June 18, 2005 [Batman Begins]

After the TV series, I had lost all hope that Batman would be the one DC superhero I could respect--and as I recollect, DC felt that loss and tried mightily--and, with Neal Adams, succeeded. I haven't looked at a Batman comic book for going on thirty years, but I still recall the sweep of the cape, the plunging V of his face--like Sam Spade, another Great Detective--the feeling of--can I call it "dynamic uncertainty" without sounding too cute?  Adams' Batman (often "the Batman"--oh, the mythological gravitas of that definite article) was often desperate, often straining to assert that justice was a real thing, not just a campy goof in tights but an Idea as elusive as it was necessary.

And while the Batman has since become the Dark Knight--tortuously reshaped under Frank Miller's crypto-fascist scalpel and partially revived by Tim Burton's camp expressionism--and has been tossed around some godawful "sequels" like a nerd in a high school locker room--those few Neal Adams panels in my head marked Batman's dogged refusal to be ruined.

Christopher Nolan, like Peter Jackson, produced some strange but compelling fruit before finding his own Ring of Power in the Batman.  And he takes his time about it: It seemed the movie was almost over before we heard the cape snap, saw it float like--yes, like Adams' version more than Miller's, born in 1940 but born again in the early '70s--somewhere in a desert ringed by snowy mountains, thirty years later.

--My thirty years, that is, that long time without a comic book in my hand--and lucky me: I cannot be distracted by the multiverse that has filled those decades, and the hot fan debates that I'm sure have drained all light from Batman's often-pupil-less eyes.  All I have in front of me is Nolan's Gotham and Christian Bale's Batman--the former an appropriately noir mausoleum, the latter a resurrected orphaned samurai wearing the suit like it was made for him in 1971, dark-blue comic-book shadows creasing it, the cape impractical with its spreadwing expanse--but here at last it makes sense: that Bob Kane panel more than half a century ago as Bruce sits in his study and wonders what he can conjure to instill fear into the criminal mind--and through an open window a bat flies. Do criminals suffer under an atavistic bat phobia?  Only Neal Adams and Batman Begins can make me think that they just might.


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