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Mixed results on Project: Responsibility

I just finished reading the entire Gotham Knights run.

On the other hand, I didn't screw up my sleep schedule too badly.

Takeaways: 1. I still have to work on my self-control thing. 2. I find Hush, Prometheus, and their plot lines kind of boring. 3. Between O.M.A.C., the War Games plans, and the Tower of Babel plans (just off the top of my head) at some point Bruce needs to start figuring out a. his IT security sucks, and b. until he fixes it, he should stop deliberately building informational weapons of mass destruction.

PS: I blame movie!Tony Stark for his Ultron more than I blame comics!Hank Pym for his. Pym was building an AI that went exponential very quickly — he's not blameless, mind you. Stark was building a giant robot army *and* he connected to his systems an incredibly powerful piece of alien machinery he didn't have the barest understanding of. And then he. Literally. Went. To. A. Party.

Whether the world needed or not the Sokovia Accords, it very much needs a Somebody Keep Tony Stark On Track Protocol.

No, not you, Banner. Somebody with a better lab safety record.

People, I just had the best idea ever. Put movie!Hank Pym in charge of Tony. They'll *both* hate it, but Pym will make damn sure Tony doesn't do anything dangerous just because it'll annoy him. And whenever it looks like Tony's starting to grow on him (doubtful, but they could bond on tech stuff), just send Hope to work with them for a while. Even if Tony doesn't hit on her, Hank will think he's doing it by not doing it, or something, and then he'll make Tony manually check all 1,129 parts of whatever device they are building.

Tony's too rich to be bound by regulations and too Tony to be bound by common sense, and his warmth wrapped inside trauma clothed by charm hidden by swagger makes him too difficult to have anybody supervise him for long. They fall for him in one way or another.

But Hank Pym. Oh, the first Stark Hanks sees when he looks at Tony isn't Tony, and he doesn't like the second one any better. I'll pay good money to see that, and I'm quite sure both SHIELD and Stark's stockholders would as well.

There, world saved.

Being reasonable sucks

Just went through fourteen out of seventy-four old issues of Gotham Knights, and in a Bruce-like display of nearly superhuman strength of will, I'm going to pace myself and read the rest during the week instead of staying awake and reading all of them. Which I could totally do, except that it'd throw off my schedule.

I have to keep reminding myself of that, because, if you never read them, Gotham Knights is gold. There's a lot batfam character and relationships studies — an understatement — but if I have to be honest with you, the main draw is often the Dick-and-Tim sideshow of absolutely ridiculous, sometimes wordless banter.

...

I was going to say that although Tim during the whole "Bruce's not dead" Red Robin era (not the more recent insanity) is perhaps the archetypal expression of what I think he can be, I keep this Tim in my heart, because he's an earnest dork with a goofy sense of humor and I miss that.

But. While writing a bit more about Tim's search for Bruce (spoiler alert: Bruce wasn't dead), I suddenly realized something. Remember that awesome/awful birthday gift from Bruce in the form of a fake message from the future that made Tim question the sanity and morals of everybody he loved as a first step in the next stage of his training in detection? Tim's Bruce's not dead realization was very much close to that: a fragment of information out of time (in this case, paintings from the past) that he observed and deduced from in a way very few other people would've, regardless of their smarts, partly because Tim's a natural at this, and partly because Bruce helped him train in that way.

I don't know what I find more pleasing, the fact that what was arguably Tim's second legendary feat of detection (the first being of course figuring out Batman's identity) was so similar to that first lesson, or the irony that what he figured out was that the guy who had mocked him during for having bought the idea of time travel was indeed lost in time.

I don't think it was meant as a deliberate reference, but if it was, kudos.

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My main takeaways are that Jae Lee and Ben Oliver totally kick the art out of the park during the first issues, and I wish I could read more of the older (Earth-2?) world. I know they eventually got Darkseid' to pieces (and then there was a very long and silly migration and whatnot I only sort of followed), but I think TPTB made that happen because Batman and Superman had sort of won.

