Did you all know that in the 1990’s Marvel and DC toyed around quite a bit with the idea of cross-overs? There are probably a whole litany of reasons, most of which revolving around the utter insanity that the comic book industry was in during that decade, resulting in all sorts of special gimmicks to sell books, but whatever the cause we were given several strange one-shots featuring our favorite costumes crimefighters hanging out. The biggest of these crossover’s was probably DC Versus Marvel, which ended up spilling into the incredibly strange Amalgam Comics, which featured hybrid versions of characters from both companies. I’ve been wanting to talk about Amalgam on here for a while now, and will probably endeavor to figure that one out sometime soon. But, as a way to dip my toe into the weird and wild world of cross-company storytelling, I’ve decided to throw together a bit of a theme-month here on Marvel Madness. Because, as luck would have it, the character that DC seemed most eager to intermingle with the Marvel Universe is none other than the Caped Crusader himself, Batman. And, since I talk about Batman on a weekly basis here, that felt like a perfectly reasonable jumping off point. So, this month we’re going to be looking at two incredibly strange stories about Batman hanging out with heroes from he Marvel Universe, starting off with the character that probably makes the most sense in this context, primarily because of the role that Frank Miller has had on both characters. Daredevil! Two of my favorite superheroes together in one story, tracking down Two-Face? Sounds like a blast! If only the 1990’s were a subtle decade…
The story begins in Gotham City with Batman investigating a massive break-in at a laboratory that’s financed by Waynetech. The place is an absolute mess, and Batman immediately decides that it’s been purposefully trashed in order to hide what was stolen and why. But, since he’s the World’s Greatest Detective, he’s able to use some deduction, and gadgets, to ascertain that a special new kind of microchip known as the Neural Net was stolen, and that it seems to have been stolen by Two-Face, since there’s a whole lot of duality in the destruction. Bruce was heavily involved in the genesis of this project, and realizes the havoc that Two-Face could cause with this stolen technology, and gets to work tracking him down. And, the path of the investigation eventually leads him to New York, specifically into the sewers of New York where he finds the body of a man involved in the theft. And, he’s not alone.
Yep, Batman has just come across Daredevil in the sewers of New York, also looking into a murder. There’s no explanation of why this story exists, or how these two characters have found themselves together, it’s just how things are. In other stories some vast cosmic affair has occurred, bringing the two universes together, but in this story New York and Gotham are just part of the same country, and Batman could have come hung out with Marvel heroes whenever he damn well pleased. It’s weird.
But, anyway, Batman obviously assumes that Daredevil is responsible for the death of these two men, since he just found a peculiarly dressed man wandering the sewers with blood on his hands, and he attacks old Hornhead. Which doesn’t really go well, since Daredevil’s radar-sense is able to pick up the Dark Knight as he lunges toward him. The two begin battling in the sewers, and find themselves pretty evenly matched. Batman hucks some Batarangs, and Daredevil is able to easily snag them out of the air, Daredevil tries some fancy martial arts and Batman counters them. And, all the while the two are spouting off utterly absurd dialogue to each other, seemingly to convince the other that they’re insane. Or deeply attracted to each other. It’s odd.
Their fight takes a respite eventually though, primarily so that we can get filled in on what in the world’s going on. Apparently this Neural Net that Bruce Wayne invested in was an attempt to grow an artificial brain, which would then teach a microchip how to operate like a human brain. It seems incredibly complicated, but the basic gist of the invention was that it went onto a person’s brain, they would take special drugs that enhanced their brainpower, the net leeched power from their brain until it killed them, and then the net would create a super powerful chip. And, Two-Face has stolen the Net, with the help of a partner from New York, and is now trying to get the chip ready to be sold.
And that partner is none other than Daredevil’s least interesting recurring nemesis, Mr. Hyde! Two-Face and Hyde have arrived in New York, and are committing a series of heists, all based around computer chips, while Two-Face encourages Mr. Hyde to eat as many of those brain-enhancing pills as possible. Because, obviously, Two-Face has somehow slipped the Neural Net into Mr. Hyde’s brain, apparently without him knowing. I’m not sure, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Nor does it make sense why Two-Face and Mr. Hyde are wasting time robbing arcades to steal their processors to sell on the black market, but that’s how they’re choosing to spend their time, all while Two-Face spouts a whole lot of hilariously out-dated dialogue about computers.
And, it’s at this point that we learn the most wonderfully insane aspect of this entire story. Because back in the sewers, Batman and Daredevil have decided to work together, and Batman has filled him in on Two-Face’s whole deal. Which is when Daredevil realizes that he knew Two-Face. When Matt Murdock and Harvey Dent were still studying law, Matt at Columbia and Harvey at Gotham City College, the two met at some sort of young lawyer debate tournament and made fast friends while debating the merits of vigilante justice. They never really spent any time after the tournament, but Matt has fond memories of Harvey, and believes that he and Batman should be able to reach his submerged goodness.
And, weirdly enough, Batman totally disagrees. So often the relationship between Batman and Two-Face is one of redemption. Batman usually believes wholeheartedly that Harvey Dent can be redeemed, and that it’s his duty to bring him back from the brink. But not this Batman! He’s completely written Two-Face off, and just wants to punish him for his crimes, all while showing off his lauded detective abilities by telling Daredevil he’s figured out how his powers work.
