Someone is making a statement about the acting of Barry Johnstone. The Shakespeare in the Park lead actor has a critic in his audience who wouldn't mind seeing Barry doing an imitation of Poor Yorick but The Batman is backstage to make sure that doesn't happen. A full roster of suspects confounds The Batman for a bit but thanks to a little "handiwork," The Dark Knight is able to deduce just exactly who the culprit is.
PE: Not even close. Novick and Giordano usually do a passable job on Batman's art but here it looks like they took the month off. Our lead character doesn't have the usual flair (his cape just dangles in most panels rather than the billow we've come to expect). The story's a dud as well. I've never been a fan of four-color whodunits. There's not enough time to establish the characters. O'Neil starts the story off with a list of the five "suspicious characters" but there was only one that seemed to be the likely varmint and I was dead on. The major thing that bugs me about this yarn is the introduction of the House of Mystery element. Why have the bad guy dress as a ghostly carriage driver? It lasts for one scene and plays no part in the drama. I suspect that Bernie Wrightson came up with a very cool cover and editor Schwartz ordered O'Neil to write a story around that illo.
PE: In stark contrast to the Ra's al Ghul storyline running at the same time in the Batman title, here in Detective we get one-and-dones and the stories suffer for being so brief. As I noted above, if you want a successful whodunit, you gotta know the whos. We know nothing about the possible motives the other "suspects" may have for the simple reason that we aren't given any information to work with. Without that, the "whodunit" becomes a "Whocares."
PE: I suspect that it's not only Arizona that has high standards for adults who run around in tights.
Jason Bard's old war buddy Matthew Clay has escaped from a "private sanitarium" and Jason wants to find Matt before he hurts someone or someone hurts Matt. Jason stumbles into the office of the psychiatrist that sent Clay to the nuthouse mere seconds after Matt has murdered the doctor. Or did he? Batgirl's favorite private dick aims to find his screwy buddy and ask him some pertinent questions. Good luck with that, Jason Bard!
|Don Heck's idea of a crazed Vietnam vet.|
PE: Well, we did get that Wrightson cover so I guess we shouldn't complain too loudly.
|Molly? Or Jill St. John?|
|Welcome back, Mr. Adams!|
PE: Matches Malone is an embarrassingly silly disguise and the quicker he bites the dust the better. Love that "gruff tough henchman" voice Bats adopts for the Matches role.
Three noted Gotham-ites have committed suicide in three successive nights. Batman finds a few oddities about the crime scenes that have him convinced the men didn't take their own lives. All three men had heavy gambling debts s to follow up leads, he turns to his good friend, Bruce Wayne, and the two investigate the floating casino known as "The Fortune Wheel." There Bruce runs into Conway Treach, a man with a strange addiction: he loves to bet on Russian Roulette. The Batman plays along.
PE: It's hard to take Batman using the slang "bread" for money or calling a gossip columnist "Gingie-baby." Just doesn't jibe with The Dark Knight I know. That gun in the splash looks awfully big. Looks like Robbins may have had a few problems with perspective. Our hero, as noted in the past, also looks like he could use a few meals as well.
|That's a mighty large heater you've got there, Caped Crusader!|
PE: I would expect a boat called "The Fortune Wheel" to have a wheel but, no, this is a nice big yacht instead. And the ending is way too abrupt. Having laid out all those negatives, perhaps it's surprising that I actually enjoyed this story. It's got a harder edge than any of the Batman stories we've read in a while. The art still sucks big time (Conway Treach looks like a fat rat but then that may be the idea) but I can ignore things like that if I'm given a decent enough yarn to lose myself in. This is the best Frank Robbins has been able to conjure up since we began our journey.
Jack: I do like the cover, though, along with the one from last issue. I am a sucker for these “frame” covers.
|A decent Robbins panel--notice the lack of people.|
Ralph Dibney, The Elongated Man, and his wife Sue run out of gas in the middle of the desert. While looking for shelter, they stumble across a dying scuba diver.
PE: I always thought it funny that the villains would cry out "Oh no, it's The Elongated Man!" Doesn't exactly roll off the tongue like Spider-Man or The Hulk. "By jove, Claude, we've been found out by The Elongated Man!" I'd think most bad guys would have trouble pronouncing that word and eventually, after several stuttering foes ("You won't take me to prison, Elonja . . . Elongo . . . Rubber Man!"), our hero would effect a change: "Look out boys, it's Ralph Dibney!" Not quite the ring, I guess.
Jack: I was so pleased to see Elongated Man rather than Jason Bard that I did not mind that the story was kind of corny. I think this is the second time Len Wein has popped up in one of our Batman/Detective comics, and can I just say that Dick Giordano may be the unsung hero of the Batman in the 1970s blog? He draws very well and he inks just about everything and everybody.