Gotham City is Burning… Again: Revisiting “No Man’s Land”

Gotham City is Burning… Again: Revisiting “No Man’s Land”

The Arkham Knight

Image via GadgetHelpline and Rocksteady Studios

Aspiring Batmen and Women are rejoicing this week, as “Batman: Arkham Knight,” the third and final game in Rocksteady’s “Arkham” trilogy, officially drops. The Rocksteady games have always earned high praise for giving players a true “Batman” experience (minus the horrific childhood trauma), requiring players to rely on stealth and fear to overcome enemies just as much as cool gadgets and super heroic martial arts. And to truly give the game that authentic “Batman feel,” the game’s creators have honored the most vital aspect of the Batman mythos: Gotham City is awful.

In Arkham Knight, Gotham has been evacuated in response to the Scarecrow’s plan to raze the city. What remains has been turned into a playground for Batman’s villains. Sounds pretty dire, right? Sounds familiar too. Because it happens all the time. In “Arkham Knight.” In “The Dark Knight Rises.” And, originally, in “Batman: No Man’s Land” by Gregory Rucka, the comic book that inspired them both.

batmanIn the comics, prior to “No Man’s Land,” Gotham City was ravaged by an earthquake that decimated the city. Following the earthquake, the United States government declared Gotham a no man’s land, offering the city’s populace the chance to evacuate, and abandoning all those who chose to stay behind.

Now, if Metropolis were ever gripped by a natural disaster, no one would even float the idea of declaring it a no man’s land. Superman aside, Metropolis is a nice place. People want to go there. And when they do, they have a good time, and generally don’t get mugged in alleyways. But Gotham? You can get mugged in broad daylight at noon on a Tuesday. We’re fairly certain that people actually do take candy from babies there—regularly. Presumably, the powers that be in the government said to themselves “Gotham? That place where they still use blimps as a regular transportation method? Yeah, no way we’re fixing that.”

And much like in the upcoming game, Batman’s villains carved up the city. Two-Face took the courthouse. Poison Ivy overran the city’s equivalent of Central Park. Penguin, ever the advantageous businessman, oversaw the flow of illegal goods into the city. And after months of laying low, the Joker marched through them all on his way to a fateful confrontation with Batman, and the ever-resilient Commissioner Gordon, who had remained behind to provide some degree of attempted law and order.

Batgirl, Batman, and Huntress prepare for the final showdown

Image via the DC Comics Database and DC Comics

But it wasn’t the villains in charge that made “No Man’s Land” such an exciting storyline, it was the one character who was absent from the proceedings: Batman. While he did return towards the storyline’s end, the Dark Knight himself was not present for a good portion of Gotham City’s year under siege. Bruce Wayne was off in Washington, using his pull to try and convince the powers that be to reverse their stance and provide aid to the beleaguered city.

So in Batman’s absence, other heroes rose to defend Gotham, including not one, but two Batgirls. At this point, the original Batgirl, Barbara Gordon, had become Oracle. So when a new Batgirl appeared on the scene, it was a shock to criminals and readers alike. This first Batgirl turned out to be none other than the Huntress, using the power of the Bat symbol to strike fear into the superstitious, cowardly lot of Gotham. But the Huntress wasn’t too popular with the Bat family, and Barbara was busy acting as a mentor to another burgeoning crime fighter, one Cassandra Cain, mute martial artist. For her dedicated service during No Man’s Land, Cassandra received a promotion, becoming the official successor to Barbara and donning the mantle of Batgirl.

These two weren’t the only cosplayable characters making waves during No Man’s Land. Trumping them both in popularity, among readers and on the convention floor, was none other than Harley Quinn. Harley was originally created for the groundbreaking cartoon show, “Batman: The Animated Series.” She proved so popular that it was only a matter of time until she showed up in the comics, and No Man’s Land was where she made her debut.

So for everyone working to protect Gotham against Scarecrow and the Arkham Knight in the weeks ahead – When things get tough, don’t get discouraged. Gotham City’s been in trouble before, and it always makes it out the other side. Just keep your wits about you, and make sure to Dress. The. Part.