This new Batman collection features the first few months’ worth of stories from the mammoth No Man’s Land storyline that ran through all of the Batman books throughout 1999. No Man’s Land was and still is a hugely ambitious story which saw Gotham City, recently ravaged by a lethal Contagion and then a massive earthquake (as seen in Batman: Cataclysm), cut off from the rest the United States, abandoned, disavowed, and left to rot. The storyline started out a few months ahead of where the comics had been at the time, as the prelude to this storyline (not included in this volume) saw Bruce Wayne appealing to the United States government not to abandon the city, but instead work with the city to rebuild it and not let it whither and die.

What sets this storyline apart from almost every other Batman story is how it so completely takes Batman out of his element, for a long duration of time, and forces him to adapt and evolve in terms of how he operates, so that he can try and save his beloved hometown. The city has become a shell of its former self, with all of the former inmates of Arkham Asylum having been freed just before the No Man’s Land started. Batman finds himself without easy transportation, in a city where technology has regressed, and a single bullet holds tremendous bartering power. As Batman tries to rescue those oppressed by the various gangs and supervillains, members of the former Gotham City Police Department, led by James Gordon, try to slowly work their way through the city, adding more protected territory to their territory.

This is only the first volume, and although I’m not sure how many there are going to end up being, there is at least going to be two more (as they’ve already been solicited). This is a sprawling story, massive in scope, and accordingly this collection is quite large, collecting approximately twenty-two issues, and this is only the first collection- the story has only just begun by the conclusion of this volume. You’re definitely getting your money’s worth, that’s for sure. If you owned the original series of trade paperbacks collecting this storyline, this volume will still hold your interest, as DC is collecting the storyline much more comprehensively than previously, with many issues making their way into a collected edition for the first time.

In terms of creative talent, you’ve got a ton of fantastic writers here, among them Devin Grayson, Bob Gale (of the Back to the Future movies), Greg Rucka and Denny O’Neil, plus art by the likes of Alex Maleev, Dale Eaglesham, Phil Winslade and others. At times the art can be hit or miss, with a few of the issues looking too cartoonish or downright silly to fit in with this collection of dark, urban stories, but there’s far more good than bad here.

If you’ve only ever heard of this storyline, but haven’t read it, you should definitely give this collection a shot. It’s an interesting window into a different era of Batman comics, plus a great glimpse of how Batman operates in essentially a war-torn region, with no partners, no back-up, no intel, just he and Alfred, fighting to win back their beloved hometown of Gotham City.

This new collection of the SECRET WARRIORS comic is the fifth and penultimate volume, chronicling Nick Fury’s battle against Hydra’s forces. This particular volume is almost like the Empire Strikes Back of the SECRET WARRIORS saga, as it comprises the darkest chapters of the saga, as the team is hit by betrayal, the shocking death of one of its team members, the loss of one of Fury’s secret caterpillar teams, an ending which puts Fury in a difficult situation, and deepens the saga.

For just over two years, SECRET WARRIORS was one of the best, if not THE best written series on the stands, with Jonathan Hickman telling a deep and nuanced story that had Nick Fury taking on Hydra after he’s rocked with the revelation that Hydra has been controlling SHIELD all along . The series, which ostensibly was to be focused on Fury’s team of Secret Warriors, became anything but, as it instead focused on Fury himself, his war, and presented the best written, most developed version of the character that I’ve ever seen in a comic book. This particular collection features issues which show Fury pushed to the emotional limit, as he loses a member of his primary caterpillar team, deals with a traitor, and then the emotional loss of his son after he reactivates Mikel Fury form inactive status.

Although without a doubt Nick Fury gets the most quality characterization of any character in this title, there are others who are well-fleshed out as well, including Baron Strucker, The Gorgon, Alexander (Phobos), John Garrett and Druid. There’s a ton of action in this volume, as the pieces that Hickman delicately put together in the preceding volumes come to a head, setting up the climax in the next volume, which caps off the series. The battle between Alexander and Gorgon is a fantastic, fulfilling battle, with an emotional impact on the team which is quite palpable thanks to the script, and a terrific scene that caps the issue in Elysium, a touching father-son moment. The revelation that Druid wasn’t truly drummed out of the Caterpillar group but instead put into Garrett’s hands for intensive training was a fantastic surprise, and really fleshed out Druid’s character quite well, and Fury’s confrontation with Hellfire about his betrayal was chilling and heartbreaking in its implications. But the closing image of the volume is the one that’ll really make you excited to read the next volume, because of the desperate, lonely, dangerous situation that it leaves Fury in.

The script by Hickman is exciting and tense, but the artwork manages to match the script note-for-note and tone-for-tone, which makes the book such a consistently enjoyable read. Despite there being three artists on this volume, the artwork remains visually consistent, a must for a book like this. The artwork has maintained a consistent visual tone since the very first issue, despite various different artists illustrating the book, and the book’s resulting style has matched the content and style of the writing pound for pound every step of the way. The battle between Alexander and Gorgon is visually stunning, the father-son moment in Elysium has an emotional weight to the artwork, and the conclusion of the volume packs an emotional punch because of the dark, moody yet detailed artwork.

This volume is the penultimate volume to be released collecting this fantastic series by Jonathan Hickman, without a doubt my favourite Nick Fury writer, as he’s never been cooler and more bad-ass than he is in this book. This is one of the few series that I would gladly triple-dip on, as I already have the entire series in single-issue form, have almost all of the trade paperbacks now, and would happily plunk down money for a complete Omnibus covering the entire series if given the opportunity. A fantastic read, well-worth reading, you won’t be disappointed. Highly Recommended!

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