Bat Signal

Issue 688 – “The Rip”

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Hi there 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, normally, that last part can often become a thorn in my side. When I set out on this mission I decided I would use a random umber generator to pick the issues I’d be talking about, and ignore any problems that arise from coming across issues that are part of larger stories. Often than leads to somewhat frustrated articles where I either talk about the first part of a story where it’s all set-up and no pay off, or the end of a story where it’s just baffling nonsense. And, this week we have one of the later, giving us the second half of a story, but we thankfully have one that’s so completely weird that I don’t even mind not being sure what’s going on. So strap in folks, it’s going to go off the rails almost immediately.

The issue begins with Robin waking up after having been knocked out, foggy on what’s going on and where he is. Unfortunately, he’s not given a whole lot of time to figure that out, because it turns out he’s on a speeding Batboat that is rapidly approaching a dock. So, without giving himself a second thought, Tim leaps off the boat right before it careens into the dock and explodes. And when he surfaces, his mind starts filling in the gaps, and he remembers that Batman has apparently been taken from him, while dealing with some new criminal who is calling himself Captain Fear. Robin doesn’t know where he might be, but knows that it’s his mission to find him. And, where is Batman? Well…

 

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So, yeah. Apparently whoever Captain Fear is, he has left Batman tied to a buoy, badly beaten and hanging on to life. Bruce struggles to consciousness, and has to start wondering why Fear left him alive, and what their plans for him are. Hell, they didn’t even take off his mask to learn who he really was! And, why did they keep him alive? Well, it turns out we aren’t the only people asking that question. Because the story then cuts over to Captain Fear’s hideout where his crew is asking him the very same question. They aren’t too pleased with Fear’s decision to keep Batman alive, and they aren’t afraid to make that doubt clear. But, Captain Fear doesn’t really care about their questions, and convinces them to just put it out of their minds, and get ready for their next heist. Because, Captain Fear and his gang are straight out of the Golden Age Batman villains, dressing and talking like cartoon pirates and planning raids in their high-tech pirate ship, specifically to rob some Gotham City yacht club.

Meanwhile, Robin has recuperated from his boat explosion, and is just sitting around in the Batmobile, trying to figure out what his next step should be. He can’t raise Batman on their radio system and there’s nothing on the police scanner about possible locations. However, he does finally remember that Batman’s utility belt has a tracking device in it, and gets to work figuring out where he might be. But, he’s going to need some backup. So, Robin makes a few calls to the law enforcement of Gotham City, and ends up getting some help from a man called Shotgun Smith. And, only him. Robin’s a little disappointed that no one else is apparently willing to help track Batman down, but they get to work locating Batman’s utility belt. There’s only one problem. The belt isn’t on Batman. Fortunately, it’s being looked after by two of Captain Fear’s least intelligent minions.

 

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So, this too doofuses have knocked themselves unconscious playing around with Batman’s utility belt, which gives Robin and Shotgun a perfect opportunity to come marching into Captain Fear’s hideout, since it’s only full of a robotic parrot and a bunch of sleeping goons. Robin is frustrated that the pirates removed the belt from Batman, but does think there may have a way to find him using the robotic parrot, which seems programmed to listen and repeat thing. So, Robin takes the parrot with him back to the Batcave while sending Shotgun out to stop Captain Fear’s next raid. Robin then starts working with Harold, a deformed mute man that Batman keeps in the Batcave to repair the Batmobile (yeah, look Harold up) and ends up accessing the parrots internal memory, which reveals that Batman is alive, and the plans for Fear’s next raid.

Which means bad luck for Captain Fear. He and his pirates have just arrived at the Gotham City yacht club, which is supposed to be having some big gala event, only to find that the area is completely empty. Well, except for several police boats, being led by Shotgun Smith. The pirates and the police get into a shootout in the bay, giving Robin the distraction he needed to leap onto Captain Fear’s ship and confront him himself. The two spar a little, but Fear is able to knock Robin out, and hightails it out of the bay, leaving his pirates behind. Fear then sails directly to the buoy that he had Batman chained up to, assuming that the riptide could have already killed him. But, when they get there they find the buoy empty. And, just as Fear is wondering what in the world happened, Batman comes leaping onto the boat, having lured sharks toward him and used their rough skin to rip his confines off! Captain Fear and Batman fight a little, but in the end the Captain ends up leaping off the ship and into the riptide. Batman and Robin then make some jokes about boats, while we learn that Fear’s gang had no idea who he actually was, meaning Captain Fear could return at any time!

 

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In general I’m not the biggest fan of issues like this, ones where we missed the first half and are just kind of thrown into a weird conclusion that doesn’t make sense. But, weirdly, if we’re thrown into a story that is this strange and unexpected, that confusion ends up becoming a strange little treat. Not knowing anything that was happening in this issue makes it a lot of fun, because you never know what’s going to happen when you turn the page. We get to suddenly find pirates, a robot parrot, Batman tied to a buoy and fighting sharks, a man named Shotgun, and a whole pirate raid on a yacht party. That’s some wonderfully weird plot elements, and it was incredibly satisfying seeing them unfold as blindly as possible. The story itself is pretty fun too, even though it’s an issue that features very little Batman, at least very little Batman that’s not tied to a buoy waxing philosophic about the fact that he may drown before dying of dehydration. Although, seeing Batman climb onto a boat soaking and bloody and saying “nothing was biting” in reference to a group of sharks was pretty phenomenal. All around, this was a fun little issue, and while I doubt Captain Fear really came back to commit pirate crimes off the coast of Gotham, I’ll be very excited if I ever do come across him again.

 

“The Rip” was written by Chuck Dixon, penciled by Graham Nolan, inked by Eduardo Barreto, colored by Matt Hollingsworth & Android Images, lettered by John Costanza, and edited by Scott Peterson & Darren Vincenzo, 1995.

 

 

 

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