Batman 10

Alternating Current: Batman 10, Drew and Patrick-NoOToday, Drew and Patrick are discussing Batman 10, originally released June 13th, 2012.

Drew: There’s a moment, right in the middle of this issue, that finds Bruce sitting in his robe, idly handling a pair of shell casings. How these clues fit into his current case isn’t apparent, but as the scene plays out, it slowly becomes clear that these were the casings of the bullets that killed Bruce’s parents. This kind of shocking, resonating reveal first introduced as something innocuous is a microcosm of writer Scott Snyder’s current run on Batman; a magic act he’s able to pull off time and time again, to impossibly greater and greater effect. This issue is an exemplar of that skill, cashing in on a set-up not just 10 issues, but 73 years in the making.

The issue opens with Bruce confronting Maria Powers, a woman he has discovered is a member of the Court of the Owls. He terrifies the holy living hell out of her, but leaves her unharmed in hopes that she might lead him to her husband, another member of the Court. Of course, she does, and of course, that mysterious Owl headquarters turns out to be that same creepy abandoned house Bruce got trapped in all those years ago. Bruce storms in, but he’s too late, he finds all of the Court members present dead, in an apparent mass-suicide.

At least, Alfred believes it was suicide. Bruce isn’t so convinced, and a wild idea leads him back to the morgue, where he finds one of the slabs empty, save a taunting note: “Follow me down the Rabbit hole?” This leads Bruce to Willowood Home for Children, an abandoned psychiatric hospital, proud home of Gotham’s only sinkhole. This is significant because we’ve heard someone mention living over a sinkhole before… one Lincoln March. Yes, Lincoln isn’t dead after all; he was a Talon trainer gone rogue, so he poisoned the Court, placed himself on the Talons’ hit list, and took the Talon serum to revive himself after death.But that’s not all. Lincoln is Bruce’s younger brother!

!

Of course, Bruce doesn’t take Lincoln at his word, and I’d be ready to write his claims off as those of a lunatic, but the back-up clearly confirms this story (or at lest as much as Martha being pregnant with another child and being in a car accident — it’s still possible there will be some kind of crazy third-act double-twist in the next back-up). So, we’re left to accept this new bit of Bruce’s past.

Like the reveal that Dick came from a line of Talons, this doesn’t change anything we already know — Bruce only thought he was an only child — but it re-contextualizes things quite radically. The thing I’m most curious about learning is whether Alfred was aware of Bruce’s long-lost little brother. My guess is no (it would have been rather cold to leave the poor kid in the hospital for all those years, though then again, it’s kind of cold that those donations that kept it running just stopped), but it’s hard to imagine that Thomas and Martha could or would keep this a secret from absolutely everyone. Lincoln suggests that he was hidden so he could recuperate out of the public eye, but then surely close friends and trusted servants could know?

The only sticking point for me on this is the weird thought that Thomas and Martha Wayne, long enshrined as bastions of morality and good patenting, could or would keep a child completely secret from the world for years. Years. Why wouldn’t they tell Bruce? This double-life of secrets doesn’t jibe with the image I have in my head. That doesn’t mean I don’t like it, it just means it’s going to take some adjusting to.

At the very least, I have to respect the massive brass balls Snyder has to pull this off. Knitting in Gotham-wide mythology is one thing, but surprise siblings is a whole other level of revisionism. This idea is very in keeping with the theme of this arc, which has been dead-focused on showing Bruce just how little he really knows. But once again, gigantic family secrets are something entirely different from mysterious criminal organizations. Snyder brilliantly ties the two together to make the whole thing easier to swallow.

Of course, that’s not the only moment of brilliance. Lincoln’s chilly refrain of “who” both reveals his obsession with Batman’s detective skills and acts as a clever allusion to his Owl origins (and one that is subtly foreshadowed when Alfred asks just who Bruce thinks is behind this). It also gives Snyder the opportunity to explain everything to us naturally — something that trips-up many otherwise excellent mysteries as they draw to their close. Those bullet casings I mentioned are also a clever detail, hidden in plain sight, but revealing Bruce’s early beginnings as a master detective (or at least a master clue-collector). I was so caught up in the deft handling of that detail that I failed to notice the one that tied it altogether — the lopsided heart pin Martha is wearing in her portrait.

