Author: Bob Kane
Aka, "Batman and Robin Go to Canada." This looks more promising than the last one, by far. Who wants to see Batman fighting lumberjacks? I do!
But first, an interesting little discussion of Gotham's upper class. Normally Gotham's wealthy are portrayed straight (as in "help, my diamonds have been stolen!") or satirically (as drunken, self-centered jerks). Guess which one this is:
"Money isn't everything, Bruce, it's the only thing! That's why Lurch here is fed solely on bread, water, and verbal abuse."
It's easy to see why Nora's a "society favorite"; just look at her waistline. She puts Holocaust skeletons to shame. What's harder to tell is whether Bruce actually likes her, or if he's just keeping up appearances as the Man So Douchey He Couldn't Possibly Be a Superhero.
At any rate, what's fascinating about this is seeing Nora's perspective challenged:
Bruce knows there's no sex like "There, there, I'm here for you" sex.
Nora and Bruce head back to his place. Along the way, she rushes through the five stages of wealthy grieving:
According to the newspaper, the Lumber King's adopted son, Jack, might have killed him for his money.
Nora recalls that Jack, an unimaginatively named lumberjack, was adopted after saving her uncle's life. She's never met him, but he couldn't have done it! She calls him up to offer her help.
Nora calls Jack up to "offer regrets" and tell him "if you need help with anything" and other phrases that mean "how much do you think I stand to inherit?"
"Thanks, but I don't need it! I'll send you a check every month for your share of the lumber profits, so that you can buy yourself some more fur coats and fancy gowns to wear around night clubs--click!"
Jack neglected to add "bitch" to the end of that sentence, but his biting sarcasm is clear from the way he said "click" before hanging up the phone.
5. Acceptance (of your own Righteous Indignation)
Note Bruce's expression of dubious amusement. That's the way you look at a cat trying to play the oboe.
All done grieving over her uncle's death, Nora invites Bruce along for a "vacation in the north woods", presumably to show Jack that she can screw playboys way better than him. Bruce agrees, partly because he figures Batman should look into this random death (why doesn't he just read the obits?) but mostly because he thinks "vacation in the north woods" is code for second base. Which just makes this even more disturbing:
Although I would have loved to see Bruce try to explain to Nora why he was bringing his young ward along on their romantic lumber getaway, Wayne's too smart for that, telling Robin to get a job selling candy on the train so he can ride separately. Or maybe he's just too cheap to buy the kid a ticket. Hm.
Anyway, they've barely gotten off the train and already the Ents have started a jihad:
Ent: "FOR THE TREEEEEES!"
The suicide squishing is unsuccessful, however, and our protagonists soon arrive in what passes for "town", ie., one cabin. There they meet Jack Clayton, who the comic says looks like "a violent storm" but I say looks more like a violent storm messed up his face.
Damn, that's some Deliverance-level city-slicker-animosity right there. "Out here in the woods we don't take kindly to strangers not wearin' plaid."
Meanwhile, a young boy enters the camp, asking for food. Clayton offers the kid some grub, which tells me he's not such a bad guy. Unless he means "serve the kid actual grubs", in which case, ew.
Nora wanders around the campsite, marveling first at how magnificent are the trees, and then at how magnificent are the buff guys cutting down the trees. Bruce remembers he's supposed to act like a dick and puts down the lumberjacks as "mere termites". Imagine that with a laugh after it, though, and it goes from mere dickishness to full-on villain-talk. Fine line, Bruce. Fine line.
I swear I'm not making this up.
Wondering if he's at long last found a kindred spirit, someone just as bored by women and as interested in young wards as he is, Bruce sets out with Robin to investigate. A promising lead--two men disappearing into a tool shed together--turns out to be a meeting of the North American Man-Boy Exposition Association instead. Damn.
"Let's hurry, Frederick. I can't wait to return to our bunk."
"I wish I knew how to quit you, Timothy! Oh, I know! I'll use these saws and axes!"
Batman still bursts into the room to fight them and everything, and there's what passes for witty banter these days ("I'll bathe ya in acid!" "I prefer water!"), but you can tell his heart's not in it. He's just depressed to be finding garden-variety scheming instead of sweet, sweet illicit lumberjack sex. He even fumbles the post-battle interrogation, accidentally backing the remaining crook onto a big ol' hook, killing him before he can reveal any more of his plan.
Our heroes decide they've had enough and dive out the window. Meanwhile, Clayton and Mr. Grizzly-Ate-My-Face discover the body:
"Well, you see Nora, he was just treating all the axes and saws with--uh. um. He was here for gay sex, I reckon. Yeah, that's it. Looks to me like an open and shut case of auto-erotic hooksphyxiation. Poor Woody Joe. Never was the same after that fishing inci--"
Bruce Wayne chooses that particular moment to wander in, nonchalantly whistling "I'm not Batman no sir no, doo-da, doo-da" to the tune of "Camptown Races." "I didn't kill that guy no sir no, oh, de doo-da day!"
You can tell he's a detective by his halo.
Actually, this is very smart. By saying "What's all this illegality? Perhaps some criminal lumberjacks have killed this man!" he gets Clayton to call it an accident, and thus gets off the hook for going a little too Jack Bauer on Woody Joe's head. Later he promises a worried Nora that he'll "be around to see that nothing happens to you!" Well, of course he will--so far he's the only murderer around.
I know what you're thinking, though. "Is Jack Clayton man enough to be evil? Where's the facial hair?" And you're absolutely right. Behind every oddly-dressed goon, there's an even more oddly-dressed boss character with a mustache or beard.
Clayton must do whatever he says when they're in the Yellow Cone of Coercion.
That dapper gent is Mr. Asher, of nearby Asher Lumber Company. His vague threats say "I'm evil" and his suit says "I'm fabulous", and neither statement goes unheard by Dick Grayson, dropping eaves outside the cabin window.
