Tuesday, April 24, 2018

I thought there was a McFarlane influence there, which would be fitting.

It took a while, but Batman: Mask of the Phantasm has gotten some of the respect it should've had since 1993. It's at least no longer entirely surprising to call it the best Batman movie; although the Dark Knight has given it some competition since. But it never got a sequel--except this one, I guess. From 1996, The Batman and Robin Adventures Annual #1, "Shadow of the Phantasm" Written by Paul Dini; pencils by Ty Templeton, Dev Madan, Mike Parobeck, and Brandon Kruse; inks by Terry Austin, Rick Burchett, and Ty Templeton.

An opening flashback reminds us of the end of Mask, where Andrea Bennett and the Joker disappear in an explosion at the Joker's hideout at the abandoned World's Fair. With the Joker dazed and at her mercy, Andrea hesitates as she remembers Bruce's words: "What will vengeance solve?" A secondary explosion gives the Joker the chance to escape in the sewers, but Andrea ends her mission of revenge, and leaves Gotham forever. For three years.

Andrea has returned, since she knew someone was trying to kill Bruce Wayne, but he's not particularly open to taking protection or even advice from his ex. She smoke bombs Bruce and escapes, but then tries to catch up with his and Alfred's car outside? But this "Andrea" is really Kitsune, a Japanese assassin who used a holographic projecting crystal to disguise herself and get close to her victims. The grinning, chatty Kitsune helps herself to the champagne in Bruce's limo, and mentions in passing her boss would be happy to see him, "not that it takes much to make him crack a smile." The real Andrea returns to save Bruce, smashing into the limo in her full Phantasm costume.

Back at Wayne Manor, Bruce explains how he had tried to find Andrea after Mask, even going to crooked politician Arthur Reeves for info. He had been gassed by the Joker but had recovered, and wasn't especially keen on seeing Andrea again. Since he had betrayed her father to the mob, she doesn't feel bad about that. She had spent the last few years working as Phantasm, or as "his contact," but when she was offered the contract on Bruce she had to return to help. They don't have much time together, before Kitsune and some goons attack the mansion; but after Bruce takes a dive out a window he realizes they were after Andrea, killing him was just a bonus. Taking care of Alfred, Batman explains he's figured it out.

Although it's hinted the Joker could be behind this, it's a red herring: Andrea finds herself face-to-face with Arthur Reeves, who's face is not looking great. An "allergic reaction" to the Joker's venom had left him with his own permanent grin, which kind of wrecked his chances for public office. He put the contract on Bruce to lure out Andrea, which worked like a charm. Maybe he should've sprung for a hideout instead of just using his apartment, though, since Batman smashes in pretty quickly. Kitsune gives him a bit of trouble using her crystal as a flash, then Arthur unmasks and nearly kills him with Phantasm's scythe. Andrea lures Arthur into charging at the Phantasm, and he gets the mask and cape as he charges over the balcony and falls to his death.

Commissioner Gordon shows up for the wrap-up, and as Kitsune is taken away, expresses a bit of grief for Reeves. His involvement with the mob hadn't been public knowledge, so as far as Gordon knew, this had been a tragic attempt from a disfigured man for revenge against the Phantasm. Batman lets it lie, telling Gordon he never knew the person behind the mask; as Andrea leaves Gotham, and Bruce, again.

This is nice, but feels like an early draft for a sequel: it needs a bit more to live up to the original. Kitsune doesn't really do much for me either, but Reeves going further off the rails feels about right. The Phantasm was originally based at least in part on the Reaper from Batman: Year Two, which opened with Alan Davis for the first issue before Todd McFarlane took over, and I thought some of the art this issue showed more of his touches than usual for the animated-style books. Sadly, this was the last work from Mike Parobeck, who died due to complications from diabetes.

1 comment:

Dale Bagwell said...

Yeah it is pretty sad that Mask of the Phantasm just NOW is getting the love it so richly deserves. Loved that movie when it came out. Perfect ending too, although this "sequel" fits in the the overall narrative nicely.