Last night I read the story The Devil You Know (written by Devin Grayson, pencils by Roger Robinson, inks by John Floyd) in Gotham Knights #24 right before I went to bed, and then I couldn't fall asleep for quite some time. It's not that it was particularly scary, but I found it somehow disturbing to see Bruce like that.
Bruce is never the most stable person or mentally healthy superhero, and in Cavernous in Gotham Knights #18, we already see him talking to a bat in his cave as if it was a person and answered back, but during The Devil You Know Bruce is has clearly crossed the line to insanity, IMO. He not only talks to an embodiment of his Batman persona as if it was entirely separate from himself as Bruce, he also doesn't remember things he did not even a week prior as Bruce Wayne (though also on the urging of the "Batman" persona). I'm not familiar with all the nuances of psychiatric disorders, so I don't know if it's some disassociate state, or a multiple personality disorder, but as Bruce Wayne, when he is not becoming the Batman persona, he hears voices in his head, urging him to do things (like to buy the weapon to overcome his fear of firearms as Bruce Wayne, not only as "Batman"), things he then later doesn't remember doing, he sees and talks to entities existing only in his head, and I found that absolutely chilling. Especially because Bruce seems to be almost afraid that "Batman" could abandon him, or more likely completely swallow and suppress the "Bruce Wayne" part of his person, if Bruce doesn't do the things it demands, like mastering firearms as Bruce Wayne, not only as Batman. It says to Bruce: "I don't carry dead weight. If you want me to believe that you've conquered your fears--you'll have to prove it." And during that scene Bruce stands there small and dejected, while the Batman is looming and larger than life. And the last image of Bruce kneeling in front of the painting of his parents, crying with the Batman casting its shadow over him and his parents' picture, when he wasn't able to practice with the hated gun as Bruce, even though he had given in to the Batman and bought one...wow.
I haven't read the other Batman titles from around that time yet, not even all the Gotham Knights issues (so far only #14-23), so I'm not familiar with all that led to this breakdown, but even without context this story packed quite a punch for just 22 comic pages.
I really hope they follow up on this breakdown in the next issues, which is the Bruce Wayne: Murderer? story. Unfortunately I haven't managed to get all parts of that one yet. I'm still missing Birds of Prey #39, Nightwing #66, and Robin #98, i.e. part five, six and nine of the thirteen parts (twelve and a prologue).
Those are the moments when my "comic collector self" is at odds with my "comic reader self." After some research comparing the TPBs with the single issues, I've decided to get the single issues, also because I've been not really happy with the collections of Officer Down and Hunt For Oracle, which both are also missing parts. Officer Down is missing Batgirl #12, and Hunt for Oracle Birds of Prey #19 which according to DC's description is already an x-over issue, a prelude to the Hunt For Oracle story line, and in Birds of Prey #20 (which is reprinted) they refer to meeting then. Not to mention that the TPB ends in a cliffhanger, though I guess that's unavoidable since it seems to be the start of the whole next arc in the BOP series, still it sort of sucked reading a TPB ending in such way. Also in the Nightwing TPBs I've noticed that sometimes not all pages of the issues are reprinted.
Still to get most of the parts of a story fast the TPBs (when available) are the most convenient method. But as a collector there is little fun in simply ordering a TPB and have the story all at once. For a while I hadn't seriously indulged in collecting, and just bought mostly new comics, and I had almost forgotten how much fun it is to track down back issues. It is of course incredibly frustrating as a reader to miss some comic book right in the middle of a story, and to either skip parts, or wait with reading the others, but as a collector there is a lot of fun (at least for me) in looking for comics, in browsing through comic stores and on-line shops with a list of comics I'm looking for and then finding some of them, and crossing another item of my list. That only turns into frustration when I'm unable to find a comic for years despite efforts, or simply can't afford it.
I only do that for comics I really like, for example I looked for the first Bone comic books in single issues even though I already had read them in TPBs, because I decided after getting the first two paperbacks that I really liked the comic, and I wanted all of it in its original form. In most cases getting a comic in single issues tends to be slightly (or even a lot) more expensive than getting a collection (unless perhaps one is very skilled in hunting for comics, very good at haggling, and/or very patient), but unless the price differences are totally beyond my means at the time I don't mind it much. Right now I usually won't buy a single comic book if it costs more than $8-10. It's no that I think there's anything wrong in principle with paying more, or even much more money for a single issue if one wants it, it's just not really my price range at the moment. For example, I would like to have a copy of BOP #8 (Nightwing has a guest appearance and obviously something in his and Barbara's relationship starts there, at least I think it's what makes this issue so much more popular than #7 or #9 for example), but if it is offered at all it costs around $80 and even if the grade is just fine and not near mint it's still half of that. And in relation to the total amount of money I can spend on comics that's just too much for single issue. I mean, it's that one or thirty other comics I'm also still missing...
Anyway, the "reader voice" in my head is a bit bitchy right now, whining that I could have bought and read Bruce Wayne: Murderer?, Fugitive and also the Cataclysm TPB by now, if I hadn't decided on single issues for all of those, whereas the "collector" is all happy, because that part of me gets a thrill each time I get a new issue and doesn't care that I can't read any of them as long as I'm still missing random issues. I try to appease the whiny "reader voice" by pointing out that the TPBs wouldn't have contained all the issues or all pages of all issues, that for example according to my information the Cataclysm TPB reprints only 14 issues, and I'm not even sure it contains all pages of those. According to the info I've found it misses the Azrael issue, one of the Catwoman issues, the first of the Robin issues, as well as the Arkham special issue.
Yet I also have a large pile of comics I can't read right now, insists the whiny "reader voice", thus sometimes it wins, and I go for the (often) cheaper instant gratification of buying a collection. Like I did so with the early Nightwing issues. And promptly I'm discontent in places with the selections they made for some of the collections *grin*.
As Goethe's Faust once said "Zwei Seelen wohnen, ach! in meiner Brust [...]"
Well, at least I'm not nearly as schizophrenic as poor Bruce...