But mostly, the art was gorgeous; moody, strange, dramatic. As an example, here's Bruce Wayne (in disguise) sitting in a park bench:



It's all like that. The perfect style for that pair of over-dramatic prima donnas (in all fairness, everybody and everything looks over-dramatic drawn that style).

Justice League: Constantine

As Zatanna would say, hem. I liked a couple of bits at the beginning, but (a) it became much more traditional as it progressed, (b) Doylean reasons aside, Batman shouldn't have been there, and (c) I'm a bit done with John Constantine. I like conmen (conpeople? confolk?) as much as anybody else, but once you've got a reputation for it you're just a sort of sad sonofabitch people deal with when there's no other bloody option, and trust at their own idiocy and peril. Which, by the way, is how I feel about the more abrasive and fuckedup versions of Batman. A Bruce Wayne who's a workaholic who tends to mismanage personal relationships — totally in character. A Bruce Wayne with trust issues and close to about half a dozen people at most? Understandable. A Batman who every now and then does a carefully planned offhand piece of badassery to remind superpowered enemies and allies that he's the Bat? Probably part of his job; he wouldn't be quite so effective if people remembered he's just a terrifyingly capable and resourceful human being (although, as plan B, I wonder what'd happen if a Bruce Wayne decided to go the other way? He makes people underestimate Brucie as a way to protect his identity, and fear Batman as part of his strategy, but a Booster Gold strategy where there's no Batman, Bruce Wayne is a bumbling idiot, and yet things go better than people would have expected, had they known how bad it could've gone... It'd be the opposite of "make criminals fear me", but it'd be interesting, a sort of pre-reveal reverse-Moriarty). Anyway, I buy those Batmans and Bruce Waynes, but not one that's positively aggressive with his allies. Scary doesn't need to mean asshole, and in fact the latter reduces the impact of the former.

Oh, and a Batman who's skeptical of magic is just stupid. Wary of magic, sure. Bothered by the fact that there's a whole field of knowledge that comes up in his work now and then he has no handle on? I bet. Personally offended by the very existence of magic, why not. As Homer remarked, Batman's a scientist. But he has fought whole grimoires of supernatural stuff. And if there's one thing Batman isn't, is somebody who refuses to follow where the evidence leads.
I think a good anti-Batman argument would be: we live in a society where the State has the monopoly of law enforcement and the use of force (the latter is less true in the US, but the former is... at least for now, knock on wood). Whatever the motives and outcome of his war on crime might be, it's a huge, prolonged crime, premeditated to a ludicrous degree.

The counterargument for this — although it is a counterargument in favor of other crimes — cannot be that in a more just society what he does wouldn't be a crime, because he knows that's not true, and is actually rather active preventing vigilantes in Gotham other than himself (or, of course, the people he trains and/or controls).

A possible counterargument, as much as I've grown to actively loathe Frank Miller, is that of course he's a criminal. He's a master criminal, an Arsene Lupin who has never had to steal anything, so he could indulge his ethics from day one. I'm fine with that Batman, but it's one that could/should embrace the fact that he's a criminal; do the same things he does, but with less of a chip on his shoulder (at least regarding, say, thieves; even career thieves have the right to feel righteous anger against a murderer, but Bruce breaking and entering into somebody's house to beat them up because they robbed somebody else's might be ethically arguable if you grant his skills as a detective and moral integrity, but he should at least be aware of the irony).

Not that Bruce will, ever. Because he's a generally mostly moral man, an assertion I'm more comfortable making about the animated series' Bruce Wayne than many versions in comics, by the way, but Batman is something he has to do, not something he chose to do. Batman is how he sort of copes with his trauma; morality and the law only factor into it because it was a criminal who killed his parents (for another scenario out of an infinite spectrum of possibilities, cf my Fuga fic). Bruce empathizes with victims, cares for people, wants to help even his enemies (again, more true for some versions than for others) but if that were his main drive he wouldn't be Batman, he'd be doing Wayne Foundation stuff all day long, and/or be a doctor, and/or enter politics. He's Batman because he was hurt, and the injustice of how that kid was hurt makes the concept of law a joke. He's not punishing criminals because they break the law. He's punishing them because they break people.