Daredevil does his best to convince Batman that there could still be some good in Harvey Dent, but Batman responds by throwing a temper tantrum like a little child, and saying that he doesn’t want to hang out with Daredevil anymore. He tries to run away, and hop in the Batmobile, but Daredevil won’t let him get away that easy, and leaps onto the Batmobile to keep talking to Batman. The two continue to trade very strange insults to each other, showing how tough they are, until Batman is able to shake Daredevil off of the hood of the Batmobile. The two then play an odd game of chicken, with Batman eventually blinking and swerving the Batmobile at the last moment before running Daredevil over.
And, while Batman and Daredevil are violently flirting, we see that Two-Face and Mr. Hyde have met up with a fence who specializes in stolen technology to steal all the busted arcade processors they have. Which is apparently a booming business in New York. It should be a pretty routine bit of business, but the pills that Mr. Hyde has been pounding like Tic Tacs have started to have a serious effect on him, and not a good one. He’s getting incredibly manic, violent, and paranoid, and Two-Face is encouraging this behavior, because apparently high-anxiety causes the Neural Net to cook faster or something. And all of this causes Mr. Hyde to just strangle the fence for no reason, leading Two-Face to gleefully say they need more action.
And the special plan Two-Face has in mind is apparently to go rob an internet cafe, because this comic wasn’t 1997 enough yet. The two show up at the cafe, and quickly hold the place hostage, causing quite a scene and giving Mr. Hyde the right kind of stress he needs to cook the Neural Net. Meanwhile, Batman and Daredevil have found the corpse of the fence, along with some of Mr. Hyde’s hair which they’re able to analyze. It shows that Hyde certainly has been ingesting the chemicals required to cook the Neural Net, and Batman realizes that things may be to late. Because once the Neural Net is ready, and Mr. Hyde is dead, Two-Face will have his hands on the most advanced and powerful processor known to man, which he can sell to the highest bidder.
Luckily, the two are making quite a scene at the cyber cafe, which quickly draws the attention of Batman and Daredevil, who race off to stop the two. Mr. Hyde has really gone off the deep end, pounding the pills at a rapid rate and making the situation completely untenable. He’s threatening to beat some of the hostages to death, and he’s about to do so when Batman comes leaping into the cafe, ready to start fighting. Unfortunately, while Batman’s an expert fighter, he’s not really used to dealing with people like Mr. Hyde, and things get a little rough.
Luckily though, Daredevil shows up at that moment to give some backup. Because apparently Batman didn’t let Daredevil ride in the Batmobile and made him walk. Dick move, Batman. Anyway, the two crimefighters begin beating the hell out of Mr. Hyde while Two-Face does his best to escape, only to find that in the fight a grease-fire has started, trapping everyone inside. Batman momentarily stops the fight to get the hostages out, and then gets back to work beating up Hyde. And, while Batman returns his focus to Hyde, Daredevil begins trying to talk some sense into Two-Face, hoping that the afternoon they spent together decades ago is enough to stop Two-Face’s life of crime. And, against logic, it ends up working. Harvey has a momentary lapse of evil, and gives the heroes a syringe that’s full of a chemical that will neutralize the Neural Net. They inject the chemical into Hyde, causing him to pass out. And, with the two threats finished, the heroes are triumphant!
The story then ends in a very strange scene where Matt Murdock and Foggy Nelson attend a charity rave (what?!) that Bruce Wayne is hosting. Matt goes up to introduce himself to Bruce, and immediately recognizes the man’s heart-rate and breathing as that of Batman’s. And, for reasons that aren’t made clear, Bruce also realizes that Matt is Daredevil. The two exchange some tense pleasantries, and Bruce tells Matt to never come visit him in Gotham, seemingly setting up a sequel that never really came to fruition.
This story is absolutely insane. And I don’t really think in a good way. It’s and extremely late-nineties comic, with all the good and bad that that entails. The story is a bit nonsensical, the art is not at all the style that I enjoy, it’s full of hilariously macho dialogue that reads like failed lines from Schwarzenegger flicks, and everyone is being needlessly brooding and cynical. But, at the same time, it’s still a story about Batman and Daredevil fighting Two-Face, who just so happened to know Daredevil when they were in college. That’s the kind of weird, comic book bullshit that I really like. The whole idea of Marvel and DC characters mingling feels like it can be incredibly hit or miss, and I think largely this one was a miss. Oddly enough, Batman and Daredevil would team up again in a second story, but not in Gotham, and with a different creative team. I haven’t read that one, so maybe it’s great, but if this comic is any indication, I won’t necessarily be holding my breathe. This is certainly an entertaining oddity, but not really a story that I’d recommend. It’s weird. A little too weird. The characterizations are all screwy, especially the idea that Batman has completely given up hope in Harvey Dent ever being rehabilitated, just treating him like a pure monster, leaving Daredevil to be the one to reason with him. That was just a weird call that I don’t think ended up working. But, it’s interesting enough. So we’ll see if Batman works better with a different, more militant Marvel character later this month.
Daredevil and Batman – Eye for an Eye was written by D. G. Chirchester, penciled by Scott McDaniel, inked by Derek Fischer, colored by Gregory Wright and Digital Chameleon, and lettered by Bill Oakley, 1997.
Categories: Marvel Madness