Written by Joel T. Lewis
Over the past 8 months I have praised Scott Snyder’s ability to effectively synthesize and showcase Batman villains whether it’s over the course of a large story arc or a single-issue feature. His five issue storyline 'My Own Worst Enemy' brought new depth and intimacy to the relationship between Batman and Harvey Two-Face, and as he’s gone on to feature a single villain per issue with this current run the results have been outstanding. But as Snyder attempted to connect all the threads he had set up in the 3 previous issues of the 'Ends of the Earth' arc, I found that he may have miscalculated the time necessary to do his final villain justice. We find in issue 9 that the man responsible for the near-cataclysmic disasters of the previous 3 issues is none other than Ra’s al Ghul and his scheme for cleansing humanity is all over the place. I feel that this issue was rushed, bloated, and convoluted, and let me stress that I don’t like saying that! Let me attempt to summarize the plot of this issue and you’ll see what I mean.
The Blackhawks have captured Duke and have threatened to end his life unless Batman takes out Ra’s al Ghul and stops his master plan. Ra’s is celebrating his victory at the top of the Washington Monument in D.C. as Batman speeds towards the Monument on his Bat-Cycle. As the time limit set by the Blackhawks trickles away, the Bat-Cycle is destroyed sending Batman into the reflecting pool which separates the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument. Ra’s continues to gloat and is struck over the head with a champagne bottle by someone he assumed to be one of his goons. We find out that the person that just flew into the reflecting pool was Selina Kyle in Hatter-tech camouflage and that Bruce Wayne was similarly disguised as one of Ra’s followers.
Brandishing a revolutionary musket, Bruce demands to know what Ra’s master plan is and here’s where things really get out of hand plot-wise. Over the course of the last three issues, Ra’s orchestrated the near-disasters that Batman prevented in order to show Bruce how the world might end if left to its own devices. This has all been a way to distract the Dark Knight from the fact that Ra’s has slipped a technology into nuclear reactors and similar sensitive areas around the world which will allow him to cause meltdowns, confusion, and ultimately war on a global scale. Ra’s pontificates on how Batman is more of a detriment to society than Ra’s ever could be because he’s allowed humanity to escape his past schemes and accelerate towards a disaster of their own making. Ra’s then shoots Batman through the head and revels in his victory.
But we discover that it’s not a victory after all as Batman reveals that when he hit Ra’s over the head with the bottle of champagne he stuck him with a Mad Hatter tag which convinced Ra’s of a false reality. While Ra’s was monologuing Batman traced the nuclear meltdown signal and stopped the countdown. At the end of the issue we are unsure of whether the Blackhawk team was indeed a distraction as Ra’s al Ghul claimed or an actual strike team in reality and the ominous cell phone which blacks out at the end of the issue seems to indicate that Batman didn’t stop Ra’s plot, he may have only slowed it down.
Now this is not a bad Ra’s al Ghul scheme, and I’m not unhappy that Batman was able to counter it. However, the number of bait-and-switch moments in this issue with both Selina and Bruce disguised by Mad Hatter-tech, the Hatter Tag used on Ra’s, and the quick introduction and nearly instantaneous resolution of Ra’s nuclear plot made this issue feel rushed and clunky. I don’t dislike Ra’s al Ghul as a villain, I enjoy this issue as a commentary on the social and political unrest that is very palpable today, and I adore anytime I get to see Jock work on a Batman comic (and his Ra’s al Ghul is amazing!), but this conclusion to the 'Ends of the Earth' storyline just felt like Snyder tried to cram too much into one issue, which was disappointing since he paced his Two-Face storyline so well. Also, I have to say that the set up at the beginning as Ra’s describes the issue as 'not a Batman story' is brilliant and the clash of fundamental ideologies between Batman and Ra’s is really interesting, it’s just an issue that is too crammed with content. Though I was really harsh on this month’s issue, the next chapter of All-Star Batman is supposed to feature an Alfred origin storyline and a brand new villain. This intrigues me and I’m too optimistic about Snyder’s ability to bounce back to give up on All-Star Batman now. Until next time, Geek On!