Batman Incorporated #7-8: The Wild West and Digital Frontier [Annotations]
After a long hiatus, we’re back with more detailed annotations of Grant Morrison’s epic Batman Incorporated! In this installment, we’ll take a look at #7 and #8, the former a Western adventure featuring Chief Man-of-Bats and Raven Red, and the later a high-tech videogame-inspired digital romp featuring Oracle.
Batman Incorporated #7 (Grant Morrison & Chris Burnham): “Medicine Soldiers”
Page 1: Man-of-Bats and Raven Red are wandering around distributing medicine and checking on people in their community. The activist guy in the Superman shirt — I’m not sure if that detail is from the script or was thrown in by Burnham, but given he rescues Man-of-Bats near the end of the issue, it’s tempting to see him as the other half of a kind of Reservation’s Finest. Man-of-Bats stated he was Sioux in his first appearance back in Batman #86; that area today would be related to the Republic of Lakota and Russell Means (whose activism might have been a bit of an inspiration for this story).
Page 2: We last saw Man-of-Bats and Raven Red for a few pages in Batman #681, when they came with the rest of the Club of Heroes to help bail out Robin from the Black Glove and the Club of Villains, back at the end of “R.I.P.” Their only other appearance in the run previous to that was in the Black Glove arc on Mayhew’s island in #667-669.
Page 3: After kicking down the door to Lucy’s derelict house, they find she’s overdosed on heroin and left a suicide note as well as her son (watching Go Go Gophers). Morrison’s going out of his way to develop Man-of-Bats as a more populist hero than Batman, and certainly far more actively community-minded. The fact that his identity isn’t secret probably helps with that — although, as we’ll see, that has other consequences.
Page 4: Here, we’re introduced to Man-of-Bats’s alter ego, Doctor Bill Great Eagle. He was simply “Great Eagle” in his original appearance back in #86, with Raven Red being “Little Eagle”; this has apparently been retconned to a last name for authenticity. This fits with his established characterization as a doctor, including when he surgically removed the bomb from the Knight in Batman #669; back in #667, his son chided him for his behavior when drinking, so it’s interesting he’d be protesting against the liquor trade. The new head of the hospital is making vague threats at Bill Great Eagle, and it’s likely he, like the cop later, is an agent of Leviathan.
Page 5: Man-of-Bats and Raven Red hit up the local casino so Man-of-Bats can yell at Sam Black Elk, the son of the original Black Elk who Man-of-Bats and Batman teamed up to fight way back in #86.
Page 6: Where did Sam Black Elk come home from? Most likely, a Leviathan training and indoctrination camp. Man-of-Bats picks a fight, presumably to make a point to his son.
Page 7: Not much to annotate here, but for the sake of completeness, Man-of-Bats punches Black Elk out and Raven Red gets the hell out of Dodge.
Page 8: Man-of-Bats finds the Leviathan mind control wavers on Black Elk’s body and thinks they’re standard drugs, while the cops come in.
Page 9: I can’t help but feel that there’s a certain significance to Leviathan’s mind control wafers tasting like spearmint. Their indoctrination is candy-coated, likely as yet another middle finger to Batman, but we’ll get to that when we reach the big villain reveal.
Page 10: Raven Red arrives back at the Bat’s Cave — where, in a great detail, Man-of-Bats is selling tours raise money for his people — and declares his intention to quit to nobody in particular…
Page 11: …except Batman is watching. Burnham’s depiction of the Bat’s Cave as a budget Batcave is really well-done, especially the wooden nickel in the place of Batman’s giant penny. The ghost shirt is an actual Lakota legend; it doesn’t seem to have played any part in any previous Batman stories. Back in 1998, the Lakota actually did retrieve a ghost shirt from a museum in Scotland; with Morrison living in the area at the time, it’s likely this is where he got the idea.
Page 12: The new cop who replaced Man-of-Bats’s friend Joe Standing Horse is revealed to be a Leviathan agent; we also discover that at some point, Black Elk discovered and publicly revealed Bill Great Eagle’s identity. It’s worth noting that back in Batman #86, Black Elk’s general plan was to wound Bill in the shoulder and then see if Man-of-Bats had a wounded shoulder as well to prove his identity. To foil Black Elk’s trap, Batman and Robin dressed up in redface (no, really) and pretended to be Man-of-Bats and the then-Little Raven, who’s apparently been aging slower than Dick Grayson.
Page 13: Sam Black Elk goes absolutely crazy, stabbing Man-of-Bats in the stomach and being a hypeman for Leviathan. “Everywhere the standard of the bat rises, it will be chopped down” will be used, with various variants, quite a few times in the series coming up; it definitely seems to be a central tenet of Leviathan’s programming.
