BATMAN #47 / Script: Tom King / Art: Tony S. Daniel / Inks: Tony S. Daniel, Danny Miki & Sandu Florea / Color: Tomeu Morey / Letters: Clayton Cowles / Publisher: DC Comics / Released: May 16, 2018
The most basic measure of a story’s success is whether or not it’s about who and what it claims to be about. Is a novel in the Halo series a story that could only be told in that world? Does an episode of Green Arrow tell the audience something new about Green Arrow and his supporting cast? Does an issue of Batman affect Batman, his supporting cast, and his world? So the great question is whether Batman #47, the final issue in the three-part storyline “The Gift,” adds anything to the Batman story?
I have to offer a warning. Normally I try to avoid significant spoilers—especially as they pertain to the end. In this case a good chunk of my analysis relates to the issue’s conclusion, so there will be spoilers. Batman #47 opens one year after the death of alt-Thomas and alt-Martha Wayne. Alt-Bruce is…upset. He has rebuilt Skeets and intends to go back in time to keep Bat-Grayson from killing his parents. Except Skeets won’t work without Booster.
So alt-Bruce unchains Booster from the cave where he’s grown even more unkempt than last issue, gives Booster a good wash, and tells Booster and Skeets what he needs. The dialogue that follows at that point feels like a post-apocalyptic Three Stooges act with a gun. During these antics Booster (who may or may not be crazy) conveys to Skeets that he wants to go back to the moment he saved alt-Bruce’s parents from being killed. Alt-Bruce, realizing after transport that he’s been double crossed, kills Skeets (again).
Moments later past-Booster and past-Skeets arrive to save young Bruce’s parents. Alt-Bruce kills past-Booster before getting into a struggle with present-Booster which distracts him long enough for past-Thomas and past-Martha to be gunned down again for the first time. Alt-Bruce promptly shoots himself in the head in front of present-Booster, and the issue fast-forwards to the real present where Booster is recounting the circumstances to Batman and Catwoman.
For as dynamic as this synopsis sounds Batman #47 is rather devoid of large action. It’s in close and personal for the most part. A lot of panels are centered on characters’ faces, and the lion’s share of those are on Bruce. Bruce is broken at the start of this issue—perhaps beyond repair. Booster may well be also.
These two characters carry most of the issue, and Tony S. Daniel excels at drawing close-up shots of both. They’re consistent and on model. Every time. This isn’t as easy as one might think. A number of comic book artists can draw gorgeous and dynamic action sequences but can’t keep a consistent look to characters’ facial expressions. And some artists are too stylized to care. Daniels doesn’t suffer from that problem; he successfully conveys emotion from his characters’ expressions whether they’re exaggerated or simple, and the emotion is at once recognizable because no time has to be spent asking “Is that Bruce?”
Much of this detail benefits the Bruce character who bounces from hate to businesslike efficiency through much of the book’s first half with each emotion clear as day. Later, after Bruce’s parents have been killed in the past, there is a beautiful sequence where Bruce is ruined by grief—perhaps in a way he never had been after the events of the previous issue—before losing himself to madness four panels later. After that messy conclusion the final panels featuring Booster Gold show a haunted man. In a lot of ways this issue could not do what it does without Daniel’s expert vision into the characters’ souls.
The question then is what does this issue do? It effectively resets the status quo by putting Booster (the original one who broke time) and Skeets (the one who came with Booster to break time but wasn’t dead for two years) back in the present day. Tom King’s script that achieves that end is a rather tortured story of a man who’s replaced grief with hate and who sees a chance to undo a tragedy done to him. I’m talking about alt-Bruce. Booster, on the other hand, is practically an object in this story. He makes one proactive effort—instructing Skeets to send them back to when Bruce’s parents should have died in the past—and is otherwise almost useless.
Further, King can’t seem to decide if Booster is crazy (Booster himself gives voice to this possibility) as witnessed early in the issue or fully sane as seen in the closing pages. I was forced to wonder if King simply didn’t know who Booster Gold was when he set out to write this story. Ultimately it doesn’t matter because Booster is almost without agency. And it’s this focus on alt-Bruce and Booster brings us to the issue’s central problem.
Batman #47 contributes nothing to the story or present-day universe Batman and Bruce Wayne inhabit. Booster Gold recounts his experiences to Batman and Catwoman but receives no reaction from either. The emotional meat of the story belongs to Booster and alt-Bruce. Almost every panel revolves around those two characters, and the issue’s central conflict is about them disagreeing over what part of the past to change in order to get back what was lost. At issue’s end alt-Bruce is dead after having followed his grief and hatred into madness, and Booster is left traumatized from the two years he lived in a world ruined by the Waynes being alive. But Batman is unaffected.
Batman #47 is a beautiful issue. And aside from Tom King seeming to have no idea who Booster Gold is or whether the character is sane or not it is very well written. It is poignant. The tragedy behind alt-Bruce’s fall can’t be easily ignored. And if one buys into Booster Gold’s sanity in this issue the final page is painful; the story of that man and his recovery would be a compelling one. But it isn’t a Batman story. None of it was a Batman story. Batman learns nothing. He doesn’t even comment. This might as well be a demented bedtime story for all the resonance it has with him. King wrote three very interesting issues that could be cleaved from the Batman run and no one would notice the difference. This is a strong story to be sure. It simply isn’t Batman’s.
Verdict: 2.5 broken Martha Wayne pearls
Theron Couch is a collection of 1000 monkeys on 1000 typewriters trying to produce Hamlet. From time to time he accidentally types comic book reviews. Theron’s first novel, The Loyalty of Pawns, is available on Amazon and he’s published assorted short stories. Theron maintains a blog with additional comic and book reviews as well as posts on his personal struggle with mental health.