Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Batman 675

Note that while Jezebel nurses a wine glass on page 5, Bruce drinks only water and suggests they "cancel the tempura." In Batman: Gothic, the Dark Knight, off on mission to Austria, instructs Alfred to "cancel the Peking Duck." In Morrison's handling of the character, Bruce cancels food far more often than he actually eats it. Over at Funnybook Babylon, columnist Chris Eckert frenziedly hunts for food in Morrison's run, scribbling down each instance of it (and there are many) in a brilliant, maniacal effort to inform the starving of the Bat. He showcases the treasure of his pursuit here.

Mr. Eckert makes one point particularly relevant to a different theory of mine; he says "Food represents emotion and humanity." When I read his article, and specifically that sentence, I thought of a story in the Gospels about the temptation of Christ. In that story, Christ fasts for 40 days and 40 nights, after which time the Devil comes to him and, in phase 1 of a scheme, presses Christ to turn stones into bread, presumably for Christ to consume them and stave off starvation. Christ responds "It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God." (Mathew 4:4). In Phase 3 of his scheme, which might ring more familiar to Bat-Fans, the Devil leads Christ up a very high mountain (hmm, kinda like a tall, helicopter-accessible tower) and offers him a Faustian bargain. To this Christ replies "Get thee hence, Satan" which I believe translates into modern English as "Burn in Hell."

Christ, like Bruce, transcends emotion and humanity. Bruce, like Christ, bitch slaps the Devil with self-denial. He starves and drinks only water. He spends all his riches in the furtherance of good. He channels the great tragedies of his life into strength like a man confident that everything plays into a higher plan. Bruce is the camel that can pass through the eye of a needle. His faith in himself, in his friends, and in Gotham City eclipses the sin, decadence, and wanton malice assailing him from all sides.

Why, aside from comic sales, has Batman never killed the Joker, or even let him die when his own bad karma catches up with him? Batman must know by now that nothing can heal the Joker. But he spares him time and again because Batman stands for self-denial to such an extent that he's actually mocking sin. For this reason, he'll keep on cancelling his tempura.

Page 2: "Alfred Beagle" was Alfred's stage name. "Proceeding from there naturally to the English stage... his library is a shrine to blood spattered prose." Another nod to Alfred directing this dark stage drama starring Bruce Wayne. Especially poignant when Jezebel asks "Where is he now?" alerting everyone that Alfred conveniently disappears before the shit hits the fan. He pulled the same vanishing act before the ninja Man-Bats crashed the pop art museum party.

Here's a taste of Alfred Beagle's Hamlet from Len Wein's Untold Legend of the Batman

You can't blame the critics, look how stiff he is!

Page 4: Jezebel's face contorts through the wine glass (although Ryan Benjamin turns in such sloppy pencils this issue that you can't really be sure), signaling that she might be more than she appears. Also - and this is really tenuous - the purple color of the wine blends the colors red and black, the Black Glove's top two faves.

Page 6: Ten-eyed men cut the demons from Bruce's soul in 52 Week 30

Page 8: Merlyn was one of the Sensei's Men of Death in the Ra's Al Ghul arc

Page 9: Zomg Damian is so cool!!!!!!!!1111 Automatic FAIL for this issue.

Page 12-13: Robin and Nightwing are kind enough to dump some info on the undoubtedly clueless newcomer.

Page 16: I have no idea how Merlyn knows what he does or where exactly he's returning from. According to wikipedia, he possesses no teleportation powers nor any other metahuman powers at all. Since Talia's base is nestled between snow covered mountains, I would guess that Gotham City is a good ways off from there. The comic indicates that the attack by the Fiend with Nine Eyes is stopped by Batman within five or so minutes of him crashing the dinner, much too short a time for the media to procure and release word of it. So... wtf? How does he know? The League's obviously not spying on Bruce, otherwise Talia would be more familiar with Jezebel Jet than she is on page 8.


  1. The Fiend with Nine Eyes ties neatly into the DC Universe 0 prelude to R.I.P.

    As you noted in the annotations for that story: "The Dead Man's Hand is missing a finger. The last fatal card." In 681, the Joker replaces a "finger" in the Black Glove organization.

    And in this issue, instead of Batman's old foe, the Ten Eyed-Man or the other Ten Eye Men Batman faces in 52, the Fiend with Nine Eyes, because he's missing a finger.

    Of course, that finger is the only one that is wearing a ring (as it is his ring finger on his left hand), which ties back to #672's discussion of Bruce and Jezebel getting engaged, in which Alfred even asks Bruce about an engagement ring. Though he never got that far, this does seem to foreshadow a short engagement for the two.

  2. I like that engagement theory, Madison, and I never thought of the missing fingers as a motif or anything more than just a plot point really, but now that you mention it, I can't help but guess at a theory of my own. Perhaps the "absent fingers" are a nod to the great Bill Finger, who was notoriously swindled out of his proper due for those early Batman stories - "Batman created by Bob Kane" and all that. A lot of the Golden/Silver Age plots Morrison draws from were scripted by Finger, and Morrison explicitly credits the man in the Joe Chill in Hell issue.