Saturday, November 21, 2015

Batman #46

Who are you Mr. Bloom?

Well, that's revealing.

How many iterations of Batman have you known Mr. Bloom? 

In Batman #44 Bloom was ret-conned into the series by Scott Snyder in a move that I initially dismissive of.  (Batman #44.)

Now, I am not so sure.  The above statement tells us at least Bloom is aware of others that have donned the cape and cowl in Bruce Wayne's absence.  Something even Commisioner Gordon only mused at when Dick Grayson took over for a spell.  (Gordon thought he seemed smaller and "happier.")

True, this is a post"Flashpoint," "New 52" and "Convergence" story line so Snyder can do anything he wants with the Bloom background.  But, despite all the changes to DC, there is always some commonality that preserves the major moments in DC mythology and particularly Batman mythos.

Who are you Mr. Bloom?  

In my review of Batman #43 I was sure Bloom was some sort of weird organic reincarnation of The Joker.  Maybe he is still and Scott Snyder has the most bizarre and twisted conclusion to this arc we have ever experienced.  

If not, who is this being that has such intimate knowledge of Batman?  Alfred?  One of the Robins? A long lost girlfriend seemingly dead and mysteriously resurrected?  I know it strains credulity but this is the comics so if we are going to go there let's go there all the way.

(Hmm, Bloom is kind of thin maybe it is Elastic man.  Nah, even I'm not that crazy.)

Want some evidence Bloom is someone we know?

Duke from the "We Are Robin" comic has infiltrated the Penguins new Iceberg Lounge and despite Daryl's warnings to steer clear of all things Bloom, he has stumbled across something anyway.

"But it doesn't make sense."  "None. "Bloom can't be...."

Of course Duke's revelation is interrupted by the Penguin himself.  We don't want to learn too much do we Mr. Snyder!

Speaking of Snyder here is what he said about Bloom in a recent interview with Newsarama,  "Bloom, literally and figuratively, is the thing that kind of comes up in those cracks that happen between all of those things that are supposed to be sewn together by the city." 

You mean like a weed Scott?  (For the whole interview go here.)  This statement doesn't exactly point to someone we already know in the Batman mythos but it could just be Snyder keeping his cards close to the vest.  (Joker card?)

So, readers of Batman #46 may have noticed I skipped a little ahead here.  Let's catch where Batman #45 left off.

Bloom had captured a Bat Blimp and set it against the movers and shakers of Gotham.  He picks off the fundraisers one by one and  taunts Geri and Commissioner Sawyer.  The Gordon Batman comes out of hiding and nearly manages to capture Bloom in clever fashion.  Equally, Bloom counters Batman's moves and makes his escape.

All a bit campy and a little too predictable.  But it does move us along to what the real Batman is doing which is...

Shower Time!

Yep, the currently oblivious Bruce is enjoying a nice morning shower.  It is "the morning after" and instead of looking deeply into his own mind, Bruce wants to know what is going on with Jules.

This post pillow talk does have some significance in that in provide an ever so subtle crack into the mind of Batman and his history.

To wit.

While Bruce is by and large totally unaware of his former alter ego as Batman, he does know that Jules' father had a sordid past and he is not beyond putting the pieces together.  Despite her father being the man that sold the gun to the man who murdered his parents he blithely wants to carry on and marry Jules.

Woof!  Things that are said in the shower!  Bruce is so far removed from the most pivotal moment in his life he nonchalantly pops the question and fits in a little naughty time.  (BTW, a hint was dropped by Jules that something is going on with her, probably something physical.  Cue future heartbreak.)

Oh Gotham, why?

Fortunately we have the hubris of an arrogant city to distract us.

Despite being easily menaced by Bloom earlier in our story Gotham continues on its path of self delusion.  Geri shows Gordon her army of Bat robots that she is utterly convinced will protect Gotham.  This from a city that once considered Batman a pariah.  Now they are telling themselves they have the better solution and are using the symbol of the Bat as their shield.

 Sheer hubris dear readers.  Sheer hubris.

Snyder has positioned Bruce Wayne as a small picture man that can't see what role he plays in Gotham.  Alternately, Gotham has been positioned by Snyder as a city that is seduced by the big picture that can't see the small picture.  

The devil is in the details Gothamites.

Wake Up Call


The only man on the planet with a grip of what is going on is Gordon.  In true Batman fashion he wants to go it alone.  He correctly assumes an army of Bat battle-bots would only lead to a large scale disaster.

 The man that should truly be on the ball is Bruce Wayne and he is still playing catch up.  His wake up call comes in the form of a child's drawing.   The urgency of the situation is starting to dawn on him (Bat-sense tingling?) and he realizes he can no longer find that seed Bloom left behind.  

Here we have another tie in to the children of Gotham.  Snyder seems to be focusing on Wayne's forgotten childhood and future of Gotham's kids.   If they have a future that is.

Gotham used to be a thriving community with the emphasis on "community."  Where once was charity and a populace that took care of its own, now stands arrogance that has created a divide where a path (Blossom Row) once brought people together.  Through that crack evil blooms.  (See what I did there?)

