Annotations: Breaking Down ‘Batman’ #702 [Spoilers]
We continue our annotations of the Grant Morrison run by breaking down "Batman" #702, by Morrison with art by Tony Daniel, complete with SPOILERS. This issue: the long-sought-after connective tissue between "Final Crisis" and "Return of Bruce Wayne", as well as the reason why we got to hear Bruce narrating all of these events. Last issue I was wondering what the point of this story was. This issue, nowhere near as confused.
Let's jump in.Page 1: We begin where last issue ended, with the very beginning of "Final Crisis" and the investigation of Orion's body. This scene is verbatim from "Final Crisis" #1, with the addition of Bruce's narration.
Pages 2-3: Another layout spread much like last issue's presenting key visuals -- Batman taking the radion bullet, which we previously saw back in "Batman" #683. This issue, we find out that the narrative captions -- which I had assumed were from the Black Casebook -- are actually Batman's final voice-recorded message, left back at the dawn of civilization.
Page 4: This scene is entirely new, but fits perfectly into the established continuity of "Final Crisis." At the end of issue #2, Wally mentioned that Bruce had theorized about the bullet traveling through time; this is that scene. As much as Batman goes on about how he's out of his depth here, he's the only person realizing that he's dealing with the New Gods not on a physical level, but an ideological one. "A platonic, archetypal world" indeed.
Page 5: This platonic, archetypal world is now explored with how it relates to the god-bullet itself. Batman theorizes that just as Darkseid is ALL evil, this bullet is ALL bullets -- in programming terms, the abstract class from which every bullet is derived, the interface and set of properties that define all bullets, but in its purest form. This scene we also previously saw in "Final Crisis" #2, and Batman's narration here is very similar to Turpin's back in "FC" #1, when he was going on and on about how he used to fight crime in the streets before these super muk muks.
Page 6: Still "FC" #2, as Kraken confronts Batman. The box that Batman's referring to is the Ancestor Box, which is probably also the Bat-Coffin from "Return of Bruce Wayne" and "Batman and Robin" -- he's trying to figure out where it started trapping his life, but it probably opened the day he was born.
Page 7: And, of course, now he realizes it - that the box has been manipulating his life since the beginning. Or is he trying to figure out when his past shifted? DID his past shift?
Page 8: "Final Crisis" #2 still, the scene where Turpin first comes to the Bludhaven bunker before they start to turn him into Darkseid. In the original comic, the "Oh God. There's someone inside my head." comes from Turpin, not Batman. Mistake or clue? U-DECIDE
Page 9: In between the last page and this, the entire sequence with the Lump excavating Batman's memories in #682-683 occurs, and we pick up with the Lump finally moving to save Bruce. As Bruce is narrating this, he's already through these events and in the Batcave at 11,000 BC; he's losing his memory of the events as he recounts them, although whether this is due to Omega or the Lump is unclear.
Page 10: The victory is in the preparation, and the defeat is in the lack thereof, it seems. Batman thinks they hadn't prepared for any of this, but we know this is wrong; everything that's occurring is due to Darkseid's plan, as Batman doesn't recognize the Hole in Things in his own. (It's also appropriate that Bruce refers to his plan as "best-laid", since he is both mouse and man.)
Page 11: This conversation with Gordon is from "Batman" #665, right after Bruce's second encounter with Branca, the big roid-rage Batman. They were reminiscing on the nature of evil; Batman never thought he'd have a chance to take the very CONCEPT of evil, but here he is, stepping through that door...
Page 12: To the stage of myth. What's really striking about this issue is just how well Bruce understands what he's doing and how to deal with it. When this scene first appeared in "Final Crisis" #6, while it carried a great deal of weight and symbolism, Batman seemed to be in a desperate frame of mind. Instead, here, he's fully cognizant of what's going on, and the fact that simply by interacting with Darkseid and his ilk, every action he makes carries layers of meaning. He's not a dude shooting an alien, he's mankind standing against evil. Everyone's an archetype, and now Batman is, too.
