Jonah Puskar ’20 / Emertainment Monthly Comic Books Editor
Batman: The Merciless #1
Peter J. Tomasi
Another week of the Dark Knights: Metal event brought readers a new look at an alternate Batman. And arguably, this is one of the more fearsome enemies so far.
Batman: The Merciless follows the backstory of a dark Bruce Wayne, one from Earth -12. These Earths have been explained to readers as being from the Dark Multiverse, a shadow realm that wasn’t meant to live. These worlds show versions of Batman that aren’t the hero we’re familiar with. And this Batman is certainly a unique one. His backstory delves into the power that corrupts man and how it fractures the mind. This is a Batman that not only lost his world to war, but also lost his love Wonder Woman in the process. The Merciless Batman is just that, without mercy. This Bruce steals the villainous god Ares’ new helmet and becomes the evil that Ares had been. Merciless Batman goes on a warpath through his Earth and slaughters his former adversaries. Readers are shown a Batman so broken in his loss and so corrupted mentally that he breaks his one rule. He loses the mercy that made him a bastion of justice. This leads Merciless Batman to join with the Batman Who Laughs, the ringleader of evil Batmen who attempt to take over the main Prime Earth of DC lore.
The other plotline of the story follows the military as they attempt to stop the evil Batmen from taking over the Earth and unleashing a primal evil called Barbatos. Steve Trevor of A.R.G.U.S. is shown being forced to work with Amanda Waller of Task Force X, Father Time of S.H.A.D.E., U.S. Army General Lane, and Mister Bones of the D.E.O. in a collaboration that goes sideways predictably quickly. Trevor’s altruistic nature clashes with Waller’s “greater good” beliefs when plans are brought up to bring a bomb down on Langley to stop the rampage of Merciless Batman. However, despite the bomb dropping nothing occurs. Merciless Batman absorbs the entire blast and forces the military leaders to bow down to him, worshipping him as a god. The story closes with this corrupted Bruce removing his helmet and revealing a worn, scarred face as he strangles Steve Trevor, remarking how a man such as him doesn’t deserve Diana’s love.
As for the plot, this was definitely one of the better Dark Knights: Metals one-shots thus far. It had a good mix of backstory and current conflict on Prime Earth, something the other stories lacked. While most delved into backstory, they failed to balance it with present events during the event. Batman: The Merciless has done the best job of this out of the one-shots currently out. This story uses the backstory to balance out and juxtapose the titular character’s current actions and thoughts.
Author Peter J. Tomasi did an impressive job with the dialogue of Merciless Batman. He displays how this Batman’s backstory progressively plays into the psychosis he spirals into and how it influences his narration. Tomasi wrote this Batman to be one with a lot of emotion and it shines through. Readers will feel truly sorry for this Bruce and how badly he misses his Diana, as well as how much he regrets his actions. Tomasi clearly demonstrates the way this Batman is influenced by both the original Bruce that he was and the corrupting influence of the helm he wears now. The only shortcomings seemed to be with the other characters in the present day Prime Earth. It seemed like there was a lot to fit into a tight amount of panels, so there wasn’t much room for characterization. There were obvious attempts but they just weren’t working.
Artist Francis Manapul did an adequate job for this issue. His simplistic style wasgood in parts and felt out of place in others. In the military briefing parts that focused on Trevor and the others it felt just right and fit for the characters and setting. However, it would have been better if the scenes featuring Merciless Batman had been far more detailed. Seeing the details in his armor and weapon would have made him seem more intimidating and fear-inspiring. The art was better than most, but seemed like half-measures at certain points.
Overall, this was a good read with good art. While not an essential read for the Metal event, it certainly gives great insight into one of the evil Batmen that is attempting to destroy the DC universe readers know and love.