Batman’s fight against crime has often been called a personal war. A conflict that stems from loss and tragedy. The tragedy of war however, is that it often exacts a personal cost for any side involved in it. How long can one man fight a battle that seems to have no chance of ever resolving itself? Is the price even worth it in the end, as the soldiers on the frontline risk losing their humanity?
That’s a few of the questions that readers are left asking at the end of Batman: The Merciless by writer Peter J. Tomasi and artist Francis Manapul, which details the origin of another of the rogue caped crusaders who have escaped the Dark Multiverse and invaded our reality. Spoilers below:
Like the other Batmen, The Merciless is a combination of one of Bruce Wayne’s flaws being exploited. Like his fellow bat-brethren stuck in a hellish collection of realities that were doomed to die, this is a Batman who surrenders to a single bad decision. In the case of The Merciless, it comes from a two-year battle with the Greek War God Ares, who has managed to increase his power a hundredfold and lay siege to Earth.
Heroes die, the planet becomes a battlefield and Batman is pushed to his breaking point as the apparent sacrifice of Wonder Woman results in him donning the helm of Ares and slaying the deity with Diana’s God-Killer sword. The end result? A Batman with the power of a god, but none of the compassion of a human. A Batman who isn’t holding back in crusade to prove that his way is the only way.
Despite the good intentions that this Batman had when he broke his cardinal no-killing rule in a last-ditch effort to stop Ares and rewrite the rules of war, he quickly becomes the very tyrant that he fought against. The greater tragedy at play here, is that Wonder Woman never died at the hands of Ares…It was Bruce who killed her when she attempted to separate him from the mystical helm.
While most of the Dark Multiverse Batmen may have started out as heroes before the entropy of their reality and bad decisions saw them reborn as monsters, the Merciless may just be the most tragic figure of the lot, as he’s keenly aware of the sins he has committed and still can’t veer off the dark path that he has chosen for himself.
Last Updated: October 26, 2017