more foreshadowing or fancy ideas here. Just Batman smashing his way through a door. He is wearing the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh costume he had sewn in the previous issue. It's a reference to Batman #113, of course, as I detailed in previous posts and annotations.
Pages 2-3: Batman has apparently (off-panel, as has been typical of Morrison lately, now that ellipsis is his technique of choice here and in Final Crisis) tracked down the tailor who has been costuming the demon mask guys he's been punching in previous issues. Bat-Mite, who first appeared in Detective Comics #267, popped up in the final panel of the last issue (and earlier in Morrison's run -- issue #672 -- when Batman seemed to have a heart-attack). Bat-Mite hasn't been in continuity since Crisis on Infinite Earths -- at least practically speaking (but he has popped up in some Elseworlds things and as some kind of Mxyzptlk incarnation) -- and although Morrison has been completely unafraid of using the supernatural and multi-dimensional in other comics (he's embraced such things), I still maintain that Bat-Mite is a hallucination here. I think Morrison's way of explaining every Batman story -- all of which "actually happened," according to Morrison -- is to give some sort of scientific/mind alteration explanation for the weird and wacky occurrences of the Silver Age. Those adventures still happened -- but only inside Batman's mind (or they were distorted versions of what really happened, because of imposed delusions).
Le Bossu first appeared in the initial installment of "Batman R.I.P.," Batman #676. He seems to be the gopher for the Club of Villains. He's always running around taking care of things for the club. Apparently, he's also the costume liaison.
Page 4: I think this page supports my contention that Batman is hallucinating Bat-Mite, since not only does the imp speak to him, but the stone gargoyles do as well. Since we are to assume that Batman is imagining the gargoyles dialogue -- and Batman even says, "Am I nuts or did these things just talk?" to which Bat-Mite responds, "You? Oh, you're totally sane!" -- isn't it safe to assume that he's imagining Bat-Mite as well? Or Morrison could be throwing us off with that kind of misdirection and I could be totally wrong.
By the way, this page is also an allusion to the Disney version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, with it's hunchback mention and the talking gargoyles who comment on the action. Scoff at Morrison at will.
Page 5: The notion of the "grids" and the city talking to Batman shows his relationship with Gotham, but it also ties in with the supernatural force of Gotham city itself, as established way back in Morrison's "Batman: Gothic" storyline.
Checkerboards are also a motif in Morrison's Batman run -- appearing prominently in the prose story of Batman #663, and reappearing in the Joker scene in DC Universe #0. A checkerboard -- in addition to the notion that it's a kind of blueprint for a "machine designed to make Batman" -- would seem to symbolize duality (black and white, or red and black) and gamesmanship. Both of those ideas fit Morrison's Batman run.
Pages 6-7: The tracking device could have been implanted on Batman at several points in Morrison's run, but it was probably implanted by Dr. Hurt between issues #677 and #678. How Batman (or Bat-Mite) knows that it's in his tooth is unclear, although Batman does have an almost magical awareness of his own body, and Bat-Mite is either a projection of his fractured mind or a superdimensional imp, and either way might have insight that a normal being would not.
There's something disconcerting about seeing Batman in the Zur-En-Arrh costume, isn't there? Tony Daniel's panel of Batman leaping into action would be pretty generic if he had his normal grey and black costume on, wouldn't it? But the purple, red, and yellow adds a deranged beauty to the scene.
Page 8: Ellipsis! This is the type of thing that readers have been complaining about with Morrison lately. All of a sudden, the fight's over, Bruce Wayne's out of costume and somewhere on the internet, someone is asking, "who's that on Page 8? Dick Grayson?"
Anyway, it's clearly Bruce Wayne, and you can see his Honor-Jackson-given (or inherited) shopping cart with the Zur-En-Arrh costume in panel one. Panel two has the "old chum" line -- an allusion to the Adam West incarnation of Batman, although "old chum" in those days was Robin, not Bat-Mite.
Bat-Mite identifies the whole Zur-En-Arrh episode from Batman #113 as a hallucination caused by "professor milo's Gas weapon." Professor Achilles Milo -- he of the Moe Howard haircut -- first appeared in Detective Comics #247.
The final panel on the page is a flashback to young Bruce Wayne, enraged over the death of his parents. Note the red coloring though, which will contrast with the black background in the flashback on the next page.
Page 9: This is one of those times when Morrison uses a character to explain everything to the reader. Here, it's Bat-Mite, who tells us (and Bruce Wayne) how all of the recent craziness fits together. Of course, if Bat-Mite's your source, how reliable can it be? But Morrison used the Mad Hatter as his mouthpiece in Arkham Asylum, so Bat-Mite is probably just laying expository pipe here.
The "isolation experiment" refers to Batman #156, "Robin Dies at Dawn," which is the issue Dr. Hurt comes from, and it's the issue Morrison has referenced directly a number of times in recent issues.
The first flashback here -- panel two shows the eyes, hand, and gun of Joe Chill as he kills Thomas and Martha Wayne. The pearls have been a symbol of Martha Wayne's death since Frank Miller's Dark Knight Returns. The second flashback shows the Wayne family just prior to their death, watching "The Mark of Zorro" starring Tyrone Power (the movie the family watched before taking a shortcut through Crime Alley has changed throughout the years depending on who's telling the story, but "The Mark of Zorro" -- was that another Miller addition to the mythos? -- is a common choice).
The final panel clearly establishes that the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh is a defense mechanism Batman created to save himself in the event of a psychological attack. Hence, he's not necessarily going crazy and the hallucinations of Bat-Mite may be something he has programmed into his own brain to get him out of trouble. Bat-Mite is like the the spinning wheel of the computer screen as his psyche reboots.
