Wednesday, July 7, 2010
We all know the story. Little Bruce Wayne was leaving the theatre with his parents, when they were mugged by a thug named Joe Chill. Chill killed Thomas and Martha Wayne in cold blood, leaving a distraught Bruce to mourn the loss of his family, forever changing him. Of course, Bruce would go on to train around the world, becoming the vigilante known as Batman that we've loved for years. But what if that wasn't the real story. What if there's a secret, a secret so shocking and sick, it could change the entire mythology of Batman as we know it.
Batman and Robin are back this week, kicking off a new story arc that promises to change the status quo of Batman forever, and it waste no time bringing in the awesomeness. Spoilers galore:
The issue kicks off with the familiar scenario. Bruce exiting the theatre with his parents, right before a certain Joe Chill approaches them wielding a gun. Chill shoots Martha dead, and Thomas lingers over her body stating: "Now You'll Never Tell!"
He then goes on to her funeral, and follows that up with some kind of strange orgy while wearing his old Bat mask. In the present, he's walking out of a courthouse with a lawyer, officially announcing his return to Gotham. Of course, it's Dr. Hurt/El Penitente, and whether he actually is Thomas Wayne remains to be seen. This is an interesting development, as this possibility was initially introduced in Batman RIP, but it was quickly dropped out of mind.
But as always, things continue to get more interesting. Dr. Hurt casually walks into a building, where inside Batman and Robin are tied up, surrounded by a small group of villains. Dr. Hurt appears to have won the battle vs Batman, as well as taken over Wayne Manor (again), and he now plans to capture the city. As he pulls out a gun, Dick tries to tell him that he doesn't get it, that the evil Dr. is finished. But Hurt isn't listening, he just aims the gun a Dick, and much to Damian's horror, shoots Batman in the back of the head.
The issue then takes us three days prior to the events we just witnessed. Damian is arriving at a hotel surrounded by police cars, the hotel where Oberon Sexton/The Joker has been staying at. Batman is already in the room, questioning The Joker, all while explaining his deduction process which led to the discover of Oberon's identity. Everything was a detail, the dominos, the name he chose, and his disguise, all of which The Joker used perfectly to conceal himself. As Robin walks inside the room, he reveals that Oberon Sexton was a real writer, and Batman had The Knight confirm that. The Knight had the grave of Oberon's wife dug up, which revealed both Oberon and his wife inside the same coffin filled with chattering teeth. The Joker explains that Oberon Sexton killed his wife, so he just brought karma full circle and murdered the writer. What's strange though, is that The Joker is trying to convince Batman to trust him. I Quote: "I'm Too Late To Stop The Chain Reaction I Started With the First Little Domino of Death. And Now It's All Fall Down Time."
The Commissioner now bursts in the room, demanding that The Joker be taken into custody. The Joker further tries to be a strange kind of helpful, saying that he came back to warn Batman, which he didn't have to do. He goes on to say that he hopes everyone remembers that he tried to help, because it looks like everyone will die in the upcoming crossfire unless "You're As Good As He Was." Once again he hints that he knows Batman real identity, and recognizes that a new one is now in place. As The Joker is removed from his room, Batman ask Robin to stay with the police, as he plans on taking the Commissioner for a drive.
Dick has the Commissioner blindfolded, as they make their way to the Bat-Bunker while discussing the drug that Mr. Toad was pushing in the first story arc. Gordon briefly acknowledges that he also recognizes a new Batman is in place, but also adds that the police seem to like the new one better. As the duo arrive at the Bat-Bunker, Gordon is briefly amazed at the resources Batman has amassed. Dick begins to vaguely explain that The Jokers return is the start of something much bigger, yet he's still in the process of making all the connections. He does briefly mention though, that a total solar eclipse is set to happen in three days, which is sure to bring the crazy out in people. This note is important, because by now, we know from the pages of Return of Bruce Wayne that a solar eclipse appears right before Bruce is transferred into a different era of time. Also, Dick mentions that the eclipse is set to happen in three days, which would put Dick being shot, and Bruce returning, happening at the same time.
Batman begins to lay out everything he knows to Gordon, from El Penitente, to The Black Glove. He correctly assumes that everything connects with Professor Pyg's viral addiction, and begins to expect that the antidote he found at the carnival in the third issue is actually the virus itself, just waiting to be activated by another viral trigger. Even with all this going on, Batman still demands all eyes remain glued to The Joker, since he hasn't played his hand yet. Right as the words leave Dick's mouth, the Commissioner gets a text from HQ, saying The Joker requested to speak to Robin. Batman immediately heads for the car, shouting: "HE COULD KILL HIM!"
THe Commissioner is startled as well, worried that another dead Robin is due up. But Batman clarifies, he's not worried about Robin, he's worried about The Joker.
At Police HQ, Robin has locked himself inside The Joker's cell, where Joker is chained up, smiling unrepentantly. Damian is not amused by The Joker's smile, and very out of character, The Joker tries to explain that his face is stuck that way, and he's sorry for the things he's done. He buries his face into his hands, and begins to cry. Damian is no more sympathetic than he was amused, pulling out a crowbar from behind his back. He violently whacks The Joker, very similarly to Joker beating down a helpless Jason Todd in the classic story twenty years ago. Damian is becoming more aggressive, saying that he doesn't believe The Joker to be insane, and asks for straight honesty. The Joker can only beg for help on the cell floor, but none will be given as the police are ignoring his cries from outside the cell.
Batman and the Commissioner are making their way to the police station, when suddenly, they are struck by rockets. They fall from the sky, and crash into pieces in a dark alley. As they exit the wrecked Batmobile, they discover that they're surrounded by Dollotrons, Pyg's mindless drones. Speaking of Pyg, Hurt's men work their way through Blackgate, to release the oinking villain from his captivity.
This was easily the most exciting issue of Batman and Robin to date, with Grant great as usual, and Frazer Irving proving his unique art phenomenal. This issue besides from being awesome, also helps us establish a timeline with Return of Bruce Wayne, as Bruce should return by the end of this arc, maybe just in time to save day. Of course, he could also arrive only to watch Dick be killed, or Damian make his deal with Hurt to save the city.
On a side note, I can't imagine Dick being killed already, but you never know. If Dick is able to get out of this very compromising position and defeat Hurt, a debate is then in order. Who should continue to wear the cowl? Interesting questions to ponder, and their gonna bother for a while. But don't forget, Batman #701 next week, with the first part of gap between RIP and Final Crisis. A lot of different books, all connected in some masterful way. Great time to be a Bats fan.