Batman: No Man’s Land is a whopper of an arc which spans the whole of 1999 and continues the story after Gotham City was left devastated after Cataclysm. It’s similar to the Knightfall arc in the sense it dominated everything during that year. Now I didn’t particularly enjoy Cataclysm and I read Knightfall back to back (which I regretted) but I wanted to continue the story as the characters involved seemed like they had some potential. No Man’s Land Volume 1 (and the others I imagine) is also a collected edition which isn’t entirely a Batman story as it collects Batman: Shadow of the Bat #83-#86, Batman #563-#566, Detective Comics #730-#733, Azrael: Agent of the Bat #51-55, Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #117-118 and Batman Chronicles #16.
Don’t expect the Volume 2 review to come straight after Volume 1!
|Book Name||Batman: No Man’s Land Volume 1|
|Book Series||No Man’s Land|
|Edition Reviewed||TP Vol 01 New Edition|
|Where to Buy||Amazon|
|Chronology Next||No Man’s Land Volume 2|
Batman: No Man’s Land Volume 1 Review
Batman: No Man’s Land #1: No Law and a New Order Part One: Values
We catch up in Gotham City roughly 3 months after the earthquake and the city has been well and truly shut off from the rest of the United States. Tribal mindset seems to have set in with various members of Gotham crime take patches all over Gotham which is displayed in a really cool double page map of Gotham drawn up by Oracle. Batman hasn’t been seen for months, people are hungry and there looks to be no hope for the City.
I enjoyed the issue as it was descriptive of how bad things get and in an odd way a bit realistic. It focussed on the people and how some took advantage of the situation and others flocked to find someone to lead them. Among the Rogue’s gallery escaped from Arkham or at large is Ventriloquist, Penguin, Joker, Two-Face, Killer Croc, Black Mask and probably many more – hopefully setting up some good encounters in the issues to come. Right towards the end we get a glimpse that perhaps Batman has returned.
The art’s pretty good and has a dirty feel to it which brings home the massive change in Gotham since the quake. So far, I think No Man’s land will be an interesting book.
Batman: Shadow of the Bat #83: No Law and a New Order Part Two: Strategy
Things are starting to brew up and plans are being put into place in Gotham City. Oracle is working on bringing information together while James Gordon begins to expand the GCPD’s reach. Rumours begin to circulate around town that the Batman is back following one of Oracle’s informants finding Batman symbols spray painted.
He may well be back (Bruce) but it is Batgirl who makes the first Bat family appearance in the mess as she makes her point made that the Bat is around and thugs need to stay clear of her patch. It’s now uncertain if it was Batman or Batgirl who spray painted the symbol.
Elsewhere, Joker is now on the prowl and gets his first victim (that we know of).
Things started to heat up in the issue as the various tribes make their moves and it’s intriguing to see them all come together at the same time and when, not if, Bruce Wayne makes a comeback.
Batman #563: No Law and a New Order Part Three: Tactics
This is a big issue with some profound incidents. First is the behaviour of one of the GCPD – Petit, he’s been unhinged and overly aggressive before but in this issue he commits murder which enrages Gordon. The GCPD have been making good progress and now secured the area where Oracle is and you feel Petit’s actions will spill over at some point.
The second incident is the return of Batman and Alfred. No explanation as to why the long time of absence but it’s clear from Alfred’s comment he is out of practice. Batman and Batgirl meet up and at first Batman disapproves but allows her to continue her work and her wearing the cape.
Favourite issue in No Man’s Land Volume 1 so far for obvious reasons. So far the writing and art has been consistent but then again they have been three Batman books in a row so I’m not completely surprised.
Detective Comics #730: No Law and a New Order Part Four: Language
Batman is making moves and wants to rid Newtown of the Ventriloquist. At first he tries to get information his usual way before he realises there’s no tech and he will have to do this the bad way. Taking an advantage of the power of trade Bruce manages to get close to Ventriloquist and lures him to a spot for a trade – obviously he gets the better of Ventriloquist but gets a surprise with the end result of freeing his people. They don’t want to be free, they just want a leader and to be safe.
Batman, probably begrudgingly. creates some order for the people and gives them leadership and orders.
