Saturday, October 25, 2008

Batman: RIP: Part II (#678-680)

When we last left Batman, he was sprawled over in pain, contemplating the idea that the Black Glove may in fact be nothing more than a figure of his childhood-trauma fueled imagination And now, things get weird. The last few issues of RIP have all been amazing in their own way, pushing the character to a place I’ve never seen him, doing things you’d never expect Batman to do. Batman doing weapons grade heroin while homeless on the street? Yup, this is not your everyday Batman story.

Issue #678 begins with Batman’s Black Casebook account of Doctor Hurt’s isolation experiment. As I mentioned earlier, interpreting the bizarre excesses of Silver Age stories as mental dillusions brought on by psychological experimentation has a lot in common with what Alan Moore was doing in Miracleman. I think the central difference is Alan Moore’s story is about trying to find a way to incorporate these stories into a rational universe. The absurdity of those stories is evidence that they could not be ‘real,’ and his interest in that run is exploring what a character like Miracleman would do when confronted with reality.

Morrison’s interest with this run is basically to explore what it means that Batman experienced all these things, and what that does to his mind. He’s lived a schizophrenic life, jumping from strange experience to strange experience, and that’s gradually broken down his sense of self and reality. The only constant has been his childhood trauma, the death of his parents. That’s the reason he became Batman, and no matter what changes, that trauma lingers. Morrison then uses the Silver Age stuff as a way to spin a stranger story, taking elements of Batman’s insane Silver Age hallucinations and translating them into reality. If he lived through those stories, he believes they are real, and consequently, the lines all blur and we wind up with the insane purple suit Batman from the end of this issue.

In the casebook, Batman says that “I don’t want to know what goes on in the Joker’s head. I have to know.” His mission to eradicate crime, and The Joker is his greatest foe because he’s so utterly unknowable. He can be a goofy Silver Age prankster criminal one day, and a Killing Joke style murderer the next. The Joker is able to seamlessly move between selves, as we saw in the “Clown at Midnight” story. Batman is not able to integrate his many different selves as easily, and I’m guessing the end result of RIP will be the synthesis of crazy Silver Age Batman and gritty Batman into a new stronger Batman at the end.

Notably, Morrison places a major emphasis on Robin in Bruce’s narration. The central trauma at the heart of this arc is the “Robin Dies at Dawn” story, in which Bruce drives himself insane over guilt he feels for letting Robin die. Robin is the counterbalance to Batman, drawing him closer to humanity and not letting him indulge in his greater excesses. This is the same story that Frank Miller’s telling over in the Goddamn Batman, Robin humanizes Batman. It’s notable that as RIP goes on, Batman disconnects from everyone, living in his own head, he goes gradually more and more insane.

The majority of this issue chronicles Bruce’s time living as a homeless man on the street, along with his spirit guide, Honor Jackson. As I mentioned earlier, I see a lot of similarities between this arc and what’s going on with Don Draper over in Mad Men. In both cases, we’re watching someone strip their personalities to the bare essence, taking all the societal trappings that have made them who they are and getting to the core underneath. In this case, the wealthy Bruce Wayne self is totally destroyed by Doctor Hurt, and consequently, the wealthy, well equipped Batman is also destroyed, to be replaced by the homeless insanity of Zurr-en-Arrh Batman.

I love the alien quality of Doctor Hurt in these first few panels. Surrounded by demon henchmen, lit only in grey and red, he’s the most menacing Batman villain since the Joker. I particularly like the fact that somehow DC allowed Batman to be injected with “weapons grade crystal meth” in an issue that came out the same month as The Dark Knight movie. Could you imagine a kid who just saw The Dark Knight going in to buy a Batman comic and coming out with this? You’d either have someone who’s totally put off, or a comics fan for life. Normally, there’s a moral code that’s used for superheroes, mainstream characters like Batman. They don’t indulge in crystal meth, thankfully DC fell asleep on this story or something and is just letting Grant run wild with it.

At the end of the story, we find out that Honor died a while ago, from the $100 bag of heroin he bought with the money Batman gave him, another great twist that just messes with the Batman character. Anyway, I’d argue that Honor is the same essentially entity that we later see incarnated as Batmite. Both of them are either figments of Bruce’s subconscious, the piece of him that becomes Zurr-en-Arrh, an autopilot that keeps him going even when his conscious mind is destroyed, or they’re fifth dimensional entities, like John a Dreams in The Invisibles, inserted into the game to fulfill a specific role and help Bruce defeat the Black Glove. And, as Batmite says in #680, “Imagination is the fifth dimension,” so I guess they’re both.

Either way, Honor helps Bruce “get into character” as a homeless man, the first step towards rebuilding him into the Batman of Zurr-En-Arrh. It’s interesting that Honor talks about making “a declaration,” then puts on a sign declaring himself a Gulf War Veteran. Batman is a soldier in his own war on crime, and now he’s come back mentally damaged, unable to fit in with mainstream society. The heroin addiction ties in with that, so many Vietnam vets became addicted in the course of the war, and found no support system to help them when they came home.

At the end of the ‘odyssey,’ Bruce finds out that all Honor wanted to do was buy some booze. But, in the process Bruce rediscovered something about himself. He still doesn’t know who he is, but he’s getting his fighting skills back, and he’s seeing the clues again. He’s thinking like Batman. He soon finds out that Honor was dead, and is offered a bag of heroin, “the keys to heaven.” Batman has reached the bottom, he’s alone the streets, doing heroin and left with nothing except a bunch of scraps of cloth.

He now shuts off his conscious mind and reverts to his backup persona, the Batman of Zurr-En-Arrh. Stitching himself a new costume, he emerges sublime and ridiculous on the final splash page. On the one hand, this story is full of darkness and grim and gritty tropes, but the costume here totally undercuts it, as does the great Batmite “uh-oh” line. Bruce has gone fully insane at this point, he thinks it’s all a dream, he couldn’t be Batman. This leads to the classic line “For in my hand…I hold the Bat-Radia. And I…I am the Batman.” Of course, the Bat-radia is a beat up transistor radio, at this point, he’s so insane that his skewed perception of the world makes him believe that he actually is sane. Well, whatever works.

