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Just did a quick reread of Deathstroke #5

It's the one where, for byzantine semi-Xanatos Gambit reasons, Deathstroke kidnaps Damian and puts him in the world's slowest and most useless death trap. It's a very fun issue for two reasons.

One: when Ravager tells Batman she'll tell him where Robin is if he helps them, he just jumps from the roof and says No. Lost boys are a dime a dozen. I'll just get another one.

Two: As Robin and Deathstroke are lazily sort of pretending to try to get into each other's head (while the latter is "watching" the former "drown" (it's all very Xanatos)) and Slade wonders what the League of Assassins did to Damian, he answers Oh... You wanna be my dad now?! Fine -- And then he *exposes his throat to the camera, smiles the most most psychopathic smile you could imagine, and says* -- Come on in here and slash my neck. Then I can be your kid, too.

The first time I saw it, my reaction was a silent but heartfelt emotion that can best be expressed by the nearly-mystical term Dude.

My takeaways are that 1. Bruce was obviously playing to Rose's psychological issues, 2. he's a very emotion-driven man who can also be almost psychopathically disciplined when he thinks it's the right call, and 3. Bruce has nothing on Damian's unbridled psychological savagery. Bruce grew up a nice person (with, I postulate, underlying issues), got hurt, and trained himself into somebody capable of violence. Damian was hurt from day zero, and was trained all of his life for violence of every kind. He had to figure out and learn how to express kindness and caring — every animal he saves is a Fuck You to his entire upbringing — because he grew up being taught otherwise.

Damian was abused by most definitions of the term. It's not cool, it's not nice, it didn't make him a better person. He speaks interpersonal brutality — the deliberate, forceful establishing of hierarchy — with the same unconscious fluency than Cass speaks hand-to-hand violence, and for similar reasons, and although both of them have gotten much better at communicating in other ways, it's still their mother tongue.

Anyway. I'm, as usual, overthinking a couple of lines of dialogue. The short version is that Damian was raised with a very unique "operating system" for interpersonal interactions, one that's very painful and unhealthy, and that has as a minor and totally-not-worth-it side effect his capacity to be brutal in ways that, say, Jason could never be.

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Random thought the first: Why does Clark say "Rao!" as an spontaneous expression of surprise? He learned about Kryptonian culture, but as an adult, and even if we grant that Kryptonian teaching techniques might be particularly intensive, all of his habits and beliefs are compatible with his contemporary US upbringing, and don't reflect any Kryptonian influence. His religious leanings seem to be toward a vague ecumenical theism, any specifics rather questionable given his personal experiences with literal angels, gods, devils, and, let's not forget, his personal death and resurrection, which for any strongly normative Christian should've been quite disquieting on theological grounds (now there's an AU for you; a very specifically Christian Clark Kent would have had pretty much the same exact career as Superman, with the same morals and understanding of himself as an ordinary person with extraordinary abilities that give him extraordinary responsibilities, but what would personal resurrection filtered through Christian dogma do to his self-image?) And anyway Kryptonians of the Jor-El era seemed fanatical about cultural (and genetic?) "purity," not religion. So is "Rao!" an affectation? Did late-stage Kryptonians use it as an expletive, and Clark got into the habit of using it because when, say, a huge sentient space crab suddenly appears over Metropolis with the intention of impregnating the city you have to say some variant of "oh shit!" but Superman isn't supposed to?

Random thought the second: Bruce complaining about Clark not training Jon more intensively isn't Bruce being a pragmatic emotionless bastard, it's Bruce being emotional and rather irrational when it comes to kids. Objectively, you have to train the hell out of a Robin if you want them to be relatively safe (you can also not make or let them be Robin, but that sanity ship sailed long ago), but Jon seems to have Superman-level powers. You can always have more and better training, but when it comes to that kind of power, the main strategic concern isn't how technically good they are, but how ethically. Bruce's main concern shouldn't be Clark teaching Jon to better control his powers (which, yes, it's important to avoid accidents of he "oops, sorry about that skyscraper" kind, but it's not as if Clark isn't or won't) but rather Clark raising Jon in that very rare Clark Kentian ethical stance that made it possible for somebody with his level of power to wield it not just selflessly, but also with a politically and culturally light touch. And *that* requires Clark and Jon spending time together bonding, not training.

Perhaps seeing a child that seems unavoidably going to pick up their line of work activates Bruce's panic "must train!" fear reflexes. Or perhaps, and this doesn't exclude the previous option, training is the only way Bruce can truly conceptualize how a father-son relationship can work.

I wouldn't heed his advice, nor give him a pass on his serious and willful errors as a parental figure, but I'm not without empathy for his issues. He probably can't access his own memories of his childhood without triggering his trauma, so, as kind as he is with children (and any well-written Batman is 100% a softy and not at all scary to any kid), being a father is more of a long-term relationship, and he's not particularly knowledgeable at the not-cape bits of it.

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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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Also: the developmental psychology of group minds.

Marathoning Leverage again (Why do I procrastinate the most during the most deadline-heavy month of the year? Because it's the most deadline-heavy, and hence stressful, month of the year, of course. It wouldn't be a maladaptive behavior otherwise, would it?).

Anyway, one obvious observation is that the Leverage crew is, to all intents and purposes, a Batman gestalt a la More than Human (although this is somewhat true of every such group in fiction). That is, if Batman were more focused on issues of class and political inequality as drivers and enablers of crime.

