Comic Book: Batman: No Man's Land
Seven days since Gotham has been left to rot like Gomorrah. We're better than that. I'm sure of it. Unfortunately, I've seen nothing to so far to support that faith.
A Bat Family Crossover
that ran through the main Batman
titles in 1999. After a rash of bad luck
—superflu/ebola outbreak, another outbreak, and a 7.6 earthquake, two of which were courtesy of Ra's al Ghul
—the US Government decides Gotham City is too costly to save and instead blows the bridges, effectively cutting the city off from the rest of the world for a year. The inmates of Arkham Asylum are loose, no one's coming to help, there are about a dozen honest cops willing to save the city, and Batman is missing. Worried yet?
Implicitly, the idea was to drag the Gotham of The Eighties
and the Burton films◊
into the 21st century by literally demolishing it. Thematically, the story is something like Mad Max
, Escape from New York
, and The Warriors
all rolled into the DC Universe, and turns the dial Up to Eleven
on Gotham's usual portrayal as a Wretched Hive
In the meantime, high doses of awesome
come from just about everyone. Even the Ventriloquist.
The story also brought to an end the majority of Batman stories throughout The Nineties
—notably, the aforementioned Contagion
stories, as well as Knightfall
and even Batman: Year One
. Somewhat surprisingly, the political angle of the story averted any particular anvils being dropped, except when talking about unconstitutionalism (and even then, the characters lampshaded
away any possible accusations of silliness). Elsewhere, NML
also gave the comics new characters like Cassandra Cain
and her father, David
, introduced DCAU
characters Harley Quinn
and Mercy Graves
into the DCU, and set up plot points that later books like Gotham Central
and even Superman
would deal with (namely Lex Luthor
becoming President of these United States
In 2000, DC released a hardcover novelisation, written by Greg Rucka
. Starting in 2012 as well, DC has re-released the series in a quartet of big honkin' softcovers, with previously unincluded issues.
The reminder of Escape from New York
inspired not one but two superhero sandbox video games; inFAMOUS
. Batman's own sandbox game, Batman: Arkham City
, is also very thematically similar. The Dark Knight Rises
incorporates a version of this story-line.
The story provides examples of the following:
- Aborted Arc/The Real Remington Steele: Cassandra Cain may be the result of one or both of these tropes. At the beginning of the story, a new Batgirl appeared and her identity was treated as a mystery. Several months later Cassandra Cain was introduced in a two-part story. Then in Cassandra's very next appearance, the new Batgirl is revealed to be Huntress and is forced to give up the costume, allowing Cass to become the new Batgirl. It's unclear whether Huntress was always supposed to be the new Batgirl - and if she was, it's also unclear if Huntress was always supposed to lose the costume. What is clear is that someone wanted a new character made up to wear the costume.
- Achilles in His Tent: Batman is this for about three months after his failure to reverse Congress's decision.
- A Day in the Limelight: Several issues focus on the day-to-day lives of the citizens trapped in No Man's Land instead of concentrating on the big name superheroes and villains.
- Adaptation Distillation: The last third of The Dark Knight Rises adapts portions of this story.
- A novel of the story was released just after the storyline was completed. For the most part, it was the same, except in removed a number of stories, including Superman's two appearances, an appearance by Young Justice and everything involving Azrael
- Adaptation Dye-Job: Mercy Graves is introduced to the main comics in the storyline, and is blonde instead of brunette.
- Anti-Villain: Two-Face.
- Anything But That!: Shades of John Adams!
Oracle: Of all the psychos, murderers, and thieves Bruce has defeated... he's never faced a bunch as dangerous as... the United States Congress.
- Doubles as a Continuity Nod — Barbara was briefly in Congress herself.
- Anyone Can Die: Somewhat averted. Tons of people die both on-page and off, but not many are named or significant to readers. Except for Sarah-Essen Gordon.
- Bald of Evil: The "Quakemaster", in addition to Sinister Shades.
- Big Bad Duumvirate: The Penguin imagines he's in one with Luthor. He gets schooled. Badly.