Pages 10-11: Robin voicemails the Club of Heroes (last seen in Batman #669) and faces off with Swagman (that's apparently his name, although solicits for his first appearance identified him as Spring-heeled Jack) who has a Ned Kelly gang helmet and sings "Waltzin' Matilda, which marks him as Australian and is yet another piece of evidence that he's not the British bomber I originally made him out to be. I assume Swagman is supposed to be an antagonist of the Ranger. (I really thought he was Spring-heeled Jack, though.)
That's Knight and Squire at the end of page 11, the only Club of Heroes members Morrison has used other than in issues #667-669 (they appeared in Morrison's JLA: Classified #1-3). "The lads," of course, would be the other Club of Heroes members.
Page 12: This is Charlie Caligula (nemesis of the Legionary) and King Kraken (nemesis of the Wingman) beating up on a minion of Le Bossu. Infighting amongst the Club of Villains. Perhaps Le Bossu is over-reaching. Charlie Caligula refers to himself as the "God-Emperor of Crime" -- like the historical Caligula (a.k.a. Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus) this guy thinks he's a god, apparently.
Page 13: If Charlie Caligula, and presumably other Club of Villain members, thought Batman was dead, then Dr. Hurt must have hidden his true plans from the others. Why did he leave Batman alive, shoot him up with heroin, and leave him on the streets between issues #677 and 678? We'll have to wait and see.
Pages 14-15: I assume Jim Gordon hears Dr. Hurt pretending to be Alfred over the intercom, but I suppose it could be Alfred under duress. Either way, it's a trap, and the bit at the end of page 14 probably shows that Gordon is willing to make small talk because he has no idea that anything's wrong at the mansion.
El Sombrero, master of booby-traps, is the nemesis of the Gaucho, and yet another member of the Club of Villains.
Pages 16-17: Dr. Hurt wears the Thomas Wayne proto-Batman Halloween costume from Detective Comics #235, "The First Batman." He's apparently not just adopting Thomas Wayne's costume--he's claiming to be the actual Thomas Wayne here, accusing Alfred of having an affair with Martha and being the real father of Bruce.
(That's El Sombrero and Scorpiana with Dr. Hurt here, by the way).
Dr. Hurt says, "I'm Dr. Hurt now" in response to Alfred saying he's no Thomas Wayne. But that doesn't dismiss the idea that Alfred is really Batman's father, nor does it dismiss the idea that Dr. Hurt is Thomas Wayne somehow reborn. I don't know what to make of this information, but I'm sure there's far more to the story.
Dr. Hurt also mentions "breaking the Batman" which provides an explanation about why he might not have killed Batman when he had the chance in previous issues. He wants to break him, destroy him, not just kill him. Why? We don't know, but I'll speculate at the end of this post.
(And that's Pierrot Lunaire, the evil mime, with the Swagman [I'm still not positive that the Ned Kelly helmet guy is the Swagman, but I'll go with it now.])
Pages 18-19: This is one of those great scenes where Morrison fills the page with texture, like the details about Charlie Caligula's criminal empire. "Chicken centurions...beaks d-dipped...in...in hemlock," indeed! The Bat-Radia I discussed at length in previous annotations. Short version: it's from Zur-En-Arrh, Batman #113 (by way of Honor Jackson, last issue -- if Bat-Mite is the spinning wheel on Batman's mental reboot screen, what was Honor Jackson? This metaphor is strained, my friends. But I think that character was part of the defense mechanism Batman set up for his mind.)
"Bat"-man gag. Morrison used it in "Batman: Gothic" more explicitly.
Jezebel Jet, Bruce Wayne's current love, has been abducted by the Black Glove. We don't know if she's somehow involved in the organization or not.
Pages 20-21: Doctor Dax is Le Bossu in disguise. The "newcomer" referred to is probably Dick Grayson, who ended up imprisoned in Arkham under false pretenses last issue.
Jeremiah Arkham, who first appeared in Shadow of the Bat #1, is the nephew of Amadeus Arkham and current head of the asylum. Well, he was. Until these pages.
The red and black motif continues here, with the flowers, and we see Jezebel Jet getting dragged around as minions with black and red paint walk towards her.
Le Bossu stands on the checkerboard, calling Joker "master" in French and speaking of the "Dance of Death." But is it a Danse Macabre designed to teach Batman a lesson? Or is it just a fancy way of saying that people will die? I'd guess the former. I think the Black Glove has something didactic in mind for Bruce Wayne, and that's why he's kept him alive.
Page 22: The Clown at Midnight version of the Joker is finally ready to re-engage with Batman for the first time since issue #663 (except the brief scene in DC Universe #0). The red and black fingernails continue that motif, and Batman's coming, Zur-En-Arrh style (with his "bat," of course). The Joker is not the Black Glove. The Black Glove will be revealed after Batman's confrontation with the Joker, I suspect.
A Few Thoughts on Dr. Hurt and the Black Glove: I don't remember who commented on this here, or who e-mailed me about it, but someone proposed the theory that the Black Glove was the Devil. I think that may very well be true. It would fit into Morrison's earlier "Gothic" story, and it would explain why Dr. Hurt (an agent of Satan or an embodiment of the entity) wants to break Batman instead of killing him. That's how the Devil operates.
Morrison did say that the Black Glove is somebody "everyone in the world knows," which REALLY narrows it down. It's not the Joker (who, arguably, isn't know around the entire world anyway). That pretty much leaves Batman -- everyone knows Batman, right? -- and although at first I thought Morrison was implying that Batman himself, or a fragment of his psyche, was the Black Glove, now I'm not so sure. Satan makes sense, and the red and the black would fit his fashion sense, certainly. I don't know that I want it to have such a religious/supernatural explanation, but there you go.