Friday, October 9, 2009
Batman: The Rise of Sin Tzu by Devin Grayson & Flint Dille
Okay, so, this is the novelization of a Batman beat-em-up video game from 2003. You're well within your rights to expect it to suck, right? I sure did, but hey, it was a Batman novel, and I'm working on a superhero story right now, so I figured what the heck. I'm glad I did, because it was so good.
Basically the story is that a previously unheard-of villain, a mastermind of war known as Sin Tzu, is going to conquer Gotham City. He's bored, he needs a challenge, and he chooses Batman's city. He leads all the criminals in Gotham as their "general," with three well-known Batman villains as his "captains." As I understand it, the video game is basically you (as Batman, Batgirl, Robin, or Nightwing) beating up enough bad guys to get to the boss battle with each captain, finally culminating in the battle with Sin Tzu.
In light of that, the authors don't pay so much attention to the fighting itself, but delve into the thoughts of the characters. Not just "Why are we fighting this battle?" but "Why do we fight at all?" Each chapter is written from a different 1st-person POV, including all the Bat-family and multiple villains, with several from Sin Tzu's perspective, and the result is a subtle, many-faceted look at the six hours the book covers. It's intense. The pacing is excellent, everything is orchestrated perfectly.
They really get the Batman-ness perfectly. Everything I love about Batman is there, all the characters' motivations and relationships are pitch perfect. Another great thing was that I never wished it was a graphic novel... The story is exactly suited to its medium, the story couldn't have been told like this any other way.
Apparently certain parties who will remain unnamed (because I don't know who they are) were hoping Sin Tzu would be a hit like Harley Quinn was and make the leap into mainstream continuity, but he never did. If I had anything to say about it he would have!
I've only looked at one or two other Batman novels, (The Ultimate Evil is the one that comes to mind,) but I didn't finish any of them because they just didn't get it. If you like Batman, definitely try to find this book!
ETA: Hey guys, look what I found! More Sin Tzu!
Buy Batman: Rise of Sin Tzu