Monday, August 7, 2023

Batman in the 1980s Final Issue! December 1989 + The Wrap


The Dark Knight in the 1980s
by Jack Seabrook &
Peter Enfantino

Batman #442

"A Lonely Place of Dying, Chapter Five: Rebirth"
Story by Marv Wolfman & George Perez
Art by Jim Aparo & Mike DeCarlo

Ignoring Alfred's objections, Tim grabs the Robin costume and convinces the butler to drive him to the site where Two-Face has just detonated an old house and Batman and Nightwing lie buried in rubble. The new Robin knocks Two-Face down, with a little help from Alfred, before freeing Batman and Nightwing. Batman is not amused and pulls the domino mask from Tim's face.

Tim talks Batman into letting him come along for the ride as Batman and Nightwing track down Two-Face, helped by a tracking disk that Tim slipped onto the villain during their fight. The trio find Two-Face at an auto salvage yard and make short work of him. Back at Wayne Manor, Bruce agrees to take Tim on as the new Robin. And what of the mysterious radio that provided instructions in crime to Two-Face? It seems the voice on the other end belongs to the Joker, who has been recuperating since his last meeting with Batman!

Peter: A sad way to end our 1980s look at this title. A funny book story told in five parts should have something to say, but "A Lonely Place of Dying" only told the same old story over again. I'm not familiar with the 1990s Batman titles so I have no idea how this new Robin fares, but the best Batman stories I've read didn't include the Boy Wonder. The finale, where Aparo/DeCarlo render Bruce, Dick, and Tim/Jess as triplets, is unintentionally hilarious (well, I assume it was unintentional, but perhaps Marv was handed the job of introducing Robin Mach III, threw his hands up, and tackled the subject with tongue in cheek); Bruce's "But I don't want a partner! But I have to have one! But I don't want one!" dialogue is delivered by a whiny weenie, not a guy who goes out at night and busts heads. Can't stress enough how amateurish the art is. 

Jack: I agree that this five-part arc was a disappointment, but part five was the best of the batch. It's interesting that DC chose to create a new Robin so soon after killing off the old one; if we ever read on into the '90s, I look forward to seeing what happens with Tim. The art is definitely not the best we've seen from Aparo and, like other artists on this strip, he does better with Batman in the mask than with regular, human faces. 

Detective Comics #609

"Anarky in Gotham City, Part Two: Facts About Bats"
Story by Alan Grant
Art by Norm Breyfogle & Steve Mitchell

The Batman and Gordon know Anarky will strike soon... but where? Best bet is a construction site of a building that will displace hundreds of Gotham's homeless. Meanwhile, across town, in his office at the Gotham Insurance Company, Mike Machin seems absorbed by a study of the Batman on his computer. At the end of the report, Anarky's logo flashes across the screen. Hmmm.

Bats and Gordon deduce that Anarky will strike at either the Gotham Halton (where a reception is being held for foreign despot Colonel Manyanu) or the Lux Hotel (home of the Euro-U.S. banquet); could Bats cover the Lux while Gordon and his men guard the Halton?

The Dark Knight takes a seat high on a skyscraper overlooking the Lux while, miles away, Anarky attacks the new building site. The Batman hears the commotion at the site and heads there, arriving in time to see Anarky aiming a bulldozer at the tall building. Some of the homeless have taken the side of Anarky and they interfere in the hand-to-hand combat. Anarky escapes, with the Batman in pursuit.

The chase ends at the Gotham Insurance Company, where Bats confronts Mike Machin, who confesses to his role as Anarky and pleads with the Caped Crusader to haul him away. "Save it," sighs the Batman and orders Mike's son, Lonnie, to exit his hiding place. Lonnie emerges, still clad in his Anarky outfit, and collapses in the arms of the hero. Though weary and bruised from their battle, Lonnie is alive and still full of beans as he reaches for a can of spray paint. Later, in Gordon's office, the Batman gives an accounting of the case to the Commish and exits the building, unaware of the Anarky logo sprayed across the back of his cape.

A fun, if far-fetched and disposable, two-parter that ends with an out-loud laugh. Since Alan Grant had blessed those of us who were still patient enough to read a funny book in 1989 (after all the crap DC had released in the prior decade) with so many heavy, layered, well thought-out thrillers, I'm inclined to give the guy a pass when he wants to write something a bit lighter. There's no way Lonnie could have engineered all the destruction Anarky had wrought across those two issues; I ain't buying it. He's walking a fine line between smart and insane, with the crazy side definitely winning the battle, but his final choice, to destroy a big building instead of taking on worldly problems like a tyrant or the global economy, seems to be the perfect option for a kid. Frank Miller was responsible for the two most important and well-written epics of the 1980s but my pick for best Batman writer of that decade would have to be Alan Grant.

