Thursday, 18 June 2009

THIS ONE'S FOR CHEESE-FIEND!

Regular readers of this blog, were the existence of such people not made impossible by this blog not being regularly written, would know that I've been putting together a chronology of the current rum goings on round Batman's way.

The first part's here.
And the second part's here.

You're reading the third part now. I'd link to it as well, but that'd trap you in an endless circle from which you'd never escape, so I shall not. Great is my mercy.

Not so great, however, that I'm prepared to extend it to myself and skip over Battle for the Cowl, the subject of today's installment. Though I'd strongly advise that most readers do.

Where Morrison left the matter of the Bat-succession in the last issue of RIP, Dick Grayson was holding the cape and cowl and taking up a whole page in order to look resolute and accepting of what must come. When Morrison returned to the matter of the Bat-succession in Batman and Robin, Dick Grayson had become Batman, commenting that he's always known this day would come. Inbetween these two "DICK GRAYSON IS THE NEW BATMAN!" moments, DC decided to publish a seventeen-issue event asking the question "WHO IS THE NEW BATMAN?"

It's those seventeen issues (two of which are pretty good) we're concerned with today, so enough with the hatin' and on to the uber-geeky pedantry which, by my very engagement with, robs me of any claim to be able to make critical judgements in the first place. Tally ho!

Right, lets start with the core mini - Battle for the Cowl #1-3 and the natural assumption that they occur in that order. Later on we might find ourselves in the position of wondering which pages from Cowl#2 take place before the final scenes of Cowl#1, but lets try and put that off as long as possible.

The two Gotham Gazette bookends are nice and clear too. Batman Dead? starts us off before any of the events of the main mini (Arkham's in disarry from the events of RIP but not yet exploded) and Batman Alive! wraps things up at the end.

Then there's a couple of stories which are only very losely related to the rest of the story... Secret Six#9 is set in a Gotham that's unprotected and in need of a Batman. There's no exploding Arkhams, burning cities or Jason Todds to tie us into any timeframe from the main series. It seems to make sense to me to place this before the main series.

Battle for the Cowl: Oracle: The Cure is notable for a number of things, among them the revelation that the Anti-Life Equation is good for you if you put it inside diamonds and that pixellated pug piss can return the dead to life. It's also notable for having no narative connection to Battle for the Cowl, other than Jim Gordon mumbling something about the situation at Arkham. This 'situation' can't be the explosion of the place that occurs in Cowl#1, since Barbara here has just moved back to Gotham as is getting little catch-up answerphone messages from Dick, rather than yet working with him to orchestrate a Network of urban superheroes. So the 'situation' has to be the one alluded to in Batman Dead? - that, following the Joker/Black Glove's occupation of Arkham, it's out of service while its inhabitants are all driven randomly around the city in poorly guarded buses.

So with Secret Six and Oracle both occuring before the main event. I propse we place Oracle first. that way if anyone ever does read the issues in the order we're generating here, they'll have the Secret Six issue to take away the taste of the Oracle mini and perhaps give them the strength to continue with their day.

Both are going before Batman Dead? in a shocking and controversial move that callously ruins its bookendyness, but has to be done in order to keep the scenes of Bullock and Harper's investigation close to the events of Azreal (That investigation also explictly places the entirity of Battle for the Cowl before Harper's involvement in the current Superman books, but that's data for a bigger project) .

There's another colon-heavy three issue mini to slot in, Battle for the Cowl: Azrael: Death's Dark Night, and it's quite eager to help. Issue three tells us that the whole mini takes place over one night, and that that night is Thursday. Issue one shows us the moment from Cowl#1 where the Batsignal is lit with the letters 'R.I.P' scratched into the middle of it. Nice and simple.

There's one little problem though...Barbara and Dick have a conversation about whether or not Jason Todd might be this story's killer, when in Battle for the Cowl Dick doesn't yet know that Jason is active. This problem goes away though when you notice that at no point in Azrael do they talk about 'The Jason Todd Batman' or anything, just the possibility that Jason Todd was the killer. So it still fits with Dick not knowing Jason is BadBats.

Lets stop a minute and see where we've got to...

