Thursday, April 26, 2012

BATMAN in Comics - I've Seen The Future, And It Will Be... (2010 - 2012 and Beyond)

With the ushering in of a new decade, Batman’s popularity has currently reached fever pitch.

Even now, fans around the world anxiously anticipate his latest cinematic exploits with 2012’s “The Dark Knight Rises.”

However, with what time remains until the release of the film, DC Comics has provided an incredible amount of material in the comic books themselves.

Things got off to an incredible start with “Blackest Knight,” the third story arc told in the “Batman & Robin” title, where it’s revealed that the Omega Effect that supposedly killed Batman in “Batman R.I.P.” and “Final Crisis” #6 actually scattered his consciousness to parallel worlds and timelines.

“The death that is life,” according to Darkseid.

Further discovery leads to the realization that the corpse left behind after Batman’s ‘death’ was a clone created by Darkseid in a failed attempt to give birth to an army of ‘Batmen.’ This reveal occurs when Dick Grayson, believing the body to be Bruce’s, places it in one of Ra’s Al Ghul’s Lazarus Pits to revive him, which only ends up producing an insane opponent that Grayson defeats.


May 2010 began the 6 issue “Return of Bruce Wayne” story arc with “Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne” #1, which follows Wayne’s journey through time after being transplanted by Darkseid following “Batman & Robin” #12. From the prehistoric era through the age of witch hunts and the Wild West, all 6 issues hit a different time period until Bruce finally arrives in present day by the end of the mini-series.


Written by Grant Morrison, the story is a wonderful homage to the concept that Batman’s mantle can endure and impact at any point and in any age and it’s an excellent treat to see Batman visually represented in multiple points of time, in the tradition of his steampunk/noir appearance in Mike Mignola’s “Gotham by Gaslight” graphic novel.

A number of one-shots and extended mini-series events were created to conclude the story.

Among them was the month-long conclusion arc “Bruce Wayne: The Road Home,” which began in December of 2010, carrying over into one-shot installments such as “Batman: The Return” and the “Black Mirror” storyline.

Wayne’s return creates a number of ramifications and particularly affects Dick Grayson, who’d adopted the mantle of Batman following 2007’s “Battle for the Cowl” story arc.


Whatever the hang ups, the decision had been made.

Bruce Wayne was back.

And following his and his allies defeat of Darkseid, another choice was made; a choice that would take the character down a new and completely fresh path altogether.


Despite reclaiming the mantle of Batman, Wayne decides to allow Dick Grayson and his son Damian to remain in their positions as the dynamic duo of Gotham City.

His priority shifted; no longer concerned with one city, Bruce set his sights on the world at large.

Launched by Grant Morrison, Frazer Irving and Cameron Stewart with art provided from Yanick Paquette and Scott Clark, “Batman Incorporated” began its run in January of 2011.

Bruce Wayne returns to the cape and cowl, freshly designed by artist David Finch, and begins a campaign to create a legion of fellow ‘Batman’s around the world, establishing them in nearly every major country as a sort of crime fighting network, universal in their being adorned with the Bat-Logo.


A play on concepts of widespread marketing and brand-recognition, Bruce takes it a step further by announcing his involvement in the endeavor as a financial supporter. To that end, Wayne Enterprises is revealed as a contributor to Batman’s campaign, aiding him with the weapons and technology that the public now knows he’s been ‘given’ by the company over the years.

From there, Bruce travels the globe to recruit the dark knights of various regions including Asia, South America and Africa.

Justice on a global scale.

Given his being a wealthy industrialist, this development for Wayne as a character makes a tremendous amount of sense; in the current climate of the franchise mentality, the idea of franchising and commanding such a team fits synonymously.

“Batman Inc.” ran as a storyline from January to October of 2011, nearing its conclusion just as DC Comics decided to revitalize their properties, for better or worse, once again.

As with “Crisis on Infinite Earths” in the mid-80s, DC created a massive revamp launch event with September 2011’s “The New 52.”


Spread throughout all of their titles, continuity was once again reset in “Batman,” “Detective Comics,” “Batman & Robin” and a brand new addition to the Bat books, “Batman: The Dark Knight,” as Bruce Wayne was put back into the mantle as the one and only Batman and Dick Grayson returned to his role as Nightwing.

Speaking of new bat-books, going off topic for a moment, 2010 also saw the debut of a brand new title for a fan favorite.


“Batman Beyond” continued the adventures young Terry McGinnis as he protected the future Gotham City with the aid of mentor Bruce Wayne.

The “Beyond” story had found its place in comics before, such as the ongoing comic than ran in correlation to the animated series from November 1999 to October 2001, totally 24 issues.

This time around, the 2010 mini-series featured art by Ryan Benjamin and a narrative titled “Future Evil,” written under the pen of Emmy-Award winning scribe Adam Beechen.

In the wake of its success, “Batman Beyond” was published as an ongoing series that ran two story arcs spread over eight issues starting with “Batman Beyond” #1 in January of 2011. The first story arc teamed McGinnis once more with the Justice League of the future as they battle the man who would become the Matter Master. In the more personal 2nd storyline, Terry is faced with the reappearance of Blight, his original nemesis.


The creation of the “Beyond” stories in the comics just goes to show the true impact and popularity of the original animated series and 2012 will see the return of two bi-weekly digital titles “Batman Beyond” and “Justice League Beyond,” which will be packaged and released monthly in a 48 page comic simply titled “Batman Beyond.”

It’s nice to see the dark knight of the future get his due.

But back to “New 52.”

