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Comic Book / Batman: No Man's Land

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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 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 '80s 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.

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 '90s—notably, the aforementioned Batman: Contagion, Batman: Legacy and Batman: Cataclysm 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 DC Animated Universe 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. In 2011-2012 as well, DC re-released the series in a quartet of big honkin' softcovers, with previously unincluded issues, and starting in 2015 they're re-releasing the lead-in stories Contagion/Legacy, Cataclysm, and Road to No Man's Land/Aftershock.

The comic inspired not one but two superhero sandbox video games; inFAMOUS and [PROTOTYPE]. Batman's own sandbox game, Batman: Arkham City, is also very thematically similar, as is Batman: Arkham Knight. The Dark Knight Rises incorporates a version of this story-line, as does Harley Quinn (2019), and Gotham for its fifth and final season with the events leading up to the No Man's Land scenario happening in the fourth season finale.

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.
  • Accidental Truth: One Batman: Cataclysm issue follows a group of mercenaries hired by a CEO to rescue people buried under the rubble caused by the earthquake. One such group of rescues contains a young boy who hero-worships Batman and asks if he sent them. The main rescuer claims that he did, showing one of his friends to a provision in the contract they signed which authorizes them to tell lies to keep up morale. The contract also mentions the name of the CEO who hired them as rescuers: Batman's Secret Identity, Bruce Wayne.
  • Achilles in His Tent: Batman is this for about three months after his failure to reverse Congress's decision.
  • Action Politician: In Road to No Man's Land, Senator Esterbrook Havilan, the only politician fighting to allocate money to rebuild Gotham City, qualifies. He personally goes to meet an informant in an arms dealing case, and when it turns out to be a trap, he pulls out a gun. He's quickly disarmed, but knocks one of the assassins unconscious with a single punch. Unfortunately, this is rendered moot when a Horrible Judge of Character moment causes him to walk into a second trap.
  • 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:
    • Both the last third of The Dark Knight Rises and Season 5 of Gotham adapt 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 it 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, once he starts crushing on Montoya. At first, he's an out-and-out villain, pitching himself to Gordon as a Necessary Evil only to backstab him. Then Montoya comes along and he starts finding himself more and more desperate to get her attention, even contracting assassin David Cain to murder Gordon for "keeping her from him", but still trying to be more noble all the same. As this is comics, it doesn't stick in the long run though.
  • 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.
  • Artistic License Law: No, the government can't just declare a city to be not part of the United States anymore. Nicolas Scratch was manipulating Congress into doing it via brainwashing and hypnotization, but outside of this supernatural explanation, there's no legal basis for it to happen. Thing is? Even the characters know this. Penguin recognizes the decision will be reversed and begins stockpiling what will be valuable later in exchange for what is valuable now (and it's implied he's backed by the outside world via a secret tunnel somewhere). Lex Luthor hijacks Scratch's plan to take control of Gotham so he can do it himself, knowing this is the ultimate outcome. The characters inside No Man's Land themselves are well aware that it'll happen eventually, but a year in Gotham is a very long time to hold on...
  • Badass and Child Duo: One interlude in the second issue features the formation of such a duo. When a mugger tries to rob an orphaned young trader, he's interrupted by an archer who offers to protect the kid in exchange for half of his trading profits. The two then walk away, talking about how the kid can use his small size to get into hard-to-reach scavenging locations.
  • Bait-and-Switch: The first issue has a scene where some thugs are extorting a family as a shadowy figure spies on them from the roof. He swings down on a roof to overpower the thugs, with a fluttering cape. Only it turns out that fluttering cape is a trench coat, and the rescuer isn't Batman, but GCPD cop Bock.
  • Bald of Evil: The "Quakemaster", in addition to Sinister Shades.
  • Benevolent Boss: Penguin. He takes in anyone who wants to work for him, makes sure they have plenty of food and can survive, and runs a business trading food for priceless valuables, as he knows Gotham will eventually be reinstated and he and his employees will have plenty of money and treasure. Outside of the time he got several henchmen killed while trying to threaten Lex Luthor, his faction's mortality rate is surprisingly low compared to everyone else.
