This series has made a lot of statements about losing personal privacy and civil rights. Not only do the citizens of Gotham live with nightly curfews and constant airborne infrared surveillance, but Captain Gordon and the rest of the local Gotham police force seem powerless to prevent it.
In Paul Pope’s version of Batman, the state has become the super-villian. “I don’t think we’re dealing with a laughing sociopath in pancake make-up this time. This is starting to look like a full out military coup,” says Batman on page two.
It caught my attention that even one hundred years into the future, a federal office of homeland security is still in place, implying (to me anyway) that a Republican federal government is also in power. The use of the term “homeland security” blatantly refers to today’s political climate in the United States. In fact, aside from the Blade Runner flying cop cars and holographic projections, the future Gotham and America inhabited by Batman seems extremely familiar. Pope’s Batman might just as easily be set in the current day.
The “meeting” scene between Gordon and Batman, towards which the previous issues have been building, was dramatic. Pope’s holographic versions of Tibble and Batman remind me of spirits or demon images rising out of a fire. Tibble appears in a red haze, looking vaguely horned and devilish, while Batman materializes expressionless, in a green glow, like a different kind of demon. Poor Captain Gordon seems to be stuck between these two forces, both of which are outside his control. The personal pasts and identities of Batman and Jim Gordon do exist in parallel to each other, providing a way for these two archetypal DC comic characters to come to terms with each other, and a way for the vigilante to become legitimized once again.
In this series, Paul Pope has also established a theme of family lineage and personal destiny, through the grandfather/father/son relationship embodied in Captain Gordon, the master/apprentice theme in Batman and Robin, and the mother/daughter relationship in the Doctor and her daughter, Tora, who are like surrogates for Barbara Gordon.
Perhaps few influences are stronger than the life example of a family member whom you respect. It’s natural to want to follow those people’s examples, and follow in their footsteps. I wonder if this is Pope’s modern answer to the old “Batman Family”, the extended collection of Bat-prefixed characters developed from the 1940s to the 1960s that formed a clan or extended family unit.
Issues three and four of this series seemed to have more emphasis on action than on character insights or moving the story along. It seemed like all the fantastic questions and mysteries presented in the first issue were what gave the story its incredible momentum. With each issue after that, the dramatic tension seemed to drop off noticeably. Thankfully, Pope’s expressionistic inking and Villarubia’s vibrant colouring remain consistently strong throughout the series.
Although I don’t want to give it away, the big plot payoff that I was looking forward to throughout this series — learning Batman’s true identity — was turned into a major anticlimax. It’s frustrating that I still know almost nothing about the man behind the mask. I really expected this series to deliver on that.
A few other questions raised by Pope remain unanswered: When is a vigilante (or in the words of the Gotham media, a “terrorist”) like Batman required or justified? Also, must a son, or a great-grandson, always follow on in his predecessor’s footsteps?
In this final issue, Robin admits to Tora “He’s got big feet. I had to stuff a rag in the toe to get his boots to fit.” Batman does indeed have big shoes to fill. In spite of the slightly weak finish, I do think that Paul Pope and Jose Villarubia have largely succeeded in filling them.