It is not the man that matters, it is the mask.
Batman Year 100 by Paul Pope. I can see this book as a dividing line amongst Bat fans. I can see it being placed on the ground while one fan says to the other, “You stay on your side of Year 100 and I’ll stay on mine. Then we won’t have a problem.” Year 100 is like Batman in a way, some deny it’s existence, it is a legend. Like most Paul Pope books there is more to this book than what you can find on the surface. The man is an artist and art is what he has created with his words and his pictures. This would be the ideal scenario to toss out, “This is not my Batman” and I assure you it has been done many times over. If this is you I would persuade you, not necessarily to give the book another chance but to see it with fresh eyes. This is not your Batman because it is year 100’s Batman, which has not happened yet. This is the Batman of the future and so far in my life I try not to argue with the future, because the future usually wins. After all that is said and done the book still might not be for you, but this article is not whether or not the book is for you. This article is about The Batman of Gotham.
One of my favourite parts of any Bat book is when they refer to Batman as “The Batman”. It is amazing what the insertion of one simple determiner can do. It adds mystery to the character, it adds legend to the name. Instead of referring to the man behind the mask, you are referring to just the mask. Perhaps the man does not matter, or perhaps you are unsure if there is a man behind that mask at all. The Batman creates the legend. Year 100 starts off just this way. The police are chasing a man across Gotham, an unclassified, undocumented man. He can clear distances between roof tops that no man can jump and he can survive drops from buildings that no man can survive. The police observe and pursue all of this and it dawns on them, they have heard of this before. Could it be the legendary Batman? No it couldn’t be. The Batman of Gotham is not real. The Batman of Gotham is just a myth. Who could be this man behind the mask? If it is the legendary Batman wouldn’t he be over 100 years old at this point? The opening scene of Year 100 creates this incredible feeling of mystery and legend surrounding Bats. A very good tone setter for the remainder of the book.
After being hurled into the chaotic and mysterious Gotham city and after pursuing the mysterious Bat-Man, Pope hits us with the familiar. He gives us a few beacons of reference just to say, “Hey things may seem a little strange, he may look a little different but you know this guy.” We are introduced to the characters around The Batman to give us that grounding. We are introduced to Batman’s support system. He is not doing this alone, he never was. We are introduced to a mother and a daughter who act as his doctor and his watchful eye. We are also introduced to a character seemingly named Robin. This character is not the boy wonder, in the traditional sense. He seems to be the successor to Batman, if this day ever comes. Lastly we are introduced to Jim Gordon, named after his grandfather and modelled off him too. These staples give us the grounding we need. As foreign as the story may look and feel, these characters remind us that all the correct pieces are there.
The table is set. Legendary, mysterious, mythical Batman. Doctor (Alfred), watchful eyes (Oracle), Robin and Gordon. All the pieces of a Bat story. Now Pope uses Batman’s supporting cast to illustrate his theme. Yes there is a Robin, but not as we know him. Yes there is an Oracle, but she doesn’t call herself that. This is Pope’s way of illustrating that all the pieces may be there but they fit together differently. Just as the man behind the mask does not matter, the team around him does not either. All that matters is that the team exists because The Batman cannot do it on his own. In the opening scene he would have died if it wasn’t for his team.
In year 100 of The Bat there are no super villains, only a few with the power of persuasion (a popular choice for Pope). Batman is the only “mask” remaining and the police want to make him the last. As usual Batman has to do some detective work while getting the help of Jim Gordon. He comes up with a fantastic plan to outsmart the baddies and wears pointy monster teeth in the process, you know a typical Batman story. There is one final reveal that is not really a final reveal, a brilliant move by Pope to once again drive home his point. Mild Spoiler Ahead In the final few pages Gordon tells Batman he knows he is Bruce. This is of course no reveal at all just keeps us thinking and drives home the point again that the man makes no difference, even the name of the man makes no difference. Perhaps it is the original Bruce Wayne somehow still young, perhaps it is the grandson of Bruce just as Gordon is a grandson, perhaps Bruce is a clone as teased earlier in the story or perhaps it is some other random guy named Bruce who dawned the cowl. Whatever the case the big final reveal is meaningless to the story and that my friends is the point of it all. Pick up your copy of Batman Year 100 and give this one a shot. If you live near me give me a shout and I’ll lend you mine. This is a Batman essential that should not be missed.