Tuesday, August 24, 2010

No Mans Land

I've been reading Cataclysm, Aftershock, Road to No Mans Land and No Mans Land.  They were surprisingly good, even for a Batman hater like me.
For those of you that don't know, Cataclyscm deals with a massive earthquake destroying Gotham.  Aftershock is the immediate aftermath of said earthquake, and No Mans Land covers the year following the earthquake.  The US government, pushed by various malign influences, decide to annex Gotham city, cut it off from the rest of the country and leave it to rot as a no mans land.  The inhabitants are given the opportunity to leave but some, for varied reasons, decide to stay.  Chaos ensues and the Batclan and the remnants of the GCPD try to restore order to Gotham city.

No Mans Land ran over 85 issues and 40 of these were collected into 4 trades.  I've been lucky enough to get hold of the whole run, so I discovered that the 80+ issues were arranged around various small story arcs and a few standalone issues, each focusing on one particular area of Gotham city or one character.  It's been really interesting to read all of these and I'm planning to do posts on the things I found most interesting.

Given that this story crossed many different DC titles there is a huge variation in the art styles and ways of drawing each character.  The Penguin was particularly interesting to see, as some artists caricatured him to become a short, squat figure with a very pointy news, and others drew him more human like.  Depictions of Two Face also varied enormously.  But to start with, lets take a look at the cover issues.  Click to embiggen.

This is from the Aftershock storyline and I think it's just a beautiful picture.  I'm a big fan of using similar tones and shades to create moods in artwork, and I feel that this is just a very powerful picture.

Whereas the image above is isolating and shows Batman as somewhat inconsequential when compared to the plight of the city this cover is crowded and claustrophobic, and even more desperate.  The firey colours used are, I assume, meant to remind you of hell.

This is the cover to part 2 of a 3 part arc and ran in Shadow of the Bat 88, Batman 568 and Detective Comics 735.   Poison Ivy has set up in Gotham's Robinson Park and has made it her own.  Anyone going in doesn't come out again.  Clayface enters and makes her a deal.  Unfortunately for Ivy, he reneges on it and imprisons her, feeding her salt and denying her water and sunlight.  Ivy has also adopted various (human) children and Clayface captures them forcing them to work for him tending and selling the produce Ivy grows.  Batman and Robin investigate, help Ivy out and can't quite believe that the children are happy and want to stay with Ivy.  Score 1 for environmentalists, score nothing for pompous know it all crimefighters.

No Mans Land is a harsh place and people survive any way they can.  In this issue, an enterprising couple are promising a way out of Gotham in return for jewellery and other shiny goods.  However their way out is actually a tunnel full of starved, crazed people who attack and eat anyone tricked into entering.  It's noteworthy because the starved cannibals are drawn to resemble zombies, making this an interesting take on the survival of the fittest theorem.  If it weren't for the sanctimonious ending this would be a really good issue.

What can I say.  Any cover stating that Robin tastes like chicken is gonna get a mention from me. Mmmm, chicken!

Ahh, this cover is just lovely.  The story concerns an cop and a veterinarian and their struggles to care for the people they come across.  The cop ponders the value of his soul and wonders what the daily fight is doing to him, and the veterinarian is worn out to the point where she will make a deal with the penguin to help the kids in her charge to get out of Gotham.  This story ran in Legends of the Dark Knight 123 and Shadow of the Bat 91.

I find this cover giggle inducing.  So sue me, but it doesn't look like he's grieving, it looks like he's muttering 'I'm Batman! I can breathe in space!' or something similar.
This is just lovely.  The composition, the softness of the background colours compared with the dark of Batman, the fact he's not brooding, but is simply ready.  Lovely.


Rachel said...

To me, that cover of Batman with the gravestone just looks like he's playing hide and seek - rather unsuccessfully. Definitely giggle-inducing.

I hadn't heard of No Man's Land before and it sounds very interesting (despite me not being much of a superhero comics reader). I'm looking forward to your posts on it.

Saranga said...

It's definitely good and worth getting. OK so the trades only include half the stories originally published but that doesn't make the collection a bad read.
I may add it to the list for the New Readers site, now you've mentioned it soudns interesting!
(and will chekc there's no spoilers in these upcoming posts!)

Eyz said...

I always liked the whole No Man's Land, including it's prologue and all^^

That cover of Aftershock is fantastic!!

LissBirds said...

I never got around to reading Cataclysm or Aftershock. I'm not sure if they're in print anymore.

The differences in art throughout the NML trades really threw me off when I read them. And like you said, Harvey Dent goes from looking like a teenager in some issues to his usual middle-age look. I think even the color of the "bad" side of his face changes, too, if I remember correctly.

DC must've learned from that, becuase Brightest Day is a lot more uniform between the different artists.