Detective Comics (1937) #472

Dc472

I’ve the sneaking suspicion last issue, when the evil nurse commented on Hugo Strange and Batman complementing each other’s physical and mental prowess when they should be fighting, it wasn’t writer Steve Englehart acknowledging the absurdity of the machismo; it was him making fun of the silly woman for not getting it.

There’s a scene with Robin, and he’s a little fascist, muscles bulging and breaking his uniform to leave him with a heck of a V-neck. Throw in the ending, which has a character ruminating on the pure machismo of Batman… I think Englehart’s on the level with this nonsense.

Bummer. It’d be nice for the story to have some black comedy.

That not inconsiderable observation made, it’s a reasonably good issue. There are some genuinely great moments thanks to Marshall Rogers’s pencils, Terry Austin’s inks, and Jerry Serpe’s colors. Not great Batman moments—for reasons—just great comic booking. Silver St. Cloud is a thunderstorm, for example. It’s five panels; four vertical rectangles (two of them skinny) and one horizontal. She’s mad at Bruce Wayne for breaking up with her, so she decides to go to the private hospital where he was being treated. It’s just a beautifully visualized sequence.

There are a few of them throughout the comic. Makes up for some of the shortcomings.

Hugo Strange has assumed Bruce Wayne’s two identities; he’s Batman now, too (something the cover makes a lot of noise about but has zip to do with the comic); Alfred’s imprisoned with an unconscious Bruce Wayne; Silver’s gotten dumped by an imposter; that imposter is set on bankrupting Wayne Enterprises and selling Bruce’s secret identity to the highest bidder. There are three bidders—corrupt politician Rupert Thorne, the Penguin, and the Joker.

One of them will skip the auction and attack Strange, even if he’s traveling with his monster men. Rogers and Austin do a great job with Strange and the monster men. Just something about the designs and how they fit in the panels; they look great. Rogers does well with those layouts—they’re a gangster movie homage. When it comes to acrobatic Robin action? Not so good. Rushed and not so good. The issue turns it around because Rogers can handle the finale. His sense of design works for the overwrought, dramatic finish, but he can’t do simple fisticuffs.

There aren’t really any story highlights—though, depending on next issue, the plot might be quirky. It’s too soon to tell here. Maybe Englehart’s got some ideas; maybe he doesn’t. He needs to follow through. This issue is a delay but also an often gorgeously illustrated one.

I’m not as enthusiastic a fan of this run as I used to be, but it’s got some definite pluses.

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