Monday, June 18, 2012

I know "Citizen Wayne" is too tempting a title not to use. Try.

Sometimes, giving a story more of a page count is less an opportunity to flesh out characters or let events breathe; than it is a chance to pad it out. Could "Blind Justice" have used another 80-page issue, instead of a normal-sized middle? Would an additional 30-odd pages of story have helped or hindered it? We'll never know, but let's look at Detective Comics #599 anyway: "Blind Justice, part 2 of 3" Or Chapter 4, "Citizen Wayne" Written by Sam Hamm, pencils by Denys Cowan, inks by Dick Giordano and Frank McLaughlin.

The issue opens with "Brouhaha," a news program recapping the previous issue. With Butcher on the right and Baker on the left, it's not subtle, but the TV commentators trick had been done in Batman comics many times before and since; and Cowan doesn't phone it in with the little screen-shaped panels. Bruce is soundly pilloried, as the Cartel has both planted evidence that he signed off on unwilling human experiments with biochips; as well as drawn the wrong conclusion from Bruce's extensive activities out of the country: traitorous sell-out to foreign powers.

Bruce has lawyered up, but these guys might as well be cardboard cutouts: we don't know them, nor does Bruce take them into confidence. And the lawyers don't know what to make of him, either. One name associated with Bruce is Chu Chin Li, one of the many martial arts masters he trained with. Li also trained Chinese diplomats, soldiers and mafia; before being beheaded. Bruce dryly notes at least he won't be testifying against him; but it's the first of several guilt-by-association questions.

Back at the Batcave (I'm sure Bruce had to surrender his passport, but somehow wasn't considered a flight risk) Bruce has the prototype of Dr. Harbinger's biochip controller. He intends to get to Harbinger's assistant, but Harbinger kills him first. Still staying at Wayne Manor, Jeannie and Roy want to help, but have no proof; Bruce dejectedly admits he can't even prove himself to them.

As the Cartel gets nowhere on Harbinger's technology, Riordan gleefully plans "another nail in Wayne's coffin." Meanwhile, the lawyers go over another martial arts master, and still can't figure out why the seemingly useless Wayne was training so much: "Pathological fear of muggers?" They are correct that with his dead family, huge sense of loss, and vast fortune; Wayne would've been a huge get for any brainwashers, but they aren't even close on anything else. Bruce should've just said he was addicted to opium for ten years.

Trying to prepare Bruce for what the prosecution will throw it him, the lawyers pull another name: Henri Ducard. (This would be Hamm's lasting contribution to Batman lore, since a version of the character would appear in Batman Begins.) You can almost feel Bruce cringe internally, but he has a story prepped about 'accidentally' meeting the "freelance troubleshooter" in Paris. The lawyers say, that's how Ducard started, before becoming an arms dealer, middleman, internationally wanted criminal. Who is willing to testify against Bruce, in exchange for some charges being dropped: the nail Riordan mentioned.

Bruce is in a bind, since he knows Ducard will badmouth him something fierce just because its funny; but is actually smart enough to maybe figure out he's Batman. Commissioner Gordon takes a moment to talk to Bruce as they pass in the hall: he knows things about Bruce, but that he's no traitor, and if it comes down to it he'll speak out. Bruce plays dumb, saying he'll fight his own battles.

Outside the courtroom, Roy and Jeannie watch as Bruce is swamped by reporters, and Roy sees his friend from his homeless days, T-Bone. Ignoring Roy, T-Bone pulls an AK-47 and guns down Bruce and his lawyers. Nearby, Riordan is asked if this was his idea, but he admits he wishes he'd thought of it. T-Bone escapes, the lawyers are DOA, and Bruce is in critical condition; as Gordon orders the Bat-Signal shut down. "I don't think he's coming."

Blogging these issues, I do appreciate how jam-packed they are: in the age of decompression, this one alone could've turned into a trade. And like the other issues, there's also Tributes to Batman at the end: this issue features pin-ups from Kyle Baker and Mike Mignola!

1 comment:

Dale Bagwell said...

Yeah based off your posts and reviews, I'd have to say it was a shame this Sam Hamm guy never got to stick around. He really seemed to breathe new life into the title, and make Bruce Wayne relevant again. I mean we all know Bruce Wayne's the real mask, but by showing the true duality of Bruce Wayne and Batman, and how much trouble being even Bruce Wayne can be at times, adds to the excitement factor of the character in general.

I also like the part with Commissioner Gordon hinting that he kind of "knows" Bruce is Batman, but Bruce is just like "whatever man, you don't know shit." Nice.

And lastly, yeah I can't believe other people wouldn't think something was up with Bruce studying martial arts earlier. I mean yeah, he could always say that's because of what happened to his parents, and hell I'd figured you either were so traumatized that you'd become Agoraphobic, or go to the other end of the spectrum and be sociopathic.

It seems like every so often, Bruce needs to cover his ass when things like this pop up.