• Jake Wright

Batman: Ego - The Greatest Batman Comic You've Never Read

(via: DC Comics)

The Batman’s release is upon us, and superhero fans all across the globe are eagerly anticipating what could be the greatest Batman movie of all time. Director Matt Reeves has stated many Batman comic storylines serving as inspiration for his take on the Batman mythos but one that seemed to stick out from the rest was Batman: Ego, a one-shot comic featured within the graphic novel Batman: Ego & Other Tails and written & drawn by the late great Darwyn Cooke.

In the wake of Matt Reeves name dropping Batman: Ego, copies began to fly off the shelf and sell out everywhere, but unfamiliar readers of most Batman comics may find a pleasant surprise within the content of the infamous one-shot story.

Unlike many action-packed, fast-paced Batman stories of the Dark Knight bashing goons in the face and having showdowns with flamboyant supervillains, Batman: Ego takes a simple but potent examination of the duality between Bruce Wayne & the Batman. Ego analyses both the heroic side of Bruce Wayne & Batman while highlighting the trauma and flaws that come with the job of being Gotham’s protector.

Beginning with Batman ending his night patrol by pursuing one of the Jokers henchmen named Buster Snibbs, Batman ultimately fails to save the small-time crook from an awful fate as rather than dealing with the consequences of facing the Joker after betraying him, Buster shoots himself in the head in front of a gravely injured Batman.

The aftermath of this horrific event causes Batman to question his entire mission, the trauma of witnessing Buster’s suicide becomes too much for a Dark Knight questioning if his war on crime is worth continuing. Driving recklessly fast back to the Batcave, Batman envisions observations made about his tenure of being the Batman with an example quote from villain Hugo Strange stating “He craves fame but only as the fictional construct “The Batman” – this of course indicates both schizophrenia and a split personality”.

(via: DC Comics)

Batman’s world is crashing down around him with his reckless driving mixed with excruciatingly hurtful judgements of himself he comes near to his literal and metaphorical end. Just as Batman arrives at the Batcave, his Batmobile screeches to a halt on the very edge of a cliff, this clever piece of artwork by Cookeshowcases that not only is Bruce on the very edge of his sanity but confirms his inner turmoil of being as close as ever to giving up his crusade.

As Bruce strips himself of the cape and cowl, he reaches out to his parent’s spirit to apologise and denounce himself as the Dark Knight but is abruptly interrupted by… Batman. Cooke displays a beautiful splash page showing a demonic looking Batman as an almost-mystical like figure on the huge Batcomputer monitor with letters by Jonathan Babcock displaying “Ego. A Psychotic Slide Into The Heart Of Darkness”. This sets the tone for the deep dive into the mind of possibly the most iconic hero in all of fiction.

(via: DC Comics)

Partly dazed by heavy blood loss from his earlier patrol, Bruce’s bubbling insecurities come flying out in the form of a demonic Batman who begins to taunt Bruce Wayne about not only the death of Buster Snibbs earlier that night, but his own parents’ death when he was just a child too.

Batman: Ego is fundamentally an internal-external debate with Bruce Wayne’s own ego and this comic is possibly the most faithful and clear adaptation of the debate which still to this day causes endless arguments amongst fans and casuals alike. It is an examination of every major decision Bruce Wayne has ever made as the demonic Batman continuously throws criticism after criticism of Bruce’s entire tenure up to now as Batman.

Why did he become Batman in the first place? Why did he isolate himself at first to only bring in literal children to help fight his war? Why did he create an environment that allowed his colourful rogues gallery to come into existence? Is Bruce a hypocrite by letting his villains, who are responsible for so many innocents’ deaths, live? And why why why, is the Joker still alive? Is it because Batman needs Joker to feel complete?

(via: DC Comics)

All fair criticisms in the mind of some Batman fans, but the compromise between the two personas appears in the true humanity of Bruce Wayne. The Batman persona acts at the arch embodiment of Bruce’s primal fear and focuses on what it perceives as Bruce’s failures, which in turn is a deep inner thought from Bruce surfacing via the embodiment of Batman and suggests handing the metaphorical wheel over to Batman so he can clean the city up and give Gotham what it believes it really needs. Batman suggestively compares it to Harvey Dent’s situation as Two-Face, Bruce Wayne is free to do as his heart desires, but when it’s time to don the cape and cowl, Batman will completely take over from Bruce Wayne and become the unhinged and remorseless vigilante who does what is necessary for Gotham to strive giving Bruce freedom from these inner fears and doubts.

Though of course, Bruce Wayne correctly denies this from happening, Batman leaves him with an ultimatum of killing the Batman in order to lead a “normal” life, in essence committing suicide by burying the Batman persona. Though Bruce contemplates this decision, highlighting the inner turmoil he has always felt about wanting a normal life, he ultimately declines in a heart-breaking panel in which he simply states “the truth hurts” referring to the sad realisation that he will never be able to lead a normal life.

The compromise comes in the form of Bruce laying out his definitive rules that he will follow until the day he dies, he will continue his crusade on crime and uphold the oath he swore but his ultimate rule is simple, NO KILLING. Batman: Ego delivers the perfect yet most simple explanation for Batman’s moral code… “it is the only difference between us and them”.

The argument that Batman should kill has been up in the air for many decades now with people (often more casual fans) stating that in order for Batman to be truly effective, he must permanently eliminate his enemies. But this simply cannot be true, especially for what Batman is striving for, a symbol of hope for Gotham. Though Batman must strike fear into the hearts of criminals, he must also rise above and carry himself as the ultimate symbol for the city of Gotham, a hero for citizens so that they feel safer at night when his signal lights up the sky. And if the Batman persona can live with that, then Bruce Wayne can live with the responsibility of sacrificing a normal life for a greater cause.

(via: DC Comics)

Considering this was Darwyn Cooke’s first published DC Comics work, it is outstanding how impactful this one-shot has been, and will be for the Batman mythos in years to come and it paved the way for Cooke to deliver more iconic DC storylines such as The New Frontier & his Catwoman work alongside writer Ed Brubaker. The animated-like art style, the superb dialogue and eye-catching letters round up Batman: Ego as being one of the most underrated yet most important Batman comic books within his 80+ years of history and now is as good a time as ever to dive into this beautiful tale.

If you are interested in picking up Batman: Ego, you can do so using the links below:

UK – Amazon (via Comixology)

US – Amazon (via Comixology)

What're your thoughts on Batman: Ego? Are you looking forward to The Batman? Let us know in the comments below.

*Please note we may receive a small commission for any purchases made through affiliate links*


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