Comics Ate My Brain

August 25, 2004

Pre-review thoughts on "War Games"

Filed under: batman, robin — Tom Bondurant @ 7:00 pm
Oh, how I want to like “War Games.” Today’s comics (the new Catwoman and Batman) each featured stunning revelations — one about who called the “mob summit,” and the other about the Batman’s long-debated public image — and while I want to believe they will give the Batman books a creative spark, I just don’t know.

Here is the SPOILER warning, so proceed with caution.






So, Item One: Stephanie Brown lit the match by appropriating a Bat-plan which relied upon the intervention of Matches Malone. Not only did she not tell Batman (because she’d been fired by that point), she had no reason to, because she didn’t know Matches is one of Batman’s undercover aliases.

The first phrase into my head was naturally “Tower of Babel.” That JLA story brought up a number of issues which will undoubtedly be explored by “War Games” — among them, Batman’s paranoia, obsession, and need to be in control. However, “ToB” had Talia al Ghul break into the Batcave and steal the “JLA protocols.” How did Stephanie, who was Robin for around 6 weeks, a) find and b) steal these plans? Did she know Tim so well that she could guess code words unique to him? (That’s my theory of the moment.)

Doesn’t Batman recognize his own plan in action? I’ll have to go back through the books to see.

I fully expect Batman to be hit with the kinds of accusations and recriminations from the Bat-family that he received from the Justice League. If someone doesn’t at least mention the JLA protocols, however, I’ll be very disappointed, because it will signal to me that the Bat-creators continue to hang their dramatic hats on Batman being an unapproachable paranoid obsessive. Both “Tower of Babel” and the “Bruce Wayne: Murderer/Fugitive” storylines were based on the notion that Batman Keeps Things From Those Closest To Him. (“Murderer” hinted that Bruce/Batman might actually have killed Vesper Fairchild because she had crossed some final line for which he was not prepared.) “M/F” was supposed to signal a new openness and make Batman realize how much he needed his colleagues, if only to keep him from becoming completely engulfed in darkness.

Now, if Batman puts it all together and realizes this is Plan #9 in action, tells his associates about it, and at least one of them says something like “Holy crap! Plan #9 without Matches would be disastrous!” then I will know that somebody in the Bat-office has been paying attention. I am not holding my breath for this to happen. (Still, what about the Mystery Villain talking to Hush in last week’s Gotham Knights?)

Item #2 is the incredible — but not implausible, unfortunately — leap of logic which accompanies the end of “War Games” Act 1. Batman, Batgirl, Nightwing, and Tim Drake have successfully defused the standoff at Tim’s high school. This has apparently resulted in the largest “Batman sighting” on record, and given the Gotham TV press a shot of Batman in the daylight — thus proving that he is not an urban legend. (This is something which should have been settled oh, about 10 years ago, when Tim Drake saw Batman and Robin on the local TV news and was inspired to learn all about them, but as my grandmother used to say, nobody asked me.)

Because Batman emerges from the school carrying a dying girl, and helps load her onto a stretcher, the reporters state pretty unequivocally that his intervention caused her death. Never mind that nobody “official” — police, firefighters, etc. — seem to want to question Batman, Batgirl, or Nightwing, and pretty much let them leave without any trouble. The second act of “War Games” will now get to focus on Batman being Hated And Feared By Those He Swears To Protect.

The “Batman as outlaw” bit has been done before, of course. It was actually the status quo for the first 2 1/2 years of Batman’s career, until he and Robin were made special deputies in “The People Vs. Batman” (1941). In his seminal Detective run in the mid-’70s, Steve Englehart had the Gotham City Council re-outlaw Batman and Robin, but they were under the influence of Rupert Thorne. Thorne did it again in the Bat-books of the early ’80s; and the Batman: Outlaws miniseries from a few years back had our heroes hunted by federal authorities. And, of course, it was a big part of both Dark Knight miniseries.

I don’t expect it to last very long here. For one thing, Batman is pretty well known to a lot of police and firefighters, and they’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. Moreover, when does Batman have any meaningful interactions with the ordinary citizens of Gotham? The Batman who inhabits these books now doesn’t care what people think of him, only that he saves those who need it. A “ban on Batman” will have little effect on his crimefighting. Finally, those who were rescued — including Tim Drake, who was there when Darla got shot and can testify that Batman wasn’t the proximate cause — might have a more positive view of Batman and his associates.

Again, this was explored in slightly different terms in the “Murderer/Fugitive” issues — only that time it was Bruce Wayne’s public image under attack, not Batman’s.

Ultimately, these plot twists do a lot to enliven what was looking like a pretty punishing event. It takes some guts to make Stephanie Robin at the beginning of the summer and have her cause a gang war at the end. (It would have taken more guts to make it Tim, Nightwing, or Batgirl….) I just hope the creators find new ways to explore their ramifications.


  1. Batman ought to be wondering about the possibility that his plan was set in action, at the very least. Orpheus was one of the players who was invited to that little gangster shindig–presumably, he’s told Batman about the invitation that was extended to all the gang leaders. Steph may have burned her copy of the letter, but Orpheus should still have his. One wonders if Batman’s contingency plan included a draft of the letter he’d be sending to all the bosses, or if Steph made the letter up as she went along?

    Comment by Anonymous — August 26, 2004 @ 2:23 pm

  2. very interesting…

    Comment by Jon Silpayamanant — August 26, 2004 @ 5:05 pm

  3. Yeah with the end of Act 1 this crossover took a big step up in my eyes.

    Comment by Shane Bailey — August 27, 2004 @ 9:55 pm

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