The future of Batman: Is DC Comics shifting from the lone brooder to a less dark and more hopeful character?
While fans might be gushing over Robert Pattinson's emo eyeshadow version of a brooding Bruce Wayne, DC Comics appears to be going in an entirely different direction. On Tuesday, September 1, the comics publisher featured not one, but three separate comics that showed just how much Batman is not meant to be alone, and how there's hope for a happier future for the character. While he's still the most broody character in the DC Universe, that might not last forever, and Batman's image in the comics might just be starting to turn.
It's always been a running Batman joke among the fans that for a character who constantly claims to work better alone, he has the most allies and sidekicks of anyone in the DC Universe with the possible exception of the Green Lantern Corps, who bring in recruits from all over the universe. In addition to Batman's ever-growing army of sidekicks that fight crime under his wing, Batman holds strong ties to both the Justice League and the Outsiders, as well as more personal ties to the DC Universe's supernatural community through Zatanna and Jason Blood - to say nothing of the fact that he works more closely with the police than any other member of the Justice League. Bruce Wayne's sociability might not all be a front - Batman is the most connected character in the DC Universe.
In 'Injustice: Year Zero,' that is more closely looked at. Though Batman himself doesn't feature in the issue, a conversation he had with Superman in previous issues has been weighing on Superman's mind. In the 'Injustice' prequel series, Superman worries that he has no legacy - unlike Batman, whose name is carried on through his proteges both through his costumed identity and his civilian one, given that at least three Robins are legally his children. It's Batman, of all people, who inspire Superman to be more of a family man and start planning to have a child with Lois.
On the same day, DC Comics released 'Justice League' #52, which continues a story where the Justice League is trapped within a planetwide growth of Black Mercy, a plant that traps its victims by feeding them visions of a perfect life. Batman has fought the Black Mercy enough times that he knows it's an illusion - but that doesn't stop the Black Mercy from trying to convince Batman that he deserves a better life. The plant, taking the form of Martha Wayne, convinces Bruce that even though he took on his war of crime in his parents' name, a life of constant fighting isn't the kind of life his parents wanted for him. Batman is haunted by this vision of the life he could have if he chose to have a life that was about more than just death. A heart-to-heart with Superman shows Bruce that though the visions offered by the Black Mercy aren't real - there's no reason why they can't be achieved.
Lastly, 'Joker War' continues over in 'Batman' #98, which also released on the same day, Batman has been drugged by one of his enemies and is hallucinating a conversation with Alfred, who in the comics was recently killed. This vision of Alfred helps Bruce see that there are some things that are beyond his control - such as the death of his parents and Alfred. The hallucination of Alfred tells Bruce to let the past go, and work towards the future, and it's exactly the motivation Batman needs to get back into the fight.
Whether Batman can or cannot be happy has been a recurring theme in modern times. Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo's legendary run on 'Batman' posited that a happy Bruce Wayne and Batman cannot possibly co-exist. This concept that was more deeply examined by Tom King and Mitch Gerard's 'Batman' run, in which Batman learned to believe that happiness was something he could achieve while still being Batman, which led him to pursue a relationship with Catwoman. Batman has made a career out of pushing people away, but despite this, he has a wealth of people who are by his side, completely loyal to him. DC Comics might just be considering a tonal shift in the way Batman is portrayed after decades of dark brooding and may be working towards not a Batman Who Laughs - but a Batman who can, every now and again, smile.