The Dark Tales of The Dark Knight #21 (Life is But A Dream)

batman life is but a dream

By Will Barber – Taylor

Following on from the previous edition in which we looked at an alternative version of Batman who lived in a version of Gotham based on Orson Welles’ classic film Citizen Kane. In this edition, we look at a story written during Peter J. Tomasi’s run on Batman and Robin and at the complex relationship between Batman, Robin and Alfred. Let’s have a look at Life is but a Dream (Batman and Robin #17)

Back in the 50s and 60s, not much thought was given to deep character analyse of comic book characters. They existed simply to entertain the masses and not give any profound reflection of morals or society. However, as comic has been more nuanced and developed they have also become more focussed on their character and the development of them. Thus, more often than not many stories that are written now are done so with character in mind. However, many of them fail to capture the essence of those characters while also presenting interesting and dynamic stories. Luckily, one of those stories is Life is But a Dream.

batman life is but a dream 2

The story centres on a series of dreams that Batman, Damien and Alfred have after a night of fighting crime in Gotham. By using this technique, Tomasi cleverly shows us the inner most fears of the characters without having to explicitly state them. The concept of the majority of the story being a dream also allows for Tomasi to play around with some of the usual structural conventions of a story. By using metaphorical images such as during Damien’s dream there are two Damien’s; one representing how Ra’s Al Ghul wanted him to be while the other embodies the person that has been moulded by his father, Tomasi shows without telling the inner conflict that the characters have. Equally we see that Alfred fears the return of The Joker and whether he would be able to kill him and save the rest of the Bat family. These fears give the story the emotional backbone, so that though it does not follow a conventional plot the reader wants to continue reading to see what it is that the characters fear most.

The artwork through the story is beautifully done by Mike Gray and Patrick Gleason. Gray and Gleason capture the various and imaginative dreams in a way that are realistic but also dreamlike at the same time. This contrast makes the artwork much more compelling and interesting to look at.

Overall, Life is But a Dream is an exciting and fascinating story that shows off how a story can be used to express deep fears and emotions and can sometimes, if written in the right way, serve to subtly demonstrate how being a super hero can affect how the characters live.

Next time – When The Earth Dies!

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