Steve Englehart writes Bruce Wayne as a narcissistic asshole who bullies and psychologically abuses ward Dick Grayson. Grayson, for his part, has drunk the Kool-Aid; at one point, he talks about how mental illness is no excuse, and at another, he waxes on about Batman’s such a great man. It’s such weird, bad writing.
Though Englehart does his version of a Bob Rozakis, “can you solve it,” and Englehart’s a complete prick about it. It’s not even a good mystery. It’s a boring one and a distraction. This issue has Batman and Robin going after the Penguin, who’s in town to rob some gallery. The Penguin’s giving them clues, which Robin’s overconfident about solving, and Batman gleefully berates him for his mistakes.
There’s also Robin being creepy about Silver St. Cloud, who has a kiss-and-make-up scene with Bruce. She apologizes for investigating Bruce’s weird behavior, even though she’s the one who got the ball rolling on saving the day. The boys try to assuage her, but then it’s just kissy time. The scene might play better without Robin being a creep. Unfortunately, he’s a little creep multiple times in the issue.
The issue opens with them just a moment too late to discover Hugo Strange is dead—and piece together who killed him since the thugs dumping the body work for Councilman Rupert Thorne. There’s lots this issue about the people of Gotham still liking Batman even though Thorne’s outlawed him. Robin agrees elected officials have no right to limit Batman’s vigilantism, so they’re going to buck the system and go on the Penguin hunt.
The draw’s the art; Marshall Rogers and Terry Austin do a much more design-oriented book than the last couple. It’s all superhero stuff with Batman and Robin, no mood, no time for tone. It’s good art, sometimes beautifully designed, but rarely exciting.
The pacing’s good, which helps. It only drags once Penguin’s silly caper is revealed. Until then, Englehart’s got a good momentum going.
It’s just it’s momentum for a middling issue.