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REVIEW!! Year One: Batman / Ra’s Al Ghul

8 Oct
Writer: Devin K Grayson
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).

Well, this isn’t one of them.

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$

Aalok deciphers DC – The Demon’s Head

7 May

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You shall judge a man by his foes as well as by his friends. – Joseph Conrad

That said, I thought for Bat Week, let’s take a look at Batman’s “adversary” Ra’s Al Ghul. While many people use the term adversary, I prefer the term “reluctant ally”.

The Joker is the Batman’s opposite number; where the Batman stands for order, the Joker represents the forces of chaos. But Ra’s isn’t Batman’s enemy; if anything, he’s a like minded soul. Batman agrees with Ra’s motives, but not with his methods, and nurses a romantic relationship with his daughter Talia.


Writer: Dennis O’Neil

Artists: Neal Adams, Dick Giordano, Ed Hannigan and others

This book collects almost all of Ra’s Al Ghul pre-Crisis adventures written by his creator, Dennis O’Neil.

The introductory story features Talia in conflict with the League of Assassins. Ra’s Al Ghul makes his appearance in the next story when apparently; Robin & Talia are kidnapped by the same unknown enemy. Ra’s deduces Batman’s identity in the first few pages itself, as if it were as simple as adding 2 and 2. They then go around the world on an adventurous romp, to find Robin in the Himalayas, revealing this was all a trick by Ra’s to gauge Batman as his future son in law.

In further issues we see Ra’s plans for Batman, who almost ends up marrying Talia. We also have a look at how Ra’s stays young – using the Lazarus pits, in which periodic immersion lengthens one’s life span, at the cost of his sanity. We also meet the Sensei, who is the leader of the League of assassins and also witness the first use of Matches Malone as Batman’s cover identity within the mob. These stories were pretty elementary, but they work due to the mystery surrounding the character, also due to Adams & Giordano’s moody art.

Rating: 8 on 10


Ra’s later appeared in three standalone graphic novels, of which the first is titled BATMAN: SON OF THE DEMON, by Mike W Barr & Jerry Bingham.

It deals with Batman & Ra’s as allies against a mutual enemy, Qayin, who was instrumental in killing Ra’s wife and also responsible for the murder of an eminent scientist, for which he was being pursued by the Batman. During the course of this story, Batman marries Talia & has a son with her. However, realizing that Batman could never give up his grim life, Talia claimed that she has miscarried & leaves the child for adoption. These was previously considered as an imaginary story, but recently have the events become canon, with Grant Morrison introducing Damien as Bruce & Talia’s son.

The next part of the trilogy was a lackluster BATMAN: BRIDE OF THE DEMON, wherein Ra’s falls in love with an aging actress. The most lackluster of them all, though by the same writer, with art by Tom Grindberg.

Now we get to the meat of the story with BATMAN: BIRTH OF THE DEMON by Dennis O’Neil & Norm Breyfogle. Here, we learn in detail about Ra’s past. He was a medicine man of asian descent, who was requested by the local king to save the life of his mortally wounded son. Ra’s saves the prince by immersing him in a Lazarus pit, but the prince driven insane by the pit, strangles Sora, Ra’s wife, who the prince had been eyeing for some time. The king blames Ra’s for the murder of his wife, and sends him to be killed. Ra’s is saved by the son of an old lady he has saved earlier, and locates his tribe from the desert, finally rallying them to attack and destroy the kingdom. Thus was born the Demon’s head.





The demon never dies….whenever we think he’s gone, he always manages to re emerge, but the same can be said for any character in modern superhero comics nowadays.