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The more I think about Batman vs Superman, the less sense it makes. Even disregarding the hailstorm of idiot balls hitting everybody, what sorts Batman fights do we see? Two relatively Batman-y ones, true, the one at the beginning and the one at the end when he rescues Martha Kent, but the main ones are the chase scene, where he spends more bullets per minute than Punisher crashing a mob meeting, and the one where he fights Superman in full weapons plus power suit plus kryptonite mode.

What we don't see, what we are taunted with, is him breaking into LexCorp to steal the kryptonite. We're shown enough to know it must've been epic, but between Bruce's "resolved face" (and, really, World's Best Detective (not that he *ever* has been that in any of the damn movies, which might be the worst of the oversights, given how the Holmes movies have shown us that it can do well commercially), in what world would a Superman gone bad kill everybody with a damn explosion? That's not even one of his powers! He'd burn everybody, collapse the building, tear them down to cells, whatever, but nothing non-explodable would explode!) and Lex riding into his front gate to see ambulances drive away, and inside a wrecked building and a damn batarang nailed to where the kryptonite was... Batman must've teared through everything, and, assuming he didn't use weapons, it must've been glorious.

That's the Batman movie I want to see: half a Holmes movie, half The Raid (or a quarter Holmes, a quarter The Raid, a quarter Matches Malone noir, and a quarter of humorous Brucie and Alfred shenanigans).

We're more likely to see the Budapest Black Widow-plus-Hawkeye spy movie than that one, but one can dream about a better world.

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By popular request (n=2)

Here's the text of Batman's letter to Selina, as narrated during an issue-long Batman-fights-everybody scene in Batman #12. I took a wild guess at the paragraph structure, but who the hell knows.

ETA: Just to be safe, and without spoiling anything, consider this a generic trigger warning above and beyond it being about Bruce's psyche and life history (nothing sexual, though).

Not just spoilery; pretty much the whole damn text of the issue.Collapse )

Holy crap. Remember, this isn't somebody else talking about Bruce. This is him talking about himself.

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Holy crap, people

Batman #12 is almost entirely a long, silent fight (conceptually similar to, although not as visually striking as, the famous Moon Knight sequence during the early issues of the Ellis reboot). The only words are the text of what seems to be a letter from Batman to Catwoman. And the content of that letter...

I did not see that coming. It's a form of self-image for Bruce that I don't recall having seen in any comic before. I'm not sure how I feel about it, either. My Bruce is a fundamentally sane man with a very bad approach to dealing with trauma and a very interesting approach to fourth-generation asymmetric urban combat. When Bruce is crazy in canon, it's often in terms of a peculiar form of a multiple personality condition, plus severe interpersonal issues beyond what could be explained by that, or by his obsessive dedication to his work.

This Bruce has a very different psychological structure, and a very — gods, how very much — different perception of Batman. I might post something after pondering about it for a bit (or not, these are crazy days), but if you're into Bruce meta it might be worth tracking down and reading in full. Your usual source should already have it, or it will soon.

Movie paused to ask myself

... Did Dick, dressed as Batman, just comment on some katana-wielding Sisters by saying That would make them nunjas?

Yes. Yes, I think he did. Of course he did.

I think I now understand better Robin's tactical role. No matter how focused you are on following your plan, it's impossible to stay on mission when there's this kid dressed like a colorblind elf saying things like that. You just can't. You'd be aiming at Batman's back, ready to shoot, and you'd hesitate half a second too long, struggling between your cherished goal of killing Batman and your sudden, physical need to shoot that kid so he'll shut the fuck up. Must've been excruciating.

Hell, I'm sure Batman had to train himself specifically so he wouldn't stop during a fight to make sure he heard Dick say what he knows he said. Alfred probably has to deal every month with one or two young orphans bent on revenge who have crossed the world to reach Wayne Manor and learn Battle Punning at the feet of Dick Grayson.

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