Batman Annual #26
By Peter Milligan & David Lopez
Talia tells an uninterested Damian stories about the past of Ra’s al Ghul. These stories include Ra’s first love, Sora, and how they discovered the Lazrus Pits from work her late father had done. However, his ambition lead to her death. From this, he becomes enraged, and assumed the title of the Demon’s Head. Another story has Ra’s being instrumental in Napoleon losing the battle of Waterloo, and taking Napoleon’s mistress. The last story is from the time of Jack the Ripper, in London, and shows the White Ghost (Ra’s assistant) informing Ra’s of a way to cheat death if he cannot get to a Lazrus Pit in time. Part of the plan includes the writings of Ra’s history. It is revealed that Damian is hearing these stories because the White Ghost plans on Ra’s inhabiting Damian’s body, and those memories are necessary. Damian and Talia escape before White Ghost can perform the ceremony for Ra’s to inhabit Damian’s body. During this time, Batman is investigating the disappearance of two scientists, and finds their murdered bodies, on the way to finding White Ghost’s Lazrus Pit. Nicely written story showing some of the history of Ra’s al Ghul. Released in August, successfully teased the upcoming cross-over.
Robin Annual #7 “The Festival of the Hungry Ghosts”
By Keith Champagn & Jason Pearson
In this back-up story, Damian fights a bunch of ghosts. There’s more to it than this, but not necessary to the tale. At the end he defeats four Robins (Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, original Tim Drake costume, new Tim Drake costume). It is revealed that this was just a test, and a cloaked Ra’s al Ghul was watching him.
*note: While only the second story in this annual involves the Resurrection of Ra’s al Ghul, the first story, “The Great Pumpkin,” also written by Keith Champagne, worth a read. It is a mystery of some gruesome killings happening around Halloween. It’s difficult to write a truly dark Robin story that is also good and true to the character, but Keith Champagne accomplishes it.
Batman #670 – Prelude “Lazarus Rising”
By Grant Morrison & Tony Daniel
Major plot points: I-Ching was attacked by someone being possessed by the Sensei, who is looking for Nanda Parbat; Batman rescues I-Ching; Talia hires 3 female villians to distract Batman; Batman easily takes them out, and learns of the return of Ra’s al Ghul; Ra’s al Ghul reveals his bandaged, decomposing self to Talia and Damian; it is learned that Damian is to be the new host body for Ra’s, and this will effectively kill Damian’s consciousness; Damian escapes.
Morrison’s writing maintains its high standard. Tony Daniel on art is a nice addition to the book.
Robin #168 - Part 1 “A Boy for the Demon”
By Peter Milligan & Freddie E. Williams II
Major plot points: Damian sneaks into the Batcave looking for Batman, but finds Robin; Damian and Robin have a confrontation then fight throughout stately Wayne Manor; Ra’s has Talia captive on a boat; Batman rescues her, but Ra’s is gone; Sensei continues his search for clues as to the location of Nanda Parbat; large number of members of the League of Assassins approaching stately Wayne Manor.
This had the first of two fill-in writers working on the cross-over, but Adam Beechen did not write the issue before this either, and Chuck Dixon is taking over this month. So, having a fill-in writer is not bad. And besides, Milligan is a pretty good writer, in my opinion.
Nightwing #138 – Part 2 “The Lesser of Two Evils”
By Fabian Nicieza & Don Kramer
Major plot points: Nightwing is alerted to go to stately Wayne Manor, and teleports there; Batman and Talia search for Ra’s, leaving Damian and Robin to fight the LoA; Sensei continues his quest; Ra’s has to get to Nanda Parbat to prepare to posses Damian; big fight between Robin, Nightwing and Damian versus the LoA; Robin and Damian taken away when Nightwing keeps the 3 female villians from the Prelude from being poisoned.
Here is the second of the fill-in writers. Marv Wolfman left the book, and I believe Tomasi is taking over in January. Nicely written issue. It should also be noted that Damian is a hothead, and does not really listen to anyone. Just a little bit of the character development that is missed by just covering the main plot points.
Detective Comics #838 – Part 3
By Paul Dini & Ryan Benjamin
Major plot points: Damian and Robin are taken to Ra’s; Damian escapes, and leaves Robin behind; Ra’s plays mind games with Robin, offering to bring Robin’s parents back to life, and mentor him; Batman and Talia run into I-Ching during their trek through mountains, in search of Ra’s; Nightwing and Alfred arrive in Tibet, and fight off some LoA members and Ubu; sword fight between Batman and Ra’s; Ra’s asks Batman to choose which son of his will die, Robin or Damian.
I like Paul Dini’s writing. It’s not the usual fare we have been seeing in Detective, but still a well written issue. See a pattern forming?
Batman #671 – Part 4 “He Who Is Master”
By Grant Morrison & Tony Daniel
Major plot points: Sensei has found and taken over Nanda Parbat; Batman agrees to take Ra’s al Ghul to the Fountain of Life in Nanda Parbat in order to save Robin and Damian; Batman and Ra’s make it to Nanda Parbat and fight the Sensei’s men; they go to the Fountain of Life, and find the Sensei, who is revealed to be Ra’s al Ghul’s father; Sensei “kills” Ra’s, and fights Batman; during the fight, Sensei goes into the Fountain, and it burns him; Ra’s al Ghul’s spirit inhabits another body.
