Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Why Aren't You Reading: Batman: Death And The Maidens

Presenting a new feature exclusive to Second Printing!!! One that could only be called "Why Aren't You Reading..."

An immortal dies.

Had DC Comics let it, the death of Ra's al Ghul could have been a new beginning.

2003 and Greg Rucka returns to the Batman Universe after an extended absence. His assignment?

End Ra's al Ghul, for good or bad, the most significant Batman villain created since The Riddler.

Ra's, created in 1971 by Batman writer Denny O'Neill, is an immortal international terrorist and assassin with his eye on world domination. Ra's has access to The Lazarus Pits, pools of rejuvenating chemicals that restore life to the dead and vitality to the living. The one man that stands in his way... The Batman. At this point in 2003, Batman and Ra's have been dancing this dance for some 22 years.

It went something like this:

Ra's: "I'm gonna end the world."

Batman: "I won't let you."

Ra's: *sigh* "Wanna bang my daughter, Talia?"

As awesome as this all sounds, it got a little tired after a while. Someone realizing this, decided that one of Batman's greatest villains needed and extreme makeover. Only question was:

"How do you kill an immortal?"

With another. Enter Nyssa.

The Lazarus Pits have been systematically destroyed and the once powerful Ra's al Ghul finds himself near death and with but one request, one he believes only The Batman can grant:

"I want you to stop murdering me."

Elsewhere, Nyssa, a daughter seemingly long lost, enslaves one long beloved, systematically using a Lazarus Pit to bring her sister to heel.

Deep inside Wayne Manor, Bruce Wayne is tripping on alchemy (acid) and blowing both our minds.

You read that right.

Batman's on acid.

The only words more terrifying than "Batman's on acid" are "Joker and Dick Cheney's Shotgun Sodomy Dance Team-Up."

Now if that weren't enough, you get Rucka providing some of the richest characterization of ever laid down in four-color, resulting in an end for one "Demon's Head" and a re-birth for another.

Included in the deal is some of the best fleshing out of the early Batman mythos using none other than the long-dead Martha Wayne as Bruce's spirit guide.

What you also get is some beautiful art by Klaus Janson and no one is more shocked than I. Janson has never been hailed as the strongest of pencillers but on "Death And The Maidens" he brings his all to the page.

In the end Nyssa takes up the mantle of "The Demon" and walks off with all in control of all that was once Ra's'. From there we should have had story upon story featuring Nyssa as the new Ra's al Ghul. What we should have gotten was a new status quo where a once-smitten Talia, acting as Nyssa's Ubu, becomes the Batman's deadliest foe in word, heart and deed. Instead what we got was... not much.

Here's the rub shortly after Batman: Death And The Maidens was announced so was the film Batman Begins featuring, you guessed it, the decidedly "has-a-penis" Ra's al Ghul. DC Comics, always wary that its fans can't tell an elbow from a piehole, relegated Nyssa to smallish guest appearances in second-tier Bat-Books where all she did was stand around in robes and spout Machiavellian.

Batman Begins made tons of money for Warner Brothers and in response Nyssa was killed off in a car explosion in the pages of Robin, opening the door for the return of the original Ra's al Ghul.

In 2007, Ra's returned to the DCU and was quickly defeated, locked up in The Arkham Asylum for The Criminally Insane, another Denny O'Neill creation (Get it?), where he remains drugged up under a false ID, all provided by the Batman.

What a waste.

Had Nyssa been given a chance, we could have gotten stories full of wrath, intrigue and a new dynamic featuring a true femme fatale in The DC Universe.

Will we ever see Nyssa again? When last we heard her name, the always-lying Lady Shiva declared her "dead." In comics, dead hopefully means "in a Lazarus Pit..."

...on acid.

1 comment:

Rob S. said...

That was a great story -- like you, I'm sad it didn't stick.