Batman: No Man’s Land Vol. 2

Never in a million years would I have guessed that a post-apocalyptic story arc could work for a Batman comic.  I would have thought it would be too out there and just wouldn’t fit with the overall theme of the comics.  Batman is always trying to save a dying city. How does he save one that’s already dead?

Volume 2 of the No Man’s Land story arc continues where the first left off, with Batman doing everything in his power to bring some sort of order to this land of chaos.  This volume marks a major shift in Batman’s view though. In the first volume, he was convinced that it was his duty alone to save Gotham, and refused help from just about anyone who offered.  As he soon learns, this is a virtually impossible task, with victims and villains around every corner.  Realizing he can’t work alone, Batman enlists the help of his proteges.

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Oracle, Robin, Nightwing, Azrael, and Batgirl is each assigned their own task to help clean up the city and do what they can to help its remaining citizens.

One noticeably absent vigilante is Huntress, who has had a falling out with the Bat.  Early in this volume we learn that she is none other than the new Batgirl.

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I admit to being somewhat disappointed by this turn of events.  I liked Huntress as her own character, and didn’t really feel like she fit in with the rest of the Bat family.  She seems to be more of a loner than Batman (which is really saying something) and just didn’t sit right with me as a replacement for Barbara Gordon.

Thankfully, her turn as Batgirl is short-lived, as Batman admonishes her for not following directions and tells her she can no longer wear the mantle of the Bat.  Enraged and likely hurt, she returns to her Huntress persona, helping the city with her own brand of justice.

Of course, it wouldn’t make sense for Batgirl to make such a brief appearance and then disappear.  Enter an entirely new character to fill the role.

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Oracle herself trusts this girl implicitly, which in my book is more than enough reason to believe she’s a good fit for the title of Batgirl.  Indeed, her inability to speak makes her a darker, more brooding character than even Bruce Wayne, creating a perfect addition to the Bat family.

The comic takes its time with the No Man’s Land story arc, unfolding each tale slowly as a new aspect of the city is revealed.  Individual characters are given their own moment in the spotlight, with new details of the personalities being revealed with each passing story.  Azrael, Poison Ivy, Penguin: these are just a few of the characters whose personalities are expanded upon in these pages.

Still, I can’t help but feel that Catwoman steals the show here.  Despite the fact that she tends to use the morality line as a jump rope, she has a very clearly defined character, and she somehow fits in perfectly with the chaos that is Gotham City.

Batman begrudgingly asks for her help in retrieving a set of heavily guarded computer discs.  Unsurprisingly, Catwoman questions what’s in it for her.  Batman knows her all too well and, truth be told, knows exactly how to play his cards.

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Catwoman agrees to help Batman, but the twists and turns she faces along the way make one question if it’s all really worth it.

Maybe Batman is just a really good kisser.

Catwoman is a much-welcomed addition to this story, if for no other reason than that she’s funny.  Whether it’s lamenting over the fact that she’s been forced to get wet yet again or angrily exclaiming that she’s going to kill Batman for putting her through all of this trouble, she is continuously injecting a sense of dark humor into an otherwise dark and depressing comic.  What’s more, it’s done so well that it never belittles the suffering the citizens of Gotham are facing; the humor adds to the overall story without ever taking away from the larger tone of suffering.

Given how lengthy this story arc is, I was expecting to be a bit bored at some point as the story starts to drag out.  Perhaps I was expecting the lull I experienced while reading Nightfall, but I haven’t reached that point yet with this comic.  It’s a slow development, but given the magnitude of the event I would expect nothing less.  Gotham has been utterly destroyed and abandoned, and the road to rebuilding is a long one.  It’s not something that can be accomplished overnight, even by Batman and his allies.  I’m glad the story is allowed to run its due course, with the situation undoubtedly getting worse before it can get better.

No Man’s Land is thus far proving to be an exceptionally well-written story.  I cannot even begin to guess how Batman will help get Gotham back on its feet, and I’m loving every second of it.  With so many things left uncertain, I’m able to sit back and enjoy the slow build of the story as it unfolds before me, never knowing how it will all turn out.  It’s an exciting experience, and one I must admit I don’t want to end.

-Jess

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