War Games was a Batman cross-over/event that ran in DC Comics between October 2004 and January 2005. The War Games story arc appeared in all the Gotham related titles running at the time, Detective Comics, Legends of the Dark Knight, Nightwing, Batman: Gotham Knights, Robin, Batgirl, Catwoman, Batman, and Gotham Central. The War Games story arc has since been collected in three trade paper backs, Batman: War Games, Act One - Outbreak, Batman: War Games, Act Two - Tides and Batman: War Games, Act Three - Endgame.

The story begins with Stephanie Brown (aka. Spoiler), trying to redeem herself in the eyes of Batman, after recently been fired as Robin. In an effort to regain Batman's confidence, and hoping to take back her Robin mantle, Spoiler sets into motion an elaborate contingency plan Batman had developed in the event of widespread gang violence. In essence the plan involved gathering all of Gotham's crime figures together and to unite them under a single crime boss, Matches Malone, and alias used by Batman to infiltrate Gotham's organised crime. In effect this plan would have given Batman control of Gotham's organised crime, if it were to go to plan. Unfortunately, Spoiler was not aware that Batman and Matches Malone were the same person.

When Spoiler gathers the crime figures without Batman's knowledge, and with Matches Malone an obvious no show, things turn pear shaped, and the gangs go to war with one another. Batman and friends are immediately drawn into the action, trying to put an end to the war before Gotham is destroyed.

In the chaos, The Black Mask appears, a villain that shares a history with both Batman and Bruce Wayne. An opportunist, the Black Mask decides to step into the role Matches Malone was intended to play. With Batman, Robin, Nightwing, Oracle, Batgirl and Catwoman stretched to breaking point, Spoiler is captured and tortured by the Black Mask. When Black Mask learns the truth behind the War Games scenario being played out in Gotham, he has all the information he needs in order to take control, and rule Gotham City's underworld.
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Before I begin, I need to say up-front that when it comes to the big DC Infinite Crisis event, I'm relatively clueless. From what little I do know, Infinite Crisis was a big deal, that concluded with the big name DC drawcards, including Batman, jump forward a year in their continuity. Batman: Face the Face was written by James Robinson with art by Leonard Kirk and Don Kramer. The trade paperback collects a total of eight issues, taken from Batman #651-654 and Detective Comics #817-820, which were originally released May - August 2006. This story-line is sometimes referred to as "One Year Later", and basically serves as the relaunch of the Batman titles.

Batman: Face the Face marks the return of Batman, and Robin, following their one year sabbatical. Prior to taking the year off, Batman left a reformed, and no longer deformed, Harvey Dent to fill the role of protector of Gotham City. From all reports, the twelve months without Batman passed relatively smoothly, and Dent appeared to have handled the challenge well. When Batman and Robin return to Gotham, and take up their crime fighting responsibilities, things start to turn pear shaped. A 'mysterious vigilante' begins dispatching some of the lower level (read crap and unpopular) super villains, such as KGBeast and Orca. When all the evidence points toward Dent, and "Two-Face", as the mastermind behind the murders. All of this is set on the backdrop of an unseen player attempting to take control of the Penguin's empire, as well as Dent growing increasingly resentful of the Dark Knight's return.

So Batman has some tough questions that need answers. Has Dent returned to the Two-Face persona? Is Dent being framed? Who is trying to take over the Penguin's operation? Well if I answered those questions for you, you would need to read the book!

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Face the Face is important if for no other reason than it re-establishes James Gordon as Gotham's police commissioner and reveals that Detective Harvey Bullock is once again a member of the G.C.P.D. The collection also end with Bruce Wayne offering to adopt Tim Drake (the current Robin) as his son.

There is a real effort in this collection to reposition Batman as the detective. He is less a "super hero" in this story and more a "super detective". The whole feel of the book is one of "back to basics". Which is good and bad. It's good because it restores the character of Batman back to the ball park of where he is at his best, but bad because at the same time, there's nothing new going on that hasn't already been done before.

Overall, while the artwork in this book is solid, the story-line is more than a little disappointing. The twist in the tail is telegraphed from very early on, and from then on in it's more a case of going through the motions. For what is essentially a 'relaunch' I found Batman: Face the Face to be a let down.

Overall I'd give Batman: Face the Face 4 out of 10. » Read the rest of the entry..

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