I liked the first 98% of this comic, and then the final few pages had to go and completely ruin the entire story for me. Friggin’ comics.
Although I wasn’t happy with how the entire War Games storyline played out, I was pleasantly surprised with most of this comic. Perhaps it’s because it was so short, or maybe it was just more well-paced; whatever the reason, I was interested in where this story went. Batman is facing a city turning against him as Stephanie Brown’s secret identities are revealed on-air. What’s more, it looks like someone is framing Batman for a slew of crimes, effectively dragging his name through the mud.
Plenty of interesting characters are included here, from Black Mask to the Joker, and even a few surprise appearances of characters long thought dead.
One of the informants feeding the press sensitive information turns out to be Stephanie’s father, who blames Batman for his daughter’s death. His role is small, but I enjoyed seeing the story reference back to prior Batman details, helping to create a more realistic world, tying up loose ends and expanding on the facts we already knew.
One of the most interesting scenes in the entire trade involved a brief encounter between Joker and Black Mask. Joker is hell-bent on killing Black Mask, and he quickly reveals why:
I was never really happy with Joker’s characterization through the whole War Games storyline; he felt too weak and, dare I say it, human for my liking. Although this scene wasn’t drawn out, it’s actually quite telling. Joker’s favorite pasttime is torturing Batman and making his life as horrible as possible. Joker would never outright kill Batman, because that would mean his fun is at an end. Killing Robin though is the perfect plan; it causes Batman the maximum amount of pain possible while still keeping him alive so that Joker can have his fun. By this point Joker has already seen that if one Robin dies, another will likely take his place; in a sense this provides him with an ever-revolving door of potential targets, perfectly designed to cause the maximum amount of grief for Batman, and therefore the most fun for Joker. It’s an interesting point that I haven’t seen addressed in comics before. I’m always a fan of expansion on the Joker’s psyche and motivations, and this brief scene provided great additional detail to the character, in a very basic and entertaining way.
I was pretty happy with the overall comic until the last few pages, at which time Stephanie Brown’s killer is revealed.
In a COMPLETELY uncharacteristic move, Dr. Leslie Thompkins purposely withheld treatment from Stephanie, allowing her to die when she could have been saved.
I. Hate. This. Story.
Not only is this act absolutely incongruous with literally every other Leslie appearance, but it’s entirely disrespectful to the character. Does no one remember the No Man’s Land story in which Leslie approached Zasz and nearly DIED, demanding time and time again that Zasz not be killed? Or all the times that she pleaded with Bruce to end the violence and give up his vigilante work, seeking peace instead? This is a complete and utter disregard for everything this character stood for, and for what? The shock value? The idea that even someone as incorruptible as Leslie could be driven to the brink? Sorry, but the comic just didn’t do a good enough job of convincing me that THIS would finally cause her to commit such a heinous crime. Are we really supposed to believe that after all the times Leslie treated vicious murderers and saved their lives, she would let a poor sixteen year old girl die in the hopes that it might stop others from joining the cause? This is a terrible move for Leslie’s character, and just doesn’t fit who she is or what she stands for AT ALL.
This ending effectively ruined the comic for me, taking an otherwise good story and throwing it off a cliff, all in the name of trying to be controversial. Had this scene been left out, I would have given this comic a positive review, but these last few pages easily take it down a few notches. The rest of the comic is still pretty strong, but the hot mess of a conclusion is just too off-kilter for me to ignore.
Can we get a retcon where Leslie isn’t a psycho? Please and thank you.