SYNOPSIS: Crime is at an all-time low in Gotham City with all the major supervillains behind bars. With the city finally quiet, Batman’s mission might finally be at an end. But when Ra’s al Ghul and his daughter, Talia, show up with a proposition, Bruce is forced to determine what the future of Batman will be!
I love Ra’s al Ghul in Batman: The Animated Series. David Warner brought the character to life for me, even if the pronunciation of the character’s name baffled me at the time. With his future established in Batman Beyond, it should come as no surprise that something has to have happened between the end of The New Batman Adventures and the era of Terry McGinnis wearing the cowl.
Well, Burnet and Dini are here with some answers it seems! The issue kicks off unexpectedly, not with Batman actively fighting crime, but passively watching his exploits from four months ago. As it turns out, Gotham has been very quiet since then, allowing Bruce Wayne and his ward, Tim Drake, some time to bond and relax at a Caribbean retreat recently purchased by Wayne Enterprises in an attempt to diversify its holdings.
Unlike Tim, Bruce can’t get into the spirit of things, a fact that gets compounded by the appearance of Talia, who spars with Bruce in the resort’s kendo dojo. The pair slip into something more comfortable, allowing Talia to catch Bruce up on her family, even inviting the detective over to dinner. As it turns out, Bruce may own the resort, but Ra’s owns the island.
Thus begins “The Offer, part 1”. Burnet and Dini give Bruce and Talia their old chemistry back, even throwing them into some adult situations you wouldn’t see on Kids’ WB (not that the issue gets too risqué, mind you). As one would expect, characterizations are spot on across the board, with Tim seemingly just a bit older (and shilling for the rechristened Max) and Ra’s definitely older and possibly wiser.
The titular offer is what one would expect given the antagonist, but it doesn’t feel hackneyed. In fact, you could argue it’s timely. To further compound things, there is a subplot back in Gotham that I’m eager to see more of and I’m really curious if and how it will intersect with the Ra’s storyline. It just feels right to see certain groups back together, especially if one of those said groups is going to be written by Paul Dini.
Templeton and Kubina are at the top of their game in this issue. Despite nary a Batman in sight, there is action aplenty, with Kubina bringing gloom to the Gotham rain and conversely a sense of romance to the resort. When working with a more simplified aesthetic, as the world of BTAS has, Kubina’s coloring adds vividness and detail to the visuals that make each page a joy to behold.
One of the things I love about a good Ra’s story is how it opens up the world of Batman, placing him in international locales and grandiose settings. That James Bond sense of flair is definitely here and added to my enjoyment of this issue immensely. After the last chapter failed to strike a chord with me, I’m back on board. Burnet and Dini bring the main focus back to Bruce Wayne, something that was missing last time, while still pushing supporting characters’ narratives forward without stealing the limelight. As we get close to the end of this season, it looks like the team is pulling out all the stops! – Javier E. Trujillo