Sunday, March 8, 2009

Pseudo-Live-Blogging: Grant Morrison's Batman Run - Space Medicine

Well, folks, another DCBS box arrival and some slightly busier nights have put off my progress on re-reading Grant Morrison's Batman run. But I'm putting my foot down, and reading the issues leading up to Batman: RIP tonight. As stated, I'm skipping past the Resurrection of Ra's al Ghul issues, and getting back to the good stuff.

My recollection is that this story arc is where Batman became difficult to follow, but that this story arc made more sense as the arc drew to a close. Let's see if hindsight helps.

Batman #672 - Space Medicine

  • The third Batman from the black casebook has arrived. We saw him in issue #666, fighting Damian, but now it's time for Bruce's trial. We know these guys were cops, and he's asking for Commissioner Vane, I guess this was before Gordon's time?
  • One thing I recall Grant saying is that he wanted to bring Batman back from being so grim and obsessed. Jezebel Jet certainly seemed to have that affect. "We make one another laugh".
  • Here we go. The third man has shot Batman in the chest, and Bruce is hurt. If I recall correctly, the shot has triggered a heart attack. And as we near the end of the book and go into Bruce's head, we see Batman's glove tracing glowing letters against a black background. "ZUR EN ARRH". And this heralds the first appearance of 'Bat-Mite' in Morrison's run right at the end of the issue.

Of this story, the first issue was pretty straightforward since it's a setup for the chaos to follow.

Batman #673 - Joe Chill In Hell

This issue gets a bit chaotic. It cuts back and forth from Bruce's time in Nanda Parbat enduring the Thogal Ritual, and other memories as he suffers the cardiac arrest from his wound in the last issue.

  • The Thogal Ritual is important to RIP. "During a seven-week retreat known as Yangti, the practicioner undergoes an experience designed to simulate death and after-death." It's what helped him prepare to face his own death, and allowed him to plan beyond it.
  • Flashbacks to his beginnings as a masked crimefighter, hunting Joe Chill, the man who killed his parents. Is this the way it actually happened, or a hallucination? It's confusing but I think that as he's suffering cardiac arrest, Bruce is flashing back to the Thogal Ritual, and what he saw there.
  • I definitely didn't catch this before. A young Bruce Wayne (five years old according to the narrative) has a vision of a coffin carried by Dick Grayson, Ollie Queen, Clark Kent and someone I can't identify, followed by Alfred and Barbara Gordon in a wheelchair. It's clearly meant to be his funeral procession, as he's realized his own mortality. Foreshadowing the death of Batman.
  • Here's our first glimps of Doctor Hurt. He's the scientist who Batman aided by spending ten days in an isolation chamber. The premise was to advance an understanding of what humans would experience on space missions, isolated from contact. Batman confesses to Robin (presumably Dick) that he really did it to experience madness in an attempt to better-understand the Joker. At this point, Batman begins to lose track of where and when he is. He's not sure if he's in the isolation chamber, being studied by Dr. Hurt, or undergoing the Thogal Ritual. In reality, he's still suffering cardiac arrest from the previous issue.
  • At the end of the issue, the third Batman revives Bruce... once he's been restrained.

I think the thing that threw me on my original reading of this issue was the fact that even Bruce didn't know when he was. It made it hard to keep a point-of-view. But having some familiarity with the story, I caught a lot more on this reading than I did originally.

Batman #674 - Batman Dies At Dawn

  • First page, and Doctor Hurt claims he's a Batman Specialist. Foreshadowing his claim that he's Thomas Wayne?
  • This is big. The third man has a copy of Doctor Hurt's files. "And it's all here. Everything that happened here in this room. To you. To me. To Muller and Branca. The whole story. The post-hypnotic keywords he planted in all of us." Since it's one of those keywords that shut Batman down in RIP.
  • And as he chases down the third man, Batman begins to suspect the existence of the Black Glove, an enemy who's calculated his every weakness and who has prepared as dilligently as he himself has.

This issue had phenomenal velocity. I couldn't put it down, and I don't think that I could last time either. The third Batman lays out for Batman what he thought was a hallucination - that years ago, the Gotham police in conjunction with the military had tried to build a contingency plan for Batman's death. They sought to prepare three additional men as replacements, should Batman die. And Doctor Hurt was the one responsible. The three Batmen have all been 'reactivated'.

Batman #675 - The Fiend With Nine Eyes

This issue was pretty much devoid of any foreshadowing or hinting about Batman RIP. Dick and Tim suspected that Bruce is losing it again. Bruce believes that the Ten-Eyed Man's attack was orchestrated by the Black Glove, and Talia and Damian sense something suspicious behind the attack on Bruce and Jezebel.

The main thrust of this issue is to introduce Jezebel to the nocturnal side of Bruce's life. It succeeds on that level, but considering the past two story arcs, this issue is a bit weak and not just due to the guest artist.

Next up, Batman RIP.

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