Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Detective Comics #576 (1987)

Detective Comics #576 (July, 1987)
"Batman, Year Two - Chapter Two: Deal With the Devil"
Writer - Mike W. Barr
Penciller - Todd McFarlane
Inker - Alfredo Alcala
Letterer - Agustin Mas
Colorist - Adrienne Roy
Editor - Denny O'Neil
Cover Price: $0.75

When I first started this blog, one of the ways in which I wanted to categorize my posts was by year of publication.  It's allowed me an at-a-glace look at which eras I may be neglecting... or just which ones I prefer talking about.  Well... of almost 350 discussions, this is the 34th that covers a book released in not just an era... but a single year, 1987 (second place is a tie between 1984 and 1986 with 18 posts each).  I guess that's why it's getting tough to find unique ads in some of these!  

Only years I haven't discussed since 1965 are 1967, 1970, 1979, and 2015.  That might be something I need to rectify before we hit our big anniversary at the end of the month.


As we open the Gotham City Police Department is preparing for a (peaceful) prison delivery for new inmate "Big" Willie Golonka.  He is surrounded by officers in full riot gear to ensure his safe passage.  Suddenly, they are alerted to a sniper atop a nearby building who opens fire... and so. the officers fire back.  They perforate the "sniper" but good... and yet he continues to blast away.  Turns out our gunman was a machine!  In the distraction... the Reaper strikes!  He blows several holes in Golonka... then turns his attention to the police force, seeing them as part of the problem for trying to protect the scumbag in the first place!

The Reaper steals the armored rig Gotham's Finest were planning on making their delivery with and escapes.  Commissioner Gordon checks in with Lieutenant Bukowski and gets a run down on the casualties... when we shift scenes to the Batcave.  Bruce is doing a bit of target practice with the gun that killed his parents some 25 (25?) years earlier.  He is a sharpshooter despite not having fired a gun in quite some time... but, ya know... he's Batman.  Being good at stuff is kind of his thing.

Bruce heads upstairs for a donut breakfast, and runs into Dr. Thompkins.  She wants to keep an eye on him since he's become fond of guns so suddenly.  She also mentions that she is going to have to cancel her lunchdate with Ms. Caspian, and asks Alfred to make the call.  Bruce stops him, as he intends to make the date himself.  I gotta mention, Bruce makes the most demented face here... I'm a big Todd fan... but this is perhaps the most scared I've ever been of Batman.

Speaking of Ms. Caspian... we meet up with her as she is admiring her nun outfit.  She is joined by her father... who we know is the bad-ass Reaper.  It's here that we get a bit of backstory on the Caspian family.  It happened some years back... Rachel and her parents were heading home from a Zorro film the circus.  They come across a man robbing their house... who opens fire... hitting both of Rachel's parents.  Pearls fall everywhere Rachel lets go of her balloon.

Next thing we know, we're at the funeral for Rachel's mother.  Her father, who we now know bears the name "Judson", is in a wheelchair.  The Priest giving the service refers to him having been "cut down in the prime of life", so I think we are to assume that he was supposed to be confined to the wheelchair... perhaps for life.  We return to the present, and Judson tells his daughter that everything he's ever done has been her her... and her mother.

We stick with Rachel for a bit as she waits for Leslie to arrive for their lunchdate.  Much to her surprise, she gets Bruce instead.  It's a small thing, but worth mentioning... his pants change color several times here.  Anyhoo... they chat about "crusaders", primarily discussing Leslie's devotion to her patients.  This prods Rachel to ask Bruce about his "crusades".  Continuing to be the playboy, Bruce says everything he does is just his way of assuaging boredom.  She keeps pressing... claiming to feel a loneliness inside him... and then... they kiss (or at least embrace).  Umm, final vows anyone?

