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Are Women Allowed in No Man's Land? - The Book of the Celestial Cow

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May 9th, 2009


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10:25 pm - Are Women Allowed in No Man's Land?
In my futile attempt to get jeeperstseepers into comics, I sent her Greg Rucka's novelization of Batman: No Man's Land. Since it had been four or five years since I'd read the comics (collected in five volumes), I thought I'd give them a re-read.

In 1999, DC did a year-long story called No Man's Land. The rather ludicrous premise was that after Gotham City was hit by both a lethal disease outbreak and a massive earthquake, the entire city was essentially declared unsalvageable and no longer part of the U.S.A. Many got out, but some stayed. Including the residents of Arkham Asylum!

Batman has always had the best Rogues' Gallery, and I was familiar with most of the villains from the animated series, but reading NML was my first exposure to their comic counterparts (which showed me just how wrong the pre-Nolan movie portrayals were). The Penguin, Two-Face, and Joker figure most prominently, but a lot of others make appearances.

What's most interesting about No Man's Land is the portrayal of, basically, post-apocalyptic Gotham. Laws are meaningless, and resources are scarce. Bullets are worth more as currency than as weapons. Gangs form, and gang wars erupt. Some of it is a little over-the-top—would society really go to shit after two months? I suppose it's possible in a dire enough situation. And that's what the story is about, what happens in this dire sitution. The Gotham City Police Department tries to maintain order, and Jim Gordon has to continually face a moral dilemma and debate with one of his officers, Pettit, who believes that lethal force is the only language an anarchist people will listen to. People make unlikely alliances with villains who find that having control over people is worth taking care of them. As the first storyline proclaims, there's No Law and a New Order. But it's in these most trying times that you struggle to keep a grip on your own humanity and don't let yourself sink to the level of the petty criminals. Being a mainstream comic, it's not particularly subtle about this theme, but it does have its well-written moments.

And what of Batman? Gotham needs Batman like Batman needs Gotham, and Batman does his best to keep the city from destroying itself. He can't do it alone, of course. Oracle continues to gather information in a low-tech world, and Huntress tries to keep the peace any way she can. Robin and Nightwing get called in, as does Azrael, who I know very little about. And there's also the introduction of one of my favorite characters, Cassandra Cain. Our Heroes work together to fight crime! It's a good time.

Overall, No Man's Land is too sprawling a crossover event to really be great since the plot progression is kind of...intermittent. There are a couple major plotlines that continue throughout, but a lot of time is taken up by short stories that feature fun characters but don't add a whole lot to the Big Picture, exactly. And while there are great writers like Greg Rucka, Devin Grayson, Kelley Puckett, Chuck Dixon, and Paul Dini involved, there were also names I didn't recognize like Larry Hama, who provides an awful Mr. Freeze issue where Mr. Freeze and Batman fight while quipping. Batman does not quip! He's not SPIDER-MAN. The art style switches a lot too, from Alex Maleev's dark, noir style to Damion Scott's more comic-book, animated-series style. I don't remember disliking much of the art, thankfully.

But it does have a lot of great moments, especially for the villains, who really get to be showcased. A couple of them get to be truly terrifying. (And Harley Quinn gets integrated into the DCU! She is not really terrifying.) There's a lot of good material for Jim Gordon as well, plus his rocky relationship with Batman. Renee Montoya features as well, and I still need to read Gotham Central. It's a good story if you like your Batman caped and cowled (there's very little Bruce), protecting his city. And even though Gotham eventually has to be restored by the end, NOTHING WILL EVER BE THE SAME!
Current Mood: hungrystill hungry (damn you, liquid/mushy-food diet)
Current Music: Radiohead - Backdrifts (Honeymoon Is Over)

(10 memoirs | Describe me as "inscrutable")

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:duchessdogberry
Date:May 10th, 2009 05:50 am (UTC)
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would society really go to shit after two months?

I'd like to think that society in reality is a bit less fucked up than Gotham City on a good day even before the quake. Then, after the quake, you have a food shortage, gang issues, and all the Arkham inmates loose in the streets? Yeah, I'm not too shocked that all the dogs in Gotham were eaten.

