Friday, April 17, 2009

Is Batman Dead?

In early 2008, when it was announced that a story called "Batman, R.I.P." would be coming out, DC fans began to deal with the possibility that Bruce Wayne would die. No comments from DC indicated that he would "really" die, like Barry Allen did (bad example, maybe, but Barry Allen was dead for 22 years). Wiser fans guessed that he would perhaps "die" like Superman did in 1992, dying but then later come back somehow.

So what exactly was claimed of Bruce Wayne's death, and did it happen?

The teaser lines at the end of issues in RIP threw down the gauntlet. Although many at DC dismissed the idea that they would kill Batman ("Not in a movie year."), the teaser at the end of Batman #677 said "Next [...] The fate of Bruce Wayne!" The teaser image at the end of Batman #680 promised "the final fate of the Dark Knight!" And we were told that Batman's story would "conclude" in Final Crisis #6. That's some heady stuff! The issues are out. Did it happen? Did Batman die? Or did those claims lie?

The answer to those yes/no question is: "Sort of." The fact that three issues were mentioned throws up some red flags right away: He couldn't die three times, right? Right. He didn't.

Let's speak medically. In the final pages of Batman #677, Bruce Wayne was hit with a sort of psychological whammy, when a command that shut off the Batman personality was cued. Bruce fell down and stopped being Batman or Bruce while his body was medically fine. So that was the "fate of Bruce Wayne". Other bad stuff happened later, and his personality flipped through some weird states, but his body remained alive.

In the final pages of Batman #681, Bruce was on board a helicopter that crashed. We got no answer as to his medical condition after that, but we found out later, in Batman #683, that really nothing bad at all happened to him. He apparently swam out of the river and made his way back to the Batcave just fine. For some reason, Nightwing and others didn't find out that he was OK right away, and Outsiders #11 shows a number of his allies grieving for him as his enemies celebrate his disappearance.

If you piece the timeline together, he proceeds from the Batcave to JLA Headquarters to begin working with his JLA allies on the case that became Final Crisis, and the Batman shown in Final Crisis #1 is Bruce, back on the job, briefly. However, he is soon taken prisoner by Darkseid's forces in Final Crisis #2, and from that time until the present, has never been seen alive by anyone but Darkseid and Darkseid's cronies.

I think the account in Outsiders #11, with Superman and Green Arrow grieving for Batman, has to be regarded as a glitch because it indicates that Superman didn't know where Batman was the day after RIP, even though Superman and Batman were working side-by-side for at least a day or so during Final Crisis. So forgive that glitch: I suspect that Grant Morrison's plans were concealed from Frank Tieri and other writers.

To the world at large, Bruce Wayne has indeed not been seen since "the fate of Bruce Wayne" was announced. To the heroes, according to Tieri's account, Batman was not seen by the heroes after RIP. But to the heroes, according to Morrison's account, Batman disappeared from the other heroes' lives slightly later, in Final Crisis #2.

But back to the end of RIP: Right before the helicopter crash, Doctor Hurt curses Batman to wear the cape and cowl only one more time. Is this a mad rant? Well, no -- it's a 20-20 prophecy, or curse, because Doctor Hurt is the Devil, and has the power to cast such curses. (Although mysteriously, he lacks the ability to right a balky helicopter.) So at that point, Bruce was a walking dead man, medically fine, but mystically doomed. He had one more chance to wear the batsuit, and he used that chance up in Final Crisis.

The significant event took place in Final Crisis #6, when Darkseid zapped Batman with those zig-zagging eye-beams of his. Superman arrived about two minutes too late, and found a charred corpse in the batsuit. So medically, we have the answer to our question: The body that was born as a little baby to Martha Wayne, and that grew up into Bruce Wayne was zapped medically dead. Put a tag on the toe and have a funeral. Superman knew he was dead, Dick Grayson knows he's dead -- he's dead.

Except he's not dead. Because what Darkseid hit him with was the Omega Sanction, something we saw Mister Miracle (Shilo Norman) escape from in Grant Morrison's Seven Soldiers miniseries. What it means is that Batman will be alive, in some other form, some other timeline, and have to escape from it somehow. By default, you'd expect no one to be able to escape from it, but Mister Miracle and Batman are just the kind of guys who can. So he's medically dead, but he's still out there. Maybe he's in the 1700s. Maybe he's a mechanic in a garage in New Jersey. Maybe he's a potted plant or Douglas Macarthur. But he's not gone, and he will be back, eventually.

And on the very last page of Final Crisis #7, we see him, in the remote past, writing on a cave wall beside the very, very old Anthro about sixty or so years after "the dawn of time". A rocket/time capsule that is clearly intended to resemble the one that brought baby Kal-El to Earth is in the background. (The Daily Planet staff launched it at the darkest moment of Final Crisis.) That leaves a lot of blanks: How did he get there? Is that his body or some cave dude with the bat-spirit, or merely the bat-gadgets? But the gist is this: Right now, on our Earth, Bruce Wayne's body is dead. Somewhere or sometime, Bruce Wayne's spirit is still kicking, and will eventually get back to laugh at Darkseid's attempt to kill him.