The next issue opens up with the classic scene where Batman is on a roof talking to some gargoyles. In another so insane he’s sane moment, Batman asks Batmite if the Gargoyles were really talking and is reassured, that yes they were. I love Batmite, the absurdity of the character and the juxtaposition of this crazy looking hallucinating Batman and Batmite with the gritty world of Gotham. Another instant classic line is Batman telling Batmite to be quiet, “Shh! The city’s talking.” This bit ties in with the city magic from The Invisibles, Grant’s first pop magic column, the idea that if we shut off our conscious minds, the forces underlying the universe will speak to us and answer our questions. Batman sees the city now as “a machine designed to make Batman,” he sees no coincidence, everything has a purpose and tells him something. He has transcended to a magician’s consciousness. Perhaps it’s delustory, perhaps there was no tracking chip in his teeth, but either way, he’s doing his thing and it’s working.

Next up, we get an explanation of the whole Zurr-En-Arrh thing. Morrison has equated Batman’s 50s and 60s adventures to one decade long acid trip, all finally catching up with him. He built this Zurr-en-Arrh world in his mind during one those trips, a fantasy world where he’s like Superman, lacking the mental anguish he has in the regular world. During the isolation experiment, Batman reached his low ebb, and as a result, built a backup personality so that would never happen to him again. That’s who the Batman of Zurr-En-Arrh is, his spare self who will take over when the original breaks down.

I continually see people cracking on Tony Daniel’s art, but I think he’s a perfect fit for this arc. The dirty Image 90s style grounds everything in a ‘reality’ that’s totally broken by the crazy things that he’s got to draw. I love the panel here of Batman pulling on the purple mask, his eyes clearly exposed, as well as the weird looking shot down at the bottom of the page where Batman stands in front of the mirror shirtless, and we see Batmite with some weird tentacles coming out of his back.

Even as Batman stumbles deeper and deeper into isolation, we see the seeds of his rescue and salvation brewing all around. In this issue, there’s the great scene with Cyril and Beryl, setting the stage for the eventual return of the Club of Heroes to help Batman battle the Club of Villains. I love those characters, and Cyril kills it in the last line “Club of villains? Can’t have that, Beryl. Better put in a call to the lads.” The run is tightening up, that seemingly disconnected “Club of Heroes” arc is playing a larger and larger role in what’s going on now.

From there, we jump to a red herring scene playing with the idea that Doctor Hurt is in fact Thomas Wayne. I love the crazy 1920s style pulp villain look Hurt is rocking at this point. Despite the fact that the whole Club of Villains ostensibly tracks back only 10 years, Morrison plays it more like the whole of Batman history happened in real time along with history. John Mayhew’s films look like they’re from the 1930s, and Batman’s isolation experiment, despite taking place “ten years ago,” feels more like it took place when those comics were published, in the 50s. I like that strange treatment of time, it fits more with what we know as readers, even if it doesn’t make sense within the diegetic world. Hurt promises that “We’re breaking the Batman at midnight,” and at this point in the story, he’s done a pretty good job. They may have committed that classic villain mistake of letting the hero go after you’ve got him, but in this case, the goal is to utterly destroy him, and it doesn’t look like Bruce can really get it together to get back at them.

Batman has a fantastic scene where he roughs up Charlie Caligula, promising to see through him with the Bat-radia, prompting Charlie Caligula to exclaim “You’re nuts! You’re crazier than all of us!” Except for one of course, the club of villains are all imitators, trying to live up to The Joker, just like the Club of Heroes tries to live up to Batman. Batman breaks down Caligula’s tics, and proceeds to assault him with a bat. This is what it’s come to for Batman, beating this guy up in the theater where he went to his last movie with his parents.

This brings us to issue #680, and the inevitable confrontation between Batman and the Joker. I love this entire arc, but this issue has been the high point to date. It’s got all the intensity and edge of your seat stakes that are so often absent from big character corporate superhero comics. While I have issues with both this book and Final Crisis, I think Morrison has done a fantastic job of creating stories where every page feels like it could hold a massive revelation, or an incredible, unforeseen moment.

That’s hard to do in the DCU, where everything tends to normalcy. I think a large part of it is the fact that Morrison has essentially disconnected from the DCU as a whole and opened up his own little corner of the universe. I don’t see how this book can mix with something like Trinity, that’s supposed to be a back to basics Batman story, or even the Paul Dini stuff, which has a similar modus operendi. In those books, obviously Batman isn’t going to die, but in this Morrison book, it’s possible, and I think Grant has essentially stopped caring about what the people who come after him do. Final Crisis may be getting essentially ignored by the rest of the DCU, but reading his books, it’s an epic, crazy story full of really meaningful events. Few moments in big superhero comics can match the sudden return of Miracleman last issue, or the descent of Turpin to Darkseid. Will it be the new status quo for the universe after Morrison is done? Probably not, but much like with New X-Men, you can usually just stop where he does. His last Batman story can be the last Batman story, All Star Superman can be the last Superman story and “Here Comes Tomorrow” is the end of X-Men. So, who knows what else Batman is doing, but in this corner of the universe, he’s totally losing his shit.

There’s a very dirty, creepy vibe to this issue, starting off with the images of the people coming to the event. We’ve got an old man with a little girl, an oil sheik, a cowboy, a military dictator. These are the people who run the world, and they’re all here to watch the utter destruction of the Batman. I’ve heard the issue compared to “120 Days of Sod All” from The Invisibles, and I can definitely see the parallels. These are wealthy people who live beyond the limits of the law, and can do whatever they want.

The scene where Bossu discusses his transformation with The Joker is another disturbing highlight. He lives a normal life, but longs for the total insanity of The Joker. This whole thread reminds me a lot of Seven Soldiers, of The Whip wondering at which point she stops feeling like an imitator and stops feeling like a superhero. Bossu works so hard to be evil, but society just doesn’t see him that way. They’re in awe of The Joker, and he has to put on a mask to capture what The Joker has naturally. Particularly disturbing is the idea that Bossu wants to do awful things to his daughter that “polite society” will not permit. In this moment, this danse macabre, they all seek to transcend polite society and legitimize their evil. Too all of this, The Joker simply yawns.

Batman and Batmite part in a scene I mentioned earlier, where Mite says that imagination is the fifth dimension. Batmite claims that he is the “last fading echo of the voice of reason.” I think it says something about Bruce’s insanity that a floating elf dressed as Batman represents his voice of reason.