Bloom has proved to be formidable foe.  As our story closes "Bat-Gordo" is in the grip of his machine "Rookie."  One can assume the rest of the Bat Battle Bots will soon be in service to Bloom.

Better hurry up and snap out of it Wayne!

Okay.  Who is up for a little spoiler?

You're going to have to scroll way down.


A little lower.  

Last spoiler warning!

Want to see what Bruce Wayne looks like when he finally realizes he's Batman?

Here it is..

The horror.

Yanick Paquette will be sitting in as illustrator for Batman#49 as Greg Capullo will be taking a break.  (Capullo will illustrate Batman#50.)  

I love Paquette's take on "German Expressionism" especially in the style of F. W. Murnau.  Wayne seems to be reacting as if he is in the thrall of some demonic presence.

I certainly hope so! 

See you back here for Batman #47.   Bat Battle Bots anyone?


Monday, November 9, 2015

Batman #44 and #45

I'm doing a little double duty with this review.  Since I am late with Batman #44, I thought I might throw in a review of Batman #45 while I am at it.

Batman #44

I do my best to avoid reviews of comics that I am also reviewing lest they prejudice my own opinions.  That being said, sometimes it hard to avoid the digital leviathan that is the internet.

I had read that issue #44 of Batman was a rewind of sorts that take a break from the lost Bruce Wayne and Mr. Bloom story line.

That's fine, I'm sure Snyder and DC want to prolong this particular script as Wayne adopts his new life outside the cowl and pursue the fate of Gotham as the Gordon Batman struggles to keep the city in one piece.

In doing so we make a brief return to the Bruce Wayne Batman as he gets embroiled in street level crime that leads him down a darker and larger path.

A good portion of the story involve the fate of one Peter Duggio.

Duggio is just a kid trying to make it right on the streets of Gotham that even that city has forgotten.  That, my friends, is as about as low as even Gotham can go.

The internet was quick to point out the topical nature of a portion of this story and how it deals with "Black Lives Matter."  Indeed, kudos should go out to Scott Snyder for including something so relevant that it sadly appears on almost a daily basis.

Unfortunately, we live in a society where violence is the first option  and the police feel so besieged that they reflexively turn to the gun.  It is left to the bereaved, media and the courts to sort things out.

Frankly, it is a sad epidemic mess.

Where Snyder goes wrong is his introduction of Mr. Bloom into the story.

 As Snyder would have it, Bloom already exists in the Batman universe.  He is not the Joker reincarnated (as I had predicted) but someone trying to make a name for himself as a low life peddler  of some bizarre addictive chemical concoction.

This isn't strictly a ret-con but more a reverse introduction of a character that has always been in the Batman universe.  It's just that we the readers never knew of him.

Sorry, but I find this annoying.  I'd prefer Batman's world be expanded as we grow to know him and as time progresses.  Not as part of a rewind.  It just seems less inventive to me to insert parts to a mythology that we are already steeped in just to find out we don't know as much as we thought.

Our story takes a freakish turn when the afflicted Peter, in his zeal to escape the mean streets of Gotham, grows Bat-wings (ironic symbolism?) and finds himself nearly vaulted outside the city limits.

I thought it ludicrous.

Yes, I get it.  He wanted to fly and he nearly made out of the hell that Gotham was to him.

But Bat-wings?  That's a bit too on the nose.

Surely Snyder is showing us the new menace that is Mr. Bloom's concoction but the "re-invention timeline" and the wings threw me for a loop.

In the end Batman learned a hard lesson.  He used this experience to connect with the forgotten youth of Gotham and it drew a through line between what happened here and the amnesiac Bruce Wayne working at the home for disadvantageous youth we saw in Batman #43.  And, yes, that through line connect it all to Mr. Bloom.

But, really, bat-wings?

Batman #45

As we continue our journey into the rediscovery of Batman I get the impression Scott Snyder wants us to see Batman as something elemental, something born of youth.  

Of course, the foundation of what was to become Batman started with Bruce Wayne as a youth and the murder of his parents.  But I think Snyder wants to change the perspective on this old tale and see Batman through a new lens.

Bruce Wayne is an adult now with his slate wiped clean.  Yet he is constantly surrounded by youth and one could say he has a naivete unfettered by his tragic past.  

It's as if Snyder wants to see what Batman would be like without his youth yet have the mantle of Batman forced upon him.

That should be interesting.

Our story returns to the present with the Jim Gordon Batman battling for his life.  He is nearly consumed by flames and the message seems to be Batman is, or can be, forged by the elemental nature of fire or at least the flames of combat.

While Gordon is adept at getting himself in and out of trouble it is the remotely controlled empty suit that comes to his rescue.  Here Snyder may be saying the new Batman may be as much suit as the man inside it.  (See my examination of the mind of Batman and his costume at the link.)

Gordon narrowly escapes death with the help of Daryl and our tale reverts back to Bruce Wayne.

