Batman: No Man's Land: Volume 1

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Batman: No Man's Land: Volume 1
Various authors and artists, 2011
Original Issues were released in 1999

Premise: Collects 21 Issues under 7 different titles that were part of the No Man's Land crossover. See Issue List at the end of the review. Gotham has been struck by a massive earthquake. Despite the efforts of Bruce Wayne, the government has decided to pull out of the city and evacate the population. Of course, not everyone leaves. These are the stories of those who stayed in No Man's Land.

For starters: yes, the premise is fairly silly. Furthermore, Batman is made somewhat ineffectual right at the start in what felt like a rather arbitrary manner, and I was often frustrated at him doing awkwardly dumb things in order to draw out the drama. However, this mostly isn't a book about Batman, and that's just fine.

The main stories revolve around Barbara Gordon (Oracle), the Gotham police, Helena Bertenelli (Huntress), Azrael, and the villains of Gotham who have divided the city amongst them, with Bruce as a supporting character throughout. It's from the 90's - which has its plusses and minuses. It's fairly melodramatic throughout, which I think sometimes works and sometimes doesn't.

The art is up and down, and is done in a vast range of styles, some of which I like and some of which I hate. However, I'm really happy to be reading this straight through. This new graphic novel collects the Azrael issues, which apparently weren't in the earlier collection, and they've turned out to be some of my favorites. For a character stuck into Batman as an object lesson on how not to do Batman, I was surprised how much another writer was able to run with him, and make him sort of cool. Yes, he's a Vertigo-style tortured hero, but I really liked his stories. Despite how silly they were at times.

I especially liked how many of these stories focused on the women of Gotham. Oracle creates new low-tech networks of informants and helps wherever she can. Huntress keeps her neighborhood safe and doubles as a new Batgirl (fyi: it isn't actually revealed that it's her in these issues) to keep the heroes' visibility up. Gotham cop Renee Montoya starts the long journey toward her larger role in the DCU here with some nice supporting moments and a great short arc in which she works with Two-Face, who is helping rescue people trapped in the rubble - for now anyway. Physician Leslie Thompkins works with the sick and injured, and tries to stay neutral so she can help as many people as possible.

There's a complex arc about Huntress and Scarecrow battling for the spirit and safety of a refugee center in a church, a slightly silly two-parter in which Batman fights Penguin's whole operation, an awesome sequence when Bruce sends Azrael after the Joker, a one-shot when Superman tries to help, and more. This book is huge; it's full of stories. I don' t love all of them, and I only like about half the art, but overall I really enjoyed reading this, and I'm looking forward to the rest of the repackaged graphic novels.

4 Stars - A Very Good Book

Check Out Batman: No Man's Land, Vol. 1 on

Issue List: 
Batman: No Man's Land #1
Batman: Shadow of the Bat #83-86
Batman #563-566
Detective Comics #730-733
Azrael: Agent of the Bat #51-55
Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #116-118
Batman Chronicles #16


ZaK Kauffman said...

I love this series. I think it's actually the series that got me to love Batman, despite how crazy uneven it is (and how psychotic the premise is). Glad you liked it.

Huntress has been one of my top characters ever since, and I think that's largely because of how great she is during No Man's Land.

Lindsay said...

I'm loving this series; I just finished reading Volume 2. And while I totally understand that the context was different at the time that the books were coming out, I am now officially on board with the Cass Cain love. Huntress wasn't used as well in Volume two, but I loved her in this first one, and I seem to remember that she comes back into prominence as the event continues.

In general I'm trying to consciously spend my energy catching up on series I missed (bought the recent Catwoman collection today, and just wait for my reviews of Superman/Batman!) rather than moaning about how boring I find the New 52.

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