- Big Bad Ensemble: But chiefly The Joker for Batman, and Lex Luthor for Bruce Wayne.
- Big "NO!": Scarecrow when his Humans Are Worthless theory is disproved by the refugees in the Ark Project cathedral.
- Bittersweet Ending: Sarah Essen-Gordon is dead, The Joker is alive, and though no one knows it quite yet, Lex Luthor is on his way to the White House. On the other hand, Batman and his family have returned, the Bat-signal shines in the skies over Gotham for the first time in a year, and and the city is reopened and readmitted to the Union.
- Bound and Gagged: When Batman sees the six civilians that Two-Face killed, he goes into Unstoppable Rage mode, invades Harvey's courthouse headquarters, and easily does this to him. The threats that follow make Two-Face look genuinely terrified that Batman might break his Thou Shalt Not Kill code.
- Bread and Circuses: How most of the villains (especially the Penguin) keep their "territories" under control.
- Canon Immigrant: This is the story that brought arch-moll Harley Quinn into the DCU. Mercy Graves, Luthor's aide-de-camp from Superman: The Animated Series, is also introduced.
- Captain Ersatz: Huntress for Batgirl, early on—without Barbara Gordon's blessing.
- Cardboard Prison: Somewhat averted at first; Arkham actually activates its quake-proof shutters when the initial quake hits, locking all of the lunatics inside. It's only when Gotham is actually declared a No Man's Land, and the staff begins to leave one-by-one, that Jeremiah Arkham is forced to let out the inmates because he cannot stomach the thought of leaving them inside to slowly starve to death (it's hinted that his ultimate decision comes from his childhood pet cat suffering a similar fate).
- Card-Carrying Villain: Most of the big villains except Two-Face, including Luthor and everyone's favourite clown. Poison Ivy averts it with her Robinson Park orphans and the Penguin's more neutral than anything.
- The Chessmaster: Luthor and his ridiculously circuitous scheme: destroy any and all real-estate records in Gotham and substitute them with new ones reflecting ownership by LexCorp, meaning that most of the original owners who might sue to correct this 'error' had already fled the NML, were missing, or dead.
- Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Two-Face accuses Jim Gordon of this. The Penguin tries to pull it on Lex Luthor and gets schooled. Badly.
- Closed Circle: Gotham's shut off from the world for a year. There are National Guard outposts stationed outside the city with kill orders for anyone trying to get in. Or out. This also means anyone in town after the bridges are blown stays there. Played with, though, when Nightwing, Robin, Bane, Luthor and David Cain make their way into the No Man's Land—all under different circumstances and for different reasons.
- The Commissioner Gordon: Deconstructed when Sarah Essen explains that Gordon tried to get a job outside when No Man's Land was declared, but had been laughed at because he couldn't keep his city safe without the help of a vigilante. She warns the officers to not speak about Batman around him anymore.
- Compressed Adaptation: The novelisation, of necessity, leaves out a bunch of subplots and even entire characters, including Azrael and Superman.
- Condescending Compassion: The Death Dancer (who does a happy dance for a "poor, sad person" before "liberating" them from their suffering) tries to get Barbara Gordon to stop "being brave" and admit how miserable she is. She promptly kicks his ass and breaks him by saying that he must be miserable as well (getting an extremely unconvincing Don't You Dare Pity Me! rant from him), with this trope very much in evidence even for those who don't take it to the murderous levels he does.
- Continuity Nod: Quakemaster was the name of a Silver Age Batman villain who used his architectural knowledge for evil. The version seen in NML is a reboot of sorts. —Actually, an alter-ego created by the Ventriloquist as a means of coping with the earthquake.
- Covers Always Lie: Batman #563 shows The Joker standing triumphant over the ruins of Gotham. He doesn't show up in a single panel of the story. Another cover shows Bane breaking The Joker's back, just like Knightfall. In the story, Bane gives The Joker a wicked haymaker and forces him to flee.
