BATMAN: WAR ON CRIME - An Appreciation
Author: Mark S. Reinhart
Monday, April 14, 2008
© 2008 Mark S. Reinhart
Normally, the pieces I contribute to BOF are for a series I call “Overlooked Bat Treasures,” which sing the praises of some little-known Batman item. But I’ve wanted to write something about my favorite Batman work of all time for quite a while, and it is hardly an “overlooked treasure.” The large size graphic novel BATMAN: WAR ON CRIME by Alex Ross and Paul Dini was first published in 1999, and was both a critical and commercial success. However, there are subtle elements of the book that some Batman fans might have missed -- in fact, when I searched the internet for reviews of the book, I never found one review that mentioned any of these elements. So I’ll write a bit about the parts of BATMAN: WAR ON CRIME that I personally consider to be “overlooked treasures.”
First, a quick overview of the book itself. In BATMAN: WAR ON CRIME , Batman encounters Marcus, a young inner city boy whose parents are murdered in front of him, a tragedy mirroring Bruce Wayne’s loss of his parents. In grief, the boy turns to a life on the streets, joining a gang and participating in criminal activities. Batman is able to convince the boy that to rebuild his shattered life and cope with the loss of his parents, he must not become part of the cycle of violence that took their lives – because turning to crime can never be a remedy for crime.
Most BOF readers have probably read BATMAN: WAR ON CRIME , so I don’t need to say much about how well-written and illustrated the book is. (If you haven’t read the book, shame on you! I think most every serious Batman fan would consider the book an essential title -- so go and get yourself a copy!) After all, Ross and Dini are comic industry giants, and their work ranks right up there with the greatest Batman creators of all time. But for me, it is the subtleties of the book that lead me to pick it up again and again.
For example, how many of you that are familiar with the book spotted Batman’s most famous villains in its pages? Almost all of them are there -- but these villains are presented in such a “real world” manner that they tend to quietly blend into the story as a whole. Let me give you a rundown of the villains glimpsed in the book.
Edward Nygma, better known as The Riddler shows up on pages 8 and 9. (The book doesn’t actually have page numbers, so I’m simply counting pages from the first page of the book myself) He is shown working on a blueprint, obviously planning out a crime, and Batman steps out of the shadows to confront him. One nice little artistic touch -- on the Riddler’s desk, there is a small statue of himself. (I wonder if that is something he bought through DC Direct?)
On page 11, The Joker appears. He is turned away from the reader, holding a woman hostage. Batman is bearing down on him like a great black shadow. (This page always makes me uneasy -- what has the Joker done to this woman? Has Batman really arrived in time to save her, or is he too late?)
On pages 44 and 45, a trio of villains shows up. Oswald Cobblepot, better known as the Penguin, is shown as a nightclub owner who has supposedly given up his criminal ways (of course both the reader and Batman know better than to buy that story!) One of the guests at his club is none other than Selina Kyle, better known as Catwoman. She is shown at the top of page 45, wearing the same green dress she was wearing when she was unmasked by Batman all the way back in BATMAN #1, Spring 1940! And on page 45, we see that Cobblepot has a painting of Poison Ivy on his office wall.
Batman’s closest allies also can be spotted in the book. Alfred is seen on a number of pages, and Commissioner Gordon makes a brief appearance on page 59. Interestingly, Ross and Dini decided not to incorporate one of Batman’s most enduring allies into BATMAN: WAR ON CRIME -- there is no sign of Robin at all in the book. Another enduring element of the Batman mythos that BATMAN: WAR ON CRIME chooses to ignore is the Bat mobile -- Batman is shown in the Batcave, but the reader does not get a glimpse of Batman’s famous ride.
I assume that both Robin and the Batmobile might not have been included in the book because both of those elements of the Batman mythos tend to detract from the overall realism of the Batman character. In fact, WOC is so firmly rooted in reality that it really makes the reader believe that Batman could exist in real life. I feel that Christopher Nolan’s Batman films approach the Batman character in a manner very similar to the way the character is portrayed in WOC. Just check out the way The Joker looks on page 11 of the book -- to me, he looks quite a bit like Heath Ledger as The Joker in the upcoming film, THE DARK KNIGHT
In closing, let me ask all of you Batman fans a question. Can you spot any other longtime Batman characters in BATMAN: WAR ON CRIME ? Did I overlook anyone? As detailed as Ross’s artwork is, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if someone picks up on something I missed.
He works both as a Media Services Consultant and a musician in his hometown of Columbus, Ohio and is an avid fan of The Dark Knight.