SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for “Batman” #3, on sale now.
“Batman” #3 continues the overall fast pace of DC‘s Rebirth titles, as Tom King, David Finch and Danny Miki give us the secret origins of new superheroes Gotham and Gotham Girl. But while some of the overall strokes will seem very familiar, the reality is that this creative team is sticking closer to source material than you might have initially thought.
At a glance, King’s script is very much along the lines of Batman’s own origin tale. The first three pages are following the same overall sequence of what happened to the young Bruce Wayne back in the day; ambushed in an alleyway after some sort of performance, a robber mugs a young man’s parents, among other things making a grab for the mother’s necklace. But right as astute readers will note that the necklace here is not Martha Wayne’s infamous strand of pearls, King and Finch make it clear that Bruce Wayne is not narrating this flashback — in short, it’s not the birth of Batman that we’re seeing.
To be fair, this isn’t the first time that we’ve seen a character connected to Batman have a very similar origin to him. Two villains in particular — the Wrath in 1984’s “Batman Special” #1 and Prometheus in “New Year’s Evil: Prometheus” — had flipped origins, where both characters had criminals for parents and witnessed their deaths at the hands at law enforcement. Both the Wrath and Prometheus ended up devoting their lives to taking down crime-fighters, a nice reversal of Batman. Here, we’re also seeing it transform in a positive manner, as Batman’s saving of the parents inspires young Hank, who along with his sister Claire decide they need to mimic the Dark Knight. And while their superhuman abilities are a new wrinkle, there’s no denying that the duo are, at least for now, on the path for good. This is, easily, the most faithful application of Batman’s origin story to another character that we’ve seen in a very long time, if not ever.
Along those lines, it’s hard to ignore that King and Finch are even taking some of the classic images from Batman’s origin story and revising them to fit into Gotham and Gotham Girl’s life. At first, it seems somewhat innocent, with the posters behind Hank’s headboard on page 7 pulling up a lot of iconic Batman images from over the years. That said, the comic at one point goes into a hysterical straight-up duplication. The scene on page 8 where the duo are lifting weights is clearly drawn to look as close as possible in terms of poses as the second page of the Batman story in “Detective Comics” #33, which was when we finally saw Batman’s origin story, complete with him pumping iron to get more in shape. It’s a fun little Easter Egg for the Batman aficionado.
A little more obvious to some readers might be a familiar face on the final page of the comic, the return of Roger Hayden, better known as the Psycho-Pirate. Originally debuting in “Showcase” #56 back in 1965, the Medusa Mask-wielding villain went up against Doctor Fate and Hourman with his emotional-manipulating powers. For three decades, he was a third-class villain who showed up on an extremely irregular basis, but that all changed with “Crisis on Infinite Earths.”
Originally used by the Monitor to help coerce super-powered beings both good and evil to help in the fight against the Anti-Monitor, Psycho-Pirate’s powers were later used for evil by the Anti-Monitor to try and keep those being rescued attack those coming to help. Still, the villain might have been forgotten if it wasn’t for the very end of the maxi-series, where we discover that he, and he alone, still remembered everything that happened in “Crisis on Infinite Earths” and that it’s literally driven him insane. Grant Morrison and Chaz Truog followed that up with great effect near the end of their run on “Animal Man” in 1990, where Psycho-Pirate attempted to use his powers to summon characters who had been wiped out of continuity and bring them back into the DC Universe. Sound familiar? After all, the pre-“Flashpoint” Wally West just clawed himself back into reality and out of comic book limbo just a couple of months ago.
Now, this could all be just a tease on King’s part. After all, having someone who can manipulate people’s emotions working with Professor Hugo Strange — who for years now has wanted to get to the emotional heart of characters, most notably Batman — is a match made in supervillain heaven. (To be fair, in the last continuity, Psycho-Pirate was brutally killed by Black Adam in “Infinite Crisis,” although that never seems to keep a character down for too long.) But with characters and situations from before 2011’s reboot of the DC Universe starting to reappear, this could turn into something more. Maybe it’s just a fun homage, like Hank and Claire’s hefting weights over their heads. Or maybe, just maybe, the return of the Psycho-Pirate is more universe-shattering than one might initially think. Either way, it’s going to be an emotional ride up ahead.
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