Thursday, June 28, 2018

The subtle difference between "free" and "not trapped."

We looked at the concluding chapter...some eight years ago, and I know I have the second part somewhere, but today we finally have from 1988, Detective Comics Annual #1, "The Monkey Trap" Written by Dennis O'Neal, pencils by Klaus Janson, inks by Tony Dezuniga.

In Manchuria, 1895, a Japanese army captain faces off against a Chinese monk, waiting for their moment to strike. Waiting so long that one of the captain's troops takes the initiative and shoots the monk; infuriating and dishonoring the captain, who makes the dying monk a promise: to take his place. That captain would go on, over the decades, to become the Sensei. In the present (of 1988...) the Sensei and Lady Shiva set sail with smugglers for America, where he will seek out three of whom Shiva had told him, to give them a gift, to help him fulfill a promise, before he died. Shiva goes to one of those three, the Question, to set up a meeting with the second: Batman.

Meanwhile, Batman is about to have his hands full, as R'as al Ghul sends his daughter Talia to America, to deal with the Penguin, assuring her she wouldn't encounter Batman on this trip. Sure...Penguin, for his part, was working on a meet with an African chemist, for an "innnn-teresting drug," a poison that attacked the kidneys, but only killed women and children, since testosterone stopped it. Penguin seems unusually bloodthirsty today, which I have to admit I think I say every other Penguin appearance we see around here. But Batman gets the message from Vic Sage (a "very good mask on a bad crimefighter," since he wasn't impressed on their first meeting) and meets Sensei and Shiva on the docks. Shiva does take a couple swipes at him, unable to resist the temptation to test herself against him, before the Sensei tells her to stop, and gives Batman his gift, a parable:

Batman is completely, almost violently, unimpressed; declaring himself "one of the freest men on earth" and "an expert on getting out of traps." Those two things may not be directly related, though...

The Penguin purchases the formula, which has the added bonus of driving birds almost rabid, and infected ones could spread it. (Wait, it's described as a virus here, but I thought it was a chemical formula? Those aren't the same things!) Penguin has his trained birds Shoe and Perfesser kill the chemist, but examining the body in the morgue, Batman is able to figure out where Penguin is hiding out. Before leaving the morgue, Talia greets him, saying they need to work together here, even though Bats is still pissed at her from the last time they met. (And he says he already knew the drug, since he was "afraid somebody would figure that out sooner or later," indicating it was a chemical mix again!) As Penguin injects some birds and prepares to ask for his ransom, Batman and Talia storm his hideout, and while he's fighting the birds, she gets injected with the poison. Batman scolds her slightly, since the poison wouldn't have hurt him, but seems to appreciate the thought as he gets her to the hospital for a testosterone shot to save her.

In her hospital bed, Talia asks if she can say something to Batman: she offers to go with him, forsaking her father and under whatever conditions he chooses. Batman shuts her down cold, saying he could never forget who's daughter she was, but more importantly, "I would have to stop being who I am." He leaves her without as much as a kiss goodbye, then in the Batcave has a message sent for the Sensei, acknowledging the debt now owed.

As I write this, the Batman/Catwoman wedding is still coming up; although it's probably even money as to if it actually happens or not. Can there be a happily married Batman? Or is a certain baseline of misery necessary for him to function? Only a couple days will tell! And we'll get to the second chapter of this little crossover, Fables, later. Hopefully within eight years.

1 comment:

Dale Bagwell said...

So he could've had Talia, no strings attached? Wow....stupid monkey....

I honestly didn't think they'd ever marry Batman off, now that they are I think it'll only be a matter of time (maybe even soon if those CRISIS rumors about undoing both Superman and Batman's marriages are to be believed) before it's undone.

Hope Bruce has plenty of money after the big wedding, because if they ever divorce, he'll find out why Johnny Taylor famously sang "It's cheaper to keep her."