An analysis of "The Dark Knight Project" by Brubaker and McDaniel
Ed Brubaker's run on BATMAN was rarely brilliant, but it was by far one of the more solid and enjoyable Bat-runs in recent memory. I do wish more of it was collected in trade paperback, particularly BATMAN # 584, "The Dark Knight Project."
This is a solid little gem of an issue, the kind of great little one-shot that I could have seen making a fine episode of the animated series.
One part I was sad to not include was an interview they did with a wealthy-looking Gotham businessman who dismissed the existence of Batman on the basis that, were he real, he'd be operating out in the open like the Flash or Superman.
He asks, "What's the point of helping people if they don't know you're doing it?"
To which Batman, listening overhead, thinks, "Sometimes I wonder that myself. But I guess the obvious answer is that I'm not doing it for them."
Penguin actually orchestrated the riot, using the kids as bait to try and get Batman out of his hair. And of course, Batman sweeps in and saves their asses, leading them through the gauntlet of rioting madness in his own Bat-fashion.
And just in case they said no, Batman informs them that he'd already erased the tape with a powerful electromagnet. He may be a dick, but let it never be said that Batman's not a prepared dick. Still bleeding, Batman tells the kids to go back to film school, then charges back into the fray. The kids leave, already plotting their new documentary, this one about Alan Scott. Honestly, I'd love to see that story!
What I like about this story isn't the "revelation" that Batman has to be a myth to be effective, which I imagine is obvious to the reader. Rather, it's in how everyone who knows Batman's true nature--hero and villain alike--remains silent and ambiguous on the matter, preserving and even perpetuating the myth.
The question, of course, then becomes, "why?"
The next thing to consider is that Penguin only does it to lure them into Arkham, when he might otherwise have said, "Indubitubly, I can attest that wing'd rodent to be a very real pestilence upon my personage!" Or at least, he should. He would have no ideological stake in protecting the effectiveness of Batman's urban legend status.
But what about Harvey?
Obviously, as I love the character, I gravitate to these themes, but let's explore it some. The story both Jimbo and Bullock fall back on is that Harvey either made up Batman and just fanned the flames of his myth. He becomes a convenient alibi of sorts, and a rather inspired one at that. And consider, if Harvey denied it, well, they could always say, "Well, he's crazy already, so who are you going to believe?"
Yet he doesn't deny it, nor does he confirm that Batman is real. Because he understands the real question here isn't whether or not Batman exists, as that's besides the real point. Batman isn't a "who" or a "what," but a "why?"
And even as Two-Face--as the kind of half-monster who sees jumping into a chaotic riot of bloodthirsty madmen as "fun"--Harvey Dent still understands the importance of that answer. At that point, Batman explaining it to the kids outright is almost moot.
BATMAN # 584 is a fine little issue, well worth tracking down, and one I hope to see in trade form sometime down the line. Brubaker also touched upon these themes in the Elseworlds one-shot BATMAN: GOTHAM NOIR, illustrated by his SLEEPER/CRIMINAL/INCOGNITO partner Sean Phillips. I'd post scans here myself, but I'd be afraid of damaging my copy.