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 we’re keeping the dream of the ’90s alive again to day, folks, with another trip back to the weird and wild world of Knightfall. We last happened to draw a story from this even almost two years ago when I pulled the issue immediately after Bane breaks Batman’s back, primarily revolving around how that action influences everyone else in this massive and complicated story. Today we’ll be peaking into an earlier part of the story, pre-back break that honestly features very little Batman. But, we do get plenty of Tim Drake, Bane, and what is somehow the first time I’ve seen Killer Croc so far in this project. Fun times, y’all!
The issue begins in the sewers of Gotham with Killer Croc sullenly floating in the water, eating rats. He’s recently escaped Arkham Asylum after Bane and his partners blew the Asylum up, releasing all the inmates, and he’s been nursing his wounds in the sewers ever since. Because Croc isn’t in good shape. He was actually one of the first Gothamites who encountered Bane, and in the process had both of his arms broken. So, now he’s sulking in the sewers, planning his revenge on the mysterious new villain causing so much chaos in Gotham. And he’s not the only one looking for Bane. So far Batman hasn’t actually had the pleasure of encountering his new nemesis, and has ordered Robin to try and find the mercenary while he cleans up some of his messes, and Robin has done quite well. He’s found Bane, hanging out with his three partners Zombie, Trogg, and Bird. Robin then starts eavesdropping on them while they loudly explain that they’re waiting for Batman to run himself ragged catching the Arkham villains before attacking him.
And this plan is actually going swimmingly. Batman is currently passed out atop a rooftop after fighting with Mr. Zsasz all night, succumbing to a flu that he just so happened to catch. He watches as Harvey Bullock deals with Zsasz, doing his very best to cling to consciousness. And it’s not just Zsasz. All of the Arkham villains have been freed, and they’re carving Gotham up, causing as much chaos as possible. Such as Arnold Wesker, the Ventriloquist, who is currently threatening his lawyer into telling him where they’ve taken Scarface so that he can resume his psychotic criminal career. Gotham is spiraling out of control, all while a cheery TV psychologist is telling everyone that they need to be more accepting of the homicidal maniacs who have been released upon their fair city.
While all of this is going on, though, Robin is still listening to Bane, who announces to his weird trio of sixties bands that he has more important things to attend to, and heads out into Gotham. He hops onto the top of a train, and Robin decides to follow, figuring that this is the best chance he has to see what Bane is up to. He does his best to keep hidden, but his best isn’t good enough. Because when the train passes into a tunnel Bane slips behind Robin, and captures the Boy Wonder. Bane knocks Tim out, wraps a blindfold around him, and brings him down to the sewers to interrogate him on a small bridge.
Robin’s obviously pretty freaked out to be captured by this strange villain who has been causing so many problems in the city, but his training takes hole and he remains as calm as he can while doing everything he can to figure out where he is and how to escape. And, Bane doesn’t really notice this scheming, because he’s too busy interrogating Robin to learn more about Batman. Bane explains that he initially wanted to just kill Robin, but now thinks that it may be more beneficial to his plan at large to keep him alive, both to psychologically torment Batman and serve as a great bit of bait to draw him to their final confrontation. But, Robin’s obstinance is making him change his mind, and he slowly starts to revert back to the original idea of just smashing the Boy Wonder to pieces.
However, while Bane has been monologuing something has occurred to complicate things. Croc just so happened to be in these same sewers, and he was able to recognize Bane’s scent and voice, so while Robin prepares himself to be beaten to death by Bane, he’s shocked to find his blindfold ripped off by Killer Croc. Croc begins ranting and raving to Robin, demanding to know where Bane is, who seems to have vanished without a trace. Robin tries to think fast, but before he can come up with a way to calm the manic Croc down, Bane comes leaping from an overhead pipe, starting a duel. But, Croc has been planning. He immediately breaks Bane’s Venom device on his wrist, doing his best to make it a fair fight. Unfortunately, even without his super-steroid Bane is a much better fighter than Croc, and he ends up breaking his arm once again. And, in the process, the two end up breaking the small bridge they’d all been standing on, tipping Croc, Bane, and Robin off into the rushing waters of the sewer. The trio then get swept away, while Robin worries how long he can hold his breath.
It’s always a struggle when my random number generator has me pull an issue that was part of a larger ongoing narrative, but oddly enough I think things work smoother than normal when it’s an issue from Knightfall. The massive story took over all of the Bat-family books, and told a large, over-arching story, but there were plenty of vignettes in that story, such as today’s issue. Yeah, we don’t get much Batman at all, and there’s really no detection, but we get a pretty fun little story, even though it doesn’t have a whole lot of payoff. Instead it’s primarily carried by the strength and mystery of Bane, which serves as a powerful reminder at how fascinating this character was in this story. In the years since Knightfall he’s lost a bit of that mystique, and part of me kind of thinks that maybe this character should have never returned after Knightfall, but this story uses him so fantastically. He’s a mysterious force, appearing in Gotham and affecting everyone and everything he comes in contact with. Because he’s studied Batman for years, he’s learned everything there is to know about Gotham, and he’s left nothing to chance. So, regardless of which character they decide to pair him with, it’s going to lead to something interesting. Even if you devise a story about Bane dealing with Robin and Killer Croc, with essentially no Batman in sight. That seems like a hard sell, but this story works, almost entirely because of how ominous and creepy Bane is, and how clever Tim Drake is. There’s a reason he’s my favorite Robin, and this issue really demonstrates that wonderfully, especially when paired with peak Bane in a story that has so much nostalgia for me.
“Crocodile Tears” was written by Chuck Dixon, penciled by Jim Balent, inked by Scott Hanna, colored by Adrienne Roy, and lettered by John Costanza, 1993.
Categories: Bat Signal