Wednesday, August 09, 2006

I can just picture a seven-year-old Bruce Wayne, watching Scooby-Do with a criminology text and counting mistakes.
Ah, for the more innocent days when a character named 'Balloon Buster' didn't elicit howls of laughter and pointing. (Granted, about after about 30 seconds of deep thought I came up with worse names, but still.) Man, I'm probably the only person ever to search GCD for Steve Savage, Balloon Buster, but he did come up with a few hits, including Crisis on Infinite Earths #9. (Making reason #412 why Infinite Crisis is lacking in comparison: no Sgt. Rock, Unknown Soldier, Enemy Ace, Jonah Hex, Warlord, Anthro...)

Today's panels are from Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight Annual #7, "I Am a Gun." Written by James Robinson, art by Steve Yeowell, flashback sequences by Russ Heath. If this had been an old issue of Brave and the Bold, the logos for Batman and Steve Savage, Balloon Buster would've taken up about a third of the cover. This was the year DC's theme for the annuals was "Pulp Heroes," mixing their regular super-heroes with the traditions of older, pulp adventure magazines and comics; mostly crime, with the occasional dinosaur or sci-fi story.

Through the flashback sequences, Robinson and Heath do a stellar job of making you care about DC's number one WWI pilot that's not Enemy Ace, Steve Savage. The story also makes a nice bookend to previous tales involving Batman and Enemy Ace, without Batman ever meeting either one.

Savage lives up to his name, as he takes revenge on the German deserters that murder his wife-to-be at the closing days of the war. His mantra, "I am a gun!" seems somewhat out of place, almost more like something Enemy Ace would think while another pilot is claimed by the 'killer skies!' Batman notes that the dogfights between Savage and Von Hammer were inconclusive: The Hammer of Hell was a cold, emotionless killer (to my mind, he was a gun), while Savage was a wild, reckless cowboy; as Batman puts it, the two cancelled each other out.

But the Ace had a better nickname. By far.

The only other Balloon Buster stories I've read have been crossovers with Enemy Ace, but it's hard to imagine him as having the depth of character of the Hammer. And that's OK: not everyone is going to be a tortured soul, although Robinson appeared to be working on that.

Back to the comic at hand: Batman is talking to Smitty there, who is about to grab a hostage and set up aerial dogfight hijinks; when Batman should probably just be punching him out. Doofy 'costume' notwithstanding, Smitty had killed his partner by throwing him out a plane prior to this. So, I can't decide if this is 'Batman trying to resolve a situation without breaking anyone's jaw,' or 'Batman sitting on his hands so the plot moves forward.' Still, this is one of the only 'Pulp Heroes' themed annuals I can remember; although I know I've read others, they probably weren't great.

In the conclusion, as one of the mysteries of Steve Savage's life is revealed, Batman at first declines a celebratory glass of wine, but concedes to a drink in Savage's honor. His initial refusal makes him look like he has a Bat-rod up his ass, but Batman drinking is probably one of those things editors nash their teeth over: is he setting a good example for the kidlings if he has a glass? (But, didn't he get smashed after the death of Stephanie Brown? In fairness, I didn't read those: I caught Spoiler's first issue, and her first issue as Robin, but since it was obviously a short-term gig, I didn't stick around for Tim to come back or the end.) I figure Batman probably drinks a bit as part of his Bruce Wayne act, but doesn't get a lot of enjoyment out of it. Good enough, let it go at that. And good issue: if you've enjoyed Robinson's other work, dig this one up.

In other news, I did find my wife the Britney-video-nonsense she was looking for, but since we have a dial-up at home, it was like watching three seconds of video every ten seconds. On occasion, though, that can work to advantage: from I once checked out a 'Greenpeace horror video,' and it took me about ten minutes to watch a 30-second film. Which just made it all the more horrifying: I knew something was going to happen, but what? And when? The jerky, lurching way it moved reminded me of so many horror movies, and made the wait to see what happened almost intolerable, and of course it was a disappointment once the scary part finally moved like a series of still photos on my computer. But during the wait, it was incredible. Which is probably true for a lot of things.


Brandon said...

James Robinson always seems to impress. Has the guy written an unbearably bad story? I know everybody's written some stinkers, but even when he's mediocre he's better than most.

The Fortress Keeper said...

Britney and Balloon Buster - two things that make a blog great!