Review of Batman: Crimson Mist (Batman: Vampire Trilogy)
A Hero's Fall
Note: This hub is about the third book in the Batman: Vampire trilogy.
In Batman: Crimson Mist, things take a grim turn as Batman descends into madness after drinking human blood. He no longer has the ability nor the desire to eschew killing; however, criminals are the only acceptable victims--for now. Batman embarks on a violent rampage, murdering and feeding on almost every major criminal on the streets and in Arkham Asylum.
Yet Batman is tormented by the certainty that he will eventually run out of criminals to kill, and that like Dracula, he will create his own vampire brood: "How long before I can no longer bear the loneliness? How long before I stop taking their heads? How long before I start taking brides?...Not long." Whatever shred of humanity is left in Batman may not be enough to keep him from descending into absolute evil. In the story's unrelenting and unforgiving finale, Batman's ordeal comes to its unavoidable end in the caverns under Wayne Manor.
The aesthetic throughout the Batman: Vampire trilogy is exaggerated and expressionistic, and Crimson Mist features the most grotesque-looking characters. All the villains (including Batman) are drawn as if their exteriors reflect the ugliness within. Batman is monstrous: he has decaying flesh, red eyes, and is barely recognisable as having once been a man, much less a hero.
This book doesn't discuss Batman: Vampire, but it is a good introduction to a few key philosophical topics using Batman characters and narratives.
Is Batman Responsible for His Actions?
Whether or not Batman should be held morally responsible for his actions as a vampire depends on whether you think he has free will. You can argue that vampire nature entails a loss of humanity, rendering him incapable of exercising free will. Yet the existence of renegade vampires such as Tanya contradicts the notion that vampires cannot fight their bloodlust. Moreover, the renegades were able to do so after feeding on human blood for many years.
Batman became a vampire as a result of battling Dracula in Red Rain. Although he couldn't have predicted all of the events that culminate in his fall, Batman knew that vampires are compelled to kill for human blood. He also would have known that fighting a powerful vampire would put him at risk of becoming a vampire himself. When he tasted blood for the first time, he did so freely--he knew it was wrong, and he had the choice to do otherwise. Thus, Batman is responsible for his actions (though perhaps we can argue that after he becomes a vampire, his responsibility for future actions is diminished by mental or physiological impairment).
Like many stories in the mythos, the Batman: Vampire trilogy shows how Batman deals with issues of choice, obsession, power, and guilt. Examining these themes within a supernatural narrative shows that Batman's existence on the side of justice is tenuous. His strength of will is usually considered one of his strongest traits; its failure in Batman: Vampire ultimately gives rise to a monster.
Moench, Doug (w), Jones, Kelley (p), and Beatty, John, Malcolm Jones III. (i). Batman: Vampire. Ed. Scott Nybakken. New York: DC Comics, 2007
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