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Batman: Gotham Adventures #60

Posted: Saturday, March 29, 2003
By: Ray Tate



"Leaves"

Writers: Scott Peterson
Artists: Tim Leavins(p), Terry Beatty(i), Lee Louridge(c)
Publisher:DC

I have a theory as to why the sales of Batman Gotham Adventures did not piddle on the sales of every other bat-title. Everybody believes that this book is only for kids. Nothing can be farther from the truth. Batman Gotham Adventures is the most mature Batman title on the racks, and this final issue epitomizes why the book is the most fulfilling of all Batman titles.

The original--excuse me, bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!--universe books are driven by plot. Gotham Adventures is driven by the characterization. Character creates plot. The plot in this issue derives from the relationship between Batman and his family as well as his archfoe the Joker.

The Joker isn't like the Joker of the alleged original universe books. He's worse. The writers do not ask you to pity him. They do not ask you to sympathize with him. Certainly they do not ask you to cheer him. They ask you only to stare into the face of evil. This Joker has not murdered a Robin nor crippled Batgirl, yet he is more of a figure of fear than his counterpart.

The reason why the Joker has not crippled Batgirl is quite simple. It doesn't make sense. This is a Batgirl who is the protege of the Batman. She is an active crimefighter, and perhaps it's just me, but it certainly seems that the Gotham Adventures crew have her use her legs more often.

Gotham Adventures is about the characters and what they mean to each other. The Killing Joke was a symbolic work meant to convey a metafictional ideology. The crippled Batgirl has no place in Batman: Gotham Adventures. In truth she has no place in any Batman book, but DC has yet to sober up. Besides, Batman would not allow the Joker to maim Batgirl. Joker would have to kill him first. He would also have to mow down Nightwing, Robin and Alfred. There's always somebody watching your back in this series. The camaraderie makes more sense without removing the elements of danger.

Batman is not a cold man. He is a tortured individual who saved his sanity by vowing never to allow another to suffer as he did. Batman is the sanest individual on the planet. He is the very opposite of Joker. What the original--yeah, right--universe Batman lacks is stability and warmth. He really is a cold, unfeeling borderline psychopath. The only difference between the Joker and he is the permanent makeup.

In this final issue of Batman: Gotham Adventures our Batman, the real Batman reaches a turning point. His battles against evil have caught up with him. He suffers more on this day. The signature beautiful uncluttered style of Tim Levins, the implacable Terry Beatty and irreplaceable Lee Louridge convey his inner turmoil through an expert usage of the dramatic potential of light and shadow. The first two pages without words outline the stakes: Batman's soul.

Batman's parents would not wish their son to suffer. He cannot accept the meaning in their portraits' grins. It seems Batman will teeter into the brink of darkness that has swallowed whole the post-Crisis Batman, but the people who love him will not allow that to happen.

Batgirl with a cheery grin and bounce in her swing drops onto a rooftop to greet Batman, but Batman seems aloof. He ignores her and even runs from her. She knows something is wrong, which is interesting since this pattern of behavior fits the so-called original universe bat to a scalloped tee. Batgirl catches up with Batman and touches his arm:

"Batgirl...I don't need your help."

It's the kind of answer you'd expect from Mr. Get-Out-Of-My-City over in the slumverse titles. Batgirl however cares about Batman in the same way she did back in the pre-Crisis as well as the television series Birds of Prey. She refuses to take him at his word. She sees through him and knows something is wrong. When she finds out the source of his problems, she knows she cannot help him in the usual way, but she finds a means to use her secret identity to his advantage. She will help Batman by making him concentrate only on running the gauntlet.

The gauntlet consists of sixty--one for each issue--tough-looking plug-uglies under the Joker's employ. Leavins, Beatty and Louridge with the setup of Scott Peterson possibly the most underrated and underhyped Batman writer create one of the most memorable Batman moments of the series and the year. It's a moment Shirley Walker would allow to play out in silence. You would just hear Batman's knuckles and feet crack against each one of the Joker's men. These three pages show that even if the criminal knows Batman is just a man he still will wet his pants at the thought of encountering him. Batman man or legend is unbeatable.

When Batman reaches the Joker, he learns an unsettling truth about himself. The words do not immediately impact. They gnaw at him later, and this time in the light, Batman makes a decision to finally accept the meaning behind his parents' grins.



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