Wednesday, May 7, 2014

BATMAN #512 - November 1994

Prodigal: Part 1 - Robin and Batman
Credits:  Doug Moench (writer), Mike Gustovich & Romeo Tanghal (artists), Ken Bruzenak (letterer), Adrienne Roy (colorist)

Summary:  Bruce Wayne relinquishes the role of Batman to Dick Grayson.  Meanwhile, Killer Croc emerges from the river.  He targets a mobster he has a grudge against, Paretti, and goes on a killing spree.  Batman and Robin track down Killer Croc and stop him from killing Paretti.  Later, Commissioner Gordon expresses doubts to his wife over working with Batman.

Irrelevant Continuity:  Gordon isn’t fooled this time when meeting yet another new Batman.  Gordon also informs Mayor Krol that the violent Batman he supported was never the “real” one.

I Love the ‘90s:  Dick Grayson’s famous ‘90s mullet is in full display this issue.

Total N00B:  Okay…Dick and Tim reference Alfred leaving, but there’s no indication of where he’s gone.  There’s also a vague reference to Dick’s traumatic first meeting with Two-Face.  Killer Croc apparently had a run-in with Paretti in a previous issue.  He also references a gangster called “The Squid,” which I’ve never heard of.  Finally, Dick mentions a time Robin teamed up with him during his Nightwing days in New York.  No footnotes on what story that’s supposed to be a reference to.

Review:  You might’ve noticed that the editors have skipped more issues.  “Knightsend” wasn’t long enough to fill one of these phonebook trades, so the “Prodigal” event has also been included in the book.  That’s fine, but it looks as if any story that doesn’t say “Knightsend” or “Prodigal” on the cover has been skipped (except that Azrael solo story from Showcase.)  There are issues in-between these events, however, and it’s safe to assume that they set up what exactly we’re seeing this issue.  Aside from a few references to Bruce needing to make a change, there’s really nothing setting up his decision to leave on some mysterious journey; nor are we given any particularly good reasons for Dick “His Own Man Now” Grayson to give up his Nightwing identity in order to become Batman.  Also missing is Robin #0, the story of the first meeting between Dick and Two-Face mentioned earlier, which gets referenced repeatedly in the upcoming issues.

All that said, the basic hook behind “Prodigal” is strong.  (Oh, but here’s another nitpick.  If the title is a reference to the Biblical story of the prodigal son, Dick Grayson doesn’t fit the profile.  He never squandered the Wayne family fortune on wine and prostitutes, unless there’s an era of DC continuity I’m very unfamiliar with.)  I think most kids wondered if Robin might replace Batman one day, so the opportunity to actually see it happen -- not as a gimmicky one-off story, but as the titles’ new status quo -- should be a big deal.  This storyline never got the hype of the previous “Knight” events, but I imagine it’s because a certain amount of “event fatigue” had already settled in.  Having Dick Grayson become Batman just doesn’t seem that daring following everything that’s already happened to Batman since Vengeance of Bane was published.  Regardless, Dick as the insecure Batman, unsure if he can fulfill the role, has a lot of promise.  He also has a nice rapport with Tim, which gives the stories a welcome break from the grimness of the past two years.  Killer Croc isn’t that great of a villain to start off the new era, but he fulfills his role as punching bag, and Dick is given an opportunity to contrast himself with Azrael and show some compassion towards the villain in the end.  It’s also kind of amusing to see Dick bluff his way through his fight with Croc, an established villain who deeply hates Batman but Dick has never heard of.  


Anonymous said...

The Squid first appeared in a story from the very early 1980s, written by Gerry Conway. The character isn't fondly remembered. It's not surprising the Squid story isn't reprinted here!
I'm surprised he's even referenced. I didn't think the story even survived continuity after Crisis.
Killer Croc was portrayed as a scheming gangster when he was first introduced. Very different than the post-Crisis portrayal.

Steven said...

The Nightwing/Robin team up happened in Showcase '93 #'s 11 & 12 and it built off of events from issues 1-6, so it's not surprising they weren't all reprinted here. (Although issue #6 has Jean-Paul successfully fooling Tim into thinking he's Batman, which I believe was very briefly mentioned during KnightQuest.) The issues that were skipped over were Zero Hour tie-ins, so definitely not needed here. But Robin #0 was a direct prologue to Prodigal, and Prodigal has mind bogglingly never been reprinted with that story. And it's a great issue to boot!

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