Monday, January 08, 2018

An Unexpected Ally

Batman #332 (DC, February 1981, 50 cents)
"Fallout!" Writer: Marv Wolfman, Artists: Irv Novick and Frank McLaughlin, Letterer: Ben Oda, Colorist: Adrienne Roy, Editor: Paul Levitz. (17 pages)

Fans of the current run of Batman would do well to return to this era of the title, as well. In the first chapter of the Lazarus Affair, a frightened Archer Templeton escapes Infinity Island in the Indian Ocean, only to be disintegrated by a crimson retriever. Meanwhile, in the Batcave, Robin leaves, distrusting Talia al Ghul's presence in Batman's life. Batman learns that Gregorian Falstaff is threatening Wayne Enterprise's business and that Bruce Wayne's secretary Caroline Crown has been "feeding him the numbers he needed to underbid us."

Batman encounters a "mutate," basically a muscular pinhead that is "anything but defeatable." Learning that Crown's daughter is being held hostage, Wayne goes to confront Falstaff—and Robin seeks assistance from an unexpected ally: Selina Kyle. Drugged by Talia, Batman goes to Falstaff, interrupting a meeting between the two before taking on a group of the pinheaded mutates. Batman defeats Falstaff and rescues Crown's daughter just before Catwoman arrives—just in time to see Batman kissing Talia al Ghul.

While Falstaff and the Mutates are pretty silly, the artwork on pp. 11 and 14 is excellent. The last three panels of p. 14 are particularly poignant and lead into the next story well.

"Cat's Paw!" Writer: Marv Wolfman, Artists: Don Newton and Steve Mitchell, Colorist: Adrienne Roy, Letterer: Todd Klein, Editor: Paul Levitz. (Eight pages)

A reformed Catwoman thwarts several crimes undertaken by colleagues of the defeated Falstaff. "We all have our masters... even Gregorian Falstaff! He was working for someone else... someone with true power." At the Northern Division Power Station, she finds a new batch of mutates and destroys them, perhaps uncovering a connection to Talia al Ghul.

This might be the first time I've seen a backup story not just include a character also featured in the main story, but also run parallel in terms of storyline. It's a practice that should be explored more often. The backup story in this case goes beyond the main story, filling in the cracks while progressing the plot importantly. Fascinating. The issue ends with a one-page letter column, "Bat Signals."

Availability: This issue has not been collected. We recommend Catwoman: A Celebration of 75 Years.

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