SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for "Batman" #16 by Tom King and David Finch, on sale now, and might cause fast-food cravings.
"Batman" #16 from Tom King and David Finch offers up a rare and insightful look at the family dynamic between Bruce Wayne and his "sons" – Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, Damian Wayne and Duke Thomas – leaving the costumes at home and simply having lunch together, like any typical family. The sequence isn't an unusual occurrence solely because it's a relatively pedestrian gathering; rather, both King and Finch inject an element into the story that's rarely seen from the characters behind the masks: humor, and a lot of it.
Adding to the lightheartedness is the setting for Wayne clan: a new fast-food restaurant named Batburger (stolen from.... err, inspired by Mark Waid and Alex Ross' "Kingdom Come"), a themed establishment that all but satirizes Batman along with his friends and foes, which is not only as funny as it sounds, but even funnier as delivered.
Batman – Or Straight Man?
Make no mistake – Bruce hasn't turned to stand-up comedy. The humor is all at his expense, as his serious-minded ways make him the victim (aka straight man) for family and strangers alike, and it happens as soon as readers are brought along for their first meal at Batburger. When Bruce is asked if he'd like to "Jokerize" his fries, he fails to see the humor in a seasoning being named after his deranged, homicidal arch-foe, and is forced to endure being asked the question by a hapless order taker adorned in a cheap knock-off of his own costume. Readers get the joke, though, especially as Finch's artwork guarantees you're laughing as soon as you get a look at the costumed cashier, even before he even utters his line. The humor in this moment is driven home even harder a few panels later when Jason Todd (who at one point died violently at the hands of the Joker) comments aloud, "I know I shouldn't, after the crowbar and all, but I love me some Jokerized seasoning."
On its own, idea of an uptight billionaire dining in a fast-food establishment evokes a few snickers, but a restaurant whose every square inch openly yet unknowingly knocks his alter-ego makes the gag all but priceless. When that very same billionaire sits down to consume his Batburger – not with his hands, like the other 99%, but with Batburger's most elegant plasticware – Bruce again becomes the straight man. And it's not just readers who take note; so does the incredulous Duke, who watches the man he saw save Gotham from The Joker's deadliest ever attack, slice into a burger as though he were eating a filet mignon. At least Bruce doesn't extend his pinkies while holding his knife and fork in proper fashion.
Boys Will Be Boys – Even If They're Batman's
In his role as Robin, it's often easy to forget that Damian is just a kid, even when he's being his snotty little self at his father's side. It's all too easy to see it, though, when Dick buys him Batburger's equivalent of a Happy Meal, complete with an unknown action figure. First comes Damian's expected too-cool-for-toys attitude, then his selfishness regarding said action figure, and finally his disgust to discover that the figure is that of his older "brother," Red Hood. The banter between Damian, Jason and Dick typifies that of three bickering siblings, but is far more amusing when viewed against the backdrop of the the trio's costumed alter egos.
Finch wordlessly captures a particularly typical sibling-like prank that Jason pulls on Damian, as well as Damian's typically juvenile response. The sequence is layered under Bruce's deadly serious discussion of Bane's return to Gotham, providing a clever and humorous dichotomy that feels so real, it doesn't undermine the seriousness of Bruce's words at all. It's a rare moment where Batman's sidekicks aren't shown to be superheroes, or even superheroes pretending to be normal civilians. But here, they're genuine kids, like any other. OK, so Jason isn't technically a child, but he's all too convincing when he acts like one.
Welcome To Batburger – What Can I Make Batty For You Today?
As many times as Gotham has been victimized by Batman's villains, it's good to see that at least one entrepreneur apparently has a sense of humor about it. The founder might want to find a better marketing agent, though – "Night Wings" sound harmless enough, but "Robin Nuggets" don't sound all that appetizing, and having to note that the "Ivy Salad" isn't poisonous doesn't exactly sell the healthy menu options. Thankfully, readers don't have to order from the menu – they only need to laugh at the idea of being able to order a "KGBLT" for lunch.
The gags don't end with the restaurant's menu, though; patrons also get to immerse themselves in the ambiance of Bat-villainy, such as The Riddler's iconic question mark symbols plastered all over one section of a wall, or perhaps another patterned repeatedly with "Ha," another apparent nod to The Joker. Even Zsasz' trademark carvings are simulated in one area, and the disturbing nature of that makes it hard not to at least giggle from a covered mouth. One has to wonder if Victor Fries' image is displayed on the store's refrigeration unit in the back, or if that's reserved for the restaurant chain's (we're hoping it's a chain, at least!) frozen dairy offering.
There's no humor present in the final page of the issue, which calls into question whether there will ever be another family outing at Batburger. If there is, Bruce will have to ensure that Jason and Damian behave themselves better next time. Either way, Big Belly Burger now has some competition in the DC Universe.