Mother's Day With Martha Wayne
Unless we're counting Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's version of Abraham Lincoln's mom, it's hard to beat Martha Wayne when it comes to comic book mothers.
I mean, sure, Jor-El and Lara may have been brilliant scientists, but he's the one who built the rocket while she was off slapping time-traveling reporters around or (depending on whether or not Superboy was punching a wall this week) loading up a gestation matrix with her genetic code. And really, Martha Kent may have been a living saint, but the Waynes were so good that an entire city became a hellish nightmare of crime and thematic villainy after they were killed.
And yet, what do we really know about her? At least with Bruce's dad, Thomas, we know that he patented a medical technique that made the Waynes even richer than they already were, occasionally liked to dress up as a bat and attend costume parties, spent some time doing charity work down in Santa Prisca, didn't take any guff from a cheap hood with a gun, and had a moustache that was a law unto itself.
And here's what we know about Martha:
1) She had an affinity for pearls.
2) Her name was Martha Wayne.
And that's why Batman: Death and the Maidens is so awesome.
Death and the Maidens, if you'll remember, is the nine-part Greg Rucka/Klaus Janson mini-series that tells what is (theoretically) the last Ra's al-Ghul story, and it is incredible. The whole thing's full of torture, revenge, kryptonite, lazarus pits, and Batman making Ubu look like a chump, all framed in a structure that focuses on the interplay of Ra's al-Ghul's mission and how it relates to Batman's, and what they've both lost in their singleminded pursuit of a perfect world.
See, Ra's wants the whereabouts of the last Lazarus Pit, but Batman's been staying one step ahead of him for the past few years, essentially paving them over and building, I don't know, Big Belly Burgers on top of them before Ra's can revitalize himself. So in order to get Batman to knock it off, Ra's offers a trade: A potion that'll allow Batman to see his parents.
Batman refuses initially, but his curiosity eventually gets to him, and while Bruce slips into a hallucination where he's trying to gather up the pearls from his mother's necklace and put them all back together, trying desperately to make things like they were, she shows up:
The fact that the first thing she ever tells her son is that nothing he does will ever change the fact that she died horribly in front of him is oddly comforting, and does more to change Batman's mission from one of revenge to one of prevention than chasing Lew Moxon into traffic ever did.
Anyway, after the comforting motherly stuff is quickly dealt with, we get to find out more about the real Martha Wayne. And she's awesome.
There's so much in the history of Batman that revolves around his father, whether it's his appeal for guidance in Year One, or the constant references to "my father's house" in the Loeb/Sale books, but as Bruce and his dead mother walk around Gotham City over the course of three issues, Greg Rucka makes it abundantly clear that he's every bit her son as much as Thomas's.
After she pulls Bruce out of his hallucination, she comforts him exactly long enough to make sure he's all right--or at least, as all right as you can be when you're Batman--she immediately moves on to something else, forcing him to stand for himself and keep up with her, and if that's not a parallel to the way Batman treats people, I don't know what is.
Even better, she's not only smart and clever, but she's got that dry, sardonic wit that doesn't suffer fools well. She's appearing to Bruce as he remembers her, bloodstained and shot, and when he asks her why she has "that wound," she tells him: "You know why. I was shot. I remember it being quie painful, actually."
Come on, that's awesome.
But the best thing about her, the one thing that shows how much like Batman she actually is, is that she doesn't take any shit. All through the sequence, and even in the issues following, Bruce is skeptical that the whole thing's real, a fact that he brings up often.
And she lets him, for the first few times. After all, he's her kid, and you don't raise a boy as stubborn as Bruce Wayne without the patience of a saint. But then, he crosses the line, calling her a mockery of his mother.
And we all know what happens when you cross the line with your mom.
That's right. Batman gets slapped in the face for being rude. And it's not Thomas Wayne and his moustache giving Batman the "I-brought-you-into-this-world-and-I-can-take-you-out" speech either. It's Martha, giving you the idea that if she hadn't been busy protecting her son, she would've gone after that mugger herself for giving her that kind of sass in Crime Alley.
And that's why she is The Best Mother In Comics.
But of course, the Baddest Mother is still Shaft.
Happy Mother's Day, Martha. And Happy Mother's Day, Shaft.