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Saturday, July 13, 2024

The Batman-Fortnite crossover comic is out, and I think I like it?

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Fortnite’s new Batman crossover comic is out today, the first of a six-issue storyline. As far as marketing stunts go, it’s not very surprising but a couple tidbits have me somewhat curious where the tale will go, and if it will add anything meaningful to Fortnite’s lore. I’ve been tough on Fortnite’s story, which feels like it’s been treading water for years now, and Batman’s canonical interjection might just give this aimless narrative some real stakes, at least emotionally.

Following in the reality-tearing footsteps of season 5 and season 6, issue 1 of Batman/Fortnite: Zero Point drags the Caped Crusader into the Fortnite universe. A dimensional rift opens up above the skies of Gotham, and Batman follows Harley Quinn into the battle royale island. Unfortunately, it goes about as well as his visit to the Court of Owls, and he promptly gets attacked by a wealth of Fortnite characters.

Thus far, it’s a pretty familiar setup to the in-game comic that debuted Thor for season 4’s Marvel crossover, with plenty of teases to come, I’m sure. What interests me is one minor implication: As Batman is being ambushed by one of Fortnite’s more wild characters, he discovers he’s been turned into a mute, unable to utter a single world. When some sign language fails to communicate any nuance, he similarly discovers that he has lost any memory of who he is.

What follows is a series of fistfights with other Fortnite characters, alongside Catwoman, who Batman immediately feels a distinct connection to.

Though we saw this a little bit with Thor’s comic, his mind similarly wiped, I do genuinely love the implications of what entering the Fortnite battle royale loop does to someone. It makes all those marketing tie-ins a little tragic. Batman has lost all sense of who he is, aside from his natural instincts. Kratos, Lara Croft, Master Chief, Black Panther, and all the others—they probably have no idea of the worlds and loved ones they’re leaving behind.

That thread gives  weight to what Jonesy and the dimension-hopping Foundation are trying to pull off throughout season 6. It’s not simply about defeating a great evil or saving the universe (although there’s certainly plenty of that), it’s about rescuing everyone stuck getting kicked, punched, shot, and exploded over and over again with very little concept of why they’re there or why they’re forced to die. It also means that Jonsey thinks  the end justifies the means , that his truly messed up strategy of dragging heroes into the battle royale will eventually end the cycle. The IP in Fortnite stands for intellectual prison. Considering Jonesy formerly worked for some sort of group that wants the loop to continue, this is doubly dark.

Batman’s first issue culminates in him and Catwoman defeating every single one of their opponents, only to realize that the all-consuming storm is still closing in around them. Batman’s inner monologue turns to death—actual death—as he and Selena Kyle look at each other longingly, unaware that the loop is doomed to repeat. 

For a game that’s heavily marketed to kids, this acknowledgement that Fortnite carries some weight of mortality is a peculiar one. We’ve only ever seen death expressed in a typically cartoonish way: A character exploding offscreen, or being converted into a banana smoothie, not literally passing away for good. Epic is clearly invested in marketing Fortnite to kids as well as young adults who can more competently grapple with the concept of death, and if this is the kind of emotional depth they want to work in, I’m all for it.

Then again, maybe I’m just thinking a little too hard about it all. This is, after all, another step in whatever Epic is cooking up for their next big seasonal or marketing event. We’ve got five issues left in the Batman storyline, two of which are due out in May, so odds are we’ll get some more answers in due time. 

Whatever happens, I just hope Epic finally understands that it’s fine for a story to have some stakes, even if it’s by comic book standards. We’re never that worried about the fate of Batman or other heroes. We know they’ll inevitably return in some fashion. The question is whether or not they or Fortnite’s world will be changed in some way that lasts. I want more people to truly care about Fortnite’s story. That would only be a good thing. But it’ll take momentum from something beyond space opera set pieces and tertiary lore dumps before long. 

Fortnite/Batman: Zero Point issue 1 is available now on most major services, like Kindle or ComiXology. It’ll cost you $4.99 an issue, but your money also gets you a code for free in-game cosmetic items. Issue 1’s code will get you a new “Rebirth Harley Quinn” skin based on her outfit seen in the opening pages.

Players who redeem all six codes will also be able to get themselves an “Armored Batman Zero” skin. We’ll keep you updated on when those new items become available.

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