Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Knightfall 16: Black Sunday

My boyhood comics collection really didn't contain many issues of JLA or similar magazines. (Neither does my adult collection, for that matter.) I've just never been that interested in large-group superhero sagas, with the possible exception of The Authority--and I would happily dispense with most of the characters in that one, too. It's the same reason I have no use for Batman's or Superman's extended families of fellow heroes: I'd rather see them work alone. (Those two are orphans, after all.) I know that in the post-modern era we're supposed to find it amusing to watch the individual members of the Justice League or Teen Titans or X-Men or the Avengers all bickering among themselves, but that thought strikes me as about as exciting as observing the day-to-day workings of a law firm or corporation. If I want office politics, I'll go to my office, dammit.

Even so, I do enjoy tales where a big bunch of good guys is brought to their knees--literally, if possible--by one or more supervillains. No surprise there, I guess: since I find the humiliation of one hero to be so hot, the idea of a whole truckload of them brought down is even hotter.

That's why the latest developments in my personal "Ratman" adventures hold such special appeal (if that's the right word) at the moment. In the early days of my encounters with the Monk, it was just me against him--and, later, me under him. But as more and more readers of this blog have joined in the storyline (and more are always welcome--M is hungry for fresh meat), the cast of characters has gotten far larger, and I find myself with a veritable Justice League of my own, with a suitably international ensemble: a British Batman, a Texan Superman, a Canadian Robin, and so on. From time to time I introduce these men to each other, forge alliances, etc. For a while, this gave me hope that I might somehow escape M's clutches.

But just as membership has its priviliges, it also has its down side. As Ratman, I am under orders to turn each of these characters over to my master, and he picks and chooses which of them he will work on. Thus, the Monk has a stable of his own, thanks in part to me. Last week, one of my closest comrades in this complex counter-world took me completely by surprise and administered a drug to me, designed by the Monk to make me both more subservient and more evil. Then the two of us were assigned to take down a third hero, one whose relationship to M actually predates my own by several years.

We did so a couple of days ago, during an event I've already come to think of as "Black Sunday." The unique torment of my present condition is that I'm fully aware of my past as Batman and thus how wrong it is for me to now be working for my former archenemy, and yet I'm powerless to resist. As a result of Black Sunday, I have now dragged another good man down, an act which looms heavy on my conscience (or would, if the drug would allow me to feel remorse). The same goes for Superman, my partner in crime. A further effect of the drug compels me to report any backsliding on his part--and I now risk our victim turning me in should I ever come to my senses. Thus, M has established a brilliant system of checks and balances, a self-policing triangle of helpless slaves.

In other words, I'm now living through yet another of those scenarios that brought me such dizzying pleasure in the comics: I am not just a minion, I am part of a cadre of minions, all former legends, now kneeling at the feet of the man who brought them down. Like everything else about my dreamworld saga under the control of the Monk, it's both repellent and irresistible.

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