War Games…what do I say about this storyline?
It’s difficult to approach it as a self-contained story, since it didn’t feel like it technically had an ending. It had the shock factor sometimes associated with these types of Batman comics, but the story is far from over.
The comics collected here are sort of one big climax. As Batman initiates his plan to have Orpheus unite the crime families, he quickly learns that all hell is about the break loose.
With his key player dead, Batman must completely rework the rules if he wants to win. In a moment of crisis, Batman makes a comment that this is no longer a game…it’s war.
…Um, no kidding, Bats. Literally everyone knows that but you. I get that it was an attempt at making the comic feel more weighty, but it was a little too obvious to have a major impact.
The stakes are raised as Black Mask makes a grand gesture of hijacking a reporter to walk him through the “Bat Cave” (in actuality, Oracle’s office in the clock tower) on live tv.
Batman, seeing the broadcast, rushes to Oracle’s aid. He engages in a fierce battle with Black Mask, with a moment where he claims he wants to kill his enemy to stop the violence. Oracle sets off a bomb, forcing Batman to get her away from the blast (and in turn, keeping him from killing Black Mask, or being killed himself). Once again, I suppose we were supposed to be swept up in the emotion of the moment, with Batman feeling as though he has no other option but to take Black Mask out. Unfortunately, these emotions just aren’t conveyed well. I never felt the urgency of the situation, and the ending felt a tad predictable.
Of course, while all this is going on, Spoiler is being tended to by Dr. Leslie Thompkins. Batman returns to the clinic to check in on Stephanie, but is met with grim news: Stephanie isn’t going to make it.
In perhaps the only truly moving moment in this comic, Batman comforts Stephanie and assures her that her time as Robin was real.
Glad to be a part of the Batman lore, for however brief a time, Stephanie dies quietly in front of Bruce. There’s little shown after this, and perhaps that’s for the best. We’re not met with Tim’s reaction to learning the news, or Batman’s undoubted guilt over the loss. We’re given time to process what has happened, as another casualty of the vigilante battle is faced.
Although moving, the comic didn’t really have an ending. Stephanie dies, but Black Mask is still at large, and Hush has yet to play any sort of role. It seemed an odd way to end the War Games arc, but then perhaps Stephanie was meant to be the real focus of the storyline, not the gang violence. If that was the case, it was lost on me, as there was simply too much going on for the main point to be clear.
There were moments in this comic that I thoroughly enjoyed, but as an overall story I felt it was missing a sense of focus. With so many players involved, it’s tough to keep track of everyone, as well as to keep a central focus across a breadth of titles. War Games tries very hard, and succeeds…to a point. It’s not perfectly polished or cohesive, but it’s a fair example of how a larger storyline can be handled. I just wish that it had been more neatly finished, with a clearer stance of where the story would be going from here.