Years after No Man’s Land, DC attempted another property wide crossover, albeit with a shorter length and more direction. Utilizing a concept introduced by Mark Waid in JLA: Tower of Babel, one of Batman’s plans was once again used against him. Unlike before, were only the heroes suffered, this exploded across the city, causing untold death and destruction to the citizens of Gotham.
As always, first, the prologue. Tim Drake’s father discovered his was Robin, forcing him to quit. With the position vacant, Stephanie Brown broke into the Batcave, determined to prove herself, though she’s been trying for years. Stephanie completed a few missions before being fired for disobeying a direct order. Before leaving, she stole one of Batman’s contingency plans, set to implement it herself without Batman’s knowledge.
The main War Games series was comprised of three acts, each act spread across a month, with eight issues in each act. Every Batman book at the time was utilized, Detective Comics, Batman, Legends of the Dark Knight, Gotham Knights, Robin, Batgirl, and Catwoman. Current series writers Greg Rucka, Ed Brubaker, Dylan Horrocks, Devin Grayson, Andersen Gabrych, Bill Willingham, and A.J. Lieberman handled writing duties with entirely too man artists to name.
War Games itself kicked off with a 12¢ issue serving as the prologue. Batman’s plan, enacted by Stephanie, was to call a meeting with all the gang leaders in Gotham on neutral ground. Matches Malone was to arrive, brokering a truce and uniting them under one leader, him. Only, Stephanie didn’t know Matches Malone was one of Batman’s long standing disguises, assuming he was an agent of Batman’s. With Malone not arriving, tension grew, until finally one man reached inside his jacket for a lighter. Another jumped, shooting him, igniting the war.
The war escalated in the first act, culminating in a fun moment. Members of one gang held a high school hostage where the daughter of a rival gang’s leader attended, which happened to be Tim Drake’s school as well. Though he still wasn’t Robin, he snuck away, doing what was necessary to help free the kids. Batman and Nightwing arrived, finding a way to sneak into the school in broad daylight. Robin and Nightwing, always a fun pairing, worked together to free the hostages. This was a pivotal moment as Batman was ultimately caught on camera. Until now, or since Zero Hour (don’t ask), he was considered an urban legend.
Three major status quo changes came about as a result. During the confusion, Black Mask returned to Gotham, seizing control of the disparaged gangs, uniting them under his rule. The second was the faux death of Stephanie at the hands of Black Mask with assistance from Dr. Leslie Thompkins. Mask tortured Stephanie, but she escaped, seeking care from long time Bat ally, Leslie Thompkins. Stephanie died asking Batman if she was ever really Robin. Batman learned after that Leslie withheld care, letting her die as a warning to all the children who play superhero. Don’t worry, it was eventually retconned anyway. The third change had Commissioner Akins declaring all vigilantes criminals, forcing Batman to work outside of the law again. Something that didn’t change until Gordon returned One Year Later.
War Games was a fun story with an interesting set up. The execution felt a little weak lacking a major super villain. Black Mask was decent, but not compelling enough. There have been plenty of poor Batman stories and equally many fantastic ones. This leans a little more towards the latter. While not a must read, its certainly entertaining.
Think Stephanie’s death was harrowing, or half done? Not enough major changes? Comment below!
Thompkins motive was stupid.