Artists: Pete Woods, Brad Walker, Sean Phillips, Tom Derenick, Al Barrionuevo, Mike Huddleston, Paul Gulacy & Kinsun Loh
I've recently decided to go through my entire Batman collection, and review them, but in graphic novel form as it'd take ages otherwise. This is my sixth review on the series now, and I'm onto the third part of the epic War Games crossover, which was a big changing point in the Batman series.
Black Mask reveals himself, putting his final plan into action. With this also revealing that Orpheus is dead Batman has to find a way to end this war, and quickly.
This was a brilliant finale to what was a brilliant crossover event. Like my previous reviews on this crossover I won't go into detail about every writer, and artist involved, but I will say about the ones I preferred, and things I liked or disliked in general writing, and art wise. I will also list the writers, and artists, and what issue they worked on in case you're wondering what issues I'm talking about. The writers were, Andersen Gabrych (Part 1: Detective Comics #799), Dylan Horrock, (Part 2: Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #184, Part 6: Batgirl #57), Devin Grayson (Part 3: Nightwing #98), Bill Willingham (Part 4: Robin #131, Part 8: Batman #633), A. J. Lieberman (Part 5: Batman: Gotham Knights #58), Ed Brubaker (Part 7: Catwoman #36). Like the entire story arc, the writing in this book was overall brilliant, and it was full of ton's of action, whilst continuing to provide plenty of drama, and emotion. For the first time during this story arc, Willingham hasn't made it into my favourite two writers of the book, and although his work on both Robin and Batman were brilliant, the writing from Gabrych, and Horrock at the start of this book was phenomenal, and really kicked this final Act into it's top gear, setting the scene perfectly. I wasn't overly fond of Horrock's work on the previous two issues, as although not bad, the Batgirl issues didn't stick out, and although Batgirl once more wasn't phenomenal, it was better than the previous two issues, but were Horrock surpassed himself was with his writing on Legends of the Dark Knight, which continued the shocking events of Gabrych's Detective Comics issue perfectly, also continuing the action brilliantly, and smoothly. It was however like I hinted in my previous statement Gabrych's work on Detective Comics that stole the whole book, as it dropped the bombshell that set all of this book up, giving a brilliant start to what was a fantastic finale. All the other writers did a brilliant job, and although none were quite as good as Gabrych, or Horrock this time round, they were all fantastic, and made the story flow smoothly, and continue the suspense perfectly. Willingham did however come close, as Robin once again was very exciting, and Batman was a brilliant end to this astonishing story, even if they weren't quite as good as Gabrych, and Horrock's starting issues.
Like the writing, there were ton's of great artists working on this book, and it was all fantastic, but obviously some were better than others. The artists that worked on this book were, Pete Woods (Part 1: Detective Comics #799), Brad Walker (Part 2: Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #184), Sean Phillips (Part 3: Nightwing #98), Tom Derenick (Part 4: Robin #131), Al Barrionuevo (Part 5: Batman: Gotham Knights #58), Mike Huddleston (Part 6: Batgirl #57), Paul Gulacy (Part 7: Catwoman #36), and Kinsun Loh (Part 8: Batman #633). Once more the art was brilliant, and very detailed, and most of it was very good, but like the previous Acts there were certain artists that I liked more, and certain ones that I liked less. The art that I preferred in this book was from Woods, Walker, Derenick, and Barrionuevo, as their art was much more detailed, and dynamic, looking much more realistic. Most of this list are artists that have worked on their respective series throughout this story, but it was Derenick, the third artist to work on the Robin series throughout this story arc that stood out, as although his art wasn't as beautiful as say Walker's, it did have a lot more emotion in it, and the way he drew the facial expressions was brilliant, really making the issue feel more alive. The rest of the art was good, but I still wasn't too fond of Gualacy's art, as it continues to look very awkward around the characters facial features, and although it is better than a lot of other artists it was still disappointing. The other artist that I wasn't too fond of was Phillips, as I felt it was a bit too unrealistic, as the characters looked too serious, but with this being a crossover story you expect the art to be varied in quality, and to be honest it could have been worse.
