Friday, October 30, 2009

Detective Comics #394

Detective Comics #394 (On Sale: October 30, 1969) has a nice cover by Neal Adams.

We begin with Batman in "A Victim's Victim" by Frank Robbins, Bob Brown and Joe Giella. Oh, does this issue continue harming the Batman legend. This is the second of the inane Victim's Incorporated Program (V.I.P.) stories. Picking up from the end of this month's Batman story, Bruce Wayne is confronted in his V.I.P. office by a Native American sporting a gun and an eye-patch, one Dakota Jones, race-car driver. It seems Dakota thinks Bruce Wayne hired someone to shoot him in the eye during the last Gotham Classic Cup Race, so that the car owned by Bruce could win.

I take note here that this month DC put out two comics staring Batman and featuring racing, The big difference is that in The Brave and the Bold both Batman and Bruce Wayne take an active part in the racing, while here Bruce owns the car. Anyway, Bruce and Dakota spar and Bruce wins and figures that someone must be feeding Dakota the idea that Bruce was involved.

Later that night as Batman, Bruce heads for the scene of the crime in one of the stupidest looking Batmobiles of all time. This is some Italian race-car looking thing, with one-way mirrors for windows, diplomatic license plates and an ugly spoiler on top. He thinks this will be less obtrusive than the old Batmobile. World's greatest detective my ass! I digress. At the track Batman determines that the shot must have come from the inside of the track, and since there is no place for a sniper to hide, the shot must have come from Wayne's car.

For some reason, Wayne's car is still at the track and on inspection, Batman finds a shell casing under the floor mat (a race car with a floor mat?). Just then he hears some low lifes, "Chance" Collins and some of his goons, coming, talking about how they convinced Dakota that Bruce had ordered the "hit" on Dakota, not them, who bet heavily on the Wayne car to win. They are back to retrieve the gun from behind the glove compartment of Wayne's car. Batman does see the gun there and hides in the car.

When Collins' men open the car batman attacks them but is overpowered. They tie him up and are going to use the same remote-controlled gun rig that they used to shoot Dakota to kill Batman. Before they can do that though, Dakota arrives and takes out a couple of thugs while Collins slips away in Wayne's race car. Dakota takes after him and Collins crashes the car on the same turn where Dakota was shot. An eye for an eye, as they say.

I can't go forward without mentioning the lack-luster Bob Brown and Joe Giella artwork. Brown didn't seem to be trying very hard (one Batman face is repeated three times) and Giella never was one for thrilling inks.

The back-up story features Robin in "Strike... While the Campus is Hot" by Frank Robbins, Gil Kane and Murphy Anderson. The artwork on this one is a night and day reversal of the main story. Gil Kane's pencils are exciting and vibrant, and Murphy Anderson's inks are lush and inviting, smoothing off some of the rough edges of Kane's pencils. The story begins with Batman and Alfred reading a letter from Dick, telling of his first college "bust."

Dick relates how he has found a room in a boarding house with a conveniently-placed drain pipe for Robin to exit and enter and how on his first day on campus he ran into a protest by a group called CTT (Citizens Tomorrow--Today). They seem to be provoking the campus administrators when the dean shows up to say that they will talk with the protesters and tat they will be no police action or interference. This seems to take the wind out of the protesters who appeared gunning for violence. Suddenly police cars appear and the leaders are taken into custody.

However, Dick notices that the cops are phonies and is knocked out and taken as well. At the campus the remaining CTT leaders accuses the school of lying and along with the press head down to police headquarters. Finding no CTT leader there, CTT accuses the police of being in on a massive cover-up. Meanwhile Dick awakens in an old silo and changes into Robin (something about a reversible shirt and hidden pockets that makes little sense, but hey, it's the comics, right?). He finds the "cops" bandaging up the CTT leader. Robin leaps down and starts fighting the leader only to find the "cops" standing on the sidelines watching and smiling.

This story has been reprinted in Showcase Presents: Robin the Boy Wonder Vol. 1 TPB.

Edited by Julius Schwartz.

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