I’m of two minds.
Life is valuable; once taken, it’s gone (then again, the revolving door of deaths and resurrections can make killing someone seem less permanent), Batman shouldn’t set out to kill people. Then again, there are definitely circumstances in which killing someone is, if not good, then at least justifiable. That’s just a fact. When you engage with people who are trying to kill, you sometimes have to do what you have to do. So the answer is, as usual, complicated. It’s good to hold people accountable under the rule of law, but it isn’t always possible to arrest them and get them to trial.
I get that Batman’s not real, and that having symbols who represent high moral standards are good, but we have to recognize that reality rarely allows us to hold to extremes in any way. Plus, let’s be honest; plot armor is the only reason the Joker survives. Everything else is a rationalization.
Even if Batman didn’t set out to kill, anytime a situation becomes violent, the potential for death or life-altering injury exists; this is why many of the people put in situations like that act to end those situations as quickly as possible, and then deal with the consequences when they have the luxury to stop and do so.
To reiterate, I don’t think that Batman should be a killer, he should to everything in his power to avoid killing and to save people who are in danger. But he’s fighting a war, and all wars have casualties, even if he hates it. Frankly, I think that, from a storytelling perspective, this is the superior option. Exploring how a character with high standards deals with a complicated world that doesn’t always allow him to live up to his own ideals is fertile ground for telling interesting stories.
Anyone else a fan of the JSA: the Liberty Files Elseworld? One of the things I found interesting about it was that it showed a Batman who had the same aversion to killing, but put him in a situation where he didn’t really have a choice in the matter.