[Bruce & Jason Panels] Detective Comics #790
So, just a disclaimer, Jason Todd isn’t actually in the issue, but it does revolve around him. He hasn’t come back as Red Hood just yet.
Let’s just say that it’s reminiscent of the period immediately after his death when Bruce Wayne was noticeably more broody and brutal in his anti-crime spree than usual. Back then, the Bat Family was only composed of Dick Grayson, Barbara Gordon, Alfred Pennyworth, and a persistent young Tim Drake “auditioning” for a membership. This time around, their family has grown somewhat, and includes Cassandra Cain as Batgirl and Stephanie Brown as Spoiler.
Backstory (spoilers ahead): A new drug called G.H.D. is circulating the Gotham streets, killing some citizens, including a young female. Batman tracks down the supplier and throws him through a window several stories off the ground. Batgirl swoops in to catch the man, and Batman gets more information out of him through what his does best - instilling fear.
“How you hurt him. You were punishing him.”
After the bust, Cass calls Bruce out on his… unusual behavior.
That look on Bruce’s face in the third panel below… You just know that he can’t argue with her observation.
“It’s always personal.”
That cool detachment Bruce has? That wall he built around himself? All of it is meant to keep his mission from being compromised. His mission to protect his family, his friends, innocent lives. That’s the form of affection he’s developed over years of trauma and obsessive discipline to equip himself for this mission.
So, if he tries to shut down Steph’s aspiration to be a vigilante? It’s personal. If he tries to keep a brash young lady from jumping headfirst into the field without a parachute - the same way a fifteen-year-old boy once did? It’s personal. And, if you think he’s an unreasonable grumpy old man for doing it, he won’t fault you for begrudging him. (He’ll care, sure, but he won’t show it.)
“It’s strange. How he stops seeing them… the scars.”
This issue is actually entitled “Scarification”, and it seems that the next set of panels explains why. It’s probably this day, out of all the days in the year, that reminds him why his scars matter. Why everything seems to matter more.
“If this is about what today is, then… just know that I’m here if you need… to talk.”
I love how much the Batkids understand Bruce. Even if they know that it’s, more often than not, futile to appeal to him on an emotional level, they’ll keep trying anyway, knowing that he secretly needs them.
“Happy birthday, kid.”
Bruce harasses one more criminal before the set of panels below. He finally tracks down the supplier and makes him choose between taking his own lethal drug or jail time. (Guess which one he picks?)
It’s these last two scenes that gives the story its story. Bruce always has difficulty with expressing emotion, so it shouldn’t surprise us that sometimes it comes out as aggression.
On the day that reminds him of the son he lost to the thing they do, with another teenager wanting to be part of it all… must be extra hard, huh?
“For some of us there is no going back.”
This was a simple, but sweet tribute to Jason. A reminder that Bruce
loved loves him and knew him well. That in his memory, Bruce is trying to keep from making the same mistakes.
(And, it was bittersweet how Cass “met” Jason for the first time like that… It gets better in the New 52′s Batman and Robin Eternal, though!)