Monday, October 21, 2019

BATMAN #326 & #327

"THIS WAY LIES MADNESS!" | "ASYLUM SINISTER!"
Writer: Len Wein | Artists: Irv Novick & Frank McLaughlin | Colorist: Adrienne Roy
Letterers: John Costanza (issue 326) & Ben Oda (issue 327) | Editor: Paul Levitz

Len Wein's run on BATMAN comes to an end with these two issues, and while not as strong as last week's Catwoman/Cat-Man saga, the story here isn't too bad. We open with Selina leaving Gotham City. After everyone immediately thought the worst of her when the Egyptian cat exhibit was stolen, she's decided she can't live (or love) among people who inherently don't trust her. After she departs, an angst-ridden Batman goes on patrol and stops a robbery, but the suspect escapes. However, Batman recognizes him as "Mad Dog" Markham, a criminal who should be incarcerated at Arkham Asylum. Batman visits Police Headquarters and learns of Commissioner Gordon's encounter last issue with the apparent work of "Kid Gloves" McConnell, another Arkham inmate.

Deciding that something is rotten in the asylum, Batman goes undercover as a crook named "Shank" Taylor and gets himself committed. Inside, he learns that the asylum is now being run by his old enemy Professor Milo. Batman eventually gets the better of Milo, and the sinister doctor is driven mad himself thanks to exposure to a special chemical he had prepared for the Caped Crusader.

Wein must be a fan of Milo; this is the second time we've seen him use the character (the first was in "Moon of the Wolf", and Milo here is scarred down the side of his face from his encounter with the werewolf he created in that tale). Considering Wein was born in 1948 and Milo debuted in 1957's DETECTIVE COMICS #247, that's not a surprise -- he probably had some childhood memories attached to that issue. Who knows; maybe it was his first Batman comic!


During his time inside Arkham, Batman visits the cells of Two-Face and Joker, both empty as their usual occupants are currently believed dead (as seen in stories we looked at not too long ago). I find it bizarre that Arkham gives these guys such lushly appointed quarters, even catering to their psychoses by giving Two-Face a half-nice/half-ruined room, and letting the Joker plaster his walls with giant playing cards and a picture of himself (!), plus allowing him to keep a life-size Batman mannequin for target practice!

Aside from those little tidbit, the only other notable item to mention here is that the cover to issue 326 (up top) seems like it was drawn for a slightly different story from what appears inside. The man on the cover (Mad Dog Markham) is trying to kill Batman -- and the man controlling the whole plan is doing it form an unlikely HQ -- Arkham. But the man pictured clearly isn't Milo. And yeah, maybe showing his distintive hairstyle on the cover would have given away the surprise, but this seriously looks absolutely nothing like Milo!

The caption is a little off, too. "Crimes by Remote Control" is an incredibly misleading blurb -- Milo isn't controlling anyone here. He's letting inmates out to commit crimes and taking half their spoils in exchange for the alibi he provides. And why is the phrase in quotation marks? That implies it's the title of the story inside, which it absolutely is not. If it didn't go totally aganst the fact that Wein has clearly had total control of his stories since the start, I might wonder if this issue was the product of the Julie Schwartz school of creating a cover first and then having the writer create something based off of it!

And with that, we close the book on Len Wein. His association with Batman didn't end here -- he would go on to write a few more stories starring the character over the years -- but this is the conclusion to his largest continuous body of Bat-work.

However, we're not done with Wein's plots! There's still Gregorian Falstaff out there, not to mention Lucius's family troubles -- and Selina Kyle is still out and about in the world. In a few weeks, we'll begin to read a brief eight-issue run written by Wein's friend, Marv Wolfman, which would serve to wrap up some of Wein's dangling threads. But before we check that out, let's spend the next couple Mondays looking at some "vintage" NOT A HOAX! posts that happen to fit perfectly into this retrospective's timeline. So next week, it's a "reprint" of my look at THE UNTOLD LEGEND OF THE BATMAN.

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful work on reviewing more of some classic "Batman" comics.

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