Batman: Cataclysm (New Edition) Paperback – June 16, 2015
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If you read the description, you'll see that this is a massive book. As such, it contains dozens of different talents, which means dealing with all of the positive and negative connotations that come with that. For the most part, the writing is decent and the art is fair. When this arc was first published, DC did not have quite the same level of artistic talent it does today, so be prepared for largely average panels. Of course, that doesn't mean there is nothing outstanding, quite the contrary, but these few gems are more than balanced by downright mediocre work. As this collection pulls from several titles, including second-tear characters (i.e. Catwoman, Azrael, etc.), second-tear talent should be expected. For me, the comic's art is supposed to pull the reader along the pages, helping to tell a compelling story. Unfortunately, not all of the art does this, which makes some of the chapters drag. Overall, however, the art usually does the job. As I must remind myself, comics sometimes need to be looked at as a product of the times. Future comparison, while valid, can be unnecessarily harsh on decades-old work.
Writing, on the other hand, can be more fairly assessed with respect to time. This is especially true for Batman, who has had solid writing talent for several decades. Dixon writes well, he clearly has an understanding for the Batman and his family. Sure some of the writing is hokey and needlessly expositional, but overall, Dixon's craft is very pleasing. This is a difficult story to keep interesting and non-repetitive. Rescuing earthquake victims is an harrowing experience, and Dixon offers this task from the viewpoints of several characters, minor and major. There is thick layering that reveals just how damning this disaster was to the city. While some issues are quite forgettable, the sum product is excellent.
This isn't a cheap book, but for what you're getting, the value is unbeatable. If you're interested in starting No Man's Land, picking up this one extra volume is highly recommended. Even if you're not, I still recommend this book. It's a good example of a layered Batman mythos. While the abundance of characters is not for the uninitiated, Batman has among the most well-known rogues gallery of any super hero. Thus, anyone with an average familiarity with the character would benefit from reading Cataclysm.
When I first read this a few years ago, I sort of viewed it as an obligatory volume to get to No Man's Land, and skimmed it accordingly. In retrospect, and in re-reading and thinking about Cataclysm again, there really is a lot to appreciate in the ideas in themes that I didn't consider. What this run really explores is how someone like Batman can face a threat like a major natural disaster. What good is all of the smarts, tech, and training in the world if you can't stop something like this? He and the bat family can do nothing, but also everything. Every act of trying to keep Gotham together is a struggle, but that much more meaningful because it all seems hopeless. There are also some side stories with some of his rogues' gallery that are memorable, if a bit twisted. All in all, this is a must-read for anyone learning about major moments in Batman's history, but I think it stands out for being so different than most major comic book runs.
**Additional note: at the time of this review, this book is only available from other non-Amazon sellers at a steep price of $99 and up--back when I bought it it was around $20 dollars, which struck me as more reasonable. This is a major run in Batman for sure, but not worth the current steep price.**