Mar 19, 2014

Build a Batman

Build a Batman
Travis Hedge Coke

It’s story time! Let’s read Return of Bruce Wayne together! (Or, you can just sit there and read about me reading it. That works, too.)

Batman is awesome. Even people who hate Batman stuff actually like Batman, they just don’t like the execution, or the ephemera. If you truly and totally dislike Batman, you’ve rejected humanity. (This column will have hyperbole. Batman necessitates hyperbole.) But, why? It’s easy to love Batman, but difficult to, sometimes, justify loving Batman. Or, to explain the attraction. If John McClane or Han Solo suddenly dressed like a bat, they’d be less than cool. How long would Dorothy Gale or Norm MacDonald be worth watching, if they swore to fight crime after seeing their folks gunned down on a latenight Gotham street?

If your best friend had billions of dollars but only employed one old man to clean his mansion, man cave, thirty-five cars, made him perform surgeries by himself, check messages, manage his schedule, select his clothes, cut his hair, and coach him in being a decent human being, plus cook all the meals? Your friend would be a jerk. Batman, though, needs an Alfred.

Grant Morrison said Return of Bruce Wayne, his examination of what makes Batman Batman by throwing him around in time, setting him on fire, shooting him, and generally slapping him around, is some of his tightest writing, and it probably is. There is a ridiculous depth and complexity in what appears to be a simple gimmick comic, and let’s hope Batman is so Batman that it justifies the efforts.

So, before we begin reading, let me say Batman!

And, now, let’s read…

Chapter 1: Shadow on Stone

Pg 2-5 – The comic begins with some guys following bat-looking shadows and boot-prints in the mud, until they get to a cave. Bat symbols, bat silhouettes are fun to draw. They’re like making those V-shaped birds (that also appear in these pages), but have more points on them. And, let’s face it, the bat silhouette is the easiest thing to associate with Batman, even before the mask or “My parents are dead!” And, who is Batman, if not a dude with bats who comes out of a cave? So, that is exactly how Batman shows up, a dude, in tights, coming out of a cave full of bats to do justice.

Pg 6 – Batman, who has amnesia, sees a guy called “Joker,” who laughs, and he glares at him. Because of Law of Batman #1: Batman is an awkward judge of character.

Pg 10 – A dead father, a dead mother, and some (Flintstones’ style) pearls on a necklace. It’s how Batman came to be, in the brain and heart of a little boy, as we get reminded in every single Batman movie, and it’s also how Batman comes in, here, in Return of Bruce Wayne.

Pg 11 – The kid, here, has just lost his grandfather, his dad is clearly grieving, and yet, his main concern is “How will I ever be a man?” How much of Batman is just that? Just a young kid, unable to deal with kneeling in his parents’ blood, trying to be a man?

Is Batman a man? Is he more than a man? Real people can’t ever do all Batman does, right? Even stripped down versions of Batman are still bigger and stronger and more resilient than us, right?

The kid’s dad tells him there’s “not much to being a man,” and points out that Batman still needs to eat. Batman does sleep, he does get hungry, and…

Pg 12 – And, Batman does get hurt. The classic Year One makes a big deal of how mortal Batman is, how easy to get severely injured it is in his lifestyle, and here we see the first of many injuries to Bruce in this comic, as he takes an arrow to the shoulder, saving the kid.

Pg 13 – And, the kid loses his dad. Everyone knows Bruce’s parents were murdered and he became Batman, many remember that Robin, as well, loses his parents before Bruce takes him in and helps him become Robin, but is the loss necessary? Is putting on a mask and fighting back against villainy warranted by grieving? Is it just about grief?

Pg 16 – The first villain of Return of Bruce Wayne, Vandal Savage, is emblematic of “the first villain.” He’s caveman evil. He’s Cain. He’s Proto-Bastard. And, he not only killed a giant bat-monster before, he’s hung it up as a furry scarecrow to terrify his follows and Bruce Wayne, who he’s tied down to die staring at it.

A famous Batman quote is regarding criminals being a fearful and superstitious lot, justifying his bat-costume and themes. Is Batman just a scarecrow for criminals? Is the bat-signal up against the clouds just as terrifying and crime-preventative as Batman, himself? Is a seven foot tall bat-monster’s head and hide up on a stick as scary as, or scarier than a man in a pointy-eared mask with a yellow belt and themed boots?

