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  1. #16
    Run Runner shaxper's Avatar
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    Batman #320

    Denny O'Neil guest writes this issue and manages to evade Levitz's total control over the story, giving us a change of pace as Bruce attempts to solve two bizarre murders of priests in Spain. Though the bad guy wears a robe and calls himself "The Inquisitor," he's not particularly colorful or outlandish. All in all, this seems to match the tone of the pre-Levitz stories. I wonder if this was a leftover filler issue from O'Neil's tenure on the title, if Levitz let him do what he wanted because it was Denny Frickin O'Neil, or (and this is what I prefer to imagine) Levitz carefully explained his vision for the title to O'Neil, but Denny just plain ignored him because he's Denny Frickin' O'Neil, and no one tells him how to write Batman.

    Unfortunately,someone probably should have.

    This was actually a pretty bad issue. O'Neil works entirely too hard to make us think we know who the Inquisitor is, which can only mean it isn't him. The plot that unfolds ends up being pretty ridiculous, especially the hurried ending that attempts to tie together lose ends that refuse to meet.

    It was nice to read a legitimate Bronze Age Batman story again, but I would have preferred a good one. C-

  2. #17
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    Batman #321
    A

    From the very first panel of this issue, it's clear that Wein and Levitz had big plans for this story. Wein begins with an elaborate description of the exact whereabouts and history of Police Headquarters, a bold sample of Levitz's plan to map Gotham and make it into more of a real city. The drama unfolds quickly, the art (with Simonson guest penciling again) seems more painstakingly story boarded than usual -- every shadow and angle seems carefully considered, and even the creative team credits seem bigger and prouder than usual.

    Indeed, I truly and honestly loved this issue. Wein took last issue off to start planning this one, and it shows. He finally masters a balance between the gritty reality of the stories he wants to write and the campy flamboyance of the stories Levitz wants him to write. Every aspect of the Joker and his plan are absurd and ridiculous, but Batman's reactions are sincere and very real. One of the reasons I've been excited to read these older issues is because I know so little about Batman prior to the 1980s (beyond the generalizations and major turning points with which we're all familiar). I'd honestly thought Alan Moore's The Killing Joke was the first Joker story to seriously explore the intimate relationship between Batman and Joker (heck, it's pretty much all that I respected about that severely overrated story), but Wein accomplishes the same feat with far more nuance here. Even a little aside Batman makes as pursuing the Joker ("He never makes it easy") just feels so authentic, as if the two were a married couple who had been bickering for years. Their climactic struggle was tremendously entertaining as a result, with Batman dead serious and completely sick of the Joker's antics while the Joker appeared to be having the time of his life irritating him.

    The minor plot holes aside, the only thing that bugged me about this issue was how Simonson drew Joker's face. As I've said earlier, the compositions of the panels were stunning, but Joker never looked right, and his facial features kept changing throughout the issue. Of all comic book characters, Joker has arguably one of the most distinctive faces. You can play with it to a certain degree, but Simonson deviates too wildly and inconsistently. It just doesn't look like Joker, even when he's making all the right movements and gestures in just the right way.

    Still, this was one heck of an issue. Here's hoping Wein has another six in him...

  3. #18
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    Batman #322
    B+

    So lightening CAN strike twice. Once again, Wein has managed to marry his dense, realistic writing style with Levitz's outlandish vision for the comic. A story in which Batman fights Captain Boomerang should have been a groaner, but even though it involves Captain Boomerang knocking Batman out and then allowing him to recover before strapping him to a gigantic "Doomerang," this story had so much going for it.

    For one thing, Wein finally does something with Selina Kyle. She's been wandering around the title as a boring romantic interest for over a year now, but in this issue she's given a compelling and believable reason for returning to her life of crime, and I'm thrilled to see what the outcome will be.

