We have reached the "epic" conclusion to the "Court of the Owls series in the issue of Batman #11by Scott Snyder that was released just recently. With it, we are presented with some equally epic artwork by Greg Capullo.
As with all things connected with this "Iconic" series I'll examine the drawings associated with Batman and see what imagery, symbolism, or metaphor they might represent. I find the most striking image to issue #11 is the cover itself. The pencils were by Capullo with inks by Jonathan Glapion and colors by FCO Plascencia.
Batman stands before us nearly consumed by the flames with his hands in supplication as if he is willingly sacrificing himself. So what does this sacrifice entail? Are we to understand from this image that Batman was willing to sacrifice himself for Gotham City in order to rid it of the evil influence of the Court of Owls? Was he willing to give his last full measure and end his career as Batman if it meant victory over the Owls? Note that Batman is mostly draped in black silhouette. This not only provides us with a contrast to the rising flames but it robs the figure of the musculature often associated with Batman. The mouth is straight, even and without emotion. No over the top gnashing of the teeth here that Batman often displays when angered to the point his vigilante retribution. The eyes are nearly shuttered also. There is no laser beam like focus to them. Batman truly seems to be giving himself over to death
Or is he?
There is another take to this image. What if Batman is not succumbing to the flames but rising out of them? What if Capullo is representing Batman as a phoenix like figure, rising out of the flames triumphant? Instead of representing his nadir this image gives us Batman victorious. Instead of near death we get a birth of sorts born of his victory over the Owls. Batman rises out of the flames that marked the battleground of Gotham City including the Wayne Tower that was consumed in the final battle with the last Talon. If you look closely at the flames that lick about Batman and reach up to the Bat symbol on his chest you'll see the flames are comprised of burning bats, not literally bats, but the bats that inspired his world and the mission he has dedicated his life to. Now we have an all new meaning to this image. Batman with his stoic visage is now an indomitable figure incapable of defeat, a demigod amongst men.
Is there a third take to this image? Sure, it could be just clever marketing. "The Fire Rises" is a phrase closely associated with the new Batman movie. What is the name of this movie again? Oh yes, "The Dark Knight Rises". I'm sure DC is not comprised of fools nor is Greg Capullo naive. Why not make a symbolic tie in to the last entry of Chris Nolan's Batman trilogy? The comic premiers the same month as the movie does so why pass on this unique opportunity? If true I think it is both clever and inspired.
I'd like to take the time to examine one more image from Batman #11 and that is the title page that is at the very end of the issue. Batman, as Bruce Wayne utters the words, "I'll be watching. Always". We see the reflected image of Gotham City in his pupil. Upon closer examination we see the circuitry of a printed circuit board in his iris. What do you make of this? Is Batman symbolically part machine in his composition? Does he never sleep as a machine would never do with his vigilance over Gotham? Or is it simply an advanced contact lens that is wired into the Batcave to provide Alfred and the Bat-computer with information? (I thought that was in the cowl only?)
You tell me, Batman, man or machine?
Posted by Dave Healey