Gotham in Ruins
Imagine with me, if you will, Gotham City, home of the Batman. It is a seedy and dangerous place, the perfect place for a noir style story. We often see it depicted with gothic architecture and design. You can picture it right? I mean we have seen the movies and the old shows that run the gamut from campy to dark and serious.
Now imagine the biggest earthquake to ever hit the eastern sea board and picture the entire city in ruins. Think of all the horror and destruction that people’s lives are uprooted into when disaster has struck and all but wiped their lives from the face of the earth. This is the storyline behind Batman: Road to No Man’s Land.
This isn’t the typical hero versus villain comic. Nope, this is man’s survival against the forces of nature. It is our fight to maintain our humanity when our world is ripped out from under us. So yeah, this is pretty big. The stories in the graphic novel are collected from several of the Batman and Nightwing monthly series published by DC Comics. Like many graphic novels, they originated as the monthly serials. Though the stories are not necessarily congruent with a single timeline they all show various stories within the cataclysm that has destroyed Gotham city.
After all that, we have to decide what exactly it is we want to talk about (what do I mean we? I mean seriously, I am going to babble for a number of words. It’s what I do). There are so many avenues to approach this behemoth but which one is the better to slip inside? I know, money…
That’s right, we are going to talk about money, at least as it relates to this disaster. See, there comes a time in life when it doesn’t really matter how much money you have. When the world has turned upside down, that dollar bill in your pocket isn’t going to buy that bottle of water from the person who just risked their life to get it. See, this is the underlying thought of the Batman series (not the only one but it still exists and it is something discussed in various circles). Bruce Wayne is incredibly rich. I mean grotesquely rich. So rich that there are memes created to discuss how rich he is in comparison to not only other rich super heroes but to small countries.
We spend so much time looking at the ideal of Batman and what wonders he does as a crime fighter that it can be easy to ignore the philanthropist playboy of his alter ego. Also keep in mind that Bruce Wayne is considered the mask. He views his ID as Batman. So it is easy to push that aside.
Where was I going with this? Oh yeah, money…
So here is the thing, we have all these stories showing the dregs of humanity in a desperate situation. Not only those who have lost the entirety of their world but also businesses. Gotham is in a place where it is time to purge and run and no one could really blame you for seeking shelter and life outside. While at the same time there are those who want to rebuild, want to make the place they have called home, whole again. Through all of this, money, the means of production is a tantamount thought. Even as the city bleeds on its deathbed, money and the ability to rebuild is a serious question. Sure that would seem the last thing on a person’s mind as they fight to survive on a daily basis. But short term thinking will only take you so far.
Now, of course, we find through the stories that Wayne Enterprises holdings have all been quake proofed. (Dare I say it? Dare I? Plot device!) Of course Bruce Wayne is going to survive through this financially. Even with Wayne manor and the Batcave in ruins, he still has the wherewithal to contribute in a big way to the rebirth of the city. Do bats land on their feet?
I am sure you see it like I do (that is a hope). The idea of Batman as the savior of the city is big in the stories. Even when we go through the motions of the city not believing that he exists, he is still there fighting his war against the criminal elements. This destruction is simply a new blockade to work against his efforts.
Personally, I liked the way they put this collection together. In a way it reads like a group of fables with a singular theme. The stories are all linked but loosely enough that they can tell show their singular part of the world without disrupting any of the others. I will be jumping into the second graphic novel in this series soon (Batman: No Man’s Land) and hope to see even more of the effects that this storyline has had on the world that Batman inhabits.
The stories are a good blend of the trauma of disaster mixed with heroes doing heroic things. It is the hope of heroes that helps to bring us through such, even when they are imagined.