Page 13: Much like the Monitors talk of Superman as a "New Myth" that overpowers their doomsday prophecy, so Batman here overpowers Darkseid's doomsday myth with his own. Batman already outraced the Omega Sanction when he was eight years old and didn't succumb to grief.
Pages 14-15: "Death" of Batman Redux! And we finally see the Bat-Coffin in its original true form as the Ancestor-Box, apparently a superpowerful Mother Box. Notice that unlike the "ping ping ping" of the traditional Motherbox, this makes ominous bell sounds (DOMMM DOMMM DOMMM), the Bells of the All-Over that various people throughout history hear when they open the Bat-Coffin over in "return of Bruce Wayne."
Additionally, the "Hyper-Adapter" inside the Ancestor-Box becomes the hyperfauna that chases Bruce up through time. I guess this is the Tamagotchi version of the Omega Sanction, hyper and annoying and self-advertising as hell.
Page 16: And, as far as I can tell from the narration, this is when Batman's entire continuity is shifted around him via the Ancestor Box and Darkseid's machinations. Think of time as a four-dimensional solid where everything has happened at once; Darkseid moved time around the Batman Myth, recontextualizing it into a doomsday weapon. By changing the circumstances rather than the fact itself, Darkseid plans to use Batman for his own ends.
The moments here: Bruce finding Hurt/Thomas's graffiti in the secret room (from #701); Bruce realizing at age six or so that he, his mother and father will all eventually die (from #673); the peals dropping from Martha's body, covered in blood; and, perhaps most mysteriously, Batman's funeral from Neil Gaiman's "Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?", which also dealt with the concept of Batman as a never-ending, mythological concept rather than a single person.
Page 17: And the first panel here, the most unnerving of all: Willowood Asylum, last seen pre-Crisis as the place where Bruce's brain-damaged evil brother Thomas was sent. Did Darkseid's machinations twist the Wayne family history to CREATE the Evil Wayne, the Dark Twin, Thomas Wayne? Or is he being recast as the immortal, devil-worshipping Thomas Wayne from "Return of Bruce Wayne" #5? What's the connection between these characters?
Additionally, don't forget that back in "Batman" #681, Hurt claimed to BE the Hole in Things. Here, we find out exactly what that is: the emptiness left by Darkseid's absence, the black hole at the center of the universe into which he fell. Hurt, it seems, is trying to fill that hole, to represent Evil with its old avatar demolished. Someone still needs to fill that Hole.
Also, his line about Darkseid, the Hunter and the Dying Fall not only recontextualizes Orion's death in comparative mythology but also explains the numerous Hunter/Orion references in Wayne Manor, such as the secret room being accessed via pressing Orion's "belt" below a horsehead. For someone whose memory is fading, Bruce's ability to leave himself incredibly clever clues certainly hasn't diminished.
I assume that this message is listened to shortly before Rip, Clark and Hal go off to find him in "Return of Bruce Wayne." As we can see, Tim Drake is there, too.
Page 18: There's the third grave for Bruce, and his funeral, which he'd already seen while having the heart attack in "Batman" #673, with Bat-Mite as his guide.
Page 19: And here we are, as Bruce arrives in the past and quickly removes his cape and cowl (cursed as they are by the Hole in Things, and also glowing with Kirby dots). I assume since Batman is somehow attached to both the Ancestor Box and the hyperfauna, it's why he can still hear the ringing of the box's bells.
Page 20: Anthro dies upon seeing Batman, just as at the end of "Final Crisis" #7. And still rocking the comparative mythology, comparing his predicament to the Minotaur's Labyrinth and himself to Theseus.
Page 21: Bruce removes the recorder, marks his bat (which is very different from the one he drew on the last page of "Final Crisis" -- the one there was black and filled-in), and leaves the cave...
Page 22: Right to the very, very, very beginning of "Return of Bruce Wayne" #1.