Detective Comics #524
writer: Gerry Conway
art: Don Newton and Dick Giordano
Arguably, Conway's tightest story yet. Batman escapes from the overly elaborate squid trap that The Squid has placed him in (and, though you think his escape will go unexplained, it's tactfully revealed much later on in the story), and the shadowy Croc, who has been quietly evaluating The Squid from the sidelines, seems to be the only one to witness and understand it. As he decides to walk out, The Squid confronts him, only to knock his hat off, giving us our first glimpse of Croc -- an actual reptillian face! The Squid cowers back, and Croc leaves, even going so far as to notice the Batman watching him and not caring. Conway is crafting the Croc into one heck of a bad-ass. Interestingly, he bears absolutely no resemblance to the Killer Croc I know from post-crisis continuity.
The story shifts to a party being hosted by Dick in honor of The Flying Todds. It's really odd to see Dick wearing a leisure suit in 1983, and it's frustrating to have both Joseph and Trina Todd talk while Jason once again remains speechless and difficult to glimpse (Conway's playing Jason close to his chest), but the next plot development, in which Trina walks in to find Alfred and Dick nursing an unmasked Batman, was damn exciting.
When we return to The Squid, his failure with the Batman and his recoiling in the face of Croc have knocked him down many pegs in our estimation. He's hardly the crime lord he was just last issue. As we're watching him command his men with a new, more critical set of eyes, the menacing Croc sets up to assassinate The Squid in parallel. The art contrast is phenomenal here, as The angles, coloring, and shadowing contrast between the two men speaks volumes about which is a more serious contender as crime boss of Gotham.
It's therefore astonishing when Croc narrowly misses hitting The Squid! Squid ducks just in time, only to have Batman enter, the two fight one on one, and Squid kick his butt, ultimately pulling a gun and killing Batman at the climax! The narration is intense, vague, and utterly poetic. We're not entirely sure how this is happening, and The Squid seems equally surprised to see this occuring.
Then Conway gives us this brilliant narrative moment:
Squid: It's over, Batman...all over.
Narration: The words echo ironically in his mind. Suddenly, darkness closes in, and he knows.
Squid: Wait. Wait.
Squid: It's not fair. I'm not finished.
Squid: I'm not...
[The scene then cuts to The Squid, lying dead on the floor where Croc had shot at him.]
Narration: The gunshot seems oddly far away, but the sound of a bullet hitting flesh, and the impact of a body against a cold marble floor, is very close.
Croc (from on the roof): One clean shot. Like I said--
Croc: --Nobody threatens Croc. Good-bye, Fatboy.
Wow. Narrative trickery at it's best.