June 7, 2023

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Noteworthy Issues: Batman–One Bad Day: Ra’s Al-Ghul #1 (March, 2023)

Ra's al-Ghul has a plan, and it's a subtle one this time.

DC Infinite doesn’t seem to list the various One Bad Day one-shots in any particular order, certainly not in publication order.  I think DC’s service, particularly the Ultra service, is more prompt at releasing comics than Marvel is (and Marvel puts more older issues up per week), but they aren’t always in the correct order.

Not that it matters for a series of one shots.  Anyway, I got the Ra’s al-Ghul one next.

Issue:  Batman–One Bad Day: Ra’s al-Ghul #1, March 2023

Writer:  Tom Taylor

Artists:  Ivan Reis and Danny Miki

The Plot:  Ra’s al-Ghul just wants to save the Earth.  He also doesn’t care how many have to die to do it.

Commentary:  So, as Batman villains go, I can’t say I have ever been particularly interested in Ra’s al-Ghul.  Basically, he seems like a villain who belongs on a bigger scope than Batman, the protector of a single city, should have to deal with.  Yes, he does hark back to some of Batman’s more pulpy roots as that immortal mastermind operating behind the scenes where some brilliant detective or adventurer can tackle him, particularly when said villain has a beautiful daughter to boot.

I have likewise never been much of a fan of Talia.  She always seemed kinda wimpy to me, even with more recent efforts to make her more formidable.  Basically, Talia is a character that is usually defined by the men in her life, be it Ra’s or Batman.

Selina is a much better match for Bruce.

Regardless, this issue here (after the obligatory “one bad day” which seemed almost like an afterthought), goes through what life is like for the Demon’s Head as he comes back from the dead (again) with a new plan to save the Earth.  Taylor shows Ra’s has an affinity for wolves, in part thanks to a debt he feels he owes the entire species, and in a nice, touching moment, has to euthanize an old wolf companion who, it is implied, is the last of her kind, meaning Ra’s just watched a species, and not for the first time, go extinct.

I do have a soft spot for dogs, including wolves. That sort of thing works for me.

However, Ra’s al-Ghul’s big thing has always been saving the planet.  Granted, he usually wants to save it from the humans by wiping most of them out, but this story takes a different route, positing a Ra’s that is more antihero than villain.  He still wants to save the Earth, but maybe he can do it in a way that is a lot more subtle than usual.  Sure, Batman (and grandson Damien) will get involved, but maybe this time, Ra’s can pull something off.

The idea that Ra’s could be more antihero than villain is certainly an intriguing one, and seeing the world through his eyes is nice.  Taylor’s script isn’t as psychologically intense as Tom King’s Riddler story, but there’s still a feeling here that Ra’s is something of a hero while Batman is just a rigid moralist who won’t get out of the way for the good of the planet.  Ra’s is saving the day, and Batman’s morality may actually be an obstacle to doing real good in the world.  Maybe if the Demon’s Head’s methods were less lethal, Batman wouldn’t mind, but there is a part of me that wonders what a Ra’s-as-the-hero series would be like.  I mean, DC has somewhat rehabilitated Poison Ivy, Harley Quinn, Catwoman, and even one of the Clayfaces.  Why not Ra’s?

Or at least give me good stories like this one.  I don’t mind the globetrotting when Tom Taylor’s writing it.

Grade:  A-

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