Hello 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, today we’re going to be talking about an issue that I really thought was going to be a problem in regards to that last bit. Because of the weird confines I built for myself during this project, I sometimes come across issues that are parts of larger stories, causing me to struggle and figure out what I missed. And, starting this issue, I assumed that was the case. But, weirdly enough, this issue does appear to be a self-contained story, just one that start in media res, and that immediately jumps off the deep end. Weirdly, this is not the first time I’ve talked about a story where Batman has fought intelligent gorillas, but never quite like this.
The issue begins with Batman struggling to regain consciousness, doing his best to piece together what’s going on. He’s apparently been investigating a string of murders around Gotham City where people have basically been ripped limb from limb, which took on an even more sinister meaning when Bruce realized that all of the dead men were friends of his fathers, and who fought in the war together. This then sent Batman on the path of Xavier Simon, a criminal who was sent to prison during the war thanks to Thomas Wayne and the men who have been killed. So, Batman went to investigate a presumably old man, and was almost immediately electrocuted by Simon, which brings us back to Batman struggling to wake up. He finds himself strapped to a table, still in his costume, in a location that he doesn’t recognize. Oh, and there’s a giant gorilla.
So, that’s less than ideal. Batman has found himself trapped by Xavier Simon, and is being gawked at by a giant white gorilla. And, logically, that gorilla now contains the mind of Simon. Which, doesn’t exactly make sense. See, Simon has a very elaborate plan going. He has spent a majority of his life imprisoned thanks to Bruce Wayne’s father, and has devised a plan that involves him capturing Bruce Wayne, who he knows is Batman, and stealing his body. I don’t know how Xavier Simon has come across a machine that will switch people’s brains, but he has one, and he’s going to put his mind into Bruce Wayne’s body, then transfer all of his wealth to Bruce Wayne so he can use their combined wealth to live a life of debauchery.
Which, I guess begs the question, why was the gorilla needed? It just seems like a needless step, but I guess he’s here to keep Batman in line. And, after explaining all of this, Simon just gets to work prepping the brain-swapper, while Bruce realizes that he needs to do something. He’s very unsure if he can take a gorilla in man-to-man combat, but there’s really no alternative, especially if his brain is soon going to be inhabited a paralyzed old man’s body. So, Batman summons every last ounce of strength he has, and manages to rip himself out of his confines, pulling himself off the board. And, thinking fast, he grabs some random piece of machinery, and chucks it at the gorilla, which ends up becoming a pretty lucky shot, dazing the gorilla, and also crashing into Simon’s body. Which, has some rather unexpected results.
Whoops, Batman just incinerated the body of an old man. But, I guess it’s okay, because it had no mind in it? I don’t know, but this obviously has struck a nerve with Simon, who begins to attack Batman with his full ape-like strength, which is bad new for Batman. The Caped Crusader sizes up his opponent, and quickly realizes that the only logical course of action is to literally leap out of the nearest window. Which, was a slight tactical error, because it turns out that Simon’s laboratory was twenty stories up. But, as Batman begins plummeting to the streets of Gotham below, he’s able to throw out his grappling hook and save himself. Unfortunately, the gorilla also throws himself from the building, and is able to grab a hold of Batman’s line, causing it to snap and sending both of them down onto a nearby rooftop.
Batman realizes that he’s going to be unable to outrun the gorilla, so makes peace with the fact that his only course of action is to fight the gorilla as ferociously as he can, and hope that the fire from the laboratory will bring aid before he gets pummeled to death. Batman and the gorilla then proceed to beat the bajesus out of each other, with Batman relying on fancy moves and quick feet, and the gorilla relying on the fact that he’s a goddamn gorilla. Eventually Batman is forced to rip a small length of pipe out of the roof, which he uses to beat the hell out of the ape, but it just isn’t enough. The gorilla is eventually able to get the best of Batman, and raises the Dark Knight above its head, ready to toss him to his death, as revenge for permanently trapping him in this body. But, right as Batman is about to die, a random security guard for the building they’ve been fighting atop arrives, and shoots the gorilla several times in the back. The ape then falls from the building, and lands in the streets dead. The issue then jumps ahead to a cemetery, where Batman has laid the gorilla’s remains and the ashes of Xavier Simon to rest in the same location, while Commissioner Gordon has a thousand questions about what in the hell just happened.
Is this a great issue of Detective Comics? No, not really. Will I remember I forget all about it in like, two weeks? Yeah, probably. Was it a really good time in the moment? You better believe it! I mean, this issue is insane. Like I said up top, this doesn’t seem to be the second half of a larger story, it just starts off immediately with Batman held captive by an evil gorilla with the mind of a criminal inside him, and we just kind of go. All the backstory was able to be crammed into the first few pages, top-loading the narrative so that we could have a shocking amount of pages of just Batman/Gorilla combat, which weirdly was something I was very much in the mood to see. It’s an absurdly silly issue, there’s literally no detection of superheroics, and it really doesn’t make much sense. But, it’s a story where Batman fights a gorilla to the death atop a building, all because Batman’s dad was mean to the man inside the gorilla’s mind. And, I have to hand it to this story, that’s not a concept I’ve seen a million times before. It’s weird as all hell, but at least it gets points for originality.
“Night of the Body Snatcher” was written and penciled by Jim Starlin, inked by P Craig Russell, colored by Tatjana Wood, lettered by Karen Kish, and edited by Paul Levitz, Julius Schwartz, and Al Milgrom, 1979.
Categories: Bat Signal