With the exception of Stephanie Brown’s tenure, which was erased, the line of Robins was kept intact and Barbara Gordon was maintained in the role of Oracle.

However, fate and the editors both saw fit to deal Babs a different hand.


Following “The New 52,” a story-arc dubbed “Flashpoint” saw to the establishment of a new continuity in which all of our heroes and villains have been regressed to earlier stages in age and in their careers while remaining in a modern timeline.


Kind of.

Be that as it may, every book was launched with a brand new #1 issue.

For Barbara, it meant the unthinkable; something fans thought they would never see.


Within the parameters of this new continuity, Barbara undergoes experimental surgery in South Africa three years after the events of 1988’s “The Killing Joke.” Once a paraplegic tech broker named Oracle, Barbara recovers in the span of a year and dons cape and cowl once again as Batgirl for the first time in established comics in decades!


In her new “Batgirl” ongoing title, we learn that even though she’s back on her feat ready to take on criminals the way she once had, Barbara still suffers from post-traumatic stress, often finding herself hesitant when faced with gunfire that could potentially cause another spinal injury.

Such attention to detail helps advance the grounding of these characters, making them relatable without diminishing the flamboyant, larger than life icons that they are.

With the dawn of a new decade, Batman has also been met with a number of new and bizarre adversaries; foes who long to have the longevity of the dark knight’s legendary rogues.


The biggest new antagonist arrived in 2008’s “Batman” #673 with the creation of Dr. Hurt, who would go on to become the central threat to Batman during Morrison’s entire run into 2011.

Also known as Dr. Simon Hurt, the character is revealed to have a long and twisted past connection to Batman and wishes to break the dark knight in body and soul as a means of replacing him as a corrupted counterpart.

It’s Hurt that leads the campaign to target Batman as conducted by the Black Glove organization in “Batman R.I.P.” and throughout the whole of Morrison’s run, characters speculate who he really is.

Some, like the Joker, claim he’s the devil incarnate. Hurt himself claimed to be a reincarnation of Thomas Wayne. In a fight atop Arkham Asylum, Batman accuses him of being Mangrove Pierce, an actor and acquaintance of Thomas.

Eventually, all roads lead in culmination to a finale that finally uncovers the truth.


Dr. Hurt is a 17th century relative of the Wayne’s, also named Thomas, who’d been black marked and shunned by the family for his satanic worshippings. While attempting to make contact with a demon named Barbatos, Thomas is actually confronted by the Hyper-Adapter; a creature birthed on Apokolips by Darkseid and tasked with overseeing Batman’s voyage through history after the resulting Omega Effect.

Through the creature’s energies, Thomas is supposedly given near immortality, enough to live into the present day to confront Batman and his allies.

To date, the villain is positioned to become one of the most personal and threatening villains to Batman since the likes of Two-Face and Ra’s Al Ghul.

It’s a wonderful twist and a bizarre addition to the supernatural and unexplainable that Batman is often confronted with. I suppose it’s only a matter of time until Dr. Hurt’s evil is unleashed upon Gotham and the world once again.


Following his cameo in 2007’s “Batman” #666, readers were also introduced to Professor Pyg; a gifted scientist and madman that would plague the dynamic duo in the “Batman & Robin” title.

Revealed as Lazlo Valentin, Pyg is the leader of a group of followers dubbed the Circus of the Strange who aid in his demented pledge to create a “perfect” society by introducing a highly addictive narcotic virus that turns people into lobotomized, genderless abominations.

Other villains have made their mark, such as Dollmaker in “Detective Comics” #2 (2011), Morgan DuCard in “Batman & Robin” #1 (September 2011) and The White Rabbit from “Batman: The Dark Knight” #1 (2011).

Which brings us to 2012.


With the resultant continuity adaptations from “The New 52,” Grant Morrison and company created a giant sized one shot titled “Batman Incorporated: Leviathan Strikes,” in which Batman and his allies are confronted with Leviathan, a new and deadly organization lead by Talia Al Ghul that seeks to induct young girls into a group of deadly warriors called the Girls of Death.

The story has introduced Janoz Valentin, the son of Professor Pyg, and to date is currently continuing its run in the Batman titles with 2012’s “Batman Incorporated” Volume Two as Batman and his allies fight to fend off the wrath of Leviathan.


The comic book history of Batman transcends the stuff of legend, built upon a formidable foundation of passion, creativity, drama and loyalty on part of the legions of writers, artists and editors who have guided and shaped his adventures through 73 years of continuous publication.

As incredible and monumental an achievement it is in reflection, excitement percolates with the promise and possibility of what lies ahead for the caped crusader in the future.

There’s no denying the character’s staying power after enduring decades of depression, war, counter culture, commerciality, near irrelevance and surging popularity.

As with the times themselves, the legacy of Batman tempers and shifts; It balances itself, privy to rebirth as it contorts its paradigm to fit the mold of the current condition.

And yet in essence, at its core, the tale remains the same.

No matter the history, no matter the villains, no matter what the future holds, the ‘Batman’ persona will live on in its never-ending battle against injustice and evil.

The story may be bent, but the spirit will never be broken.

It’s the idea that one can suffer tragedy and carry on; the idea that one can remain loyal and uncompromised to morals and beliefs when they’re threatened.

But above all, it’s the idea that someone can take a stand before the dangers of adversity, conformity, benevolence, ignorance, corruption, fear, loss; challenge them, defeat them, conquer them.

And as long as readers and fans can relate to the struggle and pick themselves up to continue the fight for survival and life in a dangerous world, the character’s impact will continue on beside them.

It’s the universality of being human.

It’s the universality of Batman.


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