If the story had attempted to take place in Metropolis, it would be very different.

It's a good story if you like your Batman caped and cowled (there's very little Bruce)

But there is some Matches Malone! Which, speaking of, why does no one ever go "Hey, that bum that ripped us off kind of looks like that wealthy playboy..."

I just read Volume 1 at work on Thursday. Still can't find Vol 2, but will be taking Vol 3 to work tomorrow.
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:May 10th, 2009 06:03 am (UTC)
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I'd like to think that society in reality is a bit less fucked up than Gotham City on a good day even before the quake. Then, after the quake, you have a food shortage, gang issues, and all the Arkham inmates loose in the streets? Yeah, I'm not too shocked that all the dogs in Gotham were eaten.

If the story had attempted to take place in Metropolis, it would be very different.

That's a good point. Gotham is...Gotham, after all.

But there is some Matches Malone!
There's, like, one page! That I remember.

I just read Volume 1 at work on Thursday. Still can't find Vol 2, but will be taking Vol 3 to work tomorrow.
Vol. 2 doesn't have a lot of extremely important material until the last couple issues, which have lasting ramifications.
[User Picture]
From:duchessdogberry
Date:May 10th, 2009 06:46 am (UTC)
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There's, like, one page! That I remember.

I said "some". Not "a lot".


I like Matches. Sometimes. In small doses.

Vol. 2 doesn't have a lot of extremely important material until the last couple issues, which have lasting ramifications.

Thanks. That's very helpful.
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:May 10th, 2009 07:02 am (UTC)
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I sense sarcasm! Two-Face makes a deal with Penguin since they have adjoining territories. GPCD moves on Penguin's southern border as Penguin moves on Batman's southern border. Jim and Renee have cryptic conversations about going to "him" about something, but we don't know who they're making a deal with (but Renee says they're selling their souls). Batgirl defends Batman's border, but apparently not very well, and people die. Lots of people die in all the fighting, as Two-Face has a lot of men, but then Two-Face double-crosses Penguin (just as Penguin had broken his deal with Batman by advancing on his territory) and announces that the GPCD has just annexed the southern half of his territory.
[User Picture]
From:duchessdogberry
Date:May 10th, 2009 02:40 pm (UTC)
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Heh. I was just picking on you for essentially saying, "nothing happens... until something happens".

But thanks! Now I'll easily hop into Vol 3 if I get a break tonight!
[User Picture]
From:the_narration
Date:May 10th, 2009 03:09 pm (UTC)
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NML, huh? That's a blast form the past. Reading NML was one of the things that started me on the path towards reading DC on a regular basis. And that blame for that can be rested almost entirely on the shoulders of young Cassandra Cain, who is a favorite of mine as well. Haven't read NML in years, but I'm sure it's still on my hard drive.

I also have that novelization in a box with a bunch of other books. Impulse buy that wound up being a decent read. Has some stuff that wasn't in the comics (introduces Cass sooner and adds some background) but a few of the details are different.

You haven't read Gotham Central yet? For shame! That's just about DC's best book ever!
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:May 10th, 2009 04:23 pm (UTC)
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Reading NML was one of the things that started me on the path towards reading DC on a regular basis.
Yeah, same here. Helped get me into the Batfam, I think.

You haven't read Gotham Central yet? For shame! That's just about DC's best book ever!
One day!
[User Picture]
From:punzerel
Date:May 10th, 2009 11:10 pm (UTC)
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My sister (pellucere) had the exact same complaint as jeeperstseepers about the comics day. RUDE, comic people. (Also, all conventions ever.)
[User Picture]
From:prophetkristy
Date:May 12th, 2009 06:24 pm (UTC)
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Oh, I've been wanting to re-read that! I love Oracle.

(BTW, have you read the novelisation (or heck, the comics) of Knightfall? Best. Batman story. ever. I wish they'd make a movie of it.)

humph, apparently I need a Batman icon.
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:May 12th, 2009 06:30 pm (UTC)
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I haven't yet! I'll check it out. And, yeah, Oracle is great.

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