Pg 19-20 – “Eat his brains.” “Break his back.” Everything Savage and his people suggest to end him are things that Bruce Wayne has faced before and bounced back from. While his gang say “nothing can kill” their boss, and yes, he’s revealed to be functionally immortal, Bruce cannot be permanently ended either, because a) he’s the goddammed Batman and b) he’s protected by a commercial necessity to keep telling Batman stories.

And, crucifying Batman? Tying out Batman, arms out, legs spread, bleeding and confused? We haven’t seen the crown of head wounds he got earlier than this, in Return of Bruce Wayne, but we will. Morrison has already said he feels Superman is a better idea than Jesus and here is yet another Christ moment for Batman, a comparison he’s been making since at least the early 90s.

Pg 22 – Batman is hallucinating and remembering and understanding. In effect, he is having a vision. Batman, especially Morrison’s Batman, has visions. But, going all the way back to that bat that sat on a bust in his father’s study, Bruce Wayne is a superstitious man. And, his heroism springs from his cowardice, from a base-level terror and anxiety. Bruce is a superstitious and cowardly man, and his awesome comes out, in part, from acting against those despite feeling them. The big monster bat skin hung over him as he is staked out overnight is horrifying. It reminds him of terror, monsters, omens, skeletal hands pointing, and masks, and ultimately, himself.

Pg 23 – The kid is back! And he bears a bat-shield.

Batman has inspired a scared orphan to man up, put on a mask, and come save his ass so he can go beat up evil. Batman is forever, but Robins spring eternal. In Robin, Batman sees how he could have helped himself, and Robins see in Batman what all kids see in Batman: a hero they could be if they worked hard enough. As adults, we know, mostly, that it’s silly to believe this. You can’t be Batman. You’d die being Batman and nobody would ever treat you as they treat Batman in a Batman story. But, to kids? As a sell? Batman is the superhero you could be.

Pg 26 – Bruce Wayne is a badass. But, you put point ears and a cape on Bruce and he’s unstoppable.

Vandal calls Bruce a “sorcerer” here, and since Batman is traditionally considered “super rational” or a guy who doesn’t like or believe in magic, that might seem ignorant. But, Grant Morrison understands magick differently, and his Batman – his way of looking at Batman – makes calling him a sorcerer totally sensible. Batman believes in fate and omens and in fighting them or ignoring them if you desire. He believes in directing, in control, in defiance and order and compassion. He’s superstitious. A crusader. A priest. Batman is the weird, emotional, incomprehensible dark man who lives on the outskirts of town in his weird cave full of tools and fetishes, who comes into town and performs awesome feats in his animal mask.

Pg 27 – And Bruce Wayne, by being a dude in an animal mask, inspires others. He inspires what the kid, on this page, calls “Bat People.”

Pg 34 – With Batman gone, we see the fate of Savage, and why Savage is not Batman and Batman not Savage. They’ll both be around in the 21st Century. They’re both strong, fast, incredibly smart, powerful and inspiring men. Vandal Savage wants to be king. He wants to sit in the middle of town, with the best of everything as his right, to be worshipped and admired by demand. Law of Batman #2: Batman is not a conqueror. Batman doesn’t really care if people worship him, or admire him. He wants his dead parents to think well of him, maybe, and he likes his friends, sure, but he’ll burn anyone if it’s the right thing to do, the just thing. Batman doesn’t demand the cops serve him. He’ll work besides the police or government, but if they’re on the other side, they’re on the other side. He’ll fight cops. He’ll scare citizens flying overhead on a batrope, but he won’t attack people and demand allegiance or payment.

Chapter 2: Until the End of Time

Pg 1 – Does Batman create his villains? Encourage them?

Bruce fights a monster here that he brought to this time, this place, but he didn’t know it (and does not understand, in the scene), and he’s not responsible for the decisions the monster makes. You can’t blame Batman for Joker or Riddler or the Cavalier or Professor Pyg. Even if they are inspired by him, or delighted by his attention, these are people making their own criminal decisions. You can’t blame Batman any more than you can blame their victims.

Pg 2 – “Stay with me and I’ll love you,” Annie says to Bruce, “Until the end of time.” This witchy, dark-eyed woman who he saves from a monster, who patches him up and puts him to bed and says sweet, mysterious things to him.

Pg 8 – A bat, nailed dead to a church door. Stabbed in the heart and hung up as a scapegoat, another scarecrow bat monster, another impaled bat.

