Detective Comics 549 (April 1985)

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It’s a nice issue overall.

The feature has Moench, Broderick and Smith doing a Harvey Bullock issue. Moench plays it mostly for laughs, then goes deeper–showing the “real” Bullock–and then giving him a difficult conflict to resolve.

And manages to get in a big fight scene for him and Batman (teaming up against thugs, not against each other). Moench does well with the regular life stuff in Gotham City. It’s a relief not to have to get through his odd Bruce stuff.

But the real kicker is the Green Arrow backup from “guest” writer Alan Moore. I put “guest” in quotation marks because it doesn’t resemble the Cavalieri stories. Actually, the discussion of regular life calls back to the feature.

It’s just Ollie and Dinah out on patrol, with great art from Klaus Janson, and some setup of the story arc’s villain. Moore comes up with excellent stuff.

B+ 

CREDITS

Doctor Harvey and Mr. Bullock; writer, Doug Moench; penciller, Pat Broderick; inker, Bob Smith; colorist, Adrienne Roy; letterer, Ben Oda. Green Arrow, Night Olympics, Part One; writer, Alan Moore; artist, Klaus Janson; letterer, Todd Klein. Editor, Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.

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Detective Comics 548 (March 1985)

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So Moench finds an interesting way to move past all the Jason Todd adoption stuff. He forgets about it. Oh, he mentions it a bunch, especially in the opening scene with Jason eating a snack in the kitchen with Bruce and Alfred. But the character relationships are all different now. There’s banter, there’s teasing Batman about his love life. Maybe Moench decided things had to change with Pat Broderick coming on as the penciller.

And Broderick does a fun job. His figures are sometimes off, but he’s got lots of enthusiasm, lots of energy. His expressions are fantastic too. He and Moench are playing it all a little tongue in cheek, which doesn’t work for Vicki and Julia (or Alfred talking about his daughter as an easy catch for Bruce), but it’s definitely amusing.

As for the Green Arrow backup… Cavalieri gets in a couple good twists. Nice art too.

B 

CREDITS

Beasts A-Prowl; writer, Doug Moench; penciller, Gene Colan; inker, Bob Smith; colorist, Adrienne Roy; letterer, Ben Oda. Green Arrow, Clash Reunion III: Vengeance is Mine!; writer, Joey Cavalieri; penciller, Jerome Moore; inker, Bruce D. Patterson; colorist, Jeanine Casey; letterer, Ben Lappan. Editor, Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.

Detective Comics 546 (January 1985)

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From the start, it’s kind of clear Colan’s rushing on the art. Pretty much everyone looks like Dracula, from villainous Mayor Hill to angry little Jason Todd. Hill’s plotting, Jason’s being mean to adoptive mom, Nocturna, as they’re out for an evening walk.

In the meantime, Batman’s on the run from the cops, who don’t look like Dracula just because Colan and inker Smith draw them all really fat.

Moench writes a hurried story, really pulling on the heartstrings for the Nocturna subplot. He’s got a lot of balls in the air–her, the corrupt mayor, Bruce’s love life–and none of the threads are particularly interesting. Doesn’t help Bruce and Jason get the lightest characterization.

Then in the Green Arrow backup, Ollie goes to his high school reunion and fights a guy in what apparently becomes the Vigilante costume. The art, from Jerome Moore and Bruce Patterson, is good.

CREDITS

Hill’s Descent; writer, Doug Moench; penciller, Gene Colan; inker, Bob Smith; colorist, Adrienne Roy. Green Arrow, Clash Reunion; writer, Joey Cavalieri; penciller, Jerome Moore; inker, Bruce Patterson; colorist, Jeanine Casey. Letterer, Ben Oda; editor, Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.

Detective Comics 545 (December 1984)

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This issue has some beautiful art from Gene Colan and Bob Smith in the feature and then Shawn McManus in the backup, but it’s a disaster otherwise.

Moench spends most of the feature with his really lame character, the Night-slayer. Basically the guy’s just a standard acrobatic, costumed villain who carried on with Nocturna (his step-sister) and he’s injured and a blind girl takes care of him.