Later on, we have a scene with Batman and Commissioner Gordon.  Batman feels like there might be a leak in the Police Department that may have tipped the Reaper off to the Big Willie thing.  He departs, but before he leaves he tells Jim that regardless of what's about to happen... he considers him a friend.  He dives out the window, and we get a look at some proto-spaghetti-webbing in the form of his bat-line.

That night, Gordon is leading a group of officers to the tarmac where a Metropolis-based criminal, Johnny Heymer is about to land.  They are hoping to get to him before the Reaper can... and that goes about as well as you might imagine.  The Reaper is johnny on the spot... but so too, is Batman!

Gordon is pleased as pie to see his caped compadre... but he's not prepared for Batman to shoot the gun out of his hand!  Uh-oh... what's all this then?

Now it appears to be a race for Heymer between Batman and Reaper.  Reaper is going all scythe-y on Johnny's henchman... but Batman drop kicks him into the private plane.  He offers Heymer the opportunity to live... and the pair depart with the quickness.  This leaves Gordon and company to deal with the Reaper... but he escapes after blowing up one of the jets fuel tanks.  The commish is ticked.

Shortly, we arrive at the location Heymer was headed to.  Looks like a penny-ante mobster crew... just terribly disorganized, and distrusting of one another.  As they bicker, Batman plops ol' Johnny on the table. 

He lets them know he's not there to arrest anybody... no, he's there to cut a deal.  He wants them all on the same page so they can take down the Reaper... together.  Wait... what?

After sealing the deal... Batman turns and sees one of the hoods he's going to be working alongside... and suddenly the memories flood back.  That man... is Joe Chill.


There's a lot of stuff going on here...

We've got Batman posing as though he's against the Gotham City Police Department... and, I will admit that I haven't read this in well over a decade... I'm not sure if Gordon is "in on it" or not.  I mean, we've got Batman visiting Gordon to assure him that he is his friend right before the apparent betrayal... but, who knows.

Not only is he going against the boys in blue... he's hangin' with the hoods.  Figuring he'd have a better chance against the Reaper if he's got some unsavory backup... Batman attempts to cut a deal.  How very... un-Batman of him, right?  Maybe I've just been reading too much contemporary "smartest guy in the room" Batman for this to feel natural.  What's that thing that's going around now... "Always be yourself, unless you can be Batman" or something like that.  Yeah, that Batman doesn't really jibe with this one.  Though, I suppose this is a far less experienced caped-crusader.

The big reveal here is one of the reasons why this way nyoinked from continuity by the time I was actively following the Bat-books on and off during the 1990's.  Joe Chill as the killer of the Waynes was swept away post-Zero Hour... and it was just a nameless baddie.  At least that's how I'm remembering it anyway.  Popping back into the gestalt of it all... I would imagine that this would've been a huge reveal had I been reading at the time.  Helluva way to leave us hanging!

Speaking of the Waynes... we get to see some parallels between their passing and the murder of the Reaper's wife.  I guess this could be to illustrate how he and Batman aren't necessarily all that different... at least insofar as that moment of profundity that got them started on their paths.  I look forward to seeing if this gets further explored... can't imagine it won't be... but again, it's been a long time since I read this.

One thing about the story... kind of a jerk move for Bruce to try and put the moves on someone about to become a nun, right?  I mean, she's been pretty upfront about it... and yet, Bruce still approaches this like a romance could come of it.  That's not cool... it's also not-Bruce like... least, I don't think it is.

Now... I am a big fan of Todd McFarlane... I'm still buying (and enjoying) Spawn... just always thought his (art) work was top-notch.  Sure, we got some blobby noses here and again... and perhaps a few too many knuckles per finger... but I still love his stuff.  Here however, he wasn't really there yet.  There are some panels here were Bruce looks absolutely demented!  I think the move from Davis to Todd was a bit of a downgrade for this story.  Still, it's always neat to see some early-McFarlane.

Overall... this issue, while perhaps a half-step behind where I'd put the first chapter, achieved its goals of maintaining my interest and making me really want to check out the next issue.  Definitely worth checking out.


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