Basically, the special is two stories. The a-side is about Robin and Spoiler catching up and going out vigilante-ing sometime after she revealed that she was back. They go out as Tim and Steph to hang out in an abandoned warehouse with a bunch of a kids in a rough crowd (where there are water guns, but somehow no drugs) and rescue a toddler from kidnappers together. There is also flirting and an examination of their relationship. The b-side is a story about what Spoiler did after she left Gotham. She went to Africa with Leslie Thompkins after the events of War Games. They stay there for over a year, doing charity work, when some… well, I don’t know what to call them. A mix of medicine men and a death squad come to the village they’re at and Spoiler has to dress up to save the day.
Both stories have pretty awesome art. Rafael (Blue Beetle) Albuquerque does the art chores on the first story, while Victor Ibañez gets it done on the second story. It’s a seriously handsome book. We all know how awesome Raf is, but Ibañez has a style that reminds me of the great work going on in Secret History of the Authority: Jack Hawksmoor. Rock solid and visually interesting.
It’s also basically the book that explains why Spoiler is back in Gotham after War Games. If you think of it as an apology or peace offering for War Games, which is basically the worst crossover I’ve read in years, you’d be more or less right. (this is a dope cover, though, and i own a print of it signed by dustin nguyen) She was done dirty there, so here’s what basically amounts to Spoiler: Rebirth.
Yeah, I gotta say, I didn’t feel it at all. I realize Chuck Dixon has had a hard week or whatever, but that comic was no good, man. I’ve got three reasons and I bought visual aids.
Leslie and Steph are in east Africa. Kenya, Somalia, I dunno. Maybe it’s Outer Heaven. I just know that they have to know Swahili to be there. They’ve been there a little over a year, according to Steph, and she’s had trouble with the language. The whole reason that they are there is that Leslie Thompkins faked Spoiler’s death after the torture and near-murder she experienced in War Games to rescue her from the life of a vigilante and give her a chance to start over.
from robin 174
Dr Thompkins felt that she’d suffered enough, and Stephanie agreed, so they left the country. She voluntarily went with Leslie to Africa in order to catch a break, but felt guilty about it. This makes sense, because Stephanie forgot about something important while she was skipping town.
So, think about it. Since War Games, Stephanie’s mom has had to go through 1) her daughter disappearing without a word or a trace, 2) finding out that her daughter is dead, 3) finding out that her daughter is Spoiler in War Crimes, which was inexplicably worse than War Games, and now 4) finding out that her daughter is not only alive, but faked her death and moved to Africa.
Why did Stephanie and Leslie fake her death? To protect Steph from being a vigilante. Essentially, she got in too deep and had to find a way out. That way out just happened to be going completely off the radar.
One problem with this is that I don’t think anyone knew who Spoiler was until War Crimes, which happened specifically because she “died.” She still had a secret identity. It’s been a while since I read it, though, so I’ll grant that I may be off, but I don’t think I am.
My other problem with this is actually also why I feel like the return damaged Spoiler as a character. Batman, more so than pretty much every character other than Peter Parker, has family as an important backdrop to his franchise. He does what he does to both avenge and please his parents. They are a constant specter over his work. He’s chastised other characters when they screw up their parenthood (Plastic Man) and respected others for their relationships with their parents (Superman). Family is important to him.
I can’t really imagine his reaction to Stephanie having faked her death just being a “Yeah, I figured.” If Batman is going to put Huntress on blast for almost killing Prometheus, or fire Dick Grayson for whatever reason that was years ago, he’d definitely put the boot to Stephanie, too.
Faking Stephanie’s death put her mother through a ridiculous amount of trauma. There’s the old saying about how no parent should ever have to bury a child– it’s true. What makes it worse is that Stephanie did it for reasons that boil down to “I had something horrible happen to me and I didn’t want to be a hero any more.” What was stopping her from just quitting being a hero and living with her mother? Why did she have to fake her death and leave the country? She could’ve told her mom she was Spoiler, explained what happened, and then moved to Metropolis. What would her mom say? No? Yeah, right.
