Saturday, October 17, 2015

Bruce Wayne vs. Social Sevices

Yep it actually happened in comics. The storyline that took place in Gotham Knights #43-45. It was a great idea that wasn't pushed as far as it should have been. Sure there's emotional issues involved, especially for Bruce, but it leaves a lot to be desired. Still was worth a look since it explores--if only briefly--the trouble that arises when Bruce Wayne adopted kids and one of them dies under mysterious causes. It shows the fallout of Jason Todds' death in the past and in the present. (You know, before the Under the Hood arc.)


The plotline shows up for a page in Gotham Knights #42 when most of the bat family are staying at the manor to care for a sick Alfred. Felix Desidero of social services suspects the wards (*1) of Bruce Wayne were abused while in his care and wants to get to the bottom of Jasons' death. Bruce doesn't want to talk about it as he's already made a statement on the matter. What really adds a twist to this scene is how Bruce appears to Desidero. Clad only in a robe at his door while Cass arrives wearing what appears to be a male shirt and hands him a cup of coffee. Yep, Cass was only supposed to be 17 when this was written (*2) making it clear what Desidero thinks is actually going on at the manor. Especially since he calls Bruce a sicko. This undertone is clear in later sections.

The next issue paints Desidero as a bad foe to have as he tricks Barbara (in her wheelchair) into letting his "pizza delivery" guy in to deliver the subpoena. Cue Bruce going to the cave to brood. The process server thinks Bruce has "odd taste" and Desidero seems to think so too. This arc does paint him as the bad guy but I think his intentions are noble. Seeing a glimpse of his home life reveals that becoming a father has made Desidero all the more determined that parenthood is taken seriously. He also made a connect between Bruce and a man that bribed other men to look the other way. Then there was the fact Jason ran away to Africa something that looks like a serious warning sign. That's why he took the case but why hasn't anyone else done anything sooner? Simple, Bruce Wayne is too big a fish to go after. No body wants to and Desideros' boss even warns him off the case in #44

While brooding in the batcave Bruce goes to a shrine he made just for Jason in a sub section. Most of the "Knights Passed" story in #43 is about the night Barbara and Jason went out together as Batgirl and Robin. Barbara wants to hang up the cowl once Bruce tells her about worrying over Jason since the death of Felipe Gazonas. (*3) She agrees to work with Jason, they meet up and go out together. Back in the present it seems Desidero was right about Bruce having enough money to pay people off. I have to say that #44 has some seriously creepy vibes as it shows how Bruce dealt with the aftermath of Jasons' death. He bribes men to get officials to sign off on the deaths as acts of terrorist and transferring the bodies to the U.S. Burning the Robin costume before telling Alfred (over the phone) that Jasons' dead. Barbara tells Jim that the boy she was tutoring died. (*4)

The idea of what a rich bachelor got out of playing father is played with but never called by name. Dick points out that it would look bad to outsiders and Bruce seems a little stunned. Desidero can't believe he's the only one that ever challenged this since the whole set up appears unseemly. He hints at this throughout his interviews with Dick and Tim. In the end the story gets swept under the rug as fast as it can without any satisfying conclusion. Despite the fact the situation still looks suspicious, something Dick and Tim only make worse with their vague answers, Desidero seems to let the whole thing go simply because Bruce cries over losing Jason.

The Bad: There's a lot of bias going on in this story. It starts off with little things before getting worse. There's the retcon idea that Dick always loved Babs and Kori was just there. Sure you can claim it's something Bruce would say since he obviously prefers Barbara but a lot of writers were pushing this idea at the time. Then there's the "Jason was a bad Robin that didn't listen" victim blaming. The story it's self doesn't seem to know if it's saying he was good or bad. Barbara certainty doesn't give Bruce a clear answer as Batgirl. She admits that she hasn't spent enough time with him to know if he's ready. Earlier on she says he actually shares quite a few traits with Dick. Yet at his funeral she tells Bruce "I told you so." Umm, no she didn't. Plus telling Bruce that he wasn't Jasons' father? That was a huge part of Bruces' relationship with Jason that the writer is clearly missing (via Barbara no less.) No he wasn't the birth father but Bruce has always viewed Jason as his son. Since Jason was never close to his own father he clearly sees Bruce as his dad.

