This week saw the release of the first proper Batman book of DC's New 52 lineup, Detective Comics #1. Batman was also involved in the first outing of the JLI with Justice League International #1. This column will be examining continuity and mythology elements we learn from the books where Batman appears.
SPOILER WARNING: This column assumes full knowledge of all books published this week.
Detective Comics #1 begins in media res and shows a Batman in the heat of the hunt for our favorite psychotic killer clown. The Joker has committed 114 murders over the last six years. There is an implication that this current chase is the culmination of several months of pursuit, though there's also an implication that the Joker has never been imprisoned for his crimes. ("I can pin them all on him, even if the courts can't.") In fact, reading strictly by the words on the page, it's possible that Batman has only been actively trying to catch the Joker for months rather than years, though we know from Batgirl #1 that the Joker shot her three years ago.
The Joker was attacked naked by the man in the skin mask, and when Batman arrives, the sight of the Joker naked surprises him. He wonders to himself if the Joker always kills naked. The Joker congratulates Batman for sniffing him out twice in twenty-four hours. And when he is arrested, he is taken to Arkham, where comments from the doctor imply this to be a first meeting. All this continue to suggest a much lower level of experience between the Batman and the Joker than we might have assumed.
Even after the five years since Justice League #1, the Gotham Police still don't like Batman, though Batman respects them. Plus Mayor Hady (who was seen as Gotham's mayor occasionally in the last year or two pre-Flashpoint) has been putting on pressure to catch Batman, so the police have it in for him even more than usual. Commissioner Gordon is significantly younger now, with red hair instead of white, but he still has the usual working relationship with Batman to which we're accustomed, albieit a little more strained and less intimate. Perhaps they haven't had as many opportunities to get to know one another in this history. So far there's no mention of a lack of integrity within the police force. Gordon says he trusts the Bat more than half of them, but calls them blockheads, which seems to suggest ineptitude rather than criminal involvement.
As far as Bruce's personal life, we see very little in this first issue. Alfred makes mention of a date that Bruce missed tonight, with one Charlotte Rivers. And Alfred recommends that he "shed a certain CAT", if he wants anything to happen romantically with Charlotte. This is very vague, but it does imply a certain "present tense" romantic involvement with the Catwoman.
Batman's costume appears to be armored on his forearms and shins, which should help in close fighting, in addition to the usual three blades protruding from each gauntlet. His bats' ears are present but rather small, smaller than they were in Justice League #1. This is probably artists' license, as they look larger in Justice League International #1. His costume has plenty of line detail on arms, torso, and legs, very similar to the kinds of lines that rose a stink when they appeared on the new Superman design, but no one seems to mind here. It could be that his entire suit is made of a sculpted, padded material for protection.
Batman's tech that we see this issue include a Ro-Bat, which flies around as essentially a spy camera; a hologram mountain side as entrance to the Batcave, located about a half mile from the Wayne Estate; and an Alfred hologram, just uploaded to the Batcave and Batmobile. On reading the book, a notion occurred to me. What if Alfred, in this continuity and at this point in Bruce's life, is ONLY a computer program with hologram representation? Alfred notes that his "distress meter has been malfunctioning", which could be read as a humorous metaphor, but could also be taken literally as a misbehaving algorithm within computer-Alfred's systems. If true, this would certainly be a bold move on the part of the creators destined to be ridiculed by fans everywhere, but at this point, anything seems possible. And Tony Stark certainly got away with a computer Jarvis in the Iron Man films, so there is precedent.
The hooded Flashpoint woman is present in the crowd of onlookers when Roscoe's pharmacy blows up.
Justice League International #1 gives us a few more tidbits about Batman's history as it pertains to other superheroes. The team is created by the United Nations to represent select nations, uniquely equipped to overcome governmental shortages in law enforcement and security resources due to underfunding. Andre Briggs, head of U.N. Intelligence recommends Batman for the team as a connection to the already-present Justice League, but Batman is one of several candidates who are vetoed, with the notion that his presence on the team would work against the U.N.'s desire to have a team they can control. But when they have their first meeting, Batman shows up on the roof of the Hall of Justice anyway and as the mission launches, he stealthily inserts himself into the team, seemingly without Briggs's knowledge. He believes the U.N. must have some other motive for forming the team and making Booster Gold leader, so he's investigating them while helping. He also tells Booster that his involvement was supported by other members of the main League. On the mission, he tries to coach Godiva into a more active involvement.
One of the most momentous moments we've ever seen between Batman and the JLI pre-Flashpoint is The Punch he gave to Guy Gardner, knocking him out with the single shot. Although that is not specifically addressed in this story, the dynamic between Batman and Gardner is less hostile than I would expect it to be, were that punch still in continuity. The fact that this seems to be the first ever incarnation of the JLI reaffirms that.
In Batwing #1, we see Batman mentoring Batwing, but we're not told explicitly what their relationship is. No mention is made of Batman Incorporated, or why the bat-hero in Africa has any connection to a man in Gotham City, USA. If Spider-Woman can arise in England and then in San Francisco, or another Spider-Woman in Denver, with no connection to Spider-Man, there is no automatic reason to assume that Batwing has to be connected to Batman. Yet no explanation is given in the story. What we do know is that Batman has provided Batwing's armor and battle tech, as well as the computer system Batwing uses in the Haven, and that Batman came to Batwing's assistance in the Congo, six weeks prior to Batwing #1, to help with a drug bust.
All of this continues to present a Batman that is serious about his work but isn't the super paranoid character we've seen in much of the last decade and even before. Batman is concerned with catching a frequent killer before more blood is spilled, and he has missed a few dates from being a bit too devoted to that hunt, but I don't think his life is terribly out of balance at this point. And when interacting with other heroes, he is respectful, friendly, and even helpful.
Other brief mentions of Batman include Barbara Gordon referring to herself as having once been Batman's star pupil (and she even has a poster of him in her bedroom) in Batgirl #1. Also, he makes a cameo appearance in Swamp Thing #1, where whatever effect is threatening the natural world has caused some of the bats to fall dead in the Batcave. The Batmobile is visible in that shot as well, and sadly the design is starkly dissimilar to that seen in Detective Comics #1; I would have liked some consistency.
Next week: Batman and Robin #1
Next month: Detective Comics #2: Enter the Dollmaker!
Posted by Jon Wilson