Over at Wayne Manor, we get the return of the well written Damian, not the bratty teenager of Resurrection of Ra’s Al Ghul, but a brutal assassian in the body of a twelve year old. The action sequence here is well done, setting up a lot of tension, then paying it all of with the badass return of Damian. This issue has a ton of momentum, from the cross cutting buildups, so the tension of the rest of the book makes the scene with Gordon seem tenser and more apocalyptic than it would in isolation. The cross cutting also works really well during the Batman/Joker confrontation, where our glimpses of the Club of Villains only enhances the epic nature of the confrontation. This is the ultimate battle, such that all these people have traveled miles to see it, to watch The Joker finally destroy Batman.

Next up is the final stage of Batman’s descent into insanity. For Doctor Hurt and his crew, fighting Batman is an elaborate intellectual exercise, an attempt to outdo the master detective at his own game. For The Joker, it’s pure instinct, he just walks into the room and is able to finish the job better than they ever could.

Batman and The Joker are fighting in what looks like the black lodge from the last episode of Twin Peaks, all black curtains and checkerboard patterns. There, The Joker expresses his anger at Batman breaking their ‘pact’ by shooting him in the face. The Joker doesn’t care about the fact that the guy who shot him wasn’t the ‘real’ Batman, his mind doesn’t see the world that way. Batman shot him, nobody can dispute that. This leads to that particularly nasty panel where he cuts his tongue in two, evoking a serpent.

This leads to the brilliant exchange where The Joker says that Batman’s attempt to understand him, to find meaning in the dead man’s hand and the search for the Black Glove is not life, “that’s just wikipedia.” Batman clings to the idea that there is a rational explanation for everything that happened to him, that there’s an elaborate conspiracy out there, and if he can just knit together all the different threads, he’ll be able to find the meaning of it all. Batman has descended into this strange Zurr-En-Arrh state, but if he can discover the meaning behind the Black Glove, it’ll all be worth it. But, what if there’s no meaning? What if his attempt to find out what it’s like to be the Joker was all futile?

The Joker pulls back the curtain and behind the glass is Jezebel, crying. Batman pulls back his hood, and the relentless backup personality recedes. He no longer speaks in those purple word balloons, he’s left with the uncertain speech of the human Bruce. Jezebel was a reminder of what he was clinging to, the human attachment that kept Batman from being like the Batman of Zurr-En-Arrh all the time. Jezebel is his only hope, his chance to be a better person, to grow up and stop being Batman. In #677, it’s Jezebel who equates his being Batman with being trapped in a prolonged state of adolescent trauma. She wanted to help him grow out of it, but he only fell deeper in.

And then, Doctor Hurt and The Joker toast their ultimate victory. Bruce is tripping out behind the glass, trying to use the bat-radia to save her, only to find out that she has turned, she’s been in on it the whole time. Or, so it appears. I’m still not sure whether Jezebel was actually evil the whole time, or whether they’ve done something to turn her. There’s a lot of gas and weird stuff floating around, so it would make sense for her to be mentally altered in some way. But, at the same time, her being evil would fit. Doctor Hurt’s plan hinges on totally destroying both Bruce Wayne and Batman. Having Jezebel find her way into his heart, then tear it up would be the perfect way to cap off Bruce’s insanity, to utterly break him.

At this point, Bruce has totally exhausted the Batman of Zurr-En-Arrh persona, he’s broken and collapsing on the floor. Evil has won, and it looks like we’ll soon see exactly what the fate worse than death that awaits Batman is. Unfortunately, we’ve got to wait until November 19th for that.

But, I’ve really got to give huge props to both Grant and Tony Daniel for this issue. Reading Final Crisis, there was an underlying disturbing darkness to everything that was going on. This issue amps that up to the extreme, every single panel is full of tension and evil. Those final moments are utterly devoid of hope, they represent Batman literally brought to his knees, with absolutely nothing left. I didn’t think I could be this concerned about Batman, or this anxious to find out what happens to him next. This story is a masterpiece, and though I still have issues with much of the early run, this last ten issues or so is as strong as anything Grant’s done recently.

Certain stories just hit me on a deep level. I think All Star Superman is an objectively better book than this one, but nothing in that book excited me as much as the insanity of these last three RIP issues. It’s messy and frantic, and alive in a way that very few corporate superhero comics are.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Final Crisis #4 and Final Crisis: Submit

After a lengthy delay, yesterday brought us two Grant Morrison Final Crisis books in one day. It would have made a lot more sense to put Submit out a week earlier, if only because it’s meant to be read first, and I think most people will have read issue 4 before they read Submit. But, the scheduling on this series has been a mess, and hopefully it will live on in trade as just a good story, not a frustrating serialized experience. Obviously, I’d like to see an issue every month, but if all the issues are as good as this one is, I’d rather wait than have a finished product. This is the most focused and emotionally singular issue of the series to date, the moment when all the build up is over and we’re trapped in the awful world of Anti-Life. Darkseid’s won, and there’s nothing left but hope.

Submit is far from Morrison’s finest work, but it’s a solid enough story, and does a good job of showing us in more depth one of the many potential stories floating around the Final Crisis parent book. Unlike most crossovers, I think Final Crisis really would have benefited from more tie-in books that actually tie in closely with the story. I read the first two issues of Final Crisis: Revelations, and they’re a messy, hard to follow story that’s more about Greg Rucka playing with his pet characters than actually tying into Final Crisis. That’s a valid choice for him, but I’d have loved to see more stuff like Submit. It would have caused an even greater scheduling mess, but it would have been interesting to see a weekly book running parallel with the main series, and that weekly book could have detailed a lot of the smaller stories that are happening beneath the surface of Final Crisis proper.

I was frustrated by the earlier issues of the series because of their frantic jumping from spot to spot. I think it works on a narrative level, hyper-compressing the collapse of the entire DCU into just a few issues. But, it made the series hard to engage with emotionally. This issue spends more time with fewer characters, and consequently, it’s a lot easier to get emotionally wrapped up in what’s happening. Notably, thought FC, I’ve wanted to see more of every storyline. Reading here, I wanted to see more of Grant’s Green Arrow and Black Canary, more of the weird Darkseid world, and of course, more of the Super Young Team. I’d have loved to see Submit style one shots for all the little pieces of the story.

As I was saying, Submit works as a good exemplar of what’s happening to everyone. The story itself is a bit post-apocalyptic cliché at times, and I was confused by that moment where the Tattooed Man’s son shoots Black Lightning, but on the whole, it works. One of the central themes of the series seems to be the unification of superhero and supervillain against this larger threat. The old definitions of good and evil no longer have meaning when all individual thought and freedom is being wiped away. It took this crisis to make it clear that the best way to save a villain is to be kind to him, to show that he’s not a villain at all. Once Black Lightning sacrifices his life to save the Tattooed Man’s family, Mark comes around and realizes that maybe the heroes aren’t so bad at all.