Does it seem like Bride of Frankenstein a little? Yes, it really does. See, better, the blind girl thinks he’s Batman.

As for Batman, he doesn’t get much of a story. Moench wastes over half the issue on Night-slayer and then ends it abruptly.

Just as abruptly as Cavalieri ends the Green Arrow backup, with someone finding out Ollie’s secret identity.

There’s not enough pages in either story for a satisfactory narrative; the wonderful art makes up for it… somewhat.

CREDITS

By Darkness Masked; writer, Doug Moench; penciller, Gene Colan; inker, Bob Smith; colorist, Adrienne Roy; letterer, Ben Oda. Green Arrow, It’s No Fair II: Fair Raid; writer, Joey Cavalieri; artist, Shawn McManus; colorist, Jeanine Casey; letterer, Adam Kubert. Editor, Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.

Detective Comics 542 (September 1984)

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It says something when Moench’s got more character in two or three dialogue interchanges between Jason and Alfred’s daughter–they don’t like each other or something–than in a bunch of lengthy conversations between Batman and Robin. Family services takes Jason Todd away because Bruce Wayne neglected the legal process.

Yeah, right. Seems unlikely, especially when he tells the Wayne Foundation board they exist to do his bidding. It’s a megalomaniac scene and just shows how little Moench has to say about the character. The supporting cast? The villains? Moench does great. Batman? Not so much. Not at all.

If it weren’t for the moody artwork, there wouldn’t even be a point to having Batman and Robin show up in the comic. Everything else is better.

In the feature, anyway, because there’s nothing worse than the Green Arrow backup. Cavalieri introduces so many new character names, it story’s almost incomprehensible.

CREDITS

Between Two Nights; writer, Doug Moench; penciller, Gene Colan; inker, Bob Smith; colorist, Adrienne Roy; letterer, Ben Oda. Green Arrow, The Nightfly II: The Turn of an Unfriendly Card ; writer, Joey Cavalieri; penciller, Shawn McManus; inker, Sal Trapani; colorist, Jeanine Casey; letterer, Bob Lappan. Editor, Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.

Detective Comics 541 (August 1984)

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It’s a strange issue with Batman chasing the Penguin down to Antarctica to stop him from selling military secrets to the Russians. Moench throws in a couple twists, both of them vaguely amusing, but they come after his two instances of Batman overcoming impossible odds to succeed. They aren’t as amusing after Moench’s sapped all the suspense from the comic.

There’s a little with the subplots–family services is after Jason, Vicki Vale has an unwanted suitor–but I don’t think Bruce Wayne even makes an appearance this issue. I should have been keeping track of how often Moench gave him a scene.

The art’s decent. The Antarctic setting isn’t much, however; it’s not Colan’s fault, Moench just doesn’t have much good action for it.

Speaking of bad action, the Green Arrow backup is inane again. Worse, there aren’t even the now regular three excellent McManus panels. It’s a drag.

CREDITS

C–C-Cold!; writer, Doug Moench; penciller, Gene Colan; inker, Bob Smith; colorist, Adrienne Roy; letterer, Ben Oda. Green Arrow, The Nightfly; writer, Joey Cavalieri; penciller, Shawn McManus; inker, Sal Trapani; colorist, Jeanine Casey; letterer, Bob Lappan. Editor, Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.

Detective Comics 540 (July 1984)

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There’s something off about Colan’s layouts for the feature story. Moench splits it between Batman and Robin for the first half–Batman dealing with his Scarecrow-induced fears, Robin dealing with the Scarecrow himself–and it’s a busy issue. Somehow, it’s too busy for Colan, who doesn’t use panels but lets everything melt together. It gets muddled fast.

Still, lovely art. Just not great narrative art.

The story’s all action. Moench only spends a page on a subplot–the Dr. Fang one–and doesn’t even do much interaction between Batman and Robin or Batman and Scarecrow. Robin gets some decent face-off time with the Scarecrow though.

The end’s too sudden but it’s an okay enough story. Muddled or not, Colan and Smith draw creepy well.

McManus has a few excellent panels on the Green Arrow backup but the story’s pretty lame. Cavalieri’s big reveal is both predictable and confusing.

