XTREME Holofoil Edition: Batman: Death of Innocents
- Published on Thursday, 31 March 2011 13:00
- Written by Jordan
- Hits: 1998
Batman: Death of Innocents- the horror of landmines
Writer: Dennis O’Neil
Penciller: Joe Staton
Inker: Bill Sienkiewicz
Colorist: Ian Laughlin
Letter: John Costanza
Background: In 1996, DC released a series of comics targeting the horror of landmines. The three comics featured DC’s big three characters (Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman. Superman: Deadly Legacy and Superman and Wonder Woman: The Hidden Killer both produced for foreign audiences (Croatia and Serbia and Latin America, respectively). Batman- Death of Innocents: The Horror of Landmines (DOI from this point on) was the unique one of the group as it was produced for American audiences to show the true horror of landmines and their indiscriminate method of killing.
DC gave the task of creating the graphic novel to longtime Batman writer Dennis O’Neil, the supremely talented Joe Staton, and the phenomenal inker Bill Sienkiewicz. One would think this a perfect fit for such an important comic. Who is better than Dennis O’Neil to write a Batman story of this magnitude? This should be one of the best Batman comics ever written, but the truth is that it’s one of the weakest.
PSA comics, like this one, often suffer from having to convey a certain amount of information in a limited number of pages while at the same time keeping a decent story running. More often than not, something has to give and the message is lost. If it is the story or information, it does not matter because if one slips the comic has failed. This is why Batman- Death of Innocents: The Horror of Landmines is one of the weakest Batman stories ever written. It manages to fail in terms of story and conveyance of the message.
Synopsis: While working for WayneCorp in the hostile fictional land of Kravia, Ted Orbley, his daughter, Sarah, and her friend, Mariska, are caught in an explosion from a landmine place in the road. Ted and Mariska die in the explosion leaving Sarah alone in the foreign hostile land.
Sarah’s mother goes to Bruce demanding that he does something about her daughter as she sees Bruce at fault for the deaths. While appearing cold, Bruce assures the grieving mother that WayneCorp is doing everything in their power to find Sarah.
Later at the Batcave, Bruce is still uncharacteristically cold about the entire situation stating the mother should consider herself lucky she missed the trip. Alfred quickly put Bruce in his place telling him the situation of Kravia. The country is caught in a massive Civil War and landmines have become the primary means of fighting the authority in Kravia. This brings along hundreds of unnecessary causalities of innocent people.
Bruce eventually has to be guilted into going to Kravia, but he goes with a plan. Using a mine searching dog, Batman will be able to traverse the landscape with relative little danger and find the missing Sarah. This works for a few second as the dog is brutally killed by the sniper guarding the minefields.
This leaves Batman in a precarious situation as he must traverse the minefields with no assistance in the dark. He slowly escapes because he is the Batman and minefields are nothing to him.
Once out of the minefield Batman comes across rebels browbeating local ranchers for information. This doesn’t last long as he quickly takes care of the rebels and asks the ranchers if they have seen the girl. They claim they haven’t seen her.
Batman eventually comes across the village of the ranchers. He disregards the notion the ranchers are hiding the girl and believes time is of the essence. While looking at the ground, he notices that military tire tracks are running through the mud and decides to follow them as they will lead to the stronghold and most likely, Sarah.
The tracks eventually lead to a small group of rebels planting more mines in the main road for the peasants. This angers Batman and he quickly takes them out in a matter of minutes and destroys the landmines so they cannot be used against the people anymore.
Batman decides to take a jeep to the stronghold of the rebels and stealthily enters the building. In his search for the rebel leader or Sarah, Batman comes across a rancher from earlier accepting a reward for selling out the location of Sarah to the rebel leader.
Continuing his search, Batman finds the leader of the rebels in her room. The two debate the nature of politics and the necessity of the landmines to the rebel cause.
Batman reveals his intentions in Kravia and the leader tells him she will have her body sent to the embassy to make an example of meddlers. Batman deduces that the leader sent a murder squad to take care of Sarah. With the leader pointing a gun at him, Batman quickly dispenses his brand of justice on the leader and goes to save Sarah from the murder squad.
