Bat Signal

Issue 843 – “Opening Night!”

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Howdy everyone, and welcome back for yet another installment of Bat Signal, my never-ending quest to read every issue of Detective Comics, in random order and with basically no context. And we’re going to be talking about a pretty fun issue today. There’s not a whole lot of actual detection going on, but there’s a lot of fun Bruce Wayne stuff, we get to check another major villain off of the Bingo game we’ve been playing (even if it’s not the classic version of the character, and we even get a very strange guest spot from another hero that we happened to check in on just a few weeks ago. So, get ready to hear about the cut-throat world of Gotham City novelty-club ownership, because we’re going to be talking about it a lot! Oh, and for some added spice, this is only the first part of a story, so don’t expect to get a satisfying conclusion!

The story begins, already in progress, with Batman saving a terrified security guard as they swing above what appears to be an active volcano. But, it turns out that this isn’t quite as outlandish as it initially seems. They’re just inside Gotham’s newest nightclub, Club Vesuvius, which has an enormous fake volcano. Unfortunately, someone has tampered with the giant volcano the night before the club was set to open, causing it to prematurely erupt, almost killing the guard. Batman was apparently passing by at the moment of the explosion, and came inside to help he man out. And, as you could guess, he gets a little curious about who would want to sabotage the opening of a nightclub, especially in a manner that could have caused so much damage. And, since this is Gotham City, there’s one pretty clear suspect, especially because his place of business is literally down the street. The Penguin!

 

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However, the Penguin promises he had nothing to do with it. He doesn’t really have much esteem for the owner of Club Vesuvius, Johnny Sabatino, but he also doesn’t wish him ill enough will to sabotage his opening night. Which means Batman’s going to need to do a bit more investigation. And, to sweeten the pot, the Penguin also mentions that Sabatino has convinced a certain friend of Batman’s to be involved on the opening night. Zatanna! That’s right, we just talked about an issue with Zatanna less than two months ago, but she’s back! Zatanna doesn’t really want to be involved with Sabatino, especially because of how much of a creep he is towards her. But, he’s promising to give fifty thousand dollars to the charity of her choice if she agrees to perform on his opening night, so she decides to push aside her instincts, and agrees to do her show at Club Vesuvius.

The night of the Club’s opening, Zatanna is performing her trademark tricks, to a crowd of adoring fans, with none other than Bruce Wayne as her assistant. We obviously know that Zatanna and Bruce are close, and know each other’s secret identities, but the crowd just sees one of the most famous people in their town being teleported around the room, and eat it up. Zatanna and Bruce manage to make it clear to each other that there’s something suspicious going on, and she promises Bruce to help him investigate, after her show. But, when the show does actually end, we see that Johnny Sabatino has gotten a phone call, seemingly from Zatanna, where she’s inviting him back to her dressing room so they can sleep together. He then lumbers into the room, like an idiot, and finds out who has been putting the screws to him.

 

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Uh-oh! It’s Scarface and the Ventriloquist! Although, as you might be able to ascern, that’s not the normal Ventriloquist. I’m not quite sure where Albert Weskler is, but he’s apparently been replaced by gorgeous socialite Peyton Riley, who is now bringing Scarface to life. And Scarface is not happy with Johnny Sabatino. Which really confuses Sabatino. He apparently used to work with Scarface back in the old days, when Weskler was in charge, and he can’t understand why Scarface would be attempting to muscle in on his territory and sabotage his new club. And, Scarface doesn’t really give a reason. He just makes it clear that the whole operation is under new management, and he’s decided to ruin Sabatino.

Meanwhile, Bruce and Zatanna are outside in the bar, having some drinks and talking about their relationship, both personal and professional, when Sabatino comes running out of the dressing room, ordering his men to attack the Ventriloquist and his goons. This quickly starts a fire-fight in the middle of the busy club, which Zatanna does the best to squelch before anyone can get hurt. However, things are brought to an awkward end when Scarface and Peyton arrive, and take Bruce Wayne hostage. They light a fire in the Club to keep Zatanna occupied, and then race off to their waiting limousine and race off into the night with their new hostage. Bruce then tries to talk some sense into Peyton, since he actually knows her from society circles, and he’s actually briefly able to reach her. She drops Scarface and starts talking to Bruce about how confused she is, having no idea what’s going on. But, she ends up reaching for Scarface again, and the puppet takes over, and he’s not pleased. He assumes that Bruce is trying to steal Peyton from him, and the issue ends with Scarface machine-gunning Bruce Wayne in the gut. But, and I’m going out on a limb here, I think Bruce doesn’t die.

 

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All in all I think that this was a pretty fun issue. It wasn’t perfect, and I do wish there was a tad more detection going on, but I did enjoy this strange insight into the world of Gotham City’s nighclub scene. Leave it to Gotham to not only have a giant club shaped like an Iceberg, but also one with a giant volcano. Indoors no less! It is a little odd that so quickly we had another story with Zatanna in it, but I’m not really complaining. I really like Zatanna, and I think that she and Bruce have an interesting chemistry, and the way their characters bounce off of each other really works wonderfully for me. Especially the way that this issue has him in Bruce-mode for most of it. But I think the weirdest part was the Ventriloquist. I searched through the archives of this series, and was kind of shocked to realize this was the first time I’d ever really talked about the Ventriloquist. He’s popped up, briefly, twice before in issues surrounding the “Knightfall” storyline, but this is the first time that I’ve gotten a full story featuring Scarface. It’s just weird that we have a story with a different Ventriloquist. It doesn’t see like Peyton Riley was a long-lasting Ventriloquist, but the idea of Scarface still controlling people in the same way, despite whose hand is up him is fascinating. It’s just a shame that this issue doesn’t explain anything. Hopefully I’ll get the second half of this story some day and can get some answers.

 

“Opening Night!” was written by Paul Dini, penciled by Dustin Nguyen, inked by Derek Fridoffs, colored by John Kalisz, and lettered by Steve Wands, 2008.

 

 

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