The Complete and Utter Insanity of ‘Batman: Odyssey,’ Part 4
Illustrated by legendary Batman artist Neal Adams and written by legendarily terrible Skateman writer Neal Adams, Batman: Odyssey launched in 2011 and quickly established itself as hands down, the most insane comic we have ever read. After their shell-shocked review of the initial run, Laura Hudson and David Wolkin have returned to recap the second volume in a continuing attempt to do the impossible: make sense out of the descent into madness that is Batman: Odyssey. The voyage continues.
David: Every month I say to myself “this couldn’t possibly get crazier.” And then it does, Laura.
Laura: Stay strong, David. There are only a few issues left. Also, I believe the first dialogue bubble in issue #5 — “the smallest violin in the world, and it’s playing a tune just for me” — is a callback to an Odyssey panel that you have very special feelings about.
David: Ahhh, yes. Who could forget Alfred making sex hands?
David: Of all the times I wish a Batman comic was made into an animated film, it would be for this one. Can you imagine the animated Batman: Odyssey?
Laura: I admit that this amounts to a failure of imagination, but it’s kind of like when someone says, “Can you imagine how far a billion miles is?” I can pretend to, but in reality the mind has limits.
David: The good thing about this recap page is that it actually recaps things that have already happened, which is progress.
Laura: Yes! Like the fact that Robin has secretly followed Batman to the Underworld, and that Talia and Tatsinda are missing, although that part is weird because it says they are “assumed” missing. It also says Tatsinda — whom we’ve never met — is Jamroth Bok’s “woman” in quotation marks. I’m kind of scared to find out what that means.
David: I’m pretty sure Talia and Tatsinda are getting drinks together. It’s probably ladies night at Area 51 or something.
Laura: The endless whinging at the Exposition Hostage continues, as Bruce complains about how frustrating it is to capture criminals and send them to jail when they always seem to get out again and commit more crimes, which — sorry, is the entire story of all Batman comics ever. Get used to it.
David: It is a nice little commentary. I mean, that’s the choice that Batman makes by not killing bad guys. And it’s the main reason why Jean-Paul Valley was definitively a better Batman. Yes, I said that. AZRAEL 4 LYFE.
Laura: Hold on, David. I have a incoming message for you from Chris Sims. It says… “I HATE YOU.”
David: I sort of saw that coming.
Laura: Also, it is not a nice little commentary; beneath all the incoherence, this is quickly becoming a story based on the same overused “high” concept that every armchair quarterback Batman fan probably imagines as his magnum opus: “Batman doesn’t kill. But what if he… KILLED?” DUN DUN DUN. Seeing Bruce sit here and have this endless monologue as though this is the first time the idea occurred to him is pretty tiresome.
David: I mean, the whole Exposition Hostage thing is pretty tiresome. Every issue opens the same way. It was one thing when he was shirtless, but now…
Laura: No, David. You are wrong again. It is the one thing I legitimately look forwards to every issue. There is no logical way to predict what will happen in this comic from moment to moment, in terms of plot, character, dialogue or even the linear movement of time. The only think we can be certain of in this world is that a wild-eyed Bruce Wayne will stare us deeply in the eyes at the beginning of each issue and shout plot points at us while eating and drinking random foods and wearing DC Comics swag. That’s all I have to hold on to.
David: Meanwhile, back in the Underworld, Robin tames a pterodactyl by punching it in the head with his new gravity powers.
Laura: Yes he does, while instructing the pterodactyl to “steady out, cutie.” Then he says one of the most inexplicable sentences I have ever heard in my life, which I can only imagine was composed via magnetic poetry on someone’s fridge: “This is a lead pipe cinch. I feel like I’m riding my old egg-cream buddy Man-Bat.”
David: That’s a comic I want to pitch to DC right now: “ROBIN AND MAN-BAT: EGG CREAM BUDDIES”
Laura: Drawn by Art Baltazar!
David: Will you be my egg cream buddy, Laura? I promise not to ride you like a dinosaur.
Laura: Don’t make vaguely disturbing promises you can’t keep, David. Also, what is up with the moon eyes Deadman makes here when he tells Robin how great and awesome and and funny he is, and then gazes at him wistfully and says, “I wish…”
Laura: Can you find a reading of that which is not disturbing?
David: I think it’s connected to their shared history regarding circus murders.
Laura: What is he wishing for?
David: I’m pretty sure that the only thing Deadman ever wishes for is to not be dead.
Laura: After deciding to split up and head in different directions for no reason, Deadman gives Robin an iPhone loaded with a map to his mystery destination, which somehow gets coverage in a secret dinosaur world deep inside the Earth. And based on Robin’s complete inability to be anywhere he is supposed to be for the rest of the comic, I’m going to guess that it’s running iOS 6. Robin immediately pulls up Deadman’s Wikipedia page, and learns that Deadman was originally shot to death while performing in a trapeze act. Robin’s reaction to this news is super amazing, because it is a perfect combination of the Best Bruce Face Ever that we use to lead each Odyssey article, and the way Batman reacted one time to meeting a whale.
David: Narration Box Bruce implies that Robin also somehow figures out the truth about the murder of his own parents, who were also shot during their trapeze act. Bruce’s reflection on this moment is insane.
David: He always thought he’d be there to drink hot chocolate with him!
Laura: Somehow, Robin realizes that both Deadman and the Graysons were killed by hitmen as part of an initiation for the League of Assassins, which is a weird and very specific litmus test. To prove your worthiness for entry into the most elite guild of hired killers, you first must dispose of… A CIRCUS PERFORMER.
