With DC’s newest revamp, Tom King takes the reins of the Batman comic, and dives into the key piece of the Dark Knight’s psyche: grief.
Not that grief has ever been exactly absent from any take on the Caped Crusader. But here it takes a special place in the story. King introduces two new characters for us, Gotham and Gotham Girl, who very closely mirror Bruce’s own journey. The difference is that when their parents took a walk in crime alley, right down to the pearls on their mother’s neck, Batman is there to save them. What follows is years of obsession, in which the children train and devote themselves to help Batman save the city.
But as it happens in the lives of superheroes, tragedy inevitably strikes. Madman Hugo Strange uses this to his advantage, and Bruce finds himself trying to talk these supers down, trying to figure out how to help them through grief. He even turns to Alfred and says, “How did you help me?” Alfred reminds Bruce that a grown man jumping off buildings dressed as a giant bat is hardly a poster child for mental health.
What I like about this focus is the approach that the series takes toward grief. It starts out with the logical – taking your anger out on other won’t solve anything. Then it moves to analysis – how can we fix the grief? Finally, Bruce’s approach becomes understanding – I know how much this sucks. I’ve been there too.
As some of our readers may not know, I lost my mom to cancer about a year and a half ago. It was about a week after Mother’s Day, just a few days after her birthday. Grief sucks, and a lot of people don’t know what to say. But the most helpful thing I remember anyone telling me came from a man who had also lost his mother not long ago. He said, “Don’t be afraid to let yourself feel sad.” Months later, my grief counselor said something similar. “I don’t want you to fight the sadness.” Instead, I needed to accept it, and learn to process it.
In a way, that’s what this new installment of the series is doing, at least in this first volume. It gives us a window into how Bruce processes grief. On one level, he fights for Gotham to distract himself. But on another, he’s channeling his grief, learning how to keep pushing forward with it. And in trying to help others, he’s also embracing a sort of hope for the future, melancholy though it may be.
I like that about it. King’s first volume may not have the twists of The Court of Owls or the thrills of Knightfall, but the character development and thematic foray into Bruce’s psyche is a promising direction, and I’m all in.