I garnered a lot of hatedom from my Dark Days: The Forge review, not only for my negative review of the comic itself, but also my declaration that I couldn’t care less about the Dark Knight Detective, the Caped Crusader, DC’s Favorite Son, the Batman.
I just do not find the Bat interesting. I used to, back when I was in high school. Then again, back then I watched the Crow on a weekly basis and thought Zack Snyder’s Watchmen film was genuinely brilliant. Then I grew up and got out of my emo phase.
I still like The Crow well enough and think Watchmen is Snyder’s best film, but the latter of those two points isn’t saying very much.
I’m not going to say that liking Batman is wrong or that there aren’t elements to the character that are interesting. The fact that he has genuine mental health issues makes the character unique, and he gathers the best spinoff heroes this side of Spider-Man.
However, like Spider-Man, his spinoff characters tend to be a lot more likable than him, like Nightwing, Red Hood, Batwoman, and Batgirl.
Before you say anything, I do at least like Spider-Man, but I think Agent Venom, Kaine the Scarlet Spider, Spider Woman, and Mile Morales are all better characters than the Web-Slinger himself.
Oh shit, I’m gonna get some blowback for that one, too.
Anyway, fellow BC writer and self-proclaimed Bat-fan Joe Glass encouraged me to try the Caped Crusader’s comic once again, as he said that Tom King had managed to bring Batman back to the realm of mortality and actual capability of failure.
For those just joining my anti-Bat rants, that is one of my main problems with modern Batman. He’s been made almost infallible. He is always prepared for an infinite amount of situations, he’s smart and analytical beyond human capability, and he is always in the moral right over any fellow hero. He’s not mortal anymore; he’s become the most powerful comic book hero just because of his name.
This is by no means intended to insult the writing skills of Scott Snyder and Tom King. They have both presented Batman comics that I would call well written, even if they have all the appeal to me of an issue of Amethyst: Princess of Gemworld.
They managed to make the material good. It’s just a shame their protagonist has been made insufferable by an identity weaved by comics that proceeded and ran alongside their own comics. It’s not their fault that DC already established Bruce Wayne and continued to make him an insufferable mopey prick with all the emotional engagement of Brainiac being played by Tommy Wiseau.
I’ve said before that his tragedy is shared by many other heroes, so his “I’m always right, angry, and sad” motif wears thin quickly. Barry Allen has a dead mother and a father who was blamed for it. Aquaman never knew his mother and watched his father get murdered. Billy Batson is an orphan who had to survive on the streets. Green Arrow has a myriad of parental issues that keep getting rewritten to the point that I imagine that he gets traumatized just from the confusion.
And yes, the stacks and stacks of Wayne money doesn’t help the lack of sympathy I feel for his mopy persona. Yes, yes, money doesn’t buy parents, but at least he has the least-appreciated father figure ever, Alfred Pennyworth, to raise and love him. Spider-Man had surrogate parents, one of which died in front of him, and he can still crack a damn smile every once in a while.
It doesn’t help that it has already been preordained by the gods of the DC Universe (so, Doctor Manhattan at this point, I guess?) that Batman will never experience character growth or change. He’ll always be mopey and borderline psychotic. He’ll never seek help or heal one iota from the death of Thomas and Martha Wayne. If he did, he wouldn’t be Batman.
Both Black Manta and the Punisher do this idea better. Black Manta’s conflict is that he never healed from the death of his parents. Beyond that, he was actually forced to confront this when he believed Aquaman dead during Forever Evil and his subsequent short stint on the Suicide Squad.
The Punisher doesn’t heal, either, and that’s why he’s always a raging and suicidal warpath. You’re not supposed to idolize the Punisher. He’s a dangerous, bloodthirsty nutter.
Meanwhile, Batman is one of the most idolized heroes on the planet, and that’s not a healthy concept. He actively ignores and flaunts his psychoses, but he’s still almost always morally correct and has the proper answer in the eyes of the stories he stars in. He’s not healthy, and you’re supposed to think that’s not only a good thing, but makes him better.
As someone who has had to deal with chemical imbalance in my own brain, that’s doesn’t really make me comfortable as a message. I wouldn’t want people to think that my problems are anything but a hinderance. It’s driven away friends and made it really hard to communicate with people.
Anyway, we’re 850 words in, and we haven’t even touched on the plot of this comic.
The story of Batman #25 that is supposed to happen around the second year of Batman’s career. The Joker is on yet another rampage, and the Riddler is behind bars.
Nygma manages to break out and heads directly to the Joker, proposing an alliance against the Batman. The Joker can’t laugh because his life has become too predictable, and the Riddler’s quizzical obsession now feels pathetic since Batman can solve them with ease. Joker shoots him, and Batman arrives to pursue the Joker.