That pin is another clue Lincoln left in one of his stories — this one tracing back to issue two. All of the breadcrumbs are there for us to see, but Bruce is still able to piece everything together before us. This makes his problem solving abilities both impressive and followable, a tricky knife-edge that very few mystery writers are able to ride.

Of course, any review of Batman would be remiss if it neglected to mention the art. Greg Capullo’s pencils — patricularly his subtle, effecting layouts — are a pleasure; Jonathan Glapion’s ink work is clean but evocative; and FCO Plascencia’s colors are versatile in their moodiness. In short, everyone is firing on all cylinders, delivering images that range from the oaky warmth of the Court’s hideout to the chilly austerity of Batman remembering the horrors of the run-down children’s hospital.

The art is so striking and so clear, it’s difficult to say where the emphasis lies. It hits all its marks with awe-inspiring style. I suppose that’s another microcosm of this Batman arc. We’ve said it before, and I’m sure we’ll say it again, this is a Batman story for the ages.

Patrick: It is, no doubt, the shocking reveal that Lincoln March is Bruce Wayne’s long-lost brother for which this issue will be remembered (and that is remarkable), but there’s so much here that anchors us in the Batman world we’ve always known – the one that doesn’t surprise us and cause us to throw our e-readers across the room in disbelief. It’s okay, I threw it into a pile of dirty laundry: only superficial damage.

I’m talking about little details: like Mr. and Mrs. Powers. I don’t know if these are characters that typically appear in Batman comics, but the Powers family is a big player in the Neo-Future-Gotham presented in Batman Beyond. Martha Wayne also mentions to the mayor that he should back off unless he wants to tangle with the legal teams of both the Waynes and Kanes. Now, just dropping the Kane name makes me feel comfy and cozy in my perception of Gotham. I didn’t know that Martha was a Kane by birth, but simply laying in that detail cemented the reality of Gotham City. There’s something really magical and grounding about throwing around these familiar family names – like I’m spending time in a place I know, surrounded by people I know.

But since it is remarkable (look at us: we can’t stop remarking!), let’s address the reveal. Drew,  you bring up a lot of good questions about the possible benevolence of the Waynes’ decision to hide Thomas Wayne, Jr.’s birth from seemingly EVERYONE. I’ll add one more question to that pile: who chooses their second son for their namesake? But seriously, the sort of unnerving questions it raises about Thomas and Martha’s morality are kind of amazing. If they did something like this, however unintentionally cruel, the act was cruel nonetheless. As comic book fans, we have this image in our heads of Thomas and Martha as paragons of virtue — nearly perfect human beings and philanthropists. Bruce shares this view of his parents. But the interesting thing about your parents: you always think they’re perfect until the day you realize they aren’t. This revisionist history help the audience experience change in perspective right along with Bruce. That some effective thematic monkey business, right there.

I’m also really impressed with the way this issue says goodnight to the Night of Owls and ushers in the next leg of Batman’s adventure. Clearly, we’re not through with the owls yet, but there’s a excellent, definitive panel that shows Bruce watching the sun rise. I making some assumptions here, but this is the first sunlight we’ve seen in an issue of Batman since well before that sonofabitch got lost in the Labyrinth. I read this as the sun rising and marking the end of the Night of the Owls.

I also really like that Bruce took off the batsuit, but hasn’t put it away yet – it’s just draped over the chair. Batman and I do the same thing with our clothes when we’re too tired to clean up after ourselves.

I want to mention how much better I think this piece of the back-up story is. Not only is the action more compelling that the first issue of the Fall of the House of Wayne, Rafael Albuquerque’s art has ample room to demonstrate his prowess at depicting more subtle emotion in the characters. Last month, there were mostly just drawings of a wide-eyed Jarvis, and that’s fine, if a little one-note. He even manages to convey value though simple posing and facial expressions. Look at this image of young Bruce:

The text here is hammering home the importance of the Wayne Legacy and Martha’s desire to build a better would for Bruce, but the image sells it all at once. Look at him – that’s a kid that deserves a better world than the one he’s got – certainly better than the one he’s going to get. There’s something so heartbreaking about knowing that this carefree, precious little boy will grow up to be Batman. It’s a stunning drawing, and I just love the tone it sets early in this back-up story.

