The Birth of Batman
No character in any comic universe is as well-known as Batman, and the rise from creation to ascension atop the “Mount Olympus” of superheroes was meteoric. The birth of the legend is almost solely contributed to Bob Kane, or it was for a lengthy time. The comic book world has seemingly relented to the fact that Batman was a bit more than a solo project and was greatly influenced by Bill Finger. The duo went on to create some of the most recognizable superheroes in all of media including The Joker, Catwoman and Robin.
Batman was first introduced in Detective Comics #27: The Case of The Chemical Syndicate in May of 1939, but it wasn’t until Detective Comics #33 where we were given our first look into the fateful day where Bruce’s parents were murdered. A story, which has remained relatively unchanged, is still canon today. The big breakthrough, however, was Detective Comics #35 where Batman became the main cover feature of the series. The series would go on to last until 2011 and publish 811 comic books.
Comic book characters tend to have an exorbitant number of storylines, and Batman is no exception. While what is memorable to one, may not be to the other; these storylines are ones to which I’ve personally been drawn. Tastes will be vastly different, but these are the ones I tend to come back to when someone asks the question, “What’s your favorite Batman Comic?”
Have you heard of a storyline so secretive that it didn’t leak prior to the title’s publication? Leaks in the industry, any industry for that matter, are a dime a dozen. The advent of social media and the internet has only compounded that sentiment. In the forward of the Hush trade paperback, Jeph Loeb talks about how incredible it was that they were able to keep the title quiet, thus ensuing the creation of the title and the bandaged villain.
Hush is an interesting Batman title, solely for the fact that he isn’t that great of a detective in it. He constantly walks into the tangled web that was left before him, all orchestrated by the mysterious bandaged man. But, what Hush excels at is Bruce’s tumultuous relationship with Catwoman.
Catwoman shows up throughout the story, and we get to see a relationship for between the two. We are able to look behind the cowl and see real emotion in Batman. The guarded alter ego of Bruce Wayne seldom gets this type of treatment, so it was nice to see that here. Although a character was shooed in seemingly just to have a new villain, it gave a very vulnerable Batman. The towering fist of justice amounted to a shamble of emotions. Hush is always one of those that’s a sticking point with fans. Some love the title which features a more voluptuous artistic style, while others find it juvenile. Adding in a new character was a red flag for what’s to come, possibly spoiling a reveal. But, all in all, Hush is a fun graphic novel centering on Batman’s relationships with his villains and, of course, very shoddy detective work.
A reimagining of a superhero is nothing new; it happens just about yearly. New themes are introduced, and motifs are capitalized upon. But nothing really hit me as much as Arkham Asylum. To me, Batman always felt like he had command of the most dire of situations. No matter what stood in front of him, he would manage, and he would succeed. But, the situation in AA felt so dismal. It was so claustrophobic through its artwork and storytelling, forcing us to enter the house of the criminally insane. The fact that Batman acted as a conduit to tell the story of how Arkham Asylum came to be was a great way to get a fresh look into the character. We were given a tour of the history of Arkham through the eyes of Batman, a very dark and demented look at that. The power was, in a sense, taken away from Batman as he entered Arkham. Surely he held his own when fending off Killer Croc, but throughout the story, we simply learned how the greatest villains came to be in Gotham.
The tone was unwavering in striking those emotional cords page after page. It was hard not to feel as trapped as Batman did as he made his way through Arkham. The writing, while minimal for a graphic novel, was blunt and brutal. The real horrors of Gotham came to life, and the artwork only further emphasises that point. Instead of the typical softer brush and color tones, Arkham Asylum was characterized with hard brush strokes and splatter coloring. The lettering was also as frenetic as the storyline, a magnificent piece of nightmare fuel if you dare. It’s a Batman story that is dark through and through, a serious look at a serious Batman.
The Elseworld’s moniker features some insanely fun stories, but Kingdom Come shows us a Batman we’d never expect. Batman is a broken down man strapped to an exoskeleton which is the only thing keeping him standing. For the first time ever, the world knows that Bruce Wayne is Batman, the latter of which he goes by in public. This “hero” has been driven so far that he justifies not intervening to save metahumans battling it out, even though they would all certainly die. His plan rationalizes that the death of those that don’t belong can somehow reset Earth. But Batman, at his crux, has been built on the ability to save life, not take it.
Throughout Kingdom Come, we get to see a gamut of Batman’s emotions. He seemingly goes from a cynical old man early on to transforming back into the sleuthing detective after double crossing Lex. Eventually, he dukes it out with Wonder Woman after she refuses his order not to harm any metahumans by killing Von Bach. Then, when Bruce completely redeems himself by rebuilding Wayne Manor and turning it into a hospital, we are given the opportunity to see the evolution of Batman in one story. I have not read another story that provides such a dimensional Batman; it’s a true superhero tale. Kingdom Come is much more than a fantastic graphic novel; though, the depth in its writing by Mark Waid and Alex Ross is unparalleled to this day. The fantastic artwork, also by Ross, features characters in a light which we’ve never imagined. Kingdom Come is a must-read for any fan of Batman and/or the entire DCU.