The Dark Knight no more?
The courtroom drama comes to a close in Batman #53. Can Bruce Wayne convince the other jurors to denounce Batman and clear Mr. Freeze’s name? And why does that *not* sound like a question I should be asking?
“There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil.” (Job 1-1:3)
If you’re familiar with the Bible, chances are you know the story of Job; a well-to-do, pious man, Job was tormented by Satan to test the limits of his devotion to God. Piece-by-piece, Job had everything dear taken from him: his wealth; his children; his physical health. Though Job was overwhelmed, shocked, riled — “In all this Job did not sin or blame God.”
In Batman #53, the story of Job is the crux of Bruce Wayne’s reasoning to take Freeze’s side against Batman. And it becomes powerful allegory for the suffering Bruce Wayne now endures after his wife-to-be, Catwoman abandoned him on their wedding night.
“You ever read the book of Job?” he asks the rest of the jurors. “God tore this guy’s life away. Burned his farm and his children. And Job gets a little angry and asks why. And God just says, ‘I created the mountains and the miracles. And you’re questioning me? You. Who are you?‘”
Certain caption boxes adorn flashbacks to the wedding night; the dark silhouette of Bruce standing alone on the rooftop in his wedding tuxedo waiting for a Selina who will never show. “And you’re questioning me? You. Who are you?” The words seem to erupt from the Gotham night sky. Angered. Sardonic. An unhappy Bat-god chastising its servant.
Lee Weeks (art) and Elizabeth Breitweiser (colors) masterfully complement the narrative; the finale to Bruce’s compelling speech against Batman takes place on a 12-panel-page that quickly switches among each juror’s different reaction. There’s a page where Batman, stenciled in black shadow and javelins of ice-blue moonlight, stares up in wonderment at the Gotham night, at Catwoman vaulting between fire-escapes as he narrates the words, “I had for years put myself into this Batman. Because he was good… I was happy.”
But in this issue, it’s King’s show because he changes everything. He has made a deeply personal, symbolic issue about Batman that will change the way you think about the character. The narrative looks to be taking an interesting twist in the near future; if King’s doing what I think he’s doing, Batman #53 could turn out to be one of the most groundbreaking Batman issues we’ve read in some time. And for that reason, I say: go read it now.
“Then Job stood up and tore his clothing and cut the hair from his head. And he fell to the ground and worshiped.
He said, ‘Without clothing I was born from my mother, and without clothing I will return. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Praise the name of the Lord.’ In all this Job did not sin or blame God.” (Job 1:20-1:22)