Howdy everyone, and welcome back for yet another installment of Bat Signal, my never-ending mission to read every issue of Detective Comics, in random order, and with very little context. And boy oh boy do we have a fun little issue to talk about today folks. Some early 80’s nonsense full of dashing Bruce Wayne, Vicki Vale, the first and highly strange introduction of Jason Todd, and and appearance from one of Batman’s oddest foes, the Killer Croc. We’ve kind of talked about Croc in passing before, once during an issue which was mainly about Croc fighting Bane, but this is the first time that we really see him as an antagonist to Batman and Robin. Hell, it turns out that this is one of his first appearances. But, that’s enough preamble, let’s get going.
The issue begins in the middle of some action, picking up a larger ongoing narrative that some boxes inform us have been taking place in the previous issues of both Detective Comics and Batman. Batman and Robin are scouring the waters outside of the Gotham City docks, while a nearby building slowly burns to the ground. The building was the hideout of Killer Croc, a new villain who has show up in Gotham, and it was the setting a of a large gang-war that Batman and Robin have been trying to destroy. The altercation went South, a lot of people apparently died, and the whole building burnt to the ground, seemingly with Killer Croc among it. But, Batman can’t quite shake the feeling that Croc survived the encounter, and has been searching the bay, to no success. So, he decides to take Robin’s advice, and calls it a night, doing his best to accept that Croc must be gone. Which, as you can guess, is inaccurate.
So, after calling it a night, we get to see what Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson decide to do after a long night of crime-fighting and monster hunting. First up is Bruce, who takes off his costume and just barely makes a date with Vicki Vale, who has basically accepted the fact that she’s been stood up yet again. But, Bruce slides into the table just before she storms off, and he makes a big scene about her, giving her champagne and charming the hell out of her. And yet, after a nice evening together, she tells Bruce that it’s clear something is bothering him, and asks to hear the truth. Which is when Bruce explains all sorts of drama to her, telling her that he’s been also seeing Selina Kyle lately, but that he’s decided to give up on her because she’s too complicated and needy, and he enjoys how simple his relationship with Vicki is. Which, as you might have guessed, make Vicki too happy, leading her to storm off.
Meanwhile, Robin is out catching a bit of a show. Because a circus is in town, and Dick seems particularly drawn to it, especially because there’s a family of acrobats, including a young boy named Jason Todd. Which, may be a confusing little tidbit. Dick Grayson famously was the son of an acrobat family before being orphaned and adopted by Bruce Wayne, but Jason Todd too? Well, it turns out that Jason originally had the exact same origin as Dick, before getting his origin rebooted two years later in Crisis on Infinite Earths to the more familiar street urchin story. Does any of this matter? No, not really. All that does matter is that apparently Croc has been trying to intimidate Jason’s family, and Robin is here to promise them he’s going to take care of everything. Which surely won’t end in any sort of family-wide death.
And, while Robin is signing some death warrants, Bruce is out moodily walking the streets of Gotham after his disastrous date. And, in the process of wandering, something finally breaks through to him. Something that had been bothering him the entire night. When he finally gave up on finding Croc and left the water, he noticed a strange glint in the darkness which he now recognizes were the eyes of Croc himself. So, Bruce goes and suits back up as Batman and begins traversing the sewers under Gotham, looking for the villain.
Batman pretty quickly finds himself lost in the maze of the sewers, a little distracted due to the fact that he’s trying to figure out if he just messed up, or if he subconsciously let Croc go because Croc apparently spared his life during the gang war in one of the previous issues. And, while Batman is thinking, he’s jumped by Killer Croc, who comes leaping from the water so he can attempt to drown the Caped Crusader. Luckily, Batman is able to wrestle free of Croc, and the two begin grappling in the sewer. It’s an ugly fight, full of grappling and no real clean hits, and it eventually ends with the pair crashing into an old iron gate, which gives way and sends them both plummeting down into some sort of drainage pipe. Croc is able to grab a hold of the gate, grinning at Batman as he falls through the pipe, and is sent squirting out into the bay. So, Batman has lost his prey, but he’s survived. And he sure as hell isn’t going to let Croc screw him over a third time.
And, that’s all we got. This is clearly a part of a much larger story, sprawling across both Batman titles, so we’re never going to get the full story, since we don’t talk about Batman issues here. But, as usual, I’m going to guess that Batman stops Killer Croc and saves the day. But, I’m also going to guess that Croc is going to somehow kill Jason Todd’s family, giving the little blond kid an excuse to come be Robin for a few years before he’s drastically changed after Crisis so he can become the sour little character that so few people enjoyed that they voted him to be beaten to death by a crowbar. But, none of that has to really do with the issue at hand, which is just kind of fine. It’s really more interesting in regards to the larger series, serving as the real introduction to Jason and the first real brawl between Batman and Croc, but as a single issue, it’s kind of nothing. We get no real story here, just some in between parts. It’s mainly just a fight scene, preceded by some Bruce Wayne relationship drama and some heavy handed foreshadowing regarding the short fates of the Todd’s. But, its a decent enough story, one that I’m sure is much better when read in context and not in random order like my psychotic tendencies.
“Confrontation” was written by Gerry Conway, penciled by Dan Jugens, inked by Dick Giordano, colored by Adrienne Roy, lettered by Ben Oda, and edited by Nicola Cuti and Len Wein, 1983.
Categories: Bat Signal