Author: No Man Can Say
Summer heat, and World's Finest, formerly World's Best, is on the bookshelves. And with the heat wave comes another wave--a wave of crime. Gang crime. The war between rival gangs has been going on for two months, and frankly the Gotham public has had enough of this shit.
"I don't know why we keep voting for that guy."
The disastrous drive-by shooting brings public opinion from a slow simmer to a full boil (add in a little sage, remove from heat, serves 4), and the end result is the governor appointing a special prosecutor, William Kendrick, as an end-run around the crooked DA. Kendrick, we're told, is on the straight and narrow, and promises to get the racketeers. Our story does a nice round-up of bad guy reaction shots, which also has the benefit of introducing our cast.
There's "Big Tim" Bannon, Gotham's political boss, who is skeptical that Kendrick will follow through on his heated promises.
Added Bannon, "Nyah, see?"
Big Tim is played by a toad.
There's the ousted crooked DA Graves, who complains that getting rid of rackets is really hard (especially when the racketeers are paying for his summer home).
Fun fact: he once killed a man with his chin.
Graves is played by the creepy neighbor who won't stop watching you.
There's Mitch Mason, of the West Side mob, who isn't too worried;
Mitch: "I don't worry about anything, thanks to the opium! Wink!"
Mitch is played by Jude Law.
And his rival, Trig Cooler, head of the East Side mob, who makes oblique threats on Kendrick's life.
Trig Cooler is played by Frank Sobotka from The Wire (season 2).
Finally, there's a citizen's committee intended to give Kendrick all the support he needs, headed by wealthy businessman Ambrose Taylor.
Ambrose Taylor is played by Mr. Potato Head.
These are today's players in... "As Gotham City Turns"
Hey, I know what this plot is missing! A plot! Let's add a MacGuffin, shall we?
Kendrick is played by Vampire Charlton Heston.
The next day, Kendrick is having lunch with his friend, Bruce Wayne, who helpfully explains that Kendrick has signed his own death warrant.
Bruce Wayne is played by the stern face of justice.
Kendrick brushes off Bruce's fears, and invites him to dinner, telling him "It's the servant's night off. I'll be all alone!" He makes sure to yell it loudly enough so that the whole restaurant hears. Naturally, the creepy eavesdropping waiter (played by the reanimated corpse of Peter Lorre) wastes no time in taking the news of Kendrick's vulnerability to Boss Bannon. Bannon takes it to "a certain mobster", and later in a shadowy smoke-filled room, shadowy silhouettes plot the murder of the new prosecutor, invisibly.
But two unexpected elements will alter their plans. First, the Potato Head of the Citizen's Committee requests a meeting with Kendrick. Second, a worried Bruce puts on his costume and heads over to Kendrick's, where he sees a car belonging to Boss Bannon out front. Climbing silently up the fire escape, Batman finds himself confronted with a blood-drenched horror:
No jokes here--I just think this is a beautifully laid-out panel, and the surreal red coloring adds a very Dario Argento sort of macabre-ness to the scene. While Batman usually tries for mood, it rarely goes for expressionistic effects like this which key into emotion--here, Batman's shock and horror at finding his friend murdered (and Mr. Potato Head french-fried).
Batman's response is to get so angry that the narration describing his punches needs to use three exclamation marks!!! It doesn't help, though. Batman can fight a lot of things but he can't fight this graph:
Batman's fighting skill is inversely related to how many pages there are left in the issue.
Batman can fight anything at the beginning of the issue, but after that there's a severe drop-off as the true antagonists are introduced. After that, his prowess steadily increases, peaking with the climax and resolution, at which point Batman is so awesome he could punch through the fourth wall, hitting you, the reader.
You can also imagine a similar, but completely inverted graph showing the likelihood that at any given time, Batman will be easily knocked unconscious. Mathematologists are not yet sure how often that's going to result in him waking up just in time to hear a cryptic dying confession, but their computing machines are working day and night on the question.
Devil's Dungeon? Sounds like he's talking about a very different little black book.
With that, Vampire Charlton Heston crumbled into a small pile of fine dust.
Carrying Ambrose "My head was in Toy Story!" Taylor down the fire escape, Batman sees ex-DA (and now DA again?) Graves running away. The mysteries are sure piling up and holy shit:
"In the meantime, at least being covered in Taylor's blood will strike fear into the hearts of my enemies. So much fear."
