Monday, June 26, 2023

Batman in the 1980s Issue 85: July 1989


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

Batman #435

"The Many Deaths of the Batman 
Chapter Three: The Last Death of the Batman"
Story by John Byrne
Art by Jim Aparo & Mike DeCarlo

A woman named Mary McGinnis is found dead in her apartment. Before she died, she managed to scratch the Batman emblem in the carpet with her fingernail. At Stately Wayne Manor, Bruce Wayne is going crazy because he is being guarded by a protective police squad and can't escape to the Batcave. Commissioner Gordon is at his desk, discussing with the unnamed female pathologist the mystery of the seven Batmen recently murdered. She has determined that the second victim was dead before he was blown up, leading Gordon to wonder if the murders are all an elaborate plot to cover up one killing.

In the suburbs, Sally interrupts Jerry and we see that he was putting a Batman costume in a box. Alfred distracts the cops on duty with some food and Batman gets to work, first researching the victims on the Bat-computer and then visiting the hotel room of Aurelius Boch, who has been summoned to Gotham City from Austria by a mysterious note from a Mr. Smith, which is the name he knew Bruce Wayne by. Batman recalls that, years earlier, Boch taught him about toxicology. Unfortunately, the cops enter and announce that Boch was killed the day before; Batman visits Gordon and "the doctor" at the morgue, where an autopsy is in progress, and tells them that each victim was killed "in the manner of expertise of the next victim" and they all had a connection to Batman--they were the men who trained him.

Jerry, calling himself Mr. Jones, visits a man named Shastri and claims to be Batman; Shastri says that he never tutored an American and Jones realizes that Shastri is Batman in disguise. Jones throws an electrified Batsuit at Shastri/Batman, injuring him, and escapes, insisting that he has created a new life and Batman will never be able to trace or harm "us." Back at the Batcave, Batman tells Alfred that Jerry is really Stone, the second man murdered, and the earlier murder victim was not really Stone. It seems Stone is one of the people who trained Batman and now he's trying to hide to protect himself. Jerry confesses this to Sally, not knowing that Batman is watching. Jerry visits another man and makes him don a Batman costume, but before Jerry/Stone can kill him, Batman appears, calling Stone by his real name, which is Sawyer, and disarms him, explaining that when he killed Mary McGinnis, he left a clue that led Batman right to him. Gordon arrives to arrest Jerry Sawyer and Batman heads off to break the bad news to Sally.

A rare early appearance
by Ben Affleck as
millionaire Bruce Wayne
Jack: Holy smoke, that was complicated! Sorry for the long synopsis, but I had a lot to explain. It all made sense in the end but it was one goofy plan that Sawyer had, requiring him to kill multiple people in order to protect himself and his girlfriend/wife from potential harm if someone ever found out that he had a hand in training Batman. Aparo and DeCarlo's art is not quite as strong in this issue as it was in the last couple of issues; perhaps he got worn out trying to follow the twists and turns of Byrne's convoluted plot. It's interesting that the writers of the Bat-titles are starting to develop a narrative of what happened between when Bruce's parents were murdered and when he became Batman--perhaps it's the influence of Year One?

Peter: "Year Three" is right around the corner, Jack! And let's hope it's better than this sleep-fest. You're being way too kind by calling it "complicated"; I'd use the word "ridiculous." Or maybe "padded." It's also the antithesis of the first chapter, the one with no dialogue, two issues ago. John Byrne over-explains everything. Batman's monologue about Stone's reasoning behind dressing up his victims as Batman made no sense to me whatsoever. Wouldn't it have been a heck a lot easier for Stone to just start a fire in the Gotham Home for Wayward Kids, wait 'til the Dark Knight showed up, and plug him with a rifle from a neighboring grassy knoll? 

There sure are a lot of people out there who assisted Bats in his training. To think Bruce Wayne scoured the Earth to find an expert in everything that's anything. It's a pity Stone never made it to the woman's lingerie expert or the expert on sitcoms or that guy who knows everything about wine. I'm still waiting to find out who built the Batcave. Inexplicably, the art by Aparo and DeCarlo is awful; Bruce Wayne looks different every time he shows up. Amateur hour all around.

Detective Comics #602

"Tulpa Part Two: Night Moves"
Story by Alan Grant
Art by Norm Breyfogle & Steve Mitchell

Jason Blood and his faithful sidekick, Randu, sit in Blood's Sanctum playing chess when Randu is struck with a feeling... a disturbance in the force. The feeling fades and the two men return to their game.

Across town, Batman is prowling the streets of Gotham, searching for the man who broke into Wayne Manor and assaulted Alfred. Though the bat-tracer Al attached to his assailant has gone dead, Bats is confident he can track the thug anyway. He notices Rafe Kellogg and his merry bunch of hoods far below and decides to follow them, knowing that where Rafe goes, trouble follows.

Kellogg has come to collect his loan interest from Tenzin but Rafe's once-flustered prey seems confident this time around. In fact, he tells Kellogg he'll pay him exactly zilch. Kellogg flips out and wallops Tenzin across the head with a handy leg bone and then watches in shock as a giant six-armed creature, axe in hand, bursts through the door, screaming "I am Makahala and you gonna die!"

Batman finally decides to burst through what's left of the door and protect the bad guys from the giant but he quickly discovers this is no man in a suit. This is a real, honest to gosh demon! Tenzin is badly wounded and Rafe and a couple of his men survive the onslaught and head out the door. Bats tries to defend himself from the monster with six arms but that's not a winning prospect. Our hero finally goes down for the count. Makahala heads out into the night, searching for his targets.

The Dark Knight awakens, calls an ambulance, and listens as Tenzin explains to him the origin of the creature. Knowing only a supernatural force can eliminate this menace before it kills again, Batman heads to the home of Jason Blood to beg for the help of Etrigan, Blood's inner Demon. Blood refuses but Randu offers his help and he and Batman exit. Meanwhile, realizing he can't ventilate a demon and his bodyguard army is dwindling, Kellogg flags down a patrol car and begs to be arrested. The cops laugh him off until Makahala shows up. No laughing matter.

 I guess I've joined the Breyfogle fan club, because I really enjoyed his work on this story. He draws a cool Batmobile and the demon is impressive. I was not expecting a guest shot by the Demon/Jason Blood, but it seems to make sense, though I thought it odd that Batman went to his house and knocked on the door asking for help. They probably teamed up at some point in Brave and Bold, but it's unusual for Batman to pop over to the home of another superhero for aid, especially a second-tier one like the Demon. I was lost when Blood and his friend mentioned a recent battle with Darkseid, since I haven't followed the late-'80s Demon exploits.

Peter: I think Batman pleading for the help of Jason Blood makes a lot of sense since he knows he's fighting a demon and may need a little extra help, the kind of aid that Green Lantern or even Superman might not be able to bring. I've never read a Demon comic (don't even get me started on Jack Kirby's DC comics of the 1970s--yeccccch!) so I had no idea who these two cats were until the name "Etrigan" surfaced. That rang a bell and so I did a quick deep internet dive. Alan Grant once again knows how to keep those pages turning; he packs the action but also knows how to pace it to keep us on edge. Should be a great conclusion!

Next Week...
Battle of the Demons!

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