Everybody loves Batman. It doesn’t matter if you read comic books or not, you know who Batman is. The story of young Bruce Wayne witnessing the death of his parents and becoming a dark avenger seeking the justice and revenge that he’ll never have is a great story that honestly deserves the audience and worldwide appeal that it has garnered in the last seventy nine years. But more and more, as I get older, I have trouble finding that same zeal for the character that I had when I was a kid.
Like so many superheroes nowadays, Batman has become a shadow of his former self. Gone are the days of a man who made a decision to fight crime. I’m not saying it was better back in the late eighties, early nineties, I’m just saying I am biased. The character of Batman was simple at one time. A man, resources, suit and discipline, that was all Batman needed to be. But as time went on, he became very complicated. More tech, more history, more abilities than any man could possibly master are a simple pastime to the Batman. I understand that the fact that Batman is so impossibly skilled (and rich) is part of the appeal of the character and that is actual super power is. But Batman has become incredibly unrelatable as the years have gone on. As much as everyone demands to have a relatable Superman, Batman seemingly gets a pass in this department.
But I understand that I am just one reader, Batman isn’t for me anymore and that’s okay. But when I do think of Batman, and what makes him such a great hero, what story do I think of? As great as Dark Knight Returns or Knightfall may be, there is one story that personifies who the Batman is perfectly for both new readers and fans that have been with Batman since the beginning, and that story is…
Batman versus Predator.
Seriously, this is the best Batman story ever, and I’m not the only one that thinks so. BvP has grown in popularity over the past few years, and it’s for good reason. The story was written by famed comic book writer/artist Dave Gibbons (Watchmen) and features art by industry legends Andy and Adam Kubert. While incredible and undeniable talent doesn’t automatically equal a good book, this three issue series, released in 1991, is the best example of what makes Batman one of the best superheroes ever created. On top of that, this series adds a bit more personality to the Predator. While he may be a single minded hunter in search of the ultimate prey, he is more than a physical match for Batman, and for the most part, Batman can’t even rely on his own fabled tech to give him the advantage in this fight.
So the story starts out in Gotham City as two mafia bosses are letting two of their best boxers fight as a way of settling a turf war. Soon, the winning fighter has his head and hands removed forcing the Batman to investigate. What he finds is perhaps the greatest threat the Batman has ever faced before.
The single greatest aspect of this story is the fact that Batman basically loses his fight with the Predator in the first issue of the series. After tracking the Predator to a scrap yard, Batman is quickly trounced by the alien hunter as he wasn’t expecting a seven foot tall alien with a spear and a laser cannon. In fact, it’s only luck that Batman isn’t killed in his first altercation with the Predator, as he is severely burned by the Predator and stabbed in the stomach before he can escape. Batman suffers from a massive concussion, several fractured bones and puncture wounds leaving the Predator free to unintentionally drive Gotham city crazy by murdering several criminals and police officers, and it’s here that the story proves why Batman is the best.
Just as Gotham city SWAT teams partner up with the National Guard to find the “invisible killer”, Batman, despite his injures, shows up to take a last stand against the Predator. Donning a metal suit designed to help him move despite his many broken bones, Batman goes out and kicks the shit out of a motherfucking Predator…and it’s glorious.
The final fight between Batman and the Predator isn’t one sided at all. Thankfully, both sides gain and lose the advantage several times throughout. Batman’s suit is designed insulate his body heat, essentially making him invisible to the Predator, but he can’t overpower the Predator despite years of training and a can-do attitude.
This story is a great example of two characters that have been oversaturated in recent years. As more and more people have tried putting their spin on Batman, all that has happened is that he has been made into a meme and almost a parody of himself. As Batman becomes more popular, the standards for that character keep getting raised, making him uninteresting. The problem with the Predator is that people keep wanting more of his mystique explained, making the character uninteresting. The best part of the Predator is that he is a hunter that is overpowered and can take anyone out. But his stories only work if he loses. He’s an unstoppable force in desperate search of an immovable object. No one wants a story where the Predator wins, making Batman the perfect foil for him. You know Batman is going to win, but what is he going to have to do to beat him?
This book shows you how crazy the Predator can become, as he is desperate to kill the Batman, who he views as the ultimate prey in Gotham. And Batman is woefully unprepared for what lies ahead of him, and that is where this story succeeds. This comic, more than most Batman comics, lets you know up front that there is in fact a man under that cowl. Yes, he is very smart. He is rich as hell, and arguably the best hand to hand combatant in any neighborhood, but he can’t beat the Predator in a straight up fight, and he doesn’t have prep time to rely on. This book lets you see who the Batman really is at his core. He’s a man who will fight anyone to keep innocents safe, because no one fought for him when he needed someone, and it shows us that fact better than any other Batman book out there.