Batman: Ten Nights of the Beast

Sometimes simply holding a book will invoke an image in my mind.  I associate the book with a specific person or a certain time in life, and my mind creates a little picture.  I had that feeling when I first picked up this comic.  The funny thing is, the image in my mind wasn’t of me, but of Mistah J.

This old, worn, nondescript little trade doesn’t have quite the same sheen that many of the other collections on “the shelf” does.  No, this one is a bit faded, as though it’s old and has been read countless times.  Checking the publication date, I learned that the trade was released in 1994.  Mistah J would have been eleven by then, and I can just picture his adorable little kid self pouring over this and every other Batman comic he could get his hands on.  It’s an incredibly sweet and endearing image.

Granted, I have no idea if it’s even remotely true.  I haven’t checked with Mistah J himself to confirm whether this trade is actually from his childhood, or just one that’s seen its better days.  Frankly, I don’t particularly care.  Although it may not be true of this particular comic, I know Mistah J’s love of comics started in his childhood, and the very idea of him reading and rereading stories like this one makes me smile.

I know, holy mush, right?  I guess I’m feeling a tad sentimental today, so shoot me.

Now, on to the actual comic that this post is supposed to be about.

Batman: Ten Nights of the Beast was a four-part miniseries (comics seemed to favor the 4-parter, from what I’m gathering) which focused on a Russian assassin journeying to Gotham City to murder ten key figures in the Star Wars program (seriously, sometimes these comics are just so 80’s it’s ridiculous).  Batman steps in and tries to help the police, the FBI, and the CIA stop this madman, dubbed the KGBeast.

Overall this was a fun, short little read.  Nothing groundbreaking, nothing too over-the-top.  Just an enjoyable collection.

Towards the end of the last issue, though, the comic started to make some pretty telling comments.  None was as thought-provoking as a conversation between Batman and one CIA agent:

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This conversation goes on to elaborate that, due to politics and quirks within the law, the Beast would walk away from murdering nearly 100 people, free to continue his acts of terrorism.

Obviously this conversation alone points out a fatal flaw in the criminal justice system; that due to a loophole a murdering psychopath could get away with an untold number of crimes.  What’s even more surprising is the way in which Batman ultimately reacts to this fact:

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Knowing that the Beast will be set free if arrested, Batman chooses instead to lock him in a room into which he’s unwittingly wandered, deep with Gotham’s sewers, and leave him there.  Batman’s commentary as he does this describes his motives perfectly, pointing out that Batman stands for justice, not, as he says, “the rules”.

Therein lies a major difference between Batman and most other heroes in the DC universe.  Others would follow the path of the law, angered and frustrated by its failings but believing it to be the best option.  Batman doesn’t share these feelings.  He knows that the law is hindered by its own rules, and chooses to act in a way that sits well with his own moral code.  Sometimes this code lines up with the law; sometimes it doesn’t.  Batman doesn’t seem to care.  He does what needs to be done to keep dangerous criminals off the streets and keep innocent people safe.  People may question or even outright disagree with his methods, but they can’t argue with his results.

These glimpses into Batman’s psyche are well-done in this trade.  They’re not the central focus, and that’s what makes them so brilliant.  The reader gets to see how Batman reacts in specific situations, able to piece together his motives on her own.  This is far more effective character development than had Batman been simply waxing philosophical about his personal beliefs, without ever having to put them into action.

As a story, Ten Nights of the Beast was more than enjoyable.  Although there were no major shakeups within the story, it still serves a vital purpose within the overall Batman story, helping to further provide insight into the corrupt world within which Batman operates, as well as allowing the reader to glean a better understanding of just how he views his role in that chaotic mess.

-Jess

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