War Games, Act 1

War Games 1Summary: A clash between Gotham’s underworld families erupts into a wave of chaos that engulfs the city. Batman must use every available asset — Oracle, Batgirl, Nightwing, Orpheus, Onyx and Tarantula — to preserve life and contain the chaos!

Includes BATMAN: THE 12-CENT ADVENTURE #1, DETECTIVE COMICS #790-797, ROBIN #126-129, BATMAN: LEGENDS OF THE DARK KNIGHT #182, NIGHTWING #96, BATMAN: GOTHAM KNIGHTS #56, BATMAN #631, BATGIRL #55 and CATWOMAN #34.

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War Games, Act 1, by various authors and artists 7.5

‘War Games’ is a collection of stories taken from various Batman-related comics. It is written by various authors and drawn by various artists, but I picked it up because Ed Brubaker was involved, thinking that he had a larger part to play in the book.

Volume One begins at the onset of a mob war that explodes when all of Gotham’s mob bosses are summoned to a meeting by an unknown party. When that tension-filled meeting devolves into a firefight, all of the mob bosses except eight are massacred.

Desiring revenge and, in some cases, trying to take advantage of their opponents’ sudden weaknesses, the various mob bosses decide to wage war on one another. It’s brutal. And that’s not accounting for the now-leaderless families running rampant.

Gotham is in total chaos; it’s a war zone.

Batman is left trying to manage the situation when the police department’s casualties become so high that they have to back down, leaving Gothamites unprotected from the wanton, random violence on their streets. Schools are closed, people stay home.

But Batman is just one person: he no longer has a sidekick, and his devoted allies are few. So he has to call in a few favours to try to keep things under control – sometimes getting his crew members to take over the leaderless gangs in order to save lives.

It’s so bad that, in Part 5, Tim Drake has to break his promise of laying low and returns to superheroing.

This is, actually, the most compelling part of the collection, because it takes us into Tim’s mind and shows us the dilemma that he struggles with, and the constant self-reflection he’s forced into doing – all the while proving himself a very capable hero.

Hey, there’s a reason why he was once Robin, right?

Part 7, starring Catwoman, and written by Brubaker, is also pretty decent. It has a more human side to it than the rest, as Selina and Dr. Thompkins discuss the toll that Batman’s war on crime has had on them personally and on Gotham City through the years.

And although there’s the requisite action piece (featuring Mr. Freeze) in the center of that chapter, the book closes with another poignant moment, as Catwoman discovers who is actually behind the gang war and how this person is coping with its aftermath.

Unfortunately, the book ends on a so-so note, with the havoc being transplanted to Tim’s school: following a failed hit on a mob boss’ daughter (who, for some reason, goes to a public school!), many of the gangs congregate there, taking hostages.

It’s not such a bad set-up, it’s just that it all relies on Batman and his crew going in discreetly (in broad daylight!) and surprising each gang in turn. And they do it far too easily. Plus which Batgirl kills a number of her targets by snapping their necks.

Um.. doesn’t she fight crime by Batman’s code (i.e. incapacitation, not killing)?

In any event, I enjoyed ‘War Games’ to some degree. The story isn’t that compelling, but it’s decent enough (I mean, there’s way too much action, but I suppose that’s the whole point of such a series). To me, it’s just amazing that they were able to coordinate it.

Where the collection stumbled, in my estimation, is in the art department: The artwork is average at best and sketchy at its worst. Since it’s a more action-centric mini-series, this is a huge frailty. Clearly, it’s not a storyline that drew DC’s best artists (pun intended).

But, all told, ‘War Games’ is worth a gander. And I look forward to the next volume.

I’m curious to see where how this war unfolds.

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