This leads into FC#4, where Ray assumes that Mark is actually a superhero, and he’s taken into the confidence of the Justice League. It calls back to the moment in The Invisibles where Jack restores Sir Miles’ aura, and in the process, makes it impossible for Sir Miles to hate him. The best way to defeat an enemy is to make him not be an enemy anymore. It just sometimes takes a bigger enemy to make that possible. I’m guessing we’re going to see a lot of the villains team up with the heroes to battle Darkseid, and Libra. We already saw hints of that with Lex Luthor, and there’ll probably be more to come. It’s a shame that we can get this kind of message in comics, but out in the real world, political candidates still speak seriously about fighting a ‘war on terror,’ and condemn anyone who would think about actually trying to talk to our enemies and try to understand them rather than bomb them.

Anyway, on to Final Crisis #4. The issue is unified through depictions of a world ravaged by the effects of the anti-life equation. The equation here is very close to what we heard in Seven Soldiers: Mister Miracle, the series that is the clear prelude to everything that happens here. This issue in particular reminds me a lot of Seven Soldiers on the whole. The big heroes have been taken off the board, and it’s up to a bunch of b-listers to prove themselves worthy and save the world from this overwhelming, evil threat. While I enjoyed Morrison’s JLA, I generally like his big superhero epics that focus on more ground level heroes, not the big three. When you’ve got Superman involved, the stakes have to be raised so high to make it threatening at all, but when you’re dealing with a guy whose only power is to shoot a bunch of arrows, the threat feels more legit. These small enclaves of heroes, cut off from each other, all struggle to stay alive and defend their corners of the Earth.

They fight filled with the human spirit, filled with concern and love for each other. That is the force that will ultimately outlast anti-life. The Justifiers are made to believe that the only thing that matters in the world is serving Darkseid, is living for Darkseid and dying for Darkseid. In Kirby’s original Fourth World stuff, the Justifiers served Glorious Godfrey, a charismatic preacher who preached the gospel of anti-life, of cutting oneself off from emotion and free thought in favor of an adherence to the nihilistic conformity to the braindead regime of Darkseid. The critical page in this issue is the depiction of the Darkseid factory, where people “Work! Consume! Die!”

The force of Darkseid is about reducing people to slaves to routine, about removing the joy from life and replacing it with empty service to an evil god. It’s easy to live our own lives fueled by anti-life, to drift into a routine that reduces us to braindead zombies unable to think for ourselves, unable to create new things and better our situation. To serve anti-life is to become trapped forever in the status quo, to hate all things, and exist in the same way forever. The core battle of the Fourth World was the progressive invention of the New Gods versus the dark stagnation of Apokolips. Now, the entire world has been turned into Apokolips, and the Justifiers struggle to extinguish any spark of individual thought or resistance. Taken into anti-life, it seems so much easier to just stay the course and serve Darkseid. It doesn’t take any initiative, and you’re just like everyone else. But, that doesn’t make it right.

It would appear that things are at their low ebb. But, sparks of hope do resonate throughout the issue. Across the world, heroes are fighting back, and Green Lantern is setting up forces for a last stand. I liked seeing Black Adam, and as I was saying before, it seems that he’ll team up with the heroes to fight a battle that trumps their own differences. It was also good to see the Ultramarines and Superbia again, as well as Bot’swana Beast and the Great Ten. This story doesn’t feel particularly connected to what’s going on in the rest of the DCU, but it’s full of ties to Morrison’s own DCU stuff, and it looks like it might serve as a proper finale to twenty years of work.

The most notable sign of resistance is the read of the Metron mark. We first see it The Tattooed Man, whos’ got the full Metron going on. The life equation lives on, hidden beneath the surface, but still there. And then, in my favorite moment of the issue, Shilo Norman and the Super Young Team burst forth from some kind of dimensional barrier, all of them wearing the Metron tattoo on their faces. It was such an awesome moment when he returned, but things quickly go South when he’s shot. This is nicely juxtaposed with the Darkseid crew saying “Freedom’s spirit falls.” But, I’m guessing the entire series will function as a larger retelling of the Mister Miracle story from Seven Soldiers. Death is just a part of the anti-life equation, and Shilo has overcome it before and will overcome it again.

The entire series has had the feel of a giant superhero Robert Altman style ensemble movie, and the last few pages are the “Wise Up” sequence from Magnolia, everything’s hitting its low point, hope being extinguished in a glorious burst of cross cutting, all structured around the return of Darkseid. After doing some great work with Ollie and Black Canary earlier in the issue, Grant tears it all apart, turning Oliver into a Justifier. Is it possible this is part of his plan? Maybe, but that doesn’t make the shot of Black Canary looking down at the world, knowing that something bad has happened to him any less sad. But, she’s a leader, and she goes to work.

Throughout the issue, the world of Darkseid’s crew feels diseased and evil, and it all culminates in the crowning of Turpin as Darkseid. His voiceover chronicles the raging humanity within him, his futile attempt to hold back the darkness. The world collapses around him, the spirit of freedom is shot down, and the war is over. “The choice is simple. There’s no choice at all. Only Apokolips and Darkseid. Forever.” The way the scenes are juxtaposed, the heroes’ battle becomes a representation of the internal battle within Turpin. It’s as if he sees all these other scenes in his mind, all these failures to resist the Justifiers, and in the end, he himself falls too. These scenes are incredibly creepy, and by the end, you can barely recognize Turpin, he’s become all Darkseid.

I really loved this issue. It’s harrowing and epic in a way a lot of superhero comics try to be, but very few actually reach. The jumps between stories don’t arbitrary and distracting as they did from time to time in the first few issues, because of the central event in the issue, all the stories are really a single story, the battle of life against anti-life. So, it’s one emotional arc even as we jump from group to group. And, the ending is great, much like the darkness at the end of Batman #680, this is the feeling of total dissolution, that everything’s gone to shit and there’s nothing we can do about it. But, the Metron symbol is still there, it will echo from beginning to end, and as long as people fight, anti-life will never be totally victorious.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Batman: RIP: Part I (#675-677)

Previously, when Grant Morrison wrote a major mainstream superhero title, he wrote it with a lot of his voice and ideas, but also a general respect for what that title had been and what readers expect from it. So, New X-Men might have some philosophizing about the single human organism and the nature of evolution, but all the core elements of an X-Men story remain in tact. I don’t know that any of his mainstream superhero works have gone as far out there as Batman RIP does at times. It’s a surreal journey through the debilitating mindscape of Bruce Wayne/Batman that features, among other things, Batman becoming homeless, Batman getting addicted to heroin, Batman hallucinating gargoyles talking and Batman wearing a red/yellow/purple costume and hitting people with a baseball bat. And yet, as strange as things get, this is also what I want from a Batman story. It’s got a huge all encompassing threat and the most menacing Bat-villains to appear in a while. It’s got some mixed moments, but on the whole I loved the storyline.