Batman is too late, though, as the murder squad has sent Sarah and the people hiding her into the fields to die. Batman takes care of the murder squad and tells Sarah and her group to stop moving. He forces one of the murder squad members to lead the stranded group to safety.
After sending the murder squad away without their weapons, Batman tells Sarah he is there to rescue her. Carrying her out into the middle of the field to signal an air pick up, Batman takes his eyes off of her for only a second. It is during that second Sarah finds a “yo-yo” on the ground. Before Batman can stop her, she reaches for the “toy” and leads to probably one of the darkest endings in a comic ever. The “toy” was not a toy but a landmine designed to fool kids. Young Sarah becomes another tragic victim in the Kravia Civil War, and Batman is powerless to do anything about it.
Review: The information in the comic is given in a few panels of exposition from Alfred and some heavy self-narration from Bruce (more on that later). Other than, those scant few lines nothing about landmines is told to the reader expect they are bad and they cannot distinguish a tank from a tricycle. It does not tell us how they look or how dangerous they truly are. For example, in several scenes Batman is in a mine field without a map or any real training but manages to walk out of the mine field all because he is able to identify some irregularities in the field. This could accidently convince the readers that they too can escape a minefield as long as they look carefully. This is not the case in real life and for a comic that tries to convey the real life horrors and terrors of land mines it fails to do just that by having Batman just waltzes his way through minefields. This is one of the worst examples of writing Batman as a god in a comic. The kicker is that this is supposed to be realistic, of all things.
This brings up the main reason this comic fails: the poor writing from Dennis O’Neil. There is an over-reliance on self-narration, which while acceptable to some degrees in a Batman comic, is handled poorly in this story. Few panels go by without Bruce having to explain how he is escaping impossible situations that he should struggle with escaping. Nothing wrong with explanations but explaining everything is too much and, frankly, annoying as all is.
There is also the problem with the motivations for Batman heading to the country of Kravia. Bruce heads there to save a little girl but he initially is reluctant to do so until Alfred reminds Bruce that his parents are dead. As a hero, Batman should already be heading to the nation to save the girl, right? It takes a reminder from his butler that his Parents are dead and has to be guilt-ed into a trip to head to Kravia. Some kind of hero he turns out to be.
The worst part of the writing is the lack of pay-offs in the comic. At the start, we are introduced to a mine-hunting dog that will help Batman cross the dangerous minefields. The poor canine barely last three pages before being killed. We never see the dog actually do his purpose. It is as if the creators thought it would be a good idea for the dog to help Batman but ultimately decide that it would make things too easy so they kill him only to have Batman waltz through the fields without struggle. Next, we have Bruce confront the dog killer and leader of the rebel forces in Kravia. Instead of fighting her or convincing her to get rid of the mine, he just punches her and rushes off to save the girl.
There is no real payoff from the conflict between the protagonist and antagonist, and in most stories, there is a dire need for the protagonist and antagonist to have a true conflict. Denying this leaves the reader with an unsatisfied, empty feeling inside. The worst no-payoff moment has to be the ending. After managing to find the girl and escape the minefields to the pickup zone, the girl dies by landmine resembling a toy yo-yo. This represents an anticlimactic ending to the fullest degree. Yes, it does show the horrific reality of landmines but in a comic where the horrors have been ignored for comic convenience, it is an ending that does not fit the story. This ending is horrible and poorly conceived.
This comic is full of poor writing, but it does one thing perfectly: the art. It fits what the mood of the comic should be with its creative use of lighting and coloring in general. It is one of the best-illustrated Batman comics around and the highlight of the comic. Joe Staton , Bill Sienkiewicz, and Ian Laughlin deliver a stellar performance on this book. The only fault of the comic is the heavy use of rendering lines on the faces at times, but it is still an amazing comic, artistically.
Final judgement: DOI was a boring read. Lacked any and all suspense with the decision to make Batman, well the #@$%@!~ Batman. The decision to make Batman invincible doesn’t show the danger of landmines, though in truth the title only promises the death of innocents and the horror of landmines. The ending delivered that, at least. Oh yeah, the art was great.
Rating: I am new to this rating thing but if I had to give a rating, it would be 5 pouches out of 10.