This is an interesting issue and shows that Gotham post-earthquake is a different animal than before earthquake and not as black and white for Batman. Kicking ass and throwing people in jail just isn’t going to work here and he will need to be seen as a leader rather than a shadowy figure if he’s going to take the City back.
Azrael: Agent of the Bat #51: Mircle Run
There’s a change of pace, writer and artist for Azrael’s bit in the No Man’s Land story as he looks to be in search of a Nick Scratch. Jean-Paul Valley appears to not be in Gotham but somewhere outside the city near Bludhaven. There’s some filler about his choice of suit but no real ties to the events happening in Gotham.
It’s a break from the action but not sure if it’s welcome. The change of pace and perspective in Cataclysm was one of its downfall and I am worried it could happen again in No Man’s Land, we shall see. For now, it’s a short issue with slightly dirtier art than the Batman series but an interesting one nonetheless as Azrael is a bit more bearable than I remember from his days in Knightfall.
He finds where Nicholas Scratch once was and sees a note he left. Azrael seems to be Gotham bound.
Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #116: Fear of Faith Part One: Fanning the Flames
Back in Gotham and we see two sides to the citizens attitude towards the grim scenario. First are the thugs who become pretty low when they raid a morgue to take bullets out of corpses to be used again and the other is the Church who refused to be tagged and open their doors to anyone who needs help. Even Scarecrow.
Batman and Huntress work their rounds and seem to have a plan ahead to make some progress. James Gordon still struggles to keep the GCPD on the right side of the law.
It’s another filler issue where nothing really progresses and it’s a continuation of the writers and artists describing the plight of what’s going on rather than proceeding with the story of how the mess is going to be cleaned up.
Batman: Shadow of the Bat #84: Fear of Faith Part Two: To Serve and Protect
No Man’s Land Volume 1 is still a slow burner with out a clear plot line other than the general survival of the citizens and how bad things still are. Elsewhere, Penguin wants the help from Father Sounder and the Church, and by helps he means he wants somewhere to stash his guns.
Back at the Church, Scarecrow is definitely scheming and looks to be turning the wheels to his own ends. It turns tragic as he abuses the lack of intelligence of Mikey to get him to go to the False Facers for protection which turns tragic. Huntress finds him on the floor after being shot overlooked by the Scarecrow.
Maybe this is the issue that kick starts some action? It’s not that No Man’s Land Volume 1 is a bad book by any means, it’s just that I’m now 7 issues in and nothing’s really happened.
Batman #564: Fear of Faith Part Three: Life in Hell
Glad Mikey has survived but just barely and Scarecrow’s plan has failed. Huntress begs for batmans help and pleads citing that she has earned his trust.There’s a touching moment as Batman carries Mike. Will he make it? Great part of the book here.
Batman takes him to Leslie – who else? Another great bit of writing between them when they meet up, it’ an old and testing relationship.
Batman gets the location of the guns using his brains against Penguin while Scarecrow accelerates his meddling
Great issue. Scarecrow’s a great schemer and his end game is intriguing. It’s a great battle of right vs wrong and the grey area in between
Detective Comics #731: Fear of Faith Part Four: Be not Afraid
It’s poised to be a bloodbath but Huntress is doing everything she can, as is Scarecrow who’s been great so far. The GCPD are about to step in as is Batman- will this be an epic clash to kick off the action in No Man’s Land?
A bloodbath is avoided thanks to Huntress and Batman’s intervention and the group turn on Scarecrow. They pity him and he hates it
The feedback towards Scarecrow makes him burn his suit and almost look scarecrow is no more and he’s now just a weak Jonathan Crane.
Batman takes Batgirl blindfolded to the makeshift Batcave and that’s the end of a really good issue.
Azrael: Agent of the Bat #52: Devil Down Below
Still not half way through the book now and not looking forward to Azrael’s bit as my last experience with him was Knightfall Volume 2 and 3.
We finally get to see Mr. Scratch and he wants to get into Gotham but what are his intentions? Azrael doesn’t want him to get there and we don’t know why either.
