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Bernie Wrightson is a fan-favourite whose work includes Swamp Thing and Batman: The Cult. Jim Starlin is responsible for many of the greatest Batman stories ever told, as well as Cosmic Odyssey and Death of the New Gods!
A seemingly immortal charismatic con-man called Deacon Blackfire comes to Gotham and begins recruiting the city's homeless as members of his cult of personality, brainwashing them somehow into doing his bidding. There become so many that they overwhelm the city's police forces - and even Batman.
My problems with this book are many: Batman gets captured by the brainwashed homeless. Ok, so apparently homeless people become highly effective fighters once brainwashed. Batman gets caught in the most banal way, a situation he's been in countless times, but somehow falls victim to this time. Then he undergoes brainwashing which includes torture, starvation and hallucinatory drugs - he couldn't escape in the days he was chained up? It was literally a pair of handcuffs around a metal pipe, surely he could've escaped? It's yet another situation Batman's been in before countless times which he could've easily gotten out of. But then there wouldn't be a book if he escaped- it's so contrived and out of character.
There are so many instances of Batman's actions being out of character throughout. It's implied he uses a machine gun to kill an innocent (!) whilst under the influence of Blackfire's mind-controlling drugs. Then when he's shaken the drugs and is fighting back, he allows an innocent woman to be raped and killed - because he's got to deal with Blackfire quickly. But there's really no urgency at the end, Blackfire's not threatening to blow up the city, he's just sitting around waiting for Batman to show. He could've saved her. I think Starlin's excuse would be that Batman was still shaken from his druggy experience? Weak.
Let's talk about the character of Deacon Blackfire or lack thereof.Read more ›
I had come into the cult with high hopes, mostly being that I had never read a story with Jason Todd in it before. And after coming out of The Cult I can sum it up with 3 words: Waste of time.
The character of Batman (who is often known as one of the strongest willed characters in the DC Universe) is completely ruined in this story by being tortured into submission (mental submission that is). I cannot remember a single story where Batman's mind weakened to the point where he would obey his captor even after being released from the torture. Batman was not hypnotized in this story and he's not an idiot, he has the willpower to overcome this. But while he's in this dazed state and doing whatever he's told he's going around with a bunch of cultists watching them commit crimes and I'm pretty sure his lack of involvement causes the death of an innocent police officer. Great job Batman.
Jason Todd on the other hand is down at the police department with Commissioner Gordon actually being a useful character. Based on the portrayal of Jason in this story, and various others I've read since (Crisis on Infinite Earths/Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow) I can't figure out why he was voted to be killed off, in this story he is a far superior character to Batman and even ends up saving him.
And the tone, if you know Jim Starlin you know where I'm gonna go with this. The theme of the story is "Religion is Evil". That's it. And yeah, I guess people manipulating other people's loyalty to a certain religion (or something along that line) has attributed to a lot of horrible things but Jim Starlin comes off as a huge jerk in this story. I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess he's a militant atheist (which as a non-religious person myself I find to be incredibly annoying).Read more ›
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I don't see the appeal of this rendition of Batman. Throughout the story, he is:
1. Weak, both physically and psychologically. Despite the fact that Batman possesses arguably the strongest will in the entire DC universe, it is easily broken in this story, and his personality is reduced to that of a frightened child. This is an entirely acceptable plot point for Bruce Wayne, as this has been done many times over the years with regards to the death of his parents. But Batman shouldn't be broken down like this.
2. Taken by surprise by drugged homeless people more than once, and exhibits none of the detective skills he is known for. He simply blunders around until he is recaptured again and again.
3. Utterly at a loss for what to do. (Robin: What now, Batman? Batman: I don't know) The clearest plan of action he has throughout the story is to RUN AWAY from his enemies (again, the drugged homeless people).
4. Relieved when he is saved from being shot by a teenage youth. Not only is this disturbing because of the sheer number of times Batman is in a helpless position and has to be saved by other people (Robin), but in this case his savior stabs the teenager, killing him, and Batman only wishes to thank him for this. I'll say that again. Batman wanted to thank someone for stabbing and killing a teenager.
5. Resigned to the fact that Gotham City is lost to the leader of a religious cult. Batman literally gives up. He calls Alfred to pick him up in a car, and tells him to take him out of Gotham City, because the bad guys have won. This is also after any drug effects have worn off. So, we're supposed to believe that a level-headed, clear thinking Batman would give up on his city. Right.