Today in my series of Grant Morrison posts I plan to tackle Batman #664 and 665, ’The Three Ghosts of Batman’ and ‘The Black Casebook.’ Rereading these two issues, I felt that they both tried to deal with what Batman fears the most. Of course, this does strike me as somewhat odd because Batman used Thogal to remove every trace of fear in his mind. It does say in a future issue that he used Thogal to hunt down and eat all the traces of fear and doubt he had left. One of those things was death.
But what of his past mistakes and failures? Do they still haunt him? According to these issues, yes they still do.
Batman #664, takes place directly after the conclusion of Batman and Son. This does make me wonder when the Clown at Midnight takes place chronologically. Bruce Wayne meets with Jezebel Jet in a ski lodge called the La Flegere. A quick Google search and the place actually exists, surprisingly.
One of the most important scenes in this issue takes place here. In this scene, Bruce and Jet are talking about their parents – whom they both lost at an early age. She wants Bruce to know that she understands but replies that ‘He got over it.’
Initially, I was put off by this scene. While others might think it’s about time Bruce got over his parent’s death and progressed as a character, I’d say that it says more about his character if he never got over their deaths in the first place. However, after reading RIP, I see that this scene is even more significant than that. This is the point where Bruce realizes that there was something off with Jezebel Jet as he states here in Batman 681:
This makes me wonder, was Bruce lying about getting over his parent’s death? Any ideas, readership?
The second part of this issue begins with Batman back in Gotham. Coming to the aid of a couple of prostitutes and a pimp, Batman takes down a couple of crooked cops from the GCPD. He learns that the pimp in question, DeShawn, has been supplying the GCPD with women who, after they come in for a visit, never come out.
Several things to note of the scene above, a.) more ‘Zur-en-arrh’ scrawled on the walls although they’re obscured by the characters. They make more prominent appearances in this issue but I’ve decided not to include them, and b.) the address of WayneTech seems to be a reference to DC Comics unfortunate old address: ‘666 Fifth Avenue’ or it might be a reference of things to come in Batman #666.
Batman investigates the place and encounters another man dressed in a Batman suit who bares an uncanny resemblance to Bane, who if you’re not familiar with the Knightfall saga, broke Batman’s back and almost retired him in the 90’s. Of course, it wouldn’t be a stretch to believe that his appearance might jostle a couple of feelings of fear and doubt in Batman.
So, what exactly is this Black Casebook that Bruce is talking about? The Black Casebook is where all of Batman’s ’sci-fi’ cases go into. All of his supposed encounters with aliens, monsters, vampires and beasts all go into the Black Casebook. I’m guessing that all of his adventures from the 50’s and the 60’s that were reincorporated are found in the Black Casebook.
DC, capitalizing on the run’s popularity, released a companion paperback called ’Batman: The Black Casebook’ which reprints all the old stories that inspired Grant’s run on Batman. According to the solicitation, the stories contained in the trade paperback are Batman #’s 65, 86, 112, 113, 134, 156 and 162, Detective Comics #‘s 215, 235, 247 and 267, and World’s Finest Comics #89. I might do a separate piece on these stories later.
The impostor Batman beats Batman down and steps on his back with a resounding KRAKT accompanying it. It’s interesting to note that ‘KRAKT’ was the same sound effect they used when Bane broke Batman’s back the first time, pretty neat allusion.
The next issue, 665, picks up with Batman down and out. He can barely stand after the trauma he suffered to his back. Also, at this point I’m sure you’ve noticed that the thought boxes they used for this arc are different from the rest. I’m not sure what they’re meant to signify if they mean anything at all.
Of course, Batman’s batrope was CUT in Hush, so I might be grasping at straws here. In any case, Batman’s helped by one of the prostitutes to ‘Finger and Fourth’ where he has an escape tunnel to his penthouse in Wayne Tower.
As he rests, Bruce has a rather prophetic nightmare where he sees ‘The Three Ghosts of Batman,’ the cop with the gun from the start of this run, the monster Batman who he just faced awhile ago, and another one concealed in the shadow. Damian tells him that ‘The Third Ghost is the worst of them all’ before he wakes up.
Tim’s expression looks like mixture of concern and disappointment – he’s still probably hung up on the Damian revelation from Batman and Son. It also doesn’t help that Bruce said ‘Damian!’ immediately after he woke up. This gets Tim rather riled up to prove himself and he decides to take on the impostor Batman himself.
Meanwhile, Batman as he struggles to make his way up, talks to Alfred about the Black Casebook.
I’m not sure if the adventure Bruce is talking about was featured in the Black Casebook TPB as I don’t own it, but I’ll try to look into it when I make the post about it. Before he heads out, Bruce asks about Tim’s whereabouts and much to his disappointment finds out what Tim decided to do.
Batman intervenes at the right time and saves Robin before he could get seriously injured. Robin secures the women inside the impostor’s lair as Batman battles with him. He wins and begins interrogating the impostor about the whereabouts of the ‘Third Man’ or the ‘Third Ghost of Batman.’ The GCPD cut the interrogation short and threaten Batman. You might recognize some of the officers here, especially the one with freckles – he’s the same cop in the beginning of the story.
I wasn’t planning on adding this scene, but it’s a nice exchange and it’s foreboding in a way:
The issue ends, much like how it begins, with Bruce and Jezebel Jet. As they kiss, it appears that someone else is watching them. When I first read this, I thought it was one of Talia’s men because of a scene with her that I didn’t include in this post. However, now that I’ve read all my way up to RIP, I figure it’s a member of the Black Glove.
So that’s it for these two issues, I might take a two-day break before posting the next part, which is one the issues that I’m really excited to tackle again, Batman #666, ‘Batman in Bethlehem.’ A look at a possible future and the things to come in Batman, Batman RIP, and Batman and Robin! Hopefully you’ll join me for that, stay tuned for more.
Scans from:Batman #664, 665, ‘The Three Ghosts of Batman’ and ‘The Black Casebook’ written by Grant Morrison, art by Andy Kubert and Jesse Delperdang
Batman #681 ‘Hearts in Darkness’ written by Grant Morrison, art by Tony Daniels and Sandu Florea