Further, I think we get the best sense of the crossroads that the entirety of Snyder’s run has found Batman Bruce Wayne at when Gordon and Julia “Perry” Pennyworth discuss that Bruce didn’t care about what Batman “meant,” but rather he was just a man living by his own code. Whereas Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo’s Lex Luthor: Man of Steel focused on the Superman/Lex Luthor conflict, Cornell’s story is far more internal, explicating the fears, hang-ups, delusions and self-aggrandizement — often knotted and contradictory — that make up the villain Lex Luthor. From Batman to Darth Vader, to Predator and Iron Man – there was an eclectic mix of fan favourites at the convention. The Larfleeze issue feels tacked-on, an unnecessary pause between the Joker issue and the story’s conclusion, though Lex’s calm murder of one of his employees there — reminding the reader that Lex is the villain, not the hero, of this story — is likely one of the best and most horrifying moments of the story.
The various prophecies and hints from Vandal Savage, the Joker, and Death of the Endless all make sense at the conclusion, but a Phantom Zone monster is rather less than what I expected — the monster’s threatened destruction of the universe hardly seems enough to scare the Joker into remaining at Arkham Asylum or to cure Larfleeze temporarily of his greed. Again, Cornell ties it all up well alongside “New Krypton,” but it’s tiring to find the Phantom Zone again at the culmination of another Superman story (as if every Batman story would have to end at Crime Alley). Unfortunately, said “power” turns out to be a Phantom Zone monster, quite inexplicably. Snyder simultaneously grounds Superheavy in this even as the story even impatiently reaches for the stars; for instance, we first see Gordon-as-Batman in action fighting a giant electrical monster, but the real bad guy, more realistically, is a gang member torturing a retired Cuban baseball player for money.
It’s been asked plenty of times why Bruce Wayne didn’t just work for good inside the law, but as Geri Powers convinces Gordon to be Batman in the first issues, we get a palpable sense of what’s been suggested before, that Bruce Wayne (and those who came after) didn’t choose Batman, but rather that Batman chose them — that Gordon is indeed the only choice for the job, joker costume pressed into service by some ineffable sense of this. Not to mention that once Superman arrives on the scene, Lex at once seems seems the scheming super-villain and not the story’s dashing protagonist, far less impressive with his god-like powers than he was in the Joker’s cell in a trench coat and suit. Given Leto’s more androgynous features — only enhanced by the Joker’s not-so-subtle choice in make-up — it’s not that surprising that his take on the classic villain is so ripe for genderbending. Positing Jim Gordon as Batman was no doubt a purposefully controversial choice on Snyder’s part. And with Superheavy, Snyder’s Batman has in some respects reached the apex and beyond of what this Batman can be — a Batman who fought the Joker in public view, a Batman whom Gotham City believes gave his life for them, and further, diy joker costume a Batman they’ve now tried to replace with a gaudy robotic suit.
But as it turns out, Michael Keaton can still fit into the Batsuit. Again, I don’t disagree, but it’s a point where writer and character overlap too much when I’d as soon be reading a story that more faithfully extends from the character’s own history; I tend to think five years down the road we’ll no more still be hearing about the Corner, the Narrows, and Little Cuba in the Bat-titles than we do now about the Hill. I had the same objections to Gail Simone’s The Movement: a character like Batman is no more or less cognizant of the plight of “regular people” than the writer of the day makes him to be and that change is no more lasting than when the next writer decides otherwise (and this is a tide that has crested and ebbed before, no less with books like Batman: The Hill and Orpheus Rising, no longer referenced). A real change in a mainstream superhero character is glacially hard to accomplish, from costumes to power sets letting alone political shifts.
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