Spoilers ahead for Batman #53.
In the third part of Tom King’s post-wedding storyline in Batman, Bruce Wayne has now officially switched back to wearing his more classic costume and trunks, something previously teased and promised by DC.
And after admitting he might have made some mistakes in his latest investigation as Batman, Bruce Wayne also implies in Batman #53 that he’s not sure about his role as the Caped Crusader.
His final words, as the Lee Weeks-drawn issue depicts him in the classic-looking costume: “I need to remember who I am.”
The self-questioning comes on the heels of Batman being dumped just before his wedding to Catwoman in Batman #50. Her reason for refusing the marriage? She knows how important Batman is, and she doesn’t want to make Bruce happy and possibly take him away from his crime-fighting.
Although readers have found out that Catwoman was manipulated into the decision by Bane (and a bunch of other unlikely villains whose roles are still a mystery), Batman only knows that he lost a chance at happiness because of the Bat.
Would Bruce walk away from being Batman so he could find happiness? It wouldn’t be the first time he took a break from being Batman. He’s been replaced in the past, whether because of injury or absence, by characters like Dick Grayson, Jim Gordon and Jean-Paul Valley. And Scott Snyder explored Bruce Wayne’s potential “happiness without the cowl” during his Batman run with Greg Capullo (just before King’s run began).
But by the end of Batman #50, it looked like Bruce is sticking with his Batman responsibilities, just not in the same costume he wore when he was with Catwoman. And wearing this old/new costume, he’s going to figure out who he is.
The appearance of Batman in a classic-looking costume comes just after Superman also returned to a classic costume with trunks earlier this summer with Action Comics #1000. The Batman costume had more recently featured no trunks and a yellow border around the bat-symbol - something designed by Greg Capullo at the end of his "New 52" Batman run.
So how did the Batman #53 cause Bruce Wayne to question his role as Batman? And how did the costume switch take place?
Let’s take a look at how the events in Batman #53 unfolded.
Titled “Cold Days,” the current storyline focuses on Bruce Wayne serving on a jury that’s judging Mr. Freeze after his capture by Batman.
In the previous issues, all the jurors except one were convinced that Freeze was guilty. With 11 people ready to convict the villain, the only doubting juror was Bruce Wayne.
At the root of his doubt was self-questioning, as he began to tear apart the actions of Batman in particular.
As this week’s Batman #53 begins, Bruce talks to the rest of the jurors and specifically hones in on their belief that Batman doesn’t make mistakes.
Church of Batman
Bruce begins to admit that he also believed in the infallibility of Batman, turning his back on his father’s belief in God and instead worshipping the crimefighting Caped Crusader who saved lives in Gotham City.
The character reminds people in the room about the story of Job from the Christian Bible. “God tore this guy’s life away,” Bruce says. “Burned his farm and his children. And Job gets a little angry and asks God way.
“And God just says, ‘I created the mountains and miracles, and you’re questioning me? You. Who are you?’”
But Bruce has clearly been affected by his failure to marry Selina. “I was hurt recently,” he tells the other jurors. “I had for years put every bit of myself into this Batman, because he was good. … And then it all fell. Everything falls. And I fell.”
Bruce says he’s still waiting for Batman to help him. But so far, he hasn’t. “He’s not God. He’s not,” Bruce says, explaining the costumed hero’s inability to comfort or give solace. “God blesses your soul with grace. Batman punches people in the face.”
Thawing the Freeze
He makes a comparison between Batman and the 12 people in the jury room who are trying to decide Mr. Freeze’s fate. He points out that they’re trying to do their best to figure out the truth, but they are only human.
“He’s not perfect. He’s just us. But in a leather bat suit.”
After his speech, the jurors find Freeze not guilty.
After the court is adjourned, Batman tells Alfred he’s going out.
“Please prepare the … original suit,” he says. “I … I don’t want to wear the suit I was in when she … when I … “
Alfred understands and complies.
Bruce appears in the more classic-looking costume, with a black bat-symbol on the chest and black trunks.
Batman #50 ends with a quote from the book of Job, and Batman says he needs to “remember” who he is.
Perhaps some time with his original Robin, Dick Grayson, will help Bruce find his identity as Batman. In Batman #54, the hero will take a “stroll down memory lane” with Nightwing, who’s also pictured on the cover of issue #55.
Mr. Freeze’s just-finished court case will also come back into play in issue #55, as Batman discovers the involvement of KGBeast in the crime.
The story continues in September 5's Batman #54.