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Just did a quick reread of Deathstroke #5

It's the one where, for byzantine semi-Xanatos Gambit reasons, Deathstroke kidnaps Damian and puts him in the world's slowest and most useless death trap. It's a very fun issue for two reasons.

One: when Ravager tells Batman she'll tell him where Robin is if he helps them, he just jumps from the roof and says No. Lost boys are a dime a dozen. I'll just get another one.

Two: As Robin and Deathstroke are lazily sort of pretending to try to get into each other's head (while the latter is "watching" the former "drown" (it's all very Xanatos)) and Slade wonders what the League of Assassins did to Damian, he answers Oh... You wanna be my dad now?! Fine -- And then he *exposes his throat to the camera, smiles the most most psychopathic smile you could imagine, and says* -- Come on in here and slash my neck. Then I can be your kid, too.

The first time I saw it, my reaction was a silent but heartfelt emotion that can best be expressed by the nearly-mystical term Dude.

My takeaways are that 1. Bruce was obviously playing to Rose's psychological issues, 2. he's a very emotion-driven man who can also be almost psychopathically disciplined when he thinks it's the right call, and 3. Bruce has nothing on Damian's unbridled psychological savagery. Bruce grew up a nice person (with, I postulate, underlying issues), got hurt, and trained himself into somebody capable of violence. Damian was hurt from day zero, and was trained all of his life for violence of every kind. He had to figure out and learn how to express kindness and caring — every animal he saves is a Fuck You to his entire upbringing — because he grew up being taught otherwise.

Damian was abused by most definitions of the term. It's not cool, it's not nice, it didn't make him a better person. He speaks interpersonal brutality — the deliberate, forceful establishing of hierarchy — with the same unconscious fluency than Cass speaks hand-to-hand violence, and for similar reasons, and although both of them have gotten much better at communicating in other ways, it's still their mother tongue.

Anyway. I'm, as usual, overthinking a couple of lines of dialogue. The short version is that Damian was raised with a very unique "operating system" for interpersonal interactions, one that's very painful and unhealthy, and that has as a minor and totally-not-worth-it side effect his capacity to be brutal in ways that, say, Jason could never be.

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Mixed results on Project: Responsibility

I just finished reading the entire Gotham Knights run.

On the other hand, I didn't screw up my sleep schedule too badly.

Takeaways: 1. I still have to work on my self-control thing. 2. I find Hush, Prometheus, and their plot lines kind of boring. 3. Between O.M.A.C., the War Games plans, and the Tower of Babel plans (just off the top of my head) at some point Bruce needs to start figuring out a. his IT security sucks, and b. until he fixes it, he should stop deliberately building informational weapons of mass destruction.

PS: I blame movie!Tony Stark for his Ultron more than I blame comics!Hank Pym for his. Pym was building an AI that went exponential very quickly — he's not blameless, mind you. Stark was building a giant robot army *and* he connected to his systems an incredibly powerful piece of alien machinery he didn't have the barest understanding of. And then he. Literally. Went. To. A. Party.

Whether the world needed or not the Sokovia Accords, it very much needs a Somebody Keep Tony Stark On Track Protocol.

No, not you, Banner. Somebody with a better lab safety record.

People, I just had the best idea ever. Put movie!Hank Pym in charge of Tony. They'll *both* hate it, but Pym will make damn sure Tony doesn't do anything dangerous just because it'll annoy him. And whenever it looks like Tony's starting to grow on him (doubtful, but they could bond on tech stuff), just send Hope to work with them for a while. Even if Tony doesn't hit on her, Hank will think he's doing it by not doing it, or something, and then he'll make Tony manually check all 1,129 parts of whatever device they are building.

Tony's too rich to be bound by regulations and too Tony to be bound by common sense, and his warmth wrapped inside trauma clothed by charm hidden by swagger makes him too difficult to have anybody supervise him for long. They fall for him in one way or another.

But Hank Pym. Oh, the first Stark Hanks sees when he looks at Tony isn't Tony, and he doesn't like the second one any better. I'll pay good money to see that, and I'm quite sure both SHIELD and Stark's stockholders would as well.

There, world saved.

Being reasonable sucks

Just went through fourteen out of seventy-four old issues of Gotham Knights, and in a Bruce-like display of nearly superhuman strength of will, I'm going to pace myself and read the rest during the week instead of staying awake and reading all of them. Which I could totally do, except that it'd throw off my schedule.

I have to keep reminding myself of that, because, if you never read them, Gotham Knights is gold. There's a lot batfam character and relationships studies — an understatement — but if I have to be honest with you, the main draw is often the Dick-and-Tim sideshow of absolutely ridiculous, sometimes wordless banter.

