Comic Book Review: "Batman #11: My Brother's Keeper"
The battle between the Bat and the Owl comes to explosive end in Batman issue 11. “My Brother’s Keeper”, written by Scott Snyder with art by Greg Capullo and Jonathan Glapion, concludes the battle for the soul of Gotham City as the sibling rivalry between Bruce Wayne and Lincoln March is capitulated into the stratosphere. With the remaining members of Court of Owls in hiding, Batman must face a deranged zombie claiming to be his long lost brother. The truth behind Bruce Wayne’s family past comes to light in this gripping final chapter of The Court of Owls saga. In the final episode of the backup story, “The Fall Of The House Of Wayne”, the truth behind the connections between the Wayne family, the Pennyworth family, and The Court of Owls is revealed, as is the fate of Alfred’s father, Jarvis. Many painful memories are relived and a few new are created in this epic issue.
“My Brother’s Keeper” begins as Batman and Lincoln March, the self-proclaimed long lost brother of Bruce Wayne—Thomas Wayne Jr., fight in the ruins of Willowwood House. Lincoln, clad in his Talon armor (along with the Court of Owls’ undead serum running through his veins) mocks Batman as they brawl. He asks his “brother” if that’s that best he can do as Bruce throws a punch. Batman claims that they aren’t brothers. He’s just a crazy guy in a “bird suit”; and he’s done playing games with owls.
Lincoln compares the two of them (Bruce and Thomas Wayne) to history’s greatest brothers like Romulus and Remus: One brother betrays the other and takes the lion’s share leaving the other to rot; just like Bruce did to him. He throws Batman through a wall and down a shaft. He says this time the “fallen brother” wins. Bruce shoots his grapple gun at Lincoln, latching onto to him, and pulls him down the shaft with him; he says if he wants to be his fallen brother, he should “start falling”.
Lincoln/Thomas turns on an elevation device on his owl suit and flies Batman (attached by the grapple) and himself out over Gotham City. He wants to show Bruce the Gotham he grew in. The reflections in the windows of the Crowne Tower Lincoln saw from the Willowwood House showed him the gleaming Wayne Industries building. That reflection; that reversed image showed him how he had nothing while his brother had it all. He saw the city of Gotham in an unnatural reversal. He wants Bruce to see the other side of the mirror. Then he throws Bruce into the glass windows of the Crowne Tower.
He tells Bruce that he was in a car accident as an infant and sent of away to a hospital. A woman often came to visit, but he’s in a coma and could communicate. He can’t remember much, but he knew he was someone of importance. Then, one day, he saw that same woman on TV; he knew she was his mother. The Court of Owls was there with him in the room. They were whispering to him that he was really Thomas Wayne Jr. His parents were dead, but his brother, Bruce, should come for him, and bring him home, but he never did. Only the Owls were there for him; they saved him and healed his mind.
Lincoln/Thomas throws Bruce into a church bell. He realizes that Bruce chose to forsake him so he could have it all for himself. But the reverse city, that “pale reflection” of Gotham was his—The Gotham that people entered but never left.
Lincoln/Thomas flies up into the skyline of the city, dragging Bruce with him. He flies in front of a wide-bodied commercial airline and throws Batman into one of the engine turbine. He’ll happily watch Bruce come out the other side in little pieces. Batman grabs onto the lip of the turbine, desperately hold on for dear life. Lincoln/Thomas floats in front of him and taunts him, saying that all these years that Bruce was watching Gotham City, he should have been watching his own back, because Lincoln/Thomas was just watching and waiting to take revenge. Batman tells him that he should do the same thing (watch his own back). Batman had managed to put an explosive on Lincoln/Thomas’ back. It explodes in a fireball next to the plane.
Batman crawls up, and onto, the wing of the plane, but he doesn’t have the strength to hold on any longer, and lets go. As he falls to the city below he thinks how beautiful Gotham is. At first he was going to just let himself plummet to his death, but he realizes the city has saved him. The two of them still have work to do.
He uses a high velocity bat-rope to crash lands on an unfinished high-rise building that Bruce Wayne commissioned for his plan for the city. Lincoln/Thomas is waiting for him. “You just won’t stay dead—will you, Brother?” He grabs the weakened Bruce and starts shooting explosive gel bombs on the beams of the tower. He tells Bruce that this building will be his tomb. And this time he’ll stay dead; unlike the time when he disappeared. The Court told Lincoln/Thomas that Bruce Wayne was dead. They were going to present Thomas Wayne Jr. to the world to reclaim the greatness of the Wayne family. But then Bruce returned. The Court had to create the identity of Lincoln March as “the beak of the great owl”. But he didn’t want it. If he couldn’t be part of the city’s future (as a true Wayne), he would be Gotham’s “secret past”.
As the building starts to exploded, Bruce digs his thumbs into Lincoln’s eyes and escapes by driving down an elevator shaft. Lincoln calls out to him; he says he’ll come for him. He’ll be his reflection that he can’t escape from. The entire tower collapses in a fiery spectacle.
