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Batman: Dark Detective #4

Posted: Saturday, June 18, 2005
By: Ray Tate


More like "Tepider," if you ask me...

Writer: Steve Englehart
Artists: Marshall Rogers(p), Terry Austin(i), Chris Chuckry(c), John Workman(letterer)
Publisher: DC

Well, that certainly stank up the room. Marshall Rogers once again provides his usual level best artwork for Batman: Dark Detective, and the Silver St. Cloud scenes exhibit the poignancy and respect for characterization for which Englehart is known. The rest of the book should be torn out and thrown into the nearest trash can.

In issue two, Englehart cleverly had the Scarecrow plant a time-release capsule of fear gas on Batman's person. This issue features the second dose, which pulls out of Batman's dark recesses a previously unknown continuity transplant. My hope is that the body rejects this organ.

Soon after the Waynes were murdered, Bruce according to Englehart had to fight off a friend of Joe Chill's that was intent on killing him. First, this episode is completely unnecessary. Second, while it appears Englehart wishes to allude to the pre-Crisis story in which Batman was revealed to be the first Robin, the story doesn't cut it. Bruce uses a slingshot, but he's not wearing Robin's red breast, so what's the point? Third and most importantly, the story doesn't make sense. This just smells of trade paperback padding.

Originally, the Bat-Man never caught the unnamed murderer of his parents, or if he did the capture never was mentioned. Later stories reveal that murderer to be Joe Chill. Batman tracks down Chill and scares the snot out him. He reveals his identity to Chill and sends the rat running to his cronies. When Chill's cronies learn that he's the one responsible for turning a crime victim into the Batman, they turn Chill into a form of Swiss Cheese ala' carbine.

Later stories unveil a conspiracy. Thomas Wayne while attending a masquerade party is abducted and brought to the hideout of one Lew Moxton. Thomas removes a bullet from Moxton's shoulder. Moxton being a two-bit hood wishes to thank him with another bullet, but Thomas Wayne, dressed as a Bat and therefore the first Batman, fights back to aid the police in Moxton's capture. Out on bail, Moxton seeks revenge and hires Joe Chill to murder Thomas Wayne. Chill murders Martha Wayne as a bonus. Some revisionists suggest that Martha had a heart attack. The original tale shows the verminous Chill shouting "This will shut you up!" and ruthlessly shooting Martha. You can come back from a heart attack, but not a bullet through the heart.

As usual the post-Crisis muddies all. Early on, things go along swimmingly. The Waynes are shot down by Joe Chill who terrified by the look on Bruce Wayne's face drops his weapon. Bruce takes the gun. He later as an adult uses the gun and temporarily allies with Chill to hunt down the Reaper--Gotham's first murderous vigilante. Batman then confirms from Chill's own lips that he is the owner of the gun. The Reaper as an unwanted favor promptly shoot's Chill in the head. This story never happened. DC retconned the entirety of the Mike Barr run; mainly for Barr's implication that Batman on very rare occasions had killed in self-defense and in the defense of others. The justifiably critically acclaimed Batman: Mask of Phantasm owes Barr's Reaper a definite debt.

The early retconned post-Crisis Batman never used a gun. Batman tracked down Joe Chill off panel and brought him to justice. The Zero Hour then came along and decided well, gee if he got Joe Chill, what's he seeking vengeance for? So the brain trust at DC put doubt in Batman's mind that perhaps Joe Chill did not kill his parents. This apparently makes Batman a vigilante again forever seeking and failing to find the murderer of his parents. I think we can all say this together.

Idiots! Cretins! Morons!

The further post-Crisis muddying has led to all sorts of lousy mischief including the possibility that John Corbean a.k.a. Metallo murdered his parents. In short, I hate the post-Crisis.

From any reference of any subscribed continuity, Joe Chill having a friend who seeks to kill young Bruce Wayne to stop him from identifying his "buddy" doesn't make one lick of sense. Chill if hired by Moxton wouldn't need protection. He'd just need his dough and a ticket out of the country. Moxton wouldn't risk having the double-cover of Chill being the sole trigger man. He wouldn't want Chill to attract further attention to the case. In fact, Moxton would more likely than not have Chill if he began chatting with the constabulary silenced rather than young Bruce Wayne who didn't know Moxton was behind the murder of his parents.

If Moxton doesn't play a part in this drama, then I can't see a thug or drug-addict like Joe Chill making a friend in the dapper killer sent to slay Bruce Wayne, and while criminals do make alliances, one criminal killing for another criminal is highly unlikely. Murder is not something criminals of the day took lightly. This friend of Chill's would have had to have been paid either in oodles of cash or in favors to motivate him into killing a kid. Chill always seemed like a low-level gunsel--constantly without cash and certainly not in the position to grant any favors. So why on earth would this unnamed friend of Chill's actually want to paint a target on his chest? It doesn't make sense. Oh, and if Joe Chill didn't murder Batman's parents, then hey, why would this friend of Chill's want to murder young Bruce Wayne? Awful. Simply awful.

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