What does it mean to be Batman? Is Batman a job or a costume? Is he a symbol or beacon? Does he stand for justice or vengeance? Is he a mask or the reality?
To me, Batman has always been about a person who put aside himself in order to make sure that no one else would ever suffer the way he did. He is an individual driven by an all consuming need to fill the void that was left in him by providing others with the chance to live the normal life he was denied. A life that he was robbed of. He is a single defining moment. A moment and a vow that shaped the rest of his existence.
I often see people debating who is real. Is Batman real and Bruce the mask, or vice versa? To this I say, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Regardless of what you choose to call him, whether he be Batman or Bruce, they both come from him. They both are him. I do think that the playboy billionaire public perception of Bruce is a mask. It’s an act to throw off suspicions, but I also don’t think that persona is who he would have become had his parents lived. It’s just something he made up. When we see him donating to refurbish an underprivileged neighborhood or giving an ex-con a job at Wayne Enterprises, that is him. But that is still not the Bruce he would have become. That is the Bruce he did become because of his defining moment. The Bruce he would have become is something we can’t even speculate on because it is our experiences that shape who we are.
Other people can put on the costume and play at being Batman, some have even done a good job of it. But ultimately, only Bruce IS Batman, with or without the suit. The underlying personality that makes Batman who he is wasn’t established by the creation of the suit. That was merely the final step. It was his defining moment and the proceeding choices he made over the next 18 years that defined the individual who embodies Batman.
Reading this issue, it became quite clear that Scott Snyder understands this intrinsically. But seeing that he understood the roots of the character so well made his next move all the more puzzling.
For those of you wanting to remain spoiler free, please be aware that I am about to discuss the Bruce Wayne elements of the issue openly. I’m not going to spoil every single scene, just the Bruce stuff. So if you are fine with that, carry on.
Bruce Wayne actually died at the end of EndGame and the dionesium reanimated his corpse. He has no memories of his past, primarily because he is a completely new human being that didn’t lose the memories so much as never actually had them. This means that the Bruce Wayne we see here, is Bruce in appearance only! I can’t stress this point enough. Looking like someone doesn’t make you them. All of the memories and experiences that culminated to form the character that we loved are not present in this person. He is essentially nobody to us. This is what Snyder is doing that puzzles me so vehemently. It seems to me that Snyder, through Alfred, is trying to pass this off as Bruce’s reward for all his long years of service and suffering. This guy didn’t suffer. This guy didn’t serve. That Bruce is dead and cannot be rewarded. This guy is just some guy living his life. It’s even more bizarre when Alfred says, “This man is the only TRUE Bruce Wayne to every walk the Earth.” “[He is] who Bruce would have been.” “This is the real Bruce Wayne” I can’t disagree with that more! This Bruce didn’t grow up with Thomas and Martha. He didn’t get to experience the life that would have created that Bruce. This is just some guy that sprung up from the Earth. I could almost get behind the idea of Bruce earning a reprieve, but that isn’t what we see here. We see the story of someone we don’t know and have no connection with.
(For those of you curious about the Comic-Con info that accidentally got spilled to us, it was that Bruce has amnesia. Which isn’t even what is actually going on here. What we see here isn’t memory loss. This isn’t getting clonked on the head and forgetting something. This is Bruce dead and gone. This is a new person. You can’t lose a memory you never had.)
Now let’s talk about the Gordon portion of the story, but only the part that applies to Bruce specifically, so spoilers still apply. Gordon visits Bruce asking for help. There is a subtle implication in the conversation that suggests that Gordon knows that Bruce was Batman. I’m actually completely fine with that. (see Interesting Facts) Up till now, we were all probably under the impression that Bruce was just “taking a break”, not that he had lost his memory or was a reanimated corpse. So that is actually the angle it seems that Gordon is using, asking his friend to stop this silliness and come back to work as Batman. It makes the fact that Gordon doesn’t openly out Bruce as Batman all the more plausible, because he doesn’t want to upset the balance that the two of them have always maintained. At this point in the story, we have not yet learned what is up with Bruce, so it seems like leaving him with the seed will spark him into action. Once we learn the truth however, we realize just how hollow the gesture was since that man isn’t Bruce. It does raise an interesting question however. Through this interaction and subsequent scenes, we see that Bruce still wants to do good. So, are we genetically predisposed to be a good person or is that something that we learn to be? Is it an intrinsic part of humanity? Not to be utterly pessimistic, but I have to believe that by nature we are born as selfish creatures and only learn to be good. So why is this Bruce being a good person when he has not been nurtured into one? Food for thought.
