Bat Signal

Issue 894 – “Duck and Cover”

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Hello and welcome back to another installment of Bat Signal, my ongoing quest to read every issue of Detective Comics in random order, and with very little context. And boy oh boy do I have something special to talk about today. When this project began almost two years ago I originally only included the issues of Detective Comics from the initial run. From Issue 27 all the way to the end of the DC Universe in issue 881. But, recently I decided to toss in the comics of the New 52 era, and the recent return to original numbering, figuring that it would make sense to include every issue, as long as Batman was involved. And, it just so happened, since I did that my random number generator hasn’t given me anything from these additions. Until today! That’s right, today we’re getting our first glance into the New 52, the wildly uneven and misguided attempt by DC to reboot and restructure their universe, while kinda sorta clearing all continuity. When it suited them. I was not a fan of the New 52, and quickly jumped off almost all books. So, it’s pretty handy that my first foray into the New 52 is actually a pretty fun issue!

The issue begins with a pretty fun little sequence where Batman is stopping a crime, beating up a bunch of random thugs on the streets of Gotham while remembering times in the past that Bruce Wayne has purposefully donated money to various organizations around Gotham to balance out his Batman activities. Such as funding osteopathic doctors and dentists because of all the broken bones and jaws that he dishes out on a regular basis. Batman’s apparently had a hell of a night, taking down a whole bunch of random robberies and break-ins, and he’s chatting with Alfred while noting his latest arrest. Batman’s trying to figure out why things are so busy that night, but Alfred is just trying to get him to forget it and pay attention, because apparently that night is a pretty big deal. Bruce Wayne is supposed to be speaking at an event where a local community center will be naming a new wing after his mother.

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However, while Batman is standing around, talking to Alfred over his headset, we see that strange things are afoot in Gotham. Because Batman currently is in the sights of a sniper in an Oni mask. But, before the sniper takes a shot, he gets an order from his boss that he shouldn’t attack Batman. Because they have a bigger target that night. Bruce Wayne. And who would be hiring a group of strange Oni-masked assassins to kill Bruce Wayne? Why good old Oswald “the Penguin” Cobblepot. We cut over to Penguin’s office, where he’s meeting with the leader of these Oni-masked killers, a man named Mr. Li. Penguin is giving them their orders, which are to kill Bruce Wayne, and make sure he doesn’t make it to that community center that night.

Li then leaves the building, and Penguin begins talking with his second-in-command, a man named Ogilvy. Penguin and Ogilvy then get dressed up in their respectable clothes, and head out to the gala, while Li and his men take positions at various points around town, waiting to find Bruce Wayne and kill him. The only problem is that Bruce Wayne is rather occupied at the moment. He’s still running around town, as Batman, finding a seemingly never-ending slew of robberies. Batman can’t quite figure out what’s going on, but starts to realize that every single robbery he’s encountered that night involved the same alarm system, and he becomes convinced that this is a concerted effort to keep him occupied. But why would someone want Batman occupied?

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While all of this is going on the Penguin and Ogilvy are at the community center, hobnobbing with various socialites who all keep a wide berth from the Penguin. Cobblepot then starts to talk to Ogilvy, and complains about the fact that no one loves him. People fear the Penguin and they respect the Penguin, but no one admires him. They treat him like a pariah. Understandably. And he’s come up with a way to fix that. Albeit, and insane way to fix it. He’s going to march into the office of the man in charge of the community center, offer him double the money that Bruce Wayne gave them, and then threaten the man with death if he doesn’t switch the name of the new wing.

Meanwhile, Batman is still racing around town, trying to figure out what’s going on with all of these robberies, and why someone would help all these random criminals get through alarm systems, seemingly to just mess with him. But, eventually it gets too late, and Bruce has to get to the community center. Which is when he finds one of the snipers ready to take him out. So, Batman gets the drop on the assassin, and easily takes him out, just in time to come strutting into the community center to get some bad news. The new wing will now be named the Esther Cobblepot wing, and people are opening applauding Oswald’s powerful contribution to the community. Bruce is pretty baffled by this, but just kind of rolls with it, since there’s still a lot of money coming to help the community. And Cobblepot sees it as a massive success. He even orders Ogilvy to call the assassins and tell them that the hit is off. There’s just one problem. These people don’t accept terminations of contracts, and a member of the organization is arriving at the gala to kill Bruce. Cliffhanger!

 

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I was not the biggest fan of the New 52 era of DC comics. There were a couple standout series’, but by and large I found most of those stories to be incredibly bland and forgettable. They were plagued by a static and unappealing house art-style, writing that relished in grimdark extremes, and a generally confusing sense of continuity. Detective Comics was one of the series’ that I decided to try out when the reboot first happened, but after that initial story featuring the Joker cutting his face off, it didn’t exactly appeal to me. So this was certainly the first time that I read this issue, and it was actually pretty fun. Not really a fantastic issue of comics, what with it clearly being the set up to a larger story, but it was fun. I’ve been a big fan of writer John Layman’s more comedic work from Chew, but he did a good job with this issue, giving the Penguin some pathos, which is often a kind of hard task to tackle. Who knows if I’ll get to the rest of this story anytime soon, but the idea of a Bruce Wayne/Oswald Cobblepot war of influence seems like a fun idea. Although, knowing the New 52, I bet that gets waylaid by some weird nonsense.

 

“Duck and Cover” was written by John Layman, penciled and inked by Jason Fabok, colored by Jeromy Cox, and lettered by Jared K Fletcher, 2012.

 

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