Batman #336: "While the Bat's Away..."
Plot: Bob Rozakis
Script: Roy Thomas
Art: Jose Garcia-Lopez and Frank McLaughlin
Fascinating read! With the conclusion of The Lazarus Affair, Marv Wolfman is gone from the title, and Rozakis and Thomas fill in with this issue. Essentially, as Batman is recovering from the Lazarus Affair (he had a punctured lung, a broken rib, and was seriously burnt, as I recall) an old villain called The Monarch of Menace steps in and claims to be keeping Batman prisoner, accepting tribute from gullible low level villains to keep Batman off the streets so that they can commit crimes. The story is written well enough, though there are a few silly moments and lapses in logic, and Jose Garcia-Lopez's art is a WONDERFUL breath of fresh air in this comic. Where the heck was he during the Lazarus Affair??
However, what truly sets this issue apart and impressed the heck out of me was Levitz' contribution as editor.
Yes, I've whined and railed against him in this thread so many times as he's compromised artistic vision in order to insert campy villains but, with this final story (Levitz hands over the editing duties to Dick Giordano next issue) he finally pulled it all off here. Here's a full list of all the awesomeness he executed as editor on this final issue:
- Appropriate references to Alfred's actions in the current issues of Detective Comics, which pique interest without confusing readers who haven't touched those issues.
- An entire issue dealing with the fallout of the previous storyline. For once, there are continuity-based consequences for getting your ass handed to you in a fight, even if you ended up winning.
- A heavy continuity that still has a solid footing in events that have been transpiring over the past two years, beginning with the emergence of Gregor Falstaff back during Wein's run on the book. All of that could have easily gone away with the culmination of The Lazarus Affair.
- An entire rogue's gallery of one-shot bit villains (some of which haven't been seen for almost fifteen years) who would still be operating in Gotham and waiting for an opportunity like Batman's disappearance to spring back into action.
All in all, this is a watershed moment for comic book editors everywhere. I'm damn impressed at how carefully Levitz weaves all of this Bat Office continuity together so appropriately and unobtrusively into one issue.
This seems to be the first time that the Bat Office is really and truly paying attention to and utilizing its own continuity. I find that damn exciting.