Judgment on Gotham was a four part story arc that went through two issues of Batman one issue of Gotham Sirens and one issue of Red Robin. I missed the Gotham Sirens issue that the arc featured in, but after reading the other three comics it didn’t seem necessary to read Gotham Sirens. Even Red Robin seemed like it wasn’t necessary if you just read the Batman issues. I will be reviewing the story arc’s three issues that I read as one.
The story worked because it was only three issues (four if you read the Gotham Sirens issue) that were for the most part pretty fast paced and it used religion the right way, in my opinion at least. I’m not the authority on what the right way is. It’s always a gamble when religion is used in any medium. People will either be okay with it or be offended. But in this case it didn’t make a mockery of it and it didn’t push it on anyone. In one issue it even made the story pretty remarkable. I enjoyed the arc as much as the next Bat fan, though it seemed a bit average.
Part one starts off with Dick Grayson, the current Batman, working a usual shift on Gotham’s mean streets. He disarms a doper hoping to blow away the two officers following him, then offering the lowlife a free punch. The foolish hooligan obliges and succeeds in smashing his own hand on Batman’s chest.
At first it appears all is fine until Dick walks away and nearly collapses. This is due to Azrael stabbing him with his sword of sin in Azrael #14, the wound has never seemed to heal and has left a bruise resembling a bat symbol.
We are treated to a flashback at this point from Dick’s past when he was in the Haley Circus and something terrible is happening to a performer known as the Prodigy and young Grayson is somehow involved.
Now the action picks up as there is a disturbance at Devil’s Square, and Bat-Grayson assumes that it involves Azrael. He is correct as he arrives on the scene to find Azrael’s follower, the Crusader is creating a ruckus in the name of God and his boss Azrael. The Crusader has mental powers (he acts mental too) such as telekenesis and pyrokinetics. He utilizes these powers while quoting scripture or his own variation on it. He looks like a medieval Christian crusader, but he has a burn over his whole face of a crucifix, the center being at where his nose should be. See the picture of this fruit cake to the right.
Not only is the Crusader present, but so too are Catwoman and Red Robin. Azrael soon follows to tell them all that they will be tested to determine the fate of Gotham. I would assume you have to be a regular reader of Azrael to understand why Ra’s Al’Ghul is involved, providing his “angels of death” with a meta-human named Fireball that will deal out Gotham’s punishment whether the heroes succeed in passing Azrael’s test or not. Dick move, Al’Ghul!
Part 2 – Red Robin #22
This part of the story was definitely my favorite. I’ve always liked Tim Drake, but admittedly I lost track of him once he stopped being Robin and took up the mantle of the Red Robin. Sure he’s named after my favorite resteraunt, but he’s still cool as hell. This was the first issue of Red Robin I’ve ever picked up (wanting to try something new) and I didn’t regret it. Understandably, Tim Drake is running a little low on faith. He’s lost friends, a mother and a father throughout his young life and is one of the most noble of people you could find in the DCU. So Tim’s question is valid in this issue – “How could someone who tried so hard to be good–did so much for so many people– be asked to endure so much?”
Red Robin follows after the Crusader’s trail of destruction saving lives left and right, his trek ending with a confrontation with Azrael himself who is holding Mayor Hady hostage.*SPOILER FOLLOWS* Red Robin is then stabbed by Azrael’s sword of sin and is revealed to have none. It would appear that he passed the test and Gotham will be saved…. but wait! The scum bag Crusader claims that Tim is not a believer because he did not show the proper respect for a church that he saved people from as it was on fire. Azrael demands to know if it is true that Tim does not believe.
This was my favorite part, because Tim knows that if he tells the truth and says he is not a believer then Gotham is doomed. But if he lies and says that he is to save Gotham then he will fail the test anyways. I can’t say that I would have made the same choice as him, but I won’t spoil what his answer was!
Part 3 – Batman #709
This issue was short in it’s own way. Much of it dealt with a flashback after Azrael has brought the now grown up Prodigy from the Haley circus to the meeting with Batman for his “test”. The Prodigy recounts a tale to us, about when he was the best performer at the Haley Circus, and after getting together with the girlfriend of a resident of the area they were performing in, things get bad. Prodigy is beaten by the boyfriend and a group of his friends, so injured that he could never perform at the circus anymore and that is where Grayson comes into play.
Dick admits that even though Prodigy was his friend as a child, he was jealous of him in a way and hated when he was treated like a little brother. It turns out that Dick knew the kids were going to beat up Prodigy but he didn’t warn him and watched as they beat him.
After this and an intervention by two of Azreal’s (Michael Lane’s) relatives, Batman challenges him to use the swords on himself. Azreal agrees and Ra’s Al’Ghul’s plan is revealed. He would use Azrael’s attack as an excuse for the U.S. to retaliate against terrorists which would incite more attacks and eventually cause global war, where Al’Ghul himself emerges as the new ruler. Does this happen? You’ll have to read and find out!
I thought that this arc was actually pretty good, even if you’re not currently reading Azrael. I liked the art in both titles and may even go back to read the Gotham Sirens tie-in. Some might think the arc too short, but I’ve been preferring only three to four issues per arc to make it enjoyable. Any more and it gets too drawn out unless it’s something advertised for months previous.
It’s interesting to see Dick being questioned by Selina and Tim on whether or not they need to call Bruce in, to which Dick is firmly against. Even in the third part, Bruce asks him if he needs to make an appearance and Dick refuses. I think Grayson is perfectly capable of doing the Batman gig on his own and it has been fun watching him prove himself. I only that when he actually does need help, he doesn’t refuse or overlook it because of wanting to prove himself to Bruce. I give the arc as a whole, 3 grizzlies.
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