Saturday, June 12, 2010

TOASTING BATMAN 700: The Best Bat-Read

As Batman #700 roles off the shelves this week, folks over at DC's Source blog have been looking back at their favourite bat-books in recognition of the milestone event. And why not? The dude is Batman, one of the biggest contributions to pop, if not global culture, comics has ever made. So with that in mind, I thought I'd do the same.

Best Bat-Read: Detective Comics #410 "A Vow From The Grave" 

Batman is on the hunt. Chasing the escaped murderer Kano though the storm-ravaged wild, the Dark Knight Detective looses the suspect when an abandoned group of circus performers try to save the madman from the 'demon' that pursues him.

Quickly realising the error of their ways, the quartet side with Bats to track Kano down, but it's too late - one of their own falls. Now, as the clues begin to drop, Batman suddenly realises he's not racing the clock to apprehend one violent murderer - but two.

A brilliant story, started and finished in just 15 pages, what helps define A Vow From The Grave from other Bat-stories, is the ability it gives the reader to play along at home - solving the crime at Batman's side! Julie Swartz masterfully prods the reader in this direction, with editor's boxes that tease "Some time in the past ten minutes, the Batman made an important observation -- two, in fact! Have you?"  

Not that Denny O'Neil's story needed any help. Anyone who's read his work knows the man excels at writing at street-level. Here he shows, not only how Batman can be warm-hearted and still work, but also, despite the 'talents' of the circus performers, how the general public can know Batman exists, yet still see and fear him. 

O'Neils partners in crime, artists: Neal Adams and Dick Giordano, render a ton of atmosphere into each panel at every opportunity. Plus A Vow From The Grave illustrates my favourite type of Batman; as gadget free as possible - a man with just some rope, his brain and his surroundings, against the evilest intentions in human nature.

As a side-note, I always felt Flippy, the mute boy introduced in the book as part seal, would've been good to revisit at some point. Oddly enough, he cropped up again over thirty years later, (still not looking a day over 23) in writer Bill Willingham's Shadowpact comic.

Now able to talk and named Eddie Deacon, he runs the Oblivion Bar and Inn, another dimensional watering hole, that serves as the groups magical HQ. 

Right, that's my best bat-tale sorted - what are some of yours?

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