Batman: The Merciless #1 Review: The War Batman

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A coalition of A.R.G.U.S, S.H.A.D.E, the D.E.O, Task Force X, and the U.S. military has been gathered to head off the threat presented by coming of Barbatos' army. With the Justice League MIA and many major cities left in ruins, it's up to these agencies to save the United States.

General Lane has had a special bomb constructed which should, in theory, kill anything human or superhuman within its blast radius.

Unfortunately, Batman the Merciless, an incarnation of Batman from a world where Ares destroyed much of Earth, has come for these leaders. He wields the God-Killer sword and the helm of Ares, both of which make him a nigh-unstoppable force.

Batman the Merciless #1 cover by Jay Fabok and Brad Anderson
Batman the Merciless #1 cover by Jay Fabok and Brad Anderson

This Metal tie-in is different from the others in that it focuses more on the aforementioned coalition of military and paramilitary organizations as opposed to the titular Merciless Batman.

That may be for the best, as this Batman is less interesting than even the Drowned. That's not to say it's a completely bad character, but, like the Drowned, it doesn't have as much going on as Red Death, Dawnbreaker, or the Murder Machine.

This one was in love with Wonder Woman, Wonder Woman died, and he took the helm of Ares, becoming judge, jury, and executioner of everyone on the planet.

This also makes the second Nightmare Batman to have a story that ends in, "and then he took over the Earth," which, as someone who hates the metatextual ego given to the Bat, is becoming a little nauseating. I get it; he's the frigging Batman. That doesn't mean that he could accidentally become a world conqueror at the drop of a hat.

Admittedly, this one at least gives him the powers of a god, he didn't make them himself like Batman the Drowned.

There is an ending twist which actually adds a nice edge to the narrative. I won't spoil it here, but it's actually decently subtle and unnerving.

The overall narrative isn't bad; it has a nice flow to it. The tension is heavy, and it's always interesting seeing the likes of Amanda Waller, Steve Trevor, and Director Bones having to navigate each other's egos. General Lane is something of the stereotypical military jackass here, like Thunderbolt Ross but less complex.

Batman the Merciless #1 art by Francis Manapul
Batman the Merciless #1 art by Francis Manapul

Francis Manapul puts in some solid work. His style is shadowed a bit more heavily to match the oppressive atmosphere of Metal. It's still his unique look though, and it's one that has always worked for me. I like it quite a bit and do miss the days when he worked The Flash. His color work is great, too; he's always had a unique eye for coloring. It's a good-looking comic.

Batman: The Merciless is the least good of the "Nightmare Batmen" tie-ins to Metal so far. The slight repetition in the narratives doesn't help, but it also comes down to the fact that Merciless and Drowned just aren't as compelling has the first three. It's by no means a bad book, and I still do recommend it. However, it doesn't quite stand up to its predecessors.

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About Joshua Davison

Josh is a longtime super hero comic fan and an aspiring comic book and fiction writer himself. He also trades in videogames, Star Wars, and Magic: The Gathering, and he is also a budding film buff. He's always been a huge nerd, and he hopes to contribute something of worth to the wider geek culture conversation. He is also happy to announce that he is the new Reviews Editor for Bleeding Cool. Follow on Twitter @joshdavisonbolt.
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