Jean-Paul helps a woman try to find her daughter who is with Jasper. Jasper is killed by some massive man with a knife and now her daughter is all alone. They use the same boat that Mr. Scratch is on to get there. I don’t feel invested in this storyline only a second issue in.
Scratch is ambushed and is “saved” by Jean-Paul. Jean-Paul then saves the daughter and saves the day. Hooray!
Azrael comments how it’s another day in No Man’s Land even though this was his first… oversight?
Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #117: Bread and Circuses
New writer, new artist and it looks very cartoony, characters looks a bit deformed and not in keeping with the rest of the art.
Anyway, Bread and Circuses starts with a scuffle as Batman spreads the word, The GCPD struggling still to keep up with the crime while Penguin is thriving, however the art is making him look like a fat idiot.
Gordon gets a mystery visit, it’s not Batman, I think it’s Two-Face but can’t be sure, the identity is not revealed in Volume 1.
Batman gets info from oracle about where crowds gather to send a big message. Penguins gig seems a good match.
Issue ends poised on batman crashing the party. It’s a well written issue but the art just isn’t in line with the rest of No Man’s Land bar Azrael
Batman: Shadow of the Bat #85: Bread and Circuses: Conclusion
Continues on so have to put up with the art again but the story is good as Batman dives into Penguin’s lair, beats up practically all of his men and ends up doing a deal for information. Batman using brute force to get his message across in front of a big crowd, lots of risk and a little bit unlike Batman.
Bu by God the art is really out of sync, it looks clumsy and at times funny. Penguin looked like a child and Batman looked harmless.
Elsewhere, someone framing GCPD by exterminating some gang members and leaving GCPD’s mark nearby. It works in their favour but the mystery murderer will surely return with some demands.
A short and sweet double issue, storyline is decent enough but the art takes some getting used to and is totally different from most of the issues leading up to the two parts. Glad it’s over.
Batman #565: Mosaic: Part One
Sketchy art in this issue and I like it, it’s gritty, rushed and quite dark in colour.
The issue starts depicting a gathering of a lot of people, slightly deformed faces and a lot like a cult. Elsewhere, Batgirl stays busy cleaning the streets, Oracle continues to gather info from sources and we see Batman working with Lock-Up.
Batman talks with Batgirl about someone taking over big spots, Joker maybe? Two-Face? Black Mask, there are still a few major villains unaccounted for at this stage. Bruce still isn’t convinced she deserves to wear the bat symbol and challenges her to prove him wrong. Over at the GCPD Foley starting trouble again and you just know he’s going to create a major incident at some point.
The gathering members from the beginning are seen torturing someone for info before tossing him aside. It’s revealed that Black Mask is the leader of the cult and now’s the time for him to make his entrance, presumably now that Penguin is in Batman’s pocket. Oracle is about to pull the trigger and kill him before Batgirl swoops in. A really, really good issue which kick starts the Black Mask arc.
Detective Comics #732: Mosiac: Part Two
Batgirl shouldn’t take on Black Mask, he is a real fighter and killer. If you’ve read some of the other reviews I’ve written which include Black Mask such as Under the Red Hood then you’ll know that I see Mask as one of the most dangerous villains Batman’s ever come across.
Oracle doesn’t like a Batgirl in play when it’s not her, and at this point no one knows her identity (I did, because I had read War Games before I read this) and it’s only natural. It is a constant reminder of what she can’t do any more.
Batgirl completes her challenge but gets nothing from Batman and Black Mask utterly defeated, a bit disappointing considering what I had just said.
We then learn why Batman has been working with Lock-Up and KGBeast as these criminals are hauled to a make shift jail, where it seems Tally Man is running riot. At least I think it’s happening in the prison.
Another great issue, Greg Rucka is a great writer and these two issues have been very enjoyable with a few memorable moments and great dialogue between the characters, especially the relationship between James Gordon and his wife Sarah Essen.
The Batman Chronicles #16: Two Down
Same writer (Greg Rucka) and new art from Jason Pearson and Cam Smith which is a bit more cartoony but not as much as Bread and Circuses. It’s an explosion of solid colour which is a far cry from the previous two issue’s sketchy and dark depictions.
