NOTE: This article contains minor SPOILERS for Batman #16
When Superman first emerged over the fictional streets of Metropolis, it only made sense that the citizens around him would take notice, turning their primary-colored, caped guardian angel into a beloved icon - and the real world followed suit. Ever since, a hero's exploits have been just as entertaining and fruitful for commentary as the way their public sees them. For Wonder Woman, she's taken as a feminist leader. For The Flash, he's kindhearted and selfless enough to earn a museum, a shrine to Central City's love for his efforts. But Batman... well, Batman can be a different story.
Call it an unavoidable side effect of operating in the dark, but where Batman travels, a feeling of distrust or suspicion breeds. Half the criminals of Gotham may fear his name, while the other half mock him as an urban legend, or someone with seriously unresolved daddy issues. The people of Gotham, too, have been torn on whether he's a vigilante hurting those who have it coming, or a monstrous beast hiding in dark corners, watching. But in the DC's new Rebirth era, the love for Batman has clearly reached new heights, with wealthy investors seeing the brand potential in the Dark Knight that Warner Bros. did decades ago.
And thanks to writer Tom King and artists David Finch and Jordie Bellaire, Batman and his former sidekicks take a field trip to see the new way Gotham is making a buck off the Bat.
To date, Tom King has emphasized the mortality of Bruce Wayne, throwing him up against some truly terrible odds since the launch of Batman: Rebirth. Having almost lost his life more than once, and gotten an update to his origin story that makes his crimefighting career essentially extended suicide, it only makes sense for Bruce to be in need of some lighter chapters. Unfortunately, the setting of Issue #16 doesn't quite match the seriousness behind the outing. It looks like his new Bat-Hound, Ace will have to remain the solo perking-up of spirits in Bruce's recent memory... Oh, and that evening with Catwoman, of course.
Batman may not be in the mood to see how Gotham has commercialized his nightmarish identity into a themed McDonald's, but King and Finch are in top form, delivering more Bat-puns than fans have gotten in years. Honestly, the references and wordplay on display in the menu alone will convince fans that Batburger restaurants need to be opening up in every major city. Take your pick:
- Batburger Deluxe!
- Batburger Deluxe Oversized!
- Bat-Mite Meals
- Robin Nuggets
- Killer Crocque Monsieur
- Two-Face Sandwich
- Ivy Salad (NOT POISON)
Mark is saved a lecture and perhaps a complaint to the manager by Duke Thomas, who obviously didn't realize that part of hid duties as Bruce's new sidekick included placing his fast food orders. Nor did he prepare to see Bruce Wayne's method of eating hamburgers (with a knife and fork, because apparently Alfred doesn't need to be present for Bruce to revert to his childhood).
But all the jokes at Bruce Wayne's expense, or the windows papered over in Joker's cackling laugh, or the stitch marks signifying each one of Victor Zsasz's kills can't match the levity of the former (and current) Robins. It's a rare thing to see a Batman writer let off some steam by imagining the conversations that Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, and Damien Wayne would have, if left to their devices, and without impending doom to polarize them (Jason's dark humor shining in particular). For all intents and purposes, it's lunch out with the Waynes... and goes as smoothly as you'd expect.
The fact that Damien is infuriated to have received a Red Hood action figure in his Bat-Mite Meal is only made better by Finch's subtle art, showing Jason slyly snatching the doll away when Damien looks the other way (a move that is, strangely, completely in keeping with Jason's Rebirth characterization). There's also poetic justice in seeing Damien throw a tantrum when the theft is noticed, smearing his Batburger in Jason's face with the kind of immature energy that once defined Jason's time at Batman's side. And, of course, it wouldn't be a gathering of Robins without Batman needing to play the role of overbearing father. Some things never change.
In the end, the threat they've been brought together to recognize - that Bane is coming to Gotham, and they need to leave town - can't hamper the event for longtime fans of the Batman Family. It may be a departure from the darker, more reverent versions of the characters some will prefer, but it's also the kind of scene that now every superhero legacy can enjoy. And with the amount of heartbreak, deaths, and resurrections the gathered heroes have faced (Duke's the only one not to have died), a brighter scene showing Bruce Wayne's efforts as a father really did pay off is more than welcome.
Now, if only Bane wasn't on his way to ruin the fun. Oh well. We can only assume that this Batburger lunch is soon to become a weekly ritual, because it's clearly too brilliant an idea for a single appearance.
Batman #16 is available now.