  • 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.
  • Blackmail: In a flashback story, Dr. Thomas Wayne breaks into a closed drug store to get the medicine to treat a dying child, leaving behind a note and promising to pay for it. The druggist spends the next month blackmailing him over this. Ultimately, Alfred disguises himself as a cop to scare the druggist into handing the incriminating note over.
  • 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.
  • Bullying a Dragon: Sure, Josh, try to force yourself on the Joker's girlfriend even AFTER he warned you not to try anything! He was lucky that he only got blown up.
  • 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 favorite 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.
  • Cop Killer: The Joker kills Sarah Essen when she finds him with the babies.
  • Coup de Grce: How the Joker kills Sarah — shooting her in the head.
  • 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.
  • Creepy Gas-Station Attendant: Downplayed with One-Shot Character Sanchez, a talkative, Perma-Stubble-sporting, baseball bat-wielding man with a harsh smile who owns the last gas station in town with any gas left in it. His rough appearance is only because everyone left in the city has to be tough, and he is a warm-hearted ally of Batgirl.
  • Critical Staffing Shortage: In Road to No Mans Land, many Arkham Asylum employees stop showing up for work in the weeks after the earthquake as the local infrastructure and living conditons are ravaged, the only politician who wants to finance rebuilding the city is dead, the GCPD can't spare officers to quell riots, and no one is being paid anymore. Eventually, no one is left besides Dr. Arkham, another doctor named David Thurman, and eight guards. The guards have to double as pill dispensers despite their lack of training and are tricked into giving Killer Croc stimulants that spark off a destructive riot that the remaining guards and doctors barely survive. The guards accept that things are lost and apologetically quit immediately afterward, leaving the two doctors to carry on alone. Dr. Thurman is mortally wounded after dressing up as Batman in a failed attempt to intimidate the inmates and Arkham has to release the prisoners soon afterward.
  • Deal with the Devil: Several. Notably the Two-Face/Gordon alliance.
  • Death by Adaptation: The original Tally Man survived the story and even cameoed in Infinite Crisis and Gilda Dent's post-The Long Halloween wasn't shown, though a woman claiming to be her during Dick Grayson's second Batman tenure appeared (but Dick doubted it was her). The novelization depicts Two-Face killing the original Tally Man and mentions Gilda Dent as having died sometime before the story.
  • 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.
  • Deranged Dance: Alvin Kothers, AKA the Death Dancer, is a Serial Killer who does a little tap dance in front of his victims right before "liberating" them from their suffering via knife to the throat. He tries to do a dance before killing his next victim, but ends up being flattened when the victim turns out to be Batgirl/Oracle.
  • Desires Prison Life: Many people in semi post-apocalyptic Gotham want to be let into Blackgate Prison, which is much safer than most of Gotham, and at least has food.
  • Determinator: Huntress takes half a dozen bullets to the stomach from the Joker and keeps going. That tells you something about her right there.
  • Divided States of America: The United States government goes so far as to declare Gotham City is no longer part of their territory (something that is impossible under the US Constitution). It's readmitted and rebuilt by the end.
  • The Dragon:
    • Tally Man to Two-Face.
    • Bane to Luthor.
  • The Elites Jump Ship:
    • In the Contagion story that leads up to No Man's Land, when a group of Gotham one-percenters learn that a dangerous virus has reached the city, they send away their servants and lock themselves inside a penthouse to engage in debauchery while riding it out. One of them already has the virus, and things go downhill for them from there.
    • Right before an earthquake-ravaged Gotham City is quarantined and all disaster relief is discontinued, most of the city's upper class flee. Much of its lower class is unable to afford to do the same.
    • Many of the people with money who remain in Gotham (a mixture of elites and criminals) end up paying a crime lord named Shank enormous sums of money to smuggle them out of the city several months into the disaster. He takes all of their valuables and then locks them in a cellar to cannibalize each other.
  • 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.
  • Enlightened Self-Interest: Several early issues feature Gotham citizens who help other people, but for mercenary reasons (like a beggar offering to help a besieged homeowner defend his house in exchange for permission to live under his roof, or a trader offering a young man several days worth of food for a single fresh apple). Still, it must be noted that they're in pretty desperate straits and that they could easily have victimized those people rather than made deals with them.
