September 15, 2009

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Batman: No Man's Land Volume 1

Written by Bob Gale and Devin Grayson
Illustrated by by Alex Maleev, Dale Eaglesham, and Various Artists
DC

This storyline, completely unintentionally, displays why you can't do "real life" stories in comic books with powerful superheros.

Gotham is hit with a HUGE earthquake and lays in ruins. The government says "screw you." Okay, fine, so far as it goes. But that's where it falls apart, because for no good reason Bruce goes AWOL, Gotham goes to hell, and the result is a post-apocalyptic Gotham complete with gangs, food riots, and all the rest.

Because there's no other heroes that live in or near Gotham or had ties to that city which might bring them back. Nope, not a one.

As a result, this all falls apart for the reader, because it makes absolutely no DC-universe sense. You're Bruce Wayne, friends with Superman, the John Stewart Green Lantern--AN ARCHITECT FOR GOD'S SAKE, Aquaman, Martian Manhunter, etc. etc. etc. That alone would be enough to take care of this problem. Add in the fact that he's a billionaire, and it becomes even easier. Could this possibly end his secret identity? Maybe, but it would be to save his city, one last time. Thousands of lives against his secret should be a no-brainer.

Hell, let's even forget all that for a second. What about the UN? Like the international community is just going to let the United States say, "sorry, that's not a part of the world anymore" without at least some sort of an attempt at recovery? This is just really out there, and takes too much suspension of disbelief for me. Better to toss Gotham on the Moon or Mars or something, at least that would make it more believable. I'd have even taken a stupid 1950s-style forcefield. As it stands, I can't see any reason why this happens for more than say a week, two tops if a JLA mission gets in the way.

Instead, the selfish, self-serving Wayne sulks while the city falls further and further into ruin and said thousands die. So much for being a hero--no wonder Jim Gordan is pissed when this gets started.

Even if you can get past the idea that Gotham gets no help without Batman, there's the premise that whoever the writers wanted to use just so happened to stay in Gotham. From the Gordons to Alfred to the villains, as though people like the Penguin didn't have the ability to leave, everyone lines up nicely. Those who might have tried to stay, like Tim and Dick, stay away because "Bruce told them to", as though Dick has never countermanded an order from Bruce in his life.

None of this makes any sense except that DC is obsessed with epic stories and having Batman quit his job over and over again. I mean really, how many times in the last ten "real world" years has Batman quit and/or acted like he was in a vacuum now? I think I'm out of hands trying to count it on my fingers.

The first half of this one is absolutely terrible, not because of the writing--the writing is not bad at all--but because the poor writer has to try and justify this stupidity. Gale tries, but fails. Devin Grayson takes over for the second half of things, and while also not having any ability to save the overarching story, manages to make good use of the fear of a suffering populace to give the Scarecrow everything he's always wanted.

Crane infests a church community and promptly disrupts it in subtle ways, never doing anything to get caught until he's sprung the ultimate fear test. But the Huntress--NOT BATMAN--finds a way to foil his plans, as the Dark Knight (after refusing to let Tim and Dick help) flails around and watches people die instead of using his money to help them survive. He also comes off as an even bigger dick, if that's possible, manipulating Helena's desire for acceptance by using her for his dirty work. Oh, and also using criminal henchmen instead of going to Jim Gordan. Because, you know, that might make sense.

Grayson's arc saves this one from being completely worthless, but man, there's a lot of bad comic books out there that I missed when I wasn't hitting my local comic shop. Glad I didn't pay for these, I'd have felt cheated.
Your best bet is for the library as well, and if you paid for these, I'm so very sorry.