Writer Peter J. Tomasi continues his exploration into Batman's despair by examining the next step of the Kubler-Ross model of grief, Anger. Actually, as you open the cover to this mag the first page reveals that Batman is experiencing a higher resolution to anger, rage.
Before we move on let's take another look at the Kubler-Ross model and how anger is defined.
Anger — "Why me? It's not fair!"; "How can this happen to me?"; '"Who is to blame?"
Once in the second stage, the individual recognizes that denial cannot continue. Because of anger, the person is very difficult to care for due to misplaced feelings of rage and envy. Anger can manifest itself in different ways. People can be angry with themselves, or with others, and especially those who are close to them. It is important to remain detached and nonjudgmental when dealing with a person experiencing anger from grief. (Definition courtesy of Wikipedia.)
In the issue of Batman and Robin #20 or better put, Batman and Red Hood #20, we once again get a guest appearance from Carrie Kelley. I'm starting to believe that Kelley has been introduced as a touchstone for Batman. Not someone to reflect each stage of grief off of, but instead to help measure each stage by enduring Batman's grief (with snappy comeback's) and be there when he's cleared the last hurdle. Maybe she will be the next Robin. I can see Batman reaching the final stage, Acceptance, and not only passing through that moment but accepting a new partner. Someone that has withstood all his barbs, Carrie Kelley.
As an example, in the illustration above, Batman can barely contain his anger as illustrated by Gleason and Richards. His jaw is clenched, a vein protrudes from his neck and his eyes are shaded a cavern black to accentuate the depth of his pain. (So, good luck to you Carrie.)
For Tomasi , the real focal point for Batman's rage in this issue is going to be Jason Todd, also known as the Red Hood. Tomasi has a unique use for Todd. If I am reading him correctly, Tomasi is going to use Todd, not as a buddy and former partner to Batman and not someone he can share an adventure of revenge in, but for a much more darker purpose.
As a canard, Tomasi does position the two former partners on a mission to Ethiopia to root out the assassins that targeted Damien, Batman's now dead son, and take them out. Accomplishing this the two move on and Batman reveals to Todd his real reason for bringing him along.
Batman tells Jason that he wants him to relive that awful night where he died at the hands of the Joker. In doing so, Batman hopes this will jog Jason's memory and provide a key of sorts that will help Batman in his quest to bring Damien back from the dead much like Jason was resurrected.
I have no doubt this is partially true. I think Batman is seeking to rid himself of guilt and sincerely looking for clues to bring Damien back but Jason is just a pawn in this pursuit. There is a larger truth playing out here and this is where Tomasi reveals the real reason Jason Todd is along for the trip. If Batman is to move beyond the second stage of grief he just doesn't want to come to grips with it, he wants it beaten out of him.
This is particularly brutal and I give credit to Tomasi for this device. I had wondered in a previous blog post how someone like Batman, who is pretty much angry all the time, could deal with this stage. As noted above Batman just isn't dealing with anger as a stage of grief, he has evolved it into a stage of rage.
At first Batman provokes Jason into hitting him. From then on he gets his wish. Todd doesn't like being used as a pawn so he is particularly viscous in his attack. No doubt Batman counted on this also. Batman feels he deserves this out of guilt for Todd and for Damien. He even taunts Todd by weakly boasting he's, "Still standing". Todd is smart of enough to know he is being used and grows weary of Batman's pathetic machinations. Batman has done Todd a favor, whether Todd realizes it or not, and let Jason work through his own pain. But I think Jason Todd and Tomasi know the rest is up to Batman and in order for him to move on the next step is up to the Caped Crusader. They go their separate ways.
This issue is extremely well done. I think Tomasi has given us a terrific look in to the stage of Anger for Batman. Or Rage if I read it correctly by Tomasi. Batman is special, he's always dealing with anger at some level and he uses it as a motivational tool. It comes from the death of his parents as a child and he has donned the mantle of the Bat to work through that pain. But what about the pain and grief of losing his son?
Only Rage will suffice and Batman needs it beaten out of him. Kudos Peter J.Tomasi.
Next up: Bargaining