Friday, October 28, 2016

Batman #351 (1982)


Batman #351 (September, 1982)
"What Stalks the Gotham Night?"
"Gentlemen Defer Blondes"
Writers - Gerry Conway & Bruce Jones
Pencillers - Gene Colan & Adrian Gonzales
Inker - Tony DeZuniga
Letterers - Ben Oda & Janice Chiang
Colorists - Adrienne Roy & Tom Ziuko
Editor - Dick Giordano
Cover Price: $0.60

Our senses-shattering... and soul-saving conclusion!

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We open on a close up of Batman, fangs bared.  There's either some very thick cuaguly blood dripping from his open maw, or this Vampiri-ness has given him a messed up tongue to match his teeth.  We turn and get his point of view... he is watching his young ward Dick Grayson escort his on-again off-again Vicki Vale back to her apartment.


Dick gets a bit grabby, and lunges in to get a Vampiri "love bite" in on her neck.  He is distracted, however, by the shadow of the bat projected onto the building.  This gives Vicki enough time to pull away and tell him to cool his jets.  As she disappears into her building, Batman swoops down... reads Dick the riot act, then kayos him with the quickness.


At Wayne Manor, Alfred has prepared some tea... for who, that's anyone's guess.  He is taken completely off guard in finding Bruce Wayne sitting at the kitchen table reading the paper.  Why, that's not Bruce... that's Christopher Chance... the Human Target!  He was evidently hired by Wayne to impersonate him some time back.  He tears off his Bruce Wayne face mask, which seems like quite a waste... I'm pretty sure, all things considered, Alfred would have taken him at his word.  Anyhoo, he appears to be applying for the gig of saving Wayne from being murdered.  Okey dokey.


Before they can go much further, Alfred is alerted via a blinking light on the telephone that Master Bruce... the real Master Bruce is in need of him.  He rushes to the Batcave to find Batman carrying a konked out Dick Grayson.  They strap Dick to a table, and Batman takes a sample of his blood.  Not to go too far off subject, but Alfred didn't know Bruce way home... and wasn't expecting a visit from Chance, does he just walk around Wayne Manor carrying a tea service all day?


Anyhoo, Alfred pops out for a second and places a call to St. Jude's Hospital.  He feels it's finally time to take Father Green up on his offer of soul-salvaging.


We briefly shift scenes, to follow up on Bard and Gordon, Private Investigators as they pop in on Squeeze, the photographer from last issue.  He tries to play dumb, but Gordon doesn't let him slide... they know his style, and they know he's wrapped up in the photo-doctoring... or something.  As an aside, I really like the idea of Jim Gordon as a Private Eye.  I think it's a fun way to explore his pursuit of justice, outside the auspices of the GCPD.  This is something I'd love to see go down today.


Back at Wayne Manor, Father Green arrives and is escorted in by Alfred.  Christopher Chase (whose first name I keep misspelling... even though it's the same as mine) looks on, and decides there may just be more about this Wayne and Pennyworth than meets the eye... and he's gonna stick around until he gets to the bottom of it.


Father Green is led into the Batcave... and this is pre-Crisis, so he may have been one of the few folks in the DC Universe not to have already stepped foot there.  He gives Batman the spoo on the Vampiri, and as luck would have it, he knows how to end the curse.  They will need a blood sample from the man who passed it on, they need the Blood of DuBois.  That sounds like a Civil War era romance novel, no?


And so, Batman and Green head out... with Father Green riding shotgun in the Batmobile.  They arrive at Dala's place, she is apparently DuBois' sister.  I think I mistook her for her 19th century wife last issue... he did refer to her as "dearest", which is not something I've ever called (or been called by) a sibling.  They ask for his whereabouts, and she just laughs at them.  Off-panel, she tells them where to go... like seriously, her brother is hanging out at an old church.  Not too cliche, eh?  Batman decides to enter alone, as this whole ordeal has been made personal to him.  What he finds is a few desecrated graves and people strapped and bleeding out from upside-down crucifixes!


Suddenly DuBois pounces in.  He and the Batman roll around for a bit.  The screaming alerts Father Green, who decides to, cross-in-hand, enter the structure... where he gets jumped by Dala!


