Thursday, January 21, 2010

Batman versus zombies...will be seen tonight!

Even though Blackest Night involves zombies of a sort, it's a little surprising that there isn't a full-on Batman against the living dead story. Day of Judgement looked like it was going to, but was a bait-and-switch. This one's closer...but still not quite there, although it does have a couple things going for it; mainly a great Brian Bolland cover and art by Leonardo Manco, in Batman: Gotham Knights #29: "The Mortician, part two: Zombie Zero." Written by Devin Grayson.

We enter this one mid-story, as Batman rescues a young thug and his zombified friend, from the aforementioned Mortician and his zombie horde. Well, it's probably a couple dozen zombies, so not quite a horde per se. Also, most of the zombies are a bit on the lethargic side, even for zombies: scary-looking, but not that active.

Elsewhere, a young boy has a more lively zombie, that he's been using to kill his rivals--that's how this issue puts it, and without seeing the prior issue, I can't say rivals for what. Kept in the boy's closet, it turns on him, and chases him out of the house.

Batman researches the blood samples of the zombies, while the Mortician is trying to bring back more corpses, with the aid of his zombified dad. He then tracks down the boy's zombie (while the disbelieving police tut-tut the boy's story) and then finds the Mortician's cemetery workshop, which really seems like a no-brainer. Not like he's going to be holed up in the abandoned joke shop or flower store, now is he?

Giving the Mortician an antitoxin, Bats explains that the boy's zombie wasn't dead when he was embalmed with contaminated fluid, and will "live out the rest of his days as an imprisoned, poisoned, inhuman host body." This is another one of those situations where Batman's code against killing seems like abject dickery; but then we do get a neat two-page spread of Bats fighting the zombies. And...that's pretty much it: Mortician injects his zombie folks with the antitoxin, returning them to plain old dead, and the rest apparently just die off-panel after Bats beats them up.

Tough to call without the prior issue, but this one does seem to end pretty suddenly. Still, that art helps it a lot. This issue also features a black-and-white story from Paul Kupperberg and John Watkiss, involving the Riddler and an escape artist that trained Batman. It's not bad, but there's a death in the end that isn't clear if the Riddler committed murder, or an accidental homicide; like a lot of Riddler stories, it doesn't seem sure if he's a mad-dog killer or a neurotic attention-seeker with a gimmick.

I prefer him to be a bit more of both, truth to tell.

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