Did I mention early that I like Morrison’s writing and Daniel’s art? Well, I do. And whoever decides the layouts does a phenomenal job. The fight between Sensei was amazingly done. Sensei says that he can fight all out for under two minutes, and fortunately only needs one to defeat Batman. The fight keeps going after Sensei believes he finishes off Batman, and asks him what he is doing. Batman replies with, ‘lasting longer than a minute.’ It was just a nice Batman moment.
Robin #169 – Part 5
By Peter Milligan & David Baldeon
Keep in mind that Robin is thinking about Ra’s al Ghul’s offer, or asking questions about it the entire issue. Major plot points: Robin, Damian, and Talia fight of the LoA; Damian hightails it out of there before the fight is done to rejoin his father; Talia chases after Damian; I-Ching keeps the LoA busy for Robin to leave as well; Robin questions Talia about how the Lazrus Pit works, but she is more concerned about Damian, and leaves to find him, while he stays behind; Batman finishes off the Sensei’s men, and denies the hand of friendship extended to him by Ra’s; Robin briefly fights the White Ghost, but convinces him to take him to the Lazrus Pit; I-Ching allows Robin the choice of going into the pit, but Nightwing shows up to stop him.
My brief summary does not come close to doing Milligan’s script justice. If you’ve been keeping up with Robin for the past 3 years, you know who he has lost, and how tempted he would be to flirt with the idea of resurrecting them. There is a typo in this issue though. Like Detective Comics, this issue does not have an issue title, just the storyline title and what part it is. Only, on the first page, it says “Part 4″ instead of “Part 5.” Oops. Mike Marts, as the editor, that is on you.
Nightwing #139 – Part 6 “Living Proof”
By Fabian Nicieza & Don Kramer
Major plot points: Nightwing fights Robin, and tries to convince him to leave the Lazrus Pit alone; I-Ching joins in briefly; Damian sneaks onto a cargo helicopter, which was the White Ghost’s plan; Robin decides to leave the Lazrus Pit alone, and Night hugs him; Robin, Nightwing, and Talia fly to Nanda Parbat to find Ra’s about to inhabit Damian’s body.
Once again, the summary does not convey the emotion of the issue. I seriously suggest reading this issue. Even if you don’t read any other issues in the story arc, read this one. This was a very emotional issue. I cannot recall any other moment where Nightwing has to play the tough, big brother roll, and Fabian did a wonderful job writing it. Through most of the issue, it remains a mystery as to what Robin will do. You know that he should just leave the Pit alone, but at the same time, you feel sorry for him because he has lost several people close to him, in a short period of time. To hammer this point home, there is a panel right before his final decision that shows him with liquid from the Pit in 3 sample vials, and he sees Stephanie (Spoiler), his dad, and Conner (Superboy) in each of the vials. There’s also a bad ass scene of Talia in shredded clothing, a bloody katana in one hand, and a bloody battle axe, thrown over her shoulder in the other.
Detective Comics #839 – Part 7 “Entitlement”
By Paul Dini & Ryan Benjamin with Don Kramer
Major plot points: Batman stops Ra’s from taking over Damian’s body; Damian shows that he really is a scared, little boy when Batman tells him to pick up a weapon and fight in the war they are in, while Nightwing and Robin show up fighting; Talia babies Damian and he runs off; White Ghost is revealed to be a son of Ra’s, and Ra’s inhabits his body (permanent since White Ghost is a blood relation); Ra’s reveals himself to everyone; Talia knocks out Damian, and runs off with him; sword fight between Batman and Ra’s; Robin and Nightwing fight the Sensei’s men, who are now working for Ra’s; the Monks of Nanda Parbat intervene to put a stop to the fight, by destroying the the place; everyone escapes.
I do believe it was important to show how Damian hesitated when told to pick up a weapon and fight, whereas Robin and Nightwing jumped right in. It reinforced the theme of family that the issue ends with, and was brought up at other parts of the story arc.
I will admit, at first, I was disappointed with the ending. Batman and Ra’s are fighting, fighting, fighting, then they separate, appearing to be readying themselves for one final charge. Then the monks show up and things just abruptly end. It had the feeling of being very anti-climatic. But then I thought about more, and the story was titled “Resurrection.” And Ra’s al Ghul was brought back to life. And it was a fairly believable, for a comic, bringing back to life. No punching a wall of God only knows what.
And the characters did not simply tread water through the story. There was quite a bit of emotional development. Nightwing shows he is capable of showing tough love to protect his brother. Robin shows that he is a emotionally fragile teenager, but still strong enough to overcome. Talia showed that even though she is a fierce warrior, she is also an over-protective mother. Damian showed that his development is no where near that of Robin or Nightwing.
So, with some retrospective, I really enjoyed this story. Yes, it took a second read-through, but enjoying is enjoying. I like where the Batman family is at the end of this story. There was an epilogue in Detective Comics #840 that wraps things up…for now. But you don’t get that in this review, because I am only including what is going to be in the trade. In conclusion, I would suggest that you read this story. An actual reading, not a skimming.