- Crazy-Prepared: To start with, the fact that Bruce Wayne quake-proofed every building he owns. Save for Wayne Manor.
- William Petit, head of the GCPD's rapid reaction force. A hardcore survivalist, he keeps an enormous stash of ammunition in an apartment building basement on the off chance Gotham degrades to the point where he'll need to fire guns a lot. In the beginning, this benefits the Blue Boys as he manages to "scrounge" enough ammo to keep them functional. But when he and his squad break away from Gordon to carve out their own territory, he takes his bullets with him.
- Deal with the Devil: Several. Notably the Two-Face/Gordon alliance.
- Death by Secret Identity: Dr. Patrick Kryder, a former psychiatrist, sees Batman unmasked after the latter gets into a fight with Killer Croc. When he tries to give Two-Face this information in exchange for protection, however, Harvey retaliates with a Break Them by Talking about how in No Man's Land, Batman is the same as everyone - a man struggling to reclaim a social rung that will never be rebuilt. Thus, Batman's identity is useless to him. Harvey then promptly shoots the good doctor in the head.
- Death Trap: Somehow, someway, Joker is still able get the resources to build a massive glass-box deathtrap complete with acid nozzles, lasers, and machine guns. And he ain't happy when Azrael shows up instead of Batman. So much so that he refuses to let Azrael even try to rescue the kid put inside the trap as bait.
- Depending on the Writer: Naturally, since this arc has dozens of different writers. Killer Croc arguably gets it worst; dare to compare the versions:
- Ian Edginton's Dumb Muscle version that beats up a man with valuable survival skills (whose value in No Man's Land is unimaginable) simply so he can be the "alpha male".
- Devin Grayson's Bruiser with a Soft Center version that shows genuine concern for one of his Mooks, (going so far as to call him the only friend he has left), does his best to not start a fight in Leslie Thompkins' medical center until pressed, and only shows murderous intentions toward Zsasz, the guy that put said mook in critical condition in the first place.
- Chuck Dixon's Genius Bruiser version, who's essentially The Kingpin with scaly skin and red eyes.
- Determinator: Huntress takes half a dozen bullets to the stomach from the Joker and keeps going. That tells you something about her right there.
- The Dragon:
- Tally Man to Two-Face.
- Bane to Luthor.
- Enemy Mine: The logical result of gang wars, factional rivalries and what-not. Played out to a brutal end with the Two-Face/Gordon alliance.
- Even Evil Has Standards: Two-Face really hates the Joker.
- Joker can't find anything funny about his latest, most heinous crime: murdering Sarah Essen Gordon in front of dozens of babies that he planned to kill.
- Fate Worse Than Death Basil Karlo, AKA Ultimate Clayface, being turned into fertilizer for Ivy's plants.
- Foreshadowing: Harvey Dent's... er... Don't even look at her! with Renee Montoya.
- For the Evulz: The only reason the Joker does anything.
- Two-Face hiring David Cain to kill Jim Gordon has shades of this in the comics. The novelization elaborates on and at certain points outright changes his motives to be more sympathetic.
- Friendly Local Chinatown: A little short on the "friendly" part, but Gotham's local Chinatown does play a role in at least two stories.
- Friend in the Black Market: Well, no one really likes the Penguin, but since he's sitting on 90% of the goods in the quake-devastated Gotham, everyone has to come to him eventually.
- Gatling Good: How Bane establishes his presence in awesome (toward the end of this page). A panel so manly it will make your testicles double in size.
- Green Thumb: Poison Ivy killed Clayface and used her powers to grow fruits and vegetables for the stranded people to eat in a coordinated effort with Batman.
- Hero with an F in Good: Azrael often feels himself to be this, as he keeps trying to resolve problems without violence, but ends up being forced into it anyway.
- Hijacked by Ganon: The end of the crossover revealed that the whole No Man's Land policy was part of a scheme by Lex Luthor to take over Gotham. He was then himself hijacked in the last month of the story by the Joker.
- Honor Before Reason: Jim Gordon and the rest of the GCPD loyalists/Blue Boys. Leave the city, especially when the US government tells any and all Gothamites still alive to get out of Dodge? Nuts to that!
