Saturday, January 26, 2013

Batman Death and the Maidens

This is a graphic novel I was interested in because it started so many plotlines. From this we get the following:

1.) The Death and Return of Ras Al Ghul.
2.) The reason Talia is pissed at Bruce to the point she used Jason.
3.) Linked to the decline of Cassandra Cain.
4.) Why Talia isn't acting like herself, as this gives a good reason.

Despite all that, and likely a few I'm forgetting, this storyline has been completely ignored. Intrigued? Let's see what the problem was in this tale written by Greg Rucka.

According to trade this story started from the idea of Bruce talking to his mother and discovering she objects to the direction of his life. While that does occur in the story it's really a small part, something I felt was really overshadowed by other events going on. The fact is that Bruces' torment over his parents has been explored ever since Batmans' origin was revealed. Being haunted by them, no matter how well it's written it's not a fresh or compelling idea. As presented it seems like it could have all been in Bruces' head, which takes a uncomfortable turn since Martha remarks that would mean certain implication if Bruces' mind created his mother... The problem is that there's nothing to prove either of his parents are there making the idea fall flat. Because Bruce admits he doesn't feel the grief as much as he used to, isn't sure he believes it's really them and even if he claims their words sting Alfred knows Bruce will still do what he wants with his life. Since this is the bulk of Bruces' plot in this story he's really not a major factor in this book. I don't have a problem with that per se but it's not really much of a Batman story in that regard. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

The real story has to do with new comer Nyssa Raatko, a woman who doesn't look her age as she's mistaken for her deceased great grandsons' wife then sister. Nyssa is trying to grieve but a lifetime of suffering has stopped her from feeling anything but hate. Nyssa is a fascinating character, this is truly her story that shows her history with Ras Al Ghul. I have to say it's kind of uncomfortable how Rucka sets up her at the beginning. Having one of her servants remark how she wishes she knew the father of Nyssas' baby, Ras demanding the boy and Nyssa claiming he could find other women to give Ras a child. She's referred to as his chosen and it's repeatedly stated that Ras wants her to have his heir. It's a red herring to make the readers think she's his lover but given Martha's comment about Bruce it gives rather unpleasant thoughts since Nyssa is in fact his daughter. Unlike Talia this daughter has been around longer. Her mother was a Jewish woman Ras seduced and left. Nyssa tracked down her father and fought for his cause. Eventually she quits following him to find a more peaceful path.

Nyssa married and had several children before the Nazis' took her family into the camps but not before she and her daughter are raped in public. Later on Ras visits the camp since he decided to join forces with the Nazis and despite her pleas for help for their family he leaves for "the greater good." Something he uses to explain every action to Nyssa. She was experimented on but survived and thanks to a pit Ras previously gave to her lives on in present day. Since Bruce is getting rid of all the pits Ras tries to use the one he gave her only to be denied twice. Ras offers a special potion that he claims will help Bruce speak to the dead if he gives Ras a pit to use. Although he knows it's a bad idea Bruce uses it and eventually gives Ras the location of a pit he can use.

Nyssa has decided to torment her father by getting to Talia. At the time Talia had cut herself off from Ras and ran Lex Corp. Posing as a new next door neighbor Nyssa asks Talia over for dinner and gains her trust. One night she gets Talia drunk enough that she's not able to defend herself against a henchmen with a needle. When she wakes up she's naked on a catwalk with Nyssa who quickly slashes her throat. Talia dies and keeps getting killed and dumped into the pit as a form of torture. This breaks her to the point she begs Nyssa to stop. Convinced she's doing this for "the greater good" her big sister keep doing it until Talia is meek enough to follow her. Talia thanks her killer for taking such good care of her the next day claiming she doesn't deserve such kindness. Later on Nyssa convinces her that they have to kill their father, there's a brief subplot about Superman that's quickly solved and Bruce finally catches up to the plot. But he doesn't really do much.

Ras has no comment for how broken his younger daughter is, he simply stabs her knowing Bruce will be busy trying to prevent her from dying. He doesn't. Apparently Ras knew Nyssa would become ruthless like him and tells her that he loves her as she stabs him. Talia is brought back again and shows that she's completely under her sisters' control to the point she considers her beloved a enemy simply because Nyssa does. I liked the main story about Nyssa but I don't think this was Ruckas' best work. Bruce doesn't have much interaction with Nyssa to build her up as an equal to Ras in terms of a foe for Batman. Neither Ras or Bruce seem to have much of a reaction to Talia being broken. Ras even goes as far as saying she means nothing to him then tells his older daughter to take care of her little sister as he couldn't. Implying he approved of what Nyssa did and regretted that he wasn't able to do it himself.

This was supposed to be the start of her being the new Al Ghul in charge. While she is a compelling character there simply wasn't enough time to build her up for the role. There's some comparison between her and Bruce but really their dynamic as potential foes wasn't built up enough. The story is that the higher ups didn't like her character which is why she was pretty much written out and forgotten about. But she still left some impact in the fall out of this story.

She was the one that killed Ras Al Ghul although she was never mentioned in his rebirth. Nyssa split some of her duties as leader of the Al Ghul empire with her sister. During her time in charge she tried to turn Cassandra Cain over to her way of thinking just before the Batgirl series ended. After Slade drugged her Cassandra bombed Nyssas' car, killing her and taking over the league. Many assume Talias' revenge fueled crazy trip has to do with being broken by her sister. This hasn't been brought up again and writers tended to go back and forth on how her character acted after this mini series. During Red Hood Lost Days Talia encouraged (and seduced) Jason hoping he'd make Bruce pay as she blamed him for her fathers' death. Although it should be noted that Winick had Talia do some questionable things prior to this in Batman Annual 25.

Say What?: When Nyssa refuses to let Ras use her pit he says her mother wouldn't stand for her treatment of him. Later on Ras admit that he can't even remember Nyssa' mothers' name. I'm not saying this was a mistake but it show how controlling Ras is. Trying to make his daughter feel guilty over a woman he barely recalls.

I'm not sure I get the idea behind Ras not knowing how to use pits more than once. Was this ever used in other Ras stories? Because it seems kind of odd that he could only use them once especially since he gave Nyssa one in hopes of an heir. If he assumed they couldn't be used more than once than what good did he think it would do to confine her to one?

Questions Raised?
They said the Nazis took away her ability to have children but wouldn't the pit undo that? On a similar note why didn't she try to bring back the family members she lost? Maybe she couldn't do anything about the ones that died in the camps but she could have brought back her great grandson.

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