...

I was going to say that although Tim during the whole "Bruce's not dead" Red Robin era (not the more recent insanity) is perhaps the archetypal expression of what I think he can be, I keep this Tim in my heart, because he's an earnest dork with a goofy sense of humor and I miss that.

But. While writing a bit more about Tim's search for Bruce (spoiler alert: Bruce wasn't dead), I suddenly realized something. Remember that awesome/awful birthday gift from Bruce in the form of a fake message from the future that made Tim question the sanity and morals of everybody he loved as a first step in the next stage of his training in detection? Tim's Bruce's not dead realization was very much close to that: a fragment of information out of time (in this case, paintings from the past) that he observed and deduced from in a way very few other people would've, regardless of their smarts, partly because Tim's a natural at this, and partly because Bruce helped him train in that way.

I don't know what I find more pleasing, the fact that what was arguably Tim's second legendary feat of detection (the first being of course figuring out Batman's identity) was so similar to that first lesson, or the irony that what he figured out was that the guy who had mocked him during for having bought the idea of time travel was indeed lost in time.

I don't think it was meant as a deliberate reference, but if it was, kudos.

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It's a deconstruction... no, it's a deliberately ironical shattering of Karnak. First Ellis builds him up as this cool hyper-competent philosophical badass, and then he finds the flaw in him, kicks it very, very hard, and lets us see the cracks.

It's a peek at the what's behind the curtain of cool-looking ultraviolence and nihilism. From a psychological, emotional point of view, Karnak isn't well. That's a rather ballsy move to make after you rebuilt a C-list character into a niche favorite; it's done to Bruce Wayne in about one issue out of five (to an extreme, interesting, but probably inconsistent degree in I am Suicide), but then, Batman is Batman, with his huge cultural standing and long-accepted spectrum of psychological descriptions from Batman:TAS "good, mostly sane man coping with lingering trauma and depression in a weird way" to the late Miller's clinical psychopath.

A last, short, but spoilery paragraph.Collapse )

I don't watch Gotham, but

That conversation between Bruce and Alfred at the end of the latest episode was stolen from my dream Bruce Wayne show about Bruce between Crime Alley and Year One. Of course, that show wouldn't have taken place in Gotham (I don't buy that Bruce never came back to the city during his travels, but he certainly didn't stay there), the costumed rogues wouldn't exist yet, etc, etc — basically, it'd be Bruce traveling over the world, learning stuff, and getting in and out of trouble along the way. To comply with the structure of contemporary TV, an slowly developing common threat could be the League of Shadows (without ever mentioning Ra's or Talia, although cf below) as a worldwide shadow empire Bruce keeps finding about the deeper he goes into the hidden world of the powerful and the hyper-skilled.

So he sleuths, finds more about them, they try to recruit him (they are always in the lookout for the promising and angry) he either fakes acceptance or refuses flatly, eventually they put a bounty on his head, and he makes a counter-challenge: he'll fight their team of assassins in Gotham, all at once, and if he wins they'll leave the city alone.

So he returns (we're fucking with Year One, I don't care), there's an epic Batman-in-civvies urban battle he wins but barely and not without severe injuries, and a voice he first heard in Paris while training with Ducard says from the shadows You've earned your city a respite, Detective. But you cannot save it, not with the rules you've set for yourself. No man can.

He somehow gets himself to the Manor and sits in the study bleeding to death, thinking the Demon was right, even with everything he has learned he cannot save Gotham, no human being can... and then the damned bat flies through the window and lands of the bust. Bruce smiles that creepy smile of his.

Then I shall become a bat.

Cut do dark. The sound of bat wings flapping. End of the series.

A side benefit of the series would be that it makes Ra's behavior toward Bruce quite more understandable. He doesn't mess a lot with Gotham because Bruce sort of won that during the challenge, and he's been thinking of him as a potential recruit (and then, progressively, more) even as he began training. Plus, he first sort-of met him as a student of Henri Ducard, so he thinks of him as the Detective. I'd call his feelings vaguely avuncular, if Ra's weren't, well, Ra's.

Anyway, yeah, at some point during the first episodes something like Gotham's final scene of Bruce with Alfred takes place, because that kid, at that moment, looked very very wee!Bruce (except of course the context isn't that Alfred is training Bruce, but perhaps rather that Alfred is going along with Bruce training).
My main takeaways are that Jae Lee and Ben Oliver totally kick the art out of the park during the first issues, and I wish I could read more of the older (Earth-2?) world. I know they eventually got Darkseid' to pieces (and then there was a very long and silly migration and whatnot I only sort of followed), but I think TPTB made that happen because Batman and Superman had sort of won.

