Wednesday, July 18, 2018

MB32: Batman #342

Batman #342 (December 1981)
cover: Denys Cowan & Dick Giordano (signed)
title: "Requiem For A Hero!"
writer: Gerry Conway
penciller: Irv Novick
inker: Frank McLaughlin
letterer: Shelly Leferman
colorist: Adrienne Roy
editor: Dick Giordano 

The story begins just where it ended last issue: Dr. Thirteen has walked down the stairs from Wayne Manor into the Batcave and confronts Man-Bat holding a beaten Batman. Dr. Thirteen takes a moment to compose himself, and then swings at Man-Bat with the only thing he has: his sonar gun.

Man-Bat, more angry than anything, attacks Dr. Thirteen in turn. Batman grabs the fallen sonar gun and turns it on and aims it at Man-Bat. The ultra high frequency sonar pulses hurt Man-Bat's ultra-sensitive hearing. Man-Bat flies off in pain. Batman brings out the wounded Dr. Thirteen to the still waiting Commissioner Gordon.
After they drop Dr. Thirteen off at the hospital, Commissioner Gordon gets angry when Batman doesn't want to give him the details of what occurred in Wayne Manor. Batman knows Gordon is under a lot of stress regarding the upcoming mayoral election: Hamilton Hill is campaigning agains the police department in general and Commissioner Gordon in particular, and Arthur Reeves is campaigning against Batman.

Later that day, Bruce Wayne is worried about Wayne Industries being taken over by Poison Ivy, but due to a mental command of hers he is unable to talk to anyone about the situation.
At Boss Thorne's home, he is upset that "his" man (Reeves) is down in the polls. He then thinks he sees the ghost of Hugo Strange. Unfortunately, Dr. Thirteen is not there to tell him that there's no such thing as ghosts.
Later still Bruce Wayne goes to an apartment in "Crime Alley" and finds Francine and Rebecca Langstrom. Francine tells him that when Rebecca got sick, Kirk blamed Batman for her illness, and that he now hates his old friend. One night recently Kirk mixed a bad potion of the Man-Bat serum and turned into a warped version of Man-Bat. As far as she knows, he has not ever changed back.
That night, Batman goes spelunking in the Batcave. He finds a huge cavern past where he has ever investigated before, and hiding there: Man-Bat!
They fight. Batman manages to get the antidote into Kirk's mouth, but Man-Bat kicks Batman way and flies off.

There is so much I don't like about this story that I hardly know where to begin. Let's start with the ending, though, because I think I could water-down a lot of my distaste for this story if it ended on a high note. Instead, it doesn't really end at all! Although Batman seems to be successful in getting the antidote into Kirk Langstrom, Man-Bat still manages to fly off. There is no conclusion! I'm not necessarily a sucker for happy endings, but any conclusion at all would be better than "The End---For Now!"

After re-reading this story I was reminded that this story fell smack-dab in the middle of the editorial reign of Dick Giordano, who soon began to run the two Batman titles (BATMAN and DETECTIVE COMICS) as if they were the same series. So although a story might start in one title, it might end in another. Which is fine if you know what you're getting into when you purchase a copy. However, the side effect of this dual-series editorial control was that sub-plots would bounce back and forth for what seemed like forever. So in this story we have atleast four sub-plots that, honestly, I can't remember how they ended: 1) the upcoming mayoral election; 2) the attempt by Poison Ivy to take over Wayne Industries; 3) the return of "Boss" Thorne; 4) the potential for Dr. Thirteen to figure out that Bruce Wayne is Batman. And those are all in addition to the one sub-plot we do care about here at Man-Bat Central: the final fate of Kirk Langstrom. Whew, boy!

Speaking of Kirk Langstrom, how odd is it that millionaire Bruce Wayne suddenly shows up at the doorstep of Francine and Rebecca Langstrom, and after having an odd paranoia attack, she then opens up to him and tells him literally EVERYTHING about her husband? Initially I was thinking that she knew he was the Batman, but that is cleared up pretty quickly: she doesn't know. And yet she is hugging a complete (?) stranger and telling him the secrets of her husband with no real care for his secret identity. One more side-note on this scene: if memory serves me, Francine cried on the shoulder of Batman once or twice before. Wouldn't you think that she would put two and two together and realize that she hugged the same body?

And let's hope that Bruce Wayne gave them some money so that they could move out of their crappy apartment.

Anyhoo, this brings me to my biggest complaint about this story, which is the plot contrivance to make Man-Bat into a "monster" at all. He was shown to be slowly learning to hate Batman in his last two appearances (B&B #165 and DCCP #35) but that's a large jump from hating somebody for inaction and then suddenly wanting to kill them. I was hoping that the relationship between Man-Bat and Batman would eventually come to resemble a sort of "little brother-big brother" sibling rivalry; a relationship where they could argue and disagree, but where there would be underlying mutual respect and affection. Now, unfortunately, instead of Man-Bat being closer to "the Hulk" archetype as an ugly, misunderstood  "hero," he seems to be veering off to be closer to "the Lizard" archetype as a  menace. 

Man-Bat Trivia Notes:  
  • Although the cover seems to be symbolize "bats in the belfries," all of the action in the story takes place in the Batcave. 
  • This is the third and last time that artist Irv Novick draws Man-Bat. He had drawn him back in Batman #254 and in the previous installment of this story, in Batman #341
This story has not been reprinted. 
Man-Bat was created by Frank Robbins and Neal Adams

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