Man that's a provocative cover. This cover inspired Thom Young's prediction that Tony Daniel would attain Neal Adams-like excellence on this title. Of course he didn't or rather, has yet to do so, but still, this cover packs a wallop.
Page 1: I-Ching trained Diana Prince in the martial arts during Denny O'Neil's tenure on her book.
Page 3: "The superior man thinks of evil that will come and guards against it." More preparation mottos, this one to be repeated in Batman 681.
Page 3: "... one man's disembodied consciousness can possess another man's body..." an allusion to the devil power Dr. Hurt professes to employ
Page 4: The Sensei, originally a foe of Boston Brand the Deadman, matched wits with Batman in Detective Comics 485, 487, 489, and 490. In 485, for basically no reason, the Sensei sends a team of assassins, including the Bronze Tiger, to kill Kathy Kane, the original Batwoman who we see tripping balls with Bruce in 682. Kathy dies, and this sets Batman crusading after the Sensei, who also beefs with Ra's Al Ghul because he drafted a League of Assassins splinter cell for his own. During a capricious attack on some religious leaders in 490, a bomb the Sensei himself planted opens a fissure in the earth that swallows him alive, mercifully terminating his boring run on Detective. If you read the issue, you'll see the Sensei even dies in anticlimax (and NOT "engaged in a fight to the death with Ra's" as wikipedia for some reason lies). Anyway, Morrison mostly preserves the Sensei's personality from those early books.
Page 6: Jesus. Dragon Fly, Silken Spider, and Tiger Moth: These gals had to be carted up from the sub-subbasement of the Morrisonian Institute of Arcana. Introduced in Batman 181, which also features the first appearance of some character called "Poison Ivy," these models compete for the title of World Public Enemy #1 in a series of kitschy pop art posters.
Why in God's name one of them is leaning on a trash can while another handles what appears to be a satchel of dog shit (or a caveman club), I don't know. Anyway, Poison Ivy hopes to bump off these three, as she too is vying for the prestigious World Public Enemy #1 slot.
Now Dragon Fly and co have been revived due to the shortage of scantily clad women in superhero comics. And check out this sweet ad that appears at the end of the issue.
Fuckin. Awesome. I wonder if it would take whole issues for Wonder Woman One to flatten Egg Fu? Really, with promotional material like this, do you think they knew they were satirizing themselves? I mean, can anyone straight-facedly write the words "Birthday Cake for a Cannibal Robot!" or draw a neckerchiefed, mustachioed Chinese egg man? I couldn't.
- The Demon/Devil, the undying enemy who possesses and manipulates others to accomplish his goals
- Rebirth/Reinvention, which so many characters in this run undergo
Page 13: Pwned!
Page 17: I might be guilty of apophenia here, but I don't think it's a coincidence that Ra's Al Ghul chooses an actor's body to inhabit, nor do I think it's a coincidence that the body is deteriorating. We know Morrison is toying with the idea of pretenders, particularly ones who can't measure up. We saw this a lot in the Club of Heroes arc. For example, Wingman, a trainee of Batman's, confesses that he only broke into the superhero business for fame. Batman hands him his ass. Even earlier, in Morrison's brief stint on JLA Classified, Batman looses a robot Justice League with identical power sets on a possessed (hey, there's possession again) Ultramarine Corps. The Corps dispatches them easily. The moral of the story is that it takes more than just training (Wingman), powers (robot JLA), and motivational trauma (Lane/Third Man) to become a major player in the DCU. Big shots like Batman and Ra's possess something more, something that makes them greater than the sum of their parts. And yes, I realize I'm hammering you over the head with this, but blame the text, it's there.