Much like the second act of Nightfall, this trade feels like the weakest of the trilogy. That’s not to say it’s bad by any means, it’s just not as strong as its preceding comic.
War Games: Act 2 ups the ante, but it also removes the mystery. A lot goes on within these pages, but it’s inherently much of the same “beat up the bad guys, stop complete anarchy” routine that was laid out in Act 1. Of course, there are at least some storyline developments worth mentioning.
After an (extremely brief) hiatus, Tim Drake is back to being Robin (guess I was wrong with my prediction after reading Robin: Unmasked). Finally embracing the path he was meant to take, Tim begins fighting alongside Batman once again. This time, he’s honest with his father, and while Mr. Drake still isn’t thrilled about his son going out every night and risking his life (what parent would be?) he’s beginning to accept that this is who his son is meant to be.
(Also, there’s a bit of an allegorical reference to gay teens coming out to their parents buried in there somewhere, which I think is perfectly done since the comic doesn’t beat the reader over the head with it. In a subtle way, this was the most moving portion of the story. Read between the lines and you find a whole new secondary story to uncover.)
While Tim readjusts to life as Robin, we’re met with a shock when Orpheus is murdered right in front of Spoiler.
…Okay, truth be told, this wasn’t so shocking, only because I didn’t really know much about Orpheus so I hadn’t formed any sort of emotional bond to the character yet. In that regard, his death was just another violent crime in Gotham.
Stephanie Brown doesn’t have time to digest what she’s just witnessed though, as she soon learns who’s behind everything happening in Gotham: Black Mask, back from the dead and looking to rule Gotham’s underworld.
Black Mask kidnaps her and tortures her for an indeterminate amount of time (mercifully, off-panel) to gain information about Batman. In the midst of doing so, we witness a meeting between him and Hush, essentially a scene to establish that there are going to be two big baddies for Batman to contend with.
Again, I just don’t really give a damn about Hush, so we’re going to move on…
The comic closes with no real resolution. We see our beloved characters ravaged by war, none moreso than poor Spoiler, who manages to escape but has been badly injured.
Poor Spoiler. Not only was she tortured by a psycho, but she’s still blaming herself for this whole mess. I still primarily hold Batman responsible for this, and seeing what Spoiler is going through only makes me pity her more. She’s just a kid who made a mistake (albeit a big one), but it might not have happened if Batman had been a bit more transparent. Instead, she has to face the consequences of her actions in the most brutal way possible.
War Games: Act 2 was interesting enough to read, but it wasn’t as compelling once the mystery was solved. I couldn’t care less about Hush, and although Black Mask is at least a little more entertaining to read about, I’m not drawn into the comic as much when he’s the villain. There was a lot going on within these pages, and it got to the point where it was difficult to keep track of everyone and everything that was going on. I guess that’s the peril of writing such a massive, multi-comic story arc. You have to try and fit everything in somewhere, but reading it back to back in trade format can make it feel a bit tedious. Still, I’m curious where the storyline goes from here, and how it’ll all be resolved in the end. No doubt Batman will be brooding and morose throughout it all. I just hope there isn’t any more collateral damage in his wake when all is said and done.