Monday, May 31, 2010

Batman: War Games (Review)


Citizen's Grade: Impressive.

This is another awesome Batman event, which spans 5 volumes, and never has a dull moment. A team of writers (including Ed Brubaker, Bill Willingham, A.J. Lieberman, & Anderson Gabrych) and artists took part in this crossover which spanned all the Batman monthly comics at the time. Ed Brubaker is an especially good detective writer, which makes all his writing with "detective-type" characters great (Batman, Daredevil, & currently Captain America).

Batman: War Drums. War has hit Gotham City...but the stage was set in the issues collected in this action-packed trade paperback! The startling prelude to "War Games"! A talented pop star goes missing and Leslie Thompkins, the most important woman in Bruce Wayne's life, vanishes. Batman is drawn into an all-out battle for the section of Gotham City known as The Hill, but is taxed to the limit by new threats and trouble within his circle of allies. And when Tim Drake gives up his Robin identity after his father discovers his secret, Batman gets an unexpected — and unwelcome — replacement in the form of Spoiler!

Batman: War Games (3 Volumes). The plot revolves around a gang war involving all the major criminal groups in Gotham. It starts with one of Batman's most ambitious contingency plans involving one of his aliases, Matches Malone. In preparation for a possible outbreak of uncontrollable gang violence, Batman developed an elaborate scenario that would unite all of Gotham's underworld under a single crime boss: Matches Malone.

Unfortunately, this plan was discovered by Stephanie Brown, aka Spoiler, who was serving as Robin at the time and who was unaware that Malone and her boss were one and the same; she simply believed that Malone was an "employee" of Batman. When Brown was fired from the Robin position, she attempted to regain Batman's trust and confidence by implementing the contingency plan without Batman's knowledge or participation. Thus, Matches Malone was not present when Spoiler assembled the leaders of all of the gangs into one place. The meeting ended disastrously, with all of the gangs in Gotham going to war with one another.

In the chaos of the city-wide gang war, The Black Mask prepared to seize control of all the gangs. To do this, he kidnapped Stephanie and tortured her for the information she possessed. With that knowledge, his plans succeeded, making him the ultimate crime lord of Gotham City. Stephanie would later die from her torture at Black Mask's hands, a tragedy that Batman holds himself responsible for.

Batman: War Crimes. In the wake of Gotham's recent, and brutal, gang war, Batman is blamed by the city for the recent chaos, and heavily criticized for endangering children. (This latter follows the death of Stephanie Brown, as well as having been photographed carrying a young girl, shot during the War Games arc, from a school. The girl died soon after.)

As Batman attempted to deal with his guilt for the death of his friends Spoiler and Orpheus, he discovered another betrayal that fundamentally altered his relationship with one of his oldest, and most respected, friends. Staunch pacifist Dr. Leslie Thompkins had allowed the Spoiler (Stephanie Brown) to die from her wounds, in order to punish the Batman for his use of children in his war on crime.

These Volumes are a gritty, down-to-earth story involving the worst sins of humanity played out in Batman's Gotham City....the death of Spoiler casts a shadow over The Batman that would last for years to come.

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