Overview: In Batman: One Bad Day: Ra’s al Ghul #1, the Demon’s Head is the closest to victory that he’s ever been, so long as Batman stays out of the picture.
Synopsis (spoilers ahead): Batman: One Bad Day: Ra’s al Ghul #1 begins a long time ago, as Genghis Khan’s army lays siege to a town. A seven-year-old Ra’s al Ghul flees, pursued by a conqueror. Ra’s is felled in the forest, and as the invader steps on him, pressing his face into the earth, wolves arrive. While the wolves tear out the throat of Ra’s attacker, the young boy dives into a nearby river, floating to wherever it will carry him.
An adult Ra’s al Ghul awakens in a Lazarus Pit. He is greeted by Talia, his daughter, and she reminds him of who he is, as well as her relation to him. Ra’s understands more than she realizes, though he doesn’t make it known.
Talia and Ra’s visit a wolf in the medical wing. Her name is Nadja, and he saved her from some captors who had caged her. She reminds him of his childhood, and she has been a faithful friend. Nadja, however, is suffering from cancer, and her hours are numbered. Ra’s agrees to end her suffering, holding her close and weeping for the friend he’s about to lose.
Ninety miles from the coast of Gotham, an old man named Edwards is warned that the communications on his boat have been severed. While he drinks and ignores the warnings, Ra’s al Ghul and his army arrive in helicopters.
The League of Assassins rips through Gerald Edwards’ men. When asked what he wants, Ra’s lets Gerald know that he’s gotten too big for his britches, having valued himself and his corporation over the planet’s future. Ra’s al Ghul kills Gerald’s son in front of him, then drowns the old man. As the ship sinks, the League of Assassins leaves, taking the body of Gerald’s son Harry with them (because they were overzealous and feared leaving evidence behind).
In the Batcave, Batman learns of Edwards’ death. Gerald was a friend of Thomas Wayne’s, and he was also the third high-profile corporate owner to die in a matter of weeks. Batman and Robin (Damian Wayne) take the Batboat to Edwards’ shipwreck.
At the wreck, Batman finds a handgun with two bullets missing. He decides to track down the coroner and ask some questions. The coroner confirms what he already knows, Edwards’s death was no accidental shipwreck. Chlorine in the lungs proves Edwards died in his own yacht’s pool, not the ocean.
Batman next goes undercover as Bruce Wayne, using Bruce as a way to talk to Julia Edwards, Gerald’s daughter. At her home, Bruce learns that Julia has no interest in seizing control of Roxxcorp, the family gas and coal company. She disagrees with the poisoning of the planet that her family’s company is responsible for. Bruce also learns that Julia is friends with Talia al Ghul, whom she trusts as an advisor.
Meanwhile, Talia tips off Ra’s to Bruce’s visit to Julia. Ra’s then hops on a flight to Gotham.
Batman tells Robin that of the high-profile people who have died, each one has had an heir who plans to change the direction of their companies to something more environmentally conscious. Though Robin questions Batman’s intent on protecting the remaining leaders of the biggest polluters on the planet, he can’t argue against his father.
After their call, Robin is visited by Ra’s, who demands that Damian return home. The two battle, but Ra’s ultimately wins, taking Robin “back home” because it will lure Batman out.
Batman arrives as planned, battling the League of Assassins in pursuit of his son. When the two meet, Ra’s threatens to murder Robin, stating that no life is worth more than the future of the planet. Ra’s then goes on to remind Batman that he’s lived for centuries and has seen what destruction humankind has wrought.
To him, what Ra’s has done is restraint. He’s replacing bad corporate leaders with ones more focused on the planet’s future. It’s his peace offering, but since Batman still won’t accept it, Ra’s has no choice but to slice Batman with a cutlass.
Robin runs to his father’s side as Batman bleeds out. With his dying breath, Batman hands over his cowl to Damian. He then asks Damian to promise not to kill anyone, not to let anger get the better of him. Robin accepts; Batman dies.
Robin can’t kill Ra’s, but he won’t stay at his grandfather’s side. He leaves. Meanwhile, Ra’s completes what he set out to do.
Three months later, Bruce reawakens in a Lazarus Pit, and Robin is there, ready to hand back the cowl. Against Robin’s wishes, Batman wishes to challenge Ra’s once more. The two fight, and Batman pushes on because Damian needs to see that those who kill never get away with it.
Ra’s loses, but before Batman can take him in, the Demon’s Head plummets to his death.
As Batman: One Bad Day: Ra’s al Ghul #1 comes to an end, two years later, Ra’s awakens in a Lazarus Pit in China. Talia is there to greet him, and though he usually awakens with rage and grief, it’s different this time. A new world is on the horizon.
Analysis: Batman: One Bad Day: Ra’s al Ghul #1 is an incredibly beautiful issue, and it may very well be one of the most eye-catching One Bad Day titles on the shelves. Artist Ivan Reis and colorist Brad Anderson create a monumental behemoth that gives readers pause. The paneling is exceptional, as is the pacing of the fight scenes. The battle between Batman and Ra’s al Ghul in the final few pages feels like a well-choreographed flurry of blows that is moody, poetic, and tense. If there’s one thing Batman: One Bad Day: Ra’s al Ghul #1 has going for it is that it’s a mastercraft in art, color, and beauty.
The story, however, is fine. It’s one we’ve seen over and over again from Ra’s al Ghul. A man who has lived for seven centuries and has seen humankind wreak havoc on the planet once more wants to take out those who would poison the Earth. This time, the twist is Ra’s Al Ghul succeeds, and that’s about it.
Batman dies and comes back to life after Ra’s has completed his mission. Damian Wayne and Talia al Ghul, while being present throughout the story, are sidelined and come across as pieces that propel the plot forward rather than as characters. Even Batman feels a little out of place, which could make sense, given that this entire issue is from Ra’s al Ghul’s perspective.
The problem is that it feels like one note. The art is incredible, and the narration is dripping with poetry and rhythm. The story, however, feels underbaked. It feels like there should be more, some emotional beat to cling to. What we get is Batman dying at Ra’s hand and coming back to life only a few short pages later. Robin weeps for his father, then does little else but leave and lie in wait for his father’s return. Why?
Editor’s Note: DC Comics provided TBU with a copy of this comic for review purposes. You can find this comic and help support TBU in the process by purchasing this issue digitally on Comixology through Amazon or a physical copy of the title through Things From Another World.
Batman: One Bad Day: Ra's al Ghul #1
Batman: One Bad Day: Ra’s al Ghul #1 is a gorgeous issue bogged down by a one-note story.