Jul 7, 2016
The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 499: Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #3, August 2010
I think I must forget every time I read this series that there's a lovely little link to James Robinson's Starman in the character of Jack Valor, grandson of Jon Valor, the Black Pirate. It's little touches like this that make the reading of a narrative set in a shared universe that much more rich. The story isn't hurt if you don't make the connection, but it infinitely enhanced if you do. Considering my relative lack of knowledge about the Bat-universe, I'm sure I've missed many of these little nods over the course of this run. Maybe next time through, I'll have increased my knowledge base.
I can't help but think of Watchmen when I read this issue, a story about ghosts and pirates, with a little superheroics mixed in. I'm not sure if that's intentional, but Moore and Gibbons' use of pirates to replace superheroes in Watchmen forever colours any discussions we might have of the two in conjunction. That said, I don't see much of narrative or thematic connection. This really is, as the previous two issue have been, a story of Batman being Batman, just in a different time period. I mentioned briefly in an earlier post the idea that Bruce has gone back in time in order to seed history not only with clues as to his whereabouts, but also with his own mythology. Batman is often argued to be one of the least mythic characters in the DCU on account of his humanness - unlike those he allies himself with, he is not, technically, superhuman. This, however, should not dissuade us from thinking of him as a mythic character. Of course he's superhuman - what Batman does is impossible, just like Superman or Wonder Woman - it's just that in his case the impossible is parsed through the human. So to have him travel through time to seed his myth, to create the very environmental circumstances that, in some ways, lead to the creation of Batman, is very interesting. His myth becomes an ontological paradox. If he's inspired to become Batman by the very clues he left in the caves after he'd become Batman, where does the idea of Batman come from?
Well, from Bob Kane and Bill Finger, I suppose.
I'm not going to bother trying to unravel the paradox - that's not the point of a paradox. Like a metaphor, it's in the cognitive dissonance that meaning is revealed. And, oftentimes, that's a meaning that is impossible to put into words.