But mostly, the art was gorgeous; moody, strange, dramatic. As an example, here's Bruce Wayne (in disguise) sitting in a park bench:



It's all like that. The perfect style for that pair of over-dramatic prima donnas (in all fairness, everybody and everything looks over-dramatic drawn that style).

Justice League: Constantine

As Zatanna would say, hem. I liked a couple of bits at the beginning, but (a) it became much more traditional as it progressed, (b) Doylean reasons aside, Batman shouldn't have been there, and (c) I'm a bit done with John Constantine. I like conmen (conpeople? confolk?) as much as anybody else, but once you've got a reputation for it you're just a sort of sad sonofabitch people deal with when there's no other bloody option, and trust at their own idiocy and peril. Which, by the way, is how I feel about the more abrasive and fuckedup versions of Batman. A Bruce Wayne who's a workaholic who tends to mismanage personal relationships — totally in character. A Bruce Wayne with trust issues and close to about half a dozen people at most? Understandable. A Batman who every now and then does a carefully planned offhand piece of badassery to remind superpowered enemies and allies that he's the Bat? Probably part of his job; he wouldn't be quite so effective if people remembered he's just a terrifyingly capable and resourceful human being (although, as plan B, I wonder what'd happen if a Bruce Wayne decided to go the other way? He makes people underestimate Brucie as a way to protect his identity, and fear Batman as part of his strategy, but a Booster Gold strategy where there's no Batman, Bruce Wayne is a bumbling idiot, and yet things go better than people would have expected, had they known how bad it could've gone... It'd be the opposite of "make criminals fear me", but it'd be interesting, a sort of pre-reveal reverse-Moriarty). Anyway, I buy those Batmans and Bruce Waynes, but not one that's positively aggressive with his allies. Scary doesn't need to mean asshole, and in fact the latter reduces the impact of the former.

Oh, and a Batman who's skeptical of magic is just stupid. Wary of magic, sure. Bothered by the fact that there's a whole field of knowledge that comes up in his work now and then he has no handle on? I bet. Personally offended by the very existence of magic, why not. As Homer remarked, Batman's a scientist. But he has fought whole grimoires of supernatural stuff. And if there's one thing Batman isn't, is somebody who refuses to follow where the evidence leads.

Books! (SF, War, and Metaphysics Edition)

Strategy: The Logic of War and Peace (Edward N. Luttwak, 2017/#1): He's not wrong in his description of the "paradoxes" of strategy, but they only seem strange or specific to war if you haven't studied even basic game theory. This makes this a difficult book to read, the intellectual equivalent of the famously unsettling experience of watching somebody use a program you're proficient in without using any of the keyboard shortcuts, but being unable to tell them what to do.

The Best from Fantasy and Science Fiction (Ed. Edward L. Ferman, 2017/#2): I read this book when I was very young. Classic SF from, say, the 40's to the 70's was one of the core threads of my childhood and early teens; going back to them is a form of personal archeology, not just of places and moments (like the book club that was, for years, the main source of reading material for me, with its serendipitous shelf of second-hand SF books), but also of much of how I see the world, and even my aesthetic preferences.

Third from the Sun (Richard Matheson, 2017/#3): Mostly enjoyable, although the societal assumptions are very 1950. It's amusing how many of the characters are writers.

Montaigne and Shakespeare: The emergence of modern self-consciousness (Robert Ellrodt, 2017/#4): I'm not averse to, if not always fully swayed by, this kind of thing, but this isn't a very convincing book, I'm afraid.

A Bloody and Barbarous God (Petra Mundik, 2017/#5): A look at the metaphysics of Cormac McCarthy's main novels, from the framework of Gnosticism (mainly, with a side look at Buddhism). I liked it very much, although "enjoy" wouldn't be the right word for something analyzing such a bleak writer from such a bleak point philosophical vantage point.

Untouched by Human Hands (Robert Sheckley, 2017/#6): A collection of SF stories from the late '70s. A bit ham-fisted in their analogies, but not unenjoyable if you go with it.

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Alan Moore's Providence

Probably the best purely Lovecraftian putting-the-pieces-together story I've read (as opposed to Stross' brilliant explanation and putting-the-pieces-together of Lovecraft). And, Elder Gods I'm hope never notice I exist, so very damn(ed, we're all damned) bleak.

But then, how can you set a story in Lovecraft's universe and not have it be devastatingly, ontologically bleak? I've come to think that, for all of the ugly weirdness and people losing their mind every other page, most of Lovecraft's stories have cop-out ends (the only exception that comes to mind is Nyarlathotep, although there might be others).

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