Batman’s persona has varied over the years due to the amount of creative teams that have collaborated on his books. However, one detail about Batman, or Bruce Wayne rather, has always remained constant – he witnessed the deaths of his parents, Thomas and Martha. This tragic circumstance permanently scarred the psyche of the young Bruce Wayne so profoundly, that even he himself could not begin to comprehend how he was supposed to cope with such a traumatic loss. How could he? He was just a kid…he’s only human.
We as Batman fans know all of this already, don’t we? We are all too aware that a youthful Bruce Wayne once made a vow to himself to avenge the death of his beloved parents. Batman became an eventual means for Bruce Wayne to expel the negativity that emanated from that fateful night in Crime Alley and apply it against the criminal element that resided in Gotham City. His crusade against crime continues to be a heroic undertaking and has expanded well beyond the Gotham City borders. His epic journey has repeatedly seen him disrupt elaborate plots and schemes against humanity. He has trained others who believe in his cause and who are willing to participate in his urban warfare endeavors. He’s defied death at every turn and combated numerous psychotic adversaries while being rewarded with nothing but bruises and scars to go on top of the ones he already has. Despite all of these amazing accomplishments and everything that Batman stands for, he is still, only human.
Tom King’s unorthodox approach to the Batman mythos, delves deep into the multifaceted psychological components that comprise the Dark Knight’s fascinating behavior. Naturally, the crux of Batman’s individuality stems from the day his parents were lost to him. But what about the Bruce Wayne persona? Although the juvenile Bruce Wayne survived that horrible night from a physical standpoint, a substantial portion of his spiritual essence ceased to exist. Bruce never had a chance for a normal childhood and his life thereafter would never be the same. Mr. King is not reinventing the wheel with Batman, so to speak. What Mr. King has been doing from the beginning of this run, is altering our perception of Batman and building upon the rich history of the world’s greatest detective. King is showing us a Dark Knight that acknowledges that he is mortal, and as such, he’s very much aware that he won’t live forever…he’s only human.
With or without the cape and cowl, lies a shattered Bruce Wayne, who has exhibited all of the various emotions associated with grief and pain. Throughout Batman’s history, have you not seen him spiral deep into thought and relive that night in Crime Alley? History has showed us a Bruce Wayne continually in denial, and as a result, he has isolated himself emotionally. When Bruce recalls that night, have you not seen him at times go into a fit of blinding rage, wishing he could’ve done something different to alter what happened? On the night he made a vow to avenge his parents, he vividly recalled his parents getting slaughtered and remembered exactly how he felt – vulnerable and helpless. Making the vow, gave Bruce a sense of gaining back control of his life. Becoming Batman became an avenue for him to unleash some of the anger buried within him and it was his best answer for preventing anyone else from having to feel the same way he did. Batman/Bruce Wayne has been suffering from depression for many years. So many emotions swirling within Batman’s body and soul…at times, its too difficult for him to control, or even accept them…how can he? After all, he’s only human.
Batman #12, in my opinion, is like a Rorschach test. Whoever reads this book, could interpret this multi-layered story in a variety of ways.
From a literal perspective, not much is happening in this issue, other than Batman continuing on his unsanctioned mission to break into the Santa Prisca prison to retrieve the Psycho Pirate from Bane in an effort to help Gotham Girl break free of his control. Once again, we see Batman singlehandedly plow through a legion of soldiers more gracefully and with less effort than what Arnold Schwarzenegger dished out in the Commando movie. But, didn’t we see this before, earlier in the arc, when Batman infiltrated the prison? Yes, we did. Let’s not forget that Batman is doing all of this shortly after he was pummeled by Bane…and Batman is going back for more. In the meantime, there’s barely any dialogue exchange among the characters in this story. So, if you take this story literally, you will walk away feeling like not much happened in this issue and you might begin to question the pace of the story arc.
Examining this tale from an artistic perspective, will reveal that an abundance of splash and double splash panels were used for this issue drawn by Mikel Janin. Janin’s art in Batman #12 is truly inspirational. The background art alone is magnificent, well structured and extremely vivid, making it easy for those viewing this book to feel like they are experiencing this story firsthand. Janin’s character placement throughout the issue is perfect; exceptionally animating Batman, showing you each and every single step the Dark Knight takes during his passage to Bane. Janin and Hugo Petrus combine their talents on inking, controlling the appearance of the environment Batman finds himself in beautifully. The coloring by June Chung continues to be robust, fortifying Janin’s artwork and superbly applying contrast when the story shifts between what happens inside and outside of the prison.
Batman #12 could also be viewed metaphorically. Batman’s journey to Bane parallels Bruce Wayne’s journey through life, having to go through numerous obstacles or impossible odds to attain or achieve his goals. No matter how many times he falls, he gets up and goes at it again. Another symbolic moment in this issue is the character placement of Catwoman and Psycho Pirate alongside Bane. If you put yourself in Batman’s boots during the final panels, it would be easy to suggest and associate Catwoman’s higher positioning with that of an an angel. On the other hand, is Psycho Pirate, who is placed lower than Bane, symbolic of a devil. Yes, I am fully aware that Catwoman’s murder count has been heavily discussed as of late; however, I don’t think Batman views her as a devil. She represents hope for Batman and I firmly believe that we will be in for more surprises with Catwoman in future issues.
Finally, there’s the psychological perspective. Bruce Wayne is still grieving his parent’s death and he has lived through many dark and depressing moments since then. Perhaps none more somber than when King plants a moment of weakness within the story for Bruce of how he once contemplated suicide as a youth and felt utterly alone. As I mentioned earlier, Bruce is still grieving, but what will happen on the day that he finally accepts that his life was emotionally annihilated? What will happen on the day when Bruce finally accepts that his parents were murdered and that’s it’s ok to move on? Acceptance requires no timetable and is a summit that not many reach, especially after suffering from a catastrophic loss.
Batman’s life is suffering personified. His mission is to save lives. Batman has become a legend, inspiring many; he’s larger than life…even though he is still, only human.
Until next time Crusaders!
Writer: Tom King
Pencils: Mikel Janin
Inks: Mikel Janin and Hugo Petrus
Colorist: June Chung
Letters: Clayton Cowles
Published by DC Comics