Batman #401

batman_401I looked at the beginning of the post-Crisis Batman in Detective Comics when I read the Dark Knight Detective trade that collected Mike W. Barr’s run on the book (although I believe Joey Cavalieri wrote that first post-Crisis ‘Tec issue), and here I am looking at the very first post-Crisis issue of Batman.  Now, I realize that technically, the first post-Crisis issue of Batman is #393 because that’s the one that came out the month after Crisis on Infinite Earths #12; however, there’s about 7-8 months of a hangover that came right after Crisis, meaning that a number of titles were wrapping things up (I think that this actually is explained in an issue of All-Star Squadron, and I’ll read that at some point).  So, Batman #400 is technically the end of the pre-Crisis/Bronze Age Batman and with this issue we get the first issue of a new era of the Dark Knight as well as chapter one of the first post-Crisis crossover, Legends.

Legends is the reason I bought this in the first place–I had an interest in reading the entire crossover from beginning to end, especially since the way that DC had worked the event was to have each crossover issue bannered with a chapter number.  This is chapter one of the event and I believe that it actually comes before the first issue of the series.  The tie-in is a brief argument at a party between Bruce Wayne and G. Gordon Godfrey, who has been using his position as a pundit to rant about how superheroes are a danger to society.  Godfrey would again appear in ‘Tec #568 looking completely different, and I’m not the only person to suggest that editorial communication among the various DC books was not clear on getting his look consistent to what John Byrne would draw in Legends.

Oh, quick silly trivia note: this was the month where Marvel’s books had the 25th anniversary “portrait” covers, which are some of my all-time favorite covers.

Anyway, the Godfrey stuff is short because the main action involves a rematch between Batman and the thief known as Magpie, who appeared for the first time this very month in John Byrne’s Man of Steel #3, which I’m pretty sure is the reason that she and not Batman is not on the cover of the book–maybe DC was banking on Man of Steel being so popular that people would pick this up as a sort-of “tie-in.”  I have no idea if that worked or if any of the Batman books were especially rejuvenated prior to Year One (which would be a few issues later).  In fact, I’d have to do the research to see when Batman truly became as huge as he would for DC.  I want to say it’s 1989 and the film, but for all I know, it may have been with Year One, Year Two, Dark Knight, and a number of other high-profile stories.

This particular comic is written by Barbara Randall with art by Trevor Von Eeden and is a pretty straightforward “catch the villain” type of story.  Magpie is rigging precious jewelry with heat-sensitive blades and it’s killing various Gotham socialites.  Using Bruce Wayne as bait, Batman lures her to a party at the mansion.  She is there in disguise and more or less gets the drop on everyone because she’s able to hurt or kill a number of people.  They track her to her hideout and most of the rest of the issue is a fight between Batman & Robin and Magpie & her goons.  Batman finally takes advantage of her love of shiny, sparkly things (hence the name Magpie) and captures her.

While the Legends aspects of this are probably that event’s equivalent of a “red skies crossover”, as Godfrey shows up to argue with Bruce Wayne and then pontificate after Magpie has struck the party, demonstrating how the greater society as a whole is being affected by Darkseid’s plans, the issue as a whole is a solid read.  Randall does what Mike W. Barr would do with ‘Tec around the same time–give us a Batman that, yes, is post-Crisis, but feels like a previous version.  And whereas Barr gave us an edgier version of the 1950s/pre-Silver Age Batman, Randall’s giving us a Batman that feels like he’s out of the Bronze Age.  This might fit in with some of the Denny O’Neil 1970s stuff or the Steve Englehart stuff–it’s still got the crazy situations and traps as well as a villain that is a bit outlandish.  But it also feels like a post-Crisis story because there isn’t a lot of “busy” to Batman.  We’re not engrossed in a long story with too many characters and the goings on in the Gotham City government.  She just has the villain strike, Batman sets a trap, and there’s some really great fighting before the villain is finally captured.

Some of that, by the way, is courtesy of Trevor Von Eeden’s art, which is on point throughout the whole issue.  It’s dark in places without trying to ape Frank Miller too much but also has the classic feel of a Neal Adams or Jim Aparo Batman.

I have yet to collect all of the Legends crossovers.  At one point, I thought I might do that and read the whole event in order.  I may still hold on to that idea, especially if I can find the issues I want in cheap bins.  In the very least, this is a reminder of how well Batman could be written.

Keep, Sell, Donate, or Trash?

Keep.

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