And, what does Bruce call it, straightaway? He says it “seems a sinister omen.” It’s a bat-signal, it’s an omen, but it’s a manmade omen, and Bruce knows it. He’s already taken a fake name, here, and put on a costume (with a belt full of pouches), to be the policeman Mordecai, with his chief suspect announcing, in front of him, “The devil walks among us!” as he approaches.

Pg 9-10 – Bruce dispels the idea the Devil is at work here, by using both detective work and intuition to suggest the crime was committed by mortal and immediate hands, specifically those of the decedent’s wife. He’s partially wrong, but he doesn’t know he’s wrong and it’s a good, simple, sensible deduction. His only flaw is not going far enough in his investigation.

Pg 11 – Even though he believes she committed murder, Bruce still shows great compassion, though. He doesn’t want her on trial for things she didn’t do, he does not desire her to be tortured. Batman understands mistakes, missteps, violent emotions. Batman must be compassionate. He must believe in justice, in helping people, but he can’t be about vengeance or cruelty and last.

Pg 12-13 – And, here, with Annie, Bruce continues to show both his compassion and his inability to correctly judge people. He’s emotional. He has an incredible soft spot for women in trouble and for those he feels are shunned or persecuted. Annie is being incredibly suspicious here, her words and actions tinged with cruelty, and yet he ignores that and focuses on her suffering and sadness. He says of her and himself, “We both lost our way.”

Pg 14 – Bruce’s description of what he assumed happened to him, as he is still mostly amnesiac, makes it sound as if he was mugged after coming into Gotham, just as his parents were, the night they were murdered before him.

Pg 15 – “I don’t believe there are witches here,” says Bruce, but we know there are. Bruce has a tendency to deny magick, witches and demons, even if they are right before him. He doesn’t want to see Annie as a witch, or a threat, despite the fact she talks of magick, dark gods, and punishments. He wants to see in her only someone to rescue and someone acting criminally or viciously only out of innocence, the same way he sometimes treats Catwoman or Talia as naïve or animally innocent, instead of as adult women who’ve chosen their lives.

Pg 16 – The dragon, the devil hurting innocents, flees when the bats come out.

Pg 17 – Bruce’s idiot ancestor, the primary antagonist of the issue, refuses to acknowledge that a mortal woman could be the murderer. A guy who wants to torture and kill women for being witches, but the idea that a housewife could be a murderer and not a giant supernatural monster dragondevilthing? Batman may tend to infantilize women, but he’s not a raving misogynist with drool on his chin at the thought of brutalizing young ladies for being immoral.

Pg 18 – Annie’s not quite Snow White, but Bruce is the Huntsman in that story to her fairytale princess exiled to the woods. The Huntsman’s role is to defy queen and society to save a girl who has a very vicious sense of justice, and Bruce, in this chapter, is performing just such a role.

Pg 19-21 – Bruce calls the monster he accidentally brought with him, his “responsibility.” He knows Annie called him by magic for an “avenging angel.” He doesn’t try to punish her, even knowing she’s responsible for murders and been manipulating him. He tries to help. He tries to protect, no matter what.

And, Annie, at the same time, demonstrates the self-justifications of so many of Bruce’s eco-villains. She cares about animals, she values the plants and nature, while society is destroying them, so it must be okeh that she’s killing and hurting people. It doesn’t ring any less selfish here, than when Poison Ivy says it, or R’as al Ghul, but Bruce always tries to give it great consideration, because he wants righteousness to mean rightness and good.

Pg 26 – Minutes until the end of time and the universe, Bruce Wayne stands in a dark disguise, in the last house at the edge of forever, and he pauses from world-saving and world-ending business to memorialize Annie’s death billions of years earlier. He calls her passing, “a tiny spark unnoticed in all the cosmic geometry,” and to some, that might means it’s not significant enough to take time out from what might save existence, but Bruce knows it is. Bruce knows the value of commemorating the dead and caring for the suffering.

Pg 29 – Without Bruce there, Annie dies unjustly by petty officers of a crooked and dogmatic law. Why does a city full of police need a Batman? Because policework is a job. Batman is a thing.

Bruce’s ancestor could never be Batman, and Batman could never be that constable. He’s petty, angry, sadistic, and incapable of looking at people as individuals or acknowledging they have lives, that extenuating circumstances and moments of passion exist. He has a false name, he has a sense of justice, but no compassion at all.

