Just read: 'Batman: Birth of the Demon' Trilogy

"Just read" is a blog where I blog about something I just read. I'm trying to read more this year and I'd like to keep a record of that; blogging will theoretically help that cause.

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This portion of the trusty Batman reading list is extremely hard to place when it comes to the chronology of the Dark Knight's career. It's arguable that I read it too early, and I probably did -- but of all the mistakes I could make, this one doesn't seem to be damaging in any way. Birth of the Demon is a collection of the Demon trilogy: Son of the Demon, Bride of the Demon and Birth of the Demon. To put it as simply as possible, these stories provide an introduction to Ra's al Ghul and his daughter, Talia al Ghul; not only to we get to know them as characters, but we get Ra's' proper origin story as well.

That quick explanation is hardly enough to describe these stories, though. While far from my favorite Batman tales so far, this trilogy is exceptionally written and drawn, and the three stories told within this trade paperback each function as well on their own as they do together. Son of the Demon sees Batman / Bruce Wayne already extremely familiar with Talia; you're going to have to read this one with the mindset that these two characters are very friendly, although you may not have seen Talia at all yet.

Batman and Talia are in enough of a relationship for her to know his true identity, and for Ra's al Ghul, described even here as a dangerous enemy of Batman's, to know it as well. During this story, Talia and Batman get "married" and Talia becomes pregnant with a child. Meanwhile, Batman and Ra's al Ghul team up to destroy a common enemy. There are a couple of weird plot points in this one, but the action sequences are great and, most importantly, you get a strong feeling for the time/place/era/feel of these stories. It's pretty important to read this before Birth of the Demon for purposes of getting into the mindset that book is told in, though I would argue that Birth is the only part of this trilogy to be truly essential in the Batman chronology. You're introduced to the Lazarus Pit, a gaping hole in the ground filled with bad-smelling chemicals, which is the mechanism by which Ra's keeps himself youngish and effectively immortal.

CRAZY HAND-PAINTED ART!

CRAZY HAND-PAINTED ART!

Bride of the Demon sees Ra's al Ghul very worried about his eventual death, and wanting to leave behind a son of his own. He basically kidnaps an aging actress and uses a Lazarus Pit to make her young, then gets her pregnant. There are, again, some weird plot points here (Ra's says he wants to save the planet by destroying it and the science is really weird), and at the end you're left to wonder whether Ra's is dead or not. I take him to be alive but I'm an optimist.

Finally, Birth of the Demon proves to be the crown jewel of the trilogy. Almost the entire story is a flashback which tells the true origin of Ra's al Ghul, which definitely took place a long-as-hell time ago. Like, suffice to say medieval times. At the time, Ra's is a physicist and we watch his transformation between a man who is obsessed with (but respectful of) death, to a man driven insane by a series of shitty events. This, coupled with his discovery of the Lazarus Pit, results in a lifetime quest to dominate the world or whatever. In current day, Batman is trying to hunt down every possible Lazarus Pit location to prevent Ra's from continuing to make himself immortal; the final conflict between the two is an artistic masterpiece and lasts a loooooong time (like 10+ pages). 

Norm Breyfogle, the artist for the final piece of the story, hands in an absolutely legendary piece of work. This story is painted, and the dark colors at work present the story in a stunning fashion. It perfectly fits the time period of Ra's' origin story, and only cements this trilogy-collecting trade paperback as a must-purchase. Whether you want to collect as much great Batman material as possible or you're just interested to see where Ra's al Ghul came from, it's an important pick-up.

The Birth of the Demon collection is available at Amazon in physical and digital (via Comixology) formats.