Thursday, November 27, 2008

Recent Re-Reads: Batman - War Games, Acts 2 and 3

Okay, better late than never. While I've still got it roughly in my head, I figure I'll talk about what turned me off about the rest of War Games.

I think I mentioned that what I liked was the mass-Gang-Warfare that was tearing Gotham apart, leaving Batman pretty impotent to stop it. He was pretty much going from one place to another putting out fires, without achieving anything noteworthy. It was like Knightfall writ large. In that story, he was chasing down a couple dozen psychopaths, whereas here every street gang in Gotham went to war at the same time.

But after the first act, the story felt like it lost focus on those players. You stop hearing mention of the specific gangs involved. The whole thing seems to just descend into anarchy. And by the third act that's precisely what happens. While anarchy might very well be a more frightening scenario, they never really stated why the gangs fell apart.

Instead, these acts focused on the notion that since this was all based on Batman's plans, then Batman knows what he has to do in order to 'win'... and what happens when that completely backfires on him. Here you have a classic Batman-is-a-dick moment, when he overrides Police Commissioner Akins and basically takes charge of the Gotham police. When he blows it, he's blown any trust that Akins had for him, and made an enemy of the cops. Now, I think this was pretty much an editorial mandate... but so soon after Bruce Wayne: Fugitive when Bruce realizes he needs to soften up a little, let his friends and associates in a little further, and act less like an ass... well, is't it a bit soon for this?

Then there's the torture of Stephanie Brown. While, thankfully, DC decided to spare us the explicit details (a decision they wouldn't repeat in Infinite Crisis, or the DC Universe at large in it's wake) there's still a lot of uncomfortable violence directed her way. But while it's not something I'm comfortable with, it actually sat better with me on the re-read. I shudder to think what we would've seen had this been a little more contemporary. When DC shows us Wonder-Dog mauling Marvin fatally and chasing Wendy around Titans Tower... who knows?

But ultimately, one of the most disappointing things about War Games is that while it was a major crossover event designed to change Batman's continuity... it barely hung in there before it was almost completely reversed. And now that Spoiler has returned, there's almost no element of this story that still stands. In hindsight, War Games is completely skippable, and for something that dominated eight titles for three months, that's kindof sad.

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