Moench makes an endless amount of strange narrative choices this issue. Only a couple of them are bad, but the rest might go either way.
The lesser bad one is how he handles Poison Ivy’s return. The issue is a direct sequel to her last appearance but there’s no flashback and almost no explanation of the previous events.
The worse bad one is the lame soft cliffhanger. Bruce brings Jason along on patrol and calls him Robin, even though Bruce previously said he couldn’t be called Robin. Big yawn. Moench’s fumbling the pair every issue now. He’s pacing it all wrong.
The strange bits include Bruce’s lack of interest in Alfred’s problems, Gordon’s recovery and the continued presence of Vicki Vale. Moench seems to be building these elements towards more importance, but he’s not giving any hints.
It’s a shame he’s not as effortlessly subtle with Bruce and Jason.
While this issue isn’t bad–the Newton and Alcala artwork is fabulous as always–all the things Moench has been playing fast and loose with build up and collapse here.
The first example is the Joker. Here, Moench’s Joker is a self-aware loon, out to have fun while he kills people and torments Batman. Only he doesn’t really kill anyone so there’s no danger. He’s just acting like a twit… one with a deep understanding of Guatemalan politics.
Next is the whole Jason Todd thing. This issue features Jason Todd in costume, freaking Batman out (because he thought Dick suddenly shrank, apparently) and another argument. There’s an argument every issue between Bruce and Jason about it; Moench’s drug it out way too long at this point.
It’s also unbelievable Jason could leave the country on his own.
However, the two subplots Moench’s been nursing–Gordon and Alfred–are blooming.
Lame cover and predictable villain reveal aside, this issue is pretty good. It’s Batman meets Indiana Jones, with Batman jetting down to South America to save Vicki Vale, who’s on assignment.
Moench takes the time to work on his Bruce and Jason storyline, which is mostly just Bruce giving in on the argument. Though, as he’s Jason’s guardian, it seems odd he should leave him unattended (Alfred’s off on his still unrevealed subplot).
There’s also enough time for some more on the Gordon storyline. And Moench’s trying to make Harvey Bullock sympathetic, but he’s cried wolf too much. It’s impossible to believe. That sequence, which should feature Bruce’s despondence over Gordon’s coma, goes too fast. Moench has trouble juggling the human and superhero elements in the book.
The end, Batman in the jungle, is fine. It’s Newton and Alcala. It’s absurd content, but beautifully illustrated.
The issue works surprisingly well.
In hindsight, there’s not much mystery to Doug Moench’s new villain. He has a limited pool of suspects–though it’s seemingly larger–but his execution of the investigation is so strong it doesn’t matter.
The issue opens with Jason Todd, run off with the old circus, feeling depressed. He’s investigating a series of home invasions in the towns the circus visits. It almost seems like the issue will be his, but Moench contrives to bring Batman in. It’s hard to get upset, because Don Newton and Alfredo Alcala do an amazing job bringing Batman to the circus.
The final half or so of the issue is just a long chase scene. Batman and Jason separately chasing the bad guy. Moench loses track of Jason for a little too long, but it’s a fantastic sequence.
Moench paces out the ending well. He devises a final, unexpected twist and a solid cliffhanger.
Moench gets a lot done this issue. Primarily, he introduces Nocturna (an astronomer turned ghostly pale through radiation and, of course, now a criminal), gets her flirting with Bruce and fighting with Batman. Oh, wait, there’s also the continuing Vicki Vale drama and Jason Todd getting ready to leave since he can’t play Robin.
And more with Bullock and Gordon. Even a passing mention of Gordon’s health problems (but just passing).
What’s even better is how well Moench writes these scenes. He and Newton make Nocturna believable in her hyperbole–she’d be overcompensating to make up for the physical changes. Bruce’s inability to bond with Jason is also salient. Moench’s not spending a lot of time showing his Bruce Wayne, but he is clearly defining the character.
The art’s outstanding. Alcala and Newton jibe here, from the first page it’s masterful.
The issue’s strong. Moench juggles a lot and succeeds.
