That old adage “came in like a lion, went out like a lamb” is a pretty damn accurate description of the Batman Fugitive series.
Maybe it’s because I had such high expectations after reading the first two trades in the storyline. The plot is such a wonderful, tightly bound murder mystery that one can’t help but be drawn in. There was a set cast of characters, and each had a key part to do. It was basically Batman and Bat-family versus the world, and I liked it that way. It was a different type of story, and one I wanted to see play out fully.
Volume 3 didn’t have that same focus, and it hurt the overall story. The first half of this trade deals with the aftermath of Cain’s confession. Bruce Wayne is cleared of all charges, but Sasha Bordeaux has already been convicted, so apparently getting her out of prison isn’t as easy. Although Bruce fights for her release, Sasha is injured in a prison yard fight and pronounced dead, with family claiming to have taken her body.
Of course, Bruce knows she didn’t have any living relatives, so he immediately starts searching for her.
While all of this is going on, we learn that Sasha was taken by the group known as Checkmate and offered a position within their ranks. Feeling betrayed by Bruce, she accepts, and they offer her rehabilitation as well as surgery to give her a brand new identity.
The search for Sasha slows the book down a bit, only because it takes just a little too long. Bruce and Sasha ultimately have an emotional reunion in Robinson Park, during which Bruce asks her to come back. Sasha has not forgotten that sense of betrayal though, and ultimately refuses.
At this point, the entire Fugitive storyline is tied up nicely, with the exception of Cain’s confession. The higher-ups who hired him don’t want him giving away their identity, and they in turn hire another assassin to take him out before he can provide his sworn testimony.
And of course, they happen to hire Deadshot to do the job.
Deadshot’s trying to kill Cain, but Batman won’t let him. Of course, Cain wants to die and keeps averting Batman’s attempts to save him.
There’s a pretty exciting firefight during the prison transport, with Cain nearly killing Deadshot in the process as Batman gets him back into protective custody. The comic closes with Cassandra/Batgirl visiting her father in jail and essentially kicking his ass for everything he put her through. Batman doesn’t seem to mind.
This wasn’t a bad comic, by any means. It’s just that it didn’t have that same power as the previous volumes. Those earlier issues were very clear-cut in their narrative, and with a minimal number of players it was easy to keep track of everything that was going on. With this trade, there was just a lot to focus on. Checkmate, Cain, Deadshot – did we really need so many antagonists in one story, especially when they don’t all directly tie into the larger storyline being presented?
It was an incredibly ambitious story to undertake, and the writers had some awesome ideas. I think they ultimately got bogged down in trying to make it feel believable while also tying up every single loose end they had created. Usually I’m a fan of this, but it just left too many side stories that didn’t feel as compelling as the main story in question.
The emotional connection between Bruce and Sasha was well done (though I admit I hadn’t really read much about Sasha before this story) and their meeting in the park was handled well. We see a vulnerable, caring side of Bruce that’s been noticeably absent from these recent issues, and it was touching to see him admit that he had feelings for Sasha and that he let her down.
I would have preferred more emphasis on how this situation affected his relationship with the rest of the Bat-family, though. All of his wrongs are righted as he enters the Bat Cave and tells his team, “I know I’m a difficult person to know.”
AND THAT’S IT.
No further discourse, no questions. I know that’s a typical Batman response, but I wanted his partners to question him a bit more and demand some explanations. They had done so previously, and it felt like they might have gotten more of a response out of Bruce this time around.
Alas, that conversation didn’t occur. The team is whole again, with Batman perhaps a little more self-aware and cognizant of how much he needs those around him. This sentiment should be felt in later Batman trades, but I suppose I’ll just have to wait and see.
Overall, a good story, but the beginning far exceeds the ending in terms of quality. It was a genius premise that got a bit muddled towards its finale, but it still remains a great test to Bruce Wayne’s character. At the very least, at least we got to see just how loyal the Bat-family is to the dark knight.