So, what’s next? Bat vs. Owl battling to the death in a crumbling mental hospital? That would be an appropriately epic way to end this chapter of Batman’s saga. Reading this makes me think of what we have in store for us with the Talon series. The Talon that we’ll be following is neither Lincoln March or William Cobb, which is weird. Those are now my two go-to Talons, and certainly the two that have the most emotionally loaded connections to the characters I already love. It”ll take another mean feat of magic to make me love this new Talon the way I love the two I’ve already mentioned. But if any such warlocks are up to the challenge, it’s James Tynion IV and Scott Snyder.

For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page.  Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore.  If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to DC’s website and download issues there.  There’s no need to pirate, right?

26 comments on “Batman 10

  1. The thing that gets me is, based on how young Bruce is in the backup, Lincoln must have been at Wildwood for years. Even if he hadn’t recuperated in that time, I can’t see much reason to keep him a secret other than shame. BUT anytime I’ve ever pointed anything like this out, I’ve been made to eat my words. I’m very good at being wrong about this kind of thing.

    • There’s a lot of blank space in Lincoln’s past – and some of it obviously involves OWLS, so I’d be willing to be that they actively hid him, just so they would have a secret son of the Waynes in their camp.

      • I was just saying to Drew, I can see this car accident resulting in an emergency baby delivery, thus the need for him to be in the hospital. However, the Court could easily fake and hide his death, citing complications from birth or something. They were raising him as their own, a true child of the Owls.

  2. Between Lincoln’s name actually being Tommy and the sibling relationship with Bruce, I’m smelling an awful lot of Hush in this development (spoiler, I guess.)

    Let us discuss.

    • Hush is a little different though. We have no indication of Lincoln’s psyche has a child, for all we know he was fine or maybe a little autistic or something until the Owls got to him. Tommy Elliot was nucking futs at an early age, trying to kill his own parents. He also blames Thomas and by extension Bruce for that not happening.

      • a) Tommy ELLIOTT, no?
        b) Yes, obviously the characters are different. But that was the first case I remember of attempting to tell a “Batman’s brother” story. They have the added similarity of having a vendetta against momma and poppa Wayne for not doing everything they could for him.

      • Tom Elliot, and I never saw him as totally nuts as a kid. He just hated his parents for forcing their “idealized” life onto him. Like the Aristotle quotes engrained into his brain by his mother. He just took A HUGE measure in trying to kill them in order to escape their world and create his own.

        I find him very interesting, as I do with Lincoln (but in a different way)
        I thought of Lincoln like Harvey 2.0 and he and Bruce had conversations that FELT like they came from Dini’s Two-Face or even Nolan’s Dent.

        That final “Who Am I” monologue felt like the same vein as Eckhart’s last stand as Two-Face in The Dark Knight. This, by NO means is negative. I loved it. But a “Hush” or a “Thomas Elliot”, March is not. Now… a Wayne, this might be legitimate.

        • I saw a little bit of Dent in Lincoln back in those early issues of the series, but I don’t know if I see the connection to two-face at this point in the series. Lincoln/Thomas knows damn well who he is – he’s not conflicted at all. If anything, he has a singularity of purpose that rivals even Batman’s. The “Who am I?” speech has a lot more to do with taunting the world’s greatest detective (as does his apparent clue-dropping throughout).

          I also remember in our write-up of Batman 1-3, Drew and I complained that Bruce and Lincoln looked a little too similar. It was like our only complaint about Greg’s art, but now it’s clear that there’s a reason the two men looked basically the same; they’s brothers.

  3. This issue was pretty much perfect: it deserves to be read over and over and I can’t wait to sit down and read the entire storyline through in one sitting. I knew ahead of time that there was a big reveal in this issue, and I was sweating, worrying about who it was. This was bigger than I ever expected.

