Let the Battles Begin
I've recently decided to go through my entire Batman collection, and review them, but in graphic novel form as it'd take ages otherwise. This is my fourth review on the series now, and I've finally came to the first part of the epic War Games crossover, which was a big changing point in the Batman series.
After a meeting between all the gangs of Gotham City goes horribly wrong, a gigantic gang war breaks out, and Batman along with as many people as he can get to help must stop it.
This was an amazing book, and the perfect way to start such a big crossover event. With this crossover having so many writers, and artists working on it I can't go into detail about every one, but I will say more about the ones I prefer, and the things I didn't like from certain writers. I will also list the writers, and artists, and what issue they worked on in case you're wondering what issues I'm talking about. The writers were, Devin Grayson (Prelude: Batman: The 12 Cent Adventure, Part 3: Nightwing #96), Andersen Gabrych (Part 1: Detective Comics #797), A. J. Lieberman (Part 2: Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #182, Part 4: Batman: Gotham Knights #56), Bill Willingham (Part 5: Robin #129, Part 8: Batman #631), Dylan Horrocks (Part 6: Batgirl #55), and Ed Brubaker (Part 7: Catwoman #34). The overall story of this book was brilliant, and I loved that each issue intertwined with the previous, even if it did take it's own path. There are too many crossovers out that have multiple side stories happening at once so it's nice when you find one that has so much continuing development as this one. I've read this about three to five times now, and it never gets dull. The writers I felt that did the best job in this book were Willingham, and Grayson. They all did a very good job at developing the story, whilst also giving something interesting, and dynamic. Willingham's job on Robin was probably the best throughout as that involved the real turning point in the story (I won't say as to avoid spoilers), and he handled it well. He also did a marvellous job of finishing the Act in Batman, giving a very interesting ending, making you want to read Act Two straight away. Grayson also did a phenomenal job of kicking the whole thing of in the 12 Cent Adventure, and although people owning, or seeking the comics could skip this issue, I'd advise not, as it really set everything of nicely. His work on Nightwing was also very interesting, and showed the tole the recent Nightwing events had on Nightwing (Dick Grayson), whilst also continuing, and developing this story nicely. Brubaker, Gabrych, and Lieberman also did a brilliant job on there issues, but Horrocks didn't do as good a job on Batgirl. Noting against his writing, it's just that it didn't really develop the story much, and really felt like a filler issue that could be easily skipped.
Like the writing, there were ton's of great artists working on this book, and it was all fantastic, but obviously some were better than others. The artists that worked on this book were, Ramon Bachs (Prelude: Batman: The 12 Cent Adventure), Pete Woods (Part 1: Detective Comics #797), Brad Walker (Part 2: Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #182), Mike Lilly (Part 3: Nightwing #96), Al Barrionuevo (Part 4: Batman: Gotham Knights #56), Giuseppe Camuncoli (Part 5: Robin #129), Sean Phillips (Part 6: Batgirl #55), Paul Gulacy (Part 7: Catwoman #34), and Kinsun Loh Batman #631). The art was overall very detailed, and I loved it all to a certain extent, but it was the art from Bachs, Woods, and Walker that stood out in my opinion. The way they all drew the characters was phenomenal, and the detail they put in was beyond anything acceptable, making for some very beautiful art. All the other artists did a decent job however, and I was happy with it all, but if I had to make one negative comment it's be about the way Gulacy draws people. It just feels a bit rough, and awkward at times, and it doesn't look as natural as the others, but it's still very good, and better than a lot of other artists.
As I already said the way the war started was brilliant, and really showed that DC knew what they were doing. Having read both prior issues of Robin, and Detective Comics I've been able to enjoy this story more this time round, as you really get to see why Spoiler (Stephanie Brown) wants to impress Batman. Besides the prelude issue Stephanie doesn't really appear much in this story at all, making a small appearance in Batgirl, and a slightly longer one in Catwoman, but her part in the prelude was enough. I don't want to talk as much on the events in Batgirl, and Catwoman as they would reveal spoilers (no pun intended), but having seen Stephanie as Robin, and how the detachment from both Tim Drake (former Robin), and Batman has had it's toll on this young heroine. Even though Stephanie's involvement was the star of the prelude, it was still an overall brilliant issue, and the perfect fuse for this explosive start. Catwoman's involvement also made the Catwoman issue more enjoyable, due to Stephanie making an appearance in that also.
It was also interesting to see Batman with a lack of help at the start, and when he needed it the most. At the start of the book Batman only has the help of Batgirl (Cassandra Cain), which wasn't much. He did however know that Catwoman would defend her turf, and also had a couple of inside gang members, but I won't mention who they are to again avoid spoilers, but Bat fans will know who they are. This showed how much affect such a catastrophe could affect Batman alone, let alone Gotham as a whole. It was also nice to see Nightwing, and Batman working together, especially knowing what happened in Nightwing not long before this (Nightwing killed Blockbuster).
Another thing I liked about this book was the way the gang war itself was handled. I really liked that it focused on the newer crime families, and although it did feature the likes of Penguin, and Scarface, it focused more on the newer families, including the Mafia family lead by Henry Aquista, Akahara, Las Arañas, and the Odessa gang. I also liked how the gang mentality was shown in this book, as you had gangs wanting to kill other gangs, attempted truces, and overall chivalry. It was also nice to see the involvement of Hush, all be it small, and who he was taking to (people who've read after this may know who this is). Overall the gang war was brilliant, and it was very explosive, and full of action, and the best part, with this being only Act One there'll be more to come.
As I said earlier my favorite issue in this book was Robin #129. I'm a big fan of Tim Drake anyway, and having been slightly disappointed with his New 52 changes I'm happy to see the Tim I grew to like. This was probably the most interesting time in his series, as not long before this he quit being Robin after his dad requested it, and like I said Stephanie became Robin. I'll try not to spoil anything, but I will still speak of some of the stuff I liked, which shouldn't contain any real spoilers. What I liked about this issue was how Tim was put into a position where he had to use the skills he learned whilst being Robin. It was brilliant seeing Tim flying about, attacking bad guys, as although I see that in the current New 52 I have read all the Robin issues so know when this took place, and remember how I felt when he quit being Robin. I also loved how he used some detective skills during this, and how he managed to surprise his friends whilst not giving everything away. Willingham did a brilliant job on this issue, and it really stuck out as the highlight of the book.
I'll finish by talking about the character I found most interesting in this book, who was surprisingly Arturo Rodriguez. Now Rodriguez does next to nothing in this story apart from reading the new, but I felt that he was the perfect character to show how the opinion of how someone see's Batman can change, or be questioned. At the start of this story Rodriguez believes that with the Batman out there it's safe, and that it will end fairly peacefully, but as things start getting out of control, becoming even more than Batman can handle, he starts to think if the involvement of vigilantes help or not. This is a good question, as a gang war is nothing too big, and some could say not needing of superheroes, or vigilantes. Okay, it'd help the situation, but you can see how it can change the thoughts of normal people, and it's this that stuck out to me, making Rodriguez a interesting character, even if he didn't have a huge contribution.
An explosive, and entertaining start to the War Games crossover, this was a brilliant book, and it was very interesting, and exciting throughout. I would seriously recommend this as it was a brilliant start to a crossover that would create big change. I would also recommend the other War Game Acts, but I will be reviewing them soon so you can see exactly what I think of them.