  • 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.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Scarecrow, to the point that being offered genuine compassion terrifies him.
    Scarecrow: What are you doing?! Get away from me! Stop that! STOP!
  • Facial Horror: This story marks the debut of Black Mask's Skull for a Head appearance, a result of having finally removed the mask that was fused to his face.
  • Fate Worse than Death Basil Karlo, AKA Ultimate Clayface, being turned into fertilizer for Ivy's plants.
  • Foe Romance Subtext: From The Joker, as usual:
    Joker is pointing a pair of scissors at a woman
    Woman: Please please don't...
    Joker: Between us, this has nothing to do with you...but I've got to get his attention, and so far nothing has worked.
    Woman: ...Oh God don't please don't please I'm begging you.
    A shadow looms over Joker and the woman
    Joker: Finally! I was beginning to think you didn't love me...anymore?
    Joker turns around, sees Bane
    Joker: Oh, This Is Gonna Suck...
  • Foreshadowing: Harvey Dent's... er... Don't even look at her! with Renee Montoya.
  • For the Evulz:
    • The Joker has absolutely no motivation in this series. He simply roams around Gotham, picking up henchmen, and doing villainous deeds for the hell of it. He honestly had no reason to kidnap all of the babies in Gotham and kill Sarah Essen but he did so anyway.
    • Two-Face hiring David Cain to kill Jim Gordon has shades of this in the comics, where there was no real build-up and just happened because the writers needed to get Cain into Gotham to have him meet his daughter. The novelization elaborates on and at certain points outright changes his motives to be more sympathetic, having to do with Two-Face's attraction to Renee Montoya.
  • 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 Gotham (seen here). A panel so manly it will make your testicles double in size.
  • Geographic Flexibility: Averted. No Man's Land could be seen to finally solidify Gotham's geography. It provided a map of Gotham City, which showed it to be built on a group of islands in a cove, and Wayne Manor is located on the mainland. This has crucial plot importance, as quarantining the whole city would be much more difficult to maintain without the natural barriers provided by water. This layout of the city has stuck since, and has been followed by for example the ''Arkham'' series of video games.
  • Good Shepherd:
    • The nun attending to a death row prisoner in one Cataclysm issue is a compassionate and caring person.
    • There are several street missions run by clergymen helping provide for the refugees (although one is manipulated by Scarecrow).
  • 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.
  • Have You Told Anyone Else?: One Batman Legacy story has Bane getting sensitive information from an Almighty Janitor in R'as al Ghul's palace. Bane doesn't want this information getting around, but doesn't want to kill anyone whose presence will be missed.
    Bane: You said that The Demon scarcely regards you?
    Shuram: As I said, I remain out of his sight. I perform my tasks beneath his notice.
    Bane: Then he would hardly notice your absence?
    Shuram: I suppose that is true. Why would-Oh.
  • Hijacked by Ganon: The entire policy of excommunicating Gotham originally appeared to be a ploy by new face Nicholas Scratch to take control of the city, but by the end of the crossover, it turned out Lex Luthor co-opted Scratch's plan. 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.
  • Hope Spot: One story involves a pair of refugees obliviously wandering into one of Joker's hideouts and nearly blundering into various lethal traps. Batgirl saves them and directs them to a safe house. The story ends with one of them drinking a can of soda from the house. It turns out to be poisoned with Joker Venom.
  • House Squatting: Happens en masse in the aftermath, where the Gothamites that stayed behind during the No Man's Land had moved into the better houses and the returning Gothamites who'd fled had to evict them - including one stay behind who was tried for murder when he shot a returnee whom he'd mistaken for a home invader.
  • 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.
  • I Gave My Word: Bruce Wayne hires many of Gotham's criminals to rescue people from the rubble of the earthquake to divert them from taking advantage of the chaos to loot the city. Some of them get very cross when their comrades suggest not living up to their end of the contract.
    Sonny Epifani: I read it, I signed it, and I cashed the check that came with it. Therefore, I intend to honor it.