    However, equally good in this story was Wein's surprising characterization of Captain Boomerang. Rather than just another villain looking to make money, Wein depicts him as a man finally trying to go straight and make a retirement for himself through the stock market, only to put all his eggs in one basket, lose it all, and not understand what happened. He comes to Gotham seeking revenge against the CEO responsible, honestly believing in his simple way that he's been cheated. This revelation, which comes late in the story, is endearing and almost touching. There's no doubt that Boomerang is still the bad guy, but you can't help feeling for him...even though he then randomly decides to kill Batman. It wouldn't be a Levitz climax otherwise.

    I was also extremely excited to see the return of Shamrock in this issue. When Wein wrote the first story of this run, he introduced an endearing group of homeless informants for Batman. When a fan wrote in, praising these characters and asking to see more of them, Levitz flatly said "no." I'm glad that he either changed his mind, forgot about it, or Wein snuck it in. The rest of the cast wasn't here, and it was a minor moment in the story, but I'd really like to see these guys come back in a more lasting way. I also love the fact that Batman never feels the need to give them money, and they never ask for it. They trade in respect, not hand-outs.

    Finally, and this is going to sound odd, I found a house ad in this issue that simply blew me away. I don't have a scanner, and my camera isn't nearby, but it's a two panel comic in which Robin solves the mystery of why DC hasn't offered a bargain subscription for Detective Comics (because they waited until Christmas to unveil an even better offer). The art, the angles, the shadowing and inking, even the panel arrangements are extraordinary, and Batman's proud smirk in response to Robin's discovery is absolutely touching. My relatively uneducated guess is that Neal Adams did this, but it's unsigned. Whoever did it, it was almost more entertaining than the comic, itself. If anyone has a DC comic from April, 1980, you might find it in there.

  4. #19
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    Batman #323 and #324
    A+

    I should begin by admitting that I have never particularly liked Catwoman (other than when Julie Newmar was playing her ). She never appealed to me as a character, and I never really bought Bruce's attraction to her beyond the idea of her being the bad girl he could never allow himself to have. So, while Selina's been hanging around as Bruce's reformed girlfriend for the past year or so, I never really cared. The previous issue gave her a strong motivation for returning to crime, and I found that compelling but, still, I didn't really care about the character herself.

    This two part story completely changed that. It made me a huge Catwoman fan. In fact, I'll go so far as to say that, of the 24 sequential issues of Batman I've read over the past few weeks, these two have been my absolute favorites. I can see myself coming back to these issues time and again. I'm actually amazed that they aren't considered classics, subjected to numerous reprints, and discussed in vintage comic book circles more often.

    Part 1

    After we just saw (or thought we saw) Selina commit a museum burglary in order to save her own life last issue, we begin this story with Batman charging into her apartment to arrest her. Surprisingly, she denies committing the crime (we just saw her do it!), shows signs of still being near death (wasn't the stolen item supposed to heal her?) and then throw herself headlong out the high rise window to escape (apparently, she grabbed Batman's cable, which was still attached to the balcony). Bruce decides to believe her and starts looking for clues to prove her innocence. Ultimately, they both end up in a particularly cool booby-trapped underground hideout in search of the real criminal, only to get trapped and discover that the true thief is...Catman! Honestly, this surprise revelation WAS surprising. It made complete sense, but no clues were left to see it coming. All along, I'd suspected either that Selina was playing both Batman and the reader or that it was some common criminals. This was an exciting cliffhanger.

    My only complaint with this issue: Irv Novick draws a terrible Catwoman. She looks trashy and unkempt which makes it a little harder to empathize with her or buy Bruce's attraction to her. I wonder if he just can't draw women in general.


    Part 2
    Here's where it REALLY gets good. After Catman does the obligatory "I'd love to watch you die, but I must leave and give you an opportunity to escape" bit, Wein provides us with a pretty exciting escape sequence that results in Selina writhing in pain, passing out, and being tossed around like a rag doll as Batman struggles to get her out of the trap. I'm usually loathe to use this word, but the sequence in which she then wakes up in the Batcave is downright hot. There's a real chemistry working between the two (not forced at all), which will probably complicate Selina's romantic interest in Bruce. Ultimately, a clear comradery forms between them (with potential romance beneath it) as they haggle over whether or not Catwoman can accompany Batman on his mission to take down Catman. Catwoman works as a genuine equal to Batman here, not merely a lovesick accessory or unnecessarily tough and defensive pseudo-equal as she's often portrayed. She's comfortable with Batman and truly knows that she can stand toe to toe with him. I like that.

