The essence of Batman’s psychology versus Bruce Wayne’s state of being is an existential thrust that is not often covered in either the films or the animated series. There is the gist of it but it needs to give way to a specific story progression. An interesting point of “Batman Vol. 8 – Cold Days” [Tom King/DC/176pgs] is that its namesake moves on the basis that Batman cannot always win. Sometimes he needs to lose in one way or another. The first iteration in “Cold Days” follows a trial of Mr. Freeze to convict the villain of murdering three girls. Bruce Wayne is called to jury duty and is selected as one of the 12 jurors. It bears an interesting reference to “12 Angry Men”. What is quite interesting however is the metaphorical and ethereal discussions that are discussed inside the jury room. Bruce is struggling against himself without letting the others in the room know truly what is bothering him. He brings in tenants of Christianity & God but wrapped within the structure that Batman is Gotham’s savior and he is fallible. He debates that is possible for him to make a mistake claimed by the fact that Freeze indicated that there was something different about the Caped Crusader that night he was brought in. It is an interesting exercise that would oddly enough work well on stage since the audience knows Wayne is Batman but everyone else in the play does not. The second story in this volume: “Beasts Of Burden” speaks to the relationship between Dick Grayson and Bruce Wayne. The parallel between Bruce and Grayson mirrors, at times, Bruce and his father. The interesting psychological structure again at play here is Grayson’s initial rebuking of Wayne as a father figure but then the eventual fondness that Wayne replaces with coldness until it causes a dark fate to befall Nightwing.Iinterestingly watching the new “Titans” on DC Universe (see Inside Reel’s interview here) the resentment on Dick’s part is palpable. This story and its requisite end are on a different timeline. But as is spoken within the end of “Superman II”, one cannot deny his or her nature. “Batman Vol. 8 – Cold Days” works on a variety of levels but most especially psychological even going at one point to use allegory with the story of ” The Animals & The Pit” a rather specific Darwinian theory that balances both the aspect of the dark and the light.
By Tim Wassberg
The mixture of tendencies within these comics point to two specific points. With Batman, The MAXX and the Sonic team is that triumph within character and depth are cyclical while in the Star Wars stories, those good tendencies tend to outpace evil even if darkness is lurking right below the surface.
Batman & The MAXX – Arkham Dreams #2 The interesting thing about The MAXX is the nature of his perception of the real and the almost tongue-in-cheek way that he perceives reality since he completely believes it. Through some weird perception of Batman, they become linked in the Outback which in many ways makes this reader think of the netherworld that Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow inhabits in one point of “Stranger Tides”, a world where everything means nothing and yet so much. Reflections of the real world tend to happen in a misshapen way. The Penguin’s mind is initially masked in this experiment but it moves to The Joker who interestingly enough seems to live in this world to a point so he can control its mechanizations. The art in this comic is extremely lurid which gives the grotesque imagery of The Joker and to a point Batman disgusting skewed features (in a good way) while The MAXX remains consistent in perhaps another metaphorical perception about the notion of reality.
Sonic – The Hedgehog #10 The massing of teams from different edges of the Sonic universe to battle a Neo Demon of sorts can play like a video game version of “Lord Of The Rings” with bright pastel colors. Everyone has their differences but also their strengths. In terms of character structure, Shadow, unlike the more cautious Sonic, fights out of rage which ultimately opens up the team to problems. A deeper psychological structure with Whisper is started which is also explained in the post notes. The essence of emotional pain even within this world gives the characters depth where it might not have existed. This is a point of reference that Nintendo & Illumination (who are gearing to do a new adaption of “Super Mario Brothers”) should pay attention to. Even in these worlds built in two dimensional game format, there is possibility for 3 dimensional depth. “Sonic – The Hedgehog #10” has a bit of it while still adhering to the base.
Star Wars Adventures #15 The small perceptions of “Star Wars” in mini episodes sometimes tells the most about the characters in the small details without having to worry about a very large super structure. This is why the first “Clone Wars” shorts by Genndy Tartakovsky many years ago still remains some of the best (even though the mythology has been undeniably mined by David FIloni’s eventual continuing series). Here the first story is “An Unlikely Friendship” with Poe Dameron and BB-8 landing on an aboriginal planet that has textures of Dagobah. They meet a young man on a walkabout to find his focus as part of his tribe. This boy helps them through selfless help of his own backing up the essence of good human nature. The 2nd part of the comic is “Flight Of The Falcon Part II”. Bounty hunters are looking for the Falcon but droids who were saved recount Luke, Leia, Han, Chewie and C3PO landing on a garbage planet looking for a place to relocate the rebel base. There, a taskmaster wants to take the Falcon but the Rebels learn to get out of there fast. However the droids see that 3PO is his own robot capable of free thought which gives them the confidence to leave the master that has subjugated them.
Star Wars Adventure – Tales From Vader’s Castle #5 – The Fearful Finale The culmination of Commander Graf’s entering of Vader’s Castle to save her beloved droid Crater does have the texture of a set up. However one of the aspects that hasn’t been as specifically shown within Lord Vader is his intention of psychological warfare. The aspect of fear is almost as virile as fear itself. Lord Sidious/Palpatine subjugated Anakin into Darth Vader specifically with this tactic so it is interesting that he do it himself. The resolution points to this possibility but also to the confidant action by Graf’s assistant/pet Scripp to save his master per se. Again two lessons of story melded in one with a sense of foreboding.
The aspect of happiness in a world that is governed by conflict and doom and gloom sometimes unbalances the truth of why people look up to superheroes. They live by different rules which means that the simplest pleasures are beyond them simply because of their psychological make up or the circumstances that formed them. In “Batman Vol. 7: The Wedding” [Tom King & Mikel Janin/DC/176pgs], the simple essence of a wedding is what creates an unusual progression in the three stories portrayed in a different time line, one in a philosophical permutation on death, one within a distracted love in a church and finally in the actual act of matrimony which in the ironic way in which it is shown balances it all out in a primitive but archetypal manner. All but the final story uses humor both broad and gallows based to get its point across. The first story with a would-be superhero from the future named Booster Gold is the most broad and the most silly since, like other recently successful superheroes, he breaks the fourth wall when he needs to. It shows that only by suffering does Batman truly exist but in his happiness the rest of Gotham becomes a cesspool ruled by evil. Gold’s rants are stream of consciousness and truly plays to the irony. He simply wants to get Batman a wedding present he will like. The 2nd story involves The Joker wanting to be invited to Batman’s wedding so he lures him to a church. The art of The Joker in this particular story at times is haunting especially a look of glee in an apartment but then a moment where he and Batman are kneeling before the altar in a church as it explodes. The remainder of the story which involves a near death conversation between The Joker and Catwoman where Batman is likely dead is esoteric in the best sense simply because in the dialogue the nature of their interdependence on each other is undeniably clear. The final tale shows the two lovebirds [Catwoman & Batman] growing close in an series of imagery but it is the final moments which won’t be revealed here that are the most poignant and tragic. “Batman Vol. 7: The Wedding” works because it is uneven and because it offers something new in its purview in trying something different.
By Tim Wassberg