Crossovers might not have been to the tastes of all readers, but DC’s 1990s editorial team on Batman ensured high concept background ideas playing throughout Gotham, and these constantly supplied new playgrounds for the Caped Crusader, his supporting cast and Gotham’s villains. Cataclysm sees Gotham’s destruction by earthquake, and comes in two editions, this slimmer 1990s edition and an all-encompassing 2015 version with enough extra content to be reviewed separately.

Mark Buckingham’s sample art accompanying Chuck Dixon’s script is from the smartly understated opening sequence warning everyone what’s coming. It arrives rapidly, and the first half of the book occurs over a comparatively brief period during the earthquake and immediately afterwards. Primary writers Alan Grant, Doug Moench and Dixon skim around Batman and his primary supporting cast, with Barbara Gordon given a pleasingly surprising heroic role despite being confined to her wheelchair. Grant and Buckingham are good on the first shock, while Moench constructs a neat prison miracle that’s never entirely resolved.

There’s some notable art throughout, not just Buckingham, but Eduardo Barreto, Klaus Janson, the attractive combination of Jim Aparo inked by David Roach, and Staz Johnson knocking himself out on the final Robin story. Ignore Jim Balent’s objectifying of Catwoman and his layouts also impress.

Assorted short stories are scattered through the collection, the best of them being Rick Burchett’s clever Penguin spotlight ‘A Bird in the Hand’. These are better placed than in the 2106 collection, when they’re gathered together, and what here are presented as the closing two pages by Kelley Puckett and Burchett lose some of their restorative power in the next edition.

The final third deals with the aftermath, with a villain calling himself Quakemaster heavily featured as claiming credit for the earthquake and threatening another, and Dixon and Barreto setting up a conflict of interest for Spoiler during a Huntress solo outing. Amid that we have the desperation of Batman attempting to rescue people trapped in impossible situations and showing again and again that he’s a hero who cares. Perhaps too much.

As a collection this version of Cataclysm is readable with nice moments instead of being compelling all the way through, and it leads into No Man’s Land where things become far worse for Gotham.