Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Batman #43 (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

Since this issue establishes how Bruce got to where we saw him last issue, it's really make-or-break for the story that Snyder is telling.  Like Marley's death, you're not going to believe anything that comes after it if you don't accept this premise.  I'm glad to say that I feel like Snyder really sold it here.

First, Bruce's resurrection is believable, at least as comic-book resurrections go.  In the wake of Bruce's confrontation with the Joker, the dionesium seeped into his broken skull and healed the damage to his brain.  However, in doing so, it created entirely different and new pathways, leaving Bruce with no memory of his previous life.  (Snyder doesn't specify why the dionesium would create these different and new pathways in healing him, but I'm willing to just go with it at this point.)  Alfred is forced to walk Bruce through his life, starting with the death of his parents and leading to the revelation that he was Batman.  However, Bruce stops him before he gets to Batman.  He tells him that he feels no emotional connection to his parents (or their death) so he doesn't feel the need to live the life that he previously lived.  He tells Alfred that he wants to help Gotham in the hands-on way that his mother did, and Alfred puts him in touch with Julie Madison.  The rest is history (if recent history).

In other words, Snyder is telling one of the classic Batman stories:  who would Bruce have been if his parents hadn't been murdered?  Snyder makes it clear that the tension of this arc will come from the fact that Batman's allies don't really want an answer to that question.

The readers gets all this information about Bruce's status quo from Alfred's conversation with Superman, come to Gotham to check on the situation.  Clark is adamant that Bruce find a way to become Batman again, but Alfred is even more adamant that he be allowed to rest in peace (so to speak).  He stresses to Clark that the intuition and training that made Bruce into Batman is gone.  In perhaps the best moment of the issue, he threatens Clark by producing a ring made of kryptonite, showing him that Bruce is as helpless as Clark is in the presence of the ring.  In doing so, Snyder makes it clear that Alfred intends to preserve Bruce's happy ending, encouraging Clark to "let him live."  Moreover, Alfred makes it clear that they don't really have a choice.  Clark expresses disbelief that Bruce hadn't planned for this eventuality, and Alfred reveals that he did:  he uncovers the machine that Bruce would use to create the future versions of himself that we saw in "Detective Comics" #27.  But, Bruce never had time to finish it, presumably never finding a way to transfer his brain patterns onto the clone.  As such, he is really and truly gone.

But, it's not just Clark that's going to be the problem.  Commissioner Gordon visits Bruce to ask for help with Mr. Bloom.  Gordon tells Bruce that he needs him to tweak his suit so that he can investigate Mr. Bloom on his own, since the Powers That Be don't want him involved.  (Snyder stokes the suspicion that said order raised in Gordon with the revelation that Bloom's men may have been able to get into Gordon's network systems.)  Unfortunately for Gordon, Bruce doesn't remember his connection to Batman, even if it's just as the engineer of his tech (a pretense that Gordon maintains in their conversation).  Gordon leaves the seed for Bruce (implying, to me, that he knows exactly what connection Bruce really had to Batman), but it's Duke Thomas that retrieves it to study.

In other words, despite the revelations of this issue, Snyder is still playing his cards close to his chest.  We've got the obligatory explanation of why Bruce is amnesiac, but Snyder is also implying that he's going to stay that way for a while.  Moreover, Snyder actually makes you want Bruce not to return.  We're not dealing with Doc Ock taking over Peter's body.  If anything, the revelation that Bruce was so obsessed with his role as Batman that he was willing to condemn himself to it forever shows why he needs a break.  I find myself agreeing with Alfred:  Gotham, a city that never gives, has given Bruce a new life.  I doubt that he'll get to keep it, but I find myself hoping that he does.

**** (four of five stars)

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