Batman/Hellboy/Starman #1 (January, 1999)
"Gotham Grey Evil"
Writer - James Robinson
Art - Mike Mignola
Colorist - Matt Hollingsworth
Letterer - Willie Schubert
Editor - Peter Tomasi
Special Thanks - Archie Goodwin
Cover Price: $2.50
They say if you love something you ought to let it go... and if it comes back, yadda yadda yadda. At the risk of projecting, I think we comics enthusiasts have something similar... we see a book that sorta-kinda catches our eye in the shop... buuuuut, we don't quite pull the trigger. We say to ourselves, "if it's there next time... I'll grab it!" Sometimes you get burned... sometimes you get lucky. Such was the case with today's subject.
This two-parter caught my eye in the back-issue bins at a nearby Half-Price Books... and for whatever reason, I didn't seal the deal... I decided if it were still there upon my next visit... well, you know the rest. Anyhoo... that is my excessive and long-winded way of saying... I dunno, Yay for this book!
Was it worth the gamble? Well, let's find out!
We open with helicopters hovering above the Gotham City skyline. Their spotlights are transfixed... on the Joker! It isn't long before Batman is on the scene, and in hot pursuit. A brief rooftop chase concludes when the Joker tosses a disturbingly cute Joker-bomb... causing one hell of an explosion. The pilots consider that the Joker perished in the blast... proving that this must be their first day on the job. Later on Batman meets with Commissioner Gordon and they discuss the clown that got away.
We jump ahead to (perhaps) the following day where the Golden-Age Starman, Ted Knight is about to give a lecture on alternative energies at the behest of one Bruce Wayne. This alternative energy is somehow linked with his cosmic rod... the crowd seems quite into the idea, when...
Nazis arrive! No kidding, this assembly is crashed by a group of magic-wielding Nazi skinheads... that's not something I'd ever expected to type! Anyhoo, Knight does his best to fight them off, but there's only so much an old man can do. Batman enters the fracas, and while he is able to hold his own... he cannot stop the creeps from kidnapping the elder Knight.
Batman continues fighting... and all of the skinheads escape, save one. The baddie looks at the bat... informs him that "It will soon be October", and then self-destructs in a blast of green magical whatzits.
Later that night Batman is summoned to the Gotham City Police Department via the Bat-Signal. Upon arrival, he is informed that it wasn't Jim Gordon that summoned him... it was... Hellboy!
Hellboy had already heard of the Nazi skinhead threat, and feels that they match the description of a group that the B.P.R.D. (Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense) are currently checking out... the Knights of October... and due to his experience dealing with magical threats, he offers Batman a partnership... Batman hems and haws, but ultimately accepts the help.
Batman and Hellboy go about town looking for information... they visit a sort of seer, who tells them to speak with a fella called Giovani. Giovani, a mechanic, tells them they're barking up the wrong tree and they need to check in with Morty Slade. Morty Slade... well, he's their guy. Batman visits his shabby apartment where he is greeted by a frantic Morty wearing his tighty-whiteys... that is to say, his own undies... not Batman's. He attempts to escape through the window by... well, throwing himself through the window. He then climbs the fire escape to the roof where he runs directly into big red.
Morty proves to be an extremely easy nut to crack, and he guides them to an abandoned airstrip outside of Gotham City. The place is swarming with skinheads... which leads to one helluva battle. While the pair of heroes are bustin' skulls, we see a Herr Otto Dantz has loaded Ted Knight into a small plane and is planning on taking him to San Diablo... which, via a quick Google search is quite the flight... all the way to the Marvel Universe, in fact! Okay okay, we'll play along. Anyhoo, he advises a skinhead grunt to fight Batman and Hellboy to the death if he must.... then tells him to use the "Spell of Passage".
The plane starts to take off and Batman throws a bat-line into the landing gear. It looks like it'll be academic from this point, but a passenger on board the craft jumps out onto Batman exclaiming "For October". Batman is knocked loose, and is able to maneuver the suicide jumper to break his fall.
Inside the hangar, several skinheads are standing in a sort of ceremonial circle. They are chanting as one plunges a blade directly through the swastika tattoo on his chest. From it erupts a blast of energy which sends Nazis flying. Hellboy recognizes this as the Spell of Passage, and advises Batman to grab onto something lest he be sucked into it's pull.
Batman tosses a line which wraps around a beam, and grabs Hellboy by the arm as the spell really starts "sucking". They are able to hold on until the portal closes... they now sit alone.
Batman and Hellboy return to Gotham where they meet with Jim Gordon to inform him of the goings on. Batman is interrupted with news that the Joker is at it again... and he'll need to sit this Knights of October mission out. Hellboy is prepared to go it alone, however... that is not necessary. Jack Knight, the current Starman will come along for the ride!
Dang... this was quite good! Somehow Robinson was able to craft a story that would feel completely at home in a Batman... Hellboy... AND Starman book! It's not often these crossovers (especially inter-company ones) can pull this off. It feels completely natural, and not forced in the slightest. Sure, Hellboy's not from the DC Universe... but, who cares? This is some great comics... and we can allow it.
I didn't give it much service during the synopsis... but Batman was really kind of standoffish with Hellboy upon their meeting atop the GCPD. He seemed quite put off at the thought of having to work with him... almost taking it as a blow to his ego. His not knowing the difference between "electricity" and "magic" seemed to really bother him. Having to rely on a subject matter expert really must have put him in his place.
I'd forgotten how likable Hellboy is... he just takes everything in stride here. He's affable and really interested in helping out... even to the point where he gets down on himself for not being as helpful as he'd hoped. It is at this point that Batman seems to become more accepting of his presence.
Not a whole lotta Starman in this issue... just a few pages of the elder, and a cameo of Jack at the end. Looks like next issue will feature far less Batman... so, that's fine... we'll get more Jack next time around.
Overall... this is definitely a story I think folks should seek out. The story and dialogue are top notch... and like I said above, would feel at home in the "native" books of all three participants. The art is some good Mignola... and I really dig some Mignola. It's dark without being moody... it's not line heavy without being simplistic. Just a wonderfully drawn book. His takes on both Batman and Jack Knight are great!
We've got no letters page or ads to look at today, so I will include the full wrap-around cover instead.