As he probably should. (My counter-argument is that, yes, Bruce should dedicate his money and absurdly polymath genius to fixing up the politics of Gotham rather than beat up thieves one by one — I know it sounds implausible, but come on, so is Batman — but against a costumed criminal Batman is still the best response, and even if you buy that there would be no rogues without Batman, which I don't really do, there's Ra's and the JLA-level ones. Crime Alley needs a clean GCPD, not a Batman, but the world does need a Batman.)(My counter-counter-argument is that Gotham might be the urban equivalent of an evil metahuman, a semi-supernatural metastable Petri dish of insanity that can only be kept in check by something as insane as Batman.)(But I digress.)

I drafted a quick description of the series arc as a psychodrama about Bruce Wayne (Nate's the Bat, and Season 5 ends up with Bruce growing up and becoming 120% more badass because of it; if you compare the end scene of S1E01 with the end scene of the series, the Nate-driven gestalt does what it does because Nate is broken, and the Parker-driven gestalt does what it does because Parker isn't), but that probably only shows that (a) I need to pause my marathoning, (b) should get more sleep, (c) relate everything to Bruce fucking Wayne.

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On Hannibal

One form of articulating my admiration for how this show is being handled is that, even if I didn't knew that Lecter kills and eats people, the things he does do on screen would suffice to creep me out.

By the way, the obvious crossover would be based on the observation that Dr. Lecter, as a world-known psychiatrist with experience with victims of traumatic violence, would be the obvious choice to treat a wealthy young boy who seems to have problems coping with the sudden death of his parents.

In other words, imagine Mads Mikkelsen saying Tell me more about the bat. Because I swear, turning post-Crime Alley child!Bruce into training-for-Batman child!Bruce would be *precisely* the kind of thing Dr. Lecter seems to find fascinating.

As an aside, of course, imagine Hugh Dancy with his eyes closed whispering I don't attack criminals because they break the law. I attack them because they scare me. I hide in the dark and break their bones because I want them to be as scared of me as I am of them. Bats terrify me, so I become one. This is my design.

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In Batman Inc.: Leviathan Strikes #1: That Leviathan is who it is and does what it does because of what we see makes *no* sense, so I'm ignoring it. Steph is righteously kickass, which is awesome.

But, if you'll allow me an admittedly fanboy-ish moment: that Bruce gets pounded by Daedalus' mind-crunching labyrinth... I don't buy it. I mean, this is *Bruce*. This is I-Have-A-Crazy-Backup-Personality Bruce. This is I-Talked-Desaad-Into-Killing-Himself-While-He-Was-Torturing-Me Bruce. This is I-Thought-My-Way-Out-Of-Darkseid's-Mind-Probe Bruce. This is Darkseid-Hit-Me-With-God-Killing-Omega-Beams-And-All-I-Got-Was-A-New-Suit-Design Bruce. I'm very okay with Bruce losing fights against metas, and I get angry with him, but not with the writer, when he gets lost in his obsessions and fails to see the big picture. But in my fanon, Bruce's mind is one of the most heavily weaponized and thoroughly booby-trapped constructs ever to be housed in a human cranium. Not because he's as crazy as, say, the Joker (well, nobody is except maybe Azathoth, and now there's a nice crossover to ponder), but because he took the trauma of his parents' death, and engineered that into the engine of a thing called the Batman. That's the point: the same person who engineered his own body into one of the world's foremost martial artists, and who engineered the Batcave and so on, first and foremost and always, engineered his own mind into a tool, weapon, and persona. The bat provided the form, and Crime Alley provided the drive, but it was *Bruce* who cut and trained and pushed and broke his mind into Batman's.

Sorry this got rambly and rather twelve-year-old-ish "No way Batman lost that fight, he has a... a... an anti-this gadget in his belt! So there!" What can I say? I have my blindspots of love and fear, and Bruce's mind is one.

I'll make the next two super-short: In Fantastic Four #601, is it me or is Johnny now kind of one of the most powerful people in the Universe? And where is the *full* meeting between him and Ben? After how they said goodbye before he died, whether sexually or not, they love each other and there's no other way of saying it. And in Snake Eyes #8, I'm finally getting bored of being told how cool are Snake Eyes and the Cobra organization. What we see isn't that impressive in either case.

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<3

Q: Why didn't Jason just blow up Batman to smithereens and then set up to control Gotham's crime?

A: Because just like Bruce's fight against crime — and his refusal to kill — are side effects of his desperate need to have his parents back, Jason's fight against crime — and his scruples to kill Bruce — are side effects of his desperate need for Bruce's love to overpower Bruce's issues.

Given how the DC universe works, I'd say Bruce has a an slightly greater chance of having his impossible wish fulfilled.

Jason shouldn't have gone back to Gotham. He was blossoming up as a sneakier version of Punisher. His life was interesting, he was doing good work, and he was getting both support and space from a Talia al-Ghul that was almost openly proud of him.

But you know how things are. Bruce is Jason's Gotham: dark, hurtful, bigger than life, and impossible to walk away from.

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The resurrection of Bruce Wayne, in the style of Gaiman's death of Batman. Kind of over-dramatic, because some things are definitely best done in comics form.


If he wanted to live he'd be doing something else. If dying were a choice, he'd have done so lifetimes ago, buying somebody else's life with his own if he was lucky enough. For a second, he had thought that saving the universe would be enough to close his eyes. Enough to buy peace.

But the thing inside him had laughed at the offer. The War was still going on, and he had lost long ago the right to sit it out. He knew the War would go on forever. The thought had long provided him with the oldest and best tool he had, a bottomless source of crystal-clear fear.

A gun fired somewhere in the city. The Bat opened his wings, and Bruce Wayne dived into the night.

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