As my Batman reading only equates to graphic novels my preference for Batman stories are ones a little bit grounded in reality, particularly for Batman’s early years I don’t want to see anything of a supernatural, fantastical nature. I don’t even want to get a hit of Superman yet. So I love Batman Begins, Batman Year One etc.
Years back when ‘Batman Begins’ was being made there was a rumor going around that the main villain that Liam Neeson would be playing was to be ‘The Reaper’. ‘The Reaper’ is a character who first appeared in ‘Batman Year Two’. Written by Mike W Barr and illustrated by Alan Davis, Paul Neary, Alfredo Alcala, Mark Farmer and Todd McFarlane. While this rumor proved to be untrue I was fascinated by the idea that before Batman showed up there was already another Vigilante who had worked the streets, one who not only dressed as an intimidating figure but whom killed criminals. Year Two is the story in which Batman comes face to face with Gotham’s previous vigilante.
When Batman does meet The Reaper he gets he ass owned and I mean owned.
From the first encounter I’m already seeing connections between this character and the depiction of Bane and Ra’s Al Ghul from Nolan’s films.
Let’s take a look. In Batman’s first fight with The Reaper he is unable to intimidate him, he is unable to even hurt him, in fact the Reaper gives Batman a few free shots to see what Batman is made of before taking him on. As Batman starts to realize he is sorely outmatched he resorts to throwing smoke bombs to escape. Unfortunately this doesn’t work and the Reaper reminds him that he has been working in the dark a lot longer than Batman has. This is very similar to the first fight between Batman and Bane in ‘The Dark Knight Rises’.
The motivations of the Reaper are also very similar to those of Ra’s Al Ghul. His wife was killed and he was unable to save her which creates a mindset of retribution similar to Batman’s yet very different in execution.
The first issue sets up things nicely, we are introduced to Gotham’s previous Vigilante, Batman gets pwned so hard that he resorts to using the gun that killed his parents to symbolically fight fire with fire, but by issue two things are already starting to come apart when Joe Chill, the man who Murdered Bruce Wayne’s parents shows up at the end and Batman reluctantly decides to join him to take down The Reaper. You’d think Batman would be a little bit more, I don’t know, extremely pissed at this but the anger within him isn’t really shown and what we get instead is Batman’s plan to kill Chill once he helps him take down the Reaper. Frankly, there was already too much going on in this story to begin with without the need to introduce Chill. Chill could have been replaced by any random hitman to accommodate the story. The way year two wraps up these various plot points is fairly simplified and rushed. Batman’s greatest enemy in this story is himself and his own faults that lead to this messy ending.
Year Two was an interesting set up with a very interesting Villain that would go on to inspire the animated Batman movie ‘Mask of Phantasm’. It’s a pity then that the issues that follow it let it down.