I’ve never heard of writer David Vern before, but I hope it’s a while before I read another of his comics. The Batman feature’s not the worst thing in the world, but it’s pretty annoying thanks to the Ernie Chan and Frank Giacola art.
Also, the story’s written like a Hostess Fruit Pie advertisement, like they’re targeting the eight-year-olds, which is about as old as you can get without the art grating.
The story’s about Commissioner Gordon and Batman’s plan for when hoods kidnap Gordon and demand to know Batman’s identity. There’s a flashback explaining Batman gave Gordon the name to say, which would then trigger a response from the Caped Crusader. It’s a delayed response, but it’s pre-smart phones; what can you do?
In the present, a mysterious man visits the offices of this red herring, which then triggers a video call to Wayne Tower, where Bruce and Alfred watch agog. Bruce immediately realizes it also means Gordon’s been kidnapped and gets into his long johns. Only he’s got to do some investigating to figure out who’s got Gordon, which means going to “The Boards.” At first, I thought Vern was going to do a Sherlock Holmes and the Baker Street Irregulars thing, but it’s just a throwaway device to get Batman on the right track.
And for the only Black guy in the comic to try to mug a white lady. Cool.
After starting with an emphasis on the detective work, the story quickly just becomes a series of poorly illustrated fight scenes, with accompanying bad exposition and dialogue. When Chan’s clearly penciled some atrocious physiology, it’s obvious what’s wrong with the art. The rest of the time, there’s just something off-putting about it, which might be “thanks” to Giacola’s inks.
The backup’s another in the Calculator series, written by Bob Rozakis (no Laurie helping him here), with pencils from Chan and inks from Terry Austin. There’s a good panel in the story. A good panel. A reaction shot of Sue Dibney (Calculator is messing with Elongated Man this time). With better art—and maybe more pages—the story ought to work; Calculator makes Elongated Man’s elongating powers contagious, just as Ralph goes to a Comic-Con with a bunch of cosplayers. So it’s these various not-heroes dressed as DC heroes elongating and mad about it.
It’s a bad story, but what else would it be in this comic? And that one panel’s good. I didn’t think there’d be one in the comic when I saw Chan was on the backup too. But I was wrong.
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