CREDITS

Something Scary; writer, Doug Moench; penciller, Gene Colan; inker, Bob Smith; colorist, Adrienne Roy; letterer, Ben Oda. Green Arrow, In Cold Type!; writer, Joey Cavalieri; penciller, Shawn McManus; inker, Sal Trapani; colorist, Shelley Eiber; letterer, Bob Lappan. Editor, Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.

Detective Comics 539 (June 1984)

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Bob Smith inking Don Newton is something to see. There’s almost an Eisner-like quality to the faces. It’s beautiful art on the feature.

But Moench’s writing is awesome too, whether it’s the main plot line with Batman teaming up with the Rocky stand-in to hunt down a killer or Jason feeling bad he was so crappy to Alfred’s daughter. Moench actually asks a bit of the reader–Vicki Vale figures in, but she hasn’t even had an appearance recently–but the scenes pay off.

The big boxing finale is only okay, however. Something about the way Batman stands down doesn’t play right. The epilogue’s very strong though. Moench’s trying hard to do something special with the comic.

Sadly, slapped on to this ambition is another odd Cavalieri’s Green Arrow backup. Half of this one is dedicated to the evils of corporate journalism. Cavalieri just can’t make Ollie likable.

CREDITS

Boxing; writer, Doug Moench; penciller, Don Newton; inker, Bob Smith; colorist, Adrienne Roy. Green Arrow, The Devil You Don’t Know; writer, Joey Cavalieri; penciller, Shawn McManus; inker, Sal Trapani; colorist, Jeanine Casey. Letterer, Ben Oda; editor, Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.

Detective Comics 538 (May 1984)

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It’s a strange issue and not just because the feature’s incredibly boring. It’s a sting operation where Batman follows the new Catman–who is the new Catman because the old one sold out his cellmate and Batman and Gordon let this new guy become Catman–to make sure he gets safely to his hidden loot. Robin and Gordon follow Batman to clean up any further messes.

It probably could be good, but Moench focuses way too much on the annoying new Catman guy. Besides his grating thought clouds, the issue is mostly just awkward banter from Robin and Gordon.

It’s a goofy story; Moench’s trying way too hard to force two parters between this series and Batman.

But the wackiest thing is Cavalieri’s Green Arrow backup. It’s an ode to John Lennon. It’s not particularly good, but Cavalieri really tries hard to make it work. The weirdness helps it along.

CREDITS

Clothes Make the Cat(man); writer, Doug Moench; penciller, Gene Colan; inker, Bob Smith; colorist, Adrienne Roy; letterer, Ben Oda. Green Arrow, Three Years Ago Today; writer, Joey Cavalieri; penciller, Shawn McManus; inker, Pablo Marcos; colorist, Jeanine Casey; letterer, Albert De Guzman. Editor, Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.

Detective Comics 537 (April 1984)

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Quick observation about the Green Arrow backup before I forget–McManus has some great panels. Not all of them, not consistently, but he has some amazing close-ups.

The feature story has Batman getting called down to the sewer by a Mexican immigrant. Moench goes for this sensitive story about a guy without a country or a present; once again, Batman is barely a character in his own book but Moench makes it work. The writing isn’t perfect, but it reads sincere and ambitious.

Of course, given the guy called Batman down because he found a body, eventually things lead to an action sequence. Colan and Smith do better on everything than they do on the action scene. Maybe the sewer setting.

The subplots–Dr. Fang, Alfred’s daughter–both get some page time too.

Moench’s doing very well. Even the Arrow backup is better than usual. It’s a good issue.

CREDITS

Down Below; writer, Doug Moench; penciller, Gene Colan; inker, Bob Smith; colorist, Adrienne Roy; letterer, Ben Oda. Green Arrow, Strike First!; writer, Joey Cavalieri; artist, Shawn McManus; colorist, Jeanine Casey; letterer, Bob Lappan. Editor, Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.

Detective Comics 536 (March 1984)

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Much of the issue consists of Alfred whining to his daughter about being the only father she has left. Yes, the poor woman is distraught, but it’s like Moench couldn’t come up with anything else for Alfred to do. Whine or be an action hero.

