Monday, December 29, 2008

"The Resurrection of Ra's Al Ghul" hardcover.

OK, this collection contains Batman Annual #26, Batman 670-671, Robin Annual #7, Robin #168-169, Nightwing 138-139, Detective Comics #838-839. There, I think that's all of them.

Overall- This hardcover opens with Talia Al Ghul, teaching her son by Batman, Damian, the life story of her villainous father, Ra's Al Ghul. Damian could care less about the story, and continuously interrupts his mother with obnoxious comments. A man known only as the White Ghost, who has been serving Ra's for centuries, insists that Talia makes sure Damian hears and understands every part of Ra's life. The White Ghost tells Talia that he was planning on resurrecting Ra's, and that Damian had to answer several questions Ra's would have after emerging from the Lazarus Pit. White Ghost explains that only a male blood relative could answer the questions Ra's would have after emerging from the Pit. We later discover that White Ghost was lying to Talia and he intended to use Damian as a new body for Ra's. OK... White Ghost brings Talia and the annoying Damian to the Lazarus Pit, and tells Damian to get in. Talia, sensing a trick, fights her way out of the room, and escapes with Damian. Batman arrives on the scene soon thereafter and battles the White Ghost and his men, accidentally knocking White Ghost into the Lazarus Pit.

Next we find Talia and Damian on the run from the League of Assassins. While wandering around a town in some small island country, Damian is drugged and tested by a mysterious figure. Damian beats up all challengers(of course...), and goes on his way.

To further complicate this story, an old man known only as the Sensei hears word that Ra's Al Ghul seems to be alive again. The Sensei, who leads a band of deadly assassins, tells his men to prepare for war. Meanwhile Ra's himself approaches Talia, his body wrapped in bandages, and appears to make amends with her. Ra's meets Damian and Ra's seems shocked that Damian's father is Batman... Why is he surprised? It was always my understanding that Ra's considered Bats the perfect mate for his daughter. Anyway, Ra's informs Damian that he was only bred to serve as a replacement body for Ra's himself, in the event that Ra's body was ever destroyed. OK, time-out for a second here. If Ra's can move his consciousness from body to body, even after having his body completely destroyed, why is he so insistent on possessing Damian? Why make enemies with Talia and bring down Batman's wraith by possessing Damian? Hell, I'd just keep moving from body to body, keep Talia as an ally, and stay out of Batman's hair. I guess that's why I'm not a megalomaniacal super-villain.

Talia naturally betrays her father and tells Damian to run and find Batman. Talia keeps her father occupied and Damian makes his escape, much to the rage of Ra's. Damian sneaks into the Batcave and is confronted by Robin, who was the only person in the Cave at the time. Damian tells Robin that he has to see Batman, and that Ra's Al Ghul was alive again and trying to possess him. Robin doesn't buy Damian's story, and the two have a quick tussle, which ends up with Damian knocking Robin out(AGAIN!)and making his way upstairs into Wayne Manor. Damian wanders the hallways looking for Bats, but finds Alfred instead, who upon hearing the fear in Damian's voice believes his story concerning Ra's and agrees to contact Bats. Robin regains consciousness and makes his way upstairs and spots Damian and Alfred together. Fearing Damian was attacking Alfred, Robin knocks Damian to the floor. Alfred scolds Robin for attacking the frightened Damian, but Damian, being a little jerk, gets up and attacks Robin. Much to my utter shock and disbelief, Robin actually manages to pin Damian to the floor and proceeds to beat Damian up. I can't believe it! Somebody actually was able to(gasp)gain the upper hand on Damian, the 12 year old ultimate fighting machine?!?! I thought Damian was an unbeatable machine! I am just SHOCKED! Anyway, while the boys were fighting it out, Wayne Manor was being surrounded by a small army of Ra's ninja assassins.

Batman winds up rescuing Talia from a boat, where she was being taken somewhere to be punished for allowing Damian to escape Ra's. Talia tells Bats that Damian was in Gotham and in terrible danger, and that her father was alive again. Bats decides to call Nightwing and tells Nightwing to get to the Manor and make sure everybody there was safe. Nightwing teleports to the Manor, using JLA technology, and discovers the place overrun with ninjas. Talia gets pissed off at Bats for not protecting Damian personally, but Bats says he trusts Nightwing and Robin, and that his main priority was to hunt down Ra's, with Talia's help.

Nightwing realizes there are hundreds of ninjas attacking, and he manages to save Alfred from one. After escorting Alfred to(relative)safety, Dick makes his way down to the Batcave, where he finds Robin and Damian surrounded by countless ninjas. Dick joins the fray, and manages to make a dent in the horde of ninjas. Shortly though, three super-powered women hired by Talia arrive, looking to take Damian away for safekeeping. The three women wind up getting hit by poisoned darts, and fall to the ground, dying. Nightwing realizes that if he didn't administer the antidote to the poison, the three women would be dead in 30 seconds. Dick breaks off his attack on the ninjas to save the women, and the ninjas take advantage, capturing Robin and Damian, before escaping.