The Black Mask revealed himself in the last Act, and due to it being a bit of a surprise for people who haven't read the story before I decided not to spoil that, but due to him playing a much bigger role through this book I felt that it'd be hard to review without spoiling. Prior to War Games I wasn't much of a fan of Black Mask as a villain, and I actually didn't know much about him, as I didn't have many comics at the time, and mainly focused on the more well known villains that appeared in the 90's Animated series. Anyway, this story showed that Black Mask has gotten his game together, and that he's planned everything, and it shows. What I really liked most about Black Mask throughout this story was that he didn't really seem to care about what happened, as long as it helped his cause, which showed exactly what type of character he is.
The other surprise at the start of this Act is that Commissioner, Michael Akins orders a shoot to kill on anyone wearing a mask, whether hero, or villain. To be honest I'm not surprised that this happened, and the first time I read this story I was thinking that Batman was pushing it a bit by taking control of the police force, under-minding Akins, and making him look like a fool. Besides that with the question of whether the vigilantes are a helping, or just making things worse being one of the key focus points of this entire story, it was eventually going to come to a point were they were seen as bad guys, not any better than the villains they were trying to stop, and although it's obvious that they're working for the greater good it's easy to see why people would feel negativity towards these crime fighters, especially when they are partly the cause of the deaths of innocent citizens.
Although this didn't really have a huge affect on the story the chase/fight between Robin (Tim Drake) and Trickster was brilliant, and a really fun sequence. What I really liked about this sequence however, and the main thing I liked about the Robin issue as a whole was that Tim was very focused, and although it'd be wise to have a break, he just wanted to be useful, and play his part. The Robin issue also featured a brilliant sequence between Tim, and his father, Jack Drake, as with the hard decision to break his promise, you can still see that Tim is slightly ashamed of himself, whilst also seeing that despite being worried for his son, that Jack is also proud of what he's doing, and overall I felt that this was a really nice moment, especially considering it came during a terrible time like this.
There were casualties during this story, and although I won't mention names of anyone that died in this Act as to avoid spoilers for people who know nothing of this story, I will say what I though of these casualties of war, and how they affected the Batverse. I've already said that Orpheus died, but he wasn't the only casualty in this gang war, as there were more hero's to die. I know that this may be a spoiler in it's self, but it's a subject that I want to discuss, and I'm sure most readers, and Bat fans won't even need me to hide the name of the victim, as they'll probably know who I'm talking about. When I first read this story I was a little shocked by this death, but after reading through this story another couple of times I can see that it was pretty obvious from early on that the victim was either going to do something truly heroic, die, or both. The affect that this death had on the Batverse wasn't quite as huge as I'd have expected, but it did take it's toll, and lead to some interesting character development.
I'll also add my thoughts on the epilogue issue in Batman #634, as although it didn't feature in this book, or any collected work, I do own the comic, and felt that it was a brilliant epilogue, but felt that it was the right thing to leave it out of the final Act, as the Act finished very dramatically, and the epilogue would leave the book on an anticlimax. Gabrych (writer of the Detective Comics during War Games), did a brilliant job of writing the issue, and Paul Lee's art really suited the tone of the issue, and overall looked amazing. I loved how the issue was very emotional, and both Gabrych and Lee did a brilliant job of showing that, and although I agree that it's the right thing to leave it out of the collection I'd still recommend getting a hold of a copy if you plan on getting this story, as it was very moving.
This was a brilliant conclusion to what was an epic story arc. It was a very entertaining book, as well as being very interesting, and dramatic, and I'll have fond memories of this story arc, as it was one of the first epic Batman stories that I read (following Hush). I would easily recommend both this book as well as the entire story arc, as it was truly outstanding, and created big changes for Batman, and his associates.
The next book I'll be reviewing from this series will be Batman: Under The Red Hood.