This story follows almost directly from the three part Third Batman story, in which Batman actually did die, for a couple of minutes. First up is the prelude issue, #675, in which Jezebel finds out Bruce’s true identity. This issue plays very differently in light of what we see in #680. The end of that issue implies that Jezebel has been one of the masterminds behind the entire scheme, so it’s excruciating to look at her tap into Bruce’s guilt as a way of getting him to open himself to her emotionally and reveal his secret identity.

Next up is the start of RIP proper, and the introduction of the ‘Club of Villains.’ It’s notable in a story about Batman’s psychological dissolution that all the villains he faces should be the foes of different versions of himself. In the ‘Clown at Midnight,’ The Joker talks about the inevitability of Batman, the Joker/Batman dynamic will forever play itself out, and it makes sense that so many of these villains also use a clown theme, and visually echo The Joker. And, like the Club of Heroes is in awe of Batman, they’re in awe of the Joker. The Club of Villains looks vaguely absurd at first, but as the story goes on, and we get more and more drawn into Batman’s psychosis, their appearance makes more and more sense. The world warps so that they become normal.

As the storyline begins, things are going well for Batman. He’s still running at full speed, despite concerns from Robin and Alfred about his need for recovery time. The criminals left in Gotham are all lame wannabes, and when it comes to the Green Vulture, Batman won’t even hit him, to legitimize him as a criminal. But, the best of all is Bruce’s relationship with Jezebel. He sheds the mask and walks in to kiss her in a wonderfully over the top romance novel cover image. The image is particularly interesting bcause it has Bruce in a state that’s between Bruce Wayne and Batman. Just seeing her like that, partially in the Batman outfit, represents so much trust. We won’t see him like that again until the end of #680 when his trust is rewarded with betrayal.

Alfred and Tim talk about Bruce, in a conversation that likely has resonance with what the final fate of Batman will be. Alfred describes Thogal as the “rehearsal, while living, of the experience of death.” The meditative experience is about confronting the darkness then returning to the world reborn. You could read the entire storyline as a Thogal experience, Batman confronting his greatest darkness, his greatest fears, shutting down his surface personality and retreating into his mental ‘cave.’ He then allows the Batman of Zurr-en-arrh persona to take charge and guide him back to the light.

The issue ends with our first glimpse at the reborn Joker. I really like the way Grant and Tony Daniel reimagine him, wearing this long Butcher’s coat/dress thing, and very controlled, slicked back hair. He’s stylish in a way the guy with a purple suit rarely was, as Batman spins out of control, the Joker seems to get it more and more together. But, more on the Joker shortly.

The next issue is where everything turns to shit for all involved. Batman is increasingly paranoid, in the absence of major criminals in the city, he becomes more and more convinced that the Black Glove is behind it all, an omnipresent crime organization that’s perpetually one step ahead of him. But, what if the Black Glove doesn’t exist? What if Bruce/Batman is so addicted to the war on crime that he’d invent this organization as a way to ensure his war never ends? This is the question that Jezebel raises when they’re together in the bat-cave.

I absolutely love the scene where she tells him that she loves him, and she wants him to get better, to get over the trauma of his parents’ death. Batman comics have always treated that as a perfectly valid motivation for a lifelong battle against crime, but in this moment, she tears it all down, calling his cave “a disturb ed little boy’s response to his parents’ death.” She says this in front a giant dinosaur, and a giant penny, two utterly absurd symbols of the world that Bruce lives in. Perhaps Morrison is pointing out the incongruity of Batman’s inherent craziness and the attempt to ground him in this very gritty, very real milieu that so many 90s and 00s comics have. He is emotionally damaged and alone, drawing others into his psychosis so that he’ll feel better about himself.

But, Bruce won’t hear it. He continues to spin an increasingly paranoid story about the Black Glove, about how he’s got two mainframes seeking out data. In the previous storyline, Batman talks about how he’s always formulating plans, trying to stay one step ahead of his enemy. His mind is his greatest weapon in the war on crime, but that also means that the fight is driving him insane. Now, it’s the absence of criminals that’s destroying him, he assumes that this is a plot so sophisticated, he can’t even see the seams. And that’s why Jet believes that he created the Black Glove, as a way to keep himself in the fight, to not have to confront the trauma that lies underneath everything he’s built.

Now, in light of what Doctor Hurt says, it’s likely that the Black Glove actually is masterminded by someone, not Bruce himself. But, I still love the idea that the Black Glove is the resentment of the Bruce Wayne that could have been, the person who would have exited if he’d gotten over his parents’ death and never become Batman. Batman at this point is like Bush’s America at this point, so addicted to wars that it’ll create one out of nothing if need be.

This leads to the fantastically surreal scene in which Bruce’s psyche dissipates and he is taken over by Zur-En-Arrh. He sees that purple mask again, a weird, creepy image.he collapses and the Black Glove rushes in. In retrospect, it would seem that Jezebel deliberately came there to do this to him, to break down his identity and make him react like this. It ties in with what Doctor Hurt was saying earlier, that their greatest achievement will be the utter destruction of Batman.

The issue is about the utter destruction of Bruce’s confidence. Jezebel reduces everything he’s done to a damaged child’s attempt to cope with something he couldn’t deal with. It’s hard to watch her tear down everything that Bruce has built. She’d probably tell him that the billions of dollars he spent in his one man war on crime could have been better spent giving food to third world countries, or something like that. She implies that all Batman is arrest Bruce’s psyche and prevent him from growing.

But, this is just the beginning. Next time, Bruce/Batman is utterly destroyed, and then reborn again in a strange, new persona. I’ll be writing that up soon, as well as the new issue of Final Crisis.

