Wednesday, October 24, 2018

MB35: Detective Comics #527

Detective Comics #527 (June 1983)
cover: Gene Day (signed)
title: "Avatars of Vengeance!"
writer: Doug Moench
penciller: Dan Day
inker: Pablo Marcos
letterer: Ben Oda
colorist: Adrienne Roy
editor: Len Wein 

At the Gotham Museum of Natural History, Kirk Langstrom is working late again on the Nocturnal Mammals exhibit. On his way home he suddenly remembers that he has not taken the Man-Bat antidote in more than a week.
Pre-dawn, Batman checks with Commissioner Gordon regarding whether the body of the missing and presumed dead Savage Skull has appeared. Because it has not, Mayor Hill is still putting pressure on Commissioner Gordon to find it.
At Wayne Manor, Jason Todd asks Bruce to go out to the movies. So Bruce calls Vicki Vale and breaks a date with her to go out with Jason.
At City Hall, Mayor Hill argues with Commissioner Gordon. He tells him that he is naming an assistant to Gordon whether Gordon likes it or not.

That night Jason gets ready to go to the movies. Bruce wakes up from his day-long nap just as Man-Bat flies into the Bat-Cave. As Bruce and Jason are about to head out Man-Bat breaks into Wayne Manor via the Bat-Cave looking for Batman. Alfred tries to scare him away, but Bruce changes into Batman to fight him.
Jason wants to help, but Alfred tries to hold him back. Jason kicks Alfred in the shin to escape, saying that Bruce is like a father to him. Man-Bat overhears this, and grabs Jason before he can really place any blows. He tells Batman that he is going to kill Jason for vengeance because Man-Bat thinks Batman killed his daughter, Rebecca.

As Man-Bat flies off, Batman goes a bit crazy himself, threatening to kill Man-Bat at the first chance he gets.

This is another odd story in Man-Bat's collected appearances. The last time we saw Kirk Langstrom he was presumably giving up on being Man-Bat. That was, literally,  the last time we saw him. Now he is not only back in Gotham, but he is back at the Gotham Museum of Natural History. It sounds like he got his old job back. Perhaps Bruce Wayne pulled some strings? That seems fine, I guess, although it sort of goes against what Kirk himself said when he moved to Chicago and New York City at the beginning of his solo adventures. It would have been nice to have a throw-away line here to say, "I'm glad we decided to return to Gotham" or something.

What is more annoying for me, especially re-reading these Man-Bat appearances in chronological order all in a row as I am, is that Man-Bat seems to have regressed. His obsession with getting revenge because he thinks his daughter is dead is exactly what Gerry Conway did two years ago with the character. Is this an episode of new editor new writer recycled story idea? It didn't work for me when Gerry Conway and Gene Colan did it, so I'm not really loving it now, either. The title bothers me, "Avatar of Vengeance." In my opinion this is just wrong. Batman isn't an avatar of vengeance....justice, maybe, but not vengeance. And neither is he has nothing to avenge!

And that ending; I just hate it. Batman doesn't go crazy, and he doesn't kill. Period.

The improvement over the previous version of this story is the art. I definitely prefer the art this time to the very uneven Gene Colan stuff from Batman #348. Penciller Dan Day is not great at some of his expressions (his Alfred looks silly) but his layouts are great. Did you notice the page that is designed like a bat (reprinted above); it's very clever and well-done. Check out the vertical panel-with-several-horizontal-panels layout that he used three times in this story. I reprinted two of them, because this third example (page 12) is just dull. I think he went to that well once too often. The fight scene staged on three tiers over two pages works much better. And check out his very stylistic splash page. It's clearly the best page of the story.
Dan Day did not do any more Batman or Man-Bat stories. I'm not sure why he got this issue, but I do know that he is the younger brother of Gene Day, who did the cover. Gene Day had become very well-known as the artist on Marvel's Master of Kung-Fu. In 1982 he had signed a contract with DC and was excited to take over as one of the regular Batman artists. Unfortunately, this cover is one of the only things he finished before he died of a heart attack on September 23, 1982. Perhaps Dan offered to step in and do the issue to meet the deadline or to honor his brother? In an homage to his brother, Dan Day included his cover scene in the story (see reprinted page 5 above). He also put a Shang-Chi poster on the wall in Jason's room (see reprinted page 9 above). 

Man-Bat Trivia Notes:  
  • The story continues from Batman #360 and will continue into Batman #361. 
  • The back-up story in this issue stars Green Arrow by Joey Cavalieri, Paris Cullins, and Pablo Marcos. Green Arrow battles a new criminal called Ozone. Because the Man-Bat story is continued in the next issue of Batman, instead of Detective, I have no idea how Green Arrow saves himself from Ozone's attempt to kill him.  
This story has not been reprinted. 
Man-Bat was created by Frank Robbins and Neal Adams

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