Writer: Peter Milligan
Artist9s): David Lopez and Alvaro Lopez
Publisher: DC Comics
Plot: Batman investigates a case of two of his employees missing in action in the Australian Outback. In the process he discovers a mystery around the unusual longevity being given to the local flora and fauna. All signs point to the possible resurrection of Raís Al Ghul.
Commentary: I picked up this annual with anticipation. To me killing off Raís Al Ghul was a mistake and rectifying it would be a good thing. DC has tried to replace Raís with a spurned female version in recent years but no one else can match the presence and threat that Raís himself is. The cover is great with omens of greatness yet to come. The annual does feel a bit rushed in its execution. Itís odd to me that Morrison didnít write it. All the more reason for me to believe it was rushed to coincide with Morrisonís own run on the core Batman book. Another thing is that the art is kind of simple and sketchy though competent.
Milligan and Lopez do manage to tell the story in acceptable fashion here. I was a bit concerned that Milligan was the writer on this considering the twisted debacle he made of a certain X-team of marvelous origin. Nonetheless Milligan has written some solid stuff in the past and does so again here. He gives us a Batman that hearkens back to the days when Raís was first introduced. By and large in this story he is, ďThe Detective.Ē This is how Raís always preferred to address him and so the emphasis on this aspect of Batman is fitting. Batmanís skills of deduction are highlighted here to good effect. Some might say the fact that Batman doesnít suspect the physical, literal resurrection of Raís as the ultimate end to what is happening is a mistake on Milligan and DCís part. It is well established by now that Talia and Damian are determined to be heirs to Raís empire and so it is reasonable Batman would suspect their involvement and not suspect an attempt to resurrect Al Ghul. Furthermore Batman most likely considers the utter destruction of the Lazarus Pits the final nail in Raís coffin and so his resurrection seems very unlikely.
Milligan also gives us a bit of globe-trotting adventure which works so well in a Raís story. What is a bit of a problem here is the introduction of a heretofore unknown character from Raís history, The White Ghost. First of all, itís a rather obvious name for an albino character. If he is supposed to be shadowing and maneuvering from the background why should his name be such a dead giveaway of his normal appearance? The introduction of characters like this almost always seems like lazy writing to me. They did it in Spiderman 3 with the introduction of the butler who told Harry Spiderman didnít kill his father. We never saw this butler lurking in the background in the other films. They just needed a means to let Harry know the truth and so contrived one. Here, The White Ghost almost seems like that kind of contrivance but, a better contrivance than most resurrection vehicles in comics. So, if it brings back Raís Iím willing to be forgiving.
Milliganís writing of Talia and Damian is well done. Ultimately Talia is a mother who loves her son and has suffered enough pain in the past not to allow him to be sacrificed on the altar of her fatherís resurrection. It adds depth to the character; the fact that she can recognize what is about to happen and forestall it through she and Damianís martial prowess was a nice touch. A slight problem is that Bruce seems to dismiss the White Ghost as quickly as he found out about him. Even though Bruce suspects the resurrection of Raís is a product of the White Ghostís madness I donít think Batman would leave this stone unturned without an investigation into the White Ghostís background. Since the next issue of Morrisonís Batman is called ďLazarus RisingĒ I suspect in some way this slightly out of character ending will be rectified. I look forward to how Morrison picks up the potential return of Raís and runs with it from here.
Final Word: All in all a solid story with some slight contrivances which set us up for some more interesting developments in the core Batman title.
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