Detective Comics 583-584

The Ventriloquist Is Added to Batman's Lore

The two-story arc deals with drugs. Specifically, capsules of a substance known as Feverol Trinitrite (I have a feeling the name isn't scientific at all but its appreciated that Wagner and Grant took the effort) - also known as Fever. The usual effect is uncontrollable wildness for half an hour then lingering addiction. Reminds me of Ecstacy tablets.

The many levels of a drug syndicate are here,  from the Fever makers in Mexico, the couriers, the hired thugs, and the distributors in Gotham headed by the pair shown below.

the ventriloquist and his dummy - scarface

Yes, the one on the left is a wooden dummy known as Scarface and the guy with glasses on the right is called the Ventriloquist. A big part of why the story is interesting is because of these two crazies and their thugs. The whole crime organization actually takes orders from the dummy. Scarface is filthy mouthed, brutal and murderous while the Ventriloquist acts sensitive and sentimental - all along they are one and the same person and everybody knows it! All that's needed is for Wagner and Grant to run with this, and they do, balancing  the casual cruelty of Scarface with the even more insidious evil of the Ventriloquist.

The plot is centered on the Ventriloquist and his gang with Gotham as a backdrop. As night falls on the city, we go to the ground level, running around with the cops and the pimps and the Gotham rich in the red light district. We are never far from Gotham during the the story (except for a brief visit to Tijuana, Mexico) and the city takes on a life of its own - as if it were a character in the tale. This is a wonderful effect achieved by the creative team.

Through it all moves the Batman; as smart and as tough as we need him to be. We get to see the Batman's place in the life of Gotham, even with as little a thing as his shadow falling on some cops making a bust or something as significant as being able to go to effect changes that the police cannot. The relationship between Gotham and the Bat is very clear in this storyline.

Now let's get to Norm Breyfogle's art. I did a review of Detective Comics 590 and was deeply impressed by his art. That issue was cover dated September 1988, this story was several months back in February and Breyfogle's' art isn't as polished but there are some noteworthy panels :

This is the classic Breyfogle Batman in action. First of all, notice the shaded face which automatically gives a feeling of fierceness. Then the kick itself. Look at the leg - not only does it convey strength but also speed.

batman kicks out

When I first saw this panel my eyes immediately fell to the Batmobile. What is that? Looks like a modified Corvette. But then I saw the entire panel; the layout is pretty slick what with the cityscape in the background.

batmobile with city backdrop

Here's another shot of the Batmobile. Look at those distinctive bubble windshields. It doesn't look like a Corvette now, it just looks weird. Another thing to note is the cornering. No oversteer or understeer, just stick-to-the-ground at high speed. Real world sports cars would kill for this kind of cornering (okay, not you drifters).


I love the city skyline backdrop with the buildings all lighted up, I just wish the sky was blue instead of this pink shade. Once again the layout is top class showing Batman sneaking into the Rizzo funeral parlor where the Ventriloquist and company are doing some truly disgusting things.

batman breaks into rizzo's funeral parlor

Once in a while its great to see Batman in action not against some costumed villain but against organized crime in Gotham - the story makes me feel that this is what he usually does during his nightly patrols and that the city owes him a lot for helping to depress the crime rate. Granted that the Ventriloquist is far from a regular crime boss but he definitely isn't a super-villain. It's a solid story with spot-on characterization and wonderful pacing, and that's why it makes it into Comics Recommended.

By the way, the cover of 583 is from the legendary Mike Mignola

Posted by  Pete Albano - February 27, 2011

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detective comics 583

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Detective Comics issues


579 : Crime Doctor

582 : Millenium crossover

583-584 : The Ventriloquist

585-586 : Ratcatcher

587-589 : Corrosive Man

590 : Batman In London

591 : Batarang vs. Boomerang

592-593 : On the trail of a torture killer

594 : Ecsta-wha?

617 : Joker

871 : The Collectors

874 : James Gordon

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