Gotham’s shadows color every Batman story. Her buildings loom better than the Bat himself. She has always been the unnamed lead actor in the Batman universe. As Bruce asks himself in this series, did Gotham make him, or did he make Gotham? No Man’s Land is about Gotham and her residents. In the absence of any of the rules of civilized society, without electricity or running water, in a city run by gangs, Gotham’s citizens find a way to survive. This is their story.
Rucka has created a nuanced, layered story about what makes us who we are, and how far we will go to protect those things. It’s a story about family, and about friends, and about how much we need both in our lives. It is about the choices we make under extreme duress, and its about accepting the consequences for those choices. The end of the series is moving and heartbreaking, and it made me cry.
The art in this series is touch and go. Sometimes it perfectly conveys the moody, never black and white world of Gotham. Other times, the characters are too simplistically cartoony, and sometimes the artwork is so dark and so cross-hatched that it makes it difficult to follow the plot. My favorite features were Oracle’s maps of the city that were scattered into the text at periodic points and allowed you to track who held what territory.
My initial reactions to Teen Titans: A Kid’s Game were:
1. It is possible that I have the tiniest crush on Tim Drake (Robin III).
2. Conner Kent is the clone of Superman and Lex Luthor, and for anyone who’s watching Smallville on the WB that’s just endlessly amusing.
3. I’m starting to think that Starfire’s hair is actually one of her superpowers. People are just so frightened of it that they don’t stick around to find out what else she might do.
4. This series has potential. There are some clunky bits, and sometimes the dialogue is a little cheesy (witness Superman giving Superboy Krypto, the Superdog), but a lot of it is also funny, the characters are endearing, and the story line is sound.
When the volume starts none of the characters want to be involved in a new iteration of the Teen Titans, which is a nice bit of self-reflective narrative on the part of DC Comics. Robin thinks he gets enough training and mentoring from the Bat. Superboy doesn’t really want to get up early on the weekends. Kid Flash has some serious guilt issues and wants to be taken seriously for a change. Cassie, Wonder Girl (II), wants to be there but Wonder Woman is adamantly opposed to the idea. It takes the reappearance of Slade, a classic villain from the Titans universe, a realization that the Titans Tower offers them some freedom, and the uninvited and unwelcome intervention of the JLA for the new Titans to come together as a team.
The book is an appealing combination of fluff– teenage superheroes actually being teenagers for a change–and a story line that asks the question of what determines who we grow up to be — is it predetermined or is it our choice?