One of Batman’s most consistent strategies against villains just proved completely useless against Gotham City’s latest criminals.
WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Batman #108 by James Tynion IV, Jorge Jimenez, Tomeu Morey, and Clayton Cowles, on sale now
Since he first appeared in 1972’s Batman #242 by Denny O’Neil, Irv Novick, and Dick Giordano, the Matches Malone persona has been one of Batman’s most useful tools for infiltrating the criminal corners of Gotham City. However, it’s a strategy that might need a bit more work for the ever-changing face of crime.
In Batman #108, the Dark Knight just tried to use Matches Malone against the Unsanity Collective, only for the plan to fall apart almost immediately since these villains weren’t fooled by the identity in the slightest.
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Mister Wyze, Miracle Molly and their allies in the Unsanity Collective have been moving through the cracks in modern Gotham City, sewing chaos and turning their attention to the people who control mass media within Gotham. Seeking to bring a new view of the world to the city in the aftermath of “Joker War,” the group has increasingly drawn the attention of Batman and his allies. Deciding to investigate further, Batman has infiltrated the Unsanity Collective as a prospective new recruit, specifically arriving in disguise as Matches Malone. The classic criminal alter ego has long given Batman a trick he could use to sneak past the wandering eyes of Gotham’s criminal element, giving him the ability to sneak into Gotham’s underworld and investigate on their level.
However, it turns out that the current batch of criminals are far more discerning than the people Batman previously used the tactic against. After arriving at Mister Wyze base in Batman #107 and asking for the chance to join the group, “Matches” was quickly dragged inside and beaten by Breaker, one of Mister Wyze’s men. It turns out that Breaker immediately had “Matches” pegged for an undercover cop, quickly noting that Malone is “almost all muscle” and unquestionably dangerous. Mister Wyze isn’t sure he’s a police officer but notes that he’s been trained to defend against psychics, something a lowlife like “Matches” shouldn’t be able to achieve. This proves to him that at the very least, Matches is hiding the truth of who is, removing its strength as a strategy.
Despite it being obvious that Matches isn’t who he says he is, Miracle Molly suggests that no matter what, he deserves the chance to be someone else. That’s the lesson of the Unsanity Collective, a group that can work together to help change how people see themselves. But it’s clear that none of the leadership of the Unsanity Collective is fooled at all by Matches Malone.
Matches has been used to great effect in the past, with Batman being capable of using the identity to find out plenty of dangerous elements around Gotham City. But in the modern era, Batman has been having to adapt his war on crime. He no longer has the unlimited wealth of the Wayne fortune, his allies have splintered, even his oldest ally Alfred is dead.
Now, another one of Batman’s most traditional and useful tools is gone. While Matches Malone might still work on other, older criminals in Gotham, the brand of villain that the Unsanity Collective represents won’t be nearly as easy to fool, especially after Miracle Molly is able to quietly decipher that he’s really Batman. It’s another hint that Gotham is becoming something Batman will have more trouble contending with — subtly helping set up the landscape of Future State just as much as the pending creation of the Magistrate program thanks to Simon Saint. It might be time for Batman to retire — or at least reevaluate — Matches Malone as a tactic. But with another tool in his war against crime shelved, Batman might run out of viable strategies sooner than he realizes.
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