Sunday, March 20, 2011

Tonight's Menu: Chicken Ra's Al Ghul

As promised this week it's Batman: Tales of the Demon. It's a great collection of the early appearances of Ra's Al Ghul, billed on the cover as "Batman's Deadliest Opponent" (debatable). All stories are written by Dennis O'Neil, the pencils are a selection of Bob Brown, Neal Adams, Irv Novick, Michael Golden and Don Newton, and the inks are all either Dick Giordano, or Dan Adkins. Aamzon will sell the 2007 printing to you at a reasonable $26.99 US for 207 pages.
As an added bonus there's an introduction from Sam Hamm (screeenwriter of the 1989 Tim Burton helmed Batman).

I generally enjoyed reading this both the first time through and on this repeat reading. It's definitely a lot different from reading the current Batman stories by the likes of Grant Morrison. There is one slight catch though: the colours have clearly been digitally redone. Those of you who have read the Nick Fury Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. collection that got the same treatment know what you're in for, the rest of you, it's something like this:

And I'm sure we can agree that in1972,
colouring didn't look like this.
The issues collected are all from between 1971 and 1980, and the standard of story is always significantly better than the decade proceeding this where Batman would be fighting an alien, or a Batman from another dimension, or a robot version of <insert hero here>, or.... well any other bad idea involving Batman you can think of. O'Neil's Batman as represented here is an interesting simulacra of James Bond... from the James Bond news strips. He's smart, beatable, funny (well, almost), and can solve crimes without the need to use a super computer every time. In short, he's the gosh-darn Batman.

Ra's is a bit hit and miss in this tome: sometimes he seems to be just playing with Batman, other times completely at a loss, and in some stories, he's barely even there. I guess as this is an early representation, it shouldn't be too much of a surprise, but he's certainly not the major terrorist he later became at the hands of others. In general he seems to be outdone by Talia, and that to me is very interesting, given that he wants Batman to marry her.

With a collection such as this, it's hard to spell out all that happens, however the most significant events can e summed up as: Batman meets (and saves) Talia Al Ghul, Saves a kidnapped Robin when Ra's is testing Batman to see if he is worthy of Talia (and the League of Assassins),  Stops a biological agent that could kill millions, Accidentally kills a dead man's brain, fakes the death of Bruce Wayne to get leads on more of Ra's' activities before besting him (after Ra's first shown use of the Lazarus Pit), is unwillingly married to Talia while busting up another of Ra's plots, and finally avenges the death of Kathy Kane (the original Batwoman) at the same time as sorting out a factional dispute in the League of Assassins and saving a bunch of religious leaders from a manufactured earthquake.
Like I said, he's a bit like James Bond.

I'd recommend this volume to almost any Bat-fan who hasn't got it already, and in particular anyone who's never read the older work, and is tired of the recent developments. Sure it's a little disjointed in places, but there's a lot of one and done stories, and no arc lasts more than three issues.

If you have got this already, bring it out for another read, and I'm sure you'll be wondering why Batman had to be dark and gritty again in the 1980s, because clearly with a decent writer Batman can be a jet-setting international symbol of scared villains.

And so to next week's choice. I've had a good hard think about it, and I realise that my Bendis bashing the other week requires some sort of atonement. So we'll start with the story that got him control of one of the biggest franchises at Marvel in the last decade.
Forgive us Bendis, for we have sinned.


  1. Okay, this blog is getting expensive! Just ordered the reviewed text AGAIN! Thank goodness I already own next week's topic!

    Another great write-up Westy - very much enjoying your blog!

  2. I'm enjoying this, Westy... I would actually be interested in this one, but it might have to wait as "the list" is pretty long right now.