I was expecting more from the art, with Alfredo Alcala inking Newton this issue. The art’s still good, but Batman’s talking heads scenes with Gordon are off a little. Newton and Alcala position Batman awkwardly in the space.
This issue is a Riddler issue, plain and simple. It opens with Edward Nigma figuring out a good riddle for Batman and Batman dealing with him. Moench is muted when it comes to both exposition and character development. While Bullock’s attack on Gordon’s career continues, there’s zilch about Gordon’s heart condition. I wonder if he just magically got better at some point off page.
As for Batman, there’s a mention of Jason Todd at the beginning, but Moench keeps the story tight. Batman and Gordon are after the Riddler; there’s no time for anything else.
The Riddler’s big riddle isn’t great (it’s lackluster after its first part), but the issue’s still solid.
Here’s the problem with Man-Bat stories. They’re basically all the same (at least in this era). Langstrom screws up, becomes Man-Bat, does something bad but probably not fatal to anyone and then Batman cures him.
The details are different, sure. For example, in this issue, Man-Bat grabs Jason Todd so Bruce is really peeved. But he doesn’t try to kill Man-Bat. He comes around and realizes Langstrom just needs the cure.
The most interesting thing in the issue is the last page, when Gordon gets stuck with Harvey Bullock as an assistant. It’s pre-cartoon Bullock and he’s a real heel. It’s compelling.
As for the rest, the unoriginality can’t compete with Newton. His Man-Bat is both physical and frightening; there are some beautiful action sequences.
Moench’s writing is good too. He relies on exposition a little much, but otherwise he does well.
I can’t tell for sure, but it doesn’t seem like Doug Moench’s thrilled to have Batman saddled with Jason Todd. He writes the kid sympathetically–this issue is set approximately a month after his parents died–but Moench can’t wait to leave him behind at Wayne Manor.
Batman heads off on an urgent case and Jason doesn’t make another appearance.
The issue has a great pace. It opens with a teaser of the villain, moves to the next morning, then the rest of the issue takes place over the day. There’s a lot of Batman in the daylight (so much there’s exposition about how effective he comes off) before Moench tightens up the pace.
The villain’s fairly weak and the C plot with Gordon’s heart troubles is too obvious, but it’s pretty otherwise good. Don Newton comes up with some excellent action layouts and he matches Moench’s procedural pace well.
It’s a gorgeous issue. Newton and Alcala doing Batman’s rogues gallery is possibly an unsurpassable event. Maybe eight pages in, they have this incomparable Joker close-up. DC ought to reprint the issue oversized just so one can really look at it.
But it’s also a really good issue. Besides Jason Todd’s endless thought balloons–not bad, just too many of them–it’s a perfect Batman comic. Conway splits the action–Batman, Talia and Catwoman go one way, Batgirl and Robin go another. They meet at the end with Jason Todd, in a Robin outfit, joining.
Batman with the two women makes for good stuff (oh, Vicki Vale gets dismissed without a thought from Bruce), since they’re all very aware of each other. Similarly, Robin and Batgirl work well as a team.
The end, with Bruce, Dick and Jason Todd, brought a tear to my eye. It’s way too simple, but also undeniably effective.
All My Enemies Against Me!; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, Don Newton; inker, Alfredo Alcala; colorist, Adrienne Roy; letterer, Ben Oda; editors, Nicola Cuti and Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.
Once again, if Bruce, Dick and Alfred weren’t stupid enough to leave the door unlocked with Vicki Vale, Jim Gordon and a bunch of strangers in Wayne Manor, they wouldn’t have to kill Jason Todd’s mom for finding out Bruce is Batman….
Oh, wait, some of that statement is incorrect. I guess they don’t decide to kill her, just Dick is going to talk her into keeping it a secret. Thank goodness she’s going to get killed in an issue or two anyway.
The story is otherwise indistinct. Killer Croc shoots the Squid, which is a sad sendoff for Conway’s Eisner homage, though it’s not like the character worked in a serious setting.
Beautiful art from Newton and Giordano makes it a fine issue… though the ending leaves something to be desired.
The Novick art is better than usual on the Green Arrow backup, which is too silly for words.
