Saturday, September 5, 2015

Batman by Scott Snyder issue #43

At this point in time, writer Scott Snyder has been making quite a gamble with his stories for this title since Endgame started and reached a conclusion earlier this year. Fans among themselves could endlessly debate which ones are a hit, and which ones are a miss, and that's the beauty of Snyder's writing and creative decisions for a flagship title that is dear to the comic book fandom. Personally, I always put nothing but my faith forward whenever I read a Snyder-Batman story. I could only recall one or two instances that he had disappointed me, and even those weren't enough to steer me away from this title. 

After all, Batman is masterful in its overall narrative and visual composition, more so since Zero Year.

This third installment of Superheavy offered us a controversial truth about what happened to Bruce Wayne after his final battle with the Joker. He was supposed to be dead and, as Snyder revealed in this issue, he very much is; his physical body may be still intact but his mind, his heart, his soul were essentially...rewritten. I'm aware that this has been pretty hard to process for a lot of Bat-fans after reading. Some reviews of online Bat-fansites were opposed to this concept and they are rightfully justified. Personally, even as I give my own opinion about it, I am not entirely sure how I feel about this change either. I wouldn't say I hated it nor would I say I'm crazy about it. I suppose my neutrality is inevitable because I don't feel like judging something in a writing that hasn't completely played out yet. So, I'm waiting exactly for that. It is an unconventional direction but I'm eager to follow Snyder through it. I'm very excited about it, actually. So let's break down this issue before I start discussing the very big spoiler in the story, starting with the visuals.

Artist Greg Capullo, Inker Danny Miki, and colorist FCO Plascencia are the dream team and they always produce quality illustrations that are so unbelievably and inconceivably beautiful at times, and this issue featured some of the most fantastic artworks I have seen in superhero comics. The medium is a visual one after all and artists like these three are not afraid to challenge the conventional approach of illustrating scenes in a story, and that is why every time Batman comes out, I anticipate it because of the inarguable art pieces it produces on page, though that's not to say the content of the writing is not considered into my appreciation. With Snyder and Capullo, their talents are intrinsically woven together by now, like words and melody in a perfect musical composition. A great example of the visual dream team is this singular page many fans are talking about and it's certainly so captivating in a lot of levels:

Now let's move on to the story. The issue opens with Gordon approaching Bruce Wayne on his workplace. The idea seems to be that Gordon is even aware that Bruce Wayne is Batman, and that's not really a shocker to me even though it was never firmly established how he figured it out here in Snyder's series. Again, it's a development that I didn't mind happening because I can see it being very plausible, considering Gordon's instincts and relationships with Bruce and Batman respectively that Snyder had written. In any case, Gordon sought out Bruce because he wanted his help. He explained that there is a new player in town who has been supplying dangerous amounts of drugs to the people of Gotham. So far, the only thing we know about him is that he's called "Mr. Bloom" (the character creepily depicted in this issue's cover) who passes around these "seeds" with a sunflower symbol in them:

At this point, Bruce has a steady job at what seems to be an outreach for troubled teens, and he love working there so he told Gordon that he doesn't know how to help him, and that he has mistaken him for somebody else. And Gordon really did, but he had no idea just how wrong he was about this Bruce Wayne he is now speaking to. Outside, Clark Kent and Alfred are in a car and Kent was watching the conversation through his Superman vision. He agrees that the man he is seeing--who may look like Bruce Wayne--is not Bruce. After that, we get hefty explanations courtesy of Alfred about what happened after Batman's confrontation with the Joker. The panels had a fluid transition between the flashbacks and the present where Alfred and Kent are having a conversation. And it's so heartbreaking and beautiful to read Alfred's sentiments. If you are a Batman fan, it's undeniable that you will be moved by the words. They reveal so much about Alfred's wish for Bruce's happiness no matter the cost:

Kent refused to accept the idea of Bruce Wayne finally having a shot of getting a normal life. But Alfred was adamant this idyllic scenario stayed that way and he is not afraid to threaten Kent with a kryptonite and then he also revealed the impracticality of putting this new Bruce Wayne under the cowl. It's honestly a little disturbing how passionate Alfred is about this:

