Caped Crusader, Dark Knight, Batsy, and World's Greatest Detective...Just a few of the nicknames Gotham's vigilante has held over the years. But no matter what you call him, his legacy stretches dar beyond the comic book world.
For over 75 years, Batman has taken down foes of all sizes, upbringings, and evil deeds, again and again. Now we all know that since this is all comics, stories have to get renewed for the newer generation of audiences. And yet, there is still one thing that bothers me about the world of comic books, specifically the Batman world.
Bruce Wayne, ever since the murder of his parents, has always sought justice, which is key to what I'm going to examine. However, Batman has vowed to never take the life of anyone, no matter what they may have done. Now let me reiterate that, because the character Batman has killed people before, just not in the comics we read today. He used to kill during the Golden Age of Comics, and sometimes after, but that was usually if the planet was in peril.
Now, Batman believes that if he kills just one person, there is no going back - he would continue to live in darkness. It makes sense why he wouldn't kill, I mean, who is he to serve as judge, jury and executioner?
Nonetheless, time and time again we witness villains such as the Joker and Victor Zsasz escaping whatever hell-hole they are put into (Arkham Asylum mostly) and killing innocent people time and time again.
But it's not like the writers are not aware of this issue, because they are. In fact, they have brought this up in Batman: Under the Red Hood. In the story, Jason Todd is taken by the Joker, beat to death, and bombed before Batman has time to reach him.
Thankfully, Ra's Al Ghul is able to resurrect Jason using the Lazarus Pit, though Jason is never the same again. Ever since Bruce had raised him as one of his own, Jason Todd showed a fervor for justice, making the bad guys pay for their deeds. Hence, after his resurrection this zeal and intensity grew even more and compelled him to return to Gotham as the Red Hood cleaning up the streets by killing off Batman's foes.
Batman tries to stop the Red Hood several times, but he ends up failing. Towards the end, Jason abducts the Joker and beats him with a crowbar, as was done to him. Batman arrives and in that scene Jason reveals Batman's mistake all along...
Is that what you think this is about? You letting me die? I don't know what clouds your judgement worse, your guilt or your antiquated sense of morality. Bruce, I forgive you for not saving me. But why... why on God's earth...is he still alive?!
Ignoring what he's done in the past. Blindly, stupidly disregarding the entire graveyards he's filled, the thousands who have suffered, the friends he's crippled. You know, I thought... I thought I'd be the last person you'd ever let him hurt. If it had been you that he beat to a bloody pulp, if he had taken you from this world, I would've done nothing but search the planet for this pathetic pile of evil, death-worshiping garbage and then send him off to hell!
It is in this mini-speech that I empathize with Jason. After hearing him out I couldn't comprehend Batman's 'No Kill' policy - surely you have to make exceptions for people like the Joker. Nonetheless, Batman replies like this...
You don't understand. I don't think you've ever understood.
What? What, your moral code just won't allow for that? It's too hard to cross that line?
No! God Almighty, no! It'd be too damned easy. All I've ever wanted to do is kill him. A day doesn't go by when I don't think about subjecting him to every horrendous torture he's dealt out to others and then... end him. But if I do that, if I allow myself to go down into that place, I'll never come back.
Why? I'm not talking about killing Penguin or Scarecrow or Dent. I'm talking about him. Just him. And doing it because... Because he took me away from you.
I'll admit, this last scene brings me to tears, but it also forces everyone like me to face the dilemma: If I were Batman, if you were Batman, would you have killed the Joker?
On one side you can say yes, that killing the Joker is right even though you have to sacrifice your moral values and gamble on whether you will return from the 'place' Batman refers to. On the other hand you can choose the 'No kill policy', but that would mean Joker would escape (more people die) and would never face execution because of Gotham's corrupt politics.
In the end, Batman decided to walk away. Some call it selfish and some call it virtuous, perhaps even courageous. Whatever you decide to call it, just ponder on two things: Who gets to decide what justice truly is, and how far would you go to uphold it?