Sunday, December 28, 2008

Batman 656

Well, Andy Kubert lasted exactly one issue inking his own work, which is exactly one issue more than anybody expected given his track record at DC. Still, Batman throwing down with ninja Man-Bats in a pop art exhibit with the art pantomiming the action is a fucking brilliant conceit, and Kubert handles it very well. I would award this comic 10 points out of 10, because really it's a great comic, but unfortunately I have to knock the rating down to 0 points because this issue inflicts Damian on the world. Damian - the worst character in 70 years of Batman comics. Yes, he even beat out this guy. Here's how I imagine the pitch went down:

Dan: Hello?
Grant: Hey Dan, I've got a great idea for a character in Batman. Now, imagine if Batman had a son, right?
Dan: Yeah, I mean, I suppose. So who is this kid?
Grant: Well Damian, he's a ruddy little bastard, a rotten lad just spoiled to the core. Skelps the piss out of poor Robin in his second book.
Dan: Um, I don't know if the fans are gonna go for...
Grant: No no, of course not, they'll fuckin 'ate 'im. Now after the first story, we're gonna give him an issue on his own.
Dan: Alright, so what does he, he redeems -
Grant: So he takes a lot of pills yeah? And then he dresses up as Batman but also a trench coat. Just a completely mental badass, he is. Then he snaps the Devil's neck, the bloody Devil, Dan!
Dan: But -
Grant: And after that, he runs an ambulance clear off Gotham Bridge with the Batmobile! And after RIP...
Dan: Sigh. Yeah. Yeah, okay Grant. Go ahead with it.

Page 1: The name "Jezebel" translates from Hebrew as "not exalted" and is today used euphemistically by old ladies to refer to their slutty granddaughters. In the book of Kings in the Old Testament, Queen Jezebel, through subversion of her husband the king, "leads the Hebrews into idolatry and sexual immorality." You can read the rest of what I read here, but the point is, if we believe her name to be allegorical, which we should since it's Grant Morrison, then we should not trust Jezebel Jet; she will be exposed as an evil seductress and an agent of the Devil.

Page 2: I love Bruce Wayne's dialogue here:
All this comic book stuff is way too highbrow for me. I collect tribal art, schizophrenic painters, 'outsider work' I believe they call it. There's a message here. I know if I just stare hard enough...
Interestingly, in the comic world of Batman, the artistic hierarchy is inverted, with comic books at the top and tribal art at the bottom. I actually have no idea whether aesthetes regard tribal art favorably, it just seemed like something one would find ornamenting the apartment of a New York bohemian.

Bruce is goading the reader when he says "There's a message here," but he's not lying. "Outsider work" points us to Detective Comics 356.

That boil-covered albino is actually Alfred who, after being crushed by a boulder in Detective 328 - boulders were much more abundant in those days, posing the greatest threat to secondary characters -, was secretly revived by a quack scientist following what might be the longest editor's note in 70 years of Batman comics.

For whatever reason, the Silver Age contraption that jolted Alfred back to life also disfigured him and twisted his desire to help the Dynamic Duo into a desire to kill them.

Behind the scenes as the Outsider, Alfred conscripts Z-list supervillains like Blockbuster and the Grasshopper to perpetrate schemes against Batman and Robin. This begins in Detective 334 and continues until 356 where Batman and Robin finally uncover the Outsider's true identity. During their battle, Batman knocks the Outsider into a "regeneration machine," restoring him to his natural form. The rejuvenated Alfred does not remember his crimes, and Batman and Robin vow never to discuss them because "the news of his treachery might kill him." This promise is at the center of Batman 682's plot. Obviously, since the Outsider was a behind-the-scenes evil mastermind, this line of dialogue strongly suggests Alfred as the identity of the Black Glove, although outsider art is a real thing, which makes this line easy to dismiss even if you did read and remember those stories from 45 years ago.

There's a lot on the Outsider and other stuff in Thom Young and David Wallace's review of 677, which isn't so much of a review as it is a frantic unloading of theories.

Page 3: See the diorama in the first panel? "Population explosion," might portend the death of the Joker's henchmen in 663. We do see it destroyed later in the issue.

Page 8: "If there's one thing I's art with no content." If he hadn't read the later issues to see the connection, one might describe the beginning of Morrison's run in this way.

Pages 14-15: "More noise. Lots of it." Bruce motions for the fire alarm. "Sounds great on paper." The noise of the alarm and the screeching Man-Bats does sound good on paper because paper is mute. Very subtle and very cool, Mr. Morrison.

Page 18: The many plans Batman's prepared, even ones for fighting Ninja Man-Bats. From 674: "I've worked out ways to defeat villains with M.O.'s and pathologies that haven't even been thought of yet."

Pages 20-21: I don't actually have the comic from which the events in this discussion originate, but Wikipedia synopsizes it well. Also, in the Richard Donner film The Omen, a boy named Damian is revealed to be the offspring of Satan, making him a literal "Son of the Demon."

No comments:

Post a Comment