The supposedly unconscious Robin and Damian are brought to Ra's Al Ghul himself, and upon arriving, reveal they were not really unconscious and launch an attack. Damian, ever the scumbag, ditches Robin and runs away. Robin continues to fight alone for a while, but Ra's instructs his men to stand down. Ra's then tells Robin that if he joined forces with him, and left Batman, he would allow Robin to use the Lazarus Pit to resurrect his dead father and friends. Robin tries to stall for time, but Ra's recognizes this tactic, and knocks Robin out with a well placed blow.

While this is all going on, Batman and Talia wind up arriving at Ra's base of operations. Ra's is naturally ready for Bats, and the two have their customary sword fighting scene. However, during the fight, Ra's deliberately impales himself on Bats sword, to show that his body was rotting away. Ra's then has his men bring out Robin and Damian, who was captured off panel, and tells Batman that one of them will serve as his new body, and the other one would be allowed to leave with Bats. Batman tells Ra's that he will take him to the mythical city of Nanda Parbat, where a fountain of life was located. If Ra's were to take a dip in the fountain, he would conceivably have his own body restored to it's former glory. Ra's agrees to this trade off, and Bats and Ra's head off to Nanda Parbat. Unfortunately, the Sensei figured Ra's would try to get to Nanda Parbat and has invade the mythical city with his band of assassins.

Batman attacks the assassins, while Ra's runs off in search of the fountain of life. Ra's meets up with the Sensei near the fountain, where the Sensei tells Ra's that he would never allow him to use the fountain. We also discover the Sensei is Ra's father, and that he was disappointed with the way Ra's had been running the League of Assassins. The Sensei then impales Ra's on his staff. Batman arrives to witness this, and goes after the Sensei, who proceeds to beat the living Hell out of Batman... Grant Morrison is a strange man. On one hand, we have Damian, the 12 year old, who can beat anyone in a fight, regardless of his slight stature, and on the other hand, we have the Sensei, who is a few hundred years old, easily beating up Batman, who is arguably the greatest fighter in the DCU... Grant, little kids and old men aren't very good fighters. I just wanted to point that out for future reference. Anyway, the Sensei proceeds to break Batman's arm, blind him and finally impale him on a wooden staff. Batman manages to knock the Sensei into the fountain of life, which we discover heals the righteous, but kills anyone with a malicious heart. What that means is the waters of the fountain burns the Sensei to death. Batman crawls into the fountain and is restored to full health. After getting out of the fountain, Bats realizes that Ra's has jumped out of his dying body and entered the body of one of the monks who were defending the city.

We switch scenes again to find Robin, Damian and Talia prisoners of the White Ghost. The White Ghost informs his men to take great care of Damian, since Ra's still needed his body, but to rough up the other two. White Ghost leaves to prepare a flight to meet Ra's in Nanda Parbat, and Talia, Robin and Damian break free and attack the ninjas holding them. Damian runs off(again)stating that he wanted to go with the White Ghost, since most likely where ever White Ghost was going, Batman would also be there. Robin, Talia and a strange blind man named I Ching(don't ask me where he came from...)continue to battle the ninjas. I Ching tells Robin to follow Damian and Talia while he holds off the ninjas. Robin reluctantly goes, and finds Talia. Robin asks Talia if Ra's could truly bring back the dead, and Talia says considering Ra's is still alive, it would seem he could. Robin decides that he was willing to pay any price to return his parents and friends to life, even a life of servitude to Ra's, and runs off, looking to speak to White Ghost.

Robin finds the White Ghost and informs him that he has decided to join up with Ra's. White Ghost tells Robin that he would have to forsake all previous associations, and Robin agrees to the deal and the two shake on it. White Ghost lead Robin to a Lazarus Pit, and tells him he must take a dip in it to be reborn as a follower of Ra's. White Ghost then leaves to prepare to meet up with Ra's. Before Robin can walk into the Pit, I Ching reappears and tells Robin to really consider the immensity of his actions. Walking into the Lazarus Pit would make him a servant of Ra's Al Ghul, now and forever. Robin hesitantly states that he would do anything to bring back his loved ones, even sell his soul to Ra's.

Robin ignores I Ching and walks towards the Pit, but is stopped by the late arriving Nightwing. Robin attacks Nightwing, stating that he had to join Ra's, not for himself, but to give his dead friends/family the second chances they deserved. While the current and former Boy Wonders battled it out, Damian foolishly gets led into a trap by the White Ghost, who leaves by airplane with Damian, destined for Nanda Parbat and a meeting with Ra's. Nightwing tells Robin he can't give into despair and can't sell his soul to Ra's, but Robin is now dead set on resurrecting his dead loved ones.

