Hi, my name is Meg and I’m a Batman fan.
Now, okay. You probably had one of two reactions reading that. You either thought “great, me too!” or “ugh, him?”
If you fell into that second category, don’t worry. I’ve been doing this for a while—writing about super heroes, that is—so I know how it goes. Batman’s a pretty popular guy, after all, and sometimes that popularity can actually work against him. It’s easy to see the yellow-on-black symbol or the scalloped cape or the horned cowl and think you’ve got this guy all figured out. I mean, he’s existed for nearly a hundred years. He’s the guy who always knows what to do, who always can afford whatever he needs, who always has a plan. He’s simultaneously the least powerful and strongest member of the Justice League. He’s Batman.
But hear me out on this one, okay?
I want to talk about a different kind of Batman—the kind who maybe isn’t as all-powerful and impossibly well prepared as his reputation makes him out to be. The kind who might actually be trying to set his shoulders and keep his knees from buckling under the weight of a million different ever looming anxieties.
The kind of Batman that gets explored in ALL STAR BATMAN VOL. 2: THE ENDS OF THE EARTH.
People know Batman as the sort of guy who is quite literally prepared for anything, and for the most part, that’s pretty true. By and large, he’s ready to face whatever challenges are thrown at him from just about every angle. That’s part of what makes him seem so invulnerable. But the truth is, the thing that makes Bruce who he is? The thing that keeps him victorious time and time again? The plans are only a part of it, and a small part at that.
The real thing that keeps Batman going, pushing through the weight on his shoulders? It’s not actually that special, and it’s certainly not something he bought or made with his money or his training. It’s the singular, bold, brilliant choice to look for and accept help when he needs it most.
In Ends of the Earth, there are four stories at play, and all four of them have to do with the world coming to an end. (Is that title a bit more ominous than you were expecting?) Whether by an apocalyptic event, or a biological plague, or a corruption of technology, the fate of humanity hangs in the balance. Time for someone like Batman to shine, right?
Well, yes and no. The thing about these stories is that, while Bruce might be ultimately victorious (spoiler alert: the earth doesn’t actually end), his course is far from easy, and we get a look into just how challenging it all actually is thanks to the narration of each story. Writer Scott Snyder employed three different styles and perspectives in the first three issues: third person “storybook” style, first person, and second person, all of which culminated in the final chapter—a classic comic book showdown. In doing so, we get a front row seat to the inside of Batman’s head as he works...and it’s not always as neat and tidy as you might expect.
In fact, it’s actually a little...well, chaotic.
Make no mistake, Batman’s still Batman, he’s still as on top of his game as he could possibly be, but this is a side of him we don’t usually get to see, at least not in such glaring detail. It’s a little bit like forcing him to stand in the center of a fold-out mirror: four different angles showing four different sides of the same thing. And through those different sides, we get to see that Batman’s gut reaction… You know, the anxiety stirred up in the back of his mind? It looks awfully familiar.
The world is a scary place and it keeps finding new ways to get scarier. It’s difficult to even look at the news in passing without running into some new potential apocalypse. And really, overcoming the end of the world is something super heroes are, by and large, pretty good at. They’ve been circumventing catastrophe for almost a hundred years. And it’s comforting, it really is, to watch them triumph again and again. I like watching the good guys save the day.
But there’s something even more comforting about getting to know that, even for a split second, the heroes who are doing the heavy lifting are just as vulnerable as you are. They’re just as nervous, just as anxious, just as in need of a helping hand…and they push through and save the day anyway.
Batman might be the guy who always has the answers at the end of the day, but that’s not why I like him. I like him because those answers come from an endless push and pull, outside, inside, upside down. It’s a cycle of worry, insecurity and abject anxiety that I recognize all too well. But, hey, if Batman can push through it and literally save the entire planet, I can probably push through it and make it through my completely normal life, right?