Monday, September 16, 2019

BATMAN #317 & #318

Writer: Len Wein | Artists: Irv Novick & Frank McLaughlin
Colorist: Glynis Wein | Letterer: Ben Oda | Editor: Julius Schwartz

BATMAN 317 picks up where issue 316 ended, with Batman and Robin wrapping up the Crazy Quilt caper at Gotham Police Headquarters. Their next case begins immediately as Batman receives a parcel care of the police -- a book of riddles from the Riddler. The Dynamic Duo head home so Bruce Wayne can tend to the day-to-day operations of his company, while Robin does some investigate legwork. Eventually the heroes figure out the Riddler has gotten into the lucrative game of selling guns to foreign powers, and shut him down at Gotham's waterfront.

Along the way, Bruce makes up (and makes out) with Selina Kyle following their argument a couple issues back, while Lucius Fox continues to worry over his upcoming meeting with Bruce's reclusive rival, Gregorian Falstaff. And then , in a glorious half-page panel to close out the issue, Lucius comes face-to-face with the gluttonous Falstaff.

I'm not sure what it is about this one that speaks to me... maybe it's as simple as the inclusion of the Riddler, who has long been one of my favorite Batman villains, and who has gotten pretty short shrift in these 1970s stories we've been examining. This is by no means the Riddler's first appearance of the decade, but it is the first time we've looked at a comic featuring him.

It could also be the appearance of Robin. I enjoyed the previous issue as well, recall, which also guest-starred the Teen Wonder. And while I do like the seventies status quo of Batman operating alone, with only occasional help from his ward, whenever such team-ups do occur, I tend to enjoy them quite a bit (assuming the writer uses Robin as something more than a prop or hostage for Batman to rescue).

Or perhaps Wein has simply hit a stride -- because for the most part, the next issue isn't half bad either. Though there is a bit of confusion with the timeline, which we'll get to in a moment. But first -- an arsonist is burning buildings in Gotham, and Batman works to get to the bottom of it. Batman crosses paths with the villain -- a costumed character named Firebug -- and eventually, the Darknight Detective uncovers Firebug's true identity as a recently discharged U.S. soldier named Joseph Rigger, who is out to burn down exactly three buildings: the structures where his sister, father, and mother, respectively, each died. Yeah, it's a corny motive, but Rigger comes across as a little unbalanced, so if he's acting out of insanity (as many of Batman's villains do), it makes sense.

Now, the timeline hiccup: the previous issue ends with Batman and Robin arresting the Riddler, and then we're told that at that moment, Lucius Fox is on his way into Gregorian Falstaff's office. Then this issue opens with Batman saving a little girl from a burning building and fighting Firebug, after which he departs the scene for a date with Selina Kyle (more on that below), and then we cut to Lucius's meeting with Falstaff, still in progress. So either Batman and Robin tackled Crazy Quilt and Riddler, went their separate ways, and then Batman fought Firebug -- all before a reasonable time for a date with Selina -- or Wein lost track of his timeline between issues. This would make sense if the cut to Lucius at the end of issue 317 had said something like "A few nights later..." but that's not the case. Both the scene that close 317 and the scene partway through 318 are noted as taking place at the same time as the other action in those issues. It's not the end of the world, and probably not even something a reader would have caught picking up these issues as originally published, a month apart -- but it's the sort of thing that drives me nuts!

And now, on to Bruce's date with Selina. It's... something. We call the eighties the "Decade of Excess", but here in 1979, Bruce takes Selina to a party aboard a private jet that simply flies in circled around Gotham Airport while all the rich folks aboard dance the night away. It's bizarre, and I find myself wondering if this was an actual thing among the jet-set of the day, or simply an idea Wein came up with that sounded extravagant enough to be real. I mean, a part on a yacht I get... but on a plane just feels weird.

We also get a moment, after the plane lands, where Bruce and Selina see a new Egyptian cat exhibit being unloaded from a nearby plane, and Selina remarks that if she were still Catwoman, the artifacts would never be safe from her. But then she gets woozy and, as Bruce holds her, she gazes longingly at the exhibit. So, at long last, Wein actually seems to be moving ahead with both his long-running plots, as Gregorian Falstaff at last puts in an appearance (merely to be turned down by Lucius for his job offer, but still), and Selina may not be as over her past as she wants Bruce (and us) to believe.

The issue closes out with the tease of Gentleman Ghost returning next month, but before we get there, next week we'll check in again with Denny O'Neil and DETECTIVE COMICS to see Batman go up against his defining villain of '79, Maxie Zeus, in two consecutive stories!

1 comment:

  1. This post absolutely brightens my day. You've been pretty spot on here, as always.