Batman: Evolution

Poor Batman.  He just can’t catch a break lately.

Fresh off being kicked out of the JLA in Tower of Babel, Batman now has to deal with the resurfacing of his old enemy Ra’s Al Ghul, who has decided to ally himself with various drug lords across Gotham so as to gain a quick buck and consolidate his own power.

Yeah, no big deal or anything.

Ra’s chooses to remain behind the scenes (and truth be told, in an entirely different country).  He sends two of his disciples to do his bidding, a strong, silent type named Kyle and a thoroughly intriguing new character named Whisper A’Daire.

Whisper is a loyal follower of Ra’s, and he has provided her essentially a flawed, drinkable version of the Lazarus Pit which keeps her young but also has some rather strange side effects.

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Like I said, strange.

Whisper’s unique condition, along with her engaging personality, make her a formidable foe for Batman.  It’s not often that Ra’s can be absent from the fight and not be missed, but I found Whisper to be so interesting that I didn’t really care that Ra’s was more a behind-the-scenes player.  That being said, she’s still small potatoes compared to Ra’s and all that he’s capable of.

As is expected, Talia makes her standard appearance, because what would a comic with The Demon’s Head be without the demon’s daughter?

Truth be told I’m growing just a bit tired of Talia.  She seems to love Batman, but remains loyal to her psychotic father.  Once again Batman is captured by Ra’s, only to be covertly released by Talia at the last moment.

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No, he won’t forgive you. At least not until he needs you again, then all will be well.

Ra’s may be many things, but he’s pragmatic above all.

Talia’s constant flip-flopping between Batman and her father was intriguing to start, but now I just find it tiring.  I understand the point of showing her as being torn between her father and the man she loves, but the two are so inherently different that it feels too forced.  Does Talia suffer from a split personality? How can she love both of these men who are so completely different, and who have completely opposing moral values?  The comic never gives a suitable answer to this question, causing me to become disinterested with her character as a whole.

As though dealing with these issues wasn’t enough, Batman is also plagued by a series of bombings throughout Gotham, seemingly sparked by the divide between its people.

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After the events of No Man’s Land, Gothamites have split into two factions: The Old Gathomites, or “OG’s”, who remained in Gotham during No Man’s Land, and the Deserters, or “Deezees”, who fled the city.  Although it turns out this battle was only used as a cover for insurance fraud, it’s still a potentially volatile situation.  I can’t help but wonder if it will appear in future comics as a more prevailing theme.  One thing is for sure: the effects of No Man’s Land will be lasting and widespread.

Batman: Evolution was a well-written, well-thought out set of stories.  Events of past comics were tied in nicely, with Batman remaining withdrawn and playing his cards close to the chest, as he is apt to do during times of stress.  The only comic in this collection which felt out of place, although I’m grateful it was included, was Detective Comics # 747, a story titled, “Happy Birthday Two You.”

In it, Renee Montoya is celebrating her birthday, and finds that none other than Bruce Wayne has sent her flowers.  Surprised, she goes to confront him.

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This is easily one of the weirdest, most out-of-character responses I’ve ever seen from Batman/Bruce Wayne.   It’s incredibly jarring to see Bruce refer to anyone as a hottie, and the fact that he’s childishly swinging his legs from the desk adds an almost absurd bit of innocence to the moment.

Mercifully, the brevity doesn’t last, as Montoya soon learns that Bruce sent the flowers at the request of Harvey Dent.  Dent and Montoya bonded during the events of No Man’s Land, but little has been said of that relationship since.  It was touching to see this story included, reminding readers of the human side of Dent as well as his personal connection to Montoya. I’m unsure if this was simply meant to be a “filler” issue or if it is hinting at a storyline to come.  I’m hoping for the latter, not only  because it would be an excellent way to build off of the groundwork already laid, but because I have a feeling it could be a truly wonderful story arc.

Each story collected here was interesting to read, and while they didn’t all transition seamlessly, they were nevertheless well connected.  The lasting impact of No Man’s Land, along with the ever-present threat of Ra’s Al Ghul and his followers, continued the Batman saga with a clear focus and allows for the story to go off in any number of directions.

-Jess

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