All-Star Batman and Robin #9 hit the shelves today.
I've been giving Miller the small benefit of the doubt that ASBAR is his big chuckle-raspberry of "Ha! You people worship a *psychopath*." His Bruce, however clumsily written, has pretty much matched the *entire* psychopath checklist:
1. Contemptuous of those who seek to understand them
He's contemptuous, to the point of outright cruelty, of the other costumed fighters in the world. Especially of Hal Jordan, the Green Lantern, who's been the only one that's attempted to talk with him.
2. Does not perceive that anything is wrong with them
His activities, to the point of maiming people, bring him almost maniacal joy. He doesn't waste time in brooding.
He bosses everyone around, including Alfred, whom he's grabbed by the lapels.
Secret identity, only works at night, doesn't share.
Everyone in Gotham is corrupt, including the *entire* police force.
6. Only rarely in difficulty with the law, but seeks out situations where their tyrannical behavior will be tolerated, condoned, or admired
Although his vigilantism isn't condoned, his dressing as a costumed fighter and proclaiming to anyone and everyone that he's "the Goddamn Batman", indicates a wish for admiration.
7. Conventional appearance
8. Goal of enslavement of their victim(s)
He kidnaps Dick Grayson.
9. Exercises despotic control over every aspect of the victim's life
He keeps Dick in the Batcave for weeks, never allowing him upstairs to the house. He orders him to eat vermin in the cave and refuses to feed him. He becomes incensed when Alfred intervenes and gives the kid a burger.
10. Has an emotional need to justify their crimes and therefore needs their victim's affirmation (respect, gratitude and love)
He's doing this for Dick's own good, to toughen him up, train him in the war against crime. All these atrocities are admirable things according to him.
11. Ultimate goal is the creation of a willing victim
After three weeks of this treatment, Dick goes from fear and revulsion to acceptance and respect, needing approval. He lies to the press about his whereabouts and, now dressed as Robin, gleefully joins Batman in harassing and humiliating Hal Jordan--his first act in the supposed war against crime.
12. Incapable of real human attachment to another
Although Alfred has taken care of him since Bruce's parents died, Bruce physically confronts him when Alfred disobeys an order, prompting Alfred to say, "I may be your servant, but I am not your slave. Unhand me." He has no friendships and his liaisons do not go beyond sex. And though Dick, from the ages of twelve to eighteen, is his protege and ward, he fires him (as we learn in DKSA) "For incompetence. For cowardice."
13. Unable to feel remorse or guilt
Bruce doesn't regret any of his actions, doesn't question himself. And in DKSA, he feels no remorse or guilt when he kills Dick.
14. Extreme narcissism and grandiose
He constantly postures, feels that he is superior to everyone. He's extremely proud of being 'The Goddamn Batman'. Women should instantly fall in love with him and throw themselves at him.
15. May state readily that their goal is to rule the world
He feels that if he had either Superman's or the Green Lantern's powers, he would make things right, not only in Gotham but the entire world. His plan is the best plan and he knows what's best for everyone--in other words, world domination.
So yes, every single item on the psychopath list can be checked off. I thought, perhaps, Miller could be making a statement on the Cult of Batman, the cheers for his badassery--how we, as a culture venerate, call heroic, someone who is incapable of compassion as long as they're *cool* about it. Although Batman in general canon does have human relationships, operates from deep guilt, Miller himself helped create the darker, grittier version of him. Perhaps he was sick of it, wanted to engage in self-parody, twist Bruce until there was nothing admirable left about him, make him a Swiftian argument.
But no. After reading this issue, I can only conclude that he's playing it straight.
After the increased tag-team viciousness with Hal, that escalates to Dick beating Hal and Bruce reveling in it, Dick crushes Hal's larynx--for no other reason than because it's fun. (This scene made me almost physically ill.) Bruce pulls Dick off before he lands the killing blow although Hal's dying. Bruce performs an emergency tracheotomy. Not because he's appalled at the violence, not because he feels any remorse or compassion for Hal as a freaking human being that did absolutely nothing to deserve any of this, but simply because he didn't want Dick to commit murder. Not because that would be morally reprehensible and horribly sickening, but because it's some Dexter-like rule in his head.
Fine. Disgusting, but it still fits the psychopath profile.
But then, THEN!, Bruce spends pages and pages angsting about how he didn't train Dick properly, all his fault, yadda yadda. He broods about his teachers, his gurus--and seriously, what competent martial arts master would take this nutjob on? Even R'as Al-Ghul would laugh at him--and sweet, gentle Alfred. Gentle Alfred! Who gave him moral guidance!
Bruce takes Dick to the cemetery--and of course, it's raining, Gotham's worse than Seattle that way apparently--so that he can say goodbye to his departed parents. Whose *funeral* Dick hadn't been informed of, let alone allowed to *attend*. They embrace--on the grave of Dick's parents!--with Dick crying and Bruce grimacing in the shared emo: We mourn for lives lost. Including our own.
The reader is *supposed* to have an awwww moment. But I'm full-out queasy because this means Miller is playing it straight. All these reprehensible actions of Bruce are the actions of a hero, someone to be admired. Just...just ew! There's no irony here. Awww, Bruce has woobie feelings after all! This isn't Miller pulling a Kaufman, this isn't some work of mad genius, this is just run-of-the-mill crazy skeeve. This is the same guy that gets kicked out of a shoot-em up RPG group for being too mean-spiritedly vicious. The same guy except, you know, with a reputation and a paycheck.
And people eat this up. Most for the trainwreck that it is, but some just think it's the best thing since mashed potatoes. They don't care how horrible Bruce is as long as he's kicking ass--and getting ass. As long as the art's reasonable, they'll buy it.
So then you say: Yeah, well, Rom, why are *you* buying it?
I'm not! I read it at the shop and buy other things. I refuse to pay three dollars for nervous laughter and shock value.
I just can't mock today. I'm too upset. I need an intervention.