Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Dark Knight #13

Someone tell the cover artist Batman should be shirtless here! Oh wait. The cover artist is Finch, the interior artist. I guess he's too busy thinking up new outfits for the Justice League of America crew to remember what the fuck was going on in this comic book.

With Batman shirtless and tied up in the basement, Jonathan Crane continues working on his fear experiments. He pees on the children he has locked up. And then he collects the mixture of tears and piss that drip off of their faces. Then he sings a little ditty as he enters his findings into the computer. One of his captives draws him a picture and slides it under the door.

This kid is no use to Scarecrow anymore. The pee needs to mix with tears and this kid enjoys it.

See? Crane is disappointed that this kid is no longer useful.

After this good-for-nothing child sends Jonathan Crane into a depressing flashback of one of the times he was trapped in his father’s weird basement (I know I hate on David Finch’s style a lot but the two page spread of the Crane basement is really good looking. Maybe he’s at his best when he’s drawing skeletons? And fifteen year old girls, of course), Batman escapes. Or does he? He’s shirtless and chained on the slab and he uses his wrist laser (part of his armor) to cut through the chains and free himself. He then immediately has his costume on as he sneaks off. And then The Scarecrow attacks him!

Here comes the pissy tears!

Batman is either hallucinating while still locked up downstairs or he’s hallucinating wearing his armor because Crane’s sickle would not eviscerate Batman so easily. Also, Batman probably would not get eviscerated so soon into the Reboot. It’s possible Crane let him go downstairs to observe him and see what he does as he wanders around the basement. The basement is obviously a dungeon since it has a torture chamber and a mine cart track system.

Turns out Batman still is locked up. So the cover makes absolute sense because Batman’s escape is simply a hallucination. But this is Batman whacked out on Crane’s normal fear toxin. Crane now wants to try out his Way More Pee and Tears mix on Batman which even The Scarecrow isn’t resistant to.

I think he needs a new name if he’s going to commit crime in this outfit. Sgt. Dickhead?

After Batman is sprayed with the super formula of fear, the story threatens to lose me. It’s as if The Scarecrow knows all about Bruce Wayne and is trying to show Bruce what his life could have been by showing him the life of somebody similar who chose to follow the light instead of entering the darkness. The Scarecrow cannot be reacting with Batman in this way because he doesn’t know anything about Bruce Wayne. So this whole thing is a hallucination and The Scarecrow must be just standing there watching. I like what’s being said here and I’ll get into that in a paragraph or two, but the way in which the concept is being introduced is clumsy, leaving room for the whole thing to only be a hallucination which The Scarecrow will learn nothing from. I guess he’ll at least learn that his Piss and Tear Formula is a real pants wrecker.

So this is how Batman’s hallucination begins. Notice The Scarecrow speaking with Batman before it beings? Even that Scarecrow (notice he’s not wearing the gas mask?) must be part of the fantasy since how would he know what Batman is about to experience? And what is his shadow supposed to represent here?

This Bruceaxton Wayneinthrop took on the mantle of Swanman!

Batman’s fear hallucination is simply being processed as if The Scarecrow were speaking with him. The real Scarecrow is probably observing but I’m sure he’s not getting much more than Batman weeping and wailing and rending his cowl.

In his hallucination, Batman gets to see this man Braxton that went through everything he did. His parents were killed in a small plane crash which he survived. He inherited a billion dollar business which he sold. Instead of becoming dark and lonely, he became a charitable family man. He sold the business and used the money in a number of philanthropic ways.

Okay, The Scarecrow does have his mask. Perhaps even The Scarecrow using the new formula on Batman was part of the fear hallucination?

Here the story explicitly shows The Scarecrow speaking with Batman as if he knew all about him, so this is all obviously a false reality. But it’s showing one of Batman’s fears that has yet to really be spoken of in this comic: his fear of regret. Could he have made more lives better choosing a different path? I’m pretty sure this is something Batman thinks about all the time. Every decision he makes he agonizes over whether or not it was the right one for his Gotham. So Crane isn’t really showing him something new. This whole scene is basically Nikos Kazantzakis’s The Last Temptation of Christ. What did Batman give up to take the path he’s chosen? Will he get lost in the fantasy, believing it’s a better way than the one he chose?

What I’m really hoping for is that Batman will come to with The Scarecrow pissing in his face.

Did Bruce Wayne not officially adopt Grayson, Todd, or Drake?

Batman begins breaking through the illusion as the hallucination begins to leave the Winthrop fantasy behind and begins getting more and more personal. Turns out that it’s fear of regret that’s driving Batman crazy right now; it’s fear of human contact. Now that’s a fear I can get behind!

Batman mumbles out, “…the hell happened…to make you like this?” And Crane remembers being locked in that basement when his dad died of a heart attack. A week later, the police showed up to investigate Crane’s father’s disappearance. They found the boy traumatized, locked in the dark. Batman chose the dark; the dark was forced onto Crane. I figured the two characters would parallel each other and was dreading the way it would come across, but this works nicely. The darkness broke Crane and turned him insane. Now he tries to force the fear, dark and pain on other people. Batman was afraid of the darkness when he fell into the cave as a young boy. But he faced the darkness to overcome his fear. He overcame his fear and turned it around so that it could be used to bring light to others who are scared and in pain.

Once Crane sees how well his new toxin worked, he heads off to get his scythe and put Batman out of his misery. But by the time he gets back, Batman has finally broken free from the chains and suited back up. Time for the big fight next issue.

Batman: The Dark Knight #13 Rating: +2 Ranking. This story has had a lot of hurdles to get over and it’s really working out nicely. It’s basically retelling the first story in his same title but doing a much better job. It’s concentrating on The Scarecrow and his past which I think is a great way for this title to go, concentrating on the antagonists. And it brought the parallel of these two together in a surprising and well-told manner. Things are really looking up for this bottom of the barrel Batman book!

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