This brief, unassuming little comic packs quite a punch.
Batman’s psyche has always been of a questionable nature, with some wondering if his dedication to justice borders on the insane. In Batman: Ego, Darwyn Cooke explores the inner workings of Bruce Wayne’s mind to reveal what, exactly, makes the Batman tic.
The comic opens with Batman chasing down one of Joker’s thugs, the final loose end in a neatly tied up caper. As he catches up to the man on the Gotham Bridge, he realizes the man is about to jump. He rescues him, but it’s not enough. The man curses Batman for using him as an informant, claiming that the Joker knows he’s the one who snitched.
With that stunning exclamation, the man turns the gun on himself and shoots himself in the head.
This moment severely rattles Batman, who journeys back to the bat cave with the images replaying in his mind. Not only does he feel responsible for this man’s suicide, he also feels responsible for the deaths of the man’s wife and child.
Wrought with anguish, Batman has something of a psychotic break, hallucinating a lengthy conversation with a version of Batman, a manifestation of his own fear.
This “fear” explains his root in Bruce’s life, when Bruce first worried that his parents might one day die, a frightful image brought on by seeing one of his father’s patients die.
Bruce’s fear escalated after witnessing the deaths of his parents, and as he became an adult he gave a name to that fear: Batman.
Fear argues that the world is full of masked psychopaths, criminals who have no place in the world. He states that Bruce is too soft on these individuals, and that killing them is the only way to bring about any real change.
Bruce argues against this stance, saying that Batman must be better than the villains he stops. While the two argue, Fear admits that there is an easy way to kill him, so that Bruce may continue on without him: a gun manifests in Bruce’s hand, the very gun that killed his parents, and Fear instructs him to kill his fear in order to be rid of it.
Ultimately, Bruce says he can’t do it, because it would be a form of suicide, and he offers a counter-proposal, suggesting that they may best serve Gotham by working together.
The comic closes with Batman and his fear reuniting, leaving the bat cave and going off on a new patrol.
There was a lot going on in this comic, especially considering most of the story was taking place in Batman’s head. It’s common knowledge that Batman employs fear as one of his biggest tactics in dealing with Gotham’s crime scene, but here we see that fear turning on Bruce, crippling him and forcing him to confront it.
Batman’s psychological state has always fascinated me. After all, there must be a lot going on in a man’s mind to cause him to dress up like a giant bat each night and get into fist fights with bad guys. Cooke’s story delves into the subject with clarity and elegance. It provides a motive behind Batman’s overall actions without devolving into self-diagnosing pop psychology. It’s simple enough to be accessible to the everyday fan while still being complex enough to fascinate the more studied reader. This short Batman tale is filled with teasing insights into the dark knight’s internal struggles. There’s plenty here to enjoy, yet just enough left unsaid to make me want to read more of Cooke’s writings.