Deathgrip; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, Don Newton; inker, Dick Giordano; colorist, Adrienne Roy; letterer, Todd Klein. Mob Rule!, Part Two: Heat of the Moment!; writer, Joey Cavalieri; penciller, Irv Novick; inker, Ron Randall; colorist, Tom Ziuko; letterer, Phil Felix. Editors, Nicola Cuti and Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.
Okay, now I get why Conway’s wasting time with Dick going to the circus–it’s to introduce Jason Todd (pre-Crisis Jason Todd, who has the same origin as Dick, but blond hair).
What’s funny about that story is how out of touch Batman is with the Gotham underworld–Killer Croc (who I don’t think Batman even knows about yet) is shaking down businesses for protection money and it’s off Batman’s radar? Those late nights with Vicki Vale must be taking their toll.
Otherwise, Conway spends the majority of the issue on reintroducing his Eisner homage, the Squid, as Gotham’s new crime boss. It’s strange to see the Newton and Alcala art (which looks more like Gene Colan than Newton with any other inker besides Alcala) realize such a strange-looking villain in an otherwise realistic approach.
The issue’s fine… though, again, Conway’s plot relies on Batman being moronically overconfident.
Squid; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, Don Newton; inker, Alfredo Alcala; colorist, Adrienne Roy; letterer, Ben Oda; editors, Nicola Cuti and Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.
It’s a somewhat anti-climatic end to the Hugo Strange storyline Conway had been working on for… a couple years? Hugo shows up, back from the dead, with an army of androids, and Batman doesn’t bat an eye.
The art is so gorgeous, it doesn’t really matter. I’m not sure if Giordano is my favorite inker for Newton, but he does a great job with it. The issue even has a full page panel, the first I can remember from Newton, and it works… the art makes the story work.
The problem is with the pacing. Conway didn’t develop Strange as a villain, just as a shock guest star. So this issue needs to be beautiful to see, because the story is really just a perfunctory aside.
Though there is Bruce suspecting he’s probably lying to Vicki about his feelings for her. I like Conway acknowledging Bruce’s indecisiveness; it brings humanity.
The Double Life of Hugo Strange; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, Don Newton; inker, Dick Giordano; colorist, Adrienne Roy; letterer, Ben Oda; editors, Nicola Cuti and Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.
So does Conway ever explain why Selina has gone nuts? Nope. He resolves it all in a page–a beautifully illustrated one–where Bruce basically admits he was only taking up with Vicki (who Catwoman hospitalizes early in the issue) because Selina left him.
It’s a very problematic issue because Conway does lots of it well. It’s Batman and Catwoman fighting, but it’s about Bruce and Selina. There’s even some good stuff about Dick changing his mind about Selina and so on.
It’s just too bad Conway couldn’t have incorporated the crime fighting Catwoman backups… and maybe made she and Bruce’s story independent of the Vicki Vale stuff.
The art is mostly excellent, but there are some strange weak points. There’s the whole sequence with Gordon getting his job back… it doesn’t look right. The sublime Alcala inks aren’t there.
The issue ends on a lovely panel, so it gets a pass.
Never Scratch a Cat; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, Don Newton; inker, Alfredo Alcala; colorist, Adrienne Roy; letterer, Ben Oda; editors, Nicola Cuti and Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.
Conway’s starting to wrap up his big storyline and, again, it’s bumpy. He’s got Vicki Vale rushing off to see Bruce–Bruce who hasn’t thought of Vicki since she first showed up two dozen issues ago (she’s been around as a plot twist)–not to mention Hugo Strange showing up at the end, back from the dead.
But the big problem is the resolution of the political situation. It’s Batman versus the cops, round two, and this time the police commissioner can’t shut up about how they need to kill Batman to keep him quiet. Again, pretty sure Batman has someone he could call about corrupt politicians taking over a major metropolitan city and killing people. I don’t know, maybe Superman? Does Batman have Superman’s phone number?
But it’s Newton and Alcala so who cares if the story doesn’t make any sense? From the first page, it’s a visual delight.
Showdown; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, Don Newton; inker, Alfredo Alcala; colorist, Adrienne Roy; letterer, Ben Oda; editors, Carl Gafford and Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.