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Comic Book Review – Batman: The Ultimate Evil (Part 2)

 By: Ginger De Los Rios

For the Review of ‘Batman: The Ultimate Evil Part 1’ Click Here

In the opening, Batman is having a clandestine meeting with decorated Commanding Officer Sherwood Trask. He comes highly recommended by Commissioner Gordon (who is nowhere to be found in the Graphic Novel.) Through him, Batman gets information about kiddie sex tours in a small Asian country known as Udon Khai. (A stand-in for Thailand)

 Batman has many trails to follow and takes on the persona of ‘Big Jack’ Hollister–a towering tough guy with a scar over his left eye. His first stop is San Francisco. He finds out that the price of a tour starts at $10,000 for a round trip to Udon Khai. However, there is a rigorous screening process involved. The buyer must copulate with a child and it is to be recorded for proof. Then they will know if the buyer is not really a Federal Agent or other law official. So for Bruce, the ‘tour route’ is immediately out of the question.

‘Big Jack’ is then on his way to Sydney, Australia to meet with Drako and finalize a private trip. While there he dredges up more facts about the child sex trade. He still has to fork out $10,000. Drako explains how that price gets you a virgin child for twenty-four hours and it is perfectly legal if you stick with the age of consent, twelve-years-old. Having a younger child or other special requests would naturally come at a higher cost. We learn the symbol of this pedophile empire is a black widow spider.

 Between flights, Bruce also makes preparations to have a trusted guide and interpreter in Udon Khai, and Alfred sets him up to meet a young Revolutionary named Rhama Bgyn. Udon Khai is a tiny country, smaller than many American cities with a population of just 450,000. It is run under a military dictatorship with guerilla warfare. Teak and opium were the biggest exports until 1991 when Child-sex Tourism became the major producer of hard currency.

Bruce, in his Jack Hollister disguise, grimly explores the nightlife in the capital and decides its time make his move as Batman. In another fit of melodramatics he announces

 “Mother, is THIS the demon you battled? Upon my life I swear to you–I will carry your flag in battle, to victory or to death!”

 Batman reveals himself to Rhama and they visit Bhatt Pho, the sleaze who sells the children. With a dramatic entrance, Batman threatens Po’s larynx until he gives up a young girl he had locked in a bedroom. Rhama and Batman make a hasty escape into the mountains. They aid her to health, and Rhama explains that the child was most likely sold by her own parents and cannot be returned to them. He calls Batman ‘Warrior,’ and then enlightens him on how it is written legend that a ‘warrior’ from the mountains will appear in the form of a man, and on that day the walls of enslavement in Udon Khai will crumble. The people will then see the true horrors in their country and they will be compelled to fight for freedom.

(Rhama makes it clear that only the Revolutionaries can save these children, because there is no support from other countries. With even more exposition, he goes on about how environmentalists and Governments will go all out to protect the wild Rhinoceros from poachers, because of the myth that powder in the white horns are an aphrodisiac. Yet, there is also a myth that sexual relations with a little girl will restore a man’s sexual prowess, and relations with a little boy is safe because you cannot get Aids from a child. However, there is no outcry or protection for the children. Why can’t they kill the poachers of children on sight as well? Rhama’s rage is deep and raw, because he lost his beautiful little cousin Lilly to these pedophiles. And though he killed her captors, he was too late to save her life. The little girl Batman saved has become his new ‘Lilly.’ Now he will fight, die, and kill for her and all the children of Udon Khai.

The next morning Batman meets the relatives of the rescued girl and listens to their tales of desperation and otherwise weak excuses as to why they sold her. Batman is asked to reason on what he would do if he were a poor father of nine children and had to make a choice. Batman rationalizes on the lesser of two evils:

 “I would not feed my children with the blood of one of their sisters or brothers. If I were to stand where you stood, I would steal.”

Of course that brings up even more excuses. “But there is nothing to steal, there is no money here. What would you have us do then?” Batman tries to tell him and the others to get off their duffs and fight for the children. The pedophiles have money; steal it from them if they must. But before I can get thoroughly fed up with this conversation too, more Revolutionaries come to the village.

Rhama excitedly tells them that the Warrior has come to conquer those who enslaved the children. They make plans to get into the military protected castle and Batman gives the final word

“All of you have given much in your fight to free Udon Khai, but your fight is for nothing if your children are not free. To sell a child for the pleasure and profit of others is a mortal sin…it is the Ultimate Evil and it is time for that evil to end!”

