They’re trying, and I’ll prove it!

While not everyone feels this way, it seems the general vibe the DC fandom has been giving off (in my circles, at least) is that they are not particularly huge fans of Tom King’s Batman. Of course, not everyone agrees that “Tom King did a bad job,” furthermore it was not only Tom King who wrote a less than great Batman…but I’d like to argue that DC is aware of people’s disappointment in the poor treatment of Batman and Bruce Wayne. Not only is DC aware, but the writers on new Batman stories and stories featuring Batman seem they are trying to undo years of disrespect for our favorite awkward Dad.

Batman: Bruce Wayne created Batman from a place of compassion. This is a hill I will die on. Sure, he could have just gone to therapy like the rest of us, but he went full HAM and decided to dress as a bat and solve crime on his own. Bruce felt the system was broken, but moreover he did not want another child to go through the feelings of torment that governed his life. Batman exists to protect the innocent people of Gotham (and all of space, I guess if you read Justice League), and in an arguably constructive manner. See: almost any Batman comic with an origin story, some JL issues, etc.

Bruce Wayne: The man, the myth, the legend; the dude who breathed life into Batman (with the help of Alfred, of course). Wayne is a charitable man, and there are numerus panels and clips depicting him donating money to charity and hosting fund raising events. Numerous hospitals, schools, and public programs are attached to his name. When it comes to funneling money back into the city no one does it better, but it does not stop there. When someone is going through a rough patch, Bruce has been known to hand out his business card to people with instructions to call Wayne Industries about job. If you’ve ever been down on your luck and in need of employment, you know how kind a gesture that really is, and the positive impact it can have.

Throughout the last several arcs in Batman’s story, that more compassionate side of Bruce Wayne isn’t one we have seen often enough. To make matters worse, audiences have been exposed to some questionable behavior from Batman in other comics as well.

A memorable moment in poor characterization. [RHaTO (2016) #25]

While Batman does have that no kill rule, and does not always agree with Jason’s actions… This particular version of Batman had an extremely negative response and was overly hostile. Don’t worry though, the violence from Bruce is short lived as Bizarro swoops in to pull Jason away from this ugly situation. And then when that plan backfires (read the issue), Roy lends a helping hand against Batman’s relentless pursuit of Red Hood. Generally, Batman is depicted as a reasonable person, which makes sense as his character spends a lot of time marinating in his own thoughts. Still, Batman can be harsh, and he undeniably has the capacity to be more violent, but there is some logic behind his actions and moral code. While Jason committed a horrible crime, Batman’s decision to attempt to completely incapacitate Jason was ill fitting to his character. All of this makes his struggle to bring Jason in disappointing, where is the logic in this brutal beatdown? What will it accomplish? Now, for good measure, let’s flip this to Geoff Johns’s interpretation of Batman in the DC Black Label Series, Batman: Three Jokers.

A conversation between Bruce and Barbara. [Batman: Three Jokers (2020) #2]

Ya Batgirl, chill out. It’s not like he killed all the Jokers, just a Joker. Cut Jason some slack. Johns’s Batman has a much kinder feel than the Batman seen in the RHaTO (2016) run. It’s nice to see Batman not going into a blind fit of fury and chasing after one of his children and attempting to beat them senseless. Of course, killing is not something Batman could agree with, but at least this Batman references Jason’s past grievances with Joker… Because as we are all frequently reminded, Joker did kill Jason and it wasn’t pretty. Furthermore, Jason feels that because Batman never did kill Joker for vengeance, maybe Bruce Wayne didn’t care as much for him as a son as he may have thought. Needless to say, Jason is a little salty over the ordeal. Can you blame him? Bruce can’t. Johns’s Batman, without explicitly saying it, is looking at Jason’s actions through a different lens. He is doing what Batman ought to do, and that it view a situation and set of action from all angles. While this isn’t in line with a current story arc, Johns’s Batman is a great example of other writers who are perhaps handling this character with a little more care and a little less disappointment, all while keeping a thrilling story. And with that, let’s move on.

It feels as though Batsy is going through a bit of a redemption arc right now, and writers are trying to recover what’s been done while reminding us of who Batman is and what he stands for. Obviously, Batman stands for truth and justice and all things good while running around like some crazed cryptid of the night, but what else? Well, you don’t just go around adopting 10 kids (we’re using round numbers here, folks) because you don’t want them or like them. Yet, more current comics might lead you to believe the opposite when it comes to Bruce’s personality. So let’s dive into the ugly.