Two Down is a self contained story set between Cataclysm and No Man’s Land with Detective Renee Montoya and Two-Face has the main characters. Montoya along with Harvey Bullock and James Gordon are the ever present members of the GCPD and they don’t often get the limelight.
Two Down is a story of Two-Face helping her brother as well as the community for a while, saving lives and generally just being a decent person. It’s actually a really good issue even if it is of a different pace and out of sorts with No Man’s Land in general. Two-Face at this point is a decent human being and perhaps when we see him next in the present time he may still be one.
Batman invades the party but ultimately allows Two-Face to carry on helping although he does make it clear he will be watching. Perhaps a continuity error but it was presumed that Batman had only returned recently after No Man’s Land and shouldn’t technically have been there at that time? Maybe I’m wrong, though.
The Batman Chronicles #16: The Comforts of Home
New writer Scott Beatty and artist Damion Scott Wayne Faucher takes us through the next non Batman-y tale as we are now following citizens and scavengers Geoff and Melanie. They are being watched by Batgirl who appears to know what they’re about to get themselves into – it looks as though they’ve broken into Joker’s apartment! As they look around we see a lot of disgusting and odd things around the house, trapdoors, weird art and from what it looks like…corpses.
Batgirl saves them before they get themselves blown up by a rigged phone and that’s the end of that issue more or less. Melanie, in her infinite wisdom decides to drink from a can from Joker’s apartment and is promptly ‘Jokered’.
An ok issue, sidetracking a bit from the main story of No Man’s Land. Nothing much else to say about this one.
The Batman Chronicles #16: Harold
Denni O’Neil takes over for the final issue in The Batman Chronicles #16 and its an extremely short story of how Harold is cat away by a woman, then Alfred following the earthquake. He is happy when he is working and when he sees Gotham City in the distance in dire straits he smiles.
Azrael: Agent of the Bat #53: Jellybean Deathtrap
Joker’s featured for the first time proper, although I’m not quite keen on the look Roger Robinson has given him I am looking forward to finally seeing what he’s up to and has planned. As we learn, Joker’s bored and misses Batman and wonders why he hasn’t come for him yet. He has been planning for him though and has made a cubic shaped torture deathtrap.
Meanwhile the title character Azrael is looking for Calibax. He meets with Batman who tells him to wait on Calibax and to go for the Joker instead. Batman clearly holds the authority of Azrael who complies without question. But why doesn’t Batman go for him himself?
The Joker is messing with kids and uses jellybeans to spread the word out hoping to reach Batman. Joker expects Batman, gets Azrael. I’d be disappointed as well. Azrael, however, manages to save the young girl who is being used as bait but the Joker gets away.
A really good issue, the best Azrael issue of No Man’s Land Volume 1. Art not quite on par with most of the Batman issues but the writing and portrayal of Jean-Paul Valley is much improved.
Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #118: Balance
Cartoony art again and we are following Alfred as he tells a story about a Squire and a Knight – could be Batman and Robin or literally Squire and Knight from Batman Vs. Robin. Obviously it’s about Batman and himself and what he’s been up to since the earthquake. He has kept himself busy doing what he can while he waits for Batman to come back. Alfred is a good man and a faithful servant to Bruce.
Alfred gets himself into trouble before Batman swoops in to save the day like a Knight.
A short and sweet issue with a bit of humour and a sort of friendliness about it.
Batman: Shadow of the Bat #86: Home Sweet Home
Batgirl cleaning up before we start on a pretty sad story as well as a defiant one about a WW2 veteran citizen called Sarge who has been a Gotham Citizens for many decades. He proudly guards his home and his resources through determination and an old school rifle.
He is visited by Zsasz, Freeze, and finally Joker. And although they all want his resources he nonetheless perseveres as his house is his home. It’s a pretty sad tale really but an important one as it demonstrates that there are other people out there other than the good guys (he is a good guy though) trying to do the right thing. Not the easy thing but the right thing.
In many ways, Sarge is just like Batman. Except Sarge never left.
Batman #566: The Visitor
Make no mistake, Batman #566 is a Superman issue and better late than never Superman is here in Gotham to help it out. Art by Bogdanove is bold and brash, just like him and as the issue goes on it’s some of the best art and colour in No Man’s Land. When Superman arrives, saves some people, Batman’s there calling him over. Batman is direct with him, as he always is, and it’s one of my favourite parts of Bruce’s personality. Superman is pretty much a God, but not to Bruce. He is simply a man.