Mad Men: 'The Mountain King' (2x12)

I’m a couple of days behind on the Mad Men review, but in those couple of days, I’ve read the rest of Grant Morrison’s Batman: RIP, and now the time has come for a multi-part blog thematic crossover dissecting these two stories of men going through psychotic breaks with their lives and a series of increasingly bizarre identity crises. Reading/watching these two works so close together, the similarities really jump out, and also gel with some themes that I’ve been writing about a lot lately, namely the way that we build and change our identities. For now, enjoy the Mad Men post, then later today or tomorrow morning I’ll have the post on Batman: RIP.

Much of this season’s Mad Men has been about Don Draper exploring his identity, struggling with the boundaries of the life he’s built for himself, and the realization that he can’t fuck around all the time and do whatever he wants and still maintain the respect of others. The critical moment is when Bobbie tells him he’s got quite a reputation among women of a certain circle. Don has a type, and that type likes him. The comment implies that Don’s had a lot more affairs than just Rachel and Bobbie, that he’s always drawn to these professional, strong women.

This comment starts the downward spiral that eventually leads to Don abandoning his identity, regressing back to Dick Whitman, and eventually trying rebaptize himself at the end of this episode. There’s a number of key scenes along the way. One of the most important is Don’s realization that he’s turning Sally into someone like Bobbie, the daughter he does legitimately love is being warped by his behavior, even while his son acts out in reaction to his perpetually absent father.

Don is feeling the consequences of his actions more than ever before, and it hits home most obviously when Betty confronts him about the affair and kicks him out of the house. He waits it out for a bit, assuming that this is just a temporary fit, she would never break the implicit contract between them, that he’ll provide her with an easy life of luxury and in return, he can do whatever he wants. But, she does break that contract, she demands more of him and refuses to be set aside in favor his other women. When he realizes that she won’t take him back, he initially feels bad. But, when he’s given the opportunity to go to LA, he realizes that it’s also kind of liberating.

Concurrently with all of this, we’ve seen Don slipping away from the office, watching art house movies instead of being at the office, and spending most of his time there asleep. He’s still got the reputation to coast on, the name “Don Draper” goes a long way in the ad business, but he’s barely even been there this season. As with all the best TV dramas, the ostensible premise of the series is little more than a hook to get people to watch, a metaphorical way to represent the issues that are really at stake.

Don has put down these ties over the years, to his home, his office, he thinks that he has to be the person these others expect him to be. But, Joy offers him the chance to escape, to follow his pleasure and be free from the social restrictions he’s chosen to place on himself. Last week’s episode posed the simple question, if you could walk away from yur life, leave behind all your responsibilities in favor of living a nomadic, hedonistic lifestyle, would you do it? It’s a question that fascinates me. I have ties to people, but at the same time, the lives we lead are all so limited by what society allows. I go to work for nine hours everyday, does it have to be this way? Why do we all have to live in this rhythm of “struggling” through the week, enjoying the weekend, then getting down when Monday comes around? Is this life really necessary, or would it be possible to just walk away and keep running without ever going back to the old status quo? Society tells us that’s wrong, that we should work and be productive, and then retire, but I’m selling 45 hours of my week every life, what’s the price that makes that worth it?

For Don, he’s “working” all the time, trying to live up to this false persona that he’s created of the perfect husband/father/worker. The past events on the show make that construction more pointed than normal, but isn’t every suburban parent ‘pretending’ to be a real adult, even as they feel inside like they’re not that old yet, that deep down, they’re just kids playing at being older? Everybody feels like an impostor amongst people who really belong.

As I mentioned earlier, the season’s arc has largely been about the ‘contamination’ and now the destruction of the Don Draper persona. Dick Whitman grew up ashamed of his family, hating his father and wanting nothing more than to walk away and leave it all behind. For Don, Dick Whitman is emblematic of the weakness he wants no part of. So, he let Dick Whitman die, and took on this new persona, ‘Don Draper,’ a war hero who came without the baggage of the life that Dick left behind. But, it’s not so easy to leave everything behind, as Don found out when the real Don Draper’s widow came to him at the used car lot.

As we find out in this new episode, Don lived a brief, apparently happy life with this woman, Anna. She knows him as Dick Whitman, but also allows him to keep the Don Draper persona. Why is this? That’s not exactly clear from what we see in the episode. She is one of the few people who knows his whole story, and hearing about his father and his bad upbringing, she probably sympathized with him. She likely saw his adoption of Don’s name as a coping mechanism, an exorcism of those childhood demons, and who is she to force him back into that old role.

Perhaps the central scene of the episode was the Christmas flashback where Don enthusiastically talks about first meeting Betty, and his decision to marry her. Anna gently mocks him, saying how he’s lost in the lavender, the first giddy stages of love. We know that it will all turn bad, but at this moment, Don is full of love for Betty. People have often asked that question, is there any real affection between the two of them or is the entire marriage just a sham? This scene is not conclusive. Don is clearly in love, but is he in love with Betty herself, or is he in love with the idea of Betty. He describes her as a model, an image, an illusion.

His entire motivation as Don Draper has been to try and live out the American dream, and getting this beautiful, blond haired wife would be a critical step. Perhaps marrying her would prove to his father that he could make it on his own, and get out of the oppressive world he left behind. Marrying her would also legitimize his new identity. It’s notable that he doesn’t tell her any of the backstory that he spreads so liberally amongst his other female companions. He wants her to be part of the illusion, and she can’t be as convincing if she’s aware of the constructed Don Draper persona.

After his surreal journey with the Europeans, Don chooses to go back to Anna, and decides to restart his life with her as Dick Whitman. The European sequence functions as a kind of identity dissolution ritual, with them he can be anyone he wants to, their identities are all puts on, designed to make them look better than they are. They are drifters, perhaps even criminals, but when you call yourself the Viscount, that’s all good. Over the course of his surreal experience with them, Don says goodbye to the world he left behind. He’s briefly reminded of his kids, but he turns away from them too. Left alone at the end of the ‘ritual,’ he calls Anna and chooses to delve deeper into his past.

While the Anna scenes were great, perhaps the most fascinating scene in the episode was Don’s conversation with the hot rod crew. He introduces himself as Dick Whitman, and asks about finding some work, implying that he’ll both be sticking around town, and staying in the Dick Whitman persona. That scene, apart of its interesting connotations, had that very charged, emotionally important feel that Mad Men does so well. Particularly in this latest Don arc, I’m not really sure why things feel so important, but it hits something deep in the subconscious.

