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Monday, February 28, 2005

Dollar Comic Double-Shot!

I spent much of last night writing a longwinded and completely pointless defense of my assertion that Superman/Batman #13 is the worst comic of 2004 (although I have to say, on reflection, NYX comes awfully close). One of the responses to my vitriolic rampage was that it was weird to hear me say that Batman can't do something.

He is my favorite character after all. Why else would I be doing a Two-For-One Dollar Comic Review about him? On with the show!

Down you go......and down they come!
(Click to Bat-Size 'em!)

"The Diplomat's Son" / "Consequences"
Batman #424 / Batman #425
October-November 1988
Writer: Jim Starlin
Pencils and Cover: Doc Bright

These comics are awesome, and that's a fact. Neither one is the first comic I ever got, but I'm pretty sure they're like third and fourth, respectively. They're the ones I carried with me wherever I went, and when I drew a comic where Batman fought Dhalsim from Street Fighter, I ripped the plot off this one. It really shaped the kind of comics I like to this day, and at last year's comic book club Christmas party, I gave copies away as the Grand Prize (along with Original Ghost Rider Rides Again #1 and Green Lantern Mosaic #7), I think to Jim. He'll back me up on this: They're great.

The Cover:
Holy Crap, is that Jason Todd throwing a guy off a building?! And Batman in iminent danger of being crushed by cars in a junkyard? Why yes it is, kiddo, and that's just where the awesome starts. And I think it's only fair to warn you: These scenes DO appear in these comics.

The Plot:
Ever see Lethal Weapon 2? Good, makes my job easier. Swinging around the city one night, Robin (played here by Jay to the Tizzle himself, pre-crowbar) hears a scream and crashes through a window to investigate, with Batman right behind him. They get into a fight with a charming lowlife named Felipe, who has kidnapped, beaten, and possibly raped a model that Felipe used to go out with. Needless to say, they beat up his lackeys and haul his ass downtown.

But what's this? Felipe's father is the ambassador from Bogatago? He has diplomatic immunity? Curses! Luckily, he's also a coke fiend, and Batman contrives to catch him "holding" and send him back to the old country in shame. But after they do it, he ends up calling Gloria, the girl he beat up, and she hangs herself. So Robin dumps him off a high rise and six year old Chris's mind is blown forever.

Cut to next issue. Felipe's father, Jose, does what any grieving parent would do after the death of their only child: He talks about the magic of the movies, and how Felipe'll never experience his first heartbreak. Just kidding, Porto! He actually does something much more sensible and kidnaps Jim Gordon and drags him to a junkyard to lure Batman into an ambush.

This issue's basically just about how cool Batman is and how he can beat the hell out of like fifteen guys like it ain't no thing. Jose ends up getting crushed by a stack of rusted-out late model Chryslers and Batman makes Jay feel bad about it.

The Highlights:

  • Batman, after seeing Felipe's handiwork in the form of Gloria's black eye and cowering demeanor, decides that the best course of action would be to catch him doing drugs so that "he'll have to return home in disgrace, with no hope of ever following his father into the Diplomatic Corps." Seriously, he says that's the best thing he can do. Really, Batman? Really? Better than tying him up and hanging him by his ankles from a skyscraper? Come on, you can do better.
  • Batman's able to tell that Felipe was on cocaine by his "hyperactivity, shaky hands, and pin-point pupils." I could tell because he was wandering around Five Points at two in the morning asking for cigarette money.
  • As a special bonus, Batman #424 includes an ad for the John Ostrander Deadshot miniseries that absolutely terrified me as a kid. I'm pretty sure it was the guy with the weird 'fro on the cover of the fourth issue combined with the fact that I was an easily terrified kid. Other childhood horrors include the "What's Wrong?" puzzles on the back page of Highlights magazine, which STILL give me the chills. Anyway, looking back, it's a great ad.
  • Holy Crap, Jason Todd kills a guy. Yep, it happens on Page 20. After finding Gloria after she hanged herself, Robin flips out and goes to visit Felipe, who's maxin' relaxin' on his balcony. The next thing we see, he's screaming on his way to the sidewalk. Batman shows up and asks if Felipe fell... or if he was pushed. Robin's cold-as-ice response? "I guess I must have spooked him. He slipped." Man. Running around stealing hubcaps, committing murder, and lying to Batman? He had to go.
  • On to Batman #425, which opens with Batman reading a letter he gets from the police station. He mentions that it was addressed directly to him, and that after checking it for explosives, he promptly forgot about it until the next morning. Yeah, what with all the Jokers and Riddlers running around, I'm sure there wasn't anything important in that letter...
  • Seriously? Batman rolling through a junkyard in the middle of the afternoon picking off fifteen thugs one by one is awesome. Two of them shoot each other after Batman manages a six-foot vertical leap, but the others he just beats the hell out of, hard. It's great.
Defining Moment:
Most people would point to Jason Todd's cold-blooded murder as the heart of this story, but when I first read it, that's not what affected me the most. What got me was, as Scott says, Batman doing stuff your dad does: Busting through drywall and pulling stuff out of car engines. I'll explain.

In "Diplomat's Son," when Batman first shows up to help Robin fight Felipe's thugs, one of them runs at him with a knife while Batman stands there looking all cool. Flip to the next page, and there's the caption "Twenty seconds later..." Batman's standing there in the same pose, but the thug's bent backwards through the wall. That's hardcore. It's what comics are all about. It doesn't matter how he did it, just that that guy's not going to be getting up, walking, or eating solid food anytime soon.

"Consequences" has one that's even better. While picking off the hired goons, Batman comes up on one and says: "This one doesn't look as professional as the others. I figure I can get a bit fancy with him. Maybe get a little improvisational." Batman's idea of fancy improv? He opens up the hood of a junked car and rips out the battery, and then just THROWS it at the guy.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, THAT is how Batman gets fancy.That's the moment that made me want to read comics for the rest of my life.

Batman standing there with the big "DIE HARD" logo on the battery gritting his teeth, and the big shot of the thug going down hard with a huge "KA-TUNK" sound-effect. Now it doesn't hurt that when I was six, I thought he was pulling out the entire engine, but it's still bad ass, and it's the kind of meanspirited brutality that has no other purpose than to just make that criminal hurt--and that's his idea of fun. Even more than the detective aspect, that's what I like about Batman. He's mean.

By coincidence, I found a copy today at the store (I bought the last ones we had to give away at the party), so if you're in the neighborhood, it's available for you to own. And trust me, you DO want to own it.


Blogger Derek said...

Two years later, and Batman chucking a car battery at some dude is still the awesomest thing I've ever seen.

You know what you should do, Chris? You know how people have theme sketchbooks, and get artists at conventions to draw in them?

You need a whole sketchbook of car-battery-wielding Batmen.

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