Thursday, June 14, 2007

There's no foreshadowing in this title...or is there?
Another reminder that I need to pick up Adam Warren's Empowered.  Like yesterday.
I love this panel, not just because it underlines what a mouthbreathing slackwit Grunge is (albeit one with decent taste in movies) but that is a fair explanation for what passes for foreshadowing in most movies today. Anton Chekhov would be glad to know, if you see a harpoon gun in the first reel, you can rest damn assured somebody is getting harpooned before the credits roll. And I'm being generous: foreshadowing is now usually reduced to "Wow, who would've thought the girl who said she was afraid of dismemberment would end up chopped into giblets?" (Fun fact: I watch way too many crappy horror movies, always with the vain hope that they might not be crappy. Granted, a lot of them are mildly entertaining, they generally aim kind of low.)

That said, let's look a comic with some nice foreshadowing, that's also a bit of a cheat. See if you can guess the secret of "The Tangled Web" from Batman Adventures #17, written by Kelley Puckett, pencils by Mike Parobeck, inks by Rick Burchett.

The story opens in a jungle, as Batman jumps out of the trees at a masked, uniformed soldier, shouting the man's name as he comes at him. Batman hits the guy so hard, he wakes up on a plane, extradited to Gotham and arrested by Commissioner Gordon. And that's the second page!
'This...is not a chawade. We need total fwighting cwoncentration.'
In a large temple, a small army of the uniformed men are addressed by another, who critiques their collective incompetence. Luckily, he says their mission has been postponed a week, so they all have time to practice their killing, marksmanship, general evil, etc.

Afterwards, hidden in the trees, Batman, disguised in the soldier's uniform and mask, radios Alfred to update him and bring the readers up to speed. Ra's al Ghul has set up a major operation, in his ongoing quest to save the environment by wiping out most of humanity. Batman doesn't know what the big plan is this time, and is also suspicious that Ra's has delayed his plan.

And Batman should be suspicious: Ra's stresses to the base commander that everyone be informed of the delay. The commander did, but wonders why the delay, since he doesn't even know the target. Ra's assures him its fine, and they prepare for the Batman. Afterwards, Ra's berates his scientist lackey Asquith, who was responsible for the delay when he failed to take into account a local African holiday: his Bedouin guards took the week off.
And the rental on this Snake-Eyes costume is due back!
As the week passes and Ra's heads for Africa, Batman still can't find anything at the base. Ra's checks Asquith's preparations at the African desert base, the Bedouin guards finally on the clock. R'as notices one guard's sword, and chats with him:
There's no shame in eying another man's sword...wait, that came out weird.
Finally, the gray soldiers go into action, attacking another base and fighting their way to a control room. Then, the leader uses a radio-doohickey, to set off Batman's radio, exposing him:
If this had been Batgirl in disguise, the costume pop there would've been creepy, right?
Luckily, the control room has a direct video line to Ra's al Ghul, who apologizes to Batman for luring him in with this diversion, but he needed to keep Bats out of his hair while he got down to business. Namely, setting off via satellite, a chain of explosives planted in the Antarctic polar regions, in order to flood large parts of the world, deafening millions with the harsh laughter of Al Gore proven right. Oh, and the drowning and stuff.

(Aside: R'as works great as a Batman character, but when you throw the assorted other superheroes of the DC universe, it doesn't seem as great, does it? I mean, if Batman dropped the ball and R'as flooded the world, Superman could still fix it, right? Unless R'as has a great plan for that...)

R'as knows Batman won't join him--if Talia can't get Bats to join, he sure as hell isn't going to be able to do it. But, he won't kill Batman, saying the new world will need him. Yeah, like to try R'as for genocide, apparently. But there's a flaw in R'as' ointment, or a run in his stockings, or whatever:
Crap. Crap! CRAP!
Robin's probably wearing a padded uniform, to make himself look a little more like the larger Batman. But the comic gets a little cheat here that wouldn't have worked on the cartoon series: when 'Batman' called Alfred, his voice would've been recognizable as Robin's. So, this works as a comic, but might not have in another medium. Unless the writer throws in a voice modulator or something. Aside from the size difference, though, I can imagine Bruce and Dick being pretty good at disguising their voices, and the voice actors may be good enough to fool most viewers as well.

Back to the story: Batman orders the goons there and surrounding Robin to throw down their guns. Robin starts beating the soldiers--no real reason, I suppose, just to keep his hand in--and Bats explains his disguise is more authentic than you might have guessed: "Ali-Yasa wasn't El-Shaitan's only student. He wasn't the best, either." With R'as as a hostage, he moves towards the plane, leaving Asquith to try to detonate the explosives. Batman, not being a moron, had already sabotaged that, blowing up the satellite...but leaving a ton of explosives in Antarctica. Hmm.

R'as signals his men to rush Batman, who isn't harsh enough to slit R'as' throat. As his matching Ubus attack, the Bedouins aren't as much help:
Well, you paid in advance, so...bye!
I love stories where otherwise generic henchmen opt out of taking their beating.

R'as escapes in his jet, and goes over the postgame with his base commander, who offers his life for failing, getting his ass kicked by Robin, to make R'as feel better, etc. R'as is big enough to admit he got played (or maybe this is a kids' book, and R'as can't exactly have his man strung up by his intestines here) but wonders if Batman thinks about the people he saved, or the world that could have been.

It's not strictly speaking a cheat, but the scene where 'Batman' is revealed, by tearing open the front of his uniform, does seem a little odd to me. Granted, I'm old, and thus used to scenes of Batman taking off a latex mask, a hat, a space helmet; and having his full Bat-cowl underneath. I also concede, it would've been an extra step, and looked dumb as hell, if he had been unmasked as Batman under that Snake Eyes-style mask, then unmasked again as Robin.

There's a little box of mostly animated style DC Comics in my basement, including most of my Parobeck Batman's. My son knows that one as the 'good box.' And he's right.

Grunge and Roxy panel from Gen 13 Bootleg #10, "Grunge: The Movie, part 3" Story and art by Adam Warren, and if you have even a passing interest in Hong Kong action movies (or even just movies, since a helluva lot of it fits) you deserve this. Get it now.

1 comment:

Engage said...

I remember an episode of Batman TAS when Robin posed as Bruce Wayne. He pulled off the voice then so I imagine he could pull off Batman. Of course, he also had to wear stilts in TAS.