    After watching the two work together (Batman steps into the shadows to watch Selina work her feminine charm on a potential informant), we shift scenes to learn what Catman is actually up to...and it's awesome! Instead of humanizing him and making him endearing/understandable (as Wein so often does so well with his villains), Wein just makes the Catman downright clever, here. He's using the stolen goods to purchase an island that he can then turn into a safe-haven for criminals in exchange for 25% of their stolen loot. It's downright ambitious and imaginative. Crime Boss Andros Akropolis is also introduced here as the man selling the island, and I wonder if he'll ever make a return. Seemed as good as any generic crime boss, and he knew how to put Batman in his place.

    Finally, the climax of this story is absolutely draw-dropping. Catwoman accidentally kills Catman in pretty much the coolest of ways but, in the process, destroys all hope of saving her own life. As she lies there on the ground, emotionally broken and waiting to die, I was thoroughly moved. Even though I'd been passionately rooting for her throughout the last two issues, I truly wanted her to die here. It would have been so damn powerful. She could have become Bruce's Elektra, constantly haunting him from the grave, and even moreso when she would inevitably return. Of course that wasn't going to happen on Levitz's watch, and I don't think Wein wanted it anyway, so she's saved at the very end through ludicrous means. It's upsetting, but it also leaves us with a new kind of Catwoman that Wein clearly knows how to write amazingly well. I hope she gets utilized often and as successfully as she was here.

    Wow.

  5. #20
    Frugal fanboy Cei-U!'s Avatar
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    One big correction, shax: Batman #300 is an alternate future of the Earth-One Batman. The E2 Caped Crusader was already dead by the time this story appears. I know it's confusing because Robin is in the E2 version's costume but "our" Teen Wonder actually wore it first (back in Justice League of America #92).

    Cei-U!
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  6. #21
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    Batman 325: "Death...Twenty Stories High"
    Writer: Roger McKenzie
    Art: Irv Novick and Steve Mitchell

    grade: A

    Roger McKenzie steps in for one issue to deliver an absolutely superb Batman story. Whereas Wein and Reed before him had worked hard to de-power Batman as a means of intensifying the drama of each issue, McKenzie powers him right back up to a virtual demon of the night who can charge forward amidst a steady rain of bullets without blinking. He spends a great segment early in the story showing Batman's pursuit from the perspective of the thug being chased, providing lines like "One runs in fear. The other IS fear." Really awesome stuff.

    Best yet, though, McKenzie then shows a sharp contrast to all of Batman's power and ability, providing a situation in which he feels powerless. Gordon is up for reelection as police commissioner, and a coincidental crime wave that began at election time, as well as a powerful political machine on the other side of the ticket, has shaken everyone's faith in him. The bond between Batman and Gordon is strengthened once again in this issue as Batman must race to figure out both who is running this conspiracy and who has put a contract on Batman's head. The solution seems evident from the start, but it's a nice red herring. While this wasn't the most brilliant mystery ever in a Batman comic, it certainly worked well enough and provided a minor thrill when it became obvious that we had the wrong guy pegged.

    My only complaint with this issue is that there must have been some kind of communication breakdown between McKenzie and artists Irv Novick and Steve Mitchell. Several times throughout the story, word and thought balloons are clearly attributed to the wrong character, creating a lot of confusion. This is most evident halfway in when Batman bizarrely calls a criminal who has just duped him a "sucker." My best guess is that the errors happened, and Levitz missed them, because this was a rush fill-in issue after it became evident all too late that Wein wouldn't make deadline. That the story came off so well in spite of this is downright impressive.