  • Ignored Expert: In Cataclysm, seismologist Jolene Relazzo tries to spread warnings that Gotham is due for a 7.7 quake. No one believes her except Bruce Wayne, who makes as many buildings as he can earthquake-proof. When Jolene calls him to warn him that the quake is hours away, he's unable to spread the warning due to being busy with his Batman duties.
  • Implied Rape: Given the fact that Poison Ivy was naked, Clayface used Terms of Endangerment and touched her despite her hatred of him while she was immobile, her saying that (among other things) she was "defiled," and mocks Clayface begging for mercy by pointing out she did the same, it's implied that Clayface forced himself on Ivy.
  • Interrupted Suicide: Cassandra's guilt and trauma lead her to attempt to kill herself by throwing herself from the GCPD building after stopping Gordon from being killed by her father. Thankfully, Batman saves her.
  • 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.
  • Killer Bear Hug: During the "Bread and Circuses" arc, one of the Penguin's large, female minions wraps Batman in a tight, bone-cracking embrace.
  • 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.
  • Men of Sherwood: A good number of cops stay in Gotham when it becomes a disaster-ridden demilitarized zone, acting as a Vigilante Militia under Commissioner Gordon. They accomplish quite a bit even without Batman and barely lose anyone outside of a long-time character and a group who form a Renegade Splinter Faction.
  • 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:The Joker in all his murderous glory kidnaps a bunch of babies and murders Sarah Essen.
  • 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.
  • Neighbourhood-Friendly Gangsters: Enforced by Batman. After defeating the Ventriloquist, Batman initially plans to simply give the people of his territory their freedom back and move on to fight the next villain only to learn the civilians have no way to properly organize in a fractured society, defend themselves against the other warlords who would come to fill the power vacuum, and were grateful for the protection Scarface offered them. In order to keep the peace, Batman recruits Ventriloquists former gang to serve him as their new boss. The goons get first choice of food in exchange for treating the civilians kinder and banning the use of guns.
  • No FEMA Response: After two outbreaks of a horrific genetically engineered plague virus are followed by a devastating earthquake that smashes Gotham City flat, the government (influenced by covert supervillain activity) decides that any further aid and reconstruction would just be throwing good money after bad and orders the city evacuated and left to rot. Anyone refusing to leave is no longer their problem. Gotham is left to the mercies of the Arkham inmates, criminal organizations, and street gangs for over a year, and the government actually goes so far as to declare Gotham to no longer be part of the American territory (something that's not possible under the US Constitution) and shot down any attempts to bring relief aid to the people who insisted on staying! And Metropolis, a city that had similarly been extensively damaged by Lex Luthor shortly before, was fixed magically (by Gotham native Zatanna) but nothing was done to restore Gotham (until, ironically, Luthor paid for the repairs to get the publicity that got him elected President).
  • Non-Indicative Name: This story marks the first time Black Mask ditched his namesake mask and the start of his Skull for a Head look (in comics canon, being a case of Facial Horror as it's his actual face, not a mask as in many adaptations).
  • 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.
  • Riddle for the Ages: One of the stories leading up to No Man's Land features a death row prisoner named Jared Manx who professes his innocence and gets a large number of Heroic Bystander feats when a tsunami hits the prison. At the end of the issue, Jared, his Crusading Lawyer, and a nun who was ministering to him before his execution are left desperately trying to hold up a fallen concrete beam that is poised to crush them. Jared tells the other two to escape while he holds it up long enough for them to do so, then claims that he lied about his innocence and that two of the victims were his biological children. His lawyer and the nun let go and run to safety, and the falling concrete crushes Jared. The issue ends with the nun wondering if Jared's confession was sincere and he made it because he had nothing left to loose, or if it was a lie to keep the two people who believed in him from throwing away their lives in a doomed attempt to save his. Neither the nun nor the fans ever get an answer.
    Nun: He did lie, but when? And about what?
  • Rule of Three: The second issue has three interludes where a mugger unsuccessfully tries to hold up traders on their way to see the Penguin. His first intended victim walks away unmolested after realizing that the man's gun is empty, as if he had any valuable bullets, he wouldn't be wasting time trying to steal batteries. A passerby armed with a bow and arrow intervenes to protect his second intended victim (a young boy with bicycle tubes) in exchange for the boy becoming his trading partner. The third trader is Joker, and the mugger has just enough time to realize he's Mugging the Monster before becoming an Asshole Victim.