When he gets to the street, Batman is shot at by a carful of gangsters with machine guns, who must be blind, because:
a) they don't hit him
b) they are shooting at Batman when he is covered in freaking blood
Batman's response is another one of those "I'm so glad I read these comics" moments:
Somehow the bizarre amount of useless "headroom" at the top of this panel just makes this funnier. Or maybe it's just that the brick has knocked his hat off.
Finally regaining their sight or sanity, the gangsters take off. Batman brings the wounded Taylor to Bruce Wayne's nurse girlfriend, Linda Page. She's able to treat him physically, but the bullet that creased his scalp appears to have given him--
With Batman's witness unable to give testimony, he falls back on the only other clue he's got--Kendrick's cryptic last words. Unfortunately, that clue is known to the conspirators, too.
Wait, what? Sounds like Kendrick had some bizarre hobbies. (Probably BDSM, but I'm not ruling out LARPing just yet.)
The bad guys ride up to Kendrick's house; so does Batman, Robin, Taylor (in case he suddenly regains his memory) and Linda ("I'm coming with you then. He's still a sick man and may have a relapse and don't argue with me I'm a nurse"), in the Batmobile. Because the Batmobile is an especially-designed billions-of-dollars crime-fighting machine, it goes very very fast.
If only it had GPS.
"Wow! The Batmobile must be doing at least 45 miles an hour! That's way too fast, even for our modern times!"
Rather than using the shortcut to get to their actual destination and find the black book without Batman's interference, they decide to set a trap for him. They put their two cars end to end across the road next to a curve, intending for Batman to crash.
Batman, rounding the corner and seeing the cars, realizes he can't stop in time, he can't turn aside.... There's only one thing to do: accelerate.
Go, Speed Racer! Go, Speed Racer! Go--oh, right. Wrong hero. Anyway this is still pretty awesome.
As it turns out, the Batmobile is made of reinforced glass, steel, and man.
Our heroes successfully get to Kendrick's house first, and spend a few panels wandering around a spooky Gothic house in the dark (the power's out for some reason), complete with those creepy paintings you'd always see in Scooby Doo that were actually disguised peepholes. Batman eventually finds a "Roussal" painting, titled "Devil's Dungeon", which for some reason is not actually in Kendrick's basement-slash-LARP-lair. Anyway behind the painting is the black book.
No sooner have they found it, however, than Bannon's men come charging into the house. Robin takes out a few of them, like a responsible crime-fighter would.
Hey, kids! You know all those lessons Batman and Robin are always trying to teach you? This is one of them.
Meanwhile, Bannon and Graves stumble around, unable to find a damn thing for lack of light. Batman puts on those ridiculously dorky night-vision glasses of his and starts throwing his voice around, ventriloqly.
Either that man is terrified, or his face is made out of cookie dough. Either way it's delicious.
By the time Batman's finished toying with them, thugs downstairs have found Linda and Taylor. In the ensuing struggle, Taylor gets a second bump on the head, which is of course the cure for Fictional Amnesia. His memory regained, Taylor delivers a startling twist:
dun dun DUHNNNNN
Taylor then pulls a gun out of his pocket. Really? I mean, come on, Batman. Everybody knows the first thing you do with an amnesia victim is check his pockets to see what clues he may have left himself. (Also mysterious tattoos.)
Anyway, it's clear that now that Taylor's realized he's a bad guy, he should probably be trying to kill Batman. On the plus side, he does have the gun, and Batman's so absolutely startled by Taylor's retarded confession that he's frozen for an instant. On the other hand, Batman's "instant" is shorter than you'd think. To be fair, Taylor is suffering from a pair of head wounds and isn't thinking clearly. But still, come on. Isn't it better to avoid fighting Batman, even if you're guilty? I mean, he'll beat you up pretty badly. Or, you know, this:
Damn, Batman. What did Mr. Potato Head ever do to you?
The tied-up crooks reveal the rest of the story. Apparently Taylor was publicly the head of the Citizen's Committee to help Kendrick fight the mob, and privately... Mitch Mason's superior and head of the West Side mobsters.
Batman pulls the appropriate lesson from all of this: he should have known the amnesiac was the killer. ...huh.
You're a grown man in a bat costume talking to his costumed ward and his nurse sort-of double girlfriend and together you fight the mob. Earth is a long way away.