Aug 2, 2016
The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 524: Batman Incorporated #2, August 2012
I'm not sure what the point of this issue is. Don't get me wrong in thinking that I mean that I don't like it. It's an excellent piece of writing, and the parallels that are drawn between members of the al Ghul family (R'as, Talia, Damian) are fascinating. The issue focuses mostly on Talia, on her birth and childhood, and on her relationship with her father. As one might expect, it's an unusual relationship, but it ultimately revolves around the notion of a daughter wanting to spend more time with her dad, and her dad having to work. Talia's dad's work involves trying to commit mass murder and occasionally dying, but work is work, and we've all felt like committing mass murder at our workplaces every now and again. So the fact that Bruce brings his son to work, spends time with him even if that time is spent leaping from tall buildings and beating the hell out of mentally ill super-criminals, reflects nicely on Talia and her sociopathic development. But where I don't know what do with this issue is how I'm supposed to feel about Talia. Are we seeing her relationship with R'as as an excuse for her behaviour? Should we pity the little girl whose dad is the Demon's head? Probably, but should we excuse her genocidal behaviour as an adult as an inevitability of her upbringing? Is this what the issue is asking us, or asking us to do? Talia overthrows her father's control in this issue. She has set up most, if not all (with the exception, I suppose, of that whole Darkseid bit), of the challenges that Morrison's Bat-run has seen the Dark Knight facing. She's driven and purposeful, much like her father, but unlike R'as, Talia's vendetta is solely against Bruce Wayne. R'as, at the very least, believes that the actions he takes will strengthen the human race. Talia is just annoyed that a boy doesn't like her back. Witness moments in this issue where R'as buys Talia a horse...and then an airship. He says himself that he always gives her what she wants, so when she's told she can't have Batman, she flips out.
So do we feel sorry for her? R'as was not a great dad. He did some damage there, both by giving her everything she wanted and by not being around all that much. He gave her what he could, which, homicidal villainy aside, is really all that a parent can do. I don't have an answer for the question, I don't think. What the comic does do very nicely is bridge the mythic superhero realm and the world of lived experience. We might be able to see ourselves in either Talia or R'as in this parent-offspring relationship, but the scope of their function and dysfunction is one that, hopefully, none of us can imagine. Only 10 issues to go. Is Damian actually dead? Why is Bruce faking the deaths of his Bat-colleagues? And why was Commissioner Gordon arresting Bruce 1 month later at the beginning of yesterday's comic? The answers are forthcoming, but we may not like them.