Bat Signal

Issue 683 – “Odds Against”

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Hello everyone and welcome back to another week of Bat Signal, my ongoing mission to read random issues of Detective Comics with no context. Which really comes into pay with this issue, because as far as I can tell this is part two in an ongoing story. I’m not a hundred percent sure about that, but the issue certainly seems to start off in the middle of something, and then ends with a “to be continued.” And looks who we have to talk about, Mr. Oswald Chesterfield Cobblepot himself, the Penguin. Now, I’ve been doing this series for a while now, and have seen almost all of the classic Batman villains at least once, but it certainly is interesting to see the villains throughout their history. I’ve had two Penguin stories so far, but they’ve both been in the early years of the character, when he was goofy little man who committed crimes involving umbrellas and birds. He’s usually fun and silly. But I’ve never a seen a more modern take on the Penguin. Until now! Because we get some Iceberg Lounge-owning gangster Penguin here folks. And let me tell you, this comic is 1995-as-hell. Let’s get into it.

The issue begins with a group of masked thugs getting the shit kicked out of them by Batman and Robin. There’s some narration in the panels, which is revealed to be one of the goons who escaped telling Penguin about how they failed. They were apparently robbing some factory when the Dynamic Duo showed up and ruined everything. The goons just managed to escape, by throwing a grenade at Batman and Robin and escaping while they dealt with that. And Penguin is not pleased. Apparently Batman has been a serious thorn in his side while he’s been sending these goons out to rob places, and he’s trying to come up with some way to get rid of Batman forever. Like usual. However, a slight distraction shows up when Penguin is alerted to the fact that there’s someone absolutely kicking ass at the blackjack table and taking the casino for everything they have.

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Yep, some wormy little dude is raking it in, and that’s obviously not going to fly for the Penguin. He seems to be unstoppable, so obviously he must be cheating. So the Penguin sends over some thugs to grab the man and drag him over to Penguin’s private booth. The guy seems pretty fearless though, even in the face of Penguin straight up threatening to have him ground up into meat and served in diners across Gotham. The man explains that he isn’t cheating, and is a former actuary from some insurance company. He apparently has a preternatural ability with statistics and risk, and is able to use that those skills to expertly gamble. Oh, and he also claims that he has ideas on how to get rid of Batman and allow Penguin’s criminal empire to flourish. So, Penguin’s intrigued.

But while all of this is going on we also have stuff going on with Batman and Robin, and some various side-characters. Batman seems pissed that they keep finding themselves one step behind these robberies, so Batman decides to check in on an informant who apparenlty gave him the location of the robbery from the beginning. And because this comic is from 1995, that gangster is named 2BAD. Oh, and before we see what’s up at 2BAD’s place, we get this weird scene where Renee Montoya is talking to Harvey Bullock, who is in the hospital in a coma. I’m not sure what really is going on there, and I’ll probably never get to the issue that explains that. Instead let’s focus on Batman and Robin getting to 2BAD’s apartment right as it explodes!

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Things aren’t going well for Batman. And they’re about to get worse, because that guy that was talking to the Penguin earlier sure has a lot of ideas on how to remove Batman from the picture. Oh, and he’s calling himself the Actuary now. Not exactly the most threatening supervillain name, but whatever. The Actuary’s plan is actually not that bad. He’s basically decided that if you take a map of Gotham and chart out various sightings of Batman you can figure out his flight-pattern and specifically find places to commit crimes that Batman rarely goes to. So Penguin sends his goons out to pound the pavement and get testimonies from the criminals of Gotham so that they can accurately gage where Batman does and doesn’t go. And after that’s completed they decide on the perfect place for their next crime. A hockey game.

 Yep, the thugs are robbing an arena while a hockey game is going on, and no one seems to notice, so I guess this was a great idea. It actually seems to go off without a hitch, and the goons flee from the arena, blending in with the crowd, and head off into the city with their booty. Batman and Robin are driving around aimlessly, trying to come up with a way to find and stop these robberies, and for reasons that I don’t fully understand they find one of the robbers, and just attack him while he’s in his car. They beat him up, find the evidence of the robbery, and are one step closer to stopping Penguin. But Penguin isn’t going to go down without a fight, because the Actuary has a new idea to nullify the risk of running into Batman. Start robbing places in daylight, when modern Batman doesn’t show his face. But will it succeed? Who know! That’s the end of the issue.

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I’m kind of conflicted about this issue. I always have a hard time with issues that happen to be in the middle of ongoing stories, and this one is no different. There’s a lot of things going on in this issue that don’t fully make sense, like how Batman found that one criminal in the end, or what was up with the multiple robberies that may or may not have been done by two different groups. Plus, since we don’t have the end of the story I have no idea how things are going to conclude, other than my ongoing assumption that Batman will win. There’s also not a lot of Batman in this issue, and what Batman we get sure isn’t doing any detective work. Just a lot of Batman wandering around complaining about how he doesn’t have any leads. But there were also some things I did like about the issue, such as the whole idea of the Actuary. His terrible name aside, I really dug the idea of the Penguin hiring a risk manager to figure out the least risky crimes to commit in Gotham, and which ones have the lowest likelihood of running into Batman. That’s a pretty fantastic idea. It just would have been nice if I read an issue that featured that idea and had a satisfying conclusion.

“Odds Against” was written by Chuck Dixon, penciled by Graham Nolan, inked by Scott Hanna, colored by Adrienne Roy, and lettered by John Costanza, 1995.

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Um, I’m pretty sure that “Rock Coke” already has a pretty established name, sir. 

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