    Anyway, this was a true classic. I thoroughly enjoyed it. All the same can't wait for Wein to resume the Batman/Catwoman storyline in the next issue.

  7. #22
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    Batman 326: "This Way Lies Madness"
    Writer: Len Wein
    Art: Irv Novick and Steve Mitchell

    Grade: D+


    I really felt Wein had been on a roll with his last four issues, but this one just drops off the cliff entirely. It begins with an out of the blue and overly melodramatic ending to the Bruce/Selina relationship, provides some decent Bat brooding in the aftermath ("Then DAMN the Batman, Alfred...and damn the world that NEEDS him!"), abruptly shifts to a fight with a really lousy costumed motorcyclist whose name ends up being "Mad Dog" Markham (from ARKHAM asylum), shifts to a dialogue between Batman and Gordon where Batman keeps addressing Gordon as "sir" in direct contrast to the close bond they'd been developing over the last two years (and most prominently in Wein's own run), and then ends with Batman disguised as a thug and getting himself committed to Arkham in order to find out how two inmates appear to be back in the outside world, committing crimes.

    There are so many logic flaws with that final plan of action:

    1. The only evidence they have that these two inmates are out is one's particular M.O. was used in several crimes, and Batman thought he glimpsed the other's face while wrestling a helmet off of him. Are you really going to leave the rest of the city undefended and put yourself at great personal risk on a wild hunch like that?

    2. Why would Batman assume that getting committed to Arkham would give him any clues as to what happened? Only two inmates appear to have escaped. There are tons of other prisoners who were presumably unaffected by whatever scheme Batman is pursuing.

    3. How is Wein's de-powered Batman planning to do anything at all when they have him in a straightjacket, locked up, and drugged up as well? In fact, what are the chances that they won't eventually discover his face is a mask while wrestling him to the ground or even bathing/changing him?

    All in all, this was a big disappointment of an issue. I hope Wein can go out with a bang next issue because I believe it's his last one before Wolfman takes over.

  8. #23
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    Batman 327

    "Asylum Sinister!"
    Writer: Len Wein
    Art: Irv Novick & Frank McLaughlin

    Grade: C-

    Len Wein's final issue on Batman (at least for now) proves to be entirely unceremonious, with neither a particularly good story nor even a word about it from Levitz in the letters page other than the fact that he's excited for Marv Wolfman taking over next issue. Anyone know the story behind Wein's departure, here?

    The story itself is only marginally better than the previous one. Batman discovers that Professor Milo has taken over Arkham asylum and is using it to provide alibis for various criminals, taking a 50% cut from their exploits. Why, then, didn't we see any of the major Arkham inmates out on the streets? We only saw two complete unknowns who did very little. Perhaps the professor was being cautious?

    Anyway, there's a lot of suspension of disbelief required in this relatively silly story. The part I enjoyed was that Milo makes Batman a prisoner of Arkham and then attempts to use a combination of drugs and trickery to convince Batman that he really is a mental patient who only thinks he's Batman. It's a great idea, but isn't explored very well at all and ends almost as quickly as it began. Finally, Batman is aided by a mob of Arkham inmates depicted more as harmless delusionals than violent, criminally insane patients that you'd expect to see at Arkham. Apparently, Two Face and the Joker aside (both are said to be presumed dead in this issue), the most violent and criminally insane patients at Arkham are a guy who thinks he's Napoleon Bonaparte and really likes helping Batman and a woman who thinks she's Joan of Arc and likes knives a little too much.


    "Express to Nowhere"
    Writer: Mike W. Barr
    Artists: Dick Giordano and Steve Mitchell

    Grade: C+

    The Batman title gets back stories once more as DC continues to attempt to rationalize their price hikes (50 cents already? Wasn't it 35 cents two years earlier? Man, if things keep going this way, they'll be charging $3.99 per issue by 2010. Oh, wait...).

