Batman, Inc. #2 Annotations: RESURRECTOR!
Welcome back for the second installment of ComicsAlliance's annotations of Grant Morrison and Yanick Paquette's criminally fun Batman, Inc. This issue we'll see hints at the origin of Lord Death Man, the fate of Mr. Unknown, heartbreak in an ambulance and a gigantic gorilla wearing a Ninja Turtle mask.
IN THIS ISSUE: Batman and Catwoman protect Jiro Osamu, disciple of legendary Japanese crimefighter Mr. Unknown, from an attack on his secret identity by supervillain Lord Death Man. After it's revealed Batman fought Lord Death Man back in Gotham, back when he called himself Death Man, it's shown he's gotten an upgrade from faking death to literally resisting death and then goes after Shiny Happy Aquazon of the Super Young Team. After a climactic battle involving Batman, Catwoman, Lord Death Man, Aquazon and Jiro Osamu in a Mr. Unknown outfit, Jiro fakes his death and becomes the Batman of Japan, while it's revealed that Catwoman came with Bruce on this trip to steal a set of priceless jewels -- pressure-sensitive ones that liquefy in low-pressure environments.
Pages 1-5: There's really not much to say here other than to remark on what a cleverly staged action bit this is, as well as how well Paquette pulls it off. His work is reminding me more and more of J.G. Jones, and that's a pretty damn good thing.
Page 6: The pigeons hanging out on the gigantic squid which is dripping water out of the apartment of whatever poor bastard lived underneath Jiro's girlfriend Misaki's... that is a really, really fantastic panel.
Page 7: So the Lord Death Man we see here actually is the Death Man from the original Bob Kanigher take, just filtered through the lens of Jiro Kuwata's take. We also find out a pretty interesting detail: Lord Death Man ain't Japanese, a fact reflected in his dialogue this issue being regular style rather than italicized like all the Japanese. (Why italicization was used is beyond me - it's kind of confusing, I don't know what's wrong with the old <> signs). Bruce hints that he knows Selina's true motivation for coming along, which was seeded (and I completely missed) in the panel of her watching the Poseidonis Jewels on television last issue.
Page 8: The John Does were on Mr. Unknown's computer last issue, in the same panel as Bruce noticing the hydrochloric acid - while certainly obtuse, the clues were all there in that panel. Shiny Happy Aquazon we last saw in Final Crisis as part of the Super Young Team.
Page 9: Interestingly, it appears that Mr. Unknown basically invented the Batman Beyond dynamic - yet another debt, albeit retroactive, that show owes to Japan. Bruce is using reverse psychology on Jiro here, stirring him up on purpose.
Page 10: Bruce talked about Death Man getting upgrades back on page seven, and here's the result. The original (Lord) Death Man was adept at faking his own death, but not at literally resurrecting himself after getting shot in the head - he seems to have a level of healing factor. Where he obtained this upgrade is unclear, but a connection with Kultek/Leviathan and their metahuman factory in Yemen from The Return seems very likely.
Page 11: As I mentioned earlier, this issue, Lord Death Man seems to stop speaking in Japanese and start randomly rambling in English about death, which to a certain degree seems even creepier than usual since the people he's casually mowing down can't even understand him. He also staples shut his own neck, which is pretty hardcore.
Page 12: Think about this: Lord Death Man gets shot in the head and falls out of a multi-story apartment building, goes to the hospital, recovers, gets out, blows up a bus full of kids, steals a car and starts driving recklessly through buildings and other cars in Tokyo.
Before Grant Morrison started on this title, he mentioned that Inc. was inspired by his experience with open-world videogames, and let me tell you, that paragraph I just wrote sounds like every drunk and high college kid playing a quick no-plot, all-carnage game of Grand Theft Auto between classes. Lord Death Man's power set is basically to respawn like Niko Bellic, while he's being pursued by a Batman in a dark, very articulated suit that's more than a bit reminiscent of his pseudorealistic outfit from the Arkham Asylum videogame. This is the Batman comic of the Xbox era.
You can also read Lord Death Man as a riff on Mark Millar and Steve McNiven's over-the-top Nemesis character, which was itself a riff on the over-the-top Joker of The Dark Knight.
Page 13: "One mistake?" Selina, you've made hundreds. Not much to comment on with this page except that Paquette continues to absolutely kill it - Batman hanging from the helicopter is a great panel, but the dude about to eat some ramen with Lord Death Man about to fly through the window is even greater.
There's two ways to read the Aquazon speech - one is that the Kingdom of Poseidon here actually was a real ancient kingdom. The other is that it's the Poseidonis that was actually the capital of Atlantis where Aquaman ruled from, and Aquazon is just totally ignorant, since that place wasn't ancient at all and only recently was destroyed by the Spectre in Infinite Crisis.
Pages 16-17: Jiro's big hero moment saving Aquazon, possibly setting up a future romance since he's obviously done with Misaki. Lord Death Man continues to brag about his newgotten powers; again, I'm guessing this is Morrison tying this arc into the overall megastory of Inc.
Pages 18-19: I think this is the first time we've seen Catwoman put something IN a safe.
Page 20: Bruce is still being coy to both his allies and the reader about the specifics of his mystery plan, and why he's assembled Batman Incorporated. This entire vibe - Batman has a mysterious plan and rallies the people around him to execute it, and nobody knows what it is - is exceptionally reminiscent of the extensive Chuck Dixon run on the character in Detective Comics and every sidekick book of the '90s, including the technofetishism and the constant international travel. The difference is, this time, Batman isn't a dick.
Batman Incorporated seems to involve as many elements as a secret society as it does as a corporation - also note that Bruce is going to swear in all of his operatives the same way he swore in Robin so many years ago in Detective Comics #38.
Page 21: Lord Death Man in a lunar satellite is bound to come up later, especially since the character is so damn entertaining and Morrison rarely wastes characters like these, especially with such obvious setups for later stories. I, for one, look very much forward to the Batman in Space arc. Perhaps it'll involve Brother Eye, which Morrison showed Damian using in the future in Batman #700.
Of course, Morrison has to pay off the Catwoman thing, revealing that she was there to steal the priceless jewels (which seems obvious in retrospect, if somewhat against the Brubaker/Pfeifer conception of the character) and also that the priceless jewels liquefy when they're not in deep-sea pressure. You'd also think someone as smart as Selina would have figured this out beforehand and prepared for it, in all honesty - I mean, these are famous priceless jewels, couldn't you just Google or Lexle them or whatever and get a pressurized box beforehand? Wouldn't whoever hired her want to warn her about that?
For that matter, who DID hire her? Is this just a random one-off grab to give her a "naughty" reason to go with Bruce to Japan, or could the identity of the purchaser have something to do with the overall mystery?
And man, Bruce loves to drink now.
Page 22: I have to admit, I didn't expect Jiro to straight-up wear a Batman costume, just put a little logo on his shoulder or something. I can't imagine a lot of the crimefighters Bruce wants to recruit will be down with totally submerging their own crimefighting identities to put on the cape and cowl. If that is his plan, it's interesting that he's basically stolen Doctor Hurt's idea from his Three Batmen - except rather than try to recreate his own psychology and trauma, he's just finding people inspired by him and giving them his seal of approval if they don't suck at their job.
His enemy here is Professor Gorilla, a superintelligent, superpowered gorilla also imported from Jiro Kuwata's Batman manga.