Has Batman become a dinosaur?    A thing of the distant past?  Extinct?  The amnesiac Bruce Wayne ponders the past he knows little of.   Again, Snyder positions Wayne as someone looking at himself from the outside instead of within.

He knows nothing of Batman but he is aware of attack on Gotham by the Joker and the detritus left behind.  Wayne looks upon the artifacts as curiosities and is at first dismissive of them.

What were once trophies are now some much garbage.  Relics of a bygone era with little meaning aside from their obvious extinct nature.

However, the reach of evil is never too far away in Gotham.  

As Wayne ponders the meaning of his existence his stand-in, Jim Gordon, is getting a rude lesson into the elemental nature of what it is to be Batman.

Quite literally.

The movers and shakers pf Gotham know their city is in constant danger but sadly can't see the forest for the trees.

In their quest to find the ultimate protector for Gotham they've broken down what it is to be Batman to the minutest detail. 

They are so convinced of their findings they can't see that Batman is much greater than the some of his parts even at the atomic level they have distilled him down to.

As a counterpoint, Wayne believes Gotham can be saved by serving its youth.

He's taken the remnants of the battlefield and turned them into object of amusement.  Why dwell on the past and be consumed by it when you can transform it into something much more benign and less threatening?

Because, as I said, evil is never that far away in Gotham.

As Gotham congratulates itself in it's reinvention of Batman, Mr. Bloom makes his grand and murderous entry.

Gotham is fortunate Gordon has a much better understanding of what it is to be Batman than the arrogant city he serves.

Batman is not just an empty suit.  Nor is he something that can be reinvented by by people on the outside trying to look in.  

Snyder's lens wants to discover Batman in a new way.  There is something elemental about Batman.  But it is organic, something found within, not recreated from without.  

Wayne will have to discover what it is to be Batman again and he'll have to do it without the benefit of his youth.  Instead, he'll have to see it through the eyes of the children he's surrounded himself with.  Snyder's exploration into what it is to be Batman is an interesting tact.  

Batman #46 should be very compelling indeed.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Inside the Mind of Batman

What's Superman doing inside the mind of Batman?

Seeing what makes him tick.

This is just one of the two images recently released by the production team of Batman v Superman.  It shows Big Blue as he stands amidst the stark remains of Wayne Manor.

We don't know exactly what brings Superman to Wayne Manor but it no doubt has something to do with what's going on in the mind of Bruce Wayne. This, of course,  assumes Superman knows Batman's secret identity.  (That would be revealing in and of itself.)

Why else would Superman be standing in the gutted and broken remains of the once stately Wayne Manor unless he wanted to learn something about his most implacable foe.

The manor seems to be the personification of the Bruce Wayne/Batman character as portrayed in Batman v Superman.  (What little has been teased out.) Aged, broken, perhaps something that has outlived its usefulness and it might be said, haunted.

A look of consternation is etched across Superman's face.  It's like he is asking himself, "How could a man of such means come to this? To distance ones self from his past.  To leave memories in piles of rubble.  To allow decay and rot creep into what was once vibrant and proud?"

You can almost hear the voice of Jeremy Iron's Alfred echo in these desolate chambers, "The fever and the rage that turns good men cruel."

Superman must be asking himself, "Is this the man that seeks my undoing?"

Is Batman as damaged and fragmented as Wayne Manor suggests?  In this second image we find the Caped Crusader as many of us hold him dear, as the world's foremost detective.

We find him on bended knee, a forensic specialist seeking to divine the most obscure clue.   Here, Batman is truly in his element.  A seeker of truths unfettered by his tragic past.

The twisted remains of a victim lie next to him.  Broken shards of wooden boards lay about suggesting the victim may have fallen through the ceiling above.   Like a true detective no fancy devices are employed here.  Batman gets close to the crime and seeks to comprehend its mysteries through his keen senses and force of intellect.

Does that smack of a man whose time has come and passed him by?  A man whose passion for justice has waned?  Someone who is bereft will and a sense of duty?

I say no.

Despite where we find him in Batman v Superman, the Dark Knight still has the discipline to search out the most esoteric of clues no matter how infinitesimal.

But there is something about being the Batman also and it is directly related to wearing the suit.

In the stills above the Ben Affleck Bruce Wayne stares at the empty suit.  Which is the darker being, the man outside the suit or the one within?  The suit allows Wayne to carry out his mission and project the persona of the angry broken man that Wayne suppresses. 

Does Wayne act to protect the weak and seek justice during the day or does the suit allow him to release his inner demons and summon the will to exploit his subconscious?

Frank Miller seems to be asking the same question in the frame from the upcoming "Dark Knight III: The Master Race."  How much of Batman is the suit and how much is the man within?

This is what makes the mind of Batman so intriguing.   And it may be a question that can never be answered.  As long as there is a suit and the man that walks within it, that struggle will continue to play without end.

Perhaps that is our answer.  The never ending fight to define Batman comes from inside the man.  As long as he struggles with the two creatures that represent a different face, the mind of Batman may never be known. 

And our world is a better place for it.