Similarly, Batman doesn’t have much to do. Moench doesn’t let Alfred have the whole story–because Alfred couldn’t deal with Deadshot–but he can’t insert Batman into it because he plum doesn’t belong. It should be Alfred’s story and it isn’t.

The mystery of the stolen paintings also gets ignored for Deadshot’s big escape sequence and the chase. Moench’s not exactly desperate to fill pages, but he definitely doesn’t have enough story when both Batman and Deadshot are unengaged participants.

The Green Arrow story ends with a big movie mystery reveal of the villain. Cavalieri has some goofy lines, but it’s much better than usual.

CREDITS

Facing the Dark, Blindly…; writer, Doug Moench; penciller, Gene Colan; inker, Bob Smith; colorist, Adrienne Roy; letterer, Ben Oda. Green Arrow, The Black Box IV: Short Fuse; writer, Joey Cavalieri; penciller, Shawn McManus; inker, Sal Trapani; colorist, Nansi Hoolahan; letterer, Bob Lappan. Editor, Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.

Detective Comics 535 (February 1984)

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Doug Moench has two subplots going; it’s hard to say if one’s a B and the other’s a C, or if they’re both equally weighted. There’s a new crime boss in Gotham, at least Bullock thinks so and Gordon disagrees. Moench likes playing the two off each other quite a bit.

Then there’s his Alfred and his daughter intrigue subplot. That one I assume will eventually involve Batman.

As for Batman, he’s got a beat-up Robin to deal with and that whole thing turns out to be a setup for a plot twist. Moench’s very aware he’s dealing with a limited amount of time–he immediately references how long Jason Todd has been Robin, giving the issue a sense of urgency.

It’s hard to see where it’s going in some ways, in other ways it’s obvious. But it’s sturdy stuff.

Awful Green Arrow backup though; really… just awful.

CREDITS

One Hole in a Quilt of Madness; writer, Doug Moench; penciller, Gene Colan; inker, Bob Smith; colorist, Adrienne Roy; letterer, Ben Oda. Green Arrow, The Black Box III: On the Cheap; writer, Joey Cavalieri; artist, Shawn McManus; colorist, Nansi Hoolahan; letterer, Bob Lappan. Editors, Nicola Cuti and Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.

The Night Force 8 (March 1983)

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Wolfman splits the issue–an “epilogue” to the first arc (which is really just the last chapter) and then the beginning of a new arc.

None of the regular cast appear in the second story, except Baron Winters, and it seems like Wolfman made the readers suffer through his bad characterizations for nothing. It’s additionally frustrating because second story is engaging. The writing isn’t great–Wolfman overcooks the narration–but it’s okay.

Actually, even the first story isn’t too bad. There’s still Winters and his fear of big government (it’s amazing how seriously Wolfman takes himself), but the storyline wraps up with a nice tidy bow and an amusing finish.

Colan’s art is a lot stronger on the second story than the first, maybe because there’s actual mood and action. The art’s decidedly okay.

I wonder if Wolfman split the issue to force readers to buy into the next arc.

The Night Force 7 (February 1983)

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Marv Wolfman’s understanding of the American legal system is amazing. Baron Winters escapes arrest because his lawyer says they have a restraining order against the cops who are questioning him.

Not sure that tactic is possible.

It’s a really lazy issue of Night Force, both for Wolfman and Colan. Wolfman has a bunch of terrible dialogue exchanges from a demon and then his protagonist reporter guy. But the demon’s dialogue is almost all monologue, which takes up a lot of pages. And the demon is just a shadowy red figure in an otherwise yellow sky. So Colan didn’t have to do any work and the colorist did it all.

Very lazy.

The issue’s action is often incomprehensible. Wolfman writes some more James Bond action scenes and Colan’s lost illustrating them.

It’s not just the action, however. The art is often poorly paced or confusing.

The series’s dearth of quality resumes.

The Night Force 6 (January 1983)

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Night Force quickly plummets from its high point last issue. Wolfman splits the story into two parts–one in Russia, which plays like Raiders of the Lost Ark again, and the other in Maryland, with Baron Winters playing hide and seek in his house.