Batman gives him 24 hours to do good in the city and in much less than that Superman realises why Batman was so dismissive of Superman’s offer of help. As he tries to get the power station back up and running he quickly sees how desperate and hopeless the citizens are. “You can’t help those who can’t help themselves” springs to mind and it’s a shocking reminder to readers that there is a lot that still needs to be done to save Gotham City and there’s only one man who can do it – Batman. He doesn’t know how but he knows he will.
A great issue.
Detective Comics #733: Shades of Grey
This is a fairly hefty issue and starts with the GCPD trying to find out more about the Bat around Gotham, they plant the bait and it’s Batgirl, who looks stunning in her suit, that arrives. Gordon makes his opinion clear on how he feels about Batman and tasks her to pass the message on to Bruce.
Elsewhere, Penguin has a competitor in the trade industry who appear to be bringing in goods from outside of Gotham.
A man wants to go to prison as it’s safer than the City and Batman questions whether he is right or wrong. Meanwhile, Batman takes a baby from two women who argue over ownership of its life, it’s a sad state of affairs as neither of them are right or wrong on the matter.
Lastly, Alfred and Bruce are in the new Bat Cave as recent events make Bruce question what he’s doing. Alfred recalls an event where Bruce’s father had to commit a crime to do what he felt was right, before having to commit a crime himself to make up for it. It’s a reminder for Bruce that not everything in Gotham is black and white or right or wrong – hence the name of the issue ‘Shade of grey’ meaning Batman will need to operate in the grey are for the greater good.
A great issue, it really was. Sketchy and dirty artwork which reflected the events in the issue and the story replayed by Alfred is a very interesting one in the context of No Man’s Land.
Azrael: Agent of the Bat #54: Step into the Light
Azrael’s back and are we introduced to a new villain? The Death Dancer? So far, the Dancer is slitting people’s throats for an unknown reason.
We also see the citizens making tough choices as a small family have to choose between who to feed and who not to feed. The grandfather in this case is thrown out to save the father and daughter. Azrael sets them right before he saves a kid who then leads Azrael into a gang trap – Jean-Paul swiftly beats them up and heads back to the family.
Unfortunately he finds the grandfather now dead by The Death Dancer’s hand.
The issue ends with a tender moment between Oracle and Azrael as they bond. At first Oracle is flirting but the relationship appears to be purely platonic, at least on Azrael’s end. Lastly, the Death Dancer’s gaze is now firmly on Oracle.
An OK issue. The art and lettering is a bit messy but the story and writing is good as it continues to paint a bleak picture of what No Man’s Land Gotham’s like day to day.
Azrael: Agent of the Bat #55: Misery Dance
This the final issue of No Man’s Land Volume 1 and it’s Azrael’s. There’s yet another victim of the Death Dancer and Azrael visits Leslie Thompkins for clues. After helping her save a life they deduce the identity, it looks to be too late as the Dancer finds Oracle, who he is familiar with. It’s swiftly dealt with and it pretty much ends. Nothing more to say about the issue than that. No cliffhanger for Volume 2 to clean up.
Batman: No Man’s Land Volume 1 Review Summary
No Man’s Land Volume 1 is a big book, note as big as Knightfall but few are bigger. It’s also go a lot of different perspectives and artist which means it’s an ever changing experience. For the most part, it’s a well written and drawn account of a devastated Gotham City and it’s inhabitants. They are desperate, dangerous and hopeless and our heroes can only do so much with so little to make a difference which is a key topic in Volume 1. It’s a good collection overall with some good bit and bad bits but the good does outweigh the bad overall.
However, it should be said that I didn’t feel it was overly action packed OR filled with mystery and it generally felt like a slow burner from start to finish. Highlights are the new Batgirl, Scarecrow’s attempt at being ‘normal’ and James Gordon’s unquestionable determination to do what’s right for his City.
Batman: No Man’s Land Volume 1 Image Gallery
Last update on 2019-02-15 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API