Chapter 3: The Bones of Bristol Bay

Pg 1 – Batman, seen finally in full costume (in flashback), with his head wounds and just now being shot in the skull by a dark god or true devil.

Pg 2 – Is this Vandal Savage again, in a costume, calling himself Black Beard? It is easy to say, “How can they not tell it’s ____ in a costume?” if you have no reason to suspect it is, it will be difficult. It’s easier for us, outside the story, because the story makes the connection for us, but remember, in the very first Batman story ever, we spend the whole story with Bruce and Commissioner Gordon talking, Batman fighting crime, but it’s only revealed in the last panels that Bruce is Batman and prior to that, you can’t tell.

Pg 4 – Black Beard is mistaken about Bruce’s identity, too. He sees he’s strong, he sees that he’s intense, and he wants him to be something he understands, so he assumes he’s the Black Pirate, Captain of the Black Rose.

Bruce does not hesitate on this page to headbutt evil right in the nose, because Batman can’t hesitate. Batman cannot be intimidated. Or, at least, intimidation should not slow him up. Action! Justice! Broken noses!

Pg 5 – Vandal Savage or not, Black Beard is captaining a ship called Revenge and set up as a small king, once again, a swaggering bully with royal pretensions, ruling by fear and cruelty. Batman, to keep being Batman, cannot be sailing the good ship Revenge or making a bully or a king of himself.

Pg 8 – More dead bats tethered to posts and some impaled skulls. Batman, for all the fun and flash of him, is a terrible mythic thing that, when crucified, is shown to also be small, mortal, funny-looking. And, there’s always a terrible hole in him, something broken, even in the lightest of takes, something is driving this guy, there is something more solid, more whole, or holy, that he is seeking.

Pg 9-13 – While Black Beard makes leaps of faith, such as his “if this story about the Black Pirate is true, then this and this story must also be true,” Bruce Wayne follows paths of analysis. He tries not to make assumptions, but deductions based on evidence.

Pg 14-15 – Finally, a scene in the present day. A different Batman and his Robin, in radiation suits, in a destroyed city, looking very post-apocalyptic, continuing to fight crime and solve mysteries even with Bruce Wayne missing. Bat-people needed Bruce to start it all, but once begun, there will always be a Batman. As a former Robin says, the bat symbol was found throughout thousands of years, “carried across the Siberian land bridge into Europe by North American cavemen and built into 19th Century gardens.”

Pg 18 – A bridge of bones, and a pack or brave pirates who’re going to “show death who’s master” begin to die one by one, by a visitation of bats, bat-people, bat-fletched arrows and shuriken.

Pg 19-20 – And, standing on the bridge of skulls and femurs in the dark, surrounded by bats? A masked Bruce Wayne who will teach the surviving criminals fear.

Pg 21 – “I never met a ghost I couldn’t kill,” says Black Beard, but Batman is friends with death, Bruce Wayne is there in the dark, in a place of death, and it’s his home. For Bruce, death is a beginning, it is an always. You fight on regardless, and do right.

Pg 27 – Jack Valor, the guy whom Bruce borrowed his mask from this issue, wants to retire from masked dogooding, but Bruce tells him clearly, “Whatever happens… never give up the fight.”

Pg 28 – Black Beard, on the other hand, says he had planned on getting the treasure and retiring to a little island, have a family, be super-rich, but since he hasn’t got the gold and silver, they might as well go back to plundering. “Bring on tomorrow, we’ll seize it by the throat!”

Pg 29 – And, after many years of masked crimefighting, Jack did retire, marry, have kids, and chill out. But, even as an old man, unmasked, not using his fists or a sword, he still fought the good fight his entire life. He still consorted with bat-people and their plans for justice, their fight against the devil and crime. He did good.

While Black Beard/Savage is the antagonist here, Jack Valor is the strongest foil in The Bones of Bristol Bay for Bruce Wayne. He, too, wears a costume inspired by one his father wore, fights against crime and cruelty, comes from a wealthy family, has great physical prowess, all that good stuff. But Jack doesn’t even seem to know why he does it, except he inherited it and bad people annoy him. He lacks Bruce’s drive for more than adventure or distraction.

Law of Batman #3: Batman does not stop.

Pg 30-31 – Wayne Manor, that abandoned, big, haunted house just outside the city, with its caves and its shadows! And, in Wayne Manor, a man of justice, a man with superhuman reflexes and true grit. A man who lost his family, lost his way, but fights on! Jonah Hex!