She said it, not me. [Batman Beyond (2016) can’t recall the issue, my apologies]

Bruce Wayne has enough kids for a baseball team, or around there. Any parent is going to have a hard time with kids, that’s sort of the nature of parenting… Humans aren’t perfect and we certainly shouldn’t hold a comic character to a higher standard than ourselves, it isn’t fair. Still, Batman is a role model both in his own universe and in ours. Unfortunately, Bruce has been exceptionally lacking in the Good Dad Department, as is evident in Teen Titans (2016).

Can we just give Damian one good day already? [Teen Titans (2016) #2]

Even Ra’s al Ghul remembered Damian’s birthday. Sure it was a little morbid (dead robin, anyone?), but at least he remembered. Not to mention, Damian was terribly heartbroken over his father’s forgetfulness. It isn’t often we see Damian show such emotional vulnerability, but Bruce’s lack of acknowledgement clearly had him heartbroken. Given the current timeline, Bruce was probably off canoodling with Catwoman on some grimy Gotham rooftop instead. While Teen Titans had a different writer on board (this issue was written by Benjamin Percy), it is easy to wonder how much of the Tom King version of Batman leaked into this story and influenced writing choices. Is King’s characterization the reason other writer’s made Bruce the way they did? Or did Percy just see it completely possible that Bruce would forget his own son’s birthday, even after the work he has put into taking in and raising him after his initial years with Talia? Not questions I can answer, sorry folks.

Well, back over in Tom King’s run, Batman begins with the introduction of two peculiar characters…

Batman having a conversation with Gotham Girl. [Batman (2016) #24]

While Bruce couldn’t bother to remember his son’s birthday, he had plenty of time to run around with Gotham & Gotham Girl. For me, this friendship seemed to happen a little too fast and Batman seemed more trusting than he has any business being. It seemed a little out of character. Plus, not only does Bruce honestly have enough people involved in his family, but he also has a huge secret to keep (his identity). That’s thrown away with incredible haste and Batman reveals his civilian identity. As interesting as it was to see Bruce perhaps open up to the idea of more metahumans in Gotham, King could have treated this relationship with more care. Instead, the established Batfam was put on the backburner while Bruce spent a ton of time with this chick. Also, really Bruce? “I’m Batman because I’m Batman.” Lame. Of course, Batman is often a man of few words, but this has the “Why?” “Because I said so.” feeling to it. This whole conversation between the two during this issue was hard to read, though it did have a few shining moments. Much different from very early on in King’s series where Batman was a little more inspiring….

Batman talking to Gotham & Gotham Girl before they went off the deep end. [Batman (2016) #3]

While I wouldn’t describe this Batman as “nice,” at the very least he is inspiring and reassuring. Now that is who Batman is meant to be. He swoops in, takes out the bad guy (without senseless, reckless violence — which we see a lot of later), and reassures kids that while the traumatizing experience they had will be present in their lives for some time, they can take a positive outlook on it. They can take action, they can be brave. A message we have seen him give countless times.

Casual conversation over Bat Burgers. [Batman (2016) #16]

Yet, when it comes to his own 8 Feeling to it.emotional support kids (okay I know I’m exaggerating), Bruce tells them to lay low during the larger, over-arching plot involving Bane. While Bruce does care for his kids, he can’t exactly turn around and tell them to up and leave. While Duke and Damian are newer to the Batfam, Dick and Jason are basically young adults and have been training with Bruce for years. Expecting them to suddenly not only lay low but flee their home when someone’s coming to destroy it? Now that’s just asking for trouble, Bruce. It’s begging for an argument to happen, and it does, right in the Bat Burger joint. Personally, I feel Bruce should know better and instead be helping everyone in the Batfam prepare for what’s coming because it’s obvious they won’t leave. And what happens instead? Dick, Jason, and Damian decide to go after Bane on their own (because what’s better than breaking rules) and end up hanged in the Batcave. Quite the intense moment when Bruce, Alfred, and Gotham Girl all walked down the cave together. And yes, Gotham Girl is part of a big plot and Bruce just invites her into the family and cave so easily. Is that really in character for him? I’m not too sure.

Remember the War of Jokes and Riddles arc?

Of all people, the Joker is the one who stopped Batman from killing. [Batman (2016) #32]

Yeah me too. This arc was pretty intense. Villains were in his home, tensions were high, and Bruce felt he was a failure. Would all of that truly be enough to send him into such a rage that he would defy his own “No Kill” rule that has been long established? Tom King felt it sure was. Still, one could argue we will never really know because Batman was stopped from killing… By Joker. Next.