    I've recently discovered that I adore Dick Giordano's work (especially on Batman and Robin), so his contributions to this issue already leave me smiling. The storyline provides an adequate, though somewhat illogical, mystery about a train being heisted in order to capture and murder a mob informant (why heist the train to do it? Just take out the guards [who we never see anyway]). The art gets confusing, presumably as Steve Mitchell steps in for Giordano, but things mostly hold together. Most of all, I like how Barr chooses to write Dick. He brings back the playful banter and puns from Robin's younger days, only he makes them a little more intelligent, less campy, and more like a good spirited teen having fun here. It works.

    I'm curious as to how these back-up stories with Robin will work once the New Teen Titans title begins in two months. At that point, Wolfman will be writing the lead story for both magazines, but will Levitz keep the back stories in the Batman title aligned?

  9. #24
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    (Marv Wolfman's run begins)

    Batman 328

    "Double Jeopardy"
    Writer: Marv Wolfman
    Art: Irv Novick and Frank McLaughlin

    Grade: B


    As sad as I am to see Wein go, I've been looking foreward to Marv Wolfman's start on the series for a while now. While this first issue lacked the flaws emerging in Wein's weaker stories, it didn't particularly wow me either.

    Batman is on the hunt of a murderer who was found innocent and yet wants Batman to know that he wasn't. It's an intriguing concept, and the Kubert cover is immensely enticing, but the story somehow fails to convey the full excitement of the premise. After the villain's initial boast (delivered via film reel to Batman), there is no more chiding of Batman, no more teases suggesting an earned arrogance; a criminal who can truly handle Batman. This villain is very knowledgeable of the law, which does make him powerful and somewhat interesting, and it doesn't take long to realize who he truly is (come on. He's wooing Gilda Dent only months after Two Face's supposed death), but this easily solved mystery seems to dwarf an otherwise compelling premise, preventing Wolfman from exploring it properly. Was this another instance of Levitz interfering and forcing an otherwise compelling plain-clothed villain to be turned into a recognizable super villain?

    One regret I have about this story is the introduction of Mary Anne, a homeless informant and ally to the Batman. Wein introduced the exact same concept a little more than a year earlier, only his homeless allies had richer personalities and eccentricities, making them a lot more likeable as well. This effectively erases them from continuity, which is pretty upsetting.


    "A Tale of Time Past!"
    Writer: Marv Wolfman
    Art: Don Newton and Kim DeMulder

    Grade: C

    I'm impressed that Wolfman took on the job of writing the B story for this issue, as well. He even writes it in such a way that is occuring right after the A story in this issue, a nice trick considering that it's then wedged in the middle of a two part story, but it works.

    Wolfman also leaves Robin out of this one, either because he was supposed to be heading back to Hudson U. last issue or in order to free him up for his own New Teen Titans title starting next month. Since I know and adore that series well, I'm watching closely to see how Robin is or isn't handled in these corresponding issues.

    The story itself isn't anything special. Batman helps Gordon dredge up the past to solve his very first case, involving the death of a close friend. He already knew and caught the killer back in the day, but he never found the stolen loot. Not a particularly compelling premise, and the execution isn't any better. It's an average story, through and through, though occasionally dampered by the worst drawings of Gordon I've ever seen. He looks like the KFC colonel.
    Last edited by shaxper; 09-19-2010 at 04:43 PM.

  10. #25
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    Batman 329

    "Twice Dies the Batman!"
    Writer: Marv Wolfman
    Art: Irv Novick and Frank McLaughlin

    Grade: B+


    The inevitable clean-up to the previous issue doesn't read as anything all that special until the climax. At this point, after Batman has lured Two Face back to the old courthouse he used to work in and shown him a film reel of Harvey being scarred and transformed into Two Face, Gilda Dent shows up and confronts Harvey with some very authentic and powerful dialogue. The art isn't able to keep up with the drama, and I'm still not sure how Gilda transformed from the insecure basketcase of the last two issues into this confident voice of wisdom, but it was definitely powerful all the same. This was one of the few times where I actually believe Harvey had a chance of being rehabilitated as he was being carted off in the end. Of course, he won't be.


