SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Batman: The Red Death #1, by Joshua Williamson and Carmine Di Giandomenico, on sale now from DC Comics.
As DC Comics’ Dark Multiverse begins to take form, it’s revealed not as the shadowy place of pure evil that one might imagine of the home to the bat-demon Barbatos, but rather one of hopelessness. Hints of that could be gleaned from the underlying horror of the Batman Who Laughs’ Robins, but it becomes clear this week in Batman: The Red Death #1, which paints a picture of Earths in perpetual crisis, and of an aging, desperate hero driven to madness, and murders, by his inability to save his city, let alone his own family.
The Bruce Wayne in The Red Death, by writer Joshua Williamson and artist Carmine Di Giandomenico, isn’t all that different from the one of Earth-0. He’s older and more weary, closer to his counterpart in The Dark Knight Returns, the seminal 1986 comic whose echoes ripple through this one-shot, from the tank-like Batmobile to the visor-wearing mutants wandering the streets of Gotham in chaos — but he’s recognizably, discomfortably, “our” Bruce Wayne.
This Batman too is born of loss, not only of his parents but also of Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, Tim Drake and Damian Wayne; he’s without a family, untethered to those elements that might have pulled him back from the brink. Surrounded by death, Bruce is keenly aware of his own mortality, and his own shortcomings. When his training and technology failed him, he began to work his way through not just his rogues gallery but also The Flash’s, presumably killing the supervillains as he absorbed their weapons into his arsenal. The Dark Knight arrives to this new phase of his origin story equipped with guns that once belonged to Captain Cold, Mirror Master and Heat Wave, as well as Mister Freeze’s cryostasis formula, and intent on adding super-speed.
It makes a certain degree of sense, at least to a vigilante who feels impotent to save the people and the city he loves, and so sets his sights higher, to the entire world. Realizing he’s not fast enough to be everywhere he needs to be, he turns to Barry Allen, the key to what he seeks: access to the Speed Force.
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