While I don’t particularly like the idea of having a non-Bruce running around, the scene that explains all of this is magnificent. The scene is seven pages long and has a mammoth amount of text, but it is so riveting and emotional that you’d have to be some kind of monster not to be moved by it and recognize it for how beautiful it actually is. It’s a peculiar thing to like and dislike something simultaneously. As I already stated, I find the subject matter not to my taste, but Alfred is so passionate about the whole situation that it’s hard not to become emotionally invested in his scenes.
The Gordon section of this book was much more palpable and reminiscent of what you expect to find from a Batman comic than the first two chapters of this arc. We don’t see him in the mech-suit in this issue, nor fighting crazy super-powered weirdos. Just good old fashioned sneaking around in the dark and breaking in through skylights. Granted, it’s Gordon doing it and not Batman, but I’ll take what I can get. It’s also nice to see that even though Gordon is a cop, he is acknowledging the fact that Batman only works properly outside the law, and that he is taking steps towards that goal.
As usual Greg Capullo handles art. Nothing more to say than: take a look at this.
- If Bruce got reanimated by the dionesium, and Joker was lying right next to him, I’m going to say with 100% confidence that Joker survived the exact same way Bruce did.
- Why is there a Spider-Man reference in this issue?
- Julie says to Bruce, “Well, you do have history with [Duke Thomas]. I know not YOU-you, but still.” Does this mean she knows he was Batman? I get that the YOU-you could mean old Bruce and new Bruce, but Duke had a relationship with old Batman, not old Bruce. Or am I forgetting something?
- If you never read Detective Comics #27(Jan 2014) or Batman: Futures End #1(Sep 2014), it might be worth checking out. SpoilerBoth stories deal with the cloning machine that is mentioned in this issue. My initial reaction to seeing it was that they are going to use the machine to reintroduce Bruce’s memories to the reanimated corpse. But that won’t work. The machine is only designed to impart Bruce’s memories up till the moment the bat flew through the study window. He will be able to be Batman again, but he will be a completely inexperienced Batman.
- Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #125 (1999). I’m throwing this out there for people as a recommendation for something they must read. It is one of my favorite Batman/Gordon interactions of all time. The issue is nothing but talking, but Greg Rucka completely knocks it out of the park. To put it in context, it comes on the wake of Knightfall and No Man’s Land. It is a resolution to the buildup of tension that had been mounting between the two characters for some time. If you are curious as to how this ties in with the story at hand…
Bombshell Variant Cover:
- You want to find out how Bruce survived his ordeal with the Joker.
- You’ve been waiting to see Gordon in a more Batman-esque scenario.
Up until now, I was patiently waiting so I could get to spend some time with Bruce. I figured if I didn’t like one half of the story, I was bound to enjoy his sections. Now it turns out that not only are we reading a Batman story with a Batman who isn’t Batman, but also a Bruce Wayne that isn’t Bruce Wayne! I think that pretty much sums it up. This particular issue was quite problematic for me. There was so much amazingly introspective character work done that I have to demand that you read it, but at the same time, I can’t bring myself to award it any more accolades due to the mistreatment of Bruce. I have a real love/hate relationship with this issue. It is good, and it brought out feelings and emotions in me, but I just can’t fully accept the subject matter at this juncture. I’m sure that many will tout this as wonderful, which it is in a way, but I simply can’t overlook the fact that this story is needless.
SCORE: 7 / 10