Today, Drew and Mark are discussing Batman 47 originally released December 9th, 2015.
Drew: I’ve complained before about the prescriptive nature of Chekhov’s Gun — that our awareness of Chekhov’s “rule” necessarily gives away elements of the ending. A great example of this is the first season of The Killing — I enjoyed it quite a bit, but Chekhov’s gun dictated that something must tie the mayoral campaign that features so heavily to the titular crime. The specifics can still surprise us, but we know we’re not being shown that stuff just for fun. Of course, the predictability of Chekhov’s rule loses its stranglehold on narratives that aren’t driven by plotting — say, a character study or a situational comedy. In those cases, we might actually be shown things just for fun (or nuance, or detail, etc). We tend to think of superhero comics as plot-driven narratives, but B-stories can often take on less plotty structures, as we learn more about a character, or are amused by their situation. It can be difficult, then, to know if a given element of a B-story represents a gun that will eventually go off, or just a portrait of someone who has a gun. These are the questions in my mind as Bruce grapples with his own obscured history in Batman 47.
That moment arrives after Bruce comes to Duke’s rescue at the Iceberg lounge. Bruce confronts Duke about taking these risks, but Duke turns it around on him, forcing Bruce to confront the past he’s chosen to ignore. He calls Bruce’s choices since “Endgame” selfish, asserting that nobody can do what he did as Batman. It’s a powerful moment, as Bruce is brought face-to-face with the demons he’s been hiding from.
The other shoe drops as Bruce grapples with this reveal, as the Joker appears to be in the exact same position.
I might have thought I’d be tired of Batman’s tangoes with the Joker — especially after Scott Snyder’s insistence that he was laying that particular conflict to rest (at least for a while) — but I found this to be remarkably moving. If their conflict has this kind of mythological inevitability to it, how else could they deal with amnesia? Snyder and Greg Capullo drive this point home by staging their meeting under a lamppost that two moths seem just as mysteriously drawn towards.
I’m not always a fan of the kind of fatalistic duality often drawn between Batman and Joker, but this may add an interesting enough twist on the formula to keep me interested. What would they be like if they weren’t grotesque opposites of one another, but just two regular people? What if becoming Batman was more explicitly tied to creating the Joker?
In any case, this story as a presumed new origin for Bruce-as-Batman makes some interesting changes to his mythology as we know it. In light of Duke’s speech, Bruce’s Batman is no longer defined by grief and privilege, but by a sense of responsibility. He needs to be Batman because he’s the best at it. That may elide Bruce’s skills as natural gifts rather than the result of an inhuman drive — a change I don’t love — but it also turns the tables on Bruce’s selfishness. He’s no longer fighting crime in the most reckless way possible because he’s selfishly driven to stop his own parents’ murders, but because Gotham actually does need it, and he’s the best person for the job.
But that’s a lot of reading in for what is ostensibly the B-story. I suspect we’ll have Gordon-as-Batman around for a good while yet, and there’s clearly some Chekhov’s guns yet to go off there. One of those kicks in just in the nick of time as Gordon battles Mr. Bloom — the “blocker” in the batsuit manages to mitigate Mr. Bloom’s powers, just as he was getting ready to land the killing blow. This puts Bloom in GCPD custody, but that might just be part of Bloom’s plan — seeds hidden around the city find hosts, creating a whole Bloom army ready to fight to rescue their leader.
I’m not entirely sure where Bloom will go with this, but the prospect of a Bloom army suggests that Gordon et al will have to raise their own Batman army, made up of those prototypes we met last month. Maybe that will be cool? I don’t know, I’m so invested in Bruce’s story now, I can barely muster much interest in the non-Bruce stuff. I mean, he’s the gun that’s going to go off before this is all over, right?
Mark: Well as someone who has only ever cared the bare minimum about Gordon-as-Batman, I’m right there with you in anticipating Chekov’s Bruce Wayne getting fired off.
But I admit to being just a little bit bothered by the way Bruce is forced to confront the truth, because I feel like Snyder has a gaping hole in his Bruce Wayne story: Damian. Having Duke be the one to push Bruce into confronting the truth of his past is fine (I guess you can count it as delayed payoff to the worst part of Endgame?), but how much more affecting is the same scene if it’s Damian in place of Duke — you know, Batman’s son? Bruce has been creating this fantasy life for himself, thinking he can ignore his past. But even if he was able to live his life free of the Batman mantle, Bruce can’t ignore his son.
I understand that Scott Snyder doesn’t like writing for Damian (as in he just doesn’t feel like he has a handle on Damian’s voice), but I’m having a hard time getting past the issue. How Damian isn’t looming larger in this moment, especially after the events of Robin: Son of Batman 6, is bonkers to me.
I am, however, on board for the potential of subtle change to Batman’s motivation. Sure, the idea of a hero fighting crime out of a sense of responsibility is not the most original, but it doesn’t feel redundant. Still, I’m not sure if that’s what we’re going to see here. My reading of the moment is that everything is going to come back to Bruce — the pain, the loss, the anger, everything — so basically he’ll have the same motivations as before. Plus maybe some new ones.
With his last issue for the foreseeable future looming on the horizon, I would be remiss to not take a moment and praise Greg Capullo’s consistently great work on Batman. Because his work is so consistent it’s easy for it to go unremarked on, but it really is pretty astounding what he’s able to produce month after month (and without delays). No matter who DC gets to replace him, and I’m sure they’re shooting for the moon, Capullo will be missed.
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to Comixology and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?