Hi there everyone, and welcome back for yet another installment of Bat Signal, my eternal quest to read every issue of Detective Comics ever published, in random order, and with basically no context. We’re taking another trip to the mid aughts again this week, into that time when Paul Dini was writing the book, and actually let it turn back into a fairly one-and-done mystery book. I’ve grown quite fond of this era of the comic, and this week’s entry is no different. Plus, we get to see one of Batman’s classic rogue’s gallery, which we really haven’t had in a while. And, it’s the Ventriloquist, one of Batman’s most insane bad guys! Although not exactly the Ventriloquist you may be familiar with, unless you’ve read the other time I’ve drawn an issue with them in it. Which, is frustratingly vague, so let’s just dive into the story.
Things begin on a lonely January night as Batman is driving around the streets of Gotham, patrolling and looking for crimes to stop. And, he’s kind of coming up empty, because no one seems to be out on the streets. That is until he gets a call from the GCPD that a tip has been called in, saying that some men with automatic weapons have opened fire on a woman inside of a warehouse. And, the woman seems to be Catwoman. So, Batman races over to the warehouse, and certainly does find someone dressed up as Catwoman. But, it’s definitely not Selina Kyle, and there’s a crude bomb strapped to the body. Batman manages to flee the building right as the bomb goes off, destroying the warehouse, and finds something odd waiting for him on the Batmobile. It’s a creepy talking ventriloquist dummy of Robin, greeting him. Which, is a pretty big red flag, even in Gotham City.
The creepy little Robin dummy starts negging Batman for a while, until Batman realizes that it’s actually a bomb, and fires his grappling hook at it so that it flies away to explode harmlessly away from the Batmobile. So, clearly the Ventriloquist is involved with this crime, which is a problem, because Arnold Wesker, the man behind the villainous Scarface dummy that is the Ventriloquist, is dead. But, when Batman gets in contact with Commissioner Gordon and Harvey Bullock, they find something shocking at Wesker’s grave. His casket is empty. Which, is certainly strange, but at least the actual Scarface is locked up in police evidence, right? Well, Bullock reveals that when they were dealing with Wesker’s death, the dummy mysteriously vanished. Which, is certainly creepy, but Batman’s sure there must be a logical explanation for all of this. And, to find that explanation, Bruce is going to have to do some research.
However, apparently the Ventriloquist “killed” Matches Malone a few years ago, so Bruce has to pick a different alter ego, something he apparently has a whole score of. He settles on “Lefty Knox” a criminal with a prosthetic arm that he’s modified to contain all sorts of gadgets. So, Bruce hits the streets as Lefty, and ends up learning about a big party happening at the Penguin’s Iceberg Lounge, seemingly to welcome Scarface back to the criminal world. And, apparently Lefty has an in with Scarface, so he’s able to get into the big soiree, and he starts catching up with two criminals that he knows, Anthony Marchetti and Mr. ZZZ. They take a seat in the Iceberg Lounge ballroom, while noticing an attractive woman mingling with people, getting groped at by some weird biker guy. But, their attention is quickly caught up by the stage, when the Ventriloquist shows up. But, there’s a twist.
Well, I guess that solves the mystery of where Wesker’s corpse went. So, as you may know, there’s a second Ventriloquist from this era of the comic which is actually this woman, Peyton Riley, who has found Scarface and taken over the mantle. And, she here to establish herself as the new Ventriloquist. Which begins with her gunning down the guy that groped her earlier, before demanding that people start bowing down to her. She starts using Scarface to give a speech that slowly becomes more of a rant, all about how she’s going to take over the city, starting with murdering Batman. And, while all of this is going on Bruce is using his face prosthesis to take pictures of the new Ventriloquist to figure out who she is.
However, things starts to get tense when Scarface announces that Batman is on his trail, and is probably pretending to be someone in this room. He then begins calling people out, ready to kill them, until enough people swear they aren’t actually Batman that they decide to just kill everyone. At which point Bruce uses some ventriloquy lessons he picked up from Zatanna to throw his voice, drawing attention to one of the other criminals so that he can cut the lights to the room. He then quickly switches into his Batman costume, as the Ventriloquist and Scarface begin fleeing the building, gunning down everyone they come across. The violence spills out into the casino of the Iceberg Lounge, which is when Batman manages to abduct the Ventriloquist. She then begins frantically thanking Batman, telling him that the Scarface doll is haunted. But, it’s just a trick, because as Batman holds the doll, he notices a slight ticking. So, as he prepares to get rid of the bomb hidden inside Scarface, the Ventriloquist flees. Batman manages to smother the explosion in the giant fake iceberg that the Penguin has built, and then gets to stay there until the police arrive to talk about who this new Ventriloquist may be. And, while that’s happening, we see that she has retreated to an apartment, where she prepares to sleep with one of her many Scarface dolls.
I’ve really become a fan of this particular era of Detective Comics. Paul Dini’s involvement is he obvious culprit, especially thanks to my deep love of Batman: The Animated Series, but I think a big aspect of it is the way that he brought to book back to its roots by writing smaller scale stories that focused on detective-work and were generally one-and-done stories. Which I really love. Yeah, the ongoing saga of this second Ventriloquist spills into subsequent issues, including one that I’ve already talked about where she gets involved in a turf war between Gotham City nightclubs, but by and large it’s a simple little crime story that wraps up by the end of the issue. We get to see Bruce wear a disguise and do some detective work, while also fighting with two ventriloquist dummies that have bombs strapped to them, just to make sure that it’s still a Batman story. Dini must really have an affection for Scarface, and I actually really do like this version of the Ventriloquist, even though I don’t think she’s involved past the Dini-era. Plus, I always love stories that make it seems like Scarface is something serious that we should be afraid of, rather than the silliest thing in the world.
“Double Talk” was written by Paul Dini, penciled by Don Kramer, inked by Wayne Faucher, colored by John Kalisz, lettered by Jared K Fletcher, and edited by Michael Siglain and Peter Tomasi, 2007.
Categories: Bat Signal