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Let The War Games Begin...

Batman: The 12-Cent Adventure
writer: Devin Grayson
artists: Ramon Bachs, Raul Fernandez
and Rodney Ramos

In Canada, shouldn't it be called the twenty cent adventure? Really, how long must we torment our brethren to the north?

Whichever price you paid for it, this kick-off to the first major Bat-crossover in a few years gives you the right run for the money. Devin Grayson pulls off the delicate balance of getting new readers up to speed on the status quo in Gotham City while still letting something actually happen.

Told largely from the perspective of The Spoiler, Stephanie Brown (she of the shortest Robin career in history), the War Games begin with a meeting of all the crime bosses in Gotham showing up for a meet. They've got two problems. Nobody knows who actually called the meeting, and everybody has shown up with extremely dangerous and twitchy bodyguards. It may just be an excuse for Grayson to work the NKVDemon back into action, a character named both fearsomely and ridiculously.

While The Spoiler ponders how she's going to take down all these people, Batman has his hands full with a menace possibly even worse: followers of Kobra. By Act Two, these elements will probably tie together, but for now, all a reader needs to know is that they add up to chaos.

For twelve cents (twenty cents Canadian), it's not just wall to wall action, though plenty of that exists. Grayson also throws in a lot of subtle touches that remind us why she's one of the best Bat-family writers.

She handles the casual thoughtlessness of high society with a light touch. An awkward exchange between a dowager and Bruce Wayne isn't just a character moment to remind the readers of Batman's origin; it also feels real. People do say these stupid things to each other and then overcompensate.

Putting Stephanie in the lead also proves a canny move. Still burning with resentment over being fired as Robin, she cannot see that with every move she makes as The Spoiler she proves Batman's point. Stephanie is overconfident and still somehow convinced of invulnerability. She doesn't understand that there are different kinds of strength, considering taking down the toughest gangs in the city to be a snap compared to giving birth. In short, Grayson makes Stephanie a believable teen-aged girl (ignoring the crimefighter part), giving her more depth than most of her recent appearances.

For Stephanie, it all ends in tears, of course, because we have three months of this multi-part story. The 12-Cent Adventure leads directly into Detective Comics #797, where the storytelling isn't quite as efficiently done. (But it does have a back-up story explaining what's going on with The Riddler while hiding from Hush.)

The writers of the middle chapters have an unenviable task; make sure that something happens but not too much, because not everybody will buy every book involved in the crossover. A casual reader cannot be made to feel like they missed a huge chunk if they don't buy Nightwing or Legends of the Dark Knight. Both of those books, by the way, come out next week, and if you must only buy one chapter next week, I can say make it Nightwing. Grayson writes that one, and at least has the ability to make her own book's subplots move forward in the context of the overall story, though I wonder why Dick Grayson sweats so much in it. LOTDK only inches the major plot along.

Overall, War Games looks to appeal to those that like the gritty, normal crime-fighting aspect of Batman. Most of the big villains are MIA (so far), I'm guessing to be picked up again for a continuation of the Hush storyline in October or November. But two characters in need of strong definition seem to be on tap for it: The Penguin, positioned as a slightly comedic Kingpin, and Orpheus, a character largely forgotten until recent months.

Will Gotham City ever be the same again? If The 12-Cent Adventure does its job, probably not. Gotham City will have a much higher position on the sales charts.


Derek McCaw

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