The saga continues. . .
The Wise Men of Gotham, Edward Wellen: Hey, it's a Riddler story! Well all right. Wait, the Riddler's working as a hired killer? Aw.
All of the Riddler's clues revolve around the tale of The Wise Men of Gotham, who convinced King John not to build a hunting lodge in their village by acting like complete fools. I couldn't necessarily figure any of the riddles out, but the place he planned to execute them was usually information not provided until Batman figured out the riddle, so perhaps that doesn't reflect too poorly on me.
There were two things in this story I found ridiculous. One was just kind of silly, but tolerable, the other was such a jarring thing to add in, especially to be dismissed so quickly. The first aspect was the use of the Bat-Signal. In this story, the signal is used to make the shape of a number on the sky. The number describes the location and time Gordon and Batman are to meet. So if it's a 1, they meet at the corner of First Street and First Avenue at 1 AM. Why not meet at the police station, the story made it clear people know Batman works with the cops, and you'd be safer from surprise attack there then on some dark street corner.
The second part comes near the climax. Batman has tracked the Riddler to a boat expo, and while moving through an underground passage, Bats is accosted by a homeless guy, one who thinks he knows the Caped Crusader. Later, as Batman thwarts the Riddler's murder attempt again, the homeless fellow takes a needle to the heart intended for Batman. As he dies, he stammers out that Batman's eyes are the same as the kid whose parents he murdered in a mugging a long time ago. Cripes.
Why throw that in there, out of the blue, only to move right past in the next moment. Batman doesn't have time to react, he still has to catch the Riddler, and it's not dealt with in the aftermath. It sits there, this randomly hurled rock in the middle of the final confrontation between hero and villain, and serves no purpose. There had been plenty of talk earlier in the story about the plight of the homeless, and how Bruce Wayne is unusual among the rich because he actually tries to help them, and they shouldn't be ignored and looked down upon. Did Wellen think we needed the killer of Batman's parents to be a homeless man who dies saving Batman to drive the point home? It's a pointless inclusion, in a story I was already disappointed with by the Riddler presented.
Northwestward, Issac Asimov: If you've read the blog for awhile, it won't surprise you this was what prompted me to buy the book. I had to see what an Issac Asimov Batman story would be like. It's certainly unusual.
It takes place at a club called the Black Widowers, where a man named Bruce Wayne has come with a problem. He was the inspiration for the Batman of TV and comics, for his contributions to crimefighting, though he didn't dress up in a costume. His problem is he sent his butler (Alfred's nephew) with some of his memorabilia to a convention, and thinks Cecil may have considered stealing them, only to change his mind. He bases this on the fact Cecil called him from the airport to report he thought he was being followed, and was going northwest and he'd see Wayne soon. From this comment, Wayne interpreted Cecil was heading for Wayne's retreat in North Dakota (the convention was in Minneapolis), and went there. Cecil didn't arrive, as he had returned to New York. For the last year, Wayne's been convinced Cecil at least planned to rip him off, but doesn't want to confront him. He wants these fellows to devise some way he can put his mind at ease, without confronting Cecil, which would damage their working relationship even if Cecil is totally innocent. A solution is proposed, and everyone seems happy. Except the solution never explains why Cecil said he was head northwest, then said he would see Wayne soon, so I'm not certain it's actually a satisfactory explanation.
I think the story is about how Batman is an interesting character because he's human, so the challenges are greater, as he's capable of making mistakes, or overlooking something obvious. it's contrasted with Superman, who this story's Bruce Wayne doesn't like because he's so powerful there is no challenge for him, even when dealing with things impossible for normal people to deal with. Asimov's Wayne feels this leaves the reader unable to connect with Superman, and makes his a less effective and interesting character. The story then presents us with Batman - or the man he's modeled on - missing what is presented as an obvious explanation for the confusion with his butler. The point being, I believe, we're supposed to recognize we could easily make a similar mistake, and there you go, we can connect with Batman. The problems being, one, as I said the previous paragraph, obvious it may be, I'm not certain it is a good explanation, and two, since it revolves around placing emphasis on the wrong phrase, well, Superman could do that too. It was an interesting idea, but I don't think Asimov pulled it off.
Daddy's Girl, William F. Nolan: The story involves the Joker, Robin, the daughter the Joker keeps imprisoned in their home, and the robots he's supposedly built to raise and guard her. Robin falls in love with the girl in less than 20 pages, and she may love him, or it may simply be she's never met another human besides him and her father. The Joker, in addition to be a robotics expert and trying to kill the President, also has been giving her some kind of serum so that if she leaves their home, she dies. Uh, OK.
If the story had been longer, with more time to know Sue-Ellen, and see her interact with Grayson, and establish the Joker as being master of all the varied disciplines, it might have worked. It feels rushed as it is.
Command Performance, Howard Goldsmith: Someone is hypnotizing runaway teens and using them to commit crimes, so it's Dick Grayson, Boy Reporter on the case.
Now this story was long enough to work a little better. It offers the chance to see how Dick Grayson applies Batman training in everyday life, without the costume. That includes trying to get one of the teens to open up about, sneaking around in someone's home, resisting hypnotism. He doesn't seem as competent as I'd expect, but he does fairly well for himself. There is a bit in the middle of the story involving a Chamber of Horrors built inside a man's house that went nowhere. It's a red herring, obviously, but the set-up described is so elaborate, I wonder how the man in question managed to build the thing within his house.
Three more stories to go, so tomorrow.