Batman’s quest to rescue the stolen body of son Damian from Ra’s al-Ghul takes him to Paradise Island, where the League of Assassins’ head believes a Lazarus pit lies. Before he confronts Ra’s, however, Batman must get past man-hating Amazon Aleka …
Until a few years ago, ‘man-hating Amazon’ wouldn’t have been a tautological phrase when applied to the DC Universe. Now, not so much. Wonder Woman’s sisters may be back from their time as serpents, but they’re still a cold-blooded bunch. They seem not to have changed at all since their time raiding ships, seducing sailors and slaughtering them. I realise that Diana is meant to be the best of the Themiscyrans, but it sticks in my craw that the distance between them is quite so great.
There is one Amazon here who, while dismissive and mildly contemptuous of Batman, is at least entertaining – the Oracle who points our heroes to the possible pit. This nutty woman, I’d like to see meet, assess, and annoy all DC’s icons.
Diana is admirable throughout, lending Batman physical and emotional strength as they learn the secret of the Cavern of Neekta. There’s even a twinkling of humour – if this issue reflects who she’s becoming in her own book, I may yet return to it.
Ra’s al-Ghul is a hoot, ever the melodramatic Bond villain, hissing his eeeeevil plans and murdering minions left and right. The Damian plot isn’t resolved – I get the feeling the ‘Batman and…’ sequence is a placeholder, replacing whatever writer Peter J Tomasi’s plans involving the suddenly absent Carrie Kelly were. While Damian may be coming back to life – spoilers! – I don’t see it happening here. But I do see constantly diverting, well-done superhero team-ups, and they’re set to continue next time as the Caped Crusader meets Frankenstein once more.
I fully expect penciller Patrick Gleason, and inker Mick Gray, to return too, given their consistency in meeting schedules. Their presence on this strip is much appreciated, it’s going to be a good-looking collection. Their grim Batman stays on the right side of the parodic fence, Ra’s does indeed look like a mad-eyed demon and Diana is ever the impressive warrior – and for once actually looks a little Greek.
Aleka is rather the tank, reminding me of the unfortunately named Mongal of prior years. There’s a classic bullets and bracelets – well, tentacles and bracelets – image amid the well-choreographed fight scene, fun with man bats and a splendid monster. Experiments in perspective don’t always work – there’s a weirdly foreshortened Diana on the credits spread – but the overall stripwork is likably dynamic. It’s all nicely coloured by John Kalisz and lettered by Carlos M Mangual, with a striking ‘auditioning for a tarot deck’ cover by Gleason, Gray and Kalisz.
With settings far from the unrelenting grimness of Gotham City, and stories loony even for Batman, this comic is a refreshing nugget of fast-paced fun in a sometimes samey DC line.
And is this a sneaky tribute to DC’s shortlived Seventies humour title?