Thursday, October 25, 2012

Art of the New 52: The Iconic Batman #8

In this ongoing series I've attempted to look at the story behind the pictures.  Not just the narrative itself but the symbolism behind the imagery.  What does the art suggest?  Is it metaphorical or analogous to something? How does it make, we, the readers, feel?

For this particular post I'll be looking at the artwork of David Finch from the book, "Batman- The Dark Knight #12."   The story of this issue was written by Greg Hurwitz with colors provided by Sonia Oback.

The first panel I would like to discuss is one where Batman is being held captive by the Scarecrow.  As always, the Scarecrow seeks not to physically harm Batman but to mentally torture him instead.  In the scene above, the Scarecrow has already sprayed Batman with one of his hallucinogenic toxins.  For some context I can tell you this particular story exposes not only the guilt of Batman's past over the loss of his parents but sheds light on the childhood of the Scarecrow aka, Dr. Jonathan Crane.

What's fascinating about the above image is, now that Batman is under the thrall of the toxin he can see the shadows of his deceased parents cast by the Scarecrow.  This is a very clever device by Finch.  Batman's psyche goes immediately to the death of his parents and the person who induced this memory casts the forlorn shadows just prior to their murder.  Note the residue of the toxin that hit the floor now doubles as the blood they spilled and it chillingly outlines their fallen forms.  One could also say this bears a resemblance to a crime scene outline.

Sadder still the shadows hold each other hand in hand just like they did the night the young Bruce Wayne last saw them alive.  No doubt it was the last happy memory of the both of them and his mother still wears the pearls she did that evening in this ghostly silhouette.

The loss of Batman's parents is one memory that will haunt him forever.  It also serves as the basis of his crime fighting career.  Dr. Crane seeks to use this terrible memory against Batman and as the form that casts the shadows he becomes the embodiment of that crime as if he owns the crime and can use this power to crush the Batman.

In our next image we see a reflection of a different sort.  Instead of a shadow casting a pall over the psyche of Batman, we see an actual mirror into the mind of the young Bruce Wayne.  Here, Bruce is humbled in his sadness and is brought to his knees by the pain of it all.  He looks quite alone and fragile and even though as he looks into the over sized mirror he sees not his true reflection but that of the horrid night his parents left him utterly alone.  The glass doesn't lie.  Young Bruce sees who he really is and it is the anguished orphan that will forever define him.

Finch sets this scene in a corner also.  It suggests there is no escape from this memory.  As I said, the mirror is over-sized as if everything that defines Bruce is larger than he is and the fact that it sits on the floor and not on the wall suggests a certain chaos has enveloped his home.  Loving parents would naturally put everything in it's place.

In our last frame we see the boy Bruce Wayne attending his parents funeral mass.  What's impressive about this tableau is the scale it provides.  We don't often get to see Batman's childhood memories and certainly not the ones of the immediate aftermath of his parents death.  I think what Finch is trying to tell us here is that Bruce is so small compared to the enormity of his loss.  The walls of the cathedral tower over him and the mourners that populate the pews are set apart and distant from young Bruce.  Even the coffins that are set before him are on a higher plane and separate from him. In this frame Bruce has been rendered diminutive, inadequate and inconsequential.

It's a heavy burden to lose one's parents.  The images afforded us here by David Finch shows how paltry we can become when faced by the grand scale of loss.  Not only for the next day but for all the days to come.  As readers of Batman I think we all know how the story turns out.  Batman will survive this loss and instead of turning inward he strikes outward to avenge his parents and in turn brings justice to all.  A bitter lesson to be sure but, as our hero, his strength and courage gives us the conviction and determination to go on.

Next up, Soviet style Robins?