Continuity 4: Things Fall Apart
The following post contains SPOILERS regarding House of M, The Omac Project, and current events in the ongoing Batman title.
Before I started writing all of this, I was thinking about Batman. Tim O'Neil has been doing some thinking of his own over at The Hurting, and while I don't have the level of distaste for the character that he does, there are certainly some cracks in the structure of Batman's corner of the DC universe.
Recent months have seen the reveal of the true identity of the Red Hood; Jason Todd is alive and waging his own war on the criminals of Gotham. Jason gave a speech to Batman about how he would do all of the things that Bruce was unwilling to do; he would take the lives of criminals if he felt it was necessary. Unfortunately, anyone who's been reading comics for any amount of time, and is older than the age of five, will be able to figure out that what that means is the red Hood will gun down some no-name street thugs, and perhaps one or two mid-level "name" supervillains will be sacrificed in order to give him credibility.
Of course, the one villain who he'd be most likely to kill will remain on this side of the veil.
Jason Todd was originally "killed" by the Joker, who administered a vicious beating with a crowbar before blowing Robin up real good, as memory serves. Jason has enjoyed a bit of payback--he laid his own crowbar to the Joker--but of course, the beating wasn't fatal. More than most members of Batman's rogues gallery, Joker is a character that readers cannot apply logical thought processes to without coming to the conclusion that he really ought to be deceased by now. The character has been portrayed as a mass murderer many times over, and despite his insanity, poisons and gadgetry, is basically a normal human being, physiologically speaking. Any entity that had caused so much devastation, and had escaped from confinement so many times, would surely have been targeted by some other superhero, vigilante, or angry mob of citizens laying siege to Arkham by now, even if one assumes that Batman himself would not take any action.
Batman doesn't always hold up to extended scrutiny either. Does his vow to his dead parents mean that when someone commits a crime in his city, he'll beat them up, but anything after that is someone else's problem? Does he believe in the law just enough for them to take care of his follow-through so he doesn't have to? I mean, we're talking about a man who developed an intricate network of spy satellites that can keep track of basically every person on planet Earth, if current issues of The OMAC Project are to be believed, and that was to keep an eye on his friends. (Well, perhaps "friends" is too strong of a word . . . let's say "colleagues," then.)
Following that line of thought, why didn't he use the satellites to monitor every inch of Gotham City in order to control crime? You would think that anyone with control issues on that level would at least become frustrated with Arkham Asylum's revolving door, and would do something about it. Bruce Wayne could buy the asylum and upgrade the security. Batman could drag every crook in town to the cave and keep them drugged up on drip-feeds in Matrix body pods. There are plenty of paths that are more logical than his current actions, particularly if one wishes to write Batman and stay true to his current extra-paranoid asshat portrayal.
The issue, of course, is that Batman's trademarks have to be maintained, as do the Joker's and Catwoman's and other merchandisable members of the Batman Family. The illusion of change may reign from time to time, but status quo must be maintained. No matter what situations may arise, the force of inertia will eventually return the flagship icons back to center. Not long ago, in the Superman books, Luthor was elected President of the United States, and shortly thereafter, learned Superman's secret identity. I thought at the time that it was a bold move, and I wondered what kind of stories we'd see when a man with the resources of a country behind him could now meddle with his enemy's entire life. I shouldn't have gotten myself excited; Luthor was mindwiped of that knowledge within a year.
Of course, this sort of problem is always going to be worst with the primary icons who have sold lunchboxes and Underoos for decades. We've had a few different characters step into the shoes of "guy-with-magic-ring" and "guy-who-runs-fast" or "guy-who-shrinks-and-junk." Even there, though, sometimes I find that if I think too hard about the details of a given story, tugging on one thread can make the whole thing fall apart.
The longer a character has been around, the more likely it is that this will be a problem; the chances of contradicting earlier setups or creating adventures based on idiot plots seems to increase with time. In Marvel's House of M, the series started off with a gathering of heroes who were discussing killing the Scarlet Witch due to her reality-altering powers. We-ell, if her mutant power is the problem, why not put one of those power-negating collars on her that they had in Genosha? (Which reminds me--Rogue really should have picked one of those up.) Or, alternately, why not have Forge zap her with the mutant-power-removing gun that he used on Storm all those years ago? Then there's also the "mutant cure" recently concocted in Astonishing X-Men--a title that half of the heroes in the room appear in. It's difficult for me to buy into a situation where then only option discussed is euthanasia, when someone in the room could have--and should have--mentioned other possibilities. If you want to spend a couple of panels with Magneto saying that he won't let his daughter be "neutered" or something, that might be aceptable, but ignoring the possibility entirely veers into "idiot plot" territory.
When the hype on books like House of M proclaims that "nothing will be the same," it's difficult to get too worked up about it. There will still be an X-Men movie next year, and a Spider-Man movie after that. Of course, the original Crisis on Infinite Earths surprised me quite a bit at the time, so one never knows, I suppose.
Ah, well. Don't mind me. I'm just processing.