Anyway, as Don explores his old life, life goes on back in New York, and various other characters struggle with stretching the boundaries of their personal identities. Peggy, Don’s best student, is running with his life of live the life you want, the stuff you don’t like didn’t happen, and jumps on the chance to get Freddie Rumsen’s vacant office. She isn’t beholden to the office decorum that prevented the others from asking for it, she jumped up and took what she wanted. She walks through the office at night, basking in the glory of her new job and her new power. With Don gone, she’s the go to person for clients, the one who can spin the perfect mix of anecdote and hard sell, all tinged through that golden nostalgia of a childhood that never existed. She describes the ritual of the popsicle, tapping into the client’s subconscious in the way that Don perfected. Her actual relationship with her sister is full of resentment and ill feeling, a lot of it centered around the church and its ritual, but in the ad, it’s transformed into a single perfect image, a single perfect moment.

Joan faces a more difficult task when it comes to defining herself. She seems to have found the perfect man, as detailed in the excruciating scene where Peggy talks about how handsome he is, and Joan runs through her rote speech about his merits, how he practices the most difficult kind of medicine, how he’s the perfect doctor you image from TV. But, the thing about Joan is she doesn’t want to be defined by the man in her life, and though this guy is everything she says, he’s also a controlling brute who’s scared of Joan’s sexual power and independence. He didn’t want her working for the TV department earlier in the season, and he keeps making reference to the fact that he just wants her to sit at home and watch TV all day. He can’t deal with a woman with her own life, never more so than when it comes to sexuality.

He sees Joan’s sexual advances as evidence of her earlier promiscuity, and chooses to punish her for it by raping her in the office. In doing so, he is essentially claiming her domain for himself, making it clear that she can go away for eight hours a day, but she’s his. He’s the dog pissing all over to mark his territory. Don Draper may be on the door, but he’s her real boss. This is all conveyed in a wonderfully dedramatized, haunting shot of Joan staring at the foot of the couch, gradually going numb as she realizes that she’s unable to stop him from getting his way.

Over with Betty, we get a couple of wonderful scenes. The first is the crazy opening where she catches Sally smoking. Betty locks her in the closet, thinking that she can make her problems go away just by putting them out of sight, but she soon confronts Sally about it. She sees how much Sally misses Don, but there’s nothing she can do, Don is gone at this point.

At the end of the episode, Betty buys Sally the riding boots she’s been wanting all season. I’d argue that this is a gesture designed to secure Sally’s affections. Sally may be missing Don now, but if Betty gives her what she wants, she can make sure that Sally loves and stays loyal to her. Throughout the season, Betty’s had this jealousy of the kids’ affection for Don, which manifested itself in her anger at Don not disciplining the kids when he comes home from the office. She’s always got to be the ‘bad guy,’ and despite the fact that she spends all day with these kids, they’re always more excited to see their dad. But, buy Sally enough riding boots, and Betty might have an ally down the line.

I should go back and watch the episode again for more detail on Don’s tarot reading. The emphasis was on “The World” card. This is the last card in the Tarot deck, and represents the end of a journey, the pause before the start of a new one. This fits perfectly with what we see with Don at the end of this episode. He is regressing back to his old persona as the last stop before total dissolution of Don Draper, and the subsequent reconstruction of something new.

Dick Whitman may be asking for work from the hot rod guys, but we know that he won’t be staying there forever. The show needs to get him back to New York, but in what condition will he return? At the end of this episode, Don walks out into the sea, baptizing himself again as a new man. There’s a lot of potential readings of the scene. The first thing that jumped out at me was a similar scene in Six Feet Under, where we see Nate walk out into the water, then flash back to the land, saying that he’s in the game, he’s going to live. Later on, in “Ecotone,” we see him walk into the water again, and subsequently die.

The water here, like The World tarot card, is both death and life. It is the end point of one journey and the beginning of another. When he submerges himself, he wipes the sins of the past away, he has a clean slate, alone in a vast ocean, which definitely has a womb connection. These past few episodes have been about stripping away all the things that made Don Draper who he is, he left his family, he left his job, he even left his name behind. Now, he has nothing, he’s adrift in a vast sea, and the future is a blank slate.

I’ve really got no idea where they’ll go with Don in this next episode. He was conspicuously absent from Sterling Cooper as the company is sold to the Brits. The name on the door may be the same, but for Cooper, the core of his identity has been sacrificed. This is the first step on the journey to death. But, what does it mean for Don? Part of himself has been sold to someone else, the work Don Draper did is no longer his own. It’s just another piece of the persona dying. But what will rise in its place? That’s the question now.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Batman: #672-674

Until a few days ago, I looked at Morrison’s Batman run as one of the weakest things he’d ever done, a series of workmanlike stories that while entertaining enough in their own right, didn’t do anything particularly interesting with the character. Even the JH Williams arc, while really good, doesn’t hit me in the way the best Morrison did. That all changed with the three part arc that resolves the three Batmen mystery, and sets the stage for Batman RIP.

Let me start off by writing about the art here. Before reading these issues, I saw Tony Daniel get torn apart, people considered his art a travesty next to Morrison’s great writing. Now, I don’t love his art, but I don’t think it’s terrible either. I find it pretty close to what Kubert was doing in the first volume. I’d have loved to see someone like Chris Weston drawing the entire run, but because Kubert started things, I feel like this art style is what’s ‘real’ in the run. JH Williams is obviously far superior, but he also takes me out of the reality of the story a bit, like if Wong Kar-Wai or Terence Malick all of a sudden came in to direct an episode of Buffy. It would be awesome, but it would also be jarringly different from what had come before. The ‘Club of Heroes’ stuff does come back in interesting ways later on, but I feel like the run flows a lot better if you just read the Kubert/Daniels issues, excluding the Ra’s Al Ghul issues.

So, I’m not thrilled with the art, but I think it’s sometimes good to have Morrison’s craziest stories grounded in ‘regular’ comic book art. Much like Chazz Truog on Animal Man, the utter banality of the art makes the strange things stand out more. What is Batmite doing in this gritty Batman world? I think Daniel’s art here works better than someone like Ashley Wood’s would.

Anyway, on to the story itself. Things open up with a catchup on the Bruce/Jezebel Jet relationship. The early days of the run were about Batman rediscovering Bruce Wayne, and this scene is a perfect example of the more Bond than Bond persona Morrison’s given him. Bruce is trying to do it all, be an international playboy and be Batman, and that dichotomy of roles is going to contribute to his breakdown. I love him and Jezebel soaring out of the Batsignal-illuminated hot air balloon. You’re thinking, would Bruce really abandon the role of Batman at this moment, only to realize that he’s one step ahead and is already working on this scheme about being lost in the alleys.

