There is a lot to describe here, so I’ve selected some insights into the comic’s artwork and character conflicts, and unpacked a few of them. A spoiler warning for anyone not caught up on the latest story arc.
Batman #49 uses interesting visual metaphors of trauma and darkness to depict Bruce’s journey down into the Batcave, and the potential return of the Dark Knight.
Batman #49 Cover Art
- A stark Batman shadow fills half the cover
- Bruce Wayne himself is in pain
- This shadow is the cause of his pain.
- The shadow used on the right of the cover balances
- The amber light, like a fire, draws the eye toward Bruce
With one hand touching his head in anguish, and the other grasping at the air like a claw, Bruce is in pain, struggling with the trauma of becoming The Batman again. This trauma plays out during the issue.
- There is significant anguish on the faces of Alfred, Julie, and Bruce throughout
- Different and unique versions of Gotham appear
- White and blue colours appear throughout the comic alongside heavily inked shadows
- The trauma of becoming The Batman is represented by a huge, fiery red beast attacking a clean and ideal city
This issue marks part nine of the Super Heavy story arc. On multiple other worlds, Batmen are dying. On one of these worlds, Bruce Wayne protects the city alongside the Council of Owls. This cleaned up and reformed Court of Owls uses an army of Talon’s. Bruce himself has employed teams of engineers and custodians to help run an organised and brightly lit Batcave.
- Alfred deeply desires Bruce stay as he is – kind, unsophisticated, partnered, and happy
- Bruce wants the truth, and to confront his trauma, descending into the Batcave to activate a memory machine
- Julie Madison realises she must be the one to terminate the bearded Bruce, and return The Batman to life.
- There is a shocking revelation about Julie’s parents
The large science fiction item of this story is the memory machine. This item has appeared before – a device that ensures The Batman lives on. It sends electrical surges around the Batcave when it activates.
In this case, Bruce can use the machine to return The Batman to life through him. There is a cost, however. The trauma, the shadow of the Batman, is powerful, and could kill him. Without Julie Madison’s intervention, it almost does exactly that.
My understanding of the story here, is that the scenes of an ideal Gotham are what Batman imagines he could be if he merged his current calm outlook with the Batman’s shadows. Unfortunately, they are completely incompatible.
The Batman is far to heavy a weight on the mind to bear. That is clear from the character’s stress, the dark cover, and metaphor in the artwork – the ideal Batman suits up with the Bat crew, and tries to save the white and clean Gotham. A red and black beast destroys this city however. A visual representation of Batman’s darkness and shadows.
An endless series of Batmen cloned from Bruce is a regimented and well-ordered version of Superman’s Bizzaro.
Bringing a monster to life with a machine and surges of electricity ties back to Frankenstein.
The idea that Bruce must terminate his softer civilian persona to return to the super heroic identity also lines up with The Doctor’s experiences in the Doctor Who episodes Human Nature and The Family of Blood.