Batman: The Merciless
Written By: Peter J. Tomasi
Art By: Francis Manapul
Cover By: Jason Fabok
Publisher: DC Comics
Previously: Last time, The Dark Knights have arrived, a team of twisted Bruce Waynes from atop Challengers Mountain. As chaos just starts to begin, we get a spotlight to see what went wrong.
This time: The brightest minds of the DC Universe unite to fight a crisis; the D.E.O., S.H.A.D.E., A.R.G.U.S. and Amanda Waller discuss exactly what the hell they’re going to do with Challengers Mountain and the rest of the Dark Knights in Gotham. Before they can get too much of an idea on what to do, a problem with their clashing personalities regardless, Batman the Merciless quite literally crashes in. Back on Earth Negative Twelve, Bruce Wayne truly learned the meaning of war. As Wonder Woman and the rest of the world’s heroes laid dead and defeated by Ares, Bruce took brutal measures. Ares had amplified his power above anything he’d ever accomplished before with a new helmet; which Bruce takes up to avenge his fallen love, becoming Batman the Merciless. The Dark Knight continues to cause trouble for the military forces back on Earth Zero, causing conflict as they start fighting and arguing amongst themselves like children. As the Merciless stands above the now-worshipping military forces of the world, he remembers the final moments as he took Ares’ life. When Diana awoke from a mere state of unconsciousness, Bruce knew that she’d only try to stop his new faction of war. When she reached for the helmet, he struck her down, and accepted his new fate.
Reed Strong’s Strong Read: The Merciless is another one of the more linear entries in the story of the Dark Knights, but manages to highlight what really tends to make these work when they do and work not as well as they don’t. The Merciless and The Dawnbreaker told compelling stories, they had an affected Bruce and a new world of chaos gone wrong, but they were the result of a single split-second decision. Bruce gets a green lantern ring and murders his parents’ killer, Bruce takes the helm of War and becomes a god. In some of the other one-shots, we saw a Bruce Wayne dealing with a new tragedy, and making mistakes. It took a battle with the Flash and the insanity to strap him to the Batmobile in order to enter the speed force to truly create the Red Death, and the Murder Machine was a result of a true horror story that Bruce ended up losing. None of these issues have been disappointing, but some don’t do as much as the other. The Merciless is exactly that; he took war into his own hands and fights his fight. The summit of military forces was a fun little collection of who’s who, but despite compelling art and another fun origin of darkness, this issue didn’t hit the heights of Metal’s insanity so far, but sets up more to come.