The Batman heart attack is where things start to go insane. Crucified on the bat signal, he starts to hallucinate, seeing a weird purple masked creature and the words Zur En Arrh in neon green. I’m still not through RIP, so I’m not sure what this stuff is all about, but it’s really alien and disturbing. That purple mask guy in particular looks on the surface so cheesy, but I don’t know, there’s something unnerving about him, tapping into something deep in my subconscious. It all culminates in the sudden appearance of Batmite.

This leads to Batman #673, easily the high point of Morrison’s Batman run so far, one of the best things he’s written in a long time. I suppose what happens is Bruce suffers a heart attack, and for four minutes, he hovers between life and death, flashing back to his Thogal Ritual in Nanda Parbat, to a sensory deprivation experiment he took part in years ago, and also to his early days as Batman, when he went after the man who killed his parents. It has a lot of echoes of the issues of The Invisibles where characters merged with Barbelith and were initiated into the cosmic mystery. Batmite plays the same role that the death gods did with Fanny during “Sheman,” and the structure here resembles the jumps through time King Mob took in “Entropy in the UK.” Either way, I love the structure of the issue and the way it mirrors the fractured mind of Bruce/Batman. In one issue, Morrison totally turned my feelings about the run around.

As he often does during an extended run on a corporate superhero property, Morrison is carving out his own definition of who Batman is and what’s central to the character. The ostensible concept of the run is that everything that’s happened to Batman over his seventy years of publication happened to the same guy. So, the crazy 50s stories happened to the same guy who was in Batman: Year One. For Morrison, the problem Batman faces is trying to integrate all that’s happened to him into a coherent identity. As such, he focuses on a few significant events, the Joe Chill attack, the isolation experiment, and his own Nanda Parbat addition to the mythology. As he lays dying, Bruce flashes through his whole life and experiences the contradiction, “Flashing lights and intimations of mortality are normal. All of this is normal. This is my life now. I’m Batman.”

I like the notion that Batman’s hard boiled voiceover narrations are just an affectation, put on to entertain Alfred. Morrison also raises the notion that all the Batman comics we read are based on these accounts Bruce writes down in his notebooks. “No one’s ever really done what I’m doing before. It might never happen again. It’s important to keep a record.” Those lines feel weird for me. They give the events of the comic a reality that you don’t usually feel. This arc is largely about Bruce confronting how strange and singular his life is. In such an ever changing world, it’s his record of events that creates his self image, if he doesn’t keep track of that, he’ll get lost in whatever he’s doing at the moment.

The juxtaposition of Batman’s monologue with Joe Chill’s frightened discussion of class warfare and what he’s done to survive makes the initial menace of Batman a bit clearer. Because we’re so used to the character, and all the people in the DCU know him, there’s no sense of the bat suit as something scary to criminals. Once the criminals are dressed up too, the fear is gone. But, in these scenes, you get the sense of how scary a guy dressed as a bat could be. He’s this ultra-efficient assassin who can do anything, and he’s also totally insane. The image of Batman falling into the darkness, a trail of laughter behind him says it all.

Morrison’s use of the 50s isolation experiment story as an insight into Batman’s psyche reminds me a bit of what Alan Moore did in Miracleman, using the raw symbols of the story to delve into the psyche of the characters. Having read a bunch of Silver Age stuff, it is full of emotional turmoil and repressed desires, and I can see why Morrison would use it as an example of Batman’s unstable mental state. I just wish those stories were more readily available so I could get the necessary background for this run.

I love the concept of sensory deprivation chambers in general, and the way Morrison manages to tie it into the Nanda Parbat thing from 52. Batman went under to experience insanity, “I wanted a glimpse of how the Joker’s mind worked.” As we see in the next couple of issues, Batman has an obsession with defeating criminals, with finding out how they think and getting one step ahead of them. In the context of this story, he’s cleaned up the streets of Gotham and has no major foes to match up with. So, he’s forced to delve inside and confront his own psychological troubles. The question arises, if he’s willing to go so far into the criminal psyche, doesn’t touching evil become an addiction of its own? Can he ever go back to a normal life?

The next issue brings some answers about what’s been going on. The three Batmen were trained by Gotham PD as potential replacements should Batman ever die. This is juxtaposed with scenes of Bruce giving up the Batman identity out of fear that he’d hurt Robin. It’s motivated by his blackouts after the sensory deprivation experiment. But, Batmite claims that Batman’s fear was hidden by some larger menace, possibly this Doctor Hurt. The question that arises is what exactly Batmite is. Is he a 4-D being, as in The Invisibles’ aliens, guiding Bruce in the right direction, or is he an expression of Bruce’s own insanity, a paranoia that may have caused him to invent his own ultimate enemy to battle.

The entire arc is designed to lay the groundwork for RIP, and as such, the last issue is mainly about setting up Batman’s paranoid mindset. He understands now that the three Batmen he’s faced were created by the Gotham police force, but he was led to believe that they were ghosts from his isolation experience. So, he now suspects that there’s secrets hidden in his head, a force that’s controlling him. Batman speaks about how “Every day I run through a thousand different scenarios,” endlessly trying to perfect his attack on crime. And, now he imagines that there’s someone out there who’s his equal, the Black Glove, this group that’s always one step ahead of him. The Black Glove doesn’t even need to exist, it is evidence of Bruce’s psychosis, of the endless striving for something he’ll never actually achieve.

More on this when I write up RIP. I’ve read the first couple of issues, and have the other three that have been released so far. Once I wrap those, I’ll write them up, and then count the days until the last issue comes out. This week is also notable because we’ve got the next issue of Final Crisis, and Grant’s Final Crisis: Submit. The massive delays on the series have hurt its momentum, but I’m still eager to see what happens next.

As for Morrison’s Batman, this arc changed it all for me. After reading #673, I wanted to go on my own sensory deprivation experiment in Nanda Parbat, to tear down my own identity and rebuild it into something different. The issue has stuck in my head and influenced my thoughts ever since I’ve read it. It has a lot of motifs and concepts I really like, but even beyond that, there’s something so psychologically affecting about the story Morrison’s telling. I want to experience the same strange world that Batman has faced in these issues, to confront my own Black Glove. This is what it felt like when I read The Invisibles the first time, this desire to become a part of the story world. Is there a hypersigil at work in the pages of Batman. Seems to me like there is, and it’s working.