Batman #598 (2002)

Batman #598 (February, 2002)
“Santa Klaus is Coming to Town!”
Writer – Ed Brubaker
Pencils – Scott McDaniel
Inks – Andy Owens
Colors – Roberta Tewes
Separations – WildStorm FX
Letters – John Costanza
Associate Editor – Michael Wright
Editor – Bob Schreck
Cover Price: $2.25

Hey remember yesterday when we met Santa Klaus?  Well, we’re just two months later (publishing time), and he’s back… just in time for Christmas, even!

Unfortunately, all of DC’s books that shipped in December, 2001 were part of a weird “cover theme” month… and so, we’re robbed of a fun Holiday cover.  Not the biggest fan of this (or any) cover-theme, but it’s far better than that month during the late 90’s where it was just close-ups on a hero’s face.  Yeesh!

Anyhoo, let’s see what this creep’s got in his sleigh for us good girls and boys!

It’s a week before Christmas, and we open at Wayne Manor.  The man of the house is quite displeased that his bodyguard (Sasha Bordeaux) has found where he keeps all of the Christmas decorations.  He tells her they don’t celebrate the Holidays there, but she ain’t havin’ none of it.  Before Bruce can put up too much more of an argument, he spies the Bat-Signal illuminating the night sky… and he’s off to work in a flash.

We rejoin him, in his work duds, at a Gotham dentist office where he meets Detective Montoya.  She tells him that our new pal Santa Klaus had been brought in for some oral surgery (impacted molars!), and during the procedure, he happened to overtake the surgical team and get away!

Not before killing them though!

Renee brings Batman out into the reception area where he speaks to a couple of survivors: a nurse and a security guard.  They both report that Santa Klaus knew their darkest “naughty” secrets… it was as though he could read their minds… 

We catch up with Klaus as he roams the streets of Gotham, causing all sorts of mischief by telling people the secrets they never want to hear said aloud.  He happens upon a pair of panhandling children who he hires as gun-wielding “elves”.

Back at Wayne Manor, Bruce gets all melancholy staring at Sasha’s Christmas Tree.  He briefly allows himself to think back to a perfect holiday season from his youth, before snapping out of it.

Over the next few days, reports come in about a dude in a Santa costume (flanked by a pair of elves) handing out gifts to naughty men and women.  Those gifts are, naturally, bombs.

Batman is called in to check out the latest bombsite… a bar, where ol’ Klaus just went nuts handing out “gifts” left and right.  A bartender managed to survive the blast, because he chased after “Santa” to try and get a gift for his kid.  That’s when he saw him push the detonator… which blew up the whole joint.  The bartender claims to have overheard Santa Klaus say he now had “ze perfect chance”.

Batman immediately assumes this means that the baddie is going to bomb Gothafeller Center… er, Gotham Square.  And, sure enough, Klaus and Company are present and accounted for… and handing out gifts!

Santa tries handing a gift to one man in particular, who turns it down on account’a he’s Jewish.  This causes Klaus to fly into a rage… how dare he refuse one of his gifts!  Luckily, the ruckus caused is enough to tip Batman and the GCPD off on his location!

Batman has the GCPD comb the crowd for “gifts” while he gives chase to Klaus.  As he follows, Batman accidentally knocks a fella down.  Unfortunately, that fella was smoking a cigarette… which rolled right under the giant Gotham Square Christmas Tree!  Before we know it, the whole thing has gone up in flames.  They probably should’ve refilled the water reservoir!

During the struggle, Santa himself winds up engulfed.  Using his cape, Batman manages to put out the fire… and Santa Klaus’s “season of giving” comes to a close.

We wrap up back in the Batcave, where Sasha has brought Bruce his Christmas gift.  He sheepishly tells her that he didn’t get her anything.  She’s not surprised.  Bruce unwraps the present, and is shocked that it’s just what he had wanted (we readers don’t get to see what’s in the box…).  The pair retire to the not-cavey part of the Manor to watch some Christmas movies, and we’re outta here.

Well, that’s more like it, eh?

While I’m certainly a “Christmas all year long” type’a dude, it’s definitely better to see ol’ Santa Klaus as close to the actual Holiday as possible.

Thing of it is, there ain’t all that much more to say about him, right?  We know from yesterday’s piece that he’s going to punish all of the “bad” boys and girls… only this time around we get the added wrinkle that he might be able to read minds?  Does that mean he knows about Batman’s secrets?  That kinda ups the ante, dunnit?  Guess it’s a moot point though… dude went down pretty easy.

I’m not sure we’ve discussed Sasha yet on the blog… I thought she was a pretty fun character, and that she added a bunch to the bat-books around this time.  I had a buddy I worked with who was positively obsessed with her, for whatever reason… kept asking me questions about her, at a time when she only had all of five appearances.

I appreciated how she could go from all-business bodyguard, to a sorta perky, sorta charming pain in Bruce’s butt.  I hated it when she got sucked into the post-Infinite Crisis Checkmate book, because that book be boring, my friends.

I’m not sure if this is a complaint or not… but, I’m really wondering what Sasha’s gift to Bruce was.  It’s been… jeez, 16-17 years since I read any of this… so I don’t know if it was ever followed up on, or was just meant to be a nice “moment” between the two.  I’m pretty sure many readers were convinced that there was going to be a long and tangled romance between the two… and thought maybe this was going to be the start of it.

Of course, that’s not the case… the following month will see Batman: The 10-Cent Adventure, which rolls right into the several months-long Bruce Wayne: Murderer/Fugitive storyline… which, I’m now kinda getting an itch to revisit.

Overall… this was a good read.  If you’re a sucker for Christmas books like I am, this one’s a no-brainer.  If you wanna see some Moonlighting-esque awkwardness and contention between Bruce and Sasha… you’ll probably dig this one as well.  This issue is available digitally.

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On the Ninth Day of Christmas on Infinite Earths, I gave to you, Batman #598, Batman #596Flash (vol.5) #17,Batman and the Outsiders #31Captain Atom #13Scooby-Doo! #139Superman #369Impulse #34, and a Flash (vol.2) #73 Discussion and Review.


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