- Leslie Thompkins takes it even further when she refuses to leave Mr. Zsasz to die. Zsasz, as some might remember, is even more Ax-Crazy than the Joker is - he literally lives to kill, and nothing else.
- The Huntress, who faces the Joker—who it should be noted is at the utter top of his game—and lives to tell the tale.
- Hurricane of Puns: The aftermath of Robin's battle with Mr. Freeze in the sewers lends itself to a particularly groan-worthy (but fun) one that would make Ahnold wince.
- Freeze also has a fight with Batman in which the latter makes some rather out of character puns ("What are you saying Freeze, that you're a big drip?"). Either Batman was channeling Spider-Man, or the writers were paying homage to Batman & Robin.
- Ironic Echo: "I swear, that psycho must have had a bullet for every man, woman, and child in Gotham!"
- It Is Beyond Saving: The premise of the arc is that the US government believes this about Gotham.
- Judgment of Solomon: Batman find himself having to make the classic decision at one point between two mothers. The classic solution fails here, forcing him to find another one.
- Kangaroo Court: Two-Face's initial M.O. when NML happens. Later, Gordon accuses him of pulling these when he's put on trial, making Two-Face resort to a more "fair" trial.
- Killed Off for Real: Sarah Essen-Gordon, Commissioner Gordon's second wife, has, remarkably, remained dead ever since being murdered by The Joker. At least so far.
- Knight Templar: "Commandant" Bill Pettit. Breaks with Gordon and the GCPD remnant because he thinks the NML's making them soft. Then he starts hoarding bullets, keeps his men very-nearly prisoners, and bullies Huntress like the tin-pot dictator he imagines himself to be—and all so he can maintain order. It goes From Bad to Worse when Joker starts threatening his people. The novelization makes it clear that he eventually just completely loses his mind.
- Law Procedural: Two-Face's courts have elements of this, but it is especially prominent in the trial of The Commissioner Gordon, where the questioning of Gordon's only witness (Two-Face) by his defense attorney (Harvey Dent) is written out like a court transcript down the middle of the page between the two people.
- Love Triangle: Believe it or not, one starts between The Joker, Harley, and a cartoonist Joker acquires as a new henchman. Yes, it's as screwed-up as it sounds.
- Manipulative Bastard: Don't think for a minute that Scarecrow's any less dangerous without his fear toxins.
- Mob War: The point of the story, at least until 3/4 of the way through, when the Arkham regulars start making noise. Not to mention Luthor and the Joker, both of whom set off the climax in different ways. Jim Gordon also decides to incite one between rival gangs, weakening them before having the "Blue Boys" (cops that chose to stay in NML) crush both and take over their territories.
- Monster Clown: Aww, you highlighted this. For shame!
- Mood Whiplash: While the Bat-books themselves may have undergone a dark, gritty, realistic tone during this crossover, other DC books that take place during this period retain a rather lighthearted tone. Tie-in arcs such as Nightwing's adventures in Metropolis, Robin's in Keystone City, and the like make for some weird side-to-side reading. And don't even get started on the Young Justice tie-in...
- The ordering of the stories in the combined volumes leads to a particularly heavy bit of this when the horrific murder of Sarah Essen-Gordon is followed by the much more upbeat rescue of Tim Drake from Gotham (which also feels like it should have happened substantially earlier then goes straight back to Sarah's funeral.
- No FEMA Response
- Oh, Crap: Gordon's look when they find out the Joker's hiding in GCPD HQ and he sent Sarah back there to pick up a new radio.
- Papa Wolf: Gordon engineers a war between two gangs so he can swoop in and take their land all because Barbara's apartment is in one of their territories.
- Pet the Dog: Poison Ivy turning Robinson Park into a refuge for a dozen-odd homeless children and acting as their surrogate mother.
