By now, all of you who care at all about Batman have read #10, in which the “big reveal” of the Court of Owls storyline, which has been going on for ten months now, is that the main villain is Bruce Wayne’s brother. And if you’re saying this is contrived or silly, I point you to this article–a fantastic, detailed look at how the seeds of Willowood were planted years and years ago by none other than Grant Morrison.
I have to say, I found the denouement here better than what I expected: I thought the big bad would be Thomas Wayne, Batman’s daddy, brought back to life by the Owls’ resurrection power. I’m glad that wasn’t the case, because that would indeed have been contrived and silly. It also would have undermined the entire purpose behind the legend of Batman.
And Scott Snyder seems to get that.
Batman is driven by the need to make right a crime committed against him as a child. In many ways, he is comparable to Spider-Man. Both Bruce and Peter Parker lost their father figures to criminals’ bullets. Both feel somewhat responsible (although Peter much moreso than Bruce). Both appear to have overcome the need for revenge, but they still seem motivated by a subconscious (or conscious) need to make sure that this kind of thing never happens again. And both were so affected by death that neither individual will kill—under any circumstance.
The big difference between Batman and Spider-Man is that Uncle Ben is alive in Peter Parker’s mind and world view. He’s constantly providing advice, and is the source of Spidey’s mantra: “With great power comes great responsibility.” That’s why Spider-Writers frequently have guest “appearances” by Uncle Ben via various plot devices that enable Peter and Ben to talk again. Batman doesn’t do that. His parents are dead, he knows it, and he doesn’t revisit that fact. Maybe it’s because Peter at least has Aunt May, where Bruce has only a non-blood relative, Alfred Pennyworth, who is more of a support person than a moral compass.
And, again, Snyder gets that. Snyder’s Batman is fiercely independent, willing to fight and/or alienate even his closest friends to reach his goals. Other than “no killing,” Batman is clearly an “end justifies the means” kinda guy (whereas the “means” are sometimes even more important than the goal to Spider-Man).
This worldview is completely consistent with Grant Morrison’s portrayal of Batman over the course of the five or so years that Morrison was in charge of the major aspects of DC’s flagship character.
So, yes, Snyder is Morrison’s heir apparent. And the introduction of a “new” family member clinches that—Morrison’s greatest lasting impact on Batman was the introduction of his son, Damian Wayne.
This is why I can’t wait to read September’s “Batman #0.” As part of the “zero month” wave planned by DC for all of the original new 52 titles, Batman #0 will represent the first time that Scott Snyder and his muse, Greg Capullo (who also totally gets Batman) take the time to tell Bruce Wayne’s origin.
By the way: I don’t want to undersell Capullo. As a Bat artist, he is second only to Frank Miller in his ability to convey a mood and tell a Bat-story in grand cinematic fashion. And, also like Miller, he’s great at portraying Bruce Wayne in a way that recognizes that the man is also a powerful street fighter.
Anyway, the zero-issue Bat-book will take place during Wayne’s first year back after his self-imposed exile following the murder of his parents. Snyder has said that it will take place before Bruce Wayne put on the costume, so I imagine it will also give us some Owl background as well.
There are many who say that there are only a few Batman stories, and all Snyder is doing is retelling them. Batman experiences a loss or humiliation, Batman is driven to overcome the cause of said setback, Batman struggles and overcomes. Along the way, Alfred tells him to chillax and maybe bangs a model or disappoints Robin. And yes, there’s some truth to that. The same can be said of the thirty years of Daredevil before Mark Waid took over the book: It kept telling the same story of Murdock’s downfall and redemption. But that’s the nature of serialized characters: They can’t change, at least not fundamentally. They need to remain somewhat constant so that they can be passed on from generation to generation, much like the legends of Norse or Greek Gods. Writers can add nuance and interpretation, but certain “canon” elements and story beats must be retained. So, it’s not a fair criticism of Snyder to call him unoriginal on this basis. The creation of the Owls, the emphasis on Batman’s relationship to the City of Gotham (rather than to individuals within it), and the mood and texture of the book (again largely due to the influence of artist Greg Capullo), are all clearly Snyder. It’s not like Grant Morrison’s legendary story, which was much more about clues and detective work, and complex narrative, than the development of Bruce Wayne’s psyche. Morrison told a story of deconstruction of the Batman myth. Snyder is more interested in creating a holistic mythos. Both writers had grand objectives, but where Morrison destroyed, Snyder builds.
And that’s why he’s a worthy heir to Grant Morrison.