The Dark Tales of The Dark Knight #19 (The Man Who Murdered The Past)

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By Will Barber – Taylor

Following on from the previous edition in which we looked at the origin of Man Bat in the New 52, in this edition we shall look at a classic team up story in which Batman and the Flash must discover the secrets of Batman’s past in: The Man Who Murdered The Past (The Brave and The Bold #99).

The Brave and The Bold was one of the 70s great comic team up books. The original home of The Justice League and the Team Titans, it was DC’s testing ground for new and experimental ideas. By the time issue 99 came around though, it was primarily a Batman team up book and the first Batman team up book in the company’s history. However, while some of the stories in The Brave and The Bold run were breath-taking and original, others were not; this is one of the later types.

Deciding to return to his old family holiday home, Batman discovers that the spirits of his parents appear to be haunting the house. He then becomes possessed by an Old Portuguese sailor who wanders around cursing others. Yes, you read that right. The ridiculous nature of the story doesn’t end there. Batman, while under the influence of the spirit punches a police officer and is then brought to court. He gets bail from Barry Allen (the Flash) who is in the area investigating strange energy fluctuations that appear to be coming from the house where Batman is staying. The two try to figure out what can be causing the strange occurrences and why Batman is becoming possessed.

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The premise of the story may seem sound enough when you get down to the nitty gritty details, it begins to collapse in on itself. While having Batman return to the Wayne family holiday home is an interesting idea, that fact that he rents a house owned by Bruce Wayne AS BATMAN comes across as ridiculous. Why would he rent a house that he owns as his secret identity? Why not just go as Bruce Wayne? At one point Batman even makes the blatant connection between himself and his true identity by stating the house “belongs to my old friend, Bruce Wayne”. Why make the connection even more obvious? To add insult to injury, when the Flash arrives he advises that Bruce shouldn’t change out of his Batman costume in case he goes into one of his strange trances and the locals “but two and two together”. However, this paints the ridiculous scene of Bruce as Batman asleep in bed with a duvet over his costume. He’s really going to scare criminals with his Bat duvet.

The second issue with the story is the idea that ghosts from another dimension are trying to return to our world to take over. While in the realms of the DC universe, it is possible that something like this can happen there is no real grounding to it; we’re never given an explanation as to what exactly the place is. It is an alternative dimension, yes, but is it heaven/some form of afterlife? Batman sees his parents there but is that not actually clear whether it is them or a residual ghost from when they stayed at the holiday home. We also never find out why the Portuguese Sailor is able to possess Batman or why he was elected leader of the group. The lack of explanations or some sort of reason as to why these things are happening now is what creates the biggest holes in the story and ultimately makes it less riveting and more like a fun piece of nostalgia.

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Overall, The Man Who Murdered The Past is an entertaining silly story that is enjoyable just for its goofiness. It isn’t deep or prophetic; it is simply an enjoyable comic from the classic age of comics.

Next: Citizen Wayne.

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