Jonah is a hired gun, the best hired gun in the Old West, and he and Batman do share a lot in common, but Jonah, like Jack, is no Bruce Wayne. Batman is not for hire. He doesn’t owe allegiance. Batman is about an ethos, a directive, not law or contract. Jonah isn’t all about the money, he’s not a greedy or vain man, in that way, but he upholds his image above all else, and he is often incapable of changing his mind, while Bruce Wayne can change tactics, he can forgive enemies and he can cast judgment on friends. Bruce Wayne can call people out, or he can look the other way, as individual situations mitigate or instigate.

Chapter 4: Dark Night, Dark Rider

Pg 1-3 – Yet another family brought low by thieves with guns.

Pg 4 – And, this time, a mother kneeling in the rain, the blood of her family pooling around her, as she plans vengeance and envisions the “darkest, truest angel.” And, in answer to her desperation, the avenging shadow that falls on her belongs to…

Pg 5 – Bruce Wayne, complete with a dead father hanging over his shoulder, a mask on his face, and some Dark Knight Returns-evoking lightning flaring in the background.

Pg 6-7 – Again, with a bridge that can deliver death. And, again with Bruce being referred to as a ghost, except they know he can’t be a ghost because he’s using tools.

Pg 8 – And, here is the 19th Century Vandal Savage, here calling himself Sauvage. And, also, looking sadder, lonelier, with a cancer that won’t stop but can never kill him, and being greedy with his booze.

Pg 11-12 – Bruce isn’t killing anyone, but he is disabling everyone’s gun arm as soon as they get in his way. Batman isn’t about killing, he’s about disarming. Dead people, after all, can’t feel guilt and they can’t rehabilitate.

Pg 14 – Like the post-apocalyptic present or the devil-overrun Gotham that Bruce’s ancestor policed, Sauvage/Savage sees this era as “fallen times” filled with “degraded men.” Every era looks dark and crime-ridden, sinful and gone too far, but how many eras actually have been? None, probably, or else we’d never have got out of them and into the future.

Batman doesn’t believe in futility or sin so deep it can’t be absolved or damage that can’t be repaired, worlds or people who can’t be saved.

Pg 15 – Hey, kids! It’s Thomas Wayne! Bruce’s evil, also immortal ancestor, who’s a devil-worshipping paranoid jerk. And, he’s introduced calling a hostage, “slut,” because like his and Bruce’s mutual ancestor, the Hammer of old Gotham, Thomas has issues with women.

More skulls on sticks, too. Gothamites love skulls on sticks.

Pg 16 – The bells will “summon.. from the shadows… one who won’t stop until the wicked are brought to account.

Now, no one in the scene knows what the bells are, or do, outside of prophecy. She thinks they’ll bring the above-quoted figure, and Thomas believes they bring Barbatos, a bat-god, but also, if you’ve read this comic, and others, you know that the bells are a mnemonic to remind Bruce of Alfred, of calling Alfred to come patch him up and save his life, the night he decided concretely to become Batman. So, the above quote applies to Batman, yes, but it also summarizes Alfred quite well. Because while there is a Batman, there is an Alfred.

Pg 23-24 – Three different ancestors of Bruce Wayne’s converge, on an immortal who doesn’t seem to get that he is, one trying to kill himself rather than wander with ennui on his shoulders, and Catherine, brave, fiery, having been kidnapped, tortured, and drugged, still fighting, still protecting secrets, defending family, and hitting Vandal Savage, ever-living conqueror, right in his face.

Pg 25 – Bruce, standing in the rain before a kneeling couple who will one day be his great-great-great grandparents, having saved their lives and now handing them the pearls that one day will belong to his mother, the pearls his mother will die wearing.

“All of the days of the world is one day,” Catherine said her grandfather, Jerome said, “and he must be strong for us all.” This is true of Batman, but it is true for all of us, then, as well. It’s that third Law of Batman, again. Batman does not stop.

Pg 28 – Batman, shot down. If it is true that when Bruce Wayne’s parents were gunned down, he was killed, it is also true that when his parents were murdered, Bruce became immortal. “And now I must die,” does not follow “I’ve been shot in the breast” for Bruce Wayne, for Batman. But, it’ll hurt.

Pg 30 – Thomas Wayne, immortal, evil, takes his medical equipment and a top hat and sails for Liverpool. Because we just read Batman vs Jack the Ripper and didn’t realize it.

