Sunday, May 12, 2013

Is Batman Angry? No, He's Raging!

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

Sunday, May 5, 2013

The Iconic Batman: Art of the New 52 Pt. 9

I spotted this image by Cameron Stewart in Detective comics #19 which was also the 900th issue of the comic if you follow it back chronologically.  The issue itself was an expansive collection of stories meant to tie in many of the Batman universe characters and serve as a compendium to smooth out the continuity wrinkles brought about in other Batman issues such as Batman Incorporated.

While I thought it a bold effort I don't think it was entirely successful and it acted more as a jumping off point for future stories rather than a homage to 900 issues of Batman in Detective Comics that I hoped it would be,

Saying that, what I would really like to discuss is the excellent piece of art contributed by Cameron Stewart as shown above.  As near as I can tell, it seems to be influenced by the "Art Deco" school of thought.  I say so because it employs the use of geometric shapes and invokes the modern age of machinery and the buildings made possible by it.

Batman is a creature of the night and is often set in a dark Gothic motif.  Stewart also sets Batman in the heart of the night, but instead of gloomy forbidding shadows, his frame is awash in a cold neon glow.  This is further accentuated  by the use of depth as our picture descends nearly to street level where it develops into a blur of greenish haze.  This haze serves just as foreboding as any pool of shadows because it disguises the endless whir of man's crimes against his own kind and the confusion wrought by the relentless maleficence that makes up the world of Gotham City.

Batman is depicted in minimalist fashion.  Absent is the sometimes overwrought musculature that often defines Batman artistically (See the cover to Detective Comics #19).  Stewart, instead, gives a partial glimpse of  the Batman, his square cut chin juts out defiantly over the depths and seems to add a quality of momentum as if Batman is moving from roof top to roof top.  The square cut of the shoulders and the frame of the cape adds to this dynamic canvas and serves as a nice counterpoint to the checkerboard of the cityscape with it's art deco inspiration.

Batman's cowl with it's sharpened nose and piercing ears are complimented by his armored kneecap and adds to Batman's fearsome nature which gives him a weapon like quality that cuts into the night.  The knife like edges to the cities buildings with their Escher like opposition to each other further supplements this dangerous spectacle.

This is a refreshing perspective offered by Stewart and is deserving of praise.  It evokes motion, danger, and a dizzying fathomless environment that only Batman  can decipher.  We can only hope to see more of this fascinating work.