Ra’s Al Cool
Batman: Son Of The Demon was always a weird one to me when I first read it. Sure it had some great moments in it but it always struck me as more of tale that was fit for James Bond, rather than the caped crusader.
This is my second read through of the highly regarded, now 30 year old, book by Mike W. Barr and Jerry Bingham book and I absolutely LOVED Batman: Venom (which had a similar aesthetic) so I’m willing to give this another chance.
So let’s dive in…the name’s Man…..Bat….Man (already started with the terrible jokes fml).
Ra’s Al’s Fuel….???…No..
The book opens in the usual way that most Ra’s Al Ghul open. He bursts out of a Lazurs Pit now being unleashed upon the world. Refusing to break from formula it then transgresses into the usual motif of Batman taking down people in a warehouse. It’s a bit like the 1989 movie with a few badass moments thrown in to spice up the purely action scene. I couldn’t really get mad at this typical retread as it really shines with moments of greatness. I absolutely LOVED when the terrorist screams out of a window to Gordon ‘screw your negotiations’ and The Commissioner replies ‘have it your way!’ as the bat signal lights up.
From here you are instantly hit with just how dark the book truly is. There’s almost a rape, acid get’s poured on a criminal’s face and it feels like a really adult tale. I was really quite shocked from the off at just how dark it is so I think that fans of that tone in a Batman story will love it. It’s very 80’s. Very Robocop and very VERY badass.
Ofcourse this can often be taken as unintentionally funny and I chuckled slightly as a doctor went to help a wounded criminal and Batman instructed him to instead tend to a victim. He does the same thing later in the book and I didn’t realise till then how badly Barr wanted Batman to be a dickhead to people. Even if your head is split open Batman will tell the doctor to go see someone else and you can just walk it off….you idiot.
Because of this I laughed….repeatedly.
It pretty much is one of those stories where Batman likes going round belittling people, punching people for no reason and genuinely being an all round arsehole.
Much to my amusement.
If you like Batman punching people in the face…for no real reason…you will enjoy this book….then get punched in the face probably. He punches soldiers, men, women, children, he doesn’t care. Someone puts a gun in his face, he punches them and says ‘when willl you learn…everytime someone puts a gun in my face..I take it away.’ Once again I laughed. I must clarify, in a good way…I was enjoying the reading and it’s nice to see a character that feels like the most dangerous person in the room at all times.
I laughed quite frequently, especially at the fact that Batman NEVER takes his costume off throughout the entire book. This is literally like lego Batman.
In contrast, it tries to take the character to deep dark places and when Batman states that ‘everytime I close my eyes I see my parents die’ you really feel that the book is slightly above some of the mundane ones that we have encountered thus far.
Talia Al Gruel….?….No…I swear I’ll stop
One of the most interesting aspects of this book is when Batman openly accepts that Talia is the only girl for him. In a way I suppose she is. They are matched on almost every level and it’s good to see someone who is not only Batman’s equal but someone who brings out the best in him. This is the kind of girl that he would fall for. It’s quite controversial in hindsight how Batman states that he was drugged by Talia, when he clearly wasn’t. I know there are conflicts over whether this is canonical or not but I view it as a staple of Batman’s history. I remember Grant Morisson (writer of Son Of Batman) said in an interview that Batman did actually consent, he just couldn’t admit it to himself and began to pathelogically lie to that he was drugged. He refuses to show that he had a moment of weakness and regret.
I had problems with their interactions at certain sections but they do seem like a loved up couple. If you haven’t read it then you don’t know BUT….
Bruce and Talia get married. Which is a huge moment in the Batman universe that is rarely touched upon.
Ofcourse this technically means that Ra’s, one of Batman’s greatest enemies, is now his father in law. It adds an interesting dynamic to the story and it’s fascinating to discover just how similar they truly are.
END OF SPOILERS….SORT OF
With one of his biggest threats taken out of the running, Barr has to invent a new threat to thrust the plot forward and does so with Qayin. It’s here where I find that the story struggles. It delves into politics that now highly dated make it hard to follow or care about.
He sort of becomes a Bane prototype and it’s at this point that the plot jumps into the James Bond universe. There are secret lairs, army attacks and not much else. It reminds me of the old Rambo comics that I used to read as a kid. There are military operations, stealth and tactics and I would definitely recommend this tale to someone who is a fan of the Christopher Nolan style Batman. It has a lot of flair but I think may be too jarring for newcomers.
‘It’ll be the happiest baby in the world’
Another huge moment for the continuity comes when Talia discovers that she is pregnant, finally we get something I’ve been longing for in this run…Bruce talking about happiness. It’s touching and poignant especially as we know deep down that Bruce can never be a happy man.
The story doesn’t really do too much with this and we never really get an introspective look at how super heroes would deal with this situation beyond ‘stay here I’ll take down the bad guys.’ It’s because of this that I feel the story drops the ball slightly and loses some of the potential that it had.
Of course we know that the child doesn’t grow up with Bruce and it is heart breaking to see him come to the realisation that Talia has mascarried and he now must go back to his mission. The book ties up nicely with all characters having some resolution and towards the end I was really hooked in and did enjoy it’s conclusion. We are left wondering about the shades of grey that each character’s morality inhabits. Heroes must lose out on their happiness so that others don’t.
Whilst I’ve kinda talked down on this book I did really enjoy it. Sure it’s a bit dated but it has some huge moments that if paced correctly could have left an even bigger impression. The art is brilliant and at the end of it all this is a fast and fun James Bond story that stars Batman. Overall I had a good (not great) time with this and think you probably will to if you’ve liked the run so far…that’s why I’m giving Son Of The Demon a….
Leave a comment whether you agree with my ranking or not.