Pg 31– Bleeding out, staggering, Bruce is in the city of his childhood for about four panels before he’s hit by a truck. Welcome to Gotham.

Chapter 5: Masquerade

Pg 2 – It wouldn’t be a Frank Miller riff without heavy shadows, sharp angles, tough talk, an ass-shot dominating the page.

Pg 3-4 – Bruce is going to follow Marsha Lamarr. She’s presenting a crime to him and she’s a woman in apparent need. That’s all Bruce needs to get going. It’s that infantilizing he does plus his drive to see crimes solved.

He does not know the crime is his own mother’s murder, because he hasn’t got his memory all the way back and he has a concussion. Nor, does he understand that the costume this woman presents to him is one his dad wore, one time, to a fancy dress party, a proto-Batman costume.

Pg 11 – Bruce has a “capacity as a detective” because Marsha is disguising him as one. Just as Bruce has a capacity as such as Batman, or a capacity as almost anything by similar means. Dress up and do the job.

Pg 13 – Betsy and Roddy Kane, the parents of Bruce’s mother, are many things he must not ever be. The joke the page about wasps is a joke on how WASPish Betsy comes off, but she’s also callous, classist, judgmental, dismissive of her dead daughter, her son-in-law, her suffering husband right there beside her, only seeming to care about place, money, and vengeance, not people.

Pg 14 – Bat symbols in the dregs in the teacup, in the outline of the awning.

Pg 15 – But, even Roddy and horrible Betsy Kane are suffering. She’s posing as an arch and vicious WASP, but she’s heartbroken and fearful, and like all people, she’s dying.

Pg 17 – The first thing Marsha and Bruce do, hitting Wayne Manor, is to visit the family graveyard. Because Wayne Manor is the family plot, in its way. The crypt Bruce reaches first is Alan and Catherine’s, the couple he had only last issue seen meet for the first time. We are all mortal, whether we like it or not, death is always present.

Pg 18 – Thomas Wayne, with a new face, an awkward haircut, running a military psychiatric hospital and making deals with desperate sinners as he wants to be the devil (and, he is a devil, he’s just too self-doubting to guess it). Here, at Willowood, he is actually the “inmate running the asylum,” as we’d seen just previously, “Bad Tom,” whom Betsy Kane thought was Bruce’s father, Thomas Wayne, is actually this much older and considerably more evil Thomas.

Pg 20 – Marsha is telling Bruce she “only wants [him] to play a detective,” that she only wants a patsy, but he can’t see it.

Pg 23 – “Playing a ghost didn’t seem so bad.” At least, Bruce is starting to get into it again.

Pg 24 – And there’s Bruce, in his daddy’s clothes, in the family cemetery, surrounded by darkness and bats and an eclipsed moon.

Pg 26 – “A poisoned kiss.” Several bat-villains have used poison lipstick or poison kisses before, from Poison Ivy and Talia to the Joker, himself, but too, it’s a metaphor of intimacy turning into betrayal, and how attractive some risk, some pain can be. Bruce Wayne always goes along with these sorts of women, doesn’t he? And puts himself besides these kinds of men. Maybe he hopes that sometimes it won’t turn out to be true (and on occasion, he’s been right), but still, it’s the kind of risk that would get you or I killed. We cannot be Batman and make it. At our best, we can be Batman and die.

Pg 27 – Old Thomas Wayne, here wearing his domino mask and his robes and hood looks an awful lot like the New God of Sadism, Desaad. And in the panel at the bottom, as Bruce tells her, “No one lost a soul, but you,” Marsha looks like she’s gone soulless, just not caring at all, cruelly lighting her cigarette…

Pg 28 – That she will use to set Bruce Wayne on fire.

Pg 29 – One of the cabal changes his mind. See? Bruce’s trust isn’t so bad. People can change. People can act better. No one is damned forever. But, though he helps Bruce escape, his own guilt will weigh on him like a jacket lined on the inside with knives, for the rest of his days.

Pg 30 – Bruce’s grandfather dies as Bruce leaves this time.

And, thus ends Bruce trying to play at being a detective. Just wearing a bat-mask and solving mysteries is not enough. Batman cannot be just a detective. He can’t just be a costume. As we see, that only results it being set on fire.

Chapter 6: The All-Over

Pg 1-4 – Bruce Wayne at the end of time, in the last haunted house at the edge of town ever.

The story of Batman is being archived for all time, and these are its defining elements: the pearls, the bell, the gun, and the bullet. Apparently, that’s what you need to build a Batman: pearls, bell, gun, bullet.

