A Requiem for The Batman or Is This Just Your Typical Rip-off...Bob?, Pt. 2A column article, Comics Bulletin Soapbox by: Alex Rodrik
Hey All! Welcome to the second installment of Working Title! Today we’ll be delving into the world of Kevin Smith’s Batman: The Widening Gyre and noting how the poor structure and seemingly less than original story has lead to Batman becoming just a literary tool at the expense of his long fought for integrity. So let’s go.
To check out the first installment of Working Title! click here!
You know, as I first sat down to start writing this column I found myself struggling to figure out what exactly to discuss. I kept trying to find a point to make, thinking that I was just suffering from writer’s block. But after reading through The Widening Gyre a few times I came to realize that…it wasn’t me. It’s this series. What the hell is going on exactly?
Although Batman graces and painfully narrates every page I can’t seem to put together how issue one and issue two are connected, well, other than pushing along an untold back-story for “The Player to Be Named Later.” It’s so odd to see Batman play a secondary role in a series that bears his name. There is a literary tactic that calls the reader to focus on one character while their plight only has relevance to a second character that has not received as much direct attention. The intent of this tactic is to maintain a sense of mystery and uncertainty about the true star of the series. The beauty of this is that, if it is used properly, all the things you need to know to about your mystery man or woman is placed right in front of your face through the eyes of our “main” character. The best example of this being Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One. The story focuses mainly on the characters of Officer Gordon and Selina Kyle, but the story is all about Batman’s rise.
Unfortunately for Batman, his integrity as a character is being sacrificed to make way for a character which I have an, oh so hopefully incorrect, hunch about. We’ll get to that later -- *cough* Andrea Beaumont *cough*.
Ever since his inception Batman has been a very resilient, vigilant, and focused individual. But Smith’s Batman is lacking in all of these areas. Smith’s desire to tell yet another star-crossed lovers story and his need to introduce another vigilante has taken precedence over the integrity of a character that has helped to define a genre.
Let’s take a look.
A dark symbol of hope, reinvention, and resilience, Batman has shown that he never backs down from a challenge, no matter how great. He insists on fighting even when he knows his chances for survival are slim. But Smith’s Batman is quick to give up and were it not for “The Player to Be Named Later” he’d effectively be dead now and the series would be over. Wait. Maybe that’s not such a bad idea… Nah, but seriously. If you look at the page to the left you’ll see the moment when Batman succumbs to his assumed, and apparently accepted, defeat.
Question. Where’s his spirit? Where’s his fight gone? Where the hell is Batman?!!
Batman has never been known to be a very trusting character, even scrutinizing the one’s closest to him. Now, forgive my squirrelly ignorance, but I have a hard time believing that Bruce wouldn’t be even remotely weary of suddenly seeing Silver. I understand that Englehart had design this love affair when Silver was first introduced, but Bruce is never this blind. At least with Andrea Beaumont (Batman: Mask of the Phantasm) you have some wiggle room. Bruce was young and “Batman” had not become an integral part of his personality yet. He was still searching for his vehicle of retribution/vengeance/whatever you want to call it, and Andrea was there to love him.
With Silver on the other hand, “Batman” had already become an integral part of who Bruce Wayne is. So his naïveté for love, if you will, has greatly diminished. This is why Bruce has never taken a wife or real girlfriend.
That aside, in Gyre itself Bruce discusses how the last time he gave into his desires people suffered.
Bruce has always been shown to be the prime example of learning from your mistakes. He has an incredible control over his emotions, being that his most domineering personality trait is his pragmatism.
This pragmatism would subsequently make the likelihood of him uncontrollably falling for an old flame so improbable that I can’t even accept it as a premise, much the less to a point where she becomes such a blinding distraction that he continues to get pummeled by his villains.
I don’t believe anyone would argue with me when I say that attentiveness is essential to Batman’s survival. So with that being so important, why are we made to suffer through an 8 page flashback that leads up to Batman and Nightwing in the heat of battle with a Neo-Nazi? (7 pages of which can be read here.)
Is this not, yet another, contradiction to the character that is Batman? Don’t tell me those pages somehow served as an introduction to the relationship between Bruce and Dick. Of all the relationships that don’t need introduction theirs has got to be one of the top. So all I can think of is that Smith needed to eat some pages.
What else would be the point? As I said earlier, the only thing that connects the two issues released to date is “The Player to Be Named Later” and other than saving Batman from constant failures, what else do we have to go on? I mean, what the hell else is going on? Bueller…Bueller?
To be frank; I have a bad feeling that the answer to that question is yes. But with one addition, Mask of the Phantasm was good aaaand this is a shallow mess of a rip-off. Here’s why I think this seems like the most likely scenario.
To be simple, Gyre begins with a mysterious vigilante appearing suddenly in Gotham and on the heels of this unnamed vigilante’s arrival appears Bruce’s “long lost love.” So basically, the exact same beginning as Mask of the Phantasm, except this vigilante is more enigmatic in that he/she helps Batman publicly but then disappears into obscurity before praise can me given, and the Phantasm was basically just a hitman.
In Phantasm, Beaumont returns to exact justice on the people who murdered her father and forced her into exile (leaving behind Bruce, her one true love).
So what’s my guess for the remainder of The Wydening Gyre?
Well…if you do some research into the character of Silver St. Cloud, you’ll discover that her last appearance (Batman: Dark Detective, the sequel to Batman: Strange Apparitions) was left open-ended as Batman saves her after her fiancé's arm and leg are severed by the Joker’s traps. Steve Englehart, Silver’s creator and the writer on Batman: Dark Detective, was denied by DC to complete his trilogy and therefore Silver’s story ran cold. I’m thinkin’ it’s time for some payback. How ‘bout you?
With that back-story in mind, my guess is that Silver has taken on this persona (“The Player to Be Named Later”) and returned to “help” Batman “right the wrongs” of evil doers on her quest to reach the Joker, where she will have a crisis of conscience and not kill him even though that was her plan all along. Ta-Dah!
Nonetheless, I truly hope that I’m wrong on this one and that it’s more than just a mutilation of a good story that’s already been done. Sadly, I can’t say that I’m confident that I’ll be surprised. Unless of course the series is just pages upon pages of useless story, as Cacophony was so brilliantly the victim of, and the conclusion will have gained nothing from the pages that precede it.
And so with that we place the final nail in Bruce’s coffin. Goodbye to good storytelling; goodbye to insightful characterization; au revoir to real, unbridled, painstaking substance. *whimper*
Thanks for reading!!!
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