Jim Gordon found Bruce Wayne working at the Lucius Fox Center for Gotham Youth last issue, and Batman #43 sets the record straight.
Wayne is alive and well.
Batman is dead.
Joker’s Endgame has changed the entire landscape in Gotham City. Buildings have been reduced to rubble, and the citizens are afraid. There’s a new Batman who’s controlled by the new mega-corporation in town — the appropriately titled Powers which has absorbed WayneTech.
Gordon hopes to use Wayne’s knowledge of Batman’s technology to make some changes in his own suit. Powers has Gordon on a leash, and Batman can’t thrive if he’s working for others’ interests. Wayne rejects the offer. He’s got a new girlfriend, a new life, and his purpose now is to help the children of Gotham in the wake of Joker’s mass destruction.
At this point, you might be suspicious of it all — perhaps Wayne is hiding some secrets under his new mask, the one that looks like a normal person. Even Clark Kent can’t believe his own eyes.
But it’s true, according to Alfred. His niece, Julia Pennyworth, found Bruce’s body and bagged it up. Then, suddenly, it came to life. The dionesium found in the cave where Batman and Joker both died must have been key in resurrecting him. Alfred drove to the site and returned him to Wayne Manor before he discovered that while Bruce came back to life, a certain part of his brain did not — the part containing his memories.
Without the trauma, the training, and the spark that led him to take on the role of Gotham’s protector, Bruce can no longer serve as the Dark Knight any more than Alfred ever could. To top it all off, Bruce couldn’t finish his dream project — a device that would replicate Batman in every sense of the word, from genetics to memories. Using both nature and nurture, the device would grow a mature Wayne, build the physical aspects into the body with training, and replicate all of the painful battles and struggles in order recreate a perfect clone.
The device was never finished, and Gotham City is left with a new Batman — one that has to sneak out in order to perform some investigative work on the new villain in town.
Julia and Jim head to the Devil Pigs’ headquarters where he makes visual on Mr. Bloom. A gunfight ensues, and Jim’s trapped in a furnace. Julia is attacked, and another big-name villain comes to make a deal with Bloom.
You don’t want to miss this issue. Everything is on point, from script to art, and it’s apparent that Scott Snyder has a very big story to tell.
By bringing back one half of Batman, his plainclothes self, Snyder has literally deconstructed Batman. Giving him a sort of lobotomy brings the story into a sci-fi realm, one that explores what makes a man who he is. Bruce’s identity is now constructed on following his parents’ legacy without the theatrics and superheroics. He’s still a hero, working to help the children of his city. That begs the question — is he any less of a man because he doesn’t dress up as a bat to fight crime head on?
It also makes one wonder — if given the chance, how many of us would erase the past knowing the good changes it brought upon ourselves? For Bruce, losing the memory of his parents’ deaths opens the door for a new existence and one that grants him all the things we look forward to in life: finding love, building a family, and living a safe existence. To reintroduce that pain or to create a clone for the purpose of subjecting it to trauma in order to build a better superhero has a meta application. After all, we love our superheroes damaged and broken. When we demand that Batman be brought back to life or rage against his apparent death, are we upset that we’ve been deprived of our favorite whipping boy who’s now been replaced by someone else with a more vanilla origin story?
So, for now, this is the status quo, and things are great. Snyder still hasn’t reached a ceiling, and Greg Capullo’s art this issue commands attention. There’s a consistency to the artwork, from panel to panel, and it’s clear that Capullo has no intention of phoning it in.
It all starts with the atmosphere — since we’re getting a new villain, it’s critical that the stage is set just right. There’s one action scene in the issue, and the rest of the pages are spent developing the characters through expression and body language — things Capullo can do in his sleep. At this point, I have to mention FCO Plascencia’s colors which take us from the bright panels of Bruce Wayne’s new life, through the foggy flashback, and into the ominous and sterile darkness of the Devil Pigs’ headquarters. The visuals get increasingly dark, and once the action blows open a fantastic double-page spread with gangsters, Batman, and sharks — I had to take a moment and stare in awe. If adrenaline can be drawn, here it is.
I wouldn’t dare leave out Danny Miki’s contributions. The inks fill in all the pertinent details, balancing the fine line between busy and simple. The line variations create dimension and spacing on their own, which adds to the activity within the panels.
The question at the moment isn’t, When will Bruce Wayne return as Batman? Right now, what I’m more interested in is, How do people fill in the blanks? There’s a lot going in within the pages of Batman #43 that go far beyond superheroes fighting against supervillains. Snyder and crew are working on a story that’s searching for something even deeper than the meaning of Batman’s cowl or signal. This is the search for a microscopic dot — a point that right in the middle of the heart of the character — and it’s not being done just by removing Batman from the equation.
The reality is that we have been removed from Batman, and it’s our reaching for the character that is now the conflict. In a way, this story tells us more about ourselves because our reaction to the story is a marker, a micro-expression, an expression.