BATMAN: LOST #1
BATMAN: LOST #1 By Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, Joshua Williamson, Doug Mahnke, Yanick Paquette, and Jorge Jimenez
Art
Characterization
Plot
Summary
Snyder's METAL vision reaches horrific new heights as Batman journeys throughout his entire history and makes us honestly wonder whether he'll ever be free.
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A Visceral Nightmare
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DARK NIGHTS: METAL is about halfway through its run. This includes six main issues as well as multiple tie-ins and one-shots. The series has been a fusion of cosmic insanity and soul-crushing darkness. There’s a sense of utter hopelessness and psychic wrongness that permeates METAL. It feels like the terrible things that are happening to Batman and his allies simply shouldn’t be happening. Worst of all, there’s no way out. That, exactly, is Scott Snyder’s point. He, along with co-writers James Tynion IV and Joshua Williamson, accelerates the soul-crushing bleakness to a whole new level with BATMAN: LOST #1.

BATMAN: LOST #1
BATMAN LOST #1 page 2. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

As Batman faces his darkest nightmares, he journeys through a dark stream of consciousness that exists somewhere between truth and lies. Snyder and co. use these hellish dreams to mine Batman’s comic book history. They present a demonic new twist on old stories that takes Batman into a profound pit of blackness. Throughout the story, Batman looks to escape through a window. Yet outside that window lies only more darkness and a twisted truth too terrible to bear — for Bruce Wayne and the reader alike.

“I can see you.” An elderly Bruce Wayne glares at the reader from his fireside armchair. Actually, he’s speaking to his granddaughter, Janet, who wants to hear a story. She climbs onto his lap and takes a dusty old volume from the bookshelf. It’s Batman’s first case, titled “The Case of the Chemical Syndicate.” Yet it doesn’t open quite like Bruce remembers. As he tells the story to his granddaughter, a young Batman becomes distracted. There’s a window stained with the blood of birds. These birds fly into the window again and again, trying to get inside.

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As the young Batman tries to decipher this mystery, an unseen force transports him through time again and again. With each jump, his circumstances and clothing change dramatically. He’s at the dawn of man, watching armies of bird and bat worshipers fight to the death in the name of… Batman? He’s at the cusp of the American Revolution, witnessing a ceremonial human sacrifice again, apparently, in the name of Batman. He’s in the body of his grandfather, Alan Wayne, as the Court of Owls murders him for discovering a secret conspiracy in the name of… Barbatos.

Not Batman. That’s the great deception. None of those people were really worshiping Batman, despite appearances to the contrary. Batman was simply the vessel, and Barbatos the god. As Batman fights his way through these distorted memories, he must contend with the reality that the demon Barbatos has infiltrated every aspect of his history. All of these disparate memories and half-truths are connected by Batman’s impending sense of guilt. The revelation that Barbatos is behind all of the wars, deaths, and sacrifices reveals to Batman the most painful truth — that it’s all his fault.

BATMAN: LOST #1
BATMAN LOST #1 page 5. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

Snyder, Tynion, and Williamson do a remarkable job in permeating all of these sequences with a combination of memory and twisted interpretation. We’re never quite sure whether what we’re seeing is fact or fiction, whether it’s Bruce’s true memory or some darkly tainted vision inspired by Barbatos. The writing trio uses the opportunity to reimagine famous stories from Batman’s past. The most notable example is the aforementioned “The Case of the Chemical Syndicate,” which was the very first Batman story published in DETECTIVE COMICS #27 in 1939. They also use moments from the time traveling exploits of “The Return of Bruce Wayne” as well as the imagery of the bat breaking through the window in BATMAN: YEAR ONE.

In each case, the writers shift and pervert these classic stories, dousing them with a sense of wrongness — much like the twisted worlds of the dark multiverse. It would have been all too easy to keep Bruce’s dream-tale in a realm of pure abstraction. Delving into Batman’s publication history enriches the events of BATMAN: LOST #1 and makes them that much more disturbing. The power of these alterations can be encapsulated in the moment when the bat bursts through the window, as depicted in BATMAN: YEAR ONE. Yet instead of the bat bringing Bruce Wayne the truth of his calling, this time it bites and infects him. The bat’s eyes glow red with the demonic signature of Barbatos. In this moment, the evil demon perverts Batman’s entire destiny. This suggests that all of Batman’s attempted heroics were tainted from the start.

BATMAN: LOST #1
BATMAN LOST #1 page 14. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

Another fascinating connective element between these sequences is the symbolism of birds and bats. As Barbatos puts it, these winged factions have been warring in his name since the dawn of man. The notion of Barbatos orchestrating these wars since the beginning takes special significance in the context of Batman and his allies. In another alteration of his “Chemical Syndicate” dream, Batman comments that the birds crashing through the window are trying to help him. Meanwhile, Nightwing and Superman are seen standing directly behind him.

Batman comments that he surrounds himself with birds to remind himself of who and what he is. The implication is clear: Batman surrounds himself with Robins (and other things that fly) to prevent himself from falling fully into the blackness of his own soul. Superman and Nightwing represent these birds. Yet Barbatos forces us to question even this truth. He continually hisses at Bruce that all birds and bats are in his service. Barbatos infects BATMAN: LOST #1 with horrifying blasphemy, forcing us to wonder whether Batman’s every action has been part of some giant cosmic joke.

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The artwork of BATMAN: LOST #1 by Doug Mahnke, Yanick Paquette, and Jorge Jimenez sinisterly complements the narrative’s horrific beauty. The various dips in and out of dream sequences force the artists to drastically change the overall visual style every few pages. The “Chemical Syndicate” pages mirror Bill Finger’s art style from way back in 1939. The artists faithfully recreate Finger’s original Batman design, complete with curved ears and purple gloves. The “Return of Bruce Wayne” panels reflect the vivid and ferocious quality of the Stone Age. They’re filled with full-blooded warmth that contrasts with the cold, hazy sheen overlaying the Finger-inspired sequences.

The sequence set in the American Revolution has a full-colored painterly quality. It looks unusually bright but lacks dimensionality. The figures seem purposefully designed as mock-representations of famous figures, perhaps suggesting Barbatos’ phony storytelling at play. The sequences of an elderly Bruce in Wayne Manor provide the spine of BATMAN: LOST #1. They look and feels like a sequence from BATMAN: YEAR ONE.

These pages provide the gothic interplay of light and shadow that we associate with the famous Batman comic. Yet, just like in the rest of the story, Barbatos arrives to throw it all off. By the end of the comic, the artists treat us to a collage of nightmare universes with all the Dark Knights unleashed. All of the disparate story threads and visual styles unite in the comic’s final panels, which fuse into an orgy of horror and chaos. This is Barbatos’ ultimate impact on Bruce Wayne’s story.

BATMAN: LOST #1
BATMAN LOST #1 page 25. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

BATMAN: LOST #1: Final Verdict

The collective effect of BATMAN: LOST #1 is to bring the DARK NIGHTS: METAL series down to a twisted new depth of hopelessness. The final pages leave us with a very bleak outlook on the future of Bruce Wayne. Indeed, it appears as though Barbatos has permanently twisted Batman’s legacy. It’s now impossible to see a way out for our beloved hero. It might be tough to cope with this as a reader. Yet the horrific truth of Bruce’s situation is precisely what makes BATMAN: LOST #1 so compelling. It’s a visceral experience unlike any other.

We’re so used to Batman finding a way to win. Even though Barbatos has sealed him in from every angle, we can’t help but assume that he’ll find a way out. As Batman reaches for that window, we continue to hope that he’ll manage to break through — even though we’ve already seen what awaits him on the other side.

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