Wednesday, November 21, 2018

MB36: Batman #361

Batman #361 (July 1983)
cover: Ed Hannigan & Dick Giordano (signed)
title: "The Most Successful Species!"
writer: Doug Moench
penciller: Don Newton
inker: Pablo Marcos
letterer: Philip Felix
colorist: Adrienne Roy
editor: Len Wein 

After a one-page summary of the events from Detective Comics #527 regarding the craziness of Man-Bat and the kidnapping of Jason Todd, we move from the Batcave to somewhere else. Man-Bat is holding Jason in a church tower. Jason struggles free, leaps onto the church-bell rope,and rings it.
Citizens outside the church hear the bell ringing in the middle of the night and call the police. It also wakes Man-Bat up; he yells at Jason about turning on his "new father." The police arrive and in their search for the "vandal" shine their flash-lights in Man-Bat's eyes. He flies off with Jason, swooping down on them and scaring them. They fire at him but only manage to hit the next-door gas station, causing it to explode.

Some 23 minutes later, Batman arrives to learn that it was Man-Bat, and that he did have Jason with him. Batman then heads off to see Francine Langstrom.

Francine tells Batman that Kirk was so intent on his new museum display that he probably forgot to take the Man-Bat antidote. Batman also learns that Kirk was working on a display for bat gestation and their care for their young.
Somewhere else, Man-Bat has Jason tied up again. He tells Jason that he's going to shoot him full of bat extract and turn him into a younger version of himself. Unfortunately, Man-Bat doesn't have enough bats to make the serum, so he heads out into the night to collect some more "friends."
At 3 AM Bruce Wayne calls his would-be girl-friend Vicki Vale asking for a special favor. Meanwhile, Alfred thinks he sees Man-Bat out in the night by the Batcave collecting more bats.
At the Gotham Museum of Natural History, Batman sends the night watchman away on a coffee break so as to keep him out of the fight as Man-Bat attacks. They fight in the main hall of the museum, and Man-Bat thinks he has drowned Batman in the fountain. Of course, he shed his cape and swam out the other end of the fountain.
Man-Bat returns to Jason and begins to make more bat extract, telling Jason that Batman is dead. Batman has found Kirk's office and realized that Man-Bat is in the basement. As Jason works frantically to free himself, Francine and their daughter, Rebecca, suddenly appear to Man-Bat.
Then Batman himself appears, too, driving Man-Bat crazy. He bursts through the glass window between the rooms, and the fight is on. As they fight, Jason finally manages to free himself. He causes a distraction to Man-Bat, which allows Batman to knock him out. He administers the antidote, causing Man-Bat to revert to Kirk Langstrom. Jason turns on the lights and finds that "Francine" and "Rebecca" were just life-sized cardboard cutouts, and their voices were on a tape recorder. Jason tells Batman that this adventure proves that he should be Batman's new partner.
Later that morning Bruce calls Vicki to thank her for the quick photography work, and to cancel their date so that he can take Jason to the movies.    

This is my least favorite story so far, out of 36 versions. I put off reviewing it for so long, in fact, that I missed my self-established monthly deadline for the first time. This review was supposed to be in November, but with all the other things that was happening and the lack of enthusiasm I have for this story, I allowed myself to be late.
So big I'm Sorry to every other Man-Bat Fan out there for missing my deadline. I hope it won't happen again!
As for this story.....clearly Man-Bat is now firmly in the FOE column. He is sick, and dangerous. His plot to alter Jason Todd into Boy-Bat is just creepy to the extreme. And the idea that Kirk is turning into Man-Bat because he isn't taking some heretofore un-needed antidote....every time I read that page I get angry.
Speaking of being angry, the whole conclusion is OH so convenient. How did Batman know that getting blow-up photos and a tape recorder would help? Or more importantly, how they could have been set up? If Kirk was in one large room this whole staging would have been impossible.
Jason gets some good scenes in this story as he was inching towards becoming the new Robin, but the menace of Man-Bat is just too predictable and sad to keep my interest. Besides, we knew that Jason wouldn't turn into Boy-Bat, right? I mean, I was pretty sure Jason would be the new Robin so he wouldn't be killed or permanently scarred. So the drama here is basically false.
And 30 years detached from the Bruce Wayne-Vicki Vale romance (?) I find it odd that Batman needed her to create large blow-ups of Francine and Rebecca. Batman doesn't have a printer in the batcave?
As for the art, I am a fan of Don Newton. I like his Batman and I like his Man-Bat. That page where Kirk thinks he sees Francine, Rebecca, and Batman staring out at him is fantastic.
On the other hand, in that last panel on that last page I reprinted above all I can see is Jason's butt cheeks. A little bit TOO much detail there, Don (or was it Pablo?) Don't look, because you'll never be able to NOT see how Jason has his hands in his back pockets. ;-) 

Man-Bat Trivia Notes:  
  • The cover blurb is "Madness Means The Man-Bat," which is probably a better title for this story.  
  • Alfred is shown to be drinking Earl Grey tea.
This story has not yet been reprinted. 
Man-Bat was created by Frank Robbins and Neal Adams

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