Gotham is ostensibly a haven for bats… and for cursed bats. The filth overrunning the city’s streets and gutters spawned two versions of this winged creature, both of whom are cursed but couldn’t be more different than the other. The more ubiquitous of the two, the Batman, was molded by the tragic murder of his parents, becoming obsessed with bringing other criminals to justice without subjecting them to the same fate that befell his parents. While overwhelmed and usually outmatched in his endeavors, Batman maintains some semblance of control in his pursuit thereof. And although his transformation comes at the expense of his personal life, Bruce Wayne finds some form of happiness with Catwoman, even though their relationship is apparently doomed.
The other, Man-Bat, is driven by his interminable need to cure the hearing-impaired and to prove himself a hero. But his situation is exacerbated by the very thing that bestows him his power: the Man-Bat serum. It not only rips his personal life to shreds on a perpetual basis but makes all future connections seem impossible, all while keeping control just out of reach. Just how much worse Dr. Robert Kirkland “Kirk” Langstrom has it than Batman is on full display and easily proven within Man-Bat #1 written by Dave Wielgosz with art by Sumit Kumar.
Kirk is at the mercy of numerous forces. Two of them are at odds, but only one prevails. On one side are his feelings for Dr. Francine Langstrom. He describes it as a love he couldn’t fight no matter how hard he tried, a failure that eventually leads to them tying the knot. On the other is his addiction to his Man-Bat serum that controls him so completely that it tears apart that marriage, the very thing that he was bound by and what had been perceived as, up until that point, an unstoppable force.
When Kirk transforms into the Man-Bat, he falls at the mercy of a third force that causes him to lose all control of his actions. His latest bout proves this best as it results in millions of dollars of collateral damage and hundreds of injuries sustained by innocent bystanders – with some falling into comas while others, ironically, losing their hearing, the very impairment that compelled Kirk to create the serum in the first place. On top of that, a fourth force now holds the reins to his destiny. Repeated exposure to the serum has led to the Man-Bat taking Kirk over from within, an unfortunate predicament that will eventually culminate in his inevitable demise.
The ultimate comparison between both bats manifests near the end of the issue with the juxtaposition of both characters in varying states: One is strapped to an examining table while the other lists the former’s faults and impending fate like some gothic judge. Guess which one is Batman? During this time, Kirk desperately tries to bring down Bruce to his own level when he asks, “Has being a bat destroyed your life, too?” Sure, it has. But not anywhere near to the extent that the Man-Bat has destroyed, and is currently destroying, his.