Gotham City was rocked to its core by the epic "War Games" story line that ran through out the Batman titles last year. Someone feels Batman's hands are stained with most of the bloodshed of "War Games" including the death of Stephanie Brown, AKA the Spoiler, who fought along side the Dark Knight for a period of time when she assumed the identity of Robin. That mysterious figure plans to make Batman answer for his transgressions in the four part "War Crimes" story that runs through "Batman" and "Detective Comics" during the month of August from DC Comics. CBR News spoke to Andersen Gabrych, who penned the "Detective Comics" chapters of the story (Bill Willingham wrote the "Batman" issues) about "War Crimes."
"'War Crimes' was always as much a part of the plan as 'War Games,' itself," Gabrych told CBR News. "From the get-go, we knew we wanted to tell this story a year after, giving Batman, and (most importantly) the readers, a little distance from the huge upheavals of 'War Games' before we dropped the next couple of bombs. Less than a follow-up to 'War Games' it's more an After-Shock. And shocking, it is."
Batman's mysterious foe launches his assault on the Dark Knight with a powerful weapon, the media. "It begins when Arturo Rodriguez (the reporter, who once was a huge Batman supporter, but turned against the Dark Knight during 'War Games' who now hosts 'Taking Sides' a partisan talk show) has a mystery guest who not only speaks out against how the gang war was handled by the city and Batman and calls for a public memorial, but also 'outs' the late Stephanie Brown as the Spoiler and as Robin," Gabrych explained. "Raising some deep questions about who is actually responsible for the young vigilante's death. And when more bodies start turning up, all fingers seem to point to Batman. As Batman scrambles to discover the truth behind his one-time sidekick's death, he comes up against Black Mask, Joker, a long-time ally, and the mysterious 'Reformer.'"
While Batman was aided by a number of costumed allies during "War Games" he must answer for his alleged "War Crimes" alone. "This is a pure Batman story," Gabrych said. "This is all about Batman coping with the ramifications of one of the largest failures of his career."
Batman will be forced to confront Stephanie Brown's death in "War Crimes," but two of his allies, Stephanie's close friends Robin and Batgirl, have been struggling with her death for awhile. "I'd like to direct everyone to the 'Batman Allies Secret Files' where I did a lead-in to 'War Crimes' starring Batgirl and Robin," Gabrych stated. "The effects of 'War Crimes' will remain to be seen on these two."
In addition to Batman, a number of Gotham residents play roles in "War Crimes." "Alfred, as always, plays a crucial part," Gabrych said. "We see Leslie Thompkins, of course, as well as Stephanie's mother, and Winona Chen one of Arturo's main competitors."
The ties between Batman and the GCPD disintegrated during "War Games" and the man most responsible for that, Police Commissioner Akins, find his choices under close analysis in "War Crimes." "Akins makes a couple appearances. His actions during 'War Games' are also brought into scrutiny by the Reformer," Gabrych explained.
The Reformer's crusade against the Dark Knight results in Batman confronting the two villains who have both murdered two of his teenage partners. "Black Mask being the man who tortured Stephanie in 'War Games' is a crucial part of this story," Gabrych stated. "Joker's involvement only contributes to the growing mystery."
In addition to the Reformer and the two villains who have dealt him his greatest defeats, Batman also finds himself battling a mysterious figure from his past.
Jason Todd (Robin II) who was murdered by the Joker apparently has been mysteriously resurrected and is appearing in recent issues of "Batman." Todd has assumed the identity of the Red Hood, a costumed avenger who has no problem with brutally slaughtering criminals or anyone who stands in his way. Todd's new approach to crime solving has made him a bitter foe of his former mentor. Gabrych had no comment on whether The Red Hood would have any involvement in "War Crimes."
"War Crimes" is a mystery with a very dark tone. "Pete Woods (the artist on my 'Detective' issues) has really done an amazing job with the deep, noir feel and look of the story," Gabrych explained.
Gabrych will be doing double duty during "War Crimes." Not only will he be writing the main story for "Detective Comics" issues 809-810, but his three-part back up story "Beast Beneath," which begins in July's "Detective Comics" 808, runs through those issues. "'Beast Beneath' continues the story of Killer Croc from 'Batman' 642. Croc is seeking relief from his horrible mutations, it's a disturbing journey that leads him into the heart of his internal struggle of Man vs. Beast (a perhaps a hint of romance.) At its core it's a Horror comic and has some pretty terrifying art by Tommy Castillo," Gabrych said.
Gabrych eagerly awaits fans' reactions to both "War Crimes" and "Beast Beneath." "'War Crimes' is really going to surprise people," Gabrych stated. "Bill Willingham, Giuseppe Camuncoli, and Pete Woods have all brought their A-Game and it pays off big time. That's all I'm gonna say. As for 'Beast Beneath,' this is not a story for the squeamish!"