Finally, we get a great tie-in in reference to that anniversary story Snyder wrote in Detective Comics #27 which is a concept that has intrigued me to no end so I was only glad that Snyder is now placing that idea within the continuity of his Batman run. Entitled Twenty-Seven, we see a future a hundred years from now, where Bruce Wayne is long dead but, as Batman, he got cloned perfectly, so a clone of him aged twenty-seven (when he first started his crime-fighting and vigilante work) will emerge time and time again to ensure that Gotham will always have its Dark Knight for many generations to come. Alfred revealed the genius invention that has made this all possible, explaining to Kent and the readers that Batman is an un-killable idea after all, and even though the real Bruce Wayne is no longer who he was, there is a version of him that will live on and continue the mission:'s all been very difficult to swallow this information overload, isn't it? Most particularly if you're hang up on the idea of the present Bruce Wayne not just forgetting everything--but being rewritten as an entirely different man altogether. One would argue he is not the Bruce Wayne we loved and root for throughout the course of knowing him and supporting him in his noble crusade, and that meant him getting a small piece of compensation and happiness with a new identity should not matter to us BECAUSE WHO THE HELL IS HE IF NOT BRUCE WAYNE WHOM WE HAVE A GREAT EMOTIONAL INVESTMENT WITH? Perhaps that is the case because technically speaking, the young boy who lost his parents to a tragic murder and who grew up to be a man who forged his path to become Batman is truly and finally dead. The Bruce Wayne we see now in the present is not burdened with that rage and motivation, and he has also lost all his years of hard work in training to become the symbol of justice we have all admired. So, Snyder offered fans a compromise by ensuring that Batman in the futures to come will still be around...but it's a clone of the real Bruce Wayne so, again, we shouldn't care. But personally, I DO. I still care about all of this. I still love Bruce Wayne even if he is no longer the same person. I still believe Batman couldn't die and even when he did for that brief moment in the cave trapped with his arch-nemesis, Batman is unending because he is an idea that lives because our faith in him gives him power and everlasting life. Bruce Wayne is not the same person now and perhaps ever again, but BATMAN WILL ALWAYS BE BATMAN.

That's why I'm not bothered that Bruce Wayne came back as a different person because as a mortal man of flesh and bone, Bruce's calvary and tragedy has to end at some point. He can't be suffering forever and going through the cycle of violence, guilt and anger just because we want him to because that's mainly who he is. But we're the ones who defined him in that role, claiming that through his darkest moment turning him into the tortured hero we like seeing defeat the odds time and time again was an inspiring journey. WELL, MAYBE IT ISN'T. That's what Snyder wants us to think about by writing this, I believe. Don't we think it's time to let go of the oppressive notion that Bruce must always remain isolated and unloved just so he can be Batman, even if that also entails that we can't ever have the boy and the man who breathed life into Batman putting on that cowl and fighting yet again for another terrible night? Personally, I maintain the opinion that the idea that both Bruce and Batman have now been thankfully severed from their intimate and most grueling connection and purpose is not something to be upset about.

But if you still are, that's fine. I would hope it wouldn't discourage you to stop reading Synder's series because I think this is a meaningful turning-point in the seventy-five years of Batman's run as a superhero in the comics medium. Snyder has been de-constructing what we know about his tale and why we identify with it so much, and the idea of how that identification affects our appreciation for him as a character, as well as forms our opinions concerning moral relativism and values like strength of will and pursuit of justice. Batman is a story that is timeless and universal because it affirms the idea that even the darkest and coldest moments in a person's life can become the brightest and lead to the most inspiring journey to self-discovery and, yes, immortality. So, ask yourself now: why are you a Batman fan? Why are those your reasons to be a Batman fan? 

If you want to explore these feelings more and to really tap into the depths of this unique obsession and devotion of ours to a fictional character who might have touched something in us that we have yet to fully recognize and name, then let us keep reading Snyder's series. I know I would. I never started looking for answers when I read his stories but now they are certainly making me ask questions. And that I think is the beauty of a writing that challenges both mind and heart.


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