By Alexander Webb
Welcome to another installment of Flashback Friday, with your comic book (and fitness!) consigliere, Alex. Today we follow up last week's cliffhanger with Part Two of the fantastic storyline, No Man's Land, as seen in Shadow of the Bat #83.
(Note: As this story was pre-New 52 continuity, there are no spoilers for the current incarnation of Batman. Those reading storylines before 2011, however, may want to shield your eyes.)
The Bat is back. Well, sort of.
Picking up where Part One left off, we see Barbara Gordon, or Oracle as she's known in post-quake Gotham, in contact with one of her field informants, who has just seen a symbol of a bat spray painted on a wall. It's the ultimate sign of hope in a otherwise hopeless city; and Oracle can't believe her ears.
Batman, to the best of everyone's knowledge, abandoned the city with most everyone else when the government called for an evacuation. All of a sudden, signs are popping up that he's back…and that's not all. Ask the two men that were saved by the Bat halfway through the issue, and they'll tell you Batman is, in fact, a girl!
Gotham P.D. is hard at work trying to maintain order and figure out a new brand of justice to deliver to this lawless city. We see differing opinions; play defense and draw out the criminals in order to mark territory, or go on the offensive and enter a gang war? Better yet, opines Jim Gordon, let's make the gangs fight each other, thin their numbers, then hostile takeover! Yes, these are cops making these decisions. Delicate problems call for tactical solutions.
Recognition has to be given to the writer at this point. I love the way scribe Bob Gale lets his story unfold. Last issue really set up the plot and background for this story. We see a city losing it's soul slowly, and a team of cops trying to maintain order and cork up the hole through which the soul is slipping. Gordon tagging areas of Gotham and claiming them as 'Gotham P.D. territory' while keeping his daughter safe is true heroism, and Gale writes him justly.
Gordon worries he is becoming like a vigilante now that Batman is gone. He sees himself delivering justice in a way that he always disdained; with no law and order, there's not much choice. Pouring his fears out to his wife, Gordon laments how unfair it is that he didn't take the easy way out and leave, but Batman did. Gale challenges readers to really think in this issue. We see how tough it is to keep faith when times are tough. We are forced to acknowledge the difficulty between making right and wrong choices. Not your typical Scarecrow-fear-gas-fare.
Alex Maleev turns in another fine performance, detailing the abandoned city with all the grittiness and dirt you could want. Maleev makes you feel like this city is YOUR city, and you'll do anything to keep it from ending up hopeless and lost. From dark streets and alleys to a half-hidden Joker face, the art here keeps us turning each page with an enthusiastic trepidation.
It's quite a story so far. A girl Batman is delivering swift justice to what's left of Gotham's criminals, much to the confusion of everyone. Who is she? What's her purpose? Joker is tagging up his turf, leaving anyone who stands in his way dead. The cops are diving headfirst into a gang war which they may not escape. What's to become of this apocalyptic Gotham? The story is unfolding; tune in next week for Part 3!
Alex Webb is a fitness trainer by day, Batman-enthusiast by night. Ask him about fitness, comics, RPGs, and answering life's mysteries via Twitter and Instagram @officiallywebb