Sure Alfred blames Bruce but out loud he supports the victim blaming to make Bruce feel better. It feels wrong to see Alfred of all people saying these things. Even though he tells himself that after Jasons' death he wouldn't stand by while he takes on more kids we know he will. In present day he does in the form of Tim and Cass although neither are "official" Wayne kid yet. There's a rather odd scene with the Titans where it's implied that Raven will take away Dicks' pain over Jasons' death. I'm not sure why it's there other than to suggest it's why he's doesn't seem as affected as Bruce or Babs later on.

Jasons' characterization is off as no one seemed to know how to write him other than being violent and makes things up like him being flirty just because. Which doesn't make sense especially when you consider the time frame being so close to Felipe's death. You know, the guy that tormented Gloria  and the ordeal that traumatized Jason. The tacky "flirting" is very out for the character even when it was written. Could he be using it as a distraction? Sure but again it's not something I could see him doing given the timeframe. Jasons' violence is over the top at one point and Babs never makes a big deal out of it until the funeral when she claims she warned Bruce.

He's described as someone who has a chip on his shoulder as if it was always his personality. It's not, Bruce comments on Jason acting different in DITF sure but he wasn't someone who acted like that all the time.

I didn't mention the stuff with the Man-Bat family and their missing kid. It could have tied in nicely to the family arc but the ending is just corny. Sure it's more upbeat which isn't necessarily bad, it's just sudden much like the ending of the examination of Jasons' death. A little heavily handed with the similarities and symbolism. Although no one outright said what was being implied the idea of this story it's self was gusty it just didn't follow through.

The Good: Seeing Barbara and Jason work together was a lot of fun. He points out that she's out of shape and she doesn't argue much because he's right. After the out of no where one-way "flirting" they get along pretty well. Making bad fish puns, meta comments on jumping the shark and such. It was the only real time they interacted (that I'm aware of) before the new 52. Although Jason was off their both more in character than BE which never ceases to anger me. Anyway my favorite bit was how Jason reveals that he loves chilidogs but Bruce wouldn't touch them. It makes the password to his shine all the more touching since Bruce knew how much it meant to him.

This story does highlight one of the reasons Damians' death will never match Jasons' in scope or impact. Bruce, hell everyone is obsessed with it. The idea of a social worker looking into the matter is brilliant. This shows how weird the situation looks to outsider. It digs up the past in a painful manner that can't be solved as a crime fighter. No one knows how to deal with it and they come together as a family to confront the issue.

*1 At this point Bruce only legally had two kids in his custody. Dick Grayson and Jason Todd. Desidero refers to them as wards although Jason was adopted not long after Bruce found him. I'm not sure when this takes place in the timeline as far as Dicks' adoption is concerned but I think that was further down the line. Tim does stay over but at this point he's not an heir.

*2 Cassandra Cain didn't actually have a legal status at the time. I'm not sure if she ever got one prior to her being adopted by Bruce in her mini series. Although they don't mention it here it would be next to impossible for them to charge Bruce of anything if they suspected something simply because she has no records. Desidero has to ask who she is later on and even then he doesn't really get an answer.

*3 Felipe was a rapist that the law couldn't touch. It was never revealed if Jason pushed him or not. To my knowledge this is the only story that mentions it after Jasons' death.

*4 I can only guess that Barbara found out from Alfred. Although it's not mentioned here Dick found out months later after returning to earth from Danny Chase. Danny didn't break it to him gently.


  1. Gotham Knights was such a great series. The arc where they play with the idea of Bane being Bruce's half-brother is by far the best story ever written with Bane.

    On this particular arc, is the kind of stuff I'd loved to see explored more often. Lobdell kind of does with Jason's N52 origin but is a very superficial approach.

  2. It was an impressive series. Well beloved to which makes me wonder why it ended.

    It's sad that even though Lobdell hasn't showed much of Jasons' past he's still done more than most writers. I wonder if he'll ever touch the supposed sibling plot.