I really feel bad for Gotham.
Here they are, finally returned to some sense of normalcy after Bruce Wayne/Batman’s absence, and all of sudden the entire city’s quarantined due to the release of a deadly plague.
These people just cannot catch a break.
Batman: Contagion continues the dark knight’s exploits, but this time his brute strength isn’t much help. A deadly strain of the Ebola virus (comics were ahead of their time, apparently) is unwittingly brought into Gotham. The harsh reality is that the virus gives its victim terrible lesions all of the body while blood starts dripping from their eyes, before they ultimately succumb to the illness, generally within a few days of catching it.
Batman, of course, feels that he must find a way to stop the spread of the virus and bring a cure to Gotham. Unfortunately that task is not so easily done, and Batman’s first goal is to find someone who actually survived the virus so that their blood may be used to create a vaccine. All of this must be done while stopping the spread of the plague throughout the city, as well as stopping the opportunists who are looking to cash in on the hysteria.
Just another normal day in Gotham City.
While Batman is busy keeping the city under control, he sends Robin off to Greenland to follow up on a lead that there may be a survivor there. Hot on his tail is Azrael, who as it turns out is trailing Robin at the request of Batman.
Apparently Bruce thinks Robin needs a little backup on this one.
Throw Catwoman into this mess for good measure and you have a thoroughly ragtag group of people hoping to find one person.
Finding the survivor isn’t the issue; it’s actually keeping him alive once he’s found. It turns out there are plenty of wealthy people in Gotham willing to pay millions for a vaccine, which brings out the criminals in droves. Robin’s target is eventually taken out, but not before he mentions that there are two other possible survivors.
And thus the wild goose chase continues.
I’m always surprised by how much I enjoy Robin stories recently, and this trade was no exception. We even get to see a bit of an unlikely pairing, with Robin and Catwoman working together to find the surviving victim.
Catwoman is increasingly becoming one of my favorite Batman villains, though I admit that it’s her interactions with other characters, as well as her penchant for being the accidental good guy, that truly endears her to me. As much as she tries to be an unwavering cat-burgler, Selena can’t help but get drawn into vigilante work. I find this aspect of her character far more intriguing than had she been a clear-cut villain, and I hope the comics continue to play with the idea of her conflicted motives.
The story’s drama intensifies when none other than Tim Drake contracts the virus, leaving Batman to fight even more ferociously to find a cure.
Although I was a bit worried when this happened since I happen to really like Tim Drake as Robin, I hoped his illness was just to add a bit of dramatic tension to the story, and wouldn’t actually result in another Robin’s death.
Thankfully, I was right, and Robin makes a full recovery after Azrael delivers a cure to all of Gotham. At this point the main story of the comic is essentially over, with Gotham receiving inoculation en masse. With thousands dead, the city must slowly attempt to rebuild, all while grieving the numerous losses it has suffered.
For some reason the storyline continues, with a few unconnected Batman stories rounding out the trade. These were less compelling than the “Contagion” storyline to be sure, but there were one or two bright spots throughout, specifically the issues which feature Boston Brand, a.k.a. Deadman:
Batman and Deadman, through a bizarre series of events, end up traveling to Machu Pichu in order to stop a man from terrorizing a lost Incan civilization. They employ a wise old man, a host of spirits, and their own wits to defeat their enemy and restore order. Deadman is especially fun to read about in these stories. His interactions with Batman were fun and different, and while they weren’t the absolute highlight of this collection, they were nevertheless great stories.
Contagion felt much more well-written and concise than the never-ending Nightfall storyline, and therefore I found myself enjoying it much more. While it spanned numerous trades and drew upon a host of characters, none of it felt like filler, and all helped to create a complete story. I can only hope that after such a disastrous outbreak, Gotham is given a little time to heal and recover.
Knowing how Batman operates though, I highly doubt that will be the case.