Now, Wolfman clearly thinks he’s being subtle in his writing–though his bad English is sometimes hilarious, since he’s trying to be so writerly–but it’s pretty obvious Baron Winters can’t leave the house. Wolfman’s been hinting at it for maybe three issues (maybe six) and he’s never just explained it. It’s not an interesting detail. The idea Winters might strand all the cops in medieval France so they get the Plague? More interesting.

Colan puts some work into the art this issue. The first four pages have better art, technically, than the rest of the series so far in total.

At least it reads fast.

The Night Force 5 (December 1982)

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This issue of Night Force should be the pits. I mean, it opens with a Russian science fortress. Why Wolfman–who’d been working with Colan for almost ten years at that point–would give him a boring Russian fortress to draw is beyond understanding. Colan and Smith do a competent job, but it’s excruciatingly dull.

And then there’s more stuff with Baron Winters being scared of the cops and Wolfman relies heavily on evil Soviets so he doesn’t have to write actual characters….

And there’s a lengthy bromance sequence between the white guy and the Blade stand-in as they cross the Siberian wastes.

But it’s somehow the best issue of the series. Wolfman doesn’t try to hide anything. The bad Soviet scientist just explains it all and then action plays out. There’s no work for the reader, which is good, because Night Force isn’t worth it.

It’s nearly okay.

The Night Force 4 (November 1982)

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Between the evil German guy and the light show at the end of the issue, it’s like Wolfman doesn’t even care he’s being obvious in a Raiders of the Lost Ark rip-off. Maybe, at the time, being so obvious was meant as homage.

There’s actually one really cool idea, easily the best of the series so far. The good guys have this book to help them on their quest and it changes to fill in details. Or something. Whatever it does, it’s the best thing Wolfman’s come up with.

On the stupid side, Baron Winters is scared of cops. Wolfman really doesn’t think anything through.
At least he doesn’t bother with a bad hard cliffhanger this issue. It’s a soft, dumb one, which is a–in Night Force terms–far better.

Colan’s got some fabulous artwork though, as there’s a lot of supernatural nonsense. He excels at drawing it.

The Night Force 3 (October 1982)

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Well, Wolfman certainly didn’t try too hard with this issue’s cliffhanger. The good guys are about to be run over by a boat, or whatever that situation is called. For a comic book about the supernatural, most of Wolfman’s Night Force action is pedestrian. And when it is supernatural… the scenes never last very long.

This issue opens with Baron Winters talking to his pet tiger. The tiger (or leopard) doesn’t respond, which makes Winters sound like some kind of a lunatic. The comic would have been a lot better if the pet were just some doped up wild animal and Winters was a rich nutcase.

Sadly, that turn of events is unlikely.

The only amusing part of the comic is the black guy looking different than in the last couple issues.

Wolfman’s recycling the action set pieces (this issue ends with the first issue’s opening one). It’s a bore.

The Night Force 2 (September 1982)

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The second issue is a little better. Colan’s art isn’t as concentrated on creating Tomb of Dracula stand-ins and Wolfman doesn’t have anywhere near as much exposition. Plus, Baron Winter has a far reduced presence, which seems to help.

But Wolfman does have his “hero,” reporter Jack Gold, knock boots with a twenty year-old girl whose spent her life in institutions. Sure, the “Blade as college professor” guy is upset about it for those reasons, but the reader’s supposed to sympathize with Gold.

Hey, wait a second, if Wolfman’s got me remembering characters names, I guess he’s doing something right.

Something, but not a lot.

There’s still a lot of undefined supernatural nonsense and a mystery villain or two. Wolfman’s trying too hard and flopping, which seems like a shame given the Colan art.

But it’s possible the series could improve… But it’s got a steep climb ahead.

The Night Force 1 (August 1982)

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It’s all so mysterious! Marv Wolfman finishes the issue with a letter to readers, maybe to convince them they haven’t just read a knock-off of Tomb of Dracula. Damage control, I guess.

