Every Tuesday I post excerpts from best selling at not selling super blog, Playing Favorites.
Humbleness is a strange adjective when placed next to Batman. On the one hand, he’s pragmatic about his limitations, but on the other, if you have nothing to contribute, you’re wasting his bat-time. He isn’t nice to people to be nice, but he will admit when he’s made—y’know, actually, I don’t know if I’ve ever read about Bats making a mistake. I’m sure there was some ‘splainin’ to do when “Tower of Babel” went down and his files for neutralizing his fellow Justice League members got stolen and almost killed them all, but I didn’t read that one. There was the issue of “Superman/Batman” where…jesus christ, why have I read more “Superman/Batman” than Grant Morrison’s run on “Justice League America”?!
The poor quality of my choices when Books A Million is out of better titles (“Thor,” “X-Factor,” “Batman,” “Marvel Adventures,” “Batman & Robin,” “Iron Man, “ and “Deadpool” to name a few) aside, in that one, a curse gave Batman Superman’s powers, but also made him a crazy dick who went toe to toe with The Justice League and kicked their asses (because he was Batman with Superman’s powers in a book titled “Superman/Batman.” Seriously, that should’ve been voted “Most Inevitable Battle” for something.) before Superman in a special suit lured him into Crime Alley so Zatanna could make everything better. In the end, Batman apologized.
So ‘practical’ is a good word for Batman instead of ‘humble,’ and no, practical isn’t heroic. Yes, it will help you win a few fights, but winning battles in and of itself is not heroic. This might be one of Batman’s greatest flaws.
I don’t know if using the one symbol of violence you abhor to violate the basic precept of your moral code just to eliminate the God of Evil counts as not being committed to doing what’s right. On the one hand, he was the God of Evil who had utterly dominated the human race and planned to use Earth as a base from which to spread his domain throughout the universe. On the other hand, everything I said earlier about Batman not killing.
Actually, viewing his villains as a continuum of danger and wrongdoing, I can see how Darkseid would be the infinite variable in that function. Darkseid won’t be especially well-justified in seeking revenge on Batman when he comes back. No one is going to blame Batman for killing him (even the incredibly terrible [and it’s just awful and unfun and what the fuck to read, and not in a good way] “Final Crisis: Revelations” mentions that the Christian God [or whatever form of him powers up guys like The Spectre and…uh…Power Nun? in the DC Universe] is exceptionally unhappy with what Darkseid’s doing, but has pretty much hung humanity out to dry. And while that’s kind of his M.O., which he gets an omniscience-based pass on because he knew Superman was going to punch Mandrakk really hard and Batman was going to shoot Darkseid so everything was going to turn out okay and Superman was going to freeze dry the universe then sing it back into existence [yes, this is your brain on “Final Crisis”], so maybe when he was doing everything right, no one thought he did anything at all…?). There is no redemption for Darkseid, and with New Genesis destroyed and the heroes of Earth under his thrall, Darkseid could have brought the universe to its knees, subsuming all conscious thought into Darkseid himself. There is no sliding scale of lives lost or chances for redemption when those values are “infinite” and “zero,” respectively.
And yet I can think of an Elseworlds where Darkseid wasn’t shot, and was overthrown, or quite possibly (cribbing notes from the third “Authority” trade his expanded consciousness through the multitudes of the universe actually inserts compassion and regret through him. A woeful being, multitudes alone in the infinite quite labors to build a great machine using billions of hands and a single mind once bent towards destruction and death. The machine turns the universe inside out; turning all of his hatred and oppression into joy and freedom. A new universe is born on the ashes of the old one.). That any stupid comic book outcome could have existed to this is the very reason comic book heroes persist in their heroism. The reasonable prediction that events will conclude with an undramatic inevitability in the absence of the protagonists is one of the reasons they stay alive, but it also tends to make their continued treatment of their own lives as being as important as the universal status quo makes them seem a bit less heroic than that, especially when they cross their own moral thresholds.
But still, is Batman shooting Darkseid a big enough departure for me to merit somehow ranking him lower than Spider-Man when I’ve never really read enough “Spider-Man” to know the ins and outs of his character’s flaws? I’m afraid so. I’ve got to make decisions with the information I have at hand.
That Batman persists in doing what’s good despite the things he’s seen and the fact that he tries to keep doing good despite the mixed results it gathers. This applies to most heroes. It’s much easier just to say that the world will never change or that changing the world is too complicated, so you might as well destroy it with all of its wickedness. Heroes continue hoping, even in the face of despair. It’s sort of a universal moral myopia; it’s an article of faith that doesn’t require proof for these heroes to see though. Villains, by and large, do not have this quality. Most of them believe the only way to make the world better is to rule it themselves. Institutions run by normal humans simply aren’t as strong, as integral, or as fair as despotic or monarchial world rules with themselves at the top.