    "The Case of the Hijacked Heart"
    Writer: Mike W. Barr
    Art: Richard F. Buckler and Frank McLaughlin

    Grade:D


    Levitz clearly fell asleep at the wheel on this one.

    First, this story coincides with New Teen Titans #1, where Robin reveals that Bruce has not talked to him since he dropped out of college (presumably last month, since the two were talking in the backstory the month before), but they are working together and Batman is chuckling at Robin's jokes in this story. That's absurdly sloppy for the editor who promised to unify the Bat Office to the extent that every street in Gotham would be mapped. It's not like the writer of New Teen Titans isn't also the writer for the A stories in this title who Levitz is directly overseeing.

    Second, the attending doctor to Mary Anne (the homeless woman from last issue) is unusually hostile to Batman for not visiting Mary Anne since he defeated Two Face last issue. There are two problems here. One is that Batman was clearly visiting Mary Anne last issue. The second is that he defeated Two Face THIS ISSUE. Seriously, you call this editing?

    Beyond those idiotic continuity errors, this is an average story in which Batman must save the new heart intended for a crime boss's transplant. I didn't know hearts could be removed and stored (still beating, as is described in the story) for transport back in 1980, let alone now. Is this science fiction, or can we really do this?

    The art in this issue is particularly subpar, but Adrienne Roy does a particularly exceptional job with the coloring, compensating quite well. Generally, I don't pay much attention to colorists, but the color really steals the spotlight in this story.

  11. #26
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    Batman 330: "Target!"
    Writer: Marv Wolfman
    Art: Irv Novick and Vince Colletta

    Grade: A




    Contrary to what the classic cover suggests, Talia Al Ghul plays only the smallest of parts in this story. The Premise involves a convicted murderer who is going to be executed in 24 hours and has thus put a tremendous bounty on Batman's head. As every two bit thug in Gotham takes his chance at Batman, he must scramble to stop Lucius Fox's son, Tim, from getting involved in a plot to blow up the Wayne Foundation.

    This was a relatively well done story with two particular highlights. The first is that Wolfman is making a clear attempt to pick up the loose ends that Wein left behind and then going somewhere with them (whereas Wein seemed to just let them sit there for ages and ages). We've got Lucius's troubled son's involvement with gangs finally coming to a head, Bruce's new secretary finally taking on a meaningful role as a spy/saboteur against him, and most importantly we have Gregorian Falstaff reentering the picture and taking a more clearly threatening stance against Bruce and the Wayne Foundation. In my mind, this makes up for undoing Wein's band of homeless Batman informants with the introduction of Mary Anne two issues ago.

    The other highlight for me is that Wolfman brings his version of Robin (currently appearing in the New Teen Titans) back into the foreground to establish and explore a conflict between him and Batman that is helping Robin to become both a more realistic teen and his own man/hero in contrast. I've been looking for this issue for years -- the Batman story where Batman and Robin finally get into it over Robin quitting college, leaving
    him with more impetus to become his own hero and (once more) lead his own team, only this time with a much stronger sense of commitment.

    Finally, I'm pleased that they did away with the back story in this issue. Instead of tacking on a second story that is not as good and certainly not carefully watched by Levitz (see last issue), we get an expanded 25 page story that earns its length. I hope Wolfman can keep producing this kind of quality output.

