Monday, March 03, 2008

Lesser Known Joe Casey Comics: Batman: Tenses #1

[Continuing my look at the lesser known Joe Casey comics. Today and Wednesday, I'll be discussing Batman: Tenses, so I'll leave my usual "Should this work remain forgotten?" question until I've discussed issue two as well. New posts Monday, Wednesday and Friday.]

Joe Casey wrote Batman and Cully Hamner drew it. You probably remember this book a little, at least some of the Hamner promo images involving Batman using a grappling gun to take down some robbers.

This two-issue prestige format mini takes place during Batman's first year and tries to flesh it out some more, particularly the Bruce Wayne aspect of the character.

And, you know what, Christ, Morrison's idea for every Batman story that's ever been written actually taking place is kind of fucked up, isn't it? I mean, really, all of it happened over a 15-year period? Every story ever? That seems impossible if you just take into account the two main books, but what happens when you throw in Shadow of the Bat and Legends of the Dark Knight? And all of the one-shots and team-ups and Justice League stuff... but then again, they say Grant Morrison is on drugs and that seems to be the only way it actually makes sense.

Wow, way off topic there...

I like Casey's use of Bruce Wayne. It's worth it just for one page where he's at a party at some rich person's house and he goes to get some air and comes across a maid in leather and fishnets leading a butler by a collar and leash. And he doesn't care, because why would he? Rich folk are fucked up, people.

This Bruce Wayne is one with Big Plans and that means streamlining Wayne Enterprises. You know how in later Batman comics, it's always "Oh, look at Bruce Wayne help that person out by using his vast fortune"? Here, it's "Fuck Bruce Wayne, because he just laid off ten thousand employees!" This Bruce Wayne is driven and selfish and doesn't think of anything outside of himself and his mission. This is a story about him learning to maybe do that, except not quite.

It's also the story of Ted, an employee of Wayne--at some department store--and his seeing visions of the future. Well, more how people will die than anything else. It drives him a little crazy and some thieves begin using him to help their operation. And they also use him as a punching bag. Eventually, his visions disappear and he's arrested in the process of a robery--knocked out by Batman. The issue ends with him in a straight jacket, banging his head against a wall after he's seen the end of the world--nothing more to see.

Bruce and Ted act as foils for one another, but how exactly isn't clear yet. Both were abandoned by their parents in their own ways, but that's as far as it goes right now. Ted is everything Bruce isn't, really. He's weak and ugly and nothing. Suerficially, Bruce is much better off, but Casey gives us enough scenes of Bruce alone for us to know otherwise. This is a Bruce Wayne that still has some serious issues going on. Grant Morrison was right when he said that, by now, Bruce has worked through that shit--but, here, he's still fucked up.

Next issue has him take on a crazy-as-fuck Ted and deal with one of his first "freaks."