cambro (cambro) wrote,

Obama Begins, or McCain Forever?

Everyone who reads this should start buying the "Batman" comic immediately, because "Batman" is about to reveal the fate of the American Empire.

Bear with me here:

According to Michael Caine (Alfred), Superman is the way America sees itself, but the rest of the world sees us as Batman. This may or may not be a compliment, depending on how you spin it. Batman is a genius and a formidable force for good, but he's also crazy in that special way that only the rich can aspire to. He really does want to make the world a better place, but he's a very angry fellow who enjoys beating up and dominating people, so his mission has become an awkward compromise between those opposing urges. Instead of applying his intelligence and resources to real solutions for real problems--problems that affect billions of people, like hunger and disease and energy shortages--he chases after flamboyant characters who may (Osama) or may not (gay marriage) pose any sort of legitimate threat to anything.

"Batman Begins" predicted the financial crisis. "Over the ages, our weapons have grown more sophisticated," Ra's al Ghul told Bruce Wayne. "With Gotham, we tried a new one: economics." Who knew he was talking about subprime mortgages? Next, "The Dark Knight" painted the war on terror as a fiasco. Batman's power corrupts him, and his allies abandon him; the White Knight of justice is mutilated beyond recognition; love blows up and gets killed. Sadly, the only uplifting moment is also the least convincing part of the movie: no way do those ferries both stay in one piece. Twenty mad-dog killers would have been grabbing for that detonator within seconds of Joker's challenge, and maybe they would have been fast enough to beat the thirty death-penalty advocates going after the detonator on the other boat.

If the Batman of "Dark Knight" is a mess, though, it's nothing compared to the comic-book Batman, who is currently homeless and insane. Years of fear gas exposure, dead sidekicks, and broken backs have taken their toll, and Bruce Wayne's already fractured psyche has completely disintegrated.

The coup de grace was orchestrated by an unseen enemy called the Black Glove, who has been quietly setting up Batman's downfall for years. There are numerous theories on the identity of the Black Glove. Given the clues so far, you could make a credible case for Alfred (the butler did it!), Thomas Wayne Sr., Thomas Wayne Jr. (Bruce's long-lost brother), Bruce's girlfriend Jezebel Jet, and even Satan himself. My favorite theory is that Bruce Wayne is the Black Glove; out of self-loathing, masochism, low-grade insanity, and sheer boredom, he's subconsciously constructed an ultimate nemesis to wrap up a lifetime's worth of drawn-out self-destruction.

The story's parallels to the current election and the state of America are probably mostly accidental, but they're unmistakable. Batman has regressed to an unhinged alternate personality which calls itself "the Batman of Zur-en-arrh." "Zur-en-arrh" is a callback to an obscure Batman story from the 50's; it's the name of a distant planet where Batman had Superman's powers. In the 'real' world, we're spending this election cycle working out some unfinished business from those space-race days: the mythologized allure of small-town life, the lingering racism, and the pre-Nixon, pre-Vietnam confidence that we're the greatest, purest, most powerful nation ever.

Modern Batman's greatest strength has been his Obama-esque talent for preparation. Given the chance to plan a strategy, he can use his intelligence and expertise to defeat practically anyone. The Batman of Zur-en-arrh is more of a maverick. He charges into situations wielding a literal bat, reveling in the purity of action without thought...and, if I'm recalling correctly, McCain/Palin's poll numbers were way up around the time the Batman of Zur-en-arrh took over in the comics. I won't even get into Zur-en-arrh Batman's magical imaginary friend, or the evil impostor Batmen and Batmen of All Nations who could easily be taken as stand-ins for surging economies like China and India.

I'm happy to say that, at the end of the latest issue, the Palin of Zur-en-arrh appeared to be receding and the Obama-Batman personality appeared to be reasserting itself, just as it apparently is in reality...but it may be too late, as the Black Glove seems to have won. Expertise and planning may be your best hopes, but sometimes they're just not enough. Some problems don't go away no matter how many Batarangs you throw at them.

The final issue of this storyline was supposed to come out just after Election Day, but it's now been postponed until two weeks later. I'm afraid this may portend a long series of recounts and legal challenges as we wait to see whether good or evil won. Either way, we've been assured that this is the last Bruce Wayne story. Someone else will take up the cowl, of course, and that's the real test: Will it be the Batman of Zur-en-arrh, permanently displacing the Wayne personality and turning us into a nation of unblinking, brutal thugs? Will it be someone like ex-Robin Dick Grayson, who has most of Bruce Wayne's skill and none of his emotional baggage? Will it be some incompetent fledgling Batman who will be relegated to the third tier of superheroes? Or will the comic just fold up shop and leave us in happyland with cheerful Lego Batman, who can solve any problem by building a hydrogen-powered car out of junk lying around in the ditches? Find out next month--same Bat-time, same Bat-channel.
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