Neal Adams is one of the undisputed living legends of the comic book industry. I could write an entire column on his accomplishments, all the classic characters he is responsible for co-creating and the fantastic stories he has drawn in the past. Alas, that is not why I’m here today.
Today I’m here to discuss the first issue of Batman Vs. Ra’s Al Ghul – a mini-series that is easily the most insane thing written involving The Dark Knight Detective since the days when Grant Morrison was on the really good drugs. This includes Batman: Odyssey – the last mini-series Adams both wrote and drew for DC Comics, which is looked upon with the same fondness as Frank Miller’s All-Star Batman and Robin, and for the same reasons.
The issue opens in medias res, with Batman running around the streets of Gotham City beating up random thugs we are informed are terrorists by an exposition-spouting newsman. To make a long story far too short, all Hell is breaking loose in Gotham and Deadman is also there. There’s also an editor’s note box advising us to see Batman: Cataclysm and Batman: No Man’s Land. Presumably this is taking place between those stories, but there’s reason to doubt that, as we shall see later.
Amid all of the armed men and escaped convicts running around the streets randomly shooting people and blowing up power plants, Batman stumbles across organized soldiers who are gunning down the terrorists. These troops are revealed to be under the command of Professor Ra’s Al Ghul, who has offered the services of his private security force to the mayor of Gotham City to quell the growing unrest. Naturally Batman has serious objections to this, which Commissioner Gordon and the mayor seem confused by. They are not alone in this, as I was thoroughly confused by this point myself, wondering why the terrorists are being led by clearly inhuman cyborg men who call themselves Khaos that nobody but Batman seemed to notice.
Mind you, I was confused from the very first page of this comic, in which Batman is chasing down a homeless man and his dog, who have been tied together with the dog wearing what appears to a be a suicide bomber vest. While Adams can still draw a splash-page like no one else, his visual storytelling has gone downhill in recent years and his dialogue shows why he is renowned as an artist rather than a writer. Batman is somehow able to slip the vest off the dog in one fluid motion, throwing the explosive away and concealing the dog from the sad old man, who keeps calling him a monster for killing his dog and not letting him die with his only friend. Thankfully, the dog is all right, but I’ll be darned if I know how, just as I’ll be darned if I know what’s going on with Batman’s legs in the first panel we see him in, on the page below.
There’s a host of other problems with this comic, ranging from bad perspective shots, more poor story flow and the fact that there’s two Robins running around when this story was meant to come from a time where Tim Drake was the only Robin. There’s also the problem of the cover giving away the twist at the end of the issue.
Honestly, there is nothing to redeem Batman Vs. Ra’s Al Ghul #1 and I feel all the sadder for having read it. I think the only reason this isn’t being ripped apart as the worst new comic of the week is because all the critics are saving their poison pens for a Legion of Superheroes comic that is completely devoid of Legionaries. As it is, I would encourage those unfamiliar with Adams’ work to pick up a TP of Green Lantern/Green Arrow instead of this issue.