Jack: For some reason I thought this was going to be a multi-part epic, so I was surprised when it ended with this issue. The logo on Batman's cape escaped me until I read your synopsis and looked back at the last page. I was surprised by the revelation of Anarky's true identity, but the whole thing was underwhelming and not a fitting sendoff for our journey through the '80s.

Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #2

"Shaman, Book Two"
Story by Denny O'Neil
Art by Ed Hannigan & John Beatty

It's been six months since Tina Wilson committed suicide in front of the Batman and the act has haunted him ever since. What drove a young girl to take her own life? Two off-duty cops sit outside a supposedly deserted tenement building, observing  "known felons" entering the building and curious as to the reason. A sudden scream forces their hand and they enter, discovering a terrifying scene in the bowels of the building: a human sacrifice! Before they can do anything, they are both struck down by a huge figure in a ceremonial mask. 

Later, Captain Jim Gordon stands over two mutilated bodies in front of the tenement building when he's approached by young Bruce Wayne. Gordon tells the millionaire playboy that both bodies had their hearts removed and that one of the cops survived, picked up down the road by a patrol car. The man was muttering something about "Chubala." Wayne says his goodbyes and reminds Gordon of the soiree at the Gotham Arms that evening.

At the party, Bruce converses with anthropologist Madison Spurlock (a shady character if ever we saw one) when the professor surprises Bruce with a few items he was able to buy on a recent trip to Alaska, including the Bat Mask used by the Shaman (in issue #1) to heal Bruce. Suddenly, Dr. Spurlock has become of great interest to the fledgling crimefighter. Spurlock's assistant, Bennett Young, introduces himself and thanks Bruce for  his support. Bruce takes his date home, spurns her offer of a drink and getting "better acquainted," and rushes off to change into something more comfortable.

The Batman heads to the hospital room of Officer Fong, survivor of the opening attack, where he discovers a trio of hoodlums with intent to harm. They prove to be less than adequate when it comes to strong-arming. The Dark Knight extracts vital information from the pockets of one of the hoods: heroin, eighty grand (quite a bit of pocket money, no?), and an ID card with the name of Lukas Wilson. Putting two and two together, the Batman deduces that Wilson was the name of the girl who killed herself. There must be a connection since Wilson isn't that common of a surname.

Later that day, Bruce and Alfred go spelunking beneath Wayne Manor, mapping out what will someday become (SPOILER ALERT!) the Batcave! Returning to the mansion, Bruce realizes he really needs an unlisted number when he receives a puzzling call from Bennett Young, who has some beans to spill about his boss, Dr. Spurlock. Bruce agrees to meet Young at the Gotham Arms exhibit but when our hero arrives, he discovers Young propped up against a wall with a sword in his chest, muttering "!"

Peter: There are pieces here that are very entertaining (the mystery of Dr. Spurlock and how he got the mask, for one), but a whole lot of it doesn't make much sense. The most confusing bits, to me, have to do with continuity and previous accountings of the origins of the Batman. Are we in Year One? Year Two? How far are we into the relationship between Bats and Gordon? Why does Gordon allow the pesky millionaire to tramp over his crime scene? Because he has to? What brought the two cops to the tenement building in the first place. They're off duty and they just suddenly get an urge to park in front of the husk and their boredom with home life pays off when a boatload of "skels" arrives. Doesn't make sense to me. But that's trivial, I know. What's really irritating is how little this story advances in its 25 pages. Feed us a bit more info, Denny! And Ed Hannigan's art is dreadful; the characters are stiff and lifeless. Bruce seems to age from 20s to 50s back to 20s again while sitting in the back of that limo. Ed's competent when it comes to the Caped Crusader scenes, but he's drawing heavily from Mazzucchelli.

As mentioned last time out, I read this entire arc for the blog years ago and since this is the last we'll be mentioning this title (for now, at least--hint, hint) I thought, in the best tradition of Batman comics, I would reprint what little I had to say about it back then:

The first thing apparent after reading the story is that Denny O’ Neil must have been really tired of writing Batman origin stories. Despite the fact that the cover hypes the first issue of Legends as the “First New ‘Solo’ Batman Book Since 1940,” did we really need yet another reworking of the old warhorse? Ostensibly, this adventure happens between events first depicted in the early issues of Detective Comics. Differentiating between the two Waynes, one from the 1940s and one from the present day, can be confusing and downright irritating at times. I’m well aware that DC (as well as Marvel and most other comic lines) plays with elapsed time, but if these stories fit between the old stories, then perhaps they should have been set in those days, timelines be damned. This is a problem that occurs throughout the Legends run more so than the other Batman titles simply because Legends was conceived as a title showcasing “lost moments in Bat-history.”

