Tuesday, April 18, 2017

(DC Rebirth) Batman by Tom King issue #3

The first pages of this issue was an unexpected serving of deja vu---in the most gruesome yet also moving way possible. For a split second, I thought King was giving me yet another rendition of the Wayne murders but the essential details about the scene are altered which led me to conclude quickly that this wasn't about Bruce Wayne's childhood trauma at all but another child's tragedy. A young boy was walking with his parents on a dark alleyway in Gotham. A mugger tried to rob them. He beat the father and was now getting handsy with the mother's jewelry. The scene was playing out exactly in a horrible nostalgic way until that crucial last moment when everything would have ended in blood and grief. At the last second, Batman appeared and saved everyone. 

It was a victory that was satisfying on an emotional level because of how much it means for Bruce Wayne as Batman to save even just one life in the hands of a petty crime. Most people forget that Batman was always about stopping street-level crimes. His night patrols were always composed of impeding organized crime or even the smallest crime committed in some alleyway in Gotham. Tom King showed us that in this flashback and reminded us that behind the Dark Knight will always be that traumatized boy who lost his parents one bad night where it changed the course of the rest of his entire life afterwards, and in becoming Batman he was channeling this loss into something demonstratively righteous and inspiring. He may not have been able to save his parents, but he can symbolically avenge their deaths by ensuring no one will ever lose their loved ones the same way he did particularly in cases where a tragedy can just  happen in the most mundane way possible such as during a late-night mugging.

Speaking of inspiring life-changing events, let's talk about these specific panels for a moment:

I'm sorry, but I was in goddamn tears right after reading this. How could I not be, seeing as how much Batman is my own childhood hero whose brand of justice and truth resonates with me to this day? Watching him prevent the same crime that claimed his parents' life was cathartic, and being able to talk to the boy who could have been him was a rather powerful moment. Later on, the readers will discover that this flashback sequence was about Hank Clover (and to a lesser extent, his sister Claire) who will become the superpowered fans named Gotham and Gotham Girl. This was their origin story which Bruce found out by himself while he was in FBI disguise to interview their parents who were more than eager to share their children's aspirations to become defenders of the city since they have been motivated and inspired by no other than Batman.

It was all the more reason why I was so moved about those panels above because I feel as if this was Batman not only speaking to Hank Clover as a young boy but also speaking to his child-self. These were the words he wished someone had said to him when his life changed after witnessing his parents' brutal murders in front of him, and he had no idea how to start picking up the pieces just yet. This was Bruce Wayne now as an adult and a vigilante wishing to reassure a kid just like him from before that hope blooms even in the most wretched of places, and that he doesn't have to stay powerless forever because one day he may even get the chance to fight back and rise from the adversity of his own fears and insecurities. That's the message a hero like Batman imparts and one that people should never forget or tarnish. This is why we read his story. At the heart of it all, this is about one man's victory over his own demons every time he becomes Batman and defeats his enemies. He is an inspiration.

Just ask Hank and Claire Clover. They decided to become Gotham and Gotham Girl because of him.

I was really happy about this issue because it humanized Hank and Claire and gave them convincing character motivations. I readily accept that they are simply noble and decent people who just want to give back to their city and help anyone who needs a hero at the end of the day. That fateful meeting between Hank and Batman that night was a hallmark for the former who found a role model to emulate and an altruistic purpose to share with his sister. It's so beautiful and I dread how they're going to be broken down once Hugo Strange and his Monster Men get to them. I know it's going to happen and I can only hope they survive the ordeal because at this point it has become rather easy and natural to root for these kids. Earnest idealists who want to do good being thrown into a gritty situation never fails to break my heart. The next issues are bound to get crazy and sad.


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