Bat Signal

Issue 366 – “The Round-Robin Death Threats!”

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Hello everyone and welcome back to another installment of Bat Signal, my ongoing project wherein I pull a random issue of Detective Comics and read it with no context. And folks, this week we have a real clunker. I think it’s pretty well-established on here that the worst types of issues for this stupid project I’m undertaking are ones that are the first part in a story. Because even if it’s the finale of a story that we didn’t get the proper context to, it’s usually not that hard to figure out what happened in the first part. But when I happen to pull a part one of a story, it’s usually pretty rough. I can make an educated guess and say that Batman probably wins in the next issue, but as it stands it’s just kind of a lot of gibberish that doesn’t really make sense without the conclusion. And since it’s mathematically improbable that I’ll randomly pull the next issue anytime soon, it always feels like you’re just getting some incomplete ramblings. And this week is probably the strongest example of that I’ve had yet, because this is some straight-up gibberish folks.

The issue starts off with Bruce Wayne hanging out in his library when Alfred approaches him with a letter. I want to point out that the text-box refers to him as Bruce (BATMAN) Wayne, which I love. Anyway, Bruce opens the letter, reads it, seems shocked at what it says, and then sits there as the letter lights itself on fire and vanishes. Bruce is apparently also incapable to telling anyone what the contents of the letter was, apparently due to the chemicals that were released when the letter lit on fire. All we know is that Bruce Wayne is supposed to show up to Commissioner Gordon’s office at nine o’clock sharp and have Gordon turn his short-wave radio to a specific station. But Bruce knows that that sounds sketchy as hell, so he dresses up as Batman and starts driving the Batmobile in the opposite direction of Gordon’s office in order to find some crooks to fight. And since this is Gotham, he quickly accomplishes this goal and just starts whooping some random dudes.

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Batman start beating these thugs up for a while, apparently doing everything he can to make sure that the fight lasts as long as it can. But when some police show up to arrest the goons Batman suddenly only cares about getting to Gordon’s by 9 o’clock and peels out of the area, driving as fast as he can to Gordon’s office. And when he gets there he just bursts in and yells at Gordon to turn the radio the specific station. Gordon finds this intrusion a little odd, but goes with it anyway. However, right as Gordon is about the turn the radio on there’s a crashing sound as someone jumps into the window.

We go back in time for a brief moment to see that back when Bruce left for the night Robin showed up and asked Alfred what was going on. Alfred told Dick about the letter and Dick used some forensic technique to repair the burnt letter and see what it said. And with that knowledge he manages to get to Gordon’s office just in time to break the radio, which apparently had a poison dart that was going to kill Gordon if he had turned it on. Which sounds complicated, right? Well don’t worry, things are about to get even more insane. Because as they’re standing around congratulating each other, Gordon suddenly starts to act like a zombie.

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Yep, apparently Gordon got one of those magic letter too, and now that he didn’t die I guess his has activated and he wanders off to kill someone else like Bruce was going to kill him. Batman and Robin follow Gordon as he wanders through town and reaches some sketchy tenement house. They watch Gordon ring some random person’s door, and then walk way. Batman realizes that answering the door will probably kill the person like the radio almost killed Gordon so he kicks the door in and finds some random dude named John Kobler inside. Batman and Robin talk with Kobler for a bit, until he too zombifies and starts dialing a number on his phone. Batman and Robin watch Kobler’s dialing and stop the call right before it goes. And once that’s done they look up the number that Kobler was dialing and find that it was that of famous sports-writer Fred Tinney. So now it’s off to Tinney!

The Dynamic Duo race across town and get to Tinney’s apartment where they verify that he too got one of these insane letters due to the fact that he’s unable to talk to them about it. So Batman destroys Tinney’s phone, which would have produced some fatal blast of sound, and they get ready to follow Tinney to the next victim’s location. But as they follow Tinney, they realize that he doesn’t want to cause someone’s death, and he walks into a jewelry store so they’ll arrest him. Unfortunately some other guys are already robbing the place, so they knock Tinney out and start fighting Batman and Robin. And after the melee is taken care of, they find that Tinney is missing. So they head back to the Batcave and regroup while Batman gives Robin the slip and starts pondering by himself. It turns out that all these men are related, because a few years ago some mad scientist was trying to rob a laboratory that Kobler was the security guard of. The scientist fled the lab and ended up running into Bruce Wayne, Commissioner Gordon, and Fred Tinney as they were leaving a game. The three men caught the scientist, and he swore revenge. So apparently that means Bruce will be the last victim, and because he can’t tell Robin the truth due to the chemicals, he decides to write some cryptic will that he hopes will lead Robin on the right path to the killer. Next time!

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Yep, right as this issue was starting to make sense and actually be enjoyable it just ends. I really have no idea what’s up with this issue. Because as it stands, without any crucial part-two reveals, it doesn’t really make any damn sense. Because this plan wouldn’t work if Batman wasn’t stopping them. Right? If Bruce Wayne wasn’t Batman he would have gotten to Gordon’s office and had Gordon turn the radio on at the right time, killing him. Which would have been the end of it! Because Gordon only went to Kobler’s home to set off that chain reaction because he didn’t die. So the plan only worked if it failed? I don’t know, that doesn’t make any sense, because it would either kill Gordon or none of them, if I’m understanding it correctly. Which, who knows, maybe I’m not. This issue didn’t make a lick of sense, and I’m really no sure if a second part would fix that fact. It just seems like a fundamentally misconstructed plot to me, but I may be wrong. But as it stands, it was not a particularly enjoyable issue of comics to read, which I feel like is the true test of any issue. Oh well, maybe we’ll do better next time.

“The Round-Robin Death Threats!” was written by Gardner Fox, penciled by Carmine Infantino, and inked by Sid Greene, 1967.

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