Later, Nora cuts short a discussion about her shares in the lumber company, which both Asher and Clayton have now offered to buy, by refusing to sell.
Bruce knows that "riding on the logger train" has nothing to do with the locomotive.
The "logger train" is actually a "log train", for transporting bundles of giant Ent corpses. These loggers are murdering Ents by the hundreds, and it's up to one man, dressed like a bat, to fall in love with a beautiful Ent princess and thereby unite the oaks and the willows and the junipers under one banner, the better to protect their unobtanium from--oh, sorry. Mixed up my stories there. Where was I? Oh yes.
Hey kids! Print this out and use it as your Scout's "Misogyny" merit badge!
The goon leaves Nora's unconscious body sprawled out on top of the logs, and then decouples the car from the rest of the train. His half heads up the hill; her car reverses direction and runs back down, picking up speed and heading for an inevitable derailing, not unlike this plot. Luckily, Batman is there to save the day:
Moments later, for no discernable reason, the crashing pile of metal and wood burst into flames.
Grabbing onto the tree, Batman inexplicably says "Now that's what I really call a 'leap for life!'" That's... that's not a thing, Batman. I think you meant 'leap of faith.'
Anyway, Nora wakes up with a headache and fuzzy memories of dudes and costumes and logs and a new definition for "riding the logger train." She goes and confronts Clayton, accusing him of killing his own father and trying to kill her. Clayton denies everything--with honesty, apparently, and then ponders...
"I wonder now if--if it was a mistake to have my chin surgically shaped to look like a butt. No! No," he cried, stroking his chin cleft lovingly. "That's the only thing I've done right."
Meanwhile, having accused the man who runs the logging company of murder and attempted murder of her, Nora decides to go and stand at the top of a log chute. Yes.
Look out, Nora! It's the Wolf-Man!
Shoved down the chute by the mysterious hands of a mysterious stranger in a mysterious purple suit (*cough it's the mustache guy! cough cough*), Nora breaks her arm and rides the "leaping logs, which bound down the chute like ton-weight, wooden kangaroos." Wow. Worst simile ever. This comic needs a new narrator.
But not to worry! Robin is right behind her!
You win, Batman writers. I've run out of gay jokes to-- No, wait:
"Looks like that's just too much wood for one boy to handle!"
Ugh. Now I just feel unclean. Moving on...
So Nora makes it to the river, and is able to hang onto a log with her one unbroken arm. Robin, on the other hand, has stumbled into the Olympic Logger's Decathalon, with such events as log jumping, log rolling, and log fisticuffs, which are like normal fisticuffs, but with more documentation. (*rimshot*) He's on his way to the gold medal when he realizes he's also on his way to the bottom of a waterfall.
Batman: "Easy, kid, I've got you."
Robin: "You've got me? Who's got you?"
Batman: "This silk rope."
Robin: "Don't ruin the moment."
Meanwhile, a couple of goons in ugly turtlenecks (damn fashion-challenged Canadians!) try to cut through the rope, saying, "This is our chance to get rid of both meddlers!" Which is silly, because Batman and Robin haven't meddled with anything yet. Nora, in fact, is on her way to certain doom. Doom I say! DOOOOOOM!
Dick Dastardly looked on with amusement. "I knew I'd get you someday, Penelope Pitstop!" he cackled. "Wait--you're not Penelope! What the fuck?"
Spoiler alert: Batman saves her. For the second time today he skips the obvious pun ("That was a close shave!") and goes with "Just in the nick of time!" See, cause a 'nick' is a small cut, and the saw blade was--never mind.
Anyway, there's a comically brief anti-climax, as Asher holds a gun on Batman and Nora, Clayton holds a gun on Asher, and Batman punches the distracted villain so hard his head goes all Exorcist:
"Batman's Fists" would be a very poor name for a relaxation spa.
Also, what do you mean, they "disappear into the woods"? What happens to the unconscious guy in the purple suit? It's not like there are police out here in the woods. And hell, they're still lumber-neighbors. Nothing's been resolved at all!
And yet we get not one, not two, but THREE panels of plot explanations. Turns out Clayton is an ex-convict (Bruce's fist twitches involuntary), and after Asher killed his adopted father, the purple-hatted son of a bitch threatened to frame Clayton for the murder if he wouldn't sell. Asher and his men (hired away from Clayton's company) tried sabotage and then violence to get Nora to sell, and it's unclear how much Clayton knew but whatever he did know, he was certainly okay with, because who cares about a drunken slut from the city?
"Miss Powell, I never knew you were a shadow person, too!"
"Actually this is just blackface."
Through inheritance, accusations, and buzzsaws, finally comes true love.... with our Mr. Wayne sadly left on the outside.
"I guess that cat learned to play the oboe after all. Ah, incomprehensibly sudden love. Well, I should head home and find some dick. Or maybe the other way around. Goodbye Canada!"
So what have we learned? Besides that the heady aroma of tree sap and lumberjack sweat is apparently the best aphrodisiac of all.
I think we've learned that a good Batman story (as opposed to bad or great) needs a gimmick, and some light-hearted silliness. Batman's formula is so strict that if you go generic (as we saw with the previous installment) you run the risk of boredom. It's hard to come up with new and interesting variations on "Batman punches gangsters", but when you change the entire setting and add in some interesting new characters, you can be cliche and obvious (log-fighting, corporate takeovers) and still be interesting, because the cliches are colorful and they're at least new to Batman comics.
I'm not saying this was a great story, but it was a solid "B" effort that rewarded in a dozen different ways. And any issue with this many unintendres is going to be fun to read. Plus, it was a happy ending for everyone involved!
Well, except for the Ents... Eh, fuck those guys.