Art: Paul Gulacy
Collects: Year One: Batman/Ra’s Al Ghul issues 1 and 2
After so long, we return to the caped crusader in a series of one shots titled as Year One which detail the first meetings of Batman and his cohorts with Gotham city psychopaths (Year One: Two Face, Year One: Scarecrow) or just detail their experiences with handling the hero job (Batgirl Year One, Robin Year One, Nightwing Year One, Metamorpho Year One). Nowadays, any title which connects to Batman’s early days or preliminary experiences with crime fighting is automatically considered to be a Year One story (Batman and the Monster Men, Batman and the Mad Monk, Batman: The Long Halloween), all brought about by the phenomenal success of the original, one and only one Batman: Year One with story by Frank Miller and art by David Mazzuchelli (see review here).
The story begins when Batman receives a hand delivered letter addressing him as “Detective”. That and the obvious title should give away who this letter is from. But Ra’s is dead. In his letter from beyond the grave, Ra’s describes his views on nature, its balances, and his quest to save the Earth from humanity. We see glimpses of his quest for immortality, beautifully laced with threads of oriental legend and eastern mysticism. While Batman goes around his ‘normal’ job and Alfred reads out the letter to him, one thing becomes obvious – Gotham’s dead are rising from their graves! It initially begins with no one dying for a period of twenty six hours, and for a moment, Batman even considers being pleased, as this is what he has been actually fighting for. But then, the dead people refuse to stay dead, and the decomposing bodies are regenerating… and all of this is because Batman has destroyed the last existing Lazarus pit. Now, Batman is on a quest to uncover Ra’s secret formula to create a Lazarus pit. And he isn’t alone – Ubu seeks to do the same, to restore life to his master; while Gotham burns and the dead turn on the living.
Chronologically, the story takes place a year after Ra’s Al Ghul has died at the hands of his daughter Nyssa Raatko in Batman: Death and the Maidens (hence the Year One) the original story behind the publication of this book is even stranger but not impractical. Warner decided to use Ra’s Al Ghul as Batman’s “Big Bad” in the movie Batman Begins….but then the hotshots realized Ra’s has been dead for the better part of a year – so what killer move can we make to make sure that we raise comic book sales, jumping on the movie bandwagon? Answer – put out a new reprint of an existing collection or reprint classic work. Like Batman: Tales of The Demon, reprinting classic Ra’s tales by Dennis O’Neil (see review here) and Batman: Blind Justice by Samm Hamm & Denys Cowan where Henri Ducard makes a brief appearance, and they’re doing the same with a Batman Vs Bane book for The Dark Knight Rises. And also, a new series with the same villain. Enter Batman/Ra’s Al Ghul Year One.
But the story by Devin Grayson is actually good. She writes a wonderful Ra’s, every bit as compelling as Dennis O’Neil or Greg Rucka. The eastern mysticism track was refreshing, and was much needed once we get enough of the Batman fighting the dead in present day Gotham. Hency my reason for reviewing this now….sometimes a really good story gets lost in the shuffle, and falls through the cracks. The art by Paul Gulacy is excellent – he hasn’t lost his touch after his classic work on Master of Kung Fu over at Marvel and face it, nobody draws oriental like Paul. The actual story is short; so is the trade. And that’s one of its strong points.
Check this one out. Amidst the Year Ones dominating the shelf, this has a tendency to get lost – and you won’t want to miss this classic.
My rating: 9 on 10
Contains full covers, 9.99 US$