David: “If you can assassinate a trapeze artist midair, then you can assassinate anyone. Except Batman.” But Robin’s face on the next page is the big payoff.
Laura: *saves to hard drive for future use* What an amazing rageface. I’m just going to start posting this on Twitter every time something infuriating happens. Wait, is Robin attacking the bat? ALL YOU HAVE IS YOUR BAT, ROBIN. Don’t push him away.
David: The giant bat does have a legitimately concerned look on its face.
Laura: Also why does the bat make noises that sound like the neighbors in the apartment above you having sex?
David: My neighbors broke up, Laura. The only thing I hear is cats. PLEASE TURN THE PAGE PLEASE.
Laura: Oh, hell yes! It’s time again for everyone’s favorite jive-talking wizard, Sylvester the clarinet player!
Laura: Last time we learned that this place was full of jazz magicians, dinosaur people and little green men, and now we find out that it contains “greys,” people with the heads of wolves, “animen,” and — wait for it — the LIBRARY AT ALEXANDRIA.
David: Which apparently found its way to inner earth because the ancient Egyptian gods live there.
Laura: Oh, we’ll get to that shortly. We also meet what I believe are the descendents of the first human civilization in Sumeria, which for some reason have a TV news crew that follows Batman around.
David: It is for the INTRAnet. And the official motto of the library according to the wizard: “you can glom tome any time you need.” To the tune of Hotel California: “Welcome to the Library Alexandria, you can glom a tome, any time you need!”
Laura: Batman cheerily greets a coterie of famous scientists who also live here, shaking their hands and congratulating them on their accomplishments, before doing his next favorite thing: spinning around in a sudden rage of fingerpointing and indignation and shouting accusations. Did we learn nothing from the dinosaur people riots, Batman?
David: The scientists used to work for Wayne Enterprises in the 1950s, but they haven’t aged because they moved underground after making a deal with Ra’s al Ghul, took Lazarus baths and are now all as old as their grandchildren, who have grown up playing with dinosaur kids in the Library at Alexandria.
Laura: Batman implies they are bad parents and offers to help reintegrate their children into the upper world with the resources of Wayne Enterprises, which frankly sounds like a lot like bulls*** cultural imperialism. These kids get to hang out with their families in a super-advanced underground world of science, dinosaurs and magic with access to a fountain of immortality. If only some brave hero could return them to the squalor and danger of Gotham City, a place where they have never ever lived! As the world’s greatest detective, Batman has also deduced, apropos of nothing, that the ancient Egyptian gods live in a secret chamber nearby, and demands that the scientists take him there.
Laura: For no reason, cut immediately to Deadman, punching a gnome who is onomatopoeically named PRINCE THOCK.
David: “I AM DEADMAN AND I BRING YOU DEATH ON HOARY WINGS.”
Laura: Thock’s father is named EPOCHH, and when Deadman defeats Thock in battle Deadman demands a key to… something. Naturally, we don’t know what.
David: It is a key to a thing.
Laura: Epochh begs Deadman to return the mystery key to some mystery gatekeeper “for the hie and mien of all creation’s creatures.” You keep using these words, Neal Adams. They do not mean what you think they mean.
David: And then Robin just shows up!
Laura: After he left specifically to go in the opposite direction, yes.
David: They make small talk for two panels, and then he leaves again.
Laura: Deadman gets shot with an arrow for no reason, and then heads off to deliver the mystery key to Batman, who is busy having a fistfight with… Anubis, the jackal-headed ancient Egyptian deity of the afterlife, while serving up some pretty uncharacteristic smack talk.
Laura: “You people.” I have to say, though, for the god of death and darkness, Anubis is a bit of a glass jaw. Batman totally rings his bell. HUCK HUCK HUCK!
David: Well, good thing Anubis has the hippo-man from that Elephantman comic to back him up.
Laura: The scientist keeps trying to calm everyone down and explain the situation, but Batman’s freight train of aggression and personal insults cannot be stopped. All of which leads to a scene where the Dark Knight decides to play the Dozens with an ancient Egyptian hippopotamus god by telling “yo momma” jokes.
Laura: BUUUUURN. When they finally end up talking, we learn that the Egyptian gods were actually products of ancient genetic experiments who sometimes rose to the world above through a fountain, and inspired religious worship.
David: Yet another obscure conspiracy theory?
Laura: Gotta catch ‘em all, David. Then Batman gets a Facetime call on his iPhone from Sensei, and learns that Sensei has taken Robin hostage.
David: So Batman explodes him.
Laura: Batman blows up Robin, yes. When he learns that Robin is standing near his enemy, Batman — BATMAN! — does not hesitate for even a second before detonating the explosives lining the body of his adolescent ward. The gusto with which the Caped Crusader turns his teenage sidekick into a human bomb is maniacal. Question: Did Batman seriously wire Robin to blow up and then send him on a suicide mission?
David: Maybe he always wires him to blow up. JUST IN CASE.
Laura: Is this plan ever mentioned previously?
David: Nothing is ever mentioned previously. Even though everything is in flashback, the whole thing is explained after the fact, or sometimes before the fact, or sometimes in between the facts.
Laura: Would you like to try and predict the resolution of this cliffhanger in advance, David?
David: Something tells me there’s more to this situation, Laura. And that something is the fact that I’ve already read the next issue. But don’t worry. I’m sure if Robin is still alive, the explanation will make all kinds of sense.
Next time on Batman: Odyssey: Who the f*** knows?