Batman: War Games Act Three review

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Sunday, October 30, 2005

Certainly Batman: War Games Act Three brings to the forefront the chaos that's mainly suggested in the previous two volumes. There's a definite danger suggested in these pages, whether it's Batman fighting alone against a stadium of villains, Tarantula trying to keep her gang alive against a squadron of trigger-happy police, or Onyx held hostage with a gun to her head. I already knew most of what would happen in the end of this story, but the getting there (and especially, where it turned out that Hush told Black Mask to find the Bat-Cave) was quite a bit of fun.

In War Games Act Three, Batman has cornered all the city's crooks and villains in the stadium, surrounded by the police, believing that he can still bring the criminal's together under his operative Orpheus. He quickly learns, however, that Orpheus has been killed and replaced by the Black Mask, sparking riots that lead Commissioner Atkins to declare a shoot-to-kill law on any and all masks—including Batman's group. Assorted chaos follows, until Black Mask finally directs the bad guys to storm Oracle's Clocktower, and the Bat-Squad must risk their lives to save her. I enjoyed this new direction for the Batman titles—even if I'm wary of it's durability, when the scars of "No Man's Land" are all but disappeared—watching the good guys dodging bullets from the police even as they try to save them. The Nightwing sequence, though perhaps a bit too long, worked especially well, and Tarantula's face-off against the police in an abandoned building contained nice shades of Batman: Year One.

After having been at times disappointed and understanding about the decision to kill off Spoiler in War Games, I ultimately felt her death was handled well. On one hand, in this time of mass carnage across the DCU, it seemed unnecessary to throw one more character on the wood chipper. While I recognize that they'd probably done about all they could do with the character—at this point, she either needed to become a full-fledged member of the Bat-Squad, or otherwise take off, as her presence seemed to be drawing Robin stories around and around in circle—I have to think there are other ways of getting rid of a character than killing them off. And especially, I thought, than by torturing them to death at the hands of Black Mask. What we find in War Games Act Three, however, are some nicely quiet moments between Batman and the Spoiler before she dies—a death, if death were inevitable, that we can expect Batman might've liked for Jason Todd, if possible. It brings a touch of grace to the story, at least, that I thought worked rather nicely.

(You can tell that I'm trying to be nice in this review, given what I thought was my somewhat scathing review of Infinite Crisis #1. But if there's a doctor in the house, someone tell me: is it really possible for someone, like Spoiler, to be dying of internal injuries, but still be conscious and lucid and talking as Spoiler was with Batman? And would a doctor, as with Leslie Thompkins, really be able to know that someone was dying of internal injuries, know that the injuries were too severe to save the person and that they were going to die, and be able to state that there's absolutely nothing they can do for the person? Because it all seemed a little too clean and convenient to me, and I wondered if it actually happens.)

The main difficulty with War Games, both Act Three and the others, is that it's very apparent that every writer is aware of the beats that need to be hit—so aware, that everyone hits them. Obviously, one goal was to have Oracle get sick of being Batman's secretary—and so every scene Oracle appears in makes reference to it. Another, that Catwoman's supposed to be looking for Spoiler (even after Spoiler's been found); another, Nightwing's present instability (making me even more curious to read Devin Grayson's Nightwing run now, just to see if there's purpose behind Nightwing's whininess)—I realize that the story was being told weekly, and that they needed to catch-up casual readers, but as with movies, War Games needed a continuity editor to read the story from scene to scene, just to make sure the comics weren't repeating one another. War Games Act Three is a quick read—I nearly read it in one sitting—and as exciting as it was, I would have liked just a little more work to make it read more like a story, and less like a collection of comics crossing over with one another.

And now, nearly a month and a half after getting it, I'm finally on to the Identity Crisis hardcover. From there, the Flash and JSA Identity Crisis crossover trades (or maybe to Robin/Batgirl: Fresh Blood. I'm not sure yet.). Thanks all for sticking around; I always enjoy your comments.
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