Saturday, January 17, 2009

Batman 680

We know Morrison really buys into all the tropes of mythology and this issue is no exception. When Batman crosses a threshold his spirit guide Bat-Might can no longer follow. Might follows the model of Honor Jackson who also abandons Bruce at a key instant before transformation, supporting my claim two issues ago about the mirror structure framing RIP. Red and black, in addition to all its other significances, color the lion's share of Batman's two costumes, Zur En Arrh and Regular respectively.

What really set the internet abuzz though was, of course, the ending. Now do you get it? Morrison is toying with the readers, preying on our shakiness, our nervous uncertainty about where the roads are leading. He's trying to convince us that the patterns in his run which we have some vague inklings about - well vague until we do comprehensive annotations like these - don't really exist. Again, the character and the reader experience the story in tandem. Batman wonders whether all the correlations he's made are illusory, a product of his delirium, and we wonder whether we're going delirious trying to make correlations ourselves. This surreal narrative, can it really be resolved? Will it make sense? Will we "get it"? It's the ultimate cliff hanger, not whether the story will end well for Batman, but can it end well for us?

Page 1: David Uzumeri and David Wallace tell me this title alludes to David Bowie. I'll have to take their word for it - David's a trustworthy name right? - because I can't stomach the amount of mind altering substances required to 'get' that music.

Page 2: The Black Glove are shepherded into Arkham Aslyum's new sportsbook. Morrison names Cardinal Maggi later in the issue and Al-Khidr next issue. Also next issue, the Joker breaks the general's neck and, I guess, succeeds him in Black Glove fingerhood.

Notice one of the member's has dragged his daughter (who could pass for a young Gwen Stacy) to the festivities, which hints that perhaps President Nkele did the same with a young Jezebel Jet, emotionally scarring her into the conniving witch of a woman she is today.

Page 4: Interestingly, Le Bossu actually is a neurosurgeon. I thought he only posed as one, but I guess you really need credentials to work in a place that confuses an undisguised Nightwing with a killer mime and sets the Joker free every other week. Note the duffle bag full of razors at Le Bossu's feet.

Page 5: The Joker stands there like a bored movie star listening to a drooling fan drone off all his favorite scenes. As amypoodle puts it: "Isn’t it just great that the Joker could not give a fuck?"

Page 6: Ah, the much maligned spread, which clearly draws the eye to the right when it's supposed to go up-down. I don't know what Bat-Might means when he says "a glowing bat-signal on your chest too!" as the insignia on Batman's chest is the only down-tuned part of his gaudy geddup (which I absolutely adore, by the adore).

Page 9: "Good call to puncture the gas tank on that limo." Bleh. I hate it when exposition is used to explain something that can easily be depicted on-panel. SHOW, don't tell.

Bat-Might claims to be from imagination, about which people lie in two camps. The first camp, generally ignorant to Morrison's style of storytelling (i.e. meaning beyond just the plot), will accept Bat-Might's statement at face value; he is a figment. The second camp, generally well-versed in Morrison's style of storytelling (e.g. David Uzumeri and Amypoodle), believe this revelation is intended to be ambiguous; Might is actually something more. In my view, the first camp is right and the second camp is wrong. I don't see any ambiguity in the statement "Imagination is the 5th dimension." The only ambiguity that this statement could possibly entail is whether Bat-Might is lying or not, but anyone who adopts the "he's lying" stance, by implication, accuses Morrison of the somewhat lazy mystery-writing practice of having characters provide false information to the reader without any textual reason for the reader to suspect foulplay.

However (yay), we can extract interpretive meaning from Might's assumed true claim of imagination land citizenship without snaking our minds into Orwellian doublethink, if we take "Imagination is the 5th dimension" as literal. How exactly we go about doing that I'll (try to) explain next issue.

Anyway, after disappointing legion fans with that revelation, Bat-Might parts on a suitably ghostly note, "Batman Beware!" that only Morrison would ever really think to write.

Page 10: I wonder how many times I can invoke this panel in the annotations before I get tired of it.

David Uzumeri covers the parallels between the Black Glove and the asshats from 120 Days of Sod All in Invisibles 7, so I won't retread that ground. But I will add that in the following issue, the Joker ousts the general from "The Duke" position, which makes sense given that he's referred to as the Thin White Duke of Death.

What the fuck is going on in that bottom panel? Where did the Joker get the rope? How did he find that disembodied glass floorway/doorway in the blackest cosmos where clearly it resides? By what method of travel does he return to earth on the next page?

Page 11: "[H]ow extraordinarily... inevitable you are." It's "unbearably inevitable", "unbearably" ya hear?! Hurt channels the "Unbearable Inevitability of Batman and the Joker," the unbearably overbearing chapter 8 heading in the barely-a-comic Batman 663

Dr. Hurt seems to be outfitting the Joker's suspenders with a black corsage, but the Joker ditches that shit fast because the clown at midnight means...

