Detective Comics #567 (1986)

Detective Comics #567 (October, 1986)
“The Night of Thanks, but No Thanks!”
“The Face of Barricade!”
Writers – Harlan Ellison & Joey Cavalieri
Pencillers – Gene Colan & Stan Woch
Inkers – Bob Smith & Dave Hunt
Letterers – John Costanza & Todd Klein
Colorists – Adrienne Roy & Shelley Eiber
Editor – Len Wein
Cover Price: $0.75

Hmm… if a cover openly proclaims that the story within is “off-beat”, well… you know I’m all in!

Crack the bugger open and see Gene Colan art… well, hell… this is gon’ be good.

It’s an ordinary Gotham night… just minutes past midnight.  Batman is on his nightly patrol and sees an armed individual rushing into a small neighborhood market.  Our man springs into action, however… finds that the shop owner seems to have the matter in hand.  Upon seeing the Batman, the owner asks if he’d contact the police for him.

Forty-Two minutes later, Batman comes across a mugging in an alley.  He rushes to aid the elderly gal getting her pocketbook swiped, however… finds the tough old bird seems to have the matter in hand.  She asks our man to make himself useful… and to go call the police.  And so, Batman makes his second crestfallen walk to the call box.

Thirty-One minutes pass, and Batman spies a potential jumper standing on the ledge of a high-rise building.  Knowing that time is of the essence, he swoops down to make the save.  Catching Batman out of the corner of his eye, the jumper, well… jumps!  Luckily, an officer is able to catch him before he plummets to his death.  Upon noticing Batman, the officer gives him the ol’ thumbs up.

Twenty-Six minutes later, Batman gleefully sees a drug deal going down.  This is pretty funny… after this uneventful eve, he’s actually giddy to see some heads he might be able to crack.  He swoops down… only to gum up the works on a GCPD undercover sting.  Whoops.

Seventeen minutes later, we find Batman sitting on a park bench… before he’s able to drift to sleep (and probably be arrested for vagrancy) he sees a young lady being tailed by three young fellas.  He creeps up behind them to get a better idea what’s going on, only to find that… it was just a boy chasing his girl to apologize for something he’d said earlier.  Batman is visibly disappointed that he didn’t get to break some bones.

Eighteen minutes pass, and Batman happens upon a man trying to enter a parked car via pry-bar.  Batman puffs out his chest, and starts reading the fella the riot act… only to learn that the poor goof accidentally locked his keys in his car.  That is to say, he was breaking into his own vehicle.  Wonk wonk.

At 3:19 AM, Batman sees someone climbing a ladder next to a jewelry store.  I’m getting this picture of Batman was walking around Gotham all night.  Not in the Batmobile… just walking around… and it’s pretty surreal.  Anyhoo, this gimmick is kinda growing tired… the person on the ladder is a repair-person working on the shop’s transformer.  She’s pleased to see Batman though… because she needs someone to hold her flashlight.

Twenty-Two minutes later, Batman finds himself standing before a large oafish man… clearly a “Nightstalking Strangler”, according to Batman.  The “Strangler” is chomping away on a candy bar… and as he passes Batman on the sidewalk, he chucks the wrapper on the ground.  A-ha!  Batman’s finally earning his pay… he shouts at the oaf to pick up his litter!  And he does!

Our night with the Batman ends at Wayne Manor at 4:16 AM.  Alfred delivers Bruce his morning tea, and asks how his night went.  A downtrodden Bruce rests his chin in his hand, and proclaims it to have been the most miserable night of his life… and considering the “bad nights” Bruce has experienced, that sure is saying something!

Our back-up story features Green Arrow, and opens with him fallen at the feet of the skull-faced Barricade!  What a terrible name for a supervillain… it’s like “Get up, Ollie… and face the terror of… Obstruction!”  Anyhoo, ‘Cade expresses to Ollie that they have already met, and proceeds to explain that he was originally the Monk known as Lars.  Lars found the Book of Ages… which, when opened, melted his face off!  Must have had a collection of Millennium in there!  We learn that for as long as Barricade holds the book, the effect would not be permanent.

Off to the side lurks a young woman called Onyx.  She holds the Wisdom Key that Barricade needs to reverse the spell of the Book.  ‘Cade sees her… and turns his attention away from Ollie.  All the while, Ollie is firing arrows at the skull-faced gent… hopeful that he will knock the Book of Ages away from his person.  He is unsuccessful to this point.

While Onyx and Barricade struggle, Black Canary peeks in from a hole in the ceiling.  Onyx tosses the Wisdom Key to her… however, before she can make off with it, Barricade punches the wall… causing her to plummet to the ground below.  The baddie prepares to pounce… and it’s at this moment that Ollie fires off the lucky shot that knocks the Book of Ages from ‘Cade’s person to the ground.

The story wraps with Onyx meeting a fella in the park.  He gives her a key, and she walks away.  Not sure what the significance of this scene was without context, but… that’s that.

This feels like a story that I shouldn’t like, but I’m not gonna lie… as I read this, I must have had the goofiest grin on my face.  It feels out of character for Batman, sure… but, damned if it wasn’t a lot of fun.  I suppose it should also be noted that this issue is the final one with Len Wein as editor… it would fall under Denny O’Neil’s purview with the next issue.  I guess if you’re going to release a Batman story with iffy and a bit off-center characterization, this would be the most appropriate time to do so.  This is probably the final issue of ‘Tec that could be considered pre-Crisis… so why not have some fun with it?

I did a bit of research on this issue, mostly to find out what the “After Fifteen Years” meant in Harlan’s note to Julius Schwartz.  Found out from the Sequential Ellison website that he had promised Julie he’d write a Batman script… and I suppose it took him a decade and a half to “make good”.

In spite of how much fun this silly story was, I will admit that the gimmick wore thin around the third “near miss”.  I think by that point, the cat was out of the bag… and we kinda knew the score.  It was still funny to see, but the law of diminishing returns was certainly in play.  I have very little experience with Mr. Ellison, though I know his name usually carries great weight in science fiction and just writing in general.  While I appreciated the tone and theme of the issue, I gotta say… wasn’t terribly keen on the dialogue.  It felt a bit exaggerated, especially the final panel where he describes that night as the “most miserable of his life”.  I mean, that’s patently ridiculous, but considering the “gag”… ehh, I dunno… still didn’t like that.  Gotta also mention that Gene Colan’s art here is excellent.  Really great stuff here.

This is another issue where the back-up suffers due to the strength of the lead-off story.  Despite my misgivings above, I still really dug “Thanks, but No Thanks.” it’s ending, however, just sorta happens.  Felt like I was just barely passed the staples, and the story I was diggin’ on so much (and getting lost in) just ends… I wasn’t ready for that.  To then go to an inoffensive, but completely unspectacular Green Arrow story… gave me a real deflated feeling.

I can’t say I’ve ever really been a fan of back-ups.  If I had my way, the main story would fill the entire book… but I understand why DC might want to give some page-time to their “second stringers”, so I can’t hold it against them.

Overall… strong, if silly, leading story that I would recommend to all Bat-fans.  This really puts the character, who is far too often portrayed as the “Bat-God” in a new light.  Seeing his frustration, candor, and self depreciating (at times) sense of humor, really worked for me.  It felt like a quite appropriate bridge between the pre and post-Crisis Batman.  The back-up… was a story.  Without context, I cannot really say that it was good or bad.  I’ll say that it bored me, but… again, without context, even the best stories might do the same.  As an overall package, definitely recommended.  It is available digitally.

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