  12. #27
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    Batman 331

    "Closed Circuit!"
    Plot: Marv Wolfman
    Dialogue: Michael Fleischer
    Art: Irv Novick and Frank McLaughlin

    Grade: C+


    New villain "The Electrocutioner" is killing convicts who escape the justice system on technicalities. Inevitably, he and Batman have the struggle where the bad guy laments fighting Batman since they're on the same side, and Batman harshly proclaims that he and a vigilante who kills are nothing alike. The story feels like it's been done to death in the pages of Batman. That, combined with a lot more plot holes than usual, made this a difficult read. However, there were a few positives:

    1. I've always loved Fleischer's sensational style of writing. An example: "With every nerve-ending in his body torn by soul-numbing pain, Batman nevertheless manages to summon forth his last remaining vestige of courage and strength." It's almost as if the words create their own images, conveying visuals that conventional art can't portray. Unfortunately, some of Fleischer's non-intensive interpersonal exchanges are lacking. Much of the dialogue between Bruce and Dick out of costume feels a bit hokey, which is unfortunate since their big conflict continues and explodes this issue. Incidentally, the cover to the last issue finally applies at the end of this one.

    2. I'm relatively sure that whoever penciled page 12 was neither Irv Novick nor Frank McLaughlin because it was...good. Strong, expressive shadows, dramatic angles, and a clever panel arrangement. Perhaps it was an uncredited fill-in by Don Newton or Steve Mitchell who do the B story for this issue and seem to match the style there. I believe I've seen Mitchell's work in these pages before and wasn't all that impressed. I don't know much about Don Newton, though. Wasn't he a veteran of the Golden Age like Novick? If so, maybe all this awesomeness really is due to Mitchell. Whatever the case, for a moment, this story got so much cooler.


    "Wolf in the Fold"
    Writer: Mike W. Barr
    Art: Don Newton and Steve Mitchell

    grade: A-


    As mentioned above, the art in this backup story was astounding. Great use of shadows, panel arrangements, framing/perspective, facial expressions, etc. The story was adequate, in which Batman and Gordon try to expose a frame from within the police force, but the art was such a treat that it almost didn't matter.

    One nice touch in the story: Batman's refusal to ever pick up a gun is presented as a psychological phobia. He literally cannot do it. I wonder if this approach was ever been used prior or has been since.

  13. #28
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    Batman #332

    The Lazarus Affair, Chapter One: Fallout!
    Script - Marv Wolfman
    Art: Irv Novick and Frank McLaughlin

    Grade: C+

    On the one hand, this should be darned exciting. To the best of my knowledge, while there have been a few "to be continued"s in the past, this is the beginning of Batman's first ever multi-part story arc (or does the Untold Legend of the Batman count first?). Anyway, what should have been the beginning of something amazing feels like nothing more than a rush job to wipe the slate clean of anything Wein had left there from his run. The Gregorian Falstaff saga comes to a close way too quickly and with far too little logic as a man who was once a subtle and patient rival now commands a band of mutates, is in league with Ras Al Ghul's organization, and dares to have his guys swing first when Batman comes knocking. A rival with this much potential should not have been reduced to a foolishly incapable middle man, accidentally killing himself by the issue's close. However, having Catwoman rush to the rescue in time to see Talia kissing Batman was a very nice touch. Still, wasn't she just getting over Bruce Wayne...not Batman?

    Once again, the cover had nothing to do with this story and probably pertains to something coming down the line. It seems like Wolfman is getting ahead of himself in this story and then impatiently working through the steps to get to where his mind is. Gregarian Falstaff deserved better than this.


    Cat's Paw
    script: Marv Wolfman
    art: Don Newton and Steve Mitchell

    Grade: C

    Catwoman pursues Falstaff's men, ultimately believing that Talia was controlling Falstaff and everyone below him. This seems to be confirmed at the end as Talia watches suspiciously from the shadows. The art was nice, but this was an unnecessary backup story. We already suspected as much.


    EDIT: Completely forgot to mention the Hostess ad in this issue in which the Flash fights a villain called the "Bureauc-Rat". He shoots red tape out of a special gun. I swear I'm not making this up.

