Writer Scott Snyder and artist Greg Capullo have unveiled a bunch of evil Batmen from the Dark Multiverse during the ongoing DC Comics’ Dark Nights: Metal event. The creative duo calls this group as the manifestation of Batman’s fears into real life, and although that could be true, these characters also show what could have happened if Bruce Wayne hadn’t been able to do what we expect from the Batman.
The potential failures of Batman are the reason behind these fears coming to life, and their appearance as unimaginable devils highlights how the DC’s main universe is fortunate to have Bruce Waynes, who across the Multiverse manage to beat their internal demons rather than being defeated by them.
You Can’t Save The Day This Time
Batman is renowned to be someone who is prepared for all eventualities and is able to save the day, no matter what. However, what will happen if Batman is not powerful enough? Several stories from the Dark Knights origins are about Batman’s biggest failures and the outcome of such scenarios.
Two specific stories display Batman’s absolute inability to live up to the hero’s image that the world considers him to be. The Devastator shows a Batman who is absolutely unprepared to face a Superman gone rogue. To the comic book readers who have read JLA: Tower of Babel more than a decade back, which showed Batman’s counter-measures against the various Justice League members, it doesn’t appear real that he wouldn’t be ready to handle a scenario where Superman attacks his former friends.
Rather than halting the crazy Kryptonian, the Batman is unable to accept the fact that his friend has gone wrong. Superman kills the whole Justice League and decapitates Batman by the time Bruce eventually tries his last attempt to stop the killer Superman by becoming the Doomsday monster. This is one Batman who let his emotions control his thoughts and apparently he turned out to be incapable of doing the right thing before it was too late.
Same thing happened again in The Batman Who Laughs which shows Batman’s last and decisive fight with Joker, but, the story ignores the fact that he wasn’t able to stop the Joker from causing the destruction of Gotham City. Although the Batman has been known to be anti-killing, he has always managed to stop the Joker from going out of control. However, The Batman Who Laughs wasn’t capable.
Over the years, we have believed that Batman wants his enemies to feel worthy and we know that he never killed Joker because somewhere deep inside, he had a need to have an enemy. This is the idea that is explored by Neil Gaiman during his two-part story titled Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader. The story surmised that the Joker was none other than Alfred at all times who gave his “son” an enemy to chase.
Although this is something that is left for the reader to figure out, this Batman has shown the reality of this scenario. The Batman who had earlier broken his no guns rule in Final Crisis to kill Darkseid to save the world, now hesitated until it became way too late for all involved. This clearly shows that he is not a capable protector. Batman was defeated well before he transformed into the Joker.
Lack of Moral Guidance
Although his work as a vigilante makes him walk the thin line between a hero and a criminal, Batman has always maintained a higher moral ground than others. He has strong rules, and his morality is impeccable, however, in the Dark Knights, we see what could happen to Batman in the absence of those moral guidelines.
That Batman that appears in The Merciless is a person so deeply obsessed by his mission to save the innocent that he becomes the very evil that he was trying to stop. His sole focus is on beating Ares, and he doesn’t even remember who or what he was fighting, to begin with. He is so desperate to beat his enemy, and this makes him so consumed by his own power that he ends up killing Wonder Woman whom he claimed to love. It happened because he just wanted to hold onto the power, but, we know that our Batman knows better.
The Dawnbreaker shows a young Bruce Wayne who didn’t undergo the hardships needed to become the Batman. He is just a feeble kid who gets the most powerful weapon in the universe on what probably was the worst day of his life. A child, ravaged by tragedy is capable of doing evil things if not guided properly. There is no Alfred or the training to control the anger of this Bruce, and that’s not a good thing at all.
Failure To Let Go
Bruce Wayne’s life is marked by people he lost, but, he has the ability to gather himself and keep doing what he does. He has witnessed the murder of his parents. However, he only became inspired by that tragedy to become a good force. But, a lot of the Dark Knights show us how things would have been if Batman wasn’t capable of letting go and moving on.
In The Drowned, we see a female version of Bruce Wayne who is so tormented by losing her love that she spends her whole life to get revenge on those who hurt her. The desire for revenge makes Atlantis drown Gotham City in water before killing all of them. This is one Batman who is controlled by selfish thoughts and wishes and doesn’t control her actions.
This is exactly what happened in The Red Death and The Murder Machine. Batman is no stranger to seeing his beloved people die, however, such a tragedy never made him do the kind of things that he does in these stories. Our favorite Batman moved on after the death of Jason Todd. However, the Red Death was an outcome of Batman’s desperation to rectify his mistakes. The Murder Machine resulted from the Batman’s inability to let go of Alfred who had been like a father for him over the years. These are the mistakes which result in things going wrong eventually.
The Dark Knights one-shots are stories of tragedy. However, they also depict ineptitude, weakness and being incapable of living up to the expectations. While the group was shown to be a bunch of monsters, they were just weaker portrayals of Batman. The real Batman wouldn’t find it tough to beat them finally.