- Poke the Poodle: Justified: Catwoman knows she can't beat Luthor and Mercy in a fight, so her revenge on them consists of her committing endless acts of mostly harmless (but extremely expensive and infuriating,) acts of theft and sabotage on Luthor's reconstruction efforts, with Mercy constantly failing to catch her. She agrees to stop only after Luthor says "please", leaving both Luthor and Mercy thoroughly humiliated.
- Professional Killer: Several, including David Cain and his daughter Cassandra, AKA Batgirl.
- Rape as Drama: Heavily implied during Poison Ivy's captivity by Clayface; on panel, we see him use Terms of Endangerment and caressing the immobilised Ivy's face despite her clear distaste. However, when she breaks free and prepares to fight him she mentions being "abused, tormented, defiled, polluted", and when she takes her revenge and he incoherently pleads "don't make me..." she replies "I seem to remember begging the same thing of you".
- The Rat: Penguin, as usual, is on no one's side but his own.
- Rich Idiot with No Day Job: Bruce Wayne tries unsuccessfully to play against this image, as he lobbies in Congress for Gotham's reinstatement. It eventually takes Luthor landing his helicopter right in the middle of the NML and throwing money at the problem to change it. For the next three years, Luthor doesn't let Bruce forget it.
- Sadistic Choice: Joker gives one to Sarah Gordon when she catches him. It costs her her life.
- Saintly Church: The Ark Project cathedral/refugee center.
- Say My Name: Batman demands this after he beats the Ventriloquist, his first victory over a "territory" of Gotham held by a villain.
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: The Riddler is the only villain to flee Gotham: the rest stay to carve up what's left. During his time away, Nigma tests Green Arrow's patience. It doesn't turn out well for him.
- Series Continuity Error: Inevitable, considering that a dozen-odd writers (and twice that many artists) worked on this crossover. Some of the more notable ones:
- After Robin sneaked back into Gotham, Mr. Drake raised an enormous ruckus and paid to have the militia airlift Tim out of NML in Robin #73 - an incredibly publicized event that helped create the PR to end it. Afterward, however, Robin suddenly pops up again when the Joker finally makes his move on Christmas Eve, with nary a comment as to his presence.
- When the Arkham escapees are seen witnessing NML with their own eyes in Batman #562, all of them are wearing their inmate uniforms, and the Riddler is amongst them, when A.) They had already donned their costumes several days prior to being released from Arkham and B.) Riddler had split up with them before they'd made it to the city.
- Sherlock Scan: When Superman visits Gotham a second time as Clark Kent, Batman immediately picks apart the inconsistencies of his disguise as a resident of NML:
Batman: The toes of your shoes are scuffed, but you forgot to scuff the heels. Your shirt is dirty but bears no evidence of sweat or epidermal oil stains. And no one here has smelled like deodorant soap or laundry detergent for five months.
- Shout-Out: Luthor's plan to "acquire some real estate" can remind one of his obsession with real estate in the first Superman movie. Luthor gets Bane to work for him by offering the Isle of Santa Prisca, home of the prison where Bane grew up.
- Shown Their Work: The credits for "Underground Railroad" mini-arc mentions that the creative team got an actual martial artist to help plan out the martial arts sequences.
- Sinister Scythe: The Joker is briefly seen wielding one when he takes his anger out on a stuffed Batman dummy.
- Snow Means Death: Huntress' last stand against the Joker.
- Spanner in the Works: During the massive final hunt for the Joker and finding the missing babies, Sarah's radio is damaged and Gordon tells her to go back to GCPD HQ for a new one. That's where the Joker and the babies are and her discovering him blows all of his plans sky high. Sadly, everyone else doesn't realize it until it's far too late.
- Stalker with a Crush: Sweet as he may be on Montoya, Two-Face definitely has shades of this. Which become full-blown in Gotham Central.
- Stalker Without a Crush: The Penguin actually acts a bit like this toward Mercy Graves.
- Straw Nihilist: Alvin Kothers, AKA the Death Dancer, who does a little tap dance in front of his victims right before "liberating" them from their suffering via knife to the throat.
- Black Mask and his so-called "True-Facers" also have shades of this.
