I just finished reading the newest of “Batman” and like the previous 5 issues before it, is top notch. The entire story arc has shown Batman at his most vulnerable, most insane and most beaten, yet somehow he fights through and wins anyway just because he can’t allow himself to ever fail at anything.
That is all fine and good, however isn’t that like almost every other Batman story (and most other comics while we’re at it)? Batman had his back broken by Bane. Came back and beat him. He’s been drugged an left for dead by the Black Glove. Nothing a mind trip to bring out the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh can’t fix. He’s even come back from the past after being blown away by Darkseid. I recently reread an old comic that I had found. “Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight” #34 from 1992. It’s the concluding issue to a story where Batman has become increasingly ill and weak while in pursuit of a criminal. Alfred tries to get him to rest. Batman’s mind keeps moving as he dreams about his parents being killed and he is eventually able to overcome his physical issues to defeat the bad guy. Sound familiar? Check out this except from that now 20 year old issue:
“Can’t think about how I feel. Focus…my vision doubling…blurring…can’t let it — Can’t think about — Have to move. Move”
Now here is a section from “Batman” #6 that came out Wednesday:
“No…no strength left. Blood f-filling the wrong…all the wrong places. Whole body…every bone…saying let go. Let go…and let them take you. Let it end. The pain. The fight. Become a ghost, a face behind the glass. A face…his face…Alan Wayne. His face…so scared. Begging…calling out for someone. Someone to help him…to help him stop…them. Enough. ENOUGH!”
While the writing is certainly a bit more detailed, the theme remains the same. Somewhere in every Batman comic you will find something to the extent of “So much pain…can’t breath…can’t move. Have to move. Good, I’m moving” followed by Batman then beating the tar out of whoever pummeled him in the first place. It’s the comic book version of Hulk Hogan “Hulking up” and no selling at the end of every match to win. Now I’m not trying to pick out a flaw with Batman here. Like I said before, pretty much every comic book, and when you think about it every action movie as well, hits the same point. Hero gets damaged seemingly beyond repair, yet fights the odds to succeed anyway. Heard it a million times. What I am asking though is why doesn’t it matter with Batman? Other comics go through similar motions yet the quality waivers. Daredevil and Spider-Man for example go through periods of pour reviews only to return to our good graces without changing too much of the general tone. Every Batman issue isn’t considered a masterpiece, but they do seem to be held above anyone else.
You could say the writing and production is just better. It would certainly make sense that the biggest brand would get the best staff to work on it so naturally the final product is better. If that is it then DC must really hate Superman. You can also argue that since he has no powers he is more relatable to the readers. Wouldn’t that make Punisher more popular too? A case could also be made that Batman’s rogues gallery add something different than any other book. Each villain attacks him from a different angle. Sure they all attack him physically, but Joker goes after his sanity, Scarecrow goes after his fears, Two-Face on his own duality and so on. The Court of Owls now moves in on what he thought he knew about his family and city, taking away his security. It’s never a question of can Batman beat someone in a fight. It’s usually more about dealing with the stress each battle puts on his mind. Is there a villain Wolverine has faced that doesn’t want to just punch him in the face?
I like to think that that’s the reason Batman is different. But at this point it could just be because he’s Batman, and we know him. By now we’ve had 8 movies, a ton of TV shows, and countless epic comic book adventures. We know what Batman is about. As long as the new books continue with the formula of him being smarter, tougher and better than everyone else at everything, will any of us complain? Maybe Batman gets away with repeating same formula because he did it first, and he did it best. It may not be much of an answer, but maybe we keep buying the same stories over an over just because he’s the goddamn Batman.