Once that is over, we dive right into Bruce’s next big adventure… Which involves a super secret (illegal) mission with Catwoman by his side just after he has proposed to her… Leaving Alfred to tell his kids for him. As someone who has had a parent make a proposal without telling me or my siblings about it, I can say from experience that is a harsh thing for a parent to do. A huge lack of respect. Sure, Bruce probably understands his children would not agree with this, but it’s fair to think he would tell at least one of them. Bruce seems to respect his found family more than that. Bruce Wayne may be a stoic loner, but there have been plenty of times where he has talked to his children/robins about bigger things in life. To make matters worse…

This isn’t a good look on anyone [Batman (2016) #33]

The Robins begin to play the blame game, except for Dick who comes through like the shining star he is known to be. Damian is around thirteen here, to think any of the others would blame a thirteen year old for Bruce’s decision to propose to Catwoman (a criminal) is beyond belief. They’re fictional, but these characters have more good sense than to blame each other, and then a child for the choices of a grown man. Moving on.

Mr. Freeze.

Break ups suck, this is a universal truth. For better or for worse, they are not easy times. After left at the altar (on the rooftop), Bruce Wayne is obviously emotionally vulnerable, he takes that raw anger and funnels it into a particularly nasty night out in the cape and cowl. Unfortunately, Mr. Freeze in on the receiving end of a brutal Q&A session, one which leads to a confession on his part. He admits to murdering three woman.

The evidence pointed to Freeze anyway, but you get the idea here. [Batman (2016) #52]

This was shaping out to be a fantastic story. Due to the heavy amount of dialogue both between characters and from Bruce Wayne’s private thoughts, the audience was given a rarely seen perspective on Batman. Gotham on the ground through the eyes of citizens is not the same Gotham we see through Batman or Bruce Wayne (dude is rich, ok?). It was easy to understand that Bruce felt horrible about what he had done that night out with Mr. Freeze, in effect he had sullied Batman’s name. Bruce Wayne’s anger and hurt went against Batman’s moral standards. To see him sitting amongst the jurors was shaping up to be a redemption arc and it was going smoothly… Until the very end.

[Batman (2016) #53]

Bruce Wayne bribed his way onto the stand. Then, even with all the other evidence pointing toward Mr. Freeze (confession aside, there were other valid points), Bruce convinces the jury to deliver a Not Guilty vote. No doubt clearing Bruce’s own very Guilty conscience. Gosh, I wish it just ended there, but I’ll be wrapping this up so we can get to the better bits.

Last One: Tim Drake.

It’s been about 20 issues since what transpired above. Gotham’s beloved Batfam sits perched on a rooftop, waiting for a moment to strike… Well Bruce strikes alright and he strikes hard. While Barbara is a little further from Bruce as she speaks, Tim get’s closer, extending a kind hand. He is trying to be there for Bruce, who is clearly still suffering.

[Batman (2016) #71]

Alright folks, that’s it, I can’t do this anymore. I love Batman and I love Bruce Wayne so let’s move on to the ideas that inspired this post… That other writers have taken notice and are doing their part to repair the damage detailed above (and then some) that has been done to this beloved character.

LET’S GET DOWN TO BUSINESS

More recent Batman tales have been much more enjoyable (for me). While you can’t just wipe the slate clean (without doing a reboot but I only want a reboot if they return Alfred to us), you can make up for past transgressions. And (again, my opinion) it seems as if writers recognize the damage done to this character. Naturally, it was not all Tom King’s choice. Audiences saw a less than caring Batman and Bruce Wayne throughout other runs, but now the page has turned and a new chapter has started. King ended his Batman run in the 80’s, and Tynion IV has since taken over. Given the character Tynion IV has to work with, he has done considerably well reminding DC’s audiences who Batman really is, and the potential this character has to be great.

Let’s begin with a reminder we were given fairly recently…

[Batman (2016) #98]

Origins. Writers love dropping origin stories. Many times, they revolve around retelling the death of the Waynes and the time Bruce spent away from Gotham. Tynion IV skips all that and pauses for a moment in what are likely Bruce’s earlier days as Batman. Here, we are reminded of Bruce’s compassion for human life, and just how much he wants to help as many people as he can. As I’ve said: Batman was born from the need to help others, to manage chaos as best possible, and to assure people that no matter how dark the night dawn will come. But this is just the beginning…

Much of what’s to come will revolve around the current Joker War arc. Gotham’s aflame, Bruce Wayne has lost his fortune, Batman has lost his Robin, and Joker is pulling the strings. Batman needs all the help he can get and he knows it. He isn’t ordering the others to get the heck out of dodge and leave him to fight the villain, which would only imply that only he feels he knows what is good for them. Instead, Batman is ready to call on his supports. While Batman may put on a good show of being a one man army, the battle for a city is bigger than him.

