I think it’s pretty much acknowledged that Bruce Wayne and Batman are inseparable that sometimes it’s hard to tell which is the mask. In Darwyn Cooke’s EGO, we are challenged to recognize both as different ends of the spectrum and not as one man. At the beginning panels. Batman speaks with weary introspection about the almost cyclic way of crimes in Gotham.
After witnessing the suicide of one of Joker’s minions, he locks himself in the batcave and succumbs to depression, after which he removes his mask and was Bruce Wayne again at that moment. The dark knight, his shadow self, appeared to him and began to berate his lack of motivation, forcing him back to the direction he was meant to tread. His shadow self took him back to his childhood on the nights before his parents’ brutal murder. Bruce also got to face the emptiness of his personal life since almost all his relationships never deepen and that everything that he was revolved around Batman.
His shadow self suggested that they should kill the Joker, considering that the madman was created by Bruce’s reluctance to execute him time and time again.
This was a great angle to the story because one of the best hero-villain dynamics is between Batman and the Joker, and Cooke has done marvelously in exploring the guilt that Bruce feels for allowing the Joker to live after that accident that chemically and physically changed him. I certainly enjoyed the poignancy of it all, how Bruce declines his shadow self the thirst for merciless vengeance; how he vows never to cross that line. He will not kill. He will not stoop down to the level of the criminals he fights. And this was the message of the story. Bruce Wayne had to control the dark knight, to keep his emotions in check and not be driven to a point where he could take a life and consequently destroy himself in the process.
Bruce Wayne has done a heroic thing that his mask as Batman can never compare to: he has conquered himself. It was beautifully realized in this story and Cooke is just…magnificent in every level as he wrote and illustrated it.
The tagline of the comic book says it all: "Our greatest battle takes place within ourselves."