Tom King and David Finch’s Batman: A Lesson in Grief, Trauma, and ‘A Good Death’ [Opinion]

Joshua Williamson and Tom King signing at New York Comic Con

When a plane filled with Gotham citizens comes crashing down, Batman has to find a way to rescue them by accepting his own death.

Former CIA officer turned comic book writer Tom King’s first issue of the main Batman series grapples with the caped crusader’s duality as the impervious superhero symbol and the humanity of Bruce Wayne by literally hurdling a flaming plane into his city. What’s a superhero without superpowers supposed to do? He chooses whatever means are necessary to ensure the safety of the citizens of his city, which happens to include sacrificing his own life. He accepts this fact every night he goes on patrol to fend off muggers or does battle with the seedy underbelly of clown maniacs, men with question marked leotards, or two faced coin flippers.

When the plane is about to crash into water, he finds himself struggling with his decision to become Batman, which ultimately led to this moment.

“Is this a good death?” He wonders. It’s a moment that Bruce Wayne takes to connect, not only with his parents, but with the man that raised him to become the world’s greatest detective: Alfred. Batman goes through two stages of grief in this moment. He bargains with the result of his fatal situation and ultimately accepts the circumstances that led him there.

Noticeably, Bruce doesn’t go through through the denial, anger, or depression stage because these are embedded in the conception and legacy of the Batman mythos. He believes the harsh realities of his city can be absolved and exorcised by his Batman symbol. He’s used his anger to beat the criminals of Gotham into bloody pulps. Throughout the entirety of his vigilante career, he has bouts of depression that usually surface when the perspective he has of his city is changed for the worst. This is what makes Gotham City the perfect reflection of Batman’s deepest fears and darkest anxieties. As the criminals of the city continue to escalate their devastating actions and the theatrical nature of their identities, so does the caped crusader.

What Tom King and David Finch conjured into their first chapter of I Am Gotham arc is imbued with the weight of a real person grieving their own mortality in the frenzy of their James Bond style plot. Their lesson lies in the moments before death that tears away the mask of our perpetual denial. The stories we tell ourselves in the moments we face our mortality symbolizes the purpose for which we remain subservient to. In the end, Batman faces the scope of his resignation from normalcy in favor of committing the crime of vigilantism against the greater evils that robbed him of his family. A bargain that most people make in an effort to rationalize the trauma of our past mistakes or extraneous afflictions.

[Featured Image by Jessica Ryan]