Comrade Wayne to the rescue
Denny O’Neil’s story lacks anything remotely resembling excitement (half the story, it seems, is set in the back of Wayne’s limo as Bruce and Alfred cruise for trouble on the mean streets of Gotham and trade droll quips) or continuity (the killer Wayne is tracking in the first chapter all but disappears until the climax of the arc where he’s revealed to be the obligatory “misunderstood creature”). Gone is the deep, introspective dialogue found in O’Neil’s classic "Green Arrow/Green Lantern" run of the 1970s, replaced by missives such as "We in trouble! I din’ buy no hassle with no Bat Man! I’m tippin'" (sic)!

Ed Hannigan’s pencils are dreadful. At times it’s hard to tell Bruce Wayne from Alfred. Wayne himself seems to change body size from page to page. One character appears with a receding hairline in one panel and what seems to be a mohawk in the next. Not a good start to what was hyped as an event.

I thought that maybe, with a re-reading, I might find something I missed all those years ago but, if anything, I found the arc to be even more disposable.

Jack: The art is worse than it was in issue one and I agree with you that the scenes with Batman are better drawn than those with civilian characters; the full-page shot of Batman on page twelve is impressive. Like you, I'm confused by the timing of this story. The clothing, cars, etc., are all consistent with the 1980s, but the events seem to occur in the late 1930s Batman chronology. Were they trying to reset Batman so he'd have another five decades without getting too old? Its like Earth-One and Earth-Two without Julius Schwartz to explain it all.



Best Script: Alan Grant, "The Mud Pack" (Detective Comics #604-607)
Best Art: Norm Breyfogle/Steve Mitchell, "The Mud Pack" 
Best All-Around Story: "The Mud Pack"
Worst Script: John Byrne, "The Many Deaths of Batman, Part 3: The Last Death of Batman" (Batman #435)
Worst Art: Pat Broderick/John Beatty/Michael Bair, "Batman: Year Three (Batman #436-439)
Best Cover > 

The Five Best Stories

1- "The Mud Pack"
2- "Tulpa, Part 3: When Demons Clash" (Detective #603)
3- "Video Nasties" (Detective #596)
4- "Private Viewing" (Detective #597)
5- "The Wall" (Batman #432)


Best Script: Alan Grant, "The Mud Pack"
Best Art: Norm Breyfogle/Steve Mitchell, "The Mud Pack"
Best All-Around Story: "The Mud Pack"
Worst Script: Sam Hamm, "Blind Justice, Chapter Four: Citizen Wayne" (Detective Comics #599)
Worst Art: Pat Broderick/John Beatty, "Batman, Year Three: Different Roads" (Batman #436)
Best Cover >

The Five Best Stories

1- "The Mud Pack"
2- "Video Nasties"
3- "Private Viewing"
4- "Dead Letter Office" (Batman #432)
5- "Shaman, Book One" (Legends of the Dark Knight #1)



1 "Batman: Year One" (Batman #404-407)
2 "The Dark Knight Returns" 
3 "The Killing Joke"
4 "The Mud Pack"
5 "Blood Sport" (Batman #349)
6 "Video Nasties"
7 "Private Viewing"
8 "A Revenge of Rainbows" (Batman #368)
9 "Deathgrip" (Detective #524)
10 "The Autobiography of Bruce Wayne (Brave and the Bold #197)


"Dreadful Birthday, Dear Joker...!" (Batman #321)
2 "To Kill a Legend" (Detective Comics #500)
3 "Interlude on Earth-Two" (The Brave and the Bold #182)
4 "The Autobiography of Bruce Wayne"
5 "The Frequency of Fear" (Batman #373)
6 "Just as Night Follows Day..." (Batman 383)
7 "The Dark Knight Returns"
8 "Batman: Year One"
9 "The Killing Joke"
10 "The Mud Pack"

Next Week...
Jack and Peter begin their
dissection of the decade that gave us
Adam West and Burt Ward...
Pray for us!


Joe Tura said...

I’m sure you guys will disagree completely, but that seemed to go pretty fast! Thanks for a batty trip through the decade!!

Jack Seabrook said...

Thanks, Joe! Great to hear from you!