The story begins with the Dark Knight investigating the murder of a 15-year-old black boy by a white police officer. The crimes takes place when the boy exits his father’s bodega in Gotham City after fighting with a local gang. He then encounters the officer, and before he can oblige his demand to lie down, the officer fatally shoots him in the stomach.
The image of the dead, unarmed black teen will likely remind readers of the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida. The fictional character’s body is left on the street “for the crows,” reminding readers of how Brown’s body was reportedly left on the street for four hours after he was killed. The boy is also portrayed wearing a hoodie, an apparent direct nod to the appearance of Martin on the night he was killed.
The comic book arrives over a year after the shooting of Brown and more than three years after the shooting of Martin. Since these incidents, as well as the deaths of several other unarmed black citizens, including Eric Garner, Walter Scott, Freddie Gray and Sandra Bland, the #BlackLivesMatter movement has grabbed national headlines, bringing attention to police brutality allegedly spurred by racism.
The issue (Batman #44) is titled “A Simple Case,” yet the message of the story is that this case actually quite complex. For instance, Batman does not take his anger over the boy’s death out on the “frightened” officer, as some might expect.
Lead writer of the issue Scott Snyder is hoping to make the point that punishing one officer won’t solve the problem.
“Of course you want Batman to beat this officer up, and be like, ‘How could you?’ But the point of the issue is that wouldn’t solve the problem,” Snyder told The Guardian. “Batman throwing the officer off a roof, or throwing the officer in jail, it wouldn’t get to the heart of the matter at all. And that’s the thing I think is ultimately infuriating.”
In “A Simple Case,” the supposed hero is actually the police commissioner who addresses the institutionalized racism in his city, which arguably could provide a blueprint for real-life law enforcement agencies around the country.
Batman #44 went on sale this Wednesday, and is already receiving praise for its realistic and relevant subject matter.