Dick makes the argument that if Robin brings back his dead father then why not resurrect his mother, and then Superboy, and the Spoiler(she was still "dead" here)or why not Nightwing's parents, or even Bats parents. Basically, Nightwing tells Robin that he can't fairly bring one person back, without bringing everyone back. Robin counters by stating that since it would never be possible to stop all crime, why bother to stop any crime? Touche. With that, I Ching rejoins the battle and does some philosophical babbling about balance and allowing one to make their own mistakes. Nightwing realizes he can't stop Robin if he is truly going to join Ra's, so he stands back and hopes Robin makes the right choice. Robin kneels by the Lazarus Pit and takes a sample of the water, to take with him. Nightwing realizes he's lost Robin now, but after a moment of reflection, Robin dumps out the water and realizes he may be able to create new bodies for his loved ones, but they would just be soul-less duplicates. With that, Robin apologizes to Nightwing, and Nightwing tells Robin that he always knew he would come to the right decision. The Boy Wonders meet up with Talia, and hop a plane piloted by Alfred in order to reach Nanda Parbat, and the final battle.

In Nanda Parbat, White Ghost has arrived and presented Damian to Ra's. Ra's begins to possess Damian, and Batman fights through an army of assassin to free his son from Ra's grip. Batman breaks Ra's arm off, and proceeds to give the seemingly immortal Ra's a violent beating. The White Ghost jumps in to defend his master, and Batman tosses him aside, instructing Damian to grab a weapon and fight for his life. Nightwing, Robin, Talia and even Alfred join the battle, facing the most deadly assassins in the world, led by one of the greatest criminal masterminds, Ra's Al Ghul. Batman instructs Nightwing, Robin and Damian to defend the city walls, to prevent any more ninjas from entering. Talia is incensed that Batman would send their son onto the front line of the battle, but Bats responds that if his other two sons were there, so to should Damian.

Ra's gets away from the battle with the help of the White Ghost, and Ra's body decays at a rapid pace. As Ra's lays there dying, we discover that the White Ghost was actually Ra's own son! Ra's always treated White Ghost with disdain due to his albino looks, but as he lay there dying, Ra's realized that the only member of his family never to betray him had been the son he always scorned. Ra's apologizes for the treatment he had given his son, and White Ghost offers his body to Ra's, to replace Ra's own dying one. Since White Ghost was a blood relative to Ra's, his body would be the perfect vessel to contain Ra's lifeforce. Ra's tells White Ghost that he would die, but White Ghost agrees to serve his father to the end. Ra's possesses the body of the White Ghost, and decides to kill everyone of Batman's sons, Nightwing, Robin and Damian, since Ra's was forced to kill his own son to survive. The two sides battle, but Batman's forces are too outnumbered, and the battle turns in favor of Ra's and his assassins.

Before the assassins can finish off any of the Bat family, the monks of Nanda Parbat rain lightning down from the sky, and demand that everyone leaves their sacred land. Realizing the powers present, Batman orders his group to retreat, even though Ra's still wants to fight on. Ra's is finally pulled away by his men, who were fearful of the monk's powers. During the confusion, Damian decides he wants to leave Talia and go with Batman and company, but Talia refuses and knocks Damian unconscious, before disappearing with him. The Bat family make it back to Alfred's jet, and they get on board and get away from the enraged monks. The comic closes with Batman, Robin, Nightwing and Alfred in the jet toasting family, since it was apparently Christmas... Well, that came out of left field...

There was alot of good in this storyline, but there was also some unnecessary stuff. I personally still find Damian to be an insufferable brat, and can't stand him. It was nice to see him actually look human here, you know, actually lose a few fights, but I just can't get myself to like him. If Damian winds up replacing Tim Drake as Robin, as the rumors all seem to be pointing towards, I'm going to be really pissed. Some of the best parts of this storyline involved the interaction between Nightwing and Robin. It was obvious here, and it has always been apparent that Nightwing considers Robin to be a little brother, and the dynamic between the two is really great.

I'm telling you right now, if Nightwing does become Batman post Final Crisis, Tim Drake better still be Robin. Ra's was what I expected him to be, a villain who could care less about anybody but himself. I was also kind of annoyed by Batman continuously referring to Damian as his son... Batman barely knows the kid, but seems more then willing to consider him a son. Hell, it took Bats something like 10 years to formally adopt Dick Grayson, and Bats pretty much raised Dick himself. Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed the interaction between Nightwing and Robin, as well as Ra's, but the rest of the story left something to be desired. I mean, why was Sensei even thrown into this story? He served absolutely no real purpose. Oh well, for a score, I'll go with an 8 out of 10. This wasn't my favorite Batman story, but it did have some redeeming qualities.

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