  • Oracle: The Cure 1-3
  • Secret Six #9
  • Gotham Gazette: Batman Dead?
  • Battle for the Cowl #1
  • MEANWHILE....Azrael: Death's Dark Knight #1-3
  • Battle for the Cowl #2
  • Battle for the Cowl #3
  • Gotham Gazette: Batman Alive?
Right, just the one-shots now, of which there are several. The Commissioner Gordon one sees Jimbo held captive by Mister Freeze in a clearly marked Cyronics lab where the GCPD don't think to look despite it being the most prominent building visible from the windows of their offices. Freeze is determined to teach Gordon a lesson about how one bad day can change a person's life. This story, which they somehow restrained themselves from calling 'The Chilling Joke', is referenced in Cowl #2 but is subsequent to the Arkham explosion in Cowl #1, so has to occur between the pages of that first issue.

The Man-Bat one-shot in which...oh I don't care... in which Man-Bat does things, also takes place the night that the RIP-marked Batsignal is lit, so takes place alongside events in Cowl #1 and Azrael.

The Arkham Asylum one-shot takes place an indeterminate amount of time after the place has been blown up. The fires are out and it's safe to walk around in there. Since this is, along with Secret Six #9, one of the two good comics in the whole event, I'm sticking it right at the end for similar reasons to why I put Secret Six after Oracle.

Ha! One two one-shots to fit in now! What couple possibly go wrong?

Here's how events play out in Battle for the Cowl #2...

Two Face and Penguin are oblivious to the return of the Black Mask, blaming each other for their misfortunes.

This is happening at the same time as Dick is figuring out that BadBats is Jason.

Later, Tim in the Bat-costume discovers Jason's BadBatcave.

Catwoman shows up and figures out he's not Batman. She doesn't however know who BatBats is.
BadBats turns up, pistol whips her, and ends her involvement in Battle for the Cowl.

Here's how events play out in The Underground #1...

Penguin knows all about Black Mask's involvement and has hired the Riddler to find him.
Selina runs into BadBats.

"He's trying to kill me," she accurately observes, "It's not Robin. He was wearing a different suit when I ran into him yesterday."

BadBats kicks her in the vagina (there's a familiar theme emerging here), ending her involvement in The Underground.

This can just about work. On meeting BadBats, she talks about having met Tim Bats yesterday...but the only time we see her meet TimBats in Cowl is during a fight with BadBats.

That seemed to have been the historic first team-up between Selina and TimBats, and ends with Tim 'fatally stabbed' with a batarang and Selina unconcious. Fortunately, Jason hit her from behind so it still works that she sees his costume as being unfamiliar in Underground. All we've got to do is suppose that she somehow escapes from having been knocked out in the middle of the lair of a torturer who starves his victims to death, without learning who he was or giving much thought to him until a chance meeting the following day.

The Network one-shot occurs simulateously with The Underground, as we see Oracle monitoring its events.

There we go then. And here's the full updated chronology...

PART ONE - BATMAN BEATS THE DEVIL.
  • DCU #0
  • Detective Comics #846-50 ('Heart of Hush')
  • Batman #676-8 ('RIP' parts 1-3)
  • Robin #175-6
  • Batman #679-681 ('RIP' parts 4-6)
PART TWO - BATMAN'S MISSING FOR A BIT AND EVERYONE OVER-REACTS.
  • Batman and the Outsiders #11-14
  • Nightwing #147-151 ('The Great Leap') - concurrent with early chapters of 'Search for a Hero'
  • Robin #177-82 ('Search for a Hero')
  • Dectective #851, Batman #684 ('The Last Days of Gotham') - concurrent with later chapters of 'Search for a Hero'
PART THREE - BATMAN KILLS GOD.
  • That flashback sequence from #683
  • Final Crisis #1-3
  • Superman Beyond #1-2
  • Final Crisis #4
  • Batman #682-3
  • Final Crisis #5-7
PART FOUR - WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE CAPED CRUSADER?
  • Batman #686
  • Detective Comics #853
PART FIVE - BATMAN APPEARS DEAD FOR A BIT AND EVERYONE OVER-REACTS.
  • Nightwing #152-3
  • Detective #852, Batman #685 ('Reconstruction/Catspaw')
  • Batman and the Outsiders Special #1
  • The Outsiders #15-20 ('The Deep') - provisional placement.
  • Robin #183
PART SIX - EVERYONE BATTLES OVER CAWL, A TRADITIONAL WELSH LAMB AND LEEK STEW.
  • Oracle: The Cure #1-3
  • Secret Six #9
  • Gotham Gazette: Batman Dead?
  • Battle for the Cowl #1
  • Man-Bat #1, Commissioner Gordon #1 and Azrael: Death's Dark Knight #1-3 (all concurrent with the above)
  • Battle for the Cowl #2
  • The Underground #1/The Network #1
  • Battle for the Cowl #3
  • Arkham Asylum #1
  • Gotham Gazette: Batman Alive!