Bruce then alludes to a following war that almost burns Gotham to the ground, showing future participants such as Scarecrow, Clayface, Two-Face, Mister Freeze, Poison Ivy, the Penguin, Killer Croc, Solomon Grundy, Man-Bat, the Mad Hatter, Scarface, and even Deadshot and Deathstroke.
For such a lengthy comic, it’s surprisingly light on plot. That’s not exactly a bad thing, as it does manage to establish setting and atmosphere pretty well.
It focuses primarily on the Riddler and the Joker, as per the “War of Jokes and Riddles” plot. That’s a really good thing.
If there is one other thing about the Batman that I think is good, it’s his murderer’s row of heinous foes. Scarecrow (my personal favorite), the Riddler, the Joker, Mister Freeze, Catwoman, Two-Face, Ra’s al Ghul; there are so many to love. I’m not going to pretend that loving Batman villains is a unique opinion, but I’m also not going to sit here and pretend that his enemies aren’t awesome.
The premise that the Joker can’t laugh feels a bit fresh right now. I have to say, Joker’s shtick has grown pretty stale in recent years. The laughter, the randomness, the dark humor; it’s not exactly unique anymore. Even the Joker’s version of it isn’t as fun as it used to be. That’s probably the reason that the Suicide Squad film tried to reinvent him so desperately with that pimp-juggalo Jared Leto monstrosity.
There is something a bit groan-worthy that much of the comic is Nygma just reciting riddles to himself. I get that it is literally his obsession, but it starts to feel like Batman #25 is just trying to fill dead air when there is no one for him to be talking to.
His escape is a bit hard to swallow, too. He’s been in prison with no contact except guards. He manages to escape by slitting a dude’s throat in an oddly Joker-like fashion, then he gets past the other guards by reciting the names of their family members. That’s it. He has no threats to hang over them, they just assume he can do something even though they have eight guns pointed at his head.
What? Really? That’s it. These are the most inadequate prison guardsmen in the world. Worse yet, this guy is vaguely threatening your family, and you’re just going to let him walk out. Why not hold him down so it doesn’t frigging happen?
The finale where we see that Bruce was explaining all of this to Selina Kyle, AKA Catwoman, had my eyes glazing over quite a bit. There is a monologue by Wayne that manages to condense a lot of what I hate about the Dork Knight in a single page:
“People think they understand me. Alfred, Gordon, the boys. All of Gotham, in its way. Even you. A man in pain, trying to save who he can. They think…but…they don’t understand…anything. They don’t know a damn thing about me. Because they don’t know, Cat. They have no idea. You have no idea.”
Translation: “God, mom, you don’t understand me. No one understands me. Now get out of my room so I can get back to listening to Black Veil Brides. God.”
I’m not even trying to be hyperbolic on this one, I seriously think this is the pathetic pleading of a man-child. Bruce has such a cartoonish need to preserve his illusion of brooding individualism that he thinks that the man who raised him, the boys he raised, and the man he fights crime alongside all just don’t get him enough.
Good God, man, lose the edge before you cut your million-dollar suit on it.
And heroes having to do things they’re uncomfortable with in an extreme situation? The Dork Knight doesn’t have a patent on that. Hell, other heroes have had to put down rogues because of some extreme scenarios. Hal’s had to kill people. Aquaman has killed people. Wonder Woman had to leave the Cheetah to her animalistic side because she couldn’t get through to her until Rebirth. You’re not alone in that, but you’ve convinced yourself that you are, like a high school edge-lord.
Moving onto the art: it’s alright. Mikel Janin has a distinct style that cuts some pretty impressive figures. It’s a bit reminiscent of Mike Deodato Jr, and, consequently, it has some of the drawbacks of Deodato’s artwork. Everyone looks entirely too big. The Riddler, traditionally depicted as a lanky man, looks like a damn Grecian statue with all of his muscles and pecs. It looks a bit off as a result.
There are also two two-page spreads when Nygma and the Joker meet in the middle of this comic. It felt like a naked attempt to take up space, honestly. It wasn’t a big reveal. There was nothing to show but the two figures and a nondescript background. It didn’t add anything to the comic and just felt like four pages were used for something that could have been done in less than one (but could have been two, if you really wanted to be that dramatic).
All this being said, there are five solid pages of A-grade comic book storytelling that really had my jaw drop.
Unfortunately, it’s the preview for Aquaman #25 at the back of the book.
In all seriousness, Batman #25 wasn’t atrocious. But it was by no means great, and I wouldn’t recommend it as a must-buy. Odds are that most of the people reading it have bought it anyway, so what would be the point? It didn’t change my mind on Batman and really only reinforced how I already felt. I was up for being proven wrong, but this comic didn’t do it.
And, still in all seriousness, you should buy Aquaman #25 instead.
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