If the man puts the batsuit on again, won't that invalidate all of the promo text (and Doctor Hurt's curse)? If he never puts the batsuit on again, won't that be an unthinkably bad business move by DC? That's a question for DC to answer, and I don't expect their top money-maker to be forsaken. But in the meantime, we will see Bruce Wayne as Batman again in the semi-in-continuity titles Superman/Batman and Brave & Bold. His presence there is meant to be in some side niche of continuity. But in the main DCU, he is dead. Sorta.


  1. Thank you for clearing that up. :)

  2. i guess we have to wait a whole year after batman and robin to find out where bruce is now and how he is coming back

  3. This is a well-written and concise commentary, something I CANNOT say, however, for this recent series of stories featuring the Batman. While I enjoy Grant Morrison's work, I am beguiled as to why DC has not editorially reigned in some of his excesses. The fact that Batman's death has to be explained at all indicates some significant failures in basic storytelling. Anyway, thanks for the recap. It is desperately needed.

  4. My theory is:

    1) Darkseid blasts Bruce with the Omega Sanction and Bruce is forced to live out multiple lives on some plain of existence, leaving behind a husk for a body and giving the DCU at large the impression that he is dead.

    2) Superman took Bruce's body and placed it in the rocket (but kept the cape and cowl, as displayed in Final Crisis and in the Bat-cave later) that contained remnants of the world as they knew it, including the "last" Daily Planet

    3) The rocket was affected by a temporal wave of some sort when Darkseid made his last stand (shown on panel in Final Crisis)

    4) Bruce was able to escape the Omega Sanction (for him it may have been an eternity, but in "real time" it could be less) and returned to his body, but now found himself in another difficult situation as he was time(space?) displaced in the past. Luckily, the artifacts in the rocket will be enough to allow bruce to escape somehow. He knows about the end of Final Crisis thanks to the last Daily Planet and he is smart enough to find a way to send a message to the future.

    I really hope that THe Darkest Night will be the lynchpin to finding Bruce. It will be strange to see all these dead heroes risen as zombie-lanterns, and yet Batman is mysteriously missing. Tim Drake will lead the search as Red Robin.

  5. Yeah, Grant Morrison has a real problem (or the DC editorial team that should be reigning him in), in RIP and Final Crisis with taking things that DID happen in past DC comics, but that a current reader might not have read; then using them as if everyone should know what those plot items are. Then they do not reference them! (As in "see issue #44").

    Like Doctor Hurt being the Devil, where did that come from? i read batman and I didn't know that. I read the issue where Dr Hurt made the brainwashed cops into "Batmen". but i never remember that detail. And again if you HADN'T read that old story line, this RIP series would have been baffling.

    Or the "impossible wish machine" Superman gets at the end of FC to save the day, i thought it was just made up out of the blue as a Deus Ex Machina, (also a poor man's/bad writers literary device); but my Dad pulled out an old Legion that had that machine in it. Obviously Morrison read that comic, took the machine from it, but then forgot to tell the rest of us that might not know what it is, and doesn't bother to explain it. Then acts like he is smarter because he read some issue you haven't. if he thinks that makes him "smarter", i think it makes him a poor writer. Let the reader in man. LET ME ENJOY YOUR STORY! yeah its cool to see some arcane thing you might recognize from years ago, but it sucks if you haven't read that. (i have the 7 soldiers books so i caught he omega beams not being "the end" for Bruce, but again if you hadn't read Morrison's past work you might not be familiar with that concept, its like he just doesn't care if you are confused or not, and that's crappy in my opinion).

  6. Just wanted to add.... DC should have printed your post here at the end of the series in the "DC Nation" section to clear it up for everyone :)

  7. This is just one more reason that I quit reading comics. They have gotten more and more ridiculous, and the story lines criss-cross back and forth to where you have to buy more comics than you can afford, and the story lines have just gotten plain stupid.

  8. I must say I was really confused about the whole story and had to go online to learn about the older stories. But there is a Batman The Blackcase Files tpb coming out that should help clear up the Batman stories. But for the Final Crisis, I could never really stand or finish Kirby's Fourth World or whatever that b.s. was called. Those stories were all kinda boring. So I guess I'll just have to take the internets' word on it. Go web!

  9. no pastordave this is just dc. they suck at story telling. they have no continutity and thier sagas make no sense. i think its pathetic. i love batman but dc is just horribly run with release dates and as i said before their continuity sucks. at least with marvel you know whats going on and the stories make sense. not with dc.

  10. Bruce Wayne will come back as Captain America and Steve Rogers will become the Batman

  11. Wow, what a mind trip.
    Thanks :D

  12. Oh, deary deary me. And *this* is why I don't buy DC or Marvel comics anymore. Because they're very rapidly running out of ideas. DC, just let the fans play now, your time looks to be pretty damn over.

    Evidence: Batgirl as villain- Very unpopular move. "Killing" Batman (but potentially not really... AGAIN) - unpopular move. *Another* Crisis (Final one, *really*! ... Shyeah, right) - unpopular move. All in the past year and a half. "Battle for the Cowl" - Y'know, it's funny, I've not heard a good word about that one so far, so I'm *guessing* that wasn't an amazingly popular move either. Correct me if I'm wrong there, guys and gals.

    I'd go into what I see as the sins 'o' Marvel, too, but this is a batman article, so we'll keep it batman. And there's the problem right there: It's not even batman anymore. Batman Beyond at least showed us a retirement, as did Dark Knight Returns, and both of them were actually quite good, imho.