I recently finished up reading Batman: Haunted Knight (TPB I picked for £2.99 in a second hand book shop) and found it to be one of the most enjoyable Batman books that simply anyone can jump right into and enjoy without prior brushing up. One of the best aspects of the book is that it deals with more than just Batman and his rogues gallery, and throws up some genuinely emotional moments.
The book takes three of the best tales based around Batman and Halloween and collects them into one volume. Of the three stories, Fears, Madness and Ghosts) it was Madness that really engrossed me. Like pretty much all of my fave stories involving the Dark Knight, this one went deeper than simply ‘investigate, fight, catch the bad guy’ and dealt with themes of family, loss and how we deal with that loss.
There’s the turbulent relationship between Jim Gordon and a teenage Barbara, which ends up in her sneaking out the house and inevitably getting kidnapped by the Mad Hatter (like you do) that is the crux of the story, but the real emotional pull comes from the flashback scenes.
These flashbacks show a young Bruce Wayne, his mother, and their bonding over the book Alice in Wonderland. One later flashback shows a young, grief-stricken Bruce lashing out at Dr Thompkins for suggesting he read the book that reminds him so much of his mother.
Just the mere mention of the book upsets him greatly. It all culminates in a truly touching final page; with Barbara safely rescued and the Hatter dealt with, Bruce’s inner monologue kicks in: “On rainy days in particular, I miss my mother. But I know just the thing for it.” Cue a reflective looking Bruce sitting next to a window reading Alice in the moonlight as the rain drizzles down the window. It’s such a… delicate moment.
I nearly rolled a tear as I read it, it’s such a powerful, yet strangely calming final page. The reader feels that Bruce Wayne is at peace with things, even if it’s just for the briefest of moments. It’s something that happens on a rare occasion when reading Batman, but when it does, it really hits that emotional mark.
We all have books, films and songs that act as emotional triggers, reminding us of people, moments and relationships both good and bad. It’s moments like these that help humanise the man behind the cowl to the reader, empathise with his grief somewhat and understand better just what motivates him. It’s wonderful moments like these that are the reason I read Batman. The other two stories in this book are also ace tales; so if you haven’t already, get it read.