Posted - September 3, 2015
Crisis on Infinite Earths: Batman
The Main Story
This article takes a closer look at Batman and Robin during the Crisis of Infinite Earths event. It is before the Anti-Monitor's shadow creatures started attacking. The skies have become unnaturally red, and angry with lightning bolts, and sometimes, red rains would fall.
Against that backdrop, let's have a look at both Batman and Detective Comics to see what the Dark Knight and everybody affiliated with him is up to during such troubled times.
The story encompassing both books reminds me of overhead shots of cities. You know how it is. A plane or satellite flies over a city and takes a shot from thousands of feet away. The bustling, chaotic, city seems so peaceful - even beautiful - from such a distance. The same is true with the story we are about to go into. It looks great from a distance, the components are interesting, the plot is solid. But, just like the satellite photos, the closer we get to the subject the more chaotic it becomes.
The main story and its subplots hinges on six key figures: The Batman (of course), a mysterious villainess called Nocturna, the Catwoman, GCPD mainstay Harvey Bullock, the murderous mystery villain known as the Night Slayer, and Jason Todd, the second Robin after Dick Grayson.
Batman, Nocturna, and Catwoman form a sort of love triangle. I say "sort of" of because what this is isn't so much a study of one man choosing between two women, it is a closer look at the nature of Batman's relations with women in general. How did the traumatic experience that created the Batman affect Batman/Bruce Wayne's ability to have a relationship? This is how:
The theory came from Nocturna but there seems to be enough truth to it that it plagues Batman's thoughts for the entirety of the story arc. Be prepared for Batman to be a bit of a blubbering dolt giving us panels like this one.
Do I think the Batman has been mishandled in this story? On the contrary, I think this makes sense. The Batman is, after all, a monomaniac focused on crimefighting, of course he would behave like a bumbling adolescent in any serious relationship. Relationships aren't his "thing". It makes sense. It's cringe-inducing but it makes sense.
Aside from the relationship focus, another interesting statement - which I believe to be absolutely true - comes to light
"Bruce Wayne is Batman but the Batman is not Bruce Wayne". True! The more I read Batman the more I'm convinced that Bruce Wayne is the "mask" that Batman puts on rather than the other way around - a quality he shares with Superman.
Of the six personalities that I've identified as crucial to the story, none has greater importance that the relatively obscure Nocturna.
So much of this story hinges on her, and, unsurprisingly, this weakly-developed character, collapses from under the strain - and the entire story arc totters with her. The first demand on Nocturna is that she be a femme fatale of the highest order. So attractive that both the Batman and the Night Slayer fall in love with her; so seductive that even the gorgeous Catwoman pales beside her. Wow, that's a tall order, and it remains unfilled. The seductress role not being enough, the story then requires Nocturna to play the role of a mother. Yes, a mother. To the orphaned Jason Todd. That's not the end of it, Nocturna is also required - on top of the two previous roles - to portray the role of crime boss as the new leader of the criminal Faceless Men.
It's simply too much to put on the shoulders of this character. Nocturna is unconvincing on any of the roles assigned to her.
Moving on to the third point of this "love triangle". The most interesting thing about Selina Kyle is the period costume circa 1985.
And I also like this panel showing Catwoman running the rooftops.
The Catwoman's case is one instance when Crisis on Infinite Earths directly affects this storyline. At one point in the tale, Selina climbs a bit too high and this happens.
She gets hit by lightning. The lightning is from the weather disruption brought about by the Crisis event. I actually thought this was the death of Catwoman. Fortunately, the "nine lives" thing seems to be in effect and Selina winds up in the hospital instead.
Now let's head on over to Jason. These panels really jump at me.
