Bat Signal

Issue 412 – “Legacy of Hate”

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Welcome back to Bat Signal folks, my weekly series where I pull a random issue of Detective Comics and tell you about it. And boy do I have a fun and goofy one today. I’ve talked a lot on this series about the fact that you often can’t take the cover for granted, because they so often don’t have anything to actually do with the comic that’s inside. Especially old ones that just seemed to be wanting to entice you into buying the comic with an insane cover, as if just showing Batman wasn’t enough to get people to pay money. But this week? We actually have one that undersells the premise. Because trust me, this issue gets so crazier, and so much more fun than Batman dealing with a knight. Things get much crazier, and shockingly similar to an insane Marvel story that I covered on Marvel Madness. But enough preamble, let’s get down to it!

So the issue starts off en media res with Batman being attacked by the knight on the cover. But right as he’s about to be lanced he suddenly flashes back to how this all got started, and we’re back in the Batcave. Turns out Bruce has gotten a telegram from an uncle he’s never met named Lord Elwood Wayne. Turns out Bruce comes from a powerful British family and uncle Elwood is about the kick the bucket, and wants all surviving Wayne family members to come to his not-at-all haunted castle to talk about their inheritance. Which isn’t suspicious at all. So Bruce packs up and heads to England, where he’s met by some distant relatives, Lord Elwood Niece Wilhelmina Wayne the orphan, his cousin Reverend Emelyn Wayne, and a ranch-hand from Australia named “Outback” Jeremy Wayne. So the Wayne’s hand around the train station until someone arrives to take them to castle Wayne in the least suspicious vehicle possible.

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Seriously, they got picked up by a creepy dude wearing a top-hat while driving a hearse. So they all pile into the hearse and are driven up to the creepy Wayne castle while learning all about the castle’s creepy history involving feuding brothers during the Crusades, and they’re met by Lord Wayne’s butler, Asquith (what?). Asquith explains that his family has been the Wayne’s servants for generations, and brings them to Lord Wayne, who is on his deathbed. The old man speaks to his distant family members, and explains that he’s going to divide his wealth and lands up to them equally, unless one of them dies, in which case it’ll then be evenly distributed again. Oh, and if they all die his doctor gets everything. Red flag! But once that information is doled out the Wayne’s decide that they need to go to sleep and talk about this more in the morning. So after kind of awkwardly flirting with his relative Wilhelmina, Bruce heads to his room, surely not to be murdered. That’s right folks, we have a House on Haunted Hill thing going on.

But things get weird quickly when Bruce is walking Wilhelmina to her room, and they both seem to see a ghostly knight run by. Bruce explains that it was probably nothing, but as soon as he ditches his cousin (?) he puts on his Batman costume and starts investigating. So he begins wandering the castle, and ends up finding the knight attacking Mina in her room. So Batman busts in and starts fighting the knight, quickly finding that he’s real, and has some serious armor on. The knight is able to daze Batman and escape through the window, leaving Batman to awkwardly explain what’s going on to Mina. Which I guess is easy, because she has never heard of Batman before, which kind of blows Bruce’s mind. So Bruce leaves the room, and decides that the knight has to be one of the people who stands to gain from the inheritance scam. He rules out the reverend for some reason, and decides to sneak in on the Australian, who talks like a Chris Claremont character. But when he gets inside, he finds the knight beating up Jeremy Wayne. So Batman scares away the knight, and once again finds that one of his relatives has never heard of Batman, which seems to be frustrating him.

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So that’s two suspects down, and since Batman thinks that a priest can’t do anything illegal (cough) he decides to follow the obvious lead and go check on the doctor. But as he’s heading toward he doc’s room he hears Mina scream again, and goes to check on her once more. Yet when Batman gets there he knight is already gone again, and has fled into the moors, leaving some obvious footprint. Batman decides that this is pretty clearly a trap, but decides to follow it anyway, wandering deeper into the misty moors. And when he’s gone pretty far into them, he starts to hear the pounding of an approaching horse, and we catch back up to the beginning of the issue, with the knight barreling down on Batman. Batman freaks the hell out, especially when he realizes that he’s been standing in one place too long, and is stuck. At which point the knight straight up spears Batman through with the lance, and gallops away victorious.

Well, not quite. Turns out Batman snuck a hunk of wood into his chest, which blocked the path of the lance. I don’t quite think that that logic tracks, but whatever, Batman’s alive. So he heads back to the castle, and ends up finding the knight hiding in an armory, stunned at seeing Batman alive. And Bruce uses that to his advantage by cold-cocking the knight, knocking the helmet off in the process. And shockingly, it’s not the doctor underneath, it’s the butler. The other trope! But it gets weirder, because the butler seems to think that he’s being controlled by the ghost of some ancient ruler of the castle, who was usurped by the Wayne family, and he’s made it his mission to wipe out all the Wayne’s when they’re in one spot. Batman’s obviously not buying the ghost thing, until the dude just straight up dies, and he continues to hear the ghostly voice. But I guess we don’t get any answers about that, because that’s where the issue ends, with Batman just dictating notes to himself about the possible existence of ghosts.

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So there you have it, a Batman story that felt like it was written by Agatha Cristie. I loved this issue. I have a real thing for goofy stories like this, where everything is so clearly evil. It’s an incredibly similar story to that X-Men one I talked about on the site where they all went to Ireland to go to Banshee’s family castle, not recognizing that that’s totally the beginning of a Scooby Doo episode. Except for this time there weren’t enough leprechauns. But we did get to see Batman fighting a man who may or may not have been legitimately possessed by a vengeful ghost, so that’s cool. This was a pretty dumb issue, but I had a whole lot of fun with it. I like the idea of these random Wayne relatives that Bruce has never heard about, and that of course the Wayne family used to be land-owning aristocrats in England. The mystery of the issue is pretty fun too. I’m not sure I follow Batman’s logic that no priest could commit a crime, but I’ll admit that I was kind of shocked that they weren’t going to go the route of the doctor being behind it all. I guess that was way too obvious. And I sure didn’t see ‘ghosts’ being the answer!

“Legacy of Hate” was written by Frank Robbins and penciled by Bob Brown, 1971.

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