I want to discuss the legal aspects of Detective Comics: Futures End # 1 and there is literally no way I can proceed without discussing its ending. So if you haven’t read Detective Comics: Futures End # 1 and you don’t want to know how it ends, stop reading now. Come back after you have read it. If, on the other hand, you have read the comic in question or you simply don’t care that I’m about to give away the ending, then continue reading.
This has been a test of the Emergency SPOILER WARNING! System. We now return you to your regularly scheduled column already in progress.
The story opened five years from now – remember, the DC books coming out in September this year all tie into the weekly Future’s End http://dc.wikia.com/wiki/Futures_End series and take place five years in the future – with a scene of The Batman flying through Gotham City. Now it’s not unusual that a Detective Comics story should open with the Batman. Many of them do. What is unusual is that Batman was flying toward a large skyscraper with a huge question mark insignia on the top floor.
Clearly, it was the headquarters of The Riddler. But why would a master criminal have such an obvious and ostentatious headquarters?
It seems that sometime in the five years between now and five years from now when some futures are going to end, Batman helped broker a full pardon for the Riddler. How? I don’t know. Why? I still don’t know. (Seriously, did you think that between writing those two sentences, I went back to re-read the story, and saw something I missed the first time?) The story didn’t reveal either how or why the Riddler was pardoned. It’s one of those great mysteries we may find the answer to in the next five years. Like which came first, the chicken or the egg? Or who’s on first?
Batman needed Riddler’s help. Seven days earlier, Julian (the Calendar Man) Day broke free of his cell on Arkham Island, the new asylum of the criminally insane that was – Will be? – built in Gotham Harbor. Julian was holding several of the Arkham staff hostage.
Julian had one demand and if it wasn’t met, he was going to duplicate the city-wide blackout that the Riddler had cast over Gotham City back in the “Batman: Zero Year” story arc. Excuse me but what? When they built this new asylum for the criminally insane, did they build it over Gotham City’s main fuse box?
Because Calendar Man had hostages, Gotham City couldn’t bomb Arkham Island. And the police couldn’t storm the island because they couldn’t get past the security devices that Riddler built into it. (Yes, sometime in those event-filled five years, the Riddler, a former inmate in Arkham Asylum, designed the new version of Arkham Asylum and all of its security measures. I hope it was good therapy for Riddler, because it sure don’t make much sense otherwise.) So Batman came to Riddler so that Riddler could help Batman get past Arkham Island’s security.
While Batman and Riddler had fun stormin’ da castle, Batman told Riddler what Calendar Man’s one demand was. Several years ago, before he became Calendar Man and was still just Julian Day, Julian’s wife died. Julian started drinking, lost his job, and became muscle for the Gotham crime boss The Squid. He also physically abused his son when he got drunk. So in Detective Comics Annual v. 2 # 3, the Batman defeated all the bad guys Julian was working with, foiled their plans, and placed Julian’s son in a shelter for battered women and children. Now Julian demanded that the man who destroyed his family be brought to him or he would black out Gotham. Riddler expressed some regret at what Batman is doing. After all, Calendar Man and his thugs were going to kill Batman and Batman was the only worthy adversary Riddler ever encountered.
So, cutting to the chase – of whatever it is I’m cutting to, as this story didn’t actually have a chase scene – Batman and Riddler got past the security devices. Then Batman had an obligatory fight scene with Calendar Man’s henchmen, because there hadn’t been a fight scene yet and it was obligatory.
When Calendar Man appeared, Batman explained that Riddler helped Batman get past the security devices, so that they could deliver to Calendar Man the man responsible for destroying his family. Then Calendar Man ordered his men to take Riddler away.
Riddler asked why they were taking him, it was Batman who destroyed his family. Calendar Man said he was a rotten single parent and deserved to have his son taken away. His wife held his family together and it fell apart after her death. His wife’s death is what destroyed his family and she died in Riddler’s Zero Year blackout. Riddler was the man who destroyed his family.
As Calendar Man and his goons dragged the Riddler off to Crom knows what, Batman smiled a smug and oh-so–pleased-with-himself smile and said, “Riddle me this. How do you trap the untrappable? You get them to trap themselves.”
The end of the story and the beginning of the meat of this column, so I guess I should have included a Vegetarian Warning, too. I don’t know what Calendar Man and his goons plan to do with Riddler. Riddler thought they were going to kill and they probably are. But kill Riddler, cut him, or force him to watch Gigli; any way you slice it – or the Riddler – it’s going to be bad for the Riddler. And the Batman delivered Riddler to these men knowing something what was going to happen.
Which makes the Batman a murderer, or assaulter, or a torturer depending on what Calendar Man and his goons do to the Riddler. Let’s go with murder, because I don’t want to keep typing all the possibilities.
How so? Well the New Jersey Code of Criminal Justice, which defines the crimes for that state, has a statute – N.J.S.A. 2C:2-6 – which defines the crime of Complicity. In New Jersey a person is an accomplice to a crime, and is as guilty as the principal offender, when he or she has the intention of facilitating the offense and aids the principal offender commit the offense. You may know this crime better as name aiding and abetting, which is what it’s called in some other states. But a crime by any other name is still illegal.
If the Batman helped Calendar Man murder the Riddler and if the Batman intended to help Calendar commit that crime, then he’s as guilty of the murder as Calendar Man is. The getaway driver who takes bank robbers away from a bank robbery – or to a bank robbery – is as guilty as the actual people who actually rob the bank, because he helped them commit it. In the same way, the person who brings the victim to some murderers and who knows that they will murder the victim once they get him is as guilty of the murder as the murderers who actually commit the murder. Why? Because he helped them commit the murder by bringing the victim to them, that’s why.
Now I know that this story takes place some five years in the future, but if you think in those intervening five years someone repealed the complicity statute, you’re delusional. They may have been dumb enough to let an ex-inmate of an asylum for the criminally insane design the new asylum for the criminally insane, They may even have been dumb enough to build the new asylum for the criminal insane over the main fuse box of a major city. But repeal the complicity law at a time when the prevailing attitude on crime is you’ve got to be tougher than utility beef? No one’s that dumb.