[personal profile] lego_joker posting in [community profile] scans_daily
Mention "Batman" and "the nineties" in the same sentence, and most Batman fans will run away screaming unless you happen to be talking about Batman: The Animated Series (or one of its excellent tie-in comics). I've come to realize that 90s!Batman's reputation for being a coldhearted asshole isn't completely undeserved, but even still, I continue to find that the era contained some of the most underrated Batman tales of all time.

Case in point: Detective Comics #638, written by one of Batman's most under-appreciated scribes: Peter Milligan. Now, Milligan is typically far more famous in Marvel/Vertigo circles, but pound for pound, the handful of Batman stories he did are almost all treasures. Even "Dark Knight, Dark City", decried by many as being a needless grimdarking of the Riddler, has its charms as an old-school horror story, and the Riddler's atypically violent behavior is not only explained, but pretty explicitly temporary.

But we're not here to talk about that today. No, we're here to talk about a far more obscure story known simply as... "The Bomb".

The plot in a nutshell: a person known only as "The Bomb" has escaped from a high-security military base. The Bomb is supposedly a homicidal freak of nature, able to generate explosions simply through force of will. The base's security chief teams up with Batman to find The Bomb, who has apparently joined forces with terrorists looking to extort Gotham for ransom.

God damn, does that middle panel make my skin crawl. I usually think of Jim Aparo as the "kiddie" Batman artist, which only makes it all the more disturbing when he draws scenes of horrific carnage.

Anyways, our heroes continue to run into dead ends, until a second big explosion happens. This one, fortunately, is at an abandoned building - but not just any old abandoned building...

Batman follows the trail of explosions across Gotham, noting that they're growing smaller and smaller. Finally, he finds the place where The Bomb is being held:

The Bomb goes on to explain that the military had kept her in that base because they were looking for a way to duplicate her power (she theorizes that it's psychic in nature, since her body has no biological abnormalities). And when better time for the Army to barge in and reveal that yep, they were totally lying their asses off all along.

Oh, and that horrific explosion you see up there in the first page? The Army was the one behind it. Why?

*Cue awesome escape sequence that I had to cut because of the page limit*

Batman agrees, however, to let Rebecca enjoy the outdoors for one morning, and promises that he'll do all he can to make the military treat her more humanely. Of course, the security chief shows up to ruin the mood, and Batman goes off to confront him in another big action sequence that I had to cut.

Once Batman kicks the guy's ass once and for all, though, it's a happy ending, right? Well, not quite...

Oh dear Lord the feels...

That said, is anyone getting serious vibes of a certain episode of Justice League Unlimited? It's been a while since I watched that episode, and while the two stories aren't exactly alike, the endings feel a little too similar to be coincidental. Eh, maybe I'm just getting cynical in my old age.

There's also another interesting point here that the JLU episode couldn't pursue: did Rebecca know that she couldn't survive outside the suit, and deliberately let herself be exposed so that she could die with a fleeting moment of happiness instead of living the rest of her life under a microscope? Given that it would be another effective way to control her (at least during her youth), I can't imagine the military not telling her about that at some point...

In any case, I've always found Milligan's Batman to be a creature of compassion above all else, something that's always welcome in Batman stories. Of course, Jim Aparo's art doesn't hurt either, and his Batman can go from being a cuddly, harmless-looking cop in a costume to a truly terrifying avenger of the night when he's really on the ball.

Beyond the characterization, though, what I've always liked about Milligan's Batman stories is the grounded feel they often have. Certainly, Rebecca's condition is a very fantastic element, but it's handled in such a way that it emphasizes the real-life ramifications of her abilities. Indeed, most of Milligan's Batman stories involve supernatural or sci-fi elements in one form or another, but there was always an undercurrent of realism - such as the constant emphasis on how Batman is just a normal man in a costume going up against some very inhuman powers - that makes them feel like tales straight out of the EC vault.

Am I making sense?

Ah, well, whatever. Happy 75th, Batman, and let's shoot for 100. In the meantime, I'll see if I can post a few more Milligan-penned Batman stories in the next couple of days.
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