Friday, March 07, 2008

Lesser Known Joe Casey Comics: Batman: Tenses #2

[Concluding my look at the two-part Batman: Tenses. Like with all lesser known Joe Casey comics, I will answer the question on all of your minds: should this issue remain forgotten? I know you want to just skip to the end of the post to find out, but don't. AH! Don't! That's better. New posts Monday, Wednesday and Friday.]

Okay, so I'm back in Windsor and ready to discuss some Joe Casey comics.

One thing I've yet to figure out is why this story is called "Tenses"... my first instinct to go with the tension between the past, present and future. Bruce Wayne's present is determined by his past, as is Ted's, but he also sees the future. Past tense, present tense and future tense are in communion, influencing one another? That's the only thing I can really come up with.

This issue has ties to Casey's The Milkman Murders and Fantastic Four: First Family as the whole kill-your-family plot thread pops up, and it's kind of odd that it has shown up in at least three Casey-written books. Does Casey have family issues? Not that I want to get into Casey's personal life, but these are some disturbing scenes... particularly that they always seem to accompany some epiphany from the murderer: enlightenment leads to murder. Not that Casey doesn't have a solid basis in reality, but it's an odd trend.

Ted finds the father that abandoned him and murders him. Well, slaughters him is more accurate as he eats some of his innards and cuts off his face and terrorises his step-mother--and Batman shows up in time to stop him from harmining her... but let's an insane Ted wander off and die alone.

Now, Ted symbolises Bruce's feelings of anger over the abandonment of his parents, which is why Batman let's him go. Bruce begins to let go of those feelings, seeing how twisted they can make a person. The conflict between his past and present begins to resolve itself. At the same time, a business reporter who also lost his parents as a child tries to help Bruce and tell him that he needs help. At the end of the issue, Bruce gives him back a business card for a therapist, again suggesting that his experience with Ted has put him on the path to recovery.

The scenes with the reporter are also strangely homoerotic as it seems the reporter is pursuing Bruce and certain that Bruce wants the same thing, but is afraid. I don't think Casey is pushing that as a serious angle; most likely, he's just playing around with the image of Bruce Wayne and Batman as semi-gay. But, if you want to make an argument for a gay Bruce Wayne, there may be some evidence here (not much, though). One scene in particular points in that direction as the reporter confronts Bruce in a parking garage and places his hand on Bruce's shoulder... which results in Bruce nearly breaking his hand in a scene right out of American Psycho. (Again, the Bruce Wayne/Patrick Bateman connection pops up for me.)

Should this book remain forgotten? No. If you can find these two issues, get them. It's an odd little story, but it is very clever and complex in its look at Bruce Wayne's early days as Batman. As well, Cully Hamner's art is fantastic. The man draws Batman very, very well.

And because I'm in such a Joe Casey mood, why not jump right into his final issue of Cable. That should be posted within the next hour (hopefully).