Later, Bruce is recuperating at Wayne Manor. He’s talking to Richard Grayson. He says that he couldn’t find Lincoln’s body in the rumble of the tower. Grayson asks for an update on the Court. Bruce says they’re still around, but hurting. Batman had all the captured Talons moved to cryo-prison cells under Blackgate Prison.
Bruce explains to Richard about Lincoln March’s claim that he was Bruce’s brother, Thomas Wayne Jr. When Bruce was three, his pregnant mother and he were in a car accident. The baby was born prematurely and with brain damage. Had he lived he would have been in a vegetative state his whole life, but he only lived for 12 hours after birth. He was born under duress, named and intubated. Bruce did have a brother—for one night. Richard asks if it’s possible that he did survive, was moved to Willowwood House, and his parents falsified the record to hide him. Bruce says that he looked into it, and there were no signs of anything like that ever happening.
He did however find a record of a “John Doe” being admitted a week after his brother had died. His mother, Martha, did visit him (but she visited every charity she funded). Without Lincoln’s DNA to conclusively prove one way or another, its look more likely that the Court simply used Lincoln and convinced him that he was Thomas Wayne Jr. They could have done it to throw Batman off their trail. They tried to destroy his belief in Gotham City, but they couldn’t destroy his belief in his parents. If his brother had lived past that one night, they would have told him. He knows they would have.
Richard suggests that hiding the painful truth from people you love can be noble (pointing out how Bruce hid the fact that Grayson was meant to be a Talon from him). Bruce tells him that he didn’t save Richard from a dark fate all those years ago, he save Bruce from one.
Bruce plans to rebuild the tower and strive even harder to make Gotham a better place. After all this trouble and pain, the Court of Owls showed Bruce that the city of Gotham isn’t Batman’s or the Owls: it belongs to “all of us”. Bruce says that if and when the Court of Owls resurfaces, he’ll be watching and waiting.
“The Fall of the House of Wayne: Conclusion” begins as the shed is burning around Jarvis Pennyworth. He recalls, in his letter to Alfred, that after the car crash Martha had lost her second son. She was horribly depressed. They planted a willow tree in the Wayne Cemetery in honor of the child, but it didn’t help the healing process. They decided to go away for the summer, hoping that it would help ease the pain. Jarvis couldn’t help but think of the menacing threat that caused them to go out on that night to begin with. When the phone rang again, he knew who it would be. The Court member on the other end of the line tells Jarvis that they got what they wanted: no school and a dead Wayne. But he’s made an enemy of the Court and they are coming after him and his son Alfred. In the shed fire the Talon is attacking Jarvis. In the letter, he’s telling Alfred that he loves him and that he should never come to Gotham or to Wayne Manor, no matter what. He asks Alfred to forgive him for not being the best father he could have been. The Talon deals the deathblow, and Jarvis’ letter to his son burns in the fire. In the present day, Alfred and Bruce are standing at Jarvis’ gravestone. Bruce remarks that the flowers he brought are beautiful; Alfred recalls that his father was never much interested in his acting or botany. He only cared for Alfred having a “sensible trade” to prepare him for working for the Wayne’s. If anything could have prepared Alfred for his life these last few years, it definitely wasn’t his father; no matter what the truth behind his mystery death was. Bruce says this is about him finding Jarvis Pennyworth’s name in the Owls’ Labyrinth. He tells Alfred they can find out want really killed Jarvis: unearth the body and do tests. Alfred says he doesn’t wish it. When he first came to live and work for the Wayne family, Alfred always felt that his father was hovering over him. He’s tried to live up to his expectations, and now all these years later with Batman and the Court of Owls, he finally feels like he truly understands his father. Bruce says he’ll find the truth about everything eventually. Alfred agrees, but for now their lost family members deserve to rest in undisturbed peace.
The conclusion to this year-long Bat-epic is quite spectacular. In many ways, it does for Batman what the recent movies have done: breathe new life and great depth into both Bruce Wayne and Batman. For a long time, it was always stated that Bruce Wayne was the mask and Batman was the man; however, this grand “Court Of The Owls”, “Night Of The Owls” and “Assault On The Court” story arc proves that Batman is just an extension of Bruce Wayne; both personas are the same man intertwined in a fashion we hadn’t really seen before. Bruce is the soul, while Batman is a tool, a weapon, a gadget that he uses; like the Batmobile or his Batarangs. The revelations that Alfred’s father, Jarvis, worked for the Wayne’s before Alfred, that Martha Wayne was pregnant with a second child, and specifically, that the Court of Owls was interfering with their lives years ago are huge landmarks in the world of Batman. They show that the Wayne’s battle against corruption and evil in Gotham begin long before the death of Bruce’s parents. As for Lincoln March (who the backup story seems to confirm is not Thomas Wayne, Jr.), he was just a poor orphan who the Court of Owls manipulated. However; he is still alive, thanks to the Talon serum, and remains a real threat to Bruce, Batman and Gotham City. There is no doubt that he’ll be back to torment Bruce, but the questions remain: Is he really Bruce’s brother or not? If not, will he ever accept the truth? If he is, what does that mean for the Wayne family? What about the Court of Owls? What about the Talons? These questions will be asked and eventually answered in the future. For now things in Gotham can get back to normal—or as normal as things ever get for Batman.
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