The funny thing about comic books is that -- no matter how hard the hero tries -- you can never keep a good (or bad) man down, and Ras al Ghul defies death (kinda/sorta) in the latest hardcover Bat-release, BATMAN: THE RESURRECTION OF RAS AL GHUL.
In a recent radio interview on Coast-to-Coast, Neal Adams remarked that he and Denny O'Neil -- in their massive stint at re-creating the Batman mythology in the 1970's and 1980's -- were tasked at one point in creating a stellar Bat-villain: much like Sherlock Holmes has his Professor Moriarity, they gave Batman his Ras al Ghul ... an almost evil mirror-image to Bruce Wayne: Ras had vastly greater wealth and power than his Gotham playboy counterpart, and he represented the worst the could have happened to Bruce had he allowed the death of his parents to push him onto a more violent, more vengeance-fueled path. Ras was the perfect foil -- where Bruce was a socialite, Ras was an introvert. Where Bruce used his influence in Gotham, Ras' playground was the entire world. But, alas, it wasn't meant to be: Ras perished in a fiery doom and was thought to have at last found rest in peace. His return, however, is far from perfect: his flesh has been denied the healing powers of the Lazarus Pit for far too long so a new host body is required ... and, lo and behold, Batman and Ras' daughter's tryst (oh, the ever lovely Talia) in BATMAN: BRIDE OF THE DEMON produced a male child -- Damian -- and now the Caped Crusader must race against time to thwart his adversary's dark plans to inhabit the soul of the son he never knew he had.
That said, there's probably as much to celebrate in RESURRECTION as there is to -- well -- loath. Young Damian is wreckless and arrogant, reminding Bat-readers of all of the worst elements regarding the short and largely unpopular career of Jason Todd (the second young man to wear the mask of Robin). The cast of characters involved in the tale to resurrect Ras grows to involve some additional mystical ne'er-do-wells, but there's very little backstory provided to justify bringing too many incidentals into the fold. And the ever-lovely Talia is present (mostly) to serve as a butt-kickin' Desperate Housewife -- the kind of Soccer-mom you wouldn't want to meet in a dark alley -- and she isn't drawn particularly exotic, she never seems entirely interested in working toward the resurrection of her "deceased" father, and she doesn't appear nearly enough in the 250+ pages. Any Bat-graphic novel (this is a collection of individual issues rather than a brand-spanking-new tale) has plenty of reason to celebrate (there's a massive Ninja showdown at stately Wayne Manor very early in the tale that almost begs to be filmed); but these moments are either too few, too uninspired, or too badly drawn.
Ghulists can still celebrate, though. Ras is back -- maybe not in top form -- but let's hope the next time he rears his ugly head there will be more action, more mayhem, and much much more at stake.