"The Flying Todds"? As in "The Flying Graysons"? Now I get it. At around this time a much publicized poll about DC Comics was conducted and for every category New Teen Titans kept coming out. And favorite character? Nightwing. So with Dick Grayson leaving the role, DC needed another Robin. Evidently they didn't want to get creative with the origin - they wanted the exact same Robin with the exact same origin as Dick. Thus changing the acrobatic Graysons with the acrobatic Todds. Totally implausible but it must have made sense from a continuity point-of-view. I console myself with the thought that as the Batman family story commences some distinctions will be made between Robin I and Robin II. For example, in Batman Hush, Batman would refer to Jason as the better detective and Dick as the better fighter.
I actually like that Harvey Bullock is in this story, even if his part is strictly off to the sides.
The bumbling, oafish Bullock lends some welcome color to the drab cast and the unrelenting Crisis-red skies. I do learn one surprising thing about the Detective.
Harvey Bullock keeps a spotlessly neat house. The Detective who can hardly stay in Commissioner Gordon's office for more than five minutes without damaging the furniture and upending the trash bin is a secret neat freak.
And now for the Night Slayer. Check out this character's design, or rather, lack of design.
Everytime I see the Night Slayer I'm like "why no character design?". He's got a black body suit and a stilleto knife and that's it. He's unimpressive and unlamented - yes, he dies in this tale - up until the end when he becames just a bit interesting because of panels like this.
Before his encounter with the Batman, the Night Slayer has been going on a Jack the Ripper-style killing spree. When he finally tangles with the Bat, I'm like "It's over for you Night Slayer". And it is, but not before the Night Slayer proves he is a better fighter than Batman. I should've known that there was some foreshadowing of this since Robin commented earlier that the Night Slayer "didn't seem human". Before this, the only one I considered a better fighter than the Bat is Captain America - based on the JLA/Avengers miniseries. The Night Slayer would leave as mysteriously as he ended. He is one of two people to die at the end of this arc - the other is Nocturna.
This story could have been told much better than it has. I think the weak point is really Nocturna. Considering Nocturna's albino-like condition, her role would be best fulfilled by Lady Death. Too bad that the lady isn't part of the DC Universe.
Captain Boomerang and The Mirror Master
Halfway through the main story Jason Todd sits down and tells us of something else that happened while the red skies appeared over Gotham - a tale that involves visitors from Central City.
It wouldn't be right to describe this tale as Batman vs. Captain Boomerang and Mirror Master. This is Captain Boomerang vs. Mirror Master with the Batman playing strategist on the side.
So we have two Silver Age characters in Captain Boomerang and Mirror Master. Happily they brought their toys with them.
Here's the Captain hitching a ride on one of his Boomerangs.
Here's Mirror Master playing a smoke and mirrors trick on Harvey Bullock.
Captain Boomerang steals a trick mirror from Mirror Master and crafts a boomerang with it that returns to Mirror Master's HQ and does this.
Get it? A boomerang that "returns". Right "returns" to where it came from. It's good old-fashioned campy fun..
Mirror Master's mirror trap.
Basically we have both Flash villains backstabbing each other in Gotham, all for some priceless jade museum piece. It all ends up in a wild brawl involving both, the Batman, Robin and Harvey Bullock.
Good, clean, comics fun that ends the way you expect.
Among the comics I'm looking at are three issues of Detective Comics. Each of these issues has an eight-page Green Arrow adventure tacked in at the end - so let's look at what Mr. Queen is up to.
The first time we encounter Oliver he is wrestling with a truly fearsome super-villain: Money worries.
To make matters worst, the money gets stolen because Oliver is gets preoccupied with the "sights and sounds of the city".
I love the ending. Does the big bad Green Arrow get his money back? No. The police gets his money back for him and he has to prove it's his.
The next Green Arrow story takes him back to the monastery were he learned some of his skills. He goes up against a former student that proves to be a bad egg and, at the end of the tale, this "bad egg" dies a death reminiscent of the Nazi comeuppance in Indiana Jones and the Lost Ark
What I really like are the archery skills displayed by Green Arrow together with his fun trick arrows.
Nailing multiple perps to the wall.
Hitting an arrow with an arrow.
And best of all, disabling a chopper with two arrow shots.