It’s becoming hard to ignore: Batman is losing his focus, growing unaware of threats and problems he could prevent… if he made the effort.
Warning! Spoilers ahead for Detective Comics #1030 and Punchline #1
During the events of the devastating and status-quo shifting Joker War, Batman made a promise to his late butler and surrogate father Alfred: he would become a better Bat. However, it’s been a few issues now since the war has concluded, and things in Gotham City have only gotten worse. Unfortunately, it’s worth asking: are the problems facing Gotham and its heroes Batman’s fault? Is he making good on his promise to Alfred? As it stands at the moments, it seems like the answer is no. Even worse, if things continue to progress as they have been in DC Comics, Batman is well on his way to becoming one of the worst superheroes in the DC Universe.
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If readers look across recent titles set in Gotham City, they can see a pattern forming that does not put the Dark Knight in a very good light…at all. Beginning with the Joker War itself, the reason why it was so destructive was not just that Joker stole all of Bruce Wayne’s money, but he also getting access to all of Batman’s resources such as his wide arsenal of gadgets, weapons, and armored vehicles. Issues preceding Joker War even made the point to show that Batman was building new tech with a rapid frequency, and new tools were being introduced with every issue. While this showed Batman’s desire to be prepared for any scenario, it proved to be the root of all the chaos Joker War brought with it, as all of the gadgets were then used to harm instead of for protection. Had Batman relied more on his own skills and those of his Bat Family, perhaps he wouldn’t have armed his enemies to such a massively high degree.
Furthermore, if readers look at Detective Comics #1030 from Peter J. Tomasi and Bilquis Evely, they can see that anti-vigilante sentiments have grown to a fever-pitch after the war, being led not only by a new mayoral candidate influencing Gotham’s elite, but also by the new foe known as The Mirror, instilling protests in the streets. These protests have become violent, where members of the Bat Family are finding themselves getting tricked, trapped, and attacked by the very people they’re trying to save. While Batman has been concerned over the growing hatred against himself and his allies, that’s all it has been thus far: concern. He hasn’t made any public statements as Bruce Wayne in support of masks or tried to sway the minds of Gotham in any way. The Bat Family’s comms were even hijacked to get them to meet and discuss the problem, though that meeting was called as means to trap them all together by the Mirror and his mob. In spite of this, Batman should have called a meeting all the same.
Things could have also been different with Joker’s new girlfriend Punchline as well. In the new Punchline #1 from James Tynion IV and Sam Johns, it’s revealed that Alexis Kaye’s obsession with the Joker began long before she became Punchline. She had a public podcast and blog where she investigated and studied the Joker’s crimes and misdeeds, which slowly drove her over time to find him in person and become his new girlfriend. Had Batman been aware or cared, he could have prevented her transformation and gotten her help, either personally or with some other means. Batman’s network is quite vast. The existence of her podcast had to have come up in a Joker keyword search by the Batcomputer at some point, as she had been recording her episodes for years.
On an even more personal level, Batman could have and should have been more loving and emotionally available to his son Damian Wayne, especially after Alfred’s death. With Alfred gone, no one else was living in Wayne Manor besides Bruce and Damian, and Bruce threw himself into his work as Batman, too consumed with his own sadness and darkness over Alfred’s death to care for his son. This is something he freely admitted to his son in the latest annual issue of Teen Titans, but the damage was already done. Robin quit the Teen Titans and his role as Robin, leaving his father and going on a dark path alone, which could have disastrous consequences for the future.
The pattern is really unfortunate and has to be frustrating for Batman fans. Batman has done a lot of good for the people of Gotham over years, but he’s constantly been dropping the ball as of late. Many of the problems Batman is facing are things he could have prevented if he’d taken the time to not be so cold, distant, or arrogant. It’s time for him to make good on his promise to Alfred. It’s time for the Dark Knight to become that better Bat, not just for Gotham, but for his family, and his fans as well. Here’s hoping that positive change happens sooner rather than later.
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