That’s my breaking point with the character. I guess family is really important to me, too, because I just find this ridiculous. Anyway, Stephanie went along with all of this, save for maybe the faking, voluntarily. She felt guilty (“I kept feeling like I’d run away”), and with very good reason, I’d say, but didn’t do anything about that until after she’d tried to forget that feeling and over a year had passed.
Also, she went back to being a hero before telling her mother she was alive. Slick move, that.
Now, it’s like, why should I care about this character? She hasn’t had the wealth of stories that’d let you skip past a negative character development. Is the terrible return going to be played down like Spider-Man trying to kill his pregnant wife was? I figure yes, because it frankly makes Stephanie look like the worst kind of selfish idiot.
They could’ve easily New Earth-ed it– Infinite Crisis had the Earth come back with little minor changes all over. One of which was Stephanie didn’t die after all, she was just convalescing before coming back! People act like the One More Day/New Earth retcons don’t work, but they do and have for decades. That’d be much better than the faked death that we got, if only because Stephanie comes out of it smelling like roses. She almost died, but she fought through and recovered and did therapy and now she’s back. Easy.
My second problem– those were some idiot Africans in that b-side. I mean, I realize that thugs are generally portrayed as slow-witted idiots and stumblebums, but seriously. You don’t exactly get to be a witch doctor feared throughout the region by being stupid. Case in point:
At least the stupidity is shared, though, yeah? Leslie has her own dumb thing to say, I’m sure because she doesn’t want to be shown up by African Joker.
“Medicine goes back to the Greeks.”
Leslie obviously forgot about Imhotep, who predates Hippocrates by a couple thousand years or so, and the fact that Hippocrates studied Greek medicine. She’s too busy bringing light to a blighted region to worry about minor worries like that. You keep on fighting that good fight, Les.
(Ha, does this make medicine the original rock & roll?)
So, anyway, African Joker gets all het up and straight up orders the murder of Pinkeye. His men turn on Leslie just in time for Spoiler to reappear… wearing the goods that she and Leslie were traded in exchange for medicine in what is apparently an accurate representation of Katavi, the village’s protector. Google tells me that Katavi is also a national park in Tanzania. Maybe that’s where they are.
Anyway, she dresses up like Katavi and does the ooga-booga Batman thing and scares the death squad/witch doctor/militiamen/whatever. There’s some firing into the darkness and then she beats all of them up. Let me rephrase– the sixteen or seventeen year old girl from the suburbs of Gotham, whose skill set as a hero amounts to “adequate” or “needs improvement,” puts on some scraps that were given to her, such as animal heads and skins, to make a costume of the village’s boogieman to scare away some grown men with guns who have terrorized the region for years.
Like I said before, you don’t get positions of power by being stupid. (If you really think that Bush is as stupid as you think he is, you’re just as stupid as you think he is. Dude got into office twice. That’s no accident.) You can’t sustain that power by just sheer thuggery. It’ll work for a while, but eventually, sense and desperation are going to win out. You’re gonna keep telling people “I’ma kill you!” and then you’re gonna find that one dude that’s like “Well, shoot me!” and then you got a martyr on your hands.
So, you’ll pardon me if I don’t quite buy that scene at all. That’s an entirely different class of criminal Spoiler is going up against.
Finally, my third point. This is a short one.
If Tim leaves another girlfriend for Stephanie, I’m gonna be pissed. He’s already lying to Zoanne about where he’s going to be so that he can hang out with his ex.
Tim, seriously though? Why are you hanging out with your ex-girlfriend, who let you think she was dead for over a year, like things are all good? That’s at least twice as bad as getting cheated on. You’re looking like a sucker. Don’t get caught up and have to explain yourself.
Do you really want to have to beg to be taken back after Steph fakes her death again?