Page 12: I guess we are to assume Commissioner Gordon's has passed through a motion sensor that triggered a recording, since Dr. Hurt is currently occupied entertaining guests and El Sombrero is currently occupied being dead.

Page 13: Man this subplot is so pointless and that's not even my disdain for Damian talking. As David Uzumeri says, there can be no doubt now that Commissioner Gordon knows Batman's true identity.

Page 14: "We didn't get the shipment! We're out of ammo!" Batman crashed the Martius Freight weapons shipment last issue, much to the chagrin of Charlie Caligula. And (if I'm lucky maybe one reader will get this reference) the top panel of this page reminds of me Metal Gear Solid 3 where the player could blow up the enemy's weapons storehouse, enabling terrorists to expend their once infinite ammo. Yeah, that's right, I just alluded to an obscure Easter egg from a five year old video game in the annotations for a completely unrelated comic book... bitch.

Page 14: "And you turn up dressed like clown," There's a certain, very Morrisonian irony in the fact that the new Batman is fruiting around Arkham Asylum in his new duds, tasting the rainbow, while a highly subdued Joker looks on, murmuring dry psychoanalysis at him strictly in lowercase.

Page 15: "Jezebel, I'm coming to get you." Brian Cronin from CSBG points out that this scene could be interpreted as Batman suspecting Jezebel of guilt and "coming to get her" the same way he'd come to get the Joker. Mr. Cronin thinks it's very cool, I'm not sure if it's anything at all, but you should check out the link anyway because the comments section features one of the finest bits of sarcasm (commenter named karl and not me, sad to say) ever to be visited upon the internets.

Page 16: A Batman impostor working for Dr. Hurt shot the Joker in Morrison's first issue, 655.

Page 17: "Jet-black irony with our morning coffee" isn't just a bad line of dialogue. It's also a hint to the issue's conclusion.

The Joker forks his tongue in an effort to look more snakish. Snake imagery is generally associated with Satan in the Judeo Christian tradition, so that obviously furthers the whole Bat-Christ idea, since I once overheard someone talking about Batman as if he was the PB to Joker's J, like some kind of duality between them I guess, idk.

Anyway, although I doubt Morrison was shooting for this alternate interpretation, serpents in classical Greece were often said to be apotropaic, as the medusa snakes in Athena's aegis. This falls in line with the Joker's antagonizing of the Black Glove, since all of its members may be thought of as evil spirits that he's helping Batman to ward off.

Page 18: "no, batman, that's just wikipedia." At the wikipedia website, you can learn about things.

Based on his reappearance "six months later" in Batman 681 and his statement that the Joker did it "for a joke," I assume the Joker carved Dr. Dax's face into a likeness of his Le Bossu mask, not that they were ever drawn so different to begin with.

Page 19: "and i hold the winning card" reprises the Joker's dialogue from Batman 1 and Batman 663.

Page 21: "It's only when they come together that the deadly neurotoxin is activated." Harley Quinn dispersed this neurotoxin among the Joker's henchmen in Batman 663.

Page 22: Note the clock wheeling towards midnight, fulfilling Harley's prophecy from 663: "Batman dead at midnight on the steps of Arkham Asylum, right?" When the neurotoxin hits Bruce's brain, he contorts his face into a Joker-like grin which, working in conjunction with his preposterous ensemble and his humiliating circumstance, makes Bruce the Clown at Midnight.

Actually, the details surrounding Bruce's transformation here and in the next issue, imitate those of another legendary figure... Cinderella! First, Bruce receives an invite to the ball (the Danse Macabre). Then, he arranges a transformation with his Fairy Godmother (Honor Jackson) that renovates his attire to match the lively garbs of his hosts (the Joker, Club of Villains, Dr. Hurt). At midnight, the spell begins to unravel and Bruce reverts to his original appearance (regular Batman). Finally, he is fitted for a glass slipper (punches Satan's helicopter into the Gotham river). Alright fine, but the resemblance is still a strong one.

"My good and faithful servant." Dr. Hurt isn't condescending to the Joker. The Joker really is a good and faithful servant to the Devil.

Page 23: I like Bruce hopelessly clutching the Bat-Radia. At this point, nobody knows it's anything more than just a piece of junk.

1 comment:

  1. I love the Joker's rebuke next issue about that "servant" line. Almost like saying "chaos serves no power".

    As for David Bowie, apart from being trippy and right up Morrison's LSD addled alley, all anyone who doesn't needs to know about Bowie is that he's pasty, flamboyant, wildly experimental, and reinvents himself every decade or so. Much like our Clown Prince of Crime.

    And the snake-tongue thing really feels more like Joker was trying to give Batman a hint about who was playing him.