Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti may have written Crisis Aftermath: The Battle for Bludhaven, but signs of creator Grant Morrison (credited in Brave New World) are clearly apparent. To wit, if you're going to enjoy The Battle for Bludhaven, swiftly resign yourself to accepting a gigantic slew of characters popping out of nowhere; sweeping battles fought over esoteric scientific concepts; and little, if any, final wrap-up. Don't get me wrong, Battle for Bludhaven is fairly entertaining, with some interesting political commentary thrown into the mix, but it's clearly just the first part in an ongoing DC Universe story and makes no bones about being so.
The new characters introduced in Battle for Bludhaven are interesting, though it would be hard to feel much for them if we didn't already know that most will reappear in Countdown or Gray and Palmiotti's Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters series. The SHADE organization has already been seen in Seven Soldiers, but it's hard to say who's behind the group, or where they fit in what's already a pretty clearly established DC organizational hierarchy. Ditto for the new Atomic Knights, who seem pretty indistinguishable from one another except for leader Gardner Graye, the original Atomic Knight. I appreciate that the writers are creating new heroes with established names, but sometimes it just gets confusing--how the new Phantom Lady, with the last name of Knight, is related to the old Sandra Knight is never quite explained.
Battle for Bludhaven feels like a collection of DC Universe subplots, none strong enough to make their own series alone, brought together in one miniseries. I like the new Firebrand, though ultimately his role in the story only seems to ready him for the Uncle Sam miniseries. Similarly, those following Captain Atom here from Armageddon will be disappointed by the lack of development for the character, as the story seems built just to put him in a distinctive set of armor--a great scene, to be sure, but completely devoid of explanation. Additionally, the Teen Titans and Green Lantern act as generic stand-ins for any available hero--Hal Jordan's sudden appearance seems meant only for him to finally address wrongs done by Major Force. All of these are interesting, but only contribute to the story's hodge-podge feel.
What Battle for Bludhaven does establish is a increased sense of politicized heroes in the DCU. We know from other One Year Later titles that heroes are now separated by national lines, and Battle for Bludhaven begins to further separate the heroes into those government- and non-government sanctioned. The writers have Firebrand raise a good point that vigilante Robin's concerns about going against the government are hypocritical, and the questions remain: in the mainstream DCU, would Superman, Batman, and the rest violate direct government orders? Elseworlds say yes, but here it's not so clear. Obviously these are topical issues, and these questions are bright spots in the chaos of this miniseries.
So would I recommend Crisis Aftermath: The Battle for Bludhaven? Well, if you're a Captain Atom or Armageddon 2001 fan, this book is a can't miss--there's about four pages here worth the price of admission alone. And for DCU completists, the issues raised here are bound to come up again. Otherwise, I'd say wait to read this one until you have the Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters trade paperback in hand, too--my guess is that it's a much more satisfying reading experience to have the two together.
[Contains full covers. Trade Paperback Slugfest: Bludhaven's chaos can't beat Captain Atom: Armageddon characterization. Armageddon remains the winner!]
Up next: Superman!