  • 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.
  • Secret Identity Apathy: At one point, Batman tries to regain Gordon's trust in him by revealing his identity, but Gordon refuses to look at him after the Dramatic Unmask, stating that if he wanted to know Batman's identity, he could have figured it out years ago, and even cryptically saying, "And for all you know, maybe I did."
  • 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.
    • The Quakemaster's first appearance in the story has him directly stating that he will "burn Gotham to the ground." This contradicts his later appearances where he deliberately avoids using any words with the letter "b" in them and pulls a noticeable Last-Second Word Swap whenever he nearly does, because the Ventriloquist always pronounces "b" as "g" instead, and this is how Robin is able to deduce that he is really another puppet that Wesker is using.
  • 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.
    • That said, once Batman has listed the above 'problems' with Clark's current disguise, he concedes that it looks fine if Clark was talking to someone who wasn't the world's greatest detective.
  • 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.
  • Skull for a Head: This story marks the first time Black Mask sported this look, revealing that his face became this in the fire that fused his mask to his face after he finally managed to take the mask off.
  • 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. Though to Superman's credit, Batman admits it took him a lot longer to understand said problems than it did Superman.
    • 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...
    • That said, a series of Justice League issues did tie-in with the story, with one issue focusing on the team chasing a White Martian believing himself to be Bruce Wayne, and another attempting to stop a supervillain from trying his new superweapon on Gotham since its ruined state made it the perfect testing ground to him.
    • 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 the Monster to Death: In his defeat, Harvey Dent's defense of Jim Gordon results in him calling Two-Face to the stand, subsequently talking himself into acquitting Gordon of all charges and allowing himself to be taken into custody.
  • 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.
  • Terms of Endangerment: Clayface uses this during the time he captured Poison Ivy — which included the implication he raped her.
  • There Is No Higher Court: Apparently, simply cutting off a city with millions of US citizens in it from help is legally a-okay. Justified as the work of semi-paranormal demagogue Nicholas Scratch, who brainwashed a number of politicians and ran a multi-million-dollar campaign to demonize Gotham City; insurance companies and welfare agencies thus seized the opportunity to not have to pay billions of dollars to repair a city devastated by a 7.6 quake. Worked, too; ultimately, the city was repaired by Lex Luthor, who rode the PR train clear to the White House.
  • 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.
  • Vigilante Militia: After the Gotham City Police Department is disbanded, Commissioner Gordon and his most dedicated officers remain behind to provide safety to the people who can't evacuate the earthquake-ravaged city while undermining the super-villains turned warlords one at a time. Several of them, led by SWAT officer Billy Pettit, form a splinter group due to feeling that Gordon is too soft, allying with Batman's ally Huntress. Pettit gradually begins Slowly Slipping Into Evil, to the alarm of his more level-headed men.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Scarecrow suffers one after the Fear of Faith arc.
    "What are you doing?! Get away from me! Stop that! STOP!"
  • Villainous BSoD: Two-Face suffers from one when Harvey Dent takes to the stand in defense of Jim Gordon and manages to convince him that the entire case against Gordon was weak. As a result, Two-Face/Harvey allows himself to be taken into custody.
  • 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.
  • Wasteland Elder:
    • Dr. Leslie Thompkins, a contemporary of Batman's parents, is a respected figure who runs a refugee camp providing medical aid and other vital supplies to the people of Gotham after the city is ravaged by an earthquake and abandoned by the government for a year.
    • One-Shot Character Sarge Riley is a respected neighborhood elder who helps the people of his community by standing up to the Wasteland Warlords (albeit with an occasional Know When to Fold 'Em moment) and discretely distributing canned food from his Cold War bomb shelter to refugees.
    • Father Papaleo, an elderly, wheelchair-bound clergyman, serves as the co-leader of a pacifistic group and is arguably more worldly and practical than their leader, Father Chris.
  • 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 novelization 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!"