- Superman Stays out of Gotham: Even if the government's ban on anyone going in or out didn't apply to superheroes, Batman is adamant Superman keep out of his city. Superman refuses to listen but he gets the message after his efforts to help the city don't work out as he intended.
- However, he later on comes back... as Clark Kent. Seeing as the real enemy in NML is human nature, he feels he can do more good as a normal man helping others grow food than as a living god.
- Before NML had started, Batman even told the freaking Justice League to back off, saying that Gotham should pull itself out of its own rubble. Look what happened there...
- Jim Gordon's What the Hell, Hero? speech to Batman reveals another wrinkle: no other police force wants him in their city, not even the ones that have other superheroes, because they don't want someone who needs an urban legend to do their policework for them.
- Talking to Themself: Harvey Dent, early and throughout. Most visible and most jarring during his prosecution of Jim Gordon and subsequent break-down. Especially when Harvey calls Two-Face as a witness for his defense of Gordon.
- There Is No Higher Court: Apparently, simply cutting off a city with millions of US citizens in it from help is legally a-okay.
- This Is Gonna Suck: Joker says this word-for-word when Bane confronts him.
- Too Dumb to Live: When Bane arrives in No Man's Land and picks up a female sidekick, he's accosted by a gang who demand he turn over everything he has. Keep in mind this is a guy who looks like this◊.
- Trademark Favorite Food: The Ventriloquist (or more accurately, Scarface) is stated to have a sweet tooth for Zesti Cola.
- Traumatic Haircut: Azrael ends up saving Batgirl from a boobytrapped Christmas tree as it blows up on him. His hair is taken out by the explosion, leaving him with short hair for the first time since his stint as Batman.
- Villainous Breakdown: Scarecrow suffers one after the Fear of Faith arc.
- Villainous Rescue: Believe it or not, The Penguin and his men come to help Blue Boy "Hardback" Bock against a group of street thugs so that Bock can take a dozen terminally ill children outside Gotham to seek medical attention.
- What the Hell, Hero?: After a territorial spat involving Penguin, Two-Face, and Huntress (posing as Batgirl at this point) goes horribly wrong, Batman gets a riproaring version of this from Jim Gordon.
- Superman comes to quake-ravaged Gotham to help. Batman tells him to get the hell out.
- Wicked Cultured: Bane, Lex Luthor (who in the novelisation gets his entire dinner menu and wine list gloriously narrated to the reader). The Penguin and his price-gouging bazaar aspire to this, but pull off a cheap imitation.
- With Great Power Comes Great Insanity: Officer Petit gets the non-superpower version, as he grows ever more unhinged as his reserves of ammo make him the final arbiter of "justice". Gordon and Sarah spend a fair amount of time arguing over this, and whether or not he's getting too close to becoming just another of Gotham's warlords.
- Worthless Yellow Rocks: Directly mentioned and applied several times; the Penguin, in his first appearance during the arc, is seen being given a diamond necklace in exchange for an apple. Like some of the other characters, he knows that the NML decision will be reversed eventually, so he's trading what's valuable today for what will be valuable tomorrow.
- Lampshaded when he offers Catwoman a luxury watch or a can of tuna. She naturally reaches for the watch before he notes how valuable the tuna is.
- A minor criminal does the same with the same reasoning, but lacks the competence to survive until the treasures regain their value, and his story ends with his girlfriend fruitlessly trying to exchange one of his valuable necklaces for a small amount of food.
- Would Hit a Girl: Played straight by multiple characters; Two-Face has no problem with decking Sarah Essen-Gordon, and Bane tells his Hispanic "sidekick" that he only spared her because he needed someone to spread the word of his doings, and she posed the least threat. Clayface also abused Ivy (and it's heavily implied the abuse was sexual,) while he held her captive, and had no problem trying in earnest to kill her when she broke free and fought back.
- You No Take Candle: Much like his other portrayals, KGBeast speaks like this.
"Glad am I to be seeing that you are not dead - so that I am to be killing you!"