Bat Signal

Issue 705 – “Badd Girls”

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Whose ready for some 90’s Batman?! We’ve technically already had a 90’s Batman on here, since that crazy issue with the serial killing librarian was from 1992, but I feel like the ridiculous heights of the decade really didn’t hit until later on, right around this period. Now, I know that there are some people who have a real affinity for comics from the 1990s, but I generally am not one of them. Pretty much every joke you see about 90s comics is completely spot on. The weird focus on being “extreme,” the terrible costume redesigns covered in pouches, the insistent on turning everyone into anti-heroes with flexible moral codes, it’s all pretty accurate, and swirled together to make a perfect storm of comics I that are totally not for me. But Batman is usually a character that people seem to think got spared from a lot of the terribleness of the 90s. I’m not sure if that’s really going to be true, but I guess I’ll get more and more of a picture of how the decade treated the Caped Crusader, because this issue, while certainly not one of the favorites I’ve read for this project, wasn’t as bad as most 90s comics I’ve come across. I mean, check out that cover. The Riddler threatening Batman with a puzzle piece motif is definitely going to give the book a couple bonus points.

The issue starts right off with two women wearing Riddler costumes blasting machine-gun fire from a rooftop. I suppose these are the titular “badd girls,” and I really assumed when I started the issue that I happened to pull a part-two again, but apparently not, this is how things start off. The women go by the nicknames Query and Echo, and they work with the Riddler. The building they’re standing on is a courthouse, and they’re presumably here to spring Riddler out for his latest crime. Bullock and Montoya are pinned behind cars, trying to return fire at the two psychotic women, while Gordon is overseeing the whole operation and getting ready to send the SWAT team in to take them out. But when Batman shows up, ready to take down Riddler when he inevitably escapes, Gordon shoots him down. Apparently Edward Nigma isn’t even in this courthouse, and is actually in the hospital nursing a broken arm that Batman gave him. Which makes the whole break-out that Query and Echo are committing a little confusing.

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Good question Batman! Turns out Query and Echo aren’t just in the wrong place at the wrong time, they’re actually there to spring someone who isn’t Nigma. They’re here for a man named Arthur Brown, a Silver-Age villain who called himself the Cluemaster, and who was basically a low-rent ripoff of the Riddler. So that’s weird. Especially when we see that Brown is just as confused as everyone else when Query and Echo reach him. He has no idea why they’re springing him from the courthouse, and he actually seems to have been rehabilitated, and doesn’t want any part in this escape. But Echo and Query don’t care, and start dragging him out for whatever evil deeds they have planned.

Meanwhile, we cut over to Mercy General Hospital where Edward Nigma is recuperating from surgery to fix his broken arm. The officer in charge of watching him is getting pretty bored, since Nigma is doped out of his mind, and decides to go take a break. Which is apparently just what Nigma wanted. And back on the rooftop that Gordon, Mrs. Gordon,  Batman, and Robin are conferencing on, they’re starting to get suspicious. Batman knows that Riddler always pulls this kind of shit, and assumes that there’s going to be some sort of scam going on, so he cuts out to keep an eye on Riddler while Robin stays with the Gordon’s. Which was a good call, because while he’s heading over Nigma is springing his part of the plan, and getting a shiv out of the cast that’s covering his broken arm. He takes down the policeman guarding him, and gets his gun, forcing the doctor and nurse to help him escape.

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And while the Riddler is busy figuring out a stick-shift while wearing a hospital gown, Gordon has finally authorized the SWAT team to storm Query and Echo, who are approaching he rooftop of the courthouse, with Brown in tow. The SWAT team are taking things cautiously, since they think that Query and Echo have a hostage, but when they finally get out onto the roof and Gordon recognizes their hostage as the Cluemaster, he assumes it actually is a break-out, and authorizes the SWAT guys to take them out. Just like Riddler wanted. Because it’s drawing the officers out onto the roof, which Query and Echo have planted with C4, to cause an even bigger distraction. Luckily Robin realizes that there’s a trap about to be sprung, and swings over to the courthouse roof to warn the SWAT team right before they’re blown up.

Meanwhile, Batman has gotten to the hospital right as Riddler is speeding out of it, and although Batman does his best to stop Riddler, he doesn’t want to get killed by a Yugo, and dives out of the way, letting the villain escape. And since the SWAT team and Robin were busy with the rooftop blowing up, they also let Query, Echo, and Cluemaster escape. Not a great night guys. So they all meet up, realizing that they’e going to have to wait until Riddler or Cluemaster make their next step, because as it stands they have no leads to find the escaped criminals. But we do! Because we cut over to the secret base that Riddler is holed up in, and we see him intimidate Cluemaster. He’s not really mad or anything about Cluemaster stealing his shtick, but he knew that if he made it look like his colleagues were springing another clue-themed villain, the police and Batman would be distracted enough for him to escape. Plus he has an even crazier plan afoot. Which we find out when the police get a letter addressed to Batman, telling him and Robin to come to a random address in a shady part of Gotham. The Dynamic Duo head out to the address, and are shocked to find Cluemaster there, in his costume, with a whole bunch of C4 strapped to him. Riddler is apparently pulling a Die Hard 3, and is going to have Batman and Robin solve a series of riddles, in under 15 minutes, or else Cluemaster and everyone around him is going to be wiped out. Cliffhanger!

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That’s right. For the second time in a row I’ve happened to pick an issue that’s been part-one of a series, so we have no real closure. Just like last week, I’m going to make a bold prediction and say that Batman ends up winning, but the question remains of how he’s going to win, and just how much is he going to beat up the Riddler?

All joking aside though, this was a pretty decent issue. We had Batman doing some police-work, not really doing any deduction though, and it featured my main man, the Riddler. Which seems weird. This is my third Riddler story, and I feel like he wasn’t that prominent of a villain. Maybe I’m wrong, but it seems like the odds weren’t in my favor to have found three different Riddler stories in the handful of installments of this series I’ve done. But I’m not complaining, I love Riddler. Even though this issue didn’t do a whole lot with him. It was mainly an elaborate, Dark Knight-esque escape plan, without Nigma doing any of his trademarked shtick. That’s probably going to be in the next issue of this story, which may take years until I find. But oh well, that’s how this is going to be sometimes. And plot aside, this issue wasn’t that bad from a 90s point of view. I’m really not a fan of the art style that was so prevalent in this decade, really from both of the Big Two companies, and this issue didn’t really do much to dissuade me. And other than the Riddler shiving a police officer, there really wasn’t that much over-the-top grimdark violence that I’ve come to expect from the 90s, so who knows, maybe people are right and Batman managed to more or less escape the constraints of the stupid decade. I don’t think I can really make a real call until I’ve seen more from this time period, but this wasn’t a bad first foray into the weird wild world of DC comics in the 90s.

“Badd Girls” was written by Chuck Dixon and drawn by Graham Nolan, 1997.

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