Pages 14-18: The car stops and they bring out Man-of-Bats, who’s holding Black Elk hostage. He vows to put them all in full-body casts before going down, but is saved by Batman and Raven, who gallop in on horseback. Man-of-Bats dives in front of a bullet to save his son, who also gets shot while tending to his father, except he’s still wearing the bulletproof ghost shirt, which turns out to actually be bulletproof. Sam Black Elk is then taken out by a mob of townspeople — led by the guy in the Superman shirt — who come to Bill’s aid.
We get a lot more insight into Man-of-Bats’s past in this scene after he’s shot, as well — he was apparently in Iraq, which would explain how he got his training (and also really confuses the timeline since he was a member of the Club of Heroes with the original Knight, who we saw in the Falklands, but who cares?).
Finally, one last comment about the relationship between Bill and Charlie. Given Morrison’s own father’s activism and the way it affected his home life (as explored fairly thoroughly in Supergods), it’s difficult to ignore the idea that those experiences were a major influence on the way Morrison wrote the relationship between these two characters — one which, in the end, is still very loving, and ends in reconciliation.
Pages 19-20: Bill is saved with a blood transfusion from his son, who then chitchats with Batman about the encroaching Leviathan infiltration of the area. Batman reveals that the wafers from earlier were a Leviathan mind control agent, which is the first time we’ve discovered that Leviathan’s mind control is chemical as well as psychological.
Batman Incorporated #8 (Grant Morrison & Scott Clark): “Nightmares in Numberland”
Wish me luck. And I’m going to try to forget I have a computer science degree.
Page 1: On this first page we’re introduced to Bruce Wayne’s Internet 3.0, which we first saw teased way back in the Batman: The Return oneshot. Internet 3.0, it turns out, is just Second Life mixed with a virtual reality component. I have no idea how they got there, or how. We don’t see anyone wearing a headset or anything. We know Batman constructed it, and he shows off how real it all is, but why he made it? No idea.
Page 2: The virtual meeting is attacked by a SWAT team of computer virus zombies, and I’ve got to tell you, if I had a nickel for every time that happened on GoToMeeting…
Page 3: Technically, Internet 3.0 access wouldn’t come with antiviral software “installed”; the antiviral software would actually live in Internet 3.0. Especially when that antivirus software is one person…
Page 4: Barbara Gordon, Oracle, in her last ride.
Pages 5-7: Oracle and Batman beat up some computer worm zombies, who claim to be made up of “dead numbers.” Bruce is noticeably distracted, and unlike Oracle, he isn’t able to maintain multiple avatars at once. The fact that the worms are reciting bits from Chun Wei’s deleted poems would imply that they’re made up of deleted data, the necrotic tissue of the Internet, which fits the zombie look.
Page 8: Bruce and Oracle touch base on the nature of the enemy, and the fact that one of the investors must have purposely brought the virus through Oracle’s firewall. She teases Batgirl’s upcoming adventure at the finishing school, as well as notes the recurring themes of mazes, nets and webs, all of which point back to the sinister mastermind Doctor Dedalus, a.k.a. Otto Netz, and his daughter Kathy Webb/Kane.
Pages 9-13: The investors run down the hallway and run into the virus’s mutation engine, which replaces the host program’s code with its own. Batman attacks it while Dr. Solomon runs away due to his claustrophobia and asthma — or attempts to. He falls into an elevator shaft, and Batman respawns to catch him, apparently curing him of both of his ailments.
Pages 14-15: At this point the mutation engine decides to modify the code of the users’ avatars, meting out ironic punishments Spectre-style by transforming Belle Bourgeois into a bitch (literally, a dog) whom Mr. Velocet immedialy falls in love with, and Chun Wei into a macroencephelactic. Wei comes up with the idea that the virus is actually the old Internet fighting back against its successor, which is the closest this issue comes to lining up with the theme of warring parents and children that’s made up the vast bulk of Incorporated.
Page 16: The trojan horse who brought the virus into the network is revealed to be Mr. Tanaka, who made his fortune with a videogame called “Judgment in Hell City 666.”
Pages 17-18: Everything goes straight-up Tron as everyone gets power armor and zombies attack and they have to make it to the roof of the building and then they do and somehow this lets Oracle quarantine the virus. Also, Tanaka’s basically revealed to be a Leviathan agent, paraphrasing Sam Black Elk with “wherever the standard of the bat rises, it will be torn down.”
Page 19: Here we get the big reveal: Oracle’s found out that Leviathan started out in Mtamba, the same country Batwing was investigating. Here, though, we find out that Mtamba was actually the name of Jezebel Jet’s home country — a fact which was not mentioned at all in any issue previous to this in Morrison’s run. At this point, Batman and Oracle believe she’s behind Leviathan, although we know better from future issues.
Page 20: And all’s well that ends well with the investors, who apparently had a great time nearly funding an international terrorist organizaton.
Buy Batman Inc #7 and 8 online or at your local comic shop.
Links to my other annotations:
– Batman: The Return; Batman, Inc. #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6
– Return of Bruce Wayne #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6; Batman #700, #701, #702; Batman and Robin #14, #15, #16
– original Batman run and previous issues of Batman and Robin