"The Many Deaths of Batman, Chapter Two: How Many Times Can A Batman Die?"
writer: John Byrne
pencils: Jim Aparo
inks: Mike DeCarlo
letters: John Costanza
colors: Adrienne Roy
asst. editor: Dan Raspler
editor: Denny O'Neil
creator: Bob Kane
Not much of an issue. Byrne and Aparo alternate advancing the plot of this uninspired who-dunnit with visual misdirection and playing with more striking visuals that aren't aided by captions. A little fun to read, but nothing particularly remarkable.
This issue marks the introduction of an unnamed assistant coroner who goes on to assist Gordon in cracking this case. I don't know if anything ever becomes of this character, but Byrne is certainly invested in her.
We get more overt statements about how close the relationship is between Gordon and Batman, though no mention that it's strained here.
What's up with the unnamed French villainess Batman spent half of this issue pursuing? She's never named and doesn't seem integral to the story at all.
Important to note that, while earlier post-Crisis Batman stories worked hard to present Bruce's public face as that of an idle and detestable playboy, Gordon knows him best as:
"...the man who turned the Wayne Foundation into one of the finest charitable institutions in this country...the man whom anyone will tell you is one of the finest citizens in Gotham..."
And, sure enough, when Gordon visits Bruce later in the story, there's no attempt to claim he was out partying the night before (even though he does explain he got back late) or to present himself as idle and obnoxious. He presents himself confidently, respectfully, and in a dignified way. This seems to be consistent with his depiction Pre-Crisis. Too bad there's no Lucius now, though.
If I recall correctly, all of the victims will turn out to be people who helped train Batman, thus delivering O'Neil's promise that both this story and "Blind Justice" would shed light on the training Bruce undertook to become Batman. Working under that assumption, here are the people we've learned about in this issue who assisted in Batman's training:
Mark Jenner -- Expert Driver
? Stone -- Demolition Expert (why would Bruce need this?)
? Kingsley -- Chemistry Whiz (I guess Bruce needed to supplement what he learned in College, depicted in Detective #574).
? La Salle -- Body Builder
Peter Allison -- Actor
Gordon claims that each of these men were at the peak of their careers 7 or 8 years ago. I don't know if Byrne means to imply that Batman has only been active for that long. O'Neil seemed to be thinking 10 years at this point (and said as much on several occasions), and my own timeline has Bruce in at least year 12.
The letters column for this issue turned up a few interesting curiosities:
- O'Neil describes his understanding of Year Three (to be released in the Summer) as "contrasting a younger Batman three years into his crime fighting career with the more bitter and avenging Batman of today." While there was a past/present contrast in that story, I remember it being centered almost entirely upon Dick, not Bruce. Funny that O'Neil doesn't mention Robin at all there. Maybe he was trying to keep people from guessing correctly about what he says next.
- However, O'Neil does say, ""Next issue I'll be announcing another major event in the life of Batman, which will begin in Batman #440. You guys are in for some exciting surprises." Looks like they already had Robin III well planned at this point, even though Jason's only been gone for five months. It's well documented that Warner Bros. was furious that Robin had been killed, so I guess they were in a rush to bring in a replacement, especially now that the upcoming film would be drawing so much new attention to the book.
The plot synopsis in one ridiculously long sentence: Batman is chasing a cloaked antagonist across a rooftop, the two fall into the ocean, police dredge up a dead Batman 6 hours later, the asst. coroner on the scene gets involved, it turns out that all four dead "Batmen" were experts in their fields, Peter Allison is killed next, it turns out that the real Batman caught the antagonist he was chasing at the beginning, turns her into the French police, and discovers what's been happening in Gotham, Gordon and the asst. coroner show up in time to see victim #6 die, the asst. coroner suspects Bruce Wayne (who was implicated as the possible next target), they visit Bruce, he receives a costume in the mail, careful investigation causes it to release acid and melt, and victim #7 appears to be killed by a snake.
Not a great issue, but nothing particularly wrong with it either.