The robots here are filling “the hole” in existence with all the information they can, and the story of Batman is the last thing packed in.

Pg 3 – Bruce is dying from being shot, beat up, and set aflame, but Batman can’t die because then there wouldn’t be as many Batman comics coming out, so, the robots resurrect him. And, too, one of them merges with him. Because Batman is about not dying and about making friends, whether Batman himself knows this, or otherwise. It’s about reaching out, about touching people, and keeping them alive.

Pg 4 – The robots also pulled the devil out of Bruce that he’s been carrying with him this whole time.

Pg 5 – Bruce needs a disguise and an ally, so he can fight the bad thing. Always.

In this case, he needs to hide inside one of the robots, his new friend, and find a way to defeat the monster that’s been piggybacking on him this entire comic.

Pg 8 – “If I ring this bell, Alfred will come,” says Bruce back in his past, the night he chooses to become Batman, which he has not done yet. This, of course, is the all-important bell that is a defining part of his story, yet something so often ignored.

Where there is a Batman, there is an Alfred. Where there is a Batman, there are bat-people.

Pg 13 – Skeets is trying to get them to trust Batman, soon Red Robin will be asking Bruce to trust him. Batman’s not about trust, right? Batman is a skeptic, Batman is a cynic? Right?

Batman is a superhero who dresses in a silly costume and tells children that even if their parents die or the world falls apart it’s not the end, and things can and will get better. Batman drives a batmobile with bat-symbols on the hubcaps.

Pg 16 – Using end of the world technology, Batman has two awesome tools in his cache now: 1) he gets to briefly know almost everything and 2) he throws bats at people. Yes, Batman has evolved past batarangs or grappling guns with pictures of bats on them to actually growing bats off his costume to attack on his behalf.

Pg 17 – Red Robin means major superheroes when he says “big guns,” but this is Batman. Batman. Bringing guns in is going to put him down faster?

Pg 18-19 – Red Robin asks Bruce to trust him, tries to remind him of what Batman is and should be. But, he’s also convinced still that there is something wrong with Batman, the same way most of us, when we look at Batman objectively, decide that his approach is “real world” unhealthy. That there’s something wrong with him.

Pg 20 – Bruce tells Wonder Woman to put the lasso on him, use it to force him to tell the truth, because Bruce Wayne likes being honest. If Bruce lies or keeps secrets, they are to protect others, not for him to hide inside.

Pg 21 – And Batman’s crafty. The horrible monster devil bat thing inside him tells him to say “nothing,” so Batman goes “Nothing,” and then continues with what he wants to say.

Batman doesn’t stop.

Pg 22 – Bruce’s biggest enemy is wrapped around him like a skin.

Splayed below in insets, all manner of things to flesh out a Batman: pearls, bullet, gloves, gunshot victim, bat, night, knight, Orion, laughter, constellations, the hanged man, a Robin, Wonder Woman.

Pg 23 – Wonder Woman helps build a better Batman? Yes, she does.

“Batman should be on his own, or he’s less special” makes sense until you really apply it. Batman working alongside Superman and Wonder Woman without having massive powers does make him special. And, like here, when Batman can utilize his superhuman allies to defeat the devil that’s pursued him across all time because the Justice League are really good at punching monsters in the face, that’s beyond special.

Pg 27 – Wonder Woman says “Batman must die!” and he is, already, dying.

But, the thing is, again, we are all, always dying. Some of us are just dying slower than others.

And, Red Robin? Red Robin saying how unfair it is that Batman must face these cosmic and metaphysical assaults, that only gangsters and serial murderers should be thrown at him? He’s thinking small. It’s his friend, his father figure, so we can forgive that, but it’s small. Batman is big. Batman can take it.

Batman can die and it won’t kill him.

Pg 28-29 – In flashback, Bruce is told, “If you flinch, you will not survive.” Luckily, he’s Batman. Batman does not stop. Batman does not flinch. Batman sees pain and hardship and the safety and goodness beyond it and leaps right into the pain and hardship to carry all of us to the other side.

Pg 31 – Wonder Woman and Superman need a way to get Batman back to life, and his Robin has the simplest, most direct method. Show him his cowl and tell him that his city needs him.

Pg 33 – And it works.

Pg 34 – Batman, in the cave, in the dark, with the bats, ready to go save his city, to save all of us and everything, tonight and every night. And, always.

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