    That said, let me drop some comic history on you. My apologies if you’ve already seen this (It’s all over the comic review sites right now); it’s too good to pass up.

    Basically, Thomas Wayne Jr. is not a brand new character, and the ways he’s been used in the past make the work Snyder put into this reveal all the cooler.

    Thomas Wayne Jr. first appeared in an issue of “World’s Finest” in the late 70s or early 80s (pre-Crisis). His backstory was pretty similar to what we find here: he was left in a mental hospital at a young age, and then trained to be an unwitting criminal by the people who ran the hospital (obviously the Court of Owls are a Snyder creation and their involvement in the story is all new). Batman and Deadman teamed up to take him down, and in the end Deadman took over his body permanently.

    The story was never spoken of again; in Deadman’s next appearance he had no body again. Then Crisis on Infinite Earths happened, and Thomas was wiped out of history.

    Yet he still appeared one more time, in Morrison’s “Earth 2” graphic novel from the early 2000s. Here Thomas Wayne Jr. came from an alternate Earth, the Crime Syndicate’s Earth, where the Justice League was the bad guys. Martha and Bruce Wayne were murdered in the mugging, leaving Thomas and Thomas Jr. alive. Thomas Jr. blamed his father for the crime, and became the villain Owlman in order to strike out at him, beginning his life of crime.

    Synder is a brilliant myster writer (as you’ve mentioned) to string together the mystery he has, leaving real clues without ever making it too obvious. But to me, the fact that he incorporated so many facets of an older character into the story (March’s new suit even looks like the Owlman costume) without ruining the reveal makes it even cooler to me.

    • As always man, thank you for your extended insight on this. We’re proud of our relative outsider status when it comes to monthly comics, but that means we end up missing out on obscure details like this one. It’s got to be tough to be a comics writer and have to appease both people like you that have all this baggage from years and years of comics history AND assholes like me that demand to see accessible comics with innovative twists and turns. Scott Snyder is the real deal, man.

  4. Patrick mentions that dawn clearly signaling the end of the Night of the Owls, but how do we think the Annual fits in here? Was stopping Freeze a detour between issues 9 and 10, or do you think that all happened after he discovered the Court’s dead dinner party? I’m inclined to go with the latter option, and I suppose ultimately, it doesn’t matter, but it’s kind of weird to think about how Bruce’s epic final battle with the Court was interrupted by creepy old Victor icking on some chicksicle.

    • It’s possible that stopping by Wayne Tech to check on Freeze (and freak him OUT) was the last stop Batman made that night. It’s evident from that sunrise that this is the first time Bruce has gotten to sit down in a LONG time. The only other shit that’s going on that late at night are the events of Catwoman 9, right?

      • Well, things get weird there, too, since the Penguin is in his townhouse in Catwoman, but at the Iceberg Lounge in the Annual. Freeze’s meet-up with him must have taken place a good bit later than him being attacked in his home.

        • hahaha. What if the Penguin was a Tyler Durden-level delusion (also spoiler), but one held by everyone on Earth? There is no Penguin! He exists in the hearts and minds of all of us!

        • Ha! Society needs this myth of The Penguin to make us feel safe about the super villains of the world. As long as we all believe in one bumbling and innocuous villain, the rest of them seem less powerful by association.

        • Reading the Penguin has gotten easier for me the more I just accept that I will always hear him as Burgess Meredith in my head. Then he’s even better.

  5. I’m a little worried about how this extended bout with the Owls and new reveal will affect Bruce long-term. He is looking a little raggedy; did you see all that stubble on his face? He is blowing off Bruce Wayne work stuff and letting himself go. What kind of Batman will we have once this is all over? I think he was broken in the labrynth and remade, and I’m looking forward to seeing what exactly he’s been remade into.

    • Snyder has been pretty coy about Lincoln’s actual identity. It’s possible Bruce is as in charge as he thought he was at the end of issue 9. BUT it’s also possible he’s been out of touch since FOREVER. The fact that we’re not sure which it is is a testament to just how awesome this story is.

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