Batman Road To No Man’s Land 2 Review By Deffinition
DC mega events can often be hit and miss. We go from the spectacular such as Knightfall to the mundane I.e. Hush and just because there’s hype around a book doesn’t mean that it will always deliver.
Gotham has been destroyed by plague, Earthquakes and Mother Nature really seems to have it out for the city. I criticised the last volume for being too by the numbers. The plot suffered heavily in my opinion due to its reliance on repeating several beats from the far superior ‘Batman: Cataclysm.’ However, as mentioned earlier there is always the potential for a book to make good on it’s promises.
That’s why I’m drawing a line in the sand on the disappointing Volume 1 and going into Volume 2 with open eyes.
Will this book right the wrongs of the last arc or is it doomed to make this road one of the worst I’ve traveled on so far in my Batman Canon Read through?
Let’s find out!
Scratch one off for Good Comic Books
The book opens on Azrael travelling to Washington to protect a senator from rock and roll star turned religious cultist: Nick Scratch. Instantly I groaned and when they used dialogue like:
‘Hey everybody, everybody except for Jabba the Hutt. I see you in sitting in the back Jabba, looking for Leia? Hey bad news, she’s run off with the Emporer.’
I didn’t exactly have high hopes for the work. Scratch doesn’t really make a compelling villain in the beginning and I found it hard to see why he had been propelled to a religious figure when he was an absolute moron. I’m talking Joey Essex moron, I’m talking all of Geordie Shore combined levels of IQ and an idiot as an antagonist isn’t exactly what I crave when picking up a book about The Dark Detective.
For some reason Azrael saves the senator, then let’s him visit Scratch straight after. Of course the politician is immediately murdered. Nice work Az, I can see why you didn’t get totally written out of the New 52…oh…wait. Azarael confronts the musician who of course reveals his master plan instantly and the two face off.
Scratch escapes, framing Azarael in the process. Whilst I normally find this story beat a cliche it’s nice that Batman turns up to inform him that he is no longer allowed to don a mask. Vigilantism is over for him. Whilst we know that the crimson crusader (sorry I don’t think Azrael has any nick names so I have to just go with one I’ve made up myself to make him sound more interesting) would return it’s admirable that the writers realised how much of a f**k up the story was. I suppose the ends don’t justify the means but it made me forgive some of the misgivings of this stories introduction.
A whole new World
The quality quickly picks up when we encounter Oracle being saved by Man-Bat. The femme fatale and feral fiend befriend one another and go for a fly through the city. Like Beauty and The Beast crossed with Aladdin we are granted the chance to view Gotham City with wondrous eyes from above. It’s a really welcome tonal shift that vastly juxtaposes the street level view we are often given with Batman. It showcases Gotham’s grace and grandure in such a splendid way that would make even the most downtrodden feel uplifted.
We are quickly taken back to ground level but it’s nice to have such a triumphant moment set amongst all the rubble and devastation within the city.
Wayne in Washington
Bruce Wayne journeys to Gotham to negotiate the Senate into giving aid to Gotham. Vastly outnumbered in the polls it raises the serious question of ‘is Gotham even worth saving?’ If a crime ridden city like it were to exist I can honestly see politicians saying that it is worthless and should be left to fester and die. We live in a world of Donald Trumps and Theresa Mays. Incompassionate politicians, controlled by corporations, who often refuse to help others in need should it not be ‘cost effective’. This greed is easy to relate to. We often turn away from giving to others incase we lose anything, with Taxes being used as a fear mongering word to look the other way, but in my eyes it’s a foolish way to exist.
Which is why I love that Bruce really rally’s against this mindset. Giving a breathtaking speech at the senate we recap the history of Gotham and applaud the struggles that Bruce has had to endure, like his city. It’s a wonderful recap of The Caped Crusaders run thus far and really hits a home run with its message. Don’t turn away from others just because it’s the easy thing to do.
It really elevates the story above the comic book cliches that plagued it before and this is one of the standout issues in the run thus far.
Gordon Gets Gone
Running in the background of this book is Gordon’s need to leave Gotham. It’s the first time in the entire run that we’ve ever seen him even doubt his position in the city so it packs a big punch. Signifying that this may be the end for the city it lets the reader know that the odds are stacked against the metropolis and that there is little chance it will recover.
Luckily for us due to Gotham’s reputation Gordon is laughed out of almost every interview. We feel a sense of pity for the character, knowing how much he has sacrificed but it’s a bittersweet moment that let’s us know that even if he doesn’t want to, Gordon will remain Commissioner.
The Lunatics Are Running The Asylum
One of the unanswered questions since ‘Cataclysm’ is ‘what is happening within Arkham Asylum?‘ At the mid point we are granted full access to the macabre location and things aren’t looking good.
With staff numbers dwindling by the day the patients begin to slowly take control over the few professionals that remain. After changing the medication notes on each patient a riot ensues. It’s like that time that one kid at school who used to always take ecstasy took twenty pills one day, showed up and punched a teacher, times twenty. What do you mean that never happened at your school? What a loser you are, no wonder you’re reading comic book reviews on the internet.
Anyway, similar to how the headteacher turned up to stop Mr. Brown getting his teeth kicked in, Batman arrives at the scene.
Or so we think.
He is merely an orderly disguised as the Caped Crusader, the lunatics murder him and over run the entire building. Arkham has no other choice but to set them free or suffer the same fate.
It’s a great chapter about self sacrifice, juxtaposed with surviving at any cost and it broadly depicts the duality that exists within us all.
The Devil Has His Due
The book ends with Azrael redeeming himself and being accepted once more into the Bat Family. Unfortunately it’s too late, The Senate at Washington decide against giving aid to Gotham and it becomes ‘No Man’s Land.’
Batman: Road To No Man’s Land 2 is an enjoyable book if not slightly inconsistent. Starting off terribly it suffers from having a lacklustre villain that is truly rooted in the 1990s. Luckily for it though it also possesses timeless ideologies of hope and self sacrifice. Several aspects of it are still relevant today and because of this it acts as a worthwhile set up to what is coming next.
That’s why it gets a…
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