Over the next few pages, we see Batman and the rebels break into the castle. Dialogue is very sparse. The rebels eagerly use the stash of new weapons a certain benefactor sent them. After knocking a guard off the cliff and grappling for a few seconds with one brandishing a Samurai sword, Batman smashes his way to the top-level. This is where he senses the main target is–the man who had eluded Martha Wayne.

Before he can find the man, he has a run-in with a female guard with a Mohawk and her albino leopard. That battle is over before it even begins and she gets a ‘WAP!’ in the mouth for all her troubles. The leopard walks away with its tail between its legs and she’s out cold.

Rhama had said the guards in this castle were easy to take down. But here’s my thought. This is Batman and he’s furious. He made this trip halfway across the world, spending more money than you or I may ever see in a lifetime. He put up with indignities to his moral psyche and was forced to pretend he was one of the slime balls. He’s here to preserve his mother’s legacy, which is a major plot factor. So why not give him a few worthy opponents? I still dislike drawn out comic book battles spanning fifty pages, but at least present a challenge. A big deal was made of the ‘Black widow.’ It’s even drawn on the back covers.

Why not rig the castle with spider-like death traps? Especially since they know the rebels are constantly trying to break in. But I suppose that would be too kooky and turn this villain into just another Rogue’s Gallery member. Author Andrew Vachss went for the more realistic aspects in this tale and I can respect that too.

Batman finds a hidden passage and finally sets his sights on the spider in his web. From there things take an even odder turn.  William X Malady, (interesting last name because he has produced quite a scourge.) sits in his throne like a spindly old spider with a pipe, surrounded by his obnoxious recording devices. He’s well aware of the attack and is on the phone asking for more troops. Rhama bursts in with a gun. He’s demanding a list of the ‘Les enfants du secret’–The children of secret.

Malady calmly tells him that once he sells the children they are gone. He’s no longer involved and human nature cannot be controlled. Malady maliciously reasons that he’s a relic, technology will change, and adults can make videos of children anywhere. They eventually won’t need his services.

He hits an alarm button under his shoe and we see a sniper over the air-vent waiting to take a shot at Rhama. Batman intervenes, but does not show his face. Malady starts pleading for his life while Rhama makes more angry speeches, summing it up by saying

“You stole childhood itself!”

The words resonate with Batman as he struggles with his own conscience. Should he go in and save Malady? He starts imagining the children of Gotham, of Udon Khai, and the whole world over–writhing and crying out his mother’s name.

Rhama finally pulls the trigger–but since no one was going to stop him anyway, he should have done it right after that rousing accusation. We are left with Batman having a strange thought and quietly leaving the scene as if he were never there.

‘I understand now mother. I am the child and I am the man. I have finished and I have begun.’

 Back at the Batcave: Bruce talks with Alfred, pondering whether or not he should have let the murder take place. Alfred shows his support by saying that he could not have stopped it or else he would have to accept it. Then, like a mystical scribe of old, he hands Bruce another scroll. These scrolls were also seen in part 1.  Apparently Martha Wayne kept all her investigative journals on rolled up parchments. We also read bits of her notes and musings on various pages in this book. How eccentric and convenient of her to use the scrolls, considering everything in this story now has to tie in with the mythical warrior legend. And what does it say? It is a Haiku. (One written by Vachss himself.)

‘Warrior, heed this. When you battle with demons. Aim not at their hearts.’

The last pages are fantastic, as they show us Batman’s new POV of Gotham City. We watch a young prostitute huddled in an alley with a crack pipe, a rich teenaged boy composing a suicide note on his computer, and a teen pregnant with her father’s child about to jump to her death. The last image is of a disgusting, fat pedophile manhandling a child and ready to make her pose for the camera. It is a very grim reality check. On the concluding page, Batman crashes through the window in blazing fury to save her with the final thought

“IN THEIR NAME, MOTHER!”

At the end of this graphic novel is a startling 5-page report on Child Sex Tourism composed by investigative reporter, David Hechler. A full copy of this report also appears at the back of the novel. The purpose of this book and Graphic Novel was not simply to entertain with an out of the ordinary Batman adventure. There was a strong social and political agenda behind it. Vachss and Hechler were trying to garner support for Vachss’ ‘Don’t Buy Thai’ campaign. This campaign called for a boycott of anything and everything made in Thailand until the Thai Government introduced reform to curtail the child prostitution.

