Bat Signal

Issue 497 – “Bad Night in Baja”

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Hi there everyone, and welcome back to Bat Signal, my ongoing project to read every issue of Detective Comics in random order and with very little context. And it looks like we’re sticking around in the early 80’s again this week, although today’s issue is sadly not as insane as last week’s “Haven.” But it’s still pretty weird. I’m also sad to report that since I only talk about the Batman stories in Detective Comics I won’t be telling you about whatever is going on with Batgirl on the cover of this comic. I have to assume that Batman does something to help get her out of prison, but I guess we’ll never know. But what we will know is why batman is having such a ban night in Baja. This issue maybe isn’t one of the craziest ones I’ve ever featured here on Bat Signal, but it’s still quite a good time. Let’s dive on in!

The issue begins on a stormy night in Baja, California as a soaked and bedragged Bruce Wayne bursts into a shady motel/lounge called the Hotel Dolan. Inside the bar are several local hoods, telling stories to each other about how tough they are, and various crimes they’ve committed. And while that’s going on we see the sad sack owner of the hotel/barkeep Waldo Pepper glumly standing behind the bar and contemplating his idea to burn down the hotel for the insurance money, which was foiled by the random thunderstorm hitting the area. And they’re all quite surprised when Bruce Wayne comes lurching into the hotel, soaked and clutching his side. He has a small briefcase with him, and he’s in need of a phone, because he appears to have been shot, is bleeding out, and needs Alfred to come aid him. All while Waldo Pepper is contemplating stealing the briefcase, because there’s surely something inside that will make him rich.

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Now, in case you’re wondering, this isn’t the second issue in a larger story that we’re going to have to try and piece together. No, instead this issue is full of a non-linear narrative, letting us jump around and slowly pick up what’s going on. So after we see Alfred dispatch himself to save Bruce we jump back several hours when Batman and Alfred first arrived in Baja, at the behest of the FBI. Turns out the FBI is on the track of a criminal and weapons dealer known as the Squid who has stolen some sensitive documents. Batman has also been hunting the Squid for crimes done in Gotham, so he’s agreed to help the FBI do what they can’t do. So Batman and Alfred set up a mobile Batcave in a hotel room, and Batman heads out into the Baja night to find the Squid and the defense documents.

Batman eventually finds the Squid and his men, hiding out in a weird Spanish Mission sort of building. We see that the Squid is a large man with a speech impediment, and as he’s telling his men how they’re going to be fabulously wealthy after selling the documents, Batman sneaks in. He hucks a gas grenade into the room, and then dive in in the chaos. Batman manages to get a hold of the briefcase with the documents. And in the madness the Squid is able to randomly fire his gun, and his Batman right in the side. Batman’s just barely able to flee from the building, with the documents, and manages to get his costume off. He then stumbles through the rain into the Hotel Dolan, where we saw him in the beginning, except for now we know what’s in the briefcase, and that the Squid and his goons are hot on the trail of the Batman.

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Now that we’re all caught up we see Bruce Wayne sneak out of the phonebooth, and head further in the hotel, hoping to hide from the shady characters out in the bar. And while this is happening Waldo takes advantage of Bruce’s forgetfulness and steals the documents out of the briefcase. And as Bruce is wandering around the hotel he ends up running into a strange woman who is in the process of leaving her husband. She finds Bruce, barely able to stand, and decides to lend him a helping hand. She manages to sneak Bruce out of the hotel and into a dirty alley, where he shoos her off and prepares to suit back up as Batman.

While all of this is going on the Squid and his men have arrives at the Hotel. They storm in and start demanding the location of the papers and Batman. The men in the bar try to intimidate the Squid and his men, but they quickly establish themsevles as actual killers, not just dudes who tell stories, and prove themselves the dominant party in the transaction. The Squid then announces that he’s going to start killing everyone in the hotel until they give him the documents he’s looking for, since he can plainly see that the briefcase is empty. For some reason Waldo doesn’t just give him the documents at this point, but luckily he doesn’t have to. Because Batman arrives at this moment, pretending that he isn’t in massive pain. He’s able to turn off the lights in the bar though, convincing the Squid and his men that he fled. They run from the bar, and Batman is able to find the tank of gas Waldo was planning on burning the hotel down with. And he’s able to use it, because outside the police have arrived and the Squid is planning on fleeing for the border. So Batman basically turns the gas can into a giant Molotov Cocktail and blows up their getaway car, getting the Squid and his men captured. Batman and Alfred then head back to Gotham, because I guess they found the documents?

 

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This issue wasn’t exactly one of my favorites, but I still had a lot of fun with it. I really like the issues from this time period, where Batman is some weird globe-trotting spy, travelling to different countries, or at least different cities, and basically being James Bond. Although today’s issue, with Batman going to Baja, California to help the FBI stop a weird fan man with a speech impediment from stealing a briefcase of unexplained government secrets isn’t exactly as interesting as some of the other Batman stories I’ve encountered. I think things just got a little too convoluted. We were introduced to a whole bunch of weird characters, most of which largely didn’t matter. I don’t know, I like seeing Bruce Wayne doing absolutely everything he can to bring the Squid to justice, even being shot and continuing on. It’s just a slightly mediocre tale.

 

“Bad Night in Baja” was written by Gerry Conway, penciled by Don Newton, inked by Dan Adkins, colored by Adrienne Roy, and lettered by Ben Oda, 1980.

 

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