WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Batman: Lost #1 by Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, Joshua Williamson, Doug Mahnke, Yanick Paquette, Jaime Mendoza, Wil Quintana, Nathan Fairbairn, Alejandro Sanchez and Tom Napolitano, on sale now.
Dark Nights: Metal is shaping up to be one of Batman’s greatest tests of all time. But while the Dark Knights (evil Batmen with the powers of the Justice League) rampage through the DC Universe, Bruce Wayne is trapped in the Dark Multiverse, facing his inner demons. Batman: Lost gives us our first proper look at the torment Batman is enduring while under Barbatos’ spell, and features heavy callbacks to the earliest days of Scott Snyder’s run, deep dives into Grant Morrison’s more cosmic aspects of Batman, and references that reach all the way back to Batman’s very first case.
Tell Me A Story
The issue opens with an elderly Bruce Wayne relaxing in his retirement as his mansion is filled with the sounds of his grandchildren. At first glimpse, this looks like more of a happy ever after for Batman than the likes of Frank Miller and Lynn Varley’s The Dark Knight Returns. However, Bruce’s opening line, “I can see you,” immediately sets the tone as something far more sinister.
“I can see you” brings to mind Grant Morrison and Chas Troug’s Animal Man, where Buddy Baker gained the ability to see beyond the fourth wall of his reality, and look directly at the reader. While in this instance, Bruce is addressing his granddaughter Janet, the use of words is certainly intentional, and will become more relevant for Bruce as the issue goes on.
Janet asks her grandfather (It's unclear who her parents are, and ultimately it doesn’t matter.) to tell her a story, a true Batman story from his youth. Examining his bookcase, we see that Batman has collected his adventures as books, something similar to what he did with the Black Casebook of Grant Morrison’s run. Among the books are “The Long Halloween,” “Knightfall” and even Snyder’s own “The Court of Owls.” But the story that Janet wants to hear is Batman’s very first adventure, “The Case of the Chemical Syndicate.”
“The Case of the Chemical Syndicate” was the lead story in Detective Comics #27 by Bill Finger and Bob Kane, which introduced the gun-toting, purple-gloved vigilante known as The Bat-Man. In that story, an industrialist is killed and his son framed for the murder; The Bat-Man eventually tracks the real killer down and punches him off a ledge into a vat of acid, killing him. However, the look at the story we’re given here is slightly off; the big retcon being that Batman doesn’t wield guns and, as we’ll get to, doesn’t kill the murderer. But it also contradicts continuity established by Scott Snyder himself. According to Snyder and Greg Capullo’s “Zero Year” storyline, Batman debuted to stop The Red Hood Gang, so by reintroducing “The Case of the Criminal Syndicate” here, Snyder is embracing the “everything happened” approach of Grant Morrison’s run with the character.