Wolfman isn’t doing too much of a rip-off, I suppose, he’s just setting Gene Colan up with Dracula-like situations and characters. Whether it’s the white dude or Blade or Dracula himself, there are visual analogs galore in The Night Force. There just isn’t a lot of content. The issue goes on forever setting up the characters, but they’re all weak. Whether it’s the divorced reporter who’s down on his luck (but drives a Porsche) or the scientist working for the Pentagon, Wolfman doesn’t introduce anything original. He does try to be grown-up–the issue opens with talk of open marriages–but it comes off desperate.

It’s a cash grab and not a good one.

Detective Comics 533 (December 1983)

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It’s an issue of inappropriate inking. Smith is so reductive on Colan’s Batman inks, the story loses any visceral impact. Instead, it becomes almost academic–seeing where Colan’s pencils have been too diluted for a page to work. The layouts are still fantastic, but not the finished art.

Moench resolves his Gordon storyline–while still stoking the Jason and Bruce one (and no one misses Alfred, which is strange)–and it’s a flop. It’s like no one told Moench Barbara Gordon was also Batgirl. And Moench attempts at inspirational flop painfully. It doesn’t help he’s got a bunch of hackneyed thugs out of a forties comic.

Still, great Colan layouts.

Then there’s the Green Arrow backup. Truly lame writing from Cavalieri can’t overshadow the odd art. Chuck Patton is a boring, superhero penciller. But Shawn McManus inks him, adding a lot of McManus lines. The story’s artistically interesting, if terrible.

Detective Comics 532 (November 1983)

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Bob Smith is not the best inker for Colan. He reigns him in way too much. There’s still some great Colan panel layouts this issue though and his Joker has to be seen. Colan’s Joker is hideous with insanity, an awkwardly lump figure, not the usual anorexic. Every Joker panel is great in some way or another.

Moench’s story involves the Joker wanting to start a rival to Disneyland. It’s too absurd and contrived, but the art sells it and Moench’s writing of Batman and the Joker is strong. The humor’s good too. Moench has some good jokes here, especially those involving the Joker.

Alfred’s subplot is revealed and, once again, Moench seems to be rehabbing Harvey Bullock. Both are still too undeveloped to make much impression.

The Green Arrow back-up again has decent enough Moore art, but Cavalieri’s banter is terrible. The seven pages can’t end soon enough.

Detective Comics 500 (March 1981)

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For issue 500, DC went with something rather celebratory for Detective Comics–it’s very oversized (84 pages) and has many Detective Comics regulars–back to Slam Bradley–making appearances.

The opening Batman story, from Alan Brennert and Dick Giordano, is fantastic one about Batman going Earth-3 to save his parents. It’s a great, touching story. I love it. I’ve probably read it, in one place or another, like ten times.

The rest is mostly a mess. Len Wein’s Bradley story is atrociously written, the Mike W. Barr Elongated Man story is flat–the Hawkman story does have some beautiful Joe Kubert artwork and a nice Martian Manhunter cameo (he doesn’t appear otherwise).

The final story, by Cary Bates and Carmine Infantino, featuring Batman and Deadman, is a total mess.

I couldn’t get through Walter Gibson’s prose story.

But it’s worth it for the opener alone and it’s well-intentioned.

CREDITS

To Kill a Legend; writer, Alan Brennert; artist, Dick Giordano; colorist, Adrienne Roy; letterer, John Costanza. The “Too Many Cooks … ” Caper!; writer, Len Wein; artist, Jim Aparo; colorist, Tatjana Wood. The Final Mystery of Edgar Allen Poe!; writer, Mike W. Barr; artist, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez; colorist, Wood; letterer, Costanza. The Batman Encounters – Gray Face; writer, Walter Gibson; artist, Thomas Yeates. The Strange Death of Doctor Erdel; writer, Paul Levitz; artist, Joe Kubert; colorist, Wood; letterer, Adam Kubert. What Happens When a Batman Dies?; writer, Cary Bates; penciller, Carmine Infantino; inker, Bob Smith; colorist, Roy; letterer, Costanza. Editor, Levitz; publisher, DC Comics.

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