This issue really got the ball rollin’. [Batman (2016) #98]

This same attitude towards teamwork is followed through in Detective Comics as well.

[Detective Comics #1025]

Kate was out of the picture for a long while after she killed Clayface in Detective Comics #973. Worth pointing out, while Cass was the one to rip the bat symbol from Kate’s costume, no one beat her down the way Batman did to Jason in RHaTO #25. However, she was thrown out of the nest. Still, Bruce calls upon Kate because differences can be put aside for the greater good of the city, and Bruce is completely aware that Gotham is in dire straits.

[Detective Comics #974]

Setting aside differences remains the big theme throughout the Joker War arc and we see a lot more of the Batman we know exists. When you’ve brought something like 8 kids into the fold, how can you work alone? But it’s more than just our average do-gooders who are out to help Gotham. Harley Quinn, long since fed up with Joker’s antics, provides some very needed support for Batman. When the city is truly falling, it needs more help than your regular crew of bats and birds. Again, Bruce recognizes this and accepts Harley’s help. Oh, and one other thing.

Bruce keeps his cool and moves on to Joker. [Batman (2016) #99]

The No Kill rule is still firmly in place, but Batman’s set of standards does not run true for everyone. Harley is no stranger to excessive violence or death, and she is out for some Joker blood. She wants a body. Bruce and Harley share a tense moment, but Bruce doesn’t take the bait. They exchange words, Bruce turns his back, and steps towards Joker’s next trap.

Before this happens however, DC’s audiences are given quite the treat. Batman truly did call in all forces! Together again for the first time in a long time we have (nearly) the whole crew. Gotham city doesn’t belong to any one person, especially Batman, so it only makes sense Batman would ask for everyone’s help. Gotham is their city too and they’re ready for a fight.

Damian isn’t here but in light of recent events (Teen Titans Annual #2) I’ll let that slide. [Batman (2016) #99]

Tynion IV has made it clear through his writing that his run on Batman will be about reconciliation and team work. What a wildly wonderful change of pace from the dominating Catwoman and Batman theme over the last few years. That is not to say that those in the extended Batfam can’t be independent; we see them in their own runs and doing plenty of team work elsewhere. Still, Bruce has kept everyone at more than arm’s length and having the crew together is bound to cause excitement, especially with this roster of striking personalities.

Sometimes a group project is necessary. [Batman (2016) #98]

Gathering everyone together was no easy task for Batman, in fact it was downright emotional. When Batman was felled by some nasty toxins, Harley swooped in…

…And heaved his dead weight around [Batman (2016) #98]

To give him some drugs that would clear his system. Whatever was in that mug had some side effects and Bruce was tripping balls through much of #98, but there were no wild colors or bizarre hallucinations. Instead, we were made privy to a melancholic moment in Bruce’s mind, a conversation he was having with himself, although he was seeing Alfred.

I will readily admit I did cry. [Batman (2016) #98]

This was some powerful writing on the part of Tynion IV, and combined with the detailed artwork laid out by Jimenez and Morey, audiences were hit with a very real and relatable interpretation of this character. Tynion IV has been tearing down the last few years of self-isolating (except for Catwoman), solo Batman and heavily building up on a Batman who recognizes his faults. Not having Alfred around was frustrating and terrifying for Bruce; he was always there on the other side of the communicator to provide reassurance and help. He was always there when Bruce needed a pickup or came back worse for wear from a particularly nasty mission. Alfred was the thread that tied the rest of the Batfam together.

Alfred has always been able to bring everyone together, but he is no longer present to do that for Bruce. [Batman (2011) panels from pages 22 and 24]

He is, by no means, their weakest link; his death will not cause the family to fall apart. Bruce can’t allow that to happen. At the end of this “conversation” Bruce recognizes it is his time to step up the plate, that Batman does not work alone. This is a tremendous show of growth on Bruce’s part, and not only does he acknowledge this fact by saying it out loud, we get to see his actions follow his words rather quickly in the next issue.

Admitting he can’t do it alone is one thing, gathering and asking the Batfam is another. [Batman (2016) #99]

Immediately following his vivid, trippy mind melt session with “Alfred,” Bruce takes to Gotham’s rooftops and assembles a team. He acts on his words and does so in a positive, constructive manner, one that will help Gotham. After his recent past offenses to these characters (roughing up Jason and Tim, for example), this can’t be easy for the Batman… And Tynion IV doesn’t give off the sense that it is easy. Bruce absolutely struggles with asking for help, but he does it anyway. And there is something to be said for that in the world of Batman and in real life, too.

