Thursday, February 12, 2015

Giving Batman a sword seems like overkill.

Just realized something about a book I really liked: from 1990, Detective Comics Annual #3, "Obligation" Script by Archie Goodwin, breakdowns by Dan Jurgens, finishes by Dick Giordano.

Detective Comics went fifty years before getting any annuals, but this was the third straight featuring one of Batman's many mentors. The first featured the O-Sensei, and crossed over with Green Arrow and the Question, as we saw before. The second, written by Mark Waid and Brian Augustyn, features a young Bruce Wayne learning from detective Harvey Harris--and it's a damn good issue! It's also an update of a 1955 story. The third features a new character, Tsunetomo; who comes out of retirement at a Yakuza boss's request to face Batman, but does so partly to answer his curiousity: did he train the man who became Batman? And how good was he?

Calling him out as "Wayne-san," Tsunetomo is able to throw Batman off enough to stab him pretty badly. Still, the rematch goes the other way, even though as is typical for a Batman swordfight, his shirt is destroyed. (Oddly, shirtless sword-fighting Batman is one of the few variants I don't think has been made into an action figure. Yet.) Tsunetomo throws himself on Batman's sword, satisfied that his greatest pupil could deliver "...a man dying of cancer--with a more worthy death!"

There's a ton more plot this issue than we'll get into right now, but it occurred to me Batman has both a ton of mentors that appear only once, like this one; and a ton of mentors that were ethically and legally questionable at best, if not outright evil. The O-Sensei and his pupil Lady Shiva (who also trained Batman, in Knightsend) were at best amoral: they would've trained anyone they thought had potential or would be interesting, good or evil. (I actually like Shiva in the Question, but elsewhere and under writers other than Denny O'Neil, she was often a heartless killer, or a bitch, or both.) Henri Ducard was a monster, even if Bruce Wayne didn't realize it right away; and Bruce also trained with future Batgirl Cassandra Cain's father David, a brutal assassin. Tsunetomo may not have been as bad as those two, but he was mobbed up pretty tightly. Is it weird that Batman learned so much from bad guys? (I'd mention Batman trained with drug-powered Chinese kung-fu vigilantes, but I'm not sure that's in anyone else's canon.) Or is it understandable that to better smash criminals' faces in, Bats was possibly willing to overlook things, at least for a while? "Hmm...he's a genocidal madman...but I do want to learn that arm lock..."

1 comment:

Dale Bagwell said...

Nah, not overkill. I dig it.
This one though sounds like a really solid story.

Reminds of that one B:TAS episode with Batman having to fight that evil ninja guy, Ki-Yo-Di.
Then near the end, Bruce has to throw the fight for awhile, because Summer Gleason's in the same room with him, and if he fights him, he might shed get suspicious.

I think they made a sequel to that one, but I can't remember.

You make a good point about most of Batman's mentors turning out to be bad guys.
Which kinda' makes Batman look dumb since he's suposed to be the world's greatest detective, but didn't catch on about how nefarious they really were.

Almost makes it look like the only martial art teachers out there worth studying from, are the bad guys.
What, no Mr. Myiagi?;)