From here, and this is funny to say... things get comic-booky.  Batman punches DuBois... and then punches Dala.  Father Green pulls out is hypodermic, and retrieves the sample they require... Batman is all but cured.


This story wraps up with Vicki Vale rifling through her filing cabinet.  Just so happens she wanted to gaze into her photos of Bruce Wayne and Batman on this fine evening.  We shift to the actual whereabouts of the photos, as Boss Thorne has hired a very dangerous man to eliminate Wayne.


Our Catwoman backup picks up where it left off last issue.  She's "hangin' in there" as a man holds a gun on her.  She uses her cape (remember Catwoman used to wear a cape?  Weird) to swipe his gun, knowing that he's beat... the man pulls her up.  We learn that the man is Paul Henning of the F.B.I. and has no interest in harming Selina.


He spills the beans on the dead girl from earlier.  Her full name was Candy Carole, but before that she was Pam Powell... gotta hand it to her for keeping the alliteration up!  She found herself wrapped up in a bank heist at the behest of her husband Dwight... who had a bad case of bettin'-it-on-the-ponies.


After their new start in Cleveland as the Caroles, Dwight... now Roscoe got back into the betting game, and wound up running into a Jake Marley... a lot of baddies are called Marley around now.  Anyhoo, dude ran up his tab... and the baddies wanted their pound of flesh.  Somehow they mistook a brunette with her hair tucked into her hat as a bubbly blonde, and abducted Selina Kyle instead of Candy.  Well, to be fair... in the art, what hair that is sticking out of her hat is yellow.  Honest mistake...


Paul asks Catwoman if she can help him get his hands on Candy's safety deposit box using her most excellent Candy Carole cosplay.  She's down with it, and so they head to the bank... only to find the deposit box... empty!


As luck would have it, Jake Marley followed Candy into the bank!  He calls out to her, but she ducks away to throw on her Catwoman duds... she returns and, quite shockingly does not jump headfirst into his midsection... instead she wallops him with a flying kick.


The banker suddenly realizes that Candy's husband Roscoe was in a few hours earlier to empty the deposit box... yeah, that's kind of important information to be sitting on Mr. Banker.  How could you forget something like that?  Weird.  Anyhoo, now with the knowledge of who's got the loot... Catwoman knows that it's likely all going to be spent at the races... and so, we're off to 'em!  Wouldn'tcha know it, there's ol' Roscoe!  Upon seeing Catwoman he drops the dosh, and runs onto the track... directly into the path of a half-dozen speeding horses.  Wonk wonk wonkkkk...


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Well, that was anticlimactic, wasn't it?

Not that I was expecting some huge game-changer of a conclusion... but this treated the whole thing like an afterthought.  We get upwards of 60-pages of build... two-panels of "alright then... here's your cure, Batman!", then rush to start the pay-off for a subplot with an appearance of Deadshot.  Can't help but feel let down here.

The whole story so far was tense and creepy, but it ends with DuBois and Dala getting socked in the mush.  "Sock" is literally the sound effect used when Batman bops Dala.  As there was no follow-up on what Batman did with Marley last issue, I guess we have to assume that he did, in fact, feed off another human being.  So Batman killed a dude... I guess?  Or turned him into a Vampiri?  Dunno, maybe this is eventually picked-up later down the line.

Anyhoo... just a bit disappointed with this one.  Was hoping there would be more to it than just "go to the baddie's place and punch 'em".  There are a lot of positives here, for instance... I am glad they kept Dick Grayson in this, as I feared he may just be presumed-to-be-cured and that this whole affair would just never be addressed again.  The photo subplot(s) received follow-up, and we get this odd wrinkle of the Human Target sniffing around Wayne Manor.  There is more than enough to keep a reader interested, engaged, and wanting to follow Batman and Detective Comics.  I guess, I just would've liked the main story to get a bit more in the way of closure.

To close, I suppose I should temper my disappointment a bit... this was a great issue that did end as a "to be continued" after all... albeit for one of the subplots.  There is a lot going on here, and a lot to like... this is from a time when subplots carried stories forward, and as such there weren't always "clean breaks" that would fit neatly into a collected edition.  Hell, for all I know this storyline still looms large in the background for a bit.  Guess I'm gonna have to dig through the ol' longboxes eventually to find out.

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