Good Bruce Wayne doesn’t slow his roll. During Detective Comics #1026, Batman finds himself at odds with Killer Croc and his own set of rogues. When Batman ultimately wins and everyone is locked away for safe keeping in Arkham, Bruce approaches Croc and has an honest conversation with the man. In this instance, we are reminded of Batman’s compassion, and his honesty. He offers to help find treatment for Croc’s friends, and shows kindness in using Croc’s name. This is no small gesture, and Croc is appreciative of Batman’s ability to follow through. Here, we see a dependable Batman.

Joker came in and destroyed the home Croc was trying to build for himself. [Detective Comics #1026]

Still, this recovery of the good side of Batman’s character isn’t going to be easy. For all my love of Nightwing, I can’t recall many panels with a definite Bat-shaped shadow looming around corners or peering over ledges. For the sake of story, I can overlook that when Batman insists he has been watching all along. What matters is that writers are trying to remind us that Bruce Wayne does care for his kids. Thinking that Bruce just left Ric without anyone to watch over him is uncomfortable. How could someone stop caring about the child they raised at the drop of a hat, even if that child has no recognition of themselves or their family? Unsettling, to say the least. While some may find it rather reprehensible that Batman, out of the blue, says something along the lines of “I was watching over you,” I feel it is more comforting to think of, even if we did not necessarily see it. Would a few pointy ears showing up in panels have been a nice touch? A little Easter egg to look forward to finding? Certainly. Was it totally necessary? Not… Really. But it’s food for thought next time DC decides to pull a stunt like this. (What, you think they won’t? Tt.) I can hear my own inner Batman voice now… Oh you thought I wasn’t watching? I will always watch over you. Folks, he is just doing it from the shadows. That’s why we can’t see him. They didn’t forget to draw Batman, he was just in the dark. Maybe.

GIMME GIMME MORE

Detective Comics #1027 was spectacular in every sense, and while it does not exactly have a space in continuity, it is filled to the brim with great standalone Batman tales. While Batman and Bruce take center stage, the spotlight is shared with his fellow heroes. It’s no surprise #1027 was meant to be a feel good issue, but this book was delivered at the right time. Personally, this was a welcome book and felt more like a gift, and it felt very nostalgic. If your faith in Batman was wavering, this reminded you who Batman is supposed to be.

One of my favorite stories was the second featured in #1027. After wrapping up a case quickly, Batman looks to all those gathered before him who helped solve the mystery, and compliments them. Bruce may be a man of few words, but the least he can do is congratulate a job well done.

A much needed moment, thanks Bendis. [Detective Comics #1027]

And that was just the beginning. #1027 delivered on some memorable Bruce Wayne moments, because while the story is called Batman Detective Comics, Bruce Wayne shouldn’t be left in the dust. Kelly Sue Deconnick pulled Bruce from the Bat in her one shot for #1027, where Bruce Wayne was meeting with a wealthy businessman who was hoping to make a quick buck. While golfing in the rain, this other character attempts to intimidate Bruce, but unbeknownst to him, Bruce has enlisted the help of the Gotham City Police Department. This feel good story wraps up with Commissioner Gordon on the other end of the line, as Bruce uses his talents to be a helpful civilian. But don’t take my word for it, read #1027 for yourself and see what I mean! Or you can check out my summary and review of that whole issue right here:

If that wasn’t enough for you, in 2019 DC published a 6 issue Batman mini series written by Brian Bendis and it was a blast! This was a story I picked up because King’s Batman was a bit of a drag and bringing me down. It did just the trick and lifted my spirits, and while it is not part of any main continuity lines in DC, it was a fantastic read that felt very Batman. For my recommendation on that series, I’ll lead you here:

And that’s a wrap, folks. Overall, I did not hate King’s Batman, but throughout much of King’s run with him, I did feel there were some missing pieces and missed opportunities. The tone was definitely much darker. And for some folks that’s their thing, maybe you loved King’s Batman! After a third reading I did find a lot more I enjoyed, but I’m happy to say I’m excited for Bruce to have some new writers. The last few months we have definitely seen a Batman I was worried had been forgotten. The current stories definitely have a damage control vibe to them, but recovery of a character takes time, and the patience is worth it. Now let’s hope tomorrow’s Batman #100 and next week’s Detective Comics #1028 show us more of what we’ve been seeing! Thanks again for reading and see you again real soon!

Passionate about many things, blogging about comics.

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