Bat Signal

Issue 527 – “Avatars of Vengeance”

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Hello everyone, and welcome back to yet another installment of Bat Signal, my ongoing quest to read every issue of Detective Comics, in random order, and with essentially no context. And that last bit isn’t always important, since the majority of Detective Comics stories tended to be a little one-and-done stories, which makes this stupid task I’ve given myself work a tad better. Unfortunately, we won’t be discussing a simple issue today. No, we get to talk about half of a story that gets finished in Batman, meaning I’ll never even get to see how it end! And, to make matters worse, it’s a story about Man-Bat, a character that so rarely is interesting. So let’s do this thing!

The story begins at the Gotham Museum of Natural History in the middle of the night. Doctor Kirk Langstrom is busy planning a massive new exhibit on nocturnal mammals, since he knows the importance of brand awareness. He’s succeeded in keeping Man-Bat at bay for several months now, and has been taking a special serum to do so. Unfortunately, he’s been working too hard to get this exhibit up and running, and has forgotten to take his antidote. So, while he’s wandering the halls of the museum that night, and after he gets spooked by a stuffed bat, his stress gets high enough that he turns into Man-Bat. And, when he turns into Man-Bat, he loses a good amount of memory, and doesn’t remember much involving the life of Kirk Langstrom. All he seems to remember is that Batman has been the root cause of all of his problems. So, he flies from the museum and starts trying to track down his cursed nemesis.

 

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Which is a shame, because Batman has a whole lot of problems already on his shoulders. He and Commissioner Gordon are dealing with a complicated case involving the death of a police officer, Batman’s worrying about his own mortality after resigning as chairman of the Wayne Foundation, he’s dealing with a relationship with Vicki Vale that’s mostly comprised of Bruce ditching her, and he’s still trying to acclimate his latest ward Jason Todd. Plus, this is from the weird period of time when Jason was a ginger. He’s still getting used to life in Wayne Manor, and has been trying to figure out how to impress Bruce enough to become the new Robin. And it hasn’t been going well. So, he decides to take a different course of action, and just asks Bruce to hang out with him, like a normal person.

So, while the issue spends a lot of time racing through a bunch of different ongoing plots, like Vicki being suspicious of Bruce’s constant excuses and Gordon’s ongoing war with Mayor Hill, we get to see Jason and Bruce prepare for their evening at the movies. Unfortunately, while they’re getting ready we see someone else speeding towards Wayne Manor. Apparently the last time the Man-Bat tussled with Batman it was in the cave network that’s attached to the Batcave. So, remembering that, Man-Bat flies into the caves and begins working his way through them, getting closer and closer to the Batcave itself.

 

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And, eventually, Man-Bat is able to find his way through the tunnels and into the Batcave itself. For whatever reason he doesn’t seem phased by that, and ends up coming across one of the entrances to Wayne Manor, specifically the door disguised as a grandfather clock. And, as luck would have it, Alfred is cleaning up the room containing that clock when Man-Bat comes across it, creating a lot of strange sounds that pique Alfred’s interest. But, when he goes to investigate he end up opening the clock, and letting Man-Bat in, who has no idea where he is, but is still full of simplistic rage. Man-Bat ends up smacking Alfred around a bit until Bruce hears the sounds of distress and is able to race down to the study, with his costume on.

As soon as Man-Bat sees Batman he stops caring about Alfred, and begins attacking the Caped Crusader, letting Alfred slip away and attempt to bring Jason to safety. Jason isn’t a big fan of this idea, figuring that this is the perfect opportunity for him to prove to Bruce that he’s capable of being Robin, and he ends up slipping away from Alfred to go help his new father figure. Unfortunately, in doing so he lets it slip that Batman is something of a father to him, and Man-Bat comes up with a new plan. He figures that it’ll be more satisfying to hurt Batman emotionally as well as physically, so while the two begin battling throughout the Batcave, Man-Bat grabs Jason and steals him away. Batman’s unable to stop the murderous beast, and is forced to watch as Man-Bat flies back through the network of tunnels with Jason Todd his prisoner. Batman then promises brutal vengeance on the Man-Bat, which is then apparently told in Batman, where we’ll never see the conclusion.

 

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This is not exactly my favorite issue of Detective Comics. It’s fine I guess, but it’s just one of those issues that really suffers from the ridiculous confines of this project. Which really shouldn’t be a mark against the issue, and more against my stupid plans, but whatever. It’s full of ongoing threads, and doesn’t have anything approaching a satisfying story, punting the conclusion onto a completely different comic. I mean, I’ll take a wild stab in the dark and say that Batman wins, and that he gets Jason Todd back in one piece. Possibly removing his red hair in the process. But, putting all of that aside, it just isn’t that interesting of an issue. Just a lot of set dressing. I’ve never been the biggest fan of Man-Bat, kind of a low-rent version of the Lizard in every way, and it’s strange that they keep him and Batman away from each other almost the entire issue. We don’t get to see Batman being a detective, tracking down Man-Bat or anything, he just shows up at his house to fight him. The idea of a villain accidentally discovering the Batcave is a little fun, but Man-Bat is just not a character I care enough about to make that scenario work as well as I feel like it should. The issue has some fun moments, and I’m sure if I was reading this series like a normal person I’d appreciate some of the character beats being established in it, but as it stands this was just kind of a disjointed issue without a whole lot payoff. It’s the first part of a story that I honestly don’t feel particularly invested in finishing. But, sometimes that’s just the luck of the draw.

 

“Avatars of Vengeance” was written by Doug Moench, penciled by Dan Day, inked by Pablo Marcos, colored by Adrienne Roy, and lettered by Ben Oda, 1983.

 

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