The report goes into strong detail on these kiddie resorts and the very real and damaging effects of child sexual abuse. It’s enough to turn your stomach and wish you were Batman. The situation at the time was very grave in Thailand. Pedophiles from around the world indulged themselves with these poor children and there was little to no help from the Government or authorities. The ‘Don’t Buy Thai’ campaign ended in 2000 from lack of support and the fact that child prostitution in Thailand had dwindled.

I am hard-pressed to dole out a very high review this time around. I find there are certain weaknesses in the rushed story telling (This is only based off the edited Graphic Novel.) At first I thought telling the story in 2 parts would be cool, but now I find the plot lacking. The aggressive cover art is exciting, but the passive scene it depicts within doesn’t live up to it. The artwork, while good, was definitely not up to par with the first part. The drawings are reduced to choppy, uneven pencil sketches. They are hastily inked over, substituting gratuitous shadows for the unique definition and exotic facial features that were prevalent before. It seems to me that Mr. Cowan and Prentis Rollins were trying to meet a deadline.

The story somewhat falls into the trap of Asian stereotyping. This is an Asian country, which I’m sure has plenty of good, physically adept and heroic souls. So why is it always the white man, who happens to know the ancient arts, that becomes the literal savior? Batman mysteriously appears in Udon Khai and all of a sudden he’s the Legendary ‘Warrior’ of the mountains that must rescue the children and open the blinded eyes of the humble people? Granted, the ‘Warrior’ theme can be found throughout the story, such as when Batman calls Debra a warrior for justice and refers to his mother as such. But this is just too much of a tacked on plot convenience. I wouldn’t have been surprised if Rhama had claimed the ‘Warrior’ was to come in the form of a bat.

There is a character bait and switch that is disconcerting. Batman is no longer the solo avenger, he’s been reduced to a mere symbolic catalyst by which the rebels can come out of the blue and storm this castle. This was something they should have done all along if they were so adamant about justice. All that fiery anger and passion Batman displayed in Part 1 is withheld as he sits crouched in an air vent like a peeping Tom and lets Rhama commit murder.

Something inside tells me that the Batman would have stopped Rhama. And being a master detective, he could have figured out a way for justice to be served through legal means. So thanks to an angry rebel with a gun, the entire child sex trade in Udon Khai has come to an end? I doubt it. Malady said it himself before he was killed. Someone will come up after him, with even better devices and more sophisticated recording and distribution equipment. If not in Udon Khai, then the organization will rear its ugly head elsewhere. In real life, pedophiles need a complete change of mind and heart. That’s something no amount of ammo and brute force can ever accomplish.

This whole organization should have been exposed, and the dire situation could have been made a top priority for world Governments. The entire world needs to see the despicable acts that are going on and make the choice to unite and take a full stand against it. That was what Rhama harped on earlier. He claimed that there was no public outcry for the children. This surreptitious organization could have been made a ‘shining’ example and served as a frightening wake-up call to others.

Child-sex-tourism would have been toppled everywhere. But now, even if the dominoes have fallen, it’s all been reduced to nothing more than a private ‘mob style’ hit.  If there were a third Part to this Graphic novel, it would have been interesting to see all the fallout. Perhaps there are more details in the original novel. But it seems to me that everything may be swept under the rug when a younger, more intelligent and charismatic pedophile takes Malady’s place.

I just realized my diplomacy on this situation sounds exactly like my other favorite hero: Superman. Batman and I may have butted heads about this as they often do on hot button issues. Nothing is ever so black and white, so I’ll step off the soapbox now.

I am not entirely unsympathetic to the Rebels or their plight. They were raised in the throes of poverty and fear, and all they know is militant bloodshed and war mongering. Batman understood this too, and that is why he let them carry out justice on their own terms. This is the author venting his own rage. If something is evil, it isn’t enough to just lock the offenders behind bars. The root cause must be destroyed. And since Rhama’s cousin died from the pedophile abuses, it’s eye for an eye revenge served on a cold platter.

However, it all comes back to Batman. Although unspoken, it’s painfully obvious why he didn’t save Malady. This is a very personal justice for him. Batman made a vow to never kill, but Rhama did it for him. Because in this comic book universe, the pedophiles were the ones who really killed his parents.

Overall Grade: 7/10

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