Bat Signal

Issue 622 – “Dark Genesis!”

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Holy crap everybody. We’ve seen some weird stuff here on Bat Signal. We’ve seen Batman and Robin meet and alien and teach it how to fight crime, we’ve seen a man who could transform into bubbles, we’ve seen the Joker riding an inexplicable giant chicken. But this issue? This may be the weirdest Batman comic I’ve ever read. I mean, just look at that cover. That’s some Dick Sprang nonsense from 1990! What the hell is even happening on that cover? We’ve learned at this point that you can’t always trust the covers, but let me tell you, this cover doesn’t even scratch the surface of the weirdness that this issue gets into. So buckle up folks!

As you probably have guessed, the issue opens up in the pits of hell while the literal devil is climbing out of a river of sulfur. Duh. So Satan pulls himself out of the sulfur pit and starts arguing with a narration box that I assume is God. They bicker for a while, until Satan strikes a deal wherein he can go to Earth and find someone to embody all of his goals and ideals. So Satan heads up to Earth to start finding a disciple. And obviously that means we cut directly to a weird monastery on the side of a cliff in the Himalayan mountains. Once that’s established we see a man climbing the cliff, only to pass out at the monastery’s doorstep. But never fear! Because as soon as our intrepid hero loses consciousness some mysterious people come out and drag him back in. And it’s at this point that I assumed that either I was deep into a story-line and was missing some crucial context, or  this wasn’t actually Batman. And how mistaken I was.

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Some time after being dragged into the monastery the dude who climbed up there is awoken and introduced to the priestess Sing-Cha. She begins chatting with the guy, whose name is Simon Petrarch, and he explains that he’s a former mercenary/spy/assassin who has given up on life and has come to the Himalayas to find his true calling, and he think that this monastery may be the perfect answer. Sing-Cha agrees, and takes him to meet the master.  You guessed it. Satan! Yep, so Satan is chilling in this monastery and he gets to meet Simon and the two strike up a deal. They talk about their mutual interest in justice and killing people, and Satan decides that Simon will be the perfect person to receive his boon, like he was talking about earlier with God.

So Simon dives into the river of sulfur that Satan is hot-tubbing in, and we later see him leaving the monastery with newfound power. Cut to Gotham  city some months later, and Simon is disgusted with the amount of crime and depravity in the city. Which obviously means he’s going to have to put on a bat costume and start killing criminals! That’s right, Simon Petrarch is Batman! And he got his power from Satan!

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Ah! Apparently the whole first third of the comic was literally a comic book that Bruce Wayne is reading in his enormous library. Alfred proceeds to explain just what the hell is going on. Evidently there’s a new comic book sweeping Gotham city that purported to tell the true origin of Batman. Which is kind of genius. I completely believe that if Gotham were a real place all sorts of crazy rumors would be made about who the hell he actually is, and what his deal is. But despite other peoples interest in Batman rumors, Bruce doesn’t really care about this comic books, claiming that he has “better things to do.”

Which is true, because after a brief interlude where we check in on the creepy dude who is writing and drawing this comic in his minuscule apartment in the worst part of Gotham, we see that Batman has been called in to check out a pretty routine murder. But there is a slight wrinkle in the fact that whoever killed the person has painted the word “Batman” on the wall of the alley with the victim’s blood. Which is probably a little suspicious. And that fact is not lost on the scavenging reporters of Gotham, who swarm Batman with crazy questions, like if the killer is a fan of his, or if he did it.

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Yeah, Batman doesn’t have time for this shit. He just walks away from them and drives off to start investigating. But before we check in on Batman’s investigations we cut over to another really interesting side of Gotham and Batman that I don’t think I’ve ever seen. A talk-radio host. Now, the guy is a little Howard Sternish, but he’s taking calls about Batman and the murder, and things gets a little tense when a man calls talking about the murder, and not only does he claim to be the murderer, he also claims he’s Batman. This gets the radio host interested, and he starts trying to get the guy to stay on the line and talk to them. But other than claiming that the story in that comic book from earlier is true and now that the secret is out he should just start killing people, the caller isn’t that coherent and helpful and hangs up.

And while all of that is going on we see Batman running around the city, trying to figure out the murder and stop some crimes in he process. He sees a man trying to mug an old lady, and comes down to beat the mugger up, only to have the woman try to stop him. And why would she try to stop Batman from beating up her mugger? Because she heard that Batman is a killer now, and doesn’t think that things should go that far. So that sucks for Batman. People in Gotham now believe the story of the comic book, and think that he’s some sort of devil-powered criminal-killer. Which is pretty off brand. So Batman does what we all do, and hunkers down with some comic books to see if he can figure things out! The end!

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Yep. A two-parter. The bane of my existence here on the site. I started this issue assuming that I was missing something, and then when it turned out that that wasn’t the case and that it was just some insane beginning, the story ends up being only the first chapter, and we don’t get to figure out just what the hell is going on. My assumption is that the shady comic book creator is behind everything, but who knows, I’ll figure it out sometime in the future. But that’s getting ahead of myself I suppose, so I guess we should just focus on the issue at hand. And it’s crazy. I was laughing out loud reading the beginning of the issue, struggling to figure out just what the hell was happening, and it just kept getting crazier. The idea of weird comic books about Batman’s background, and talk-radio shows about Batman is a great idea, and something that I don’t think I’ve ever seen before. It really adds to Gotham as a real place, because that’s totally the type of things that would exist in a town where some crazy dude dresses like a bat and beats up mental patients. It’s always a bit of a bummer to see the first part of a story, and not get a proper resolution, but this first chapter was a lot of fun, and plenty satisfying in its own way.

“Dark Genesis!” was written by John Ostrander, penciled by Flink Henry and Mike McKone, inked by Jose Marian, lettered by Todd Klein, and colored by Adrienne Roy, 1990.

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