This one was a bit of a wacky left turn. Blind Justice came about as DC was looking for a way to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Batman -- the three issues that comprise this arc originally appeared in Detective Comics Nos. 598-600 in 1989. They turned to Sam Hamm, who wasn't a comic book writer at the time, but the man who had written the screenplay for the 1989 Batman film that was directed by Tim Burton and starred Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson.
That choice proved to be an interesting one, because while Hamm was a fan of Batman's, he wasn't a bonafide geek about the hero when he sat down to write the arc. He wrote in his intro to the story, which is featured in the trade paperback release, that he was intimidated by the size of the task -- a standard single issue bookended by two 80-page giant issues. He claimed it was about double the wordage of a standard screenplay, and that he had a much more difficult time writing the comic than he did the movie.
Anyway, onto the subject at hand. I loved Blind Justice way more than I expected. I didn't really have much anticipation for this book, and pretty much viewed it as a side-step from my main Batman chronology, but I'm very happy I read it. Hamm's story focuses on Bruce Wayne more than it does Batman, and features the most Wayne action of any story I've read so far. I'm finding that multiple of my favorite Batman stories dig into the psychological relationship between Bruce Wayne and Batman, and that proves to be the bedrock of Blind Justice.
The plot of this one is a bit off-the-wall, in terms of its action sequences. Something about mind control at Wayne Enterprises, in a project kept secret from Wayne, involving large dudes who look like rental Banes. Bruce Wayne gets shot and almost killed at one point, so he has to use the mind control machine as well; there's a significant chunk that suggests Jim Gordon knows Batman's true identity; there's a lot of Alfred in here; there's a side plot about a young woman, looking for her brother, who's a former Wayne Enterprises employee and who was the subject in some of these mind control tests, and who Bruce helps find, and he takes the two of them in as house guests; there's a lot going on, and not all of it is standard comic book fare.
I'll leave the nuts and bolts of the story there, since it's actually pretty twisty and turny and if you're reading this, and you've read any of these Batman books that I have, I would definitely recommend checking this one out. I do want to get into the psychogical aspect of this story, since that's what interests me the most. Hamm's storyline features a recurring theme that Wayne is almost a slave to Batman -- that he has no real choice but to be the Batman. In this book, Batman is represented in nightmares that Wayne has as a nightmarish figure ... a figure that has trapped Wayne or who is somewhat in control of him. This surfaces via Wayne's actions in the book, as he often ignores his houseguests in favor of droning away in the Batcave, attempting to solve the mystery at hand, which at times proves impossible to understand.
That Wayne views Batman as the warden in a prison where he is the only detainee might seem wrong to some readers. It's not the mindset that I'll personally choose to remember when I think of the character(s), but it's simultaneously not absurd at all to me. I like the concept of Bruce becoming Batman out of an obligation of sorts -- like this was the only way he was able to cope with his parents' death. That in itself is odd; Bruce wouldn't have had the opportunity to become a nighttime vigilante if he wasn't incredibly wealthy and never had to worry about providing for himself on a day-to-day basis. So it suggests that he became Batman with some sense of indulgence, and that doesn't match the gritty nature of his alter-ego at all.
All this to say, the story at hand really paves the way for a good thinking session. What drives Bruce to be Batman every day? Why did Bruce ever become Batman? Could he cease being Batman if he wanted to stop? Which personality is the dominant one in Bruce's life, and do they exist peacefully? I will perhaps take some time at a later date to hash that all out on this blog, but today isn't that day. Blind Justice stirred me up a good amount and got my brain going on a decent bender, and for that I appreciated it mightily. It was definitely an off-kilter way for DC to celebrate the Dark Knight's big birthday, but Hamm delivered a super thought-provoking story nonetheless.
Batman: Blind Justice is available on Amazon, though it appears to be a newer printing and isn't eligible for Prime. It doesn't appear to be on Comixology, as far as I can tell. I bought a copy of the 1992 printing on eBay.