The Metaphors and Mythology of “Batman #9”

For all its action and violence, the most startling aspects of Batman #9 are the issue’s use of metaphors and its exploration of the mythology surrounding this New 52 Dark Knight and his cohorts. The seeming slasher-type horror tone of the previous installment of “Night of the Owls” is gone, replaced with a violent desperation for revenge. The event moves on, and so too does Batman.

Writer Scott Snyder opens this chapter again with more revelations about the Wayne family and its history with owls. This time it’s a metaphoric story that works in part as a recap of this epic struggle with the Court of Owls. The Owls have always been there, but so too have been the bats; at odds with each for the heart of the cave below Wayne Manor and Gotham City itself. Here the Talons of the Owls are the latest to drive the bats deeper into their dark sanctuary. The darkness being what allows the bats to recover and bring winged vengeance upon the intruders.

This technique that Snyder uses to showcase Batman overcoming the assault on his home has become something of a trademark. In everything he’s written–American Vampire, Detective Comics, Gates of Gotham, etc.–the protagonist remembers a story from the past that has some metaphoric bearing on the presents. It is a useful gimmick to set the tone, recall the essential elements of the story and poetically move the narrative along.

It allows Snyder a moment to drive home the personal nature of this story. There is a scene in the midst of the cave fighting where one of the Talons drives a dagger deep into the helmet of Batman’s battle armor, the blade coming just short of going between Bruce’s eyes. This story, no matter how many Wayne’s (or Pennyworth’s) are drawn in, is about him and we should not forget that aspect.

This is the climax of this part of the story. The rest of issue muddles through to the end and the final declaration from Bruce that he intends to “burn down” the Court’s home. A missing piece that contributes heavily to this muddling was actually presented prior to this issue in Detective Comics #9, a rather confusing move, but one we have to live with. The intent is to sell copies of another book. It has little bearing on the overall event aside from creating an unnatural pause in the story presented in these pages.

As with the last issue of Batman, this one also features a back-up story that explores a further aspect of the Court of Owls saga. “The Fall of the House of Wayne” is a flashback based on a letter written by Alfred’s father, Jarvis, a former butler of the Wayne family. A seed is planted that the Court may have had something to do with the fate of Martha and Thomas Wayne–a startling a potentially dangerous revelation–but these scenes also confirm one part of the New 52 continuity. This Volume Two understanding of Alfred sees him as an amalgamation of his character’s history, similar to the way he’s been presented in the most recent decades. But while that stays the same, Snyder and back-up co writer James Tynion fill in the cracks and crannies of continuity with new pieces of the mythology that may prove to be provocative.

The back-up has a strong gothic feel, most notably derived from the artwork of Rafael Albuquerque. The panels are beautiful in their sinister and menacing rendering. It is the most stylized art of whole issue. Greg Capullo’s pencils in the main feature are very workmanlike, and are admirable in how they tell the visual aspect of the story. The action is at times hard to follow, but that seems to be result of a compressed script rather than overly busy layout choice.

Batman #9 presents a very dark and aggressive Bruce. The psychological and physical toll of the Court has pushed him to the brink, and his anger has finally been unleashed. Much as Snyder has done throughout this early run of Batman Volume Two, expansion of Bat-mythology combined with metaphoric storytelling strongly points toward robust characterization and a very personal narrative. It’s also a story of legacy, taking a deep root in the history of Batman. Aside from a lackluster conclusion to the main feature of this issue, Batman #9 is a fine addition to this epic.

RATING 6 / 10