  14. #29
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    Batman #333

    The Lazarus Affair, Part 2: The China Syndrome
    script: Marv Wolfman
    Art: Irv Novack and Frank McLaughlin

    Grade: C+


    The action finally gets moving in this issue. While tracking leads from Gregorian Falstaff, Batman infiltrates an ingeniously conceived crime bank where villains and organized crime can stow their assets. His escape down a snowy mountain while pursued by minions with lasers on rocket skies is a lot more exciting and less silly than it sounds. As he and Talia move through China, we also get some fascinating information about China, its political relationship with Hong Kong, and the flight of illegal immigrants along the way. We also see Bruce finally welcoming "comfort" from Talia, which surprised the heck out of me.

    I do have two complaints with this story, though. The first (and most significant) is that it isn't developing fast enough. We're already halfway through this four part story, and it's still just Batman and Talia chasing leads. There have been no exciting revelations nor turns of events as of yet. In fact, whatever was depicted on the cover of the previous issue still hasn't happened yet. This story is moving way too slowly.

    The second (and more stickler-ish objection) is that some of Batman and Talia's last minute escape tactics don't seem to make any sense. They draw away a band of hungry sharks by shooting one, assuming the others will be attracted to the blood. That works with humans, but are sharks really cannibals? Sillier still, they create a decoy using clothes and ping pong balls. Okay, I concede that they were probably carrying extra clothing with them, but where the heck did they get enough pingpong balls to fill the entire volume of a human decoy? They were swimming in the middle of the ocean, not hanging out at the local Wal-Mart.


    Shanghaied
    script: Marv Wolfman
    Art: Irv Novick and John Celardo

    Grade: C-

    Not sure I'm enjoying this Robin and Catwoman teamup, particularly when Robin keeps proving to be woefully inexperienced in comparison to her. It's like teaming up with your father's trashy ex-girlfriend that you never really liked in the first place and then looking like an utter chump in front of her at every opportunity. Awkward to the max.

    Weirder still is the fact that Robin seems so thoroughly inept while Wolfman is writing him as the frontman for the Titans at the same time. If he didn't learn enough about being a hero from Batman after all this time, he's certainly not going to pick it up by hanging around Selena.

    There were a few plot holes in this story too, especially in Selena seeking out an old associate that she screwed over without expecting revenge, and the former associate then choosing to kill her and Robin by injecting them with a ridiculous amount of cocaine when a bullet to the head would be faster and far less expensive. Perhaps he was trying to be ironic since Selena's whole reason for opposing him was a hatred of drugs, but Wolfman fails to point out such a thing.

  15. #30
    Run Runner shaxper's Avatar
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    Batman 334 and 335: The Lazarus Affair p.3 and 4
    Writer: Marv Wolfman
    Art: Irv Novick and Frank McLaughlin

    The story definitely picks up with the introduction of Ras Al Ghul. I have not read any of his previous appearances, so I don't know how similar or different Wolfman's treatment is, but he certainly presents Ras as an intriguing, powerful, almost Doctor Doom-like cunning, brazen villain who seems absolutely eligible for arch-enemy status (in some ways, moreso than the Joker). His final struggle with Batman was absolutely epic.

    However, the plot itself still struck me as being relatively unimpressive (even when they gave us Prisoner-era bubbles of doom), and their were many elements of the plot that simply made no sense. For example, as Ras and Batman were fighting to the death, Ras informed Batman that his minions were already on their way to attack Wayne Enterprises. Where did that plot point end up going? I guess you could argue that they were on their way when the island exploded and killed them all, but then how did Robin, Catwoman, and Faraday manage to liberate nearly all of the beaten, tired slaves from the island, having started the exodus AFTER Ras had already revealed his plan of action? It's just totally nonsensical. Killing Ras should not magically cause all the things he put into motion to come to a screeching halt.

    Also, won't Talia suddenly age into a carcass in only a matter of seconds again without her father to help her? She says she's looking forward to aging at the end of the issue, but what she's describing sounds like a far slower and more natural process. I'm confused.

    Still can't stand Novick and McLaughlin's art. It took away so much from the action and drama of this story.

    Anyway, the excitement level of this story was fun, even when the story wasn't, and I'm glad to see Bruce and Dick repairing their relationship at the end of it, as well.

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