Detective Comics #595
"Our Man in Havana"
writer: Alan Grant (and John Wagner?)
pencils: Irv Novick
inks: Steve Mitchell
colors: Adrienne Roy
letters: Todd Klein
asst. editor: Dan Raspler
editor: Denny O'Neil
So this issue is an obligatory Invasion tie-in (I'm so glad DC has toned down these tie-ins in recent years), and a phoned-in effort is the result. Breyfogle skipped out on this issue entirely, and after delivering a semi-thoughtful introduction (even though the English teacher in me caught the sloppy parallel structure that I wouldn't normally expect from him) Grant pretty much goes for plot points and easy dialogue with absolutely no creative flare showing anywhere in this story. Alien invasions are an even poorer fit for Grant than they are for Batman (and both he and Maxwell Lord too willingly concede on that latter point in this story).
The truly sad part is that, while Breyfogle is cutting class and Grant is turning in D work he wrote the night before, Irv Novick puts surprising effort into this story. If you've been reading these reviews from the beginning, then you probably know that I absolutely detest Novick's work, yet this issue wasn't bad. It wasn't good, mind you...just not bad. There were maybe two semi-lousy panels in the entire story. I consider that a triumph for Irv. This is probably, in some small part, due to Steve Mitchell's inks, which actually make Novick's Batman look good at times.
This issue also contains DC Bonus Book #11. I honestly can't believe they were still doing these try-out stories. Last time around, both the art and writing were abysmal. This time around, the art is just pretty bad (about a degree below Novick on a normal day), and the writing is truly a joke. Writer Jeff O'Hare literally lost me on panel two, as panel one shows Batman beating up a thug, and panel two says "Meanwhile..." What? We're transitioning to a new scene already? What was the point of showing us the first one?
An honest question: Did DC actually gain any serious talent from any of these bonus books? It seems to me that they only used writers and artists that they already had too many doubts about to place on a regular title.
Really, all that's worth discussing in this issue is Denny O'Neil's initial response to the Jason Todd vote in the letters column, which was strangely absent at the end of Batman #428 (all we got there was a quick note from asst. editor Dan Raspler asserting that he'd voted for Jason to live). There are a few passages in it that are worth discussing:
Cynic that I am, I, and most of the rest of the DC staff, thought our audience would vote negatively if only to see if we'd dare to go through with killing yet another major character."
Yet, in the postscript to the Death in the Family tpb, O'Neil claims that he voted for Jason to live and didn't want him to die. Yet the vote was his idea, and he suspected fans would kill Jason off if given the chance. I suppose it's possible that he put his personal opinions aside for the sake of the fans, but it sure looks like he only claimed to want to save Jason so as not to appear as the bad guy in this situation.
And, at 7:45, it looked like he might make it, with 5,221 for him and 5,259 against. Only 38 calls difference.
There must have been a last-minute surge of Jason-haters. When, at 8:30, I finally spoke to a human being...the final count was 5,271 to 5,343.
An indication of how close the vote really was. I think it's important to bear in mind that, by the end of Batman #427, Starlin had made Jason thoroughly unlikable and unsaveable, had established a running theme that Jason was headed down a path of destruction, and had put him in a situation in which he had no reasonable means of surviving. Starlin really stacked the deck and, additionally, the phone number was only made available to loyal comic book fans buying in direct market shops, not the general masses who would be more likely to prevent a legacy character from dying. With all of that, the end difference was still only 74 votes.
O'Neil goes on to claim that his reasons for doing this were to try out the phone technology and to do something no one had ever done before, yet we know that isn't the whole story. Starlin had been begging for Jason's death for a long while now, and O'Neil himself is far too quick to talk about taking Batman back to his roots and the excitement/unpredictability of separating Batman from Robin after 48 years. Let's also keep in mind that, when Denny was writing Batman, they were solo stories, with Dick away in college. More and more, I'm convinced that O'Neil wanted Robin gone just as much as Starlin did.
The plot synopsis (if you really care): Batman goes to Cuba to fight the invading aliens, he flashes back to turning down Maxwell Lord's request for him to help the Justice League with the invasion (both he and Lord seemed to agree he had no place in a battle against aliens), Batman goes on patrol, a routine robbery results in the victims turning alien weaponry on their attackers, Batman intervenes, they're aliens, he figures out that they were smuggling in alien weapons that had come from Cuba, we flash forward to Batman in Cuba, and he takes down the bad guys and blows up the cigar factory out of which they were shipping the weapons, leaving Batman to wonder how he's going to get home (his helicopter blew up in the beginning).
Worthless story aside from O'Neil's comments in the letters column.