Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Greatest Batman Story Ever!

We've had stories where Bruce Wayne was put on trial for a crime that only revealing himself to be Batman could possibly clear him of. We've had stories that put Bruce Wayne in a wheelchair. We've had plenty of stories where someone close to Bruce has learned that he's secretly Batman.

Blind Justice, running from Detective Comics has them all! That's right, Bruce Wayne on trial over a decade before Bruce Wayne: Murderer! A wheelchair-bound Batman four years before Knightfall! What? You haven't read this epic by Sam Hamm? Told in two oversized issues sandwiching a single issue middle chapter, it's got more story than three normal Batman story arcs!

While investigating a strange series of crimes, Batman learns of a secret government cabal performing research within Waynetech. Disposable villain, Dr. Kenneth Harbinger has been experimenting on implanting chips into people in order to control them remotely. When Bruce threatens to shut them down, they come right back saying that they know his secret. If he moves against them, they'll go public. Unwilling to be bullied, Bruce Wayne prepares to file charges only to find himself arrested and charged as a communist spy! Apparently the cold-war era US government didn't smile on billionaire playboys in charge of multinational corporations who spent a lot of time in Communist China at impressionably young ages. Who knew?

Of course, Bruce could explain that he was training with martial arts masters so that he could become a dark avenger of the night... but yeah, talk like that would put him in Arkham sharing a cell with the Penguin. So instead, he prepares a legal defense. Or he would, except that Dr. Kenneth Harbinger, having permanently shifted his mind into another body to break free of the secret government cabal, tries to gun Wayne down. Failing to kill him, it does leave Bruce paralyzed. Gee, without Batman to do the legwork to exonerate Bruce Wayne, things look bleak don't they?

Enter Plot Device #3, disposable supporting cast. Early in the story, Bruce helped reunite Jeannie Bowen with her long-lost brother Roy Kane, who was one of the innocents the cabal experimented on. Accidentally discovering that Bruce Wayne is Batman, Roy offers to let Bruce pilot his body by remote, allowing Batman to return to duty! Repelled by the notion, Bruce reluctantly agrees. Of course, by learning Bruce's secret we can already guess something about Roy... and as one would expect, he's not getting out alive. While he's able to recover the information he needs to prove that Bruce Wayne was framed, 'Batman' is killed. It seems Roy wasn't quite the athlete that Bruce is. So we also get another level of stuff for Bruce to torture himself over as he torches every last bit of the technology that allowed him to endanger Roy's life.

If you haven't ever seen this masterpiece for yourself, check out Detective Comics #598-600.

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