I enjoyed Batman growing up, reading comics and watching the cartoon show. I had never seen any more than novelized adaptations from the movies, so I was interested when I found this one, hanging out like a sore thumb at the book store.
This novel, No Man’s Land, is fairly unique among a lot of typical Batman material and delivers on some noir-type moments, framed in a post-emergency setting. The story picks up just after Gotham is devastated by a powerful earthquake. Much of the population decides to evacuate, only the brave and desperate remain behind. The GCPD is officially disbanded, leaving no one to guard the prisons and leading to Two-face and Joker’s escape. Jim Gordan and other detectives remain behind to bring order to the wasteland.
After his defeat at the hands of Bane, Batman has been forced stop his vigilantism, which revives the mystery surrounding him when he finally returns in the midst of Gotham’s disastrous remains. The story follows a variety of characters, not just Batman and Jim Gordan and I was impressed with the depth of some of them.
Two-face had a dramatic scene at the ruined courthouse. Outside of his split personality, I’ve always felt that Two-face’s character is difficult to define, but this scene here digs far under this villain’s skin. Another scene that deserves focus is when Batman needs to take on the personality of Bruce Wayne, but he had been serving as Batman in the city’s ruins for so long, he was out of practice for portraying his true identity. The internal dialogue during this shift in personality is truly revealing and entertaining.
Through much of the book, Two-face and Penguin are working to wind up on top and control Gotham, now that the city is vulnerable. Joker, however, mostly keeps to himself, hoping that rumours about Batman’s return are true. This story also has Joker’s first encounter and inevitable team up with Harley Quinn, who provides a lot of mischievous charm.
Toward the end, when Gotham is about to begin its reconstruction, the Joker finally launches a major heist and puts the entire city into panic. The story ends shortly after a confrontation with Joker and leads to a satisfying conclusion, but on a slightly sad note.
I enjoyed this story, there was a lot of the classic villains, but some left out. Several scenes were easy to enjoy, which made flipping through four hundred and sixty pages a breeze. It follows cannon from the series, but also does its own style of Batman at times and I’m impressed with the author’s knowledge of the series characters and of Gotham. Definitely recommended for anyone with the faintest interest in Batman. There is also a comic version of this story, so check it out.