How do you end an era? Quietly, it seems, at least so far as DC Entertainment is concerned. Not with a whimper or a whine or even a sigh. The era of the New 52, the age that began so controversially and in some ways successfully with Flashpoint, is drawing to a close with considerably more dignity than foreseen by T.S. Eliot. Indeed, it may yet end with a bang. But, for the moment, the DC Universe approaches Rebirth at a steady, even stately, pace devoid of apocalyptic panic.
Interestingly, the Batman books are closing in on this juncture with a notable lack of angst and darkness, at least as compared to the current situation with the Superman and Green Lantern books. There have been hints that the new world of the DC Universe will see an emphasis on more social heroes enjoying more positive relationships. If that is true, and I am reserving judgement until solid evidence rolls in, then some kind of transition from the more bitter world of the New 52 is in order. Batman #52 provides such a changing point, an opportunity to pause and survey what is most important about the character and his world.
This issue tells a one-shot story featuring a vaguely defined villain named Crypsis who has outfitted himself with super-science technology that provides the ability to teleport and phase through walls. He uses this equipment to steal a journal out of a vault in an obscure Gotham bank. To cut to the chase, the journal belonged to the young Bruce Wayne, and contained his observations on how to recover from the tragedy that scarred his life. As Batman pursues the villain, the story is intercut with scenes of Bruce’s training.
But it is the young Mr. Wayne’s pithy observations that give us an insight into the character of Batman, or at least those aspects of it that might be important going forward. “Don’t let anyone else leave you,” is a spear of pathos, while “disappear” and “make them feel what I feel” resonate with determination, anger, and fear.
But if the new DC Universe is really meant to emphasize relationships, then it is very appropriate that the most important observation is the fifty-second, not Bruce's at all. In the back of the journal Alfred has written, "remember that your parents will always be proud of you." Young Bruce is furious at such drivel, of course. Old Bruce ... well, he isn't anybody's idea of Santa Claus, and what was meant as comfort he turns into a mission. But even in that there is benign wisdom and even a kind of fragile gentleness rare in the Kingdom of the Bat. Next month will reveal if this is, in fact, a vision of things to come.