Review by Frank Plowright
Cataclysm features an earthquake devastating Gotham, and in the late 1990s was the lead in to No Man’s Land, wherein the federal authorities left the ruined city to its own devices. It proved a perennial bestseller for DC, the original 1999 publication going through three printings. This differs by including all crossover chapters, several of which opted out of the original graphic novel. While it makes this the more complete offering, it’s actually weaker for around five extra issues being shoehorned into this collection. Just one addition is distinguished, and the end result is a collection bulked out by roughly 50% that sprawls too far and features too many different heroes having roughly the same experiences.
Catwoman and Robin chapters were included in the previous printing, but added outings for them only supply more Poison Ivy, while Dennis O’Neil and Roger Robinson’s story looks good, but concerns Azrael’s continuity more than ongoing events. Also a mis-step is including the entirety of a largely inconsequential one-shot as the opener, when in 1999 just the Mark Buckingham pages were the ideal introduction. Marcos Martin’s art is nice and provides the chapter separating illustration used throughout, while Devin Grayson’s idea about Batman hiring gangsters to help out is the second best of the added material.
The actual earthquake hits early, and subsequent chapters dotted around other areas of Gotham never improve on Alan Grant and Buckingham showing how it affects Wayne Manor and the Batcave (sample spread left). They convey the surprise and terror. Running that a close second are Doug Moench and Jim Aparo (nicely inked by David Roach) with a story set in Blackgate prison, home to assorted minor villains and a man due to be executed that night who’s always claimed to be innocent. Moench cleverly leaves that inconclusive. Also pleasing is the heroic role given to Barbara Gordon in the early chapters, a figure of inspiration despite being confined to a wheelchair.
Rescue attempts and a villain attempting to hold what remains of Gotham hostage occupy the final third, the exception being the final addition, in which Grant and Dave Taylor spotlight what happens to the villains in Arkham Asylum during the earthquake. It’s funny, creepy and astoundingly well drawn by Taylor as seen by the sample art of a distorted Joker viewed through a security camera. He’s equally thoughtful when it comes to other exaggerations, displaying great versatility when it comes to the styles used for assorted mad villains telling stories. It’s a great 38 pages, and pulls the entire collection back up to average.
Too much repetition proves being all-inclusive isn’t always the best choice for a collection, but if found cheap (very unlikely as of writing) there’s more than enough good art to appease the eyes.