Posts tagged ‘Penguin’

Detective 566 – Know Your Foes, and a mystery villain in Green Arrow

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Doug Moench and Gene Colan provide a review of Batman’s major villains in this story, a lead-in to the big Batman 400.  The bulk of it reads much like a Who’s Who, but that series, and its variants, were in the future, and there really had not been anything like this.  It was much more appreciated at the time than such an issue would be now.

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After receiving a mysterious letter saying “Know your foes,” Batman and Robin review them.  All the big names are covered: Joker, Penguin, Two-Face, Riddler, Scarecrow, Ra’s Al Ghul and Talia.  Killer Moth makes the cut into the big names, as does Black Mask, the newest addition to the line-up.

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Curiously, this is the first time Poison Ivy makes it into a listing of Batman villains.  She’d been a foe of his since the 60s, but rarely in his own books.  Mad Hatter, Deadshot, Nocturna and the Night Slayer round out the ones who get full entries.

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There is a curious mix on the “B-list” page.  Cavalier and Tweedledee and Tweedledum are golden age holdovers, but Black Spider and Clayface III are supposedly dead.  Mr. Freeze, Cat-Man and Croc could easily have made the cut to major villains at this time.  And they included Crazy Quilt.  Really?

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Green Arrow and Black Canary’s series builds to its finale in this story by Joey Cavalieri and Jerome K Moore.

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Onyx is giving a long, roundabout explanation to her wanna-be boyfriend about why she has come back to Star City, but it gets interrupted by a bad guy smashing right through the wall.

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Who is the mystery attacker?  That gets saved for the finale.

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Detective 541 – Batman chases the Penguin to the north pole, and Green Arrow gets trapped by the Death Dealer

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It’s yet another second half by Moench and Colan in Detective 541 (Aug. 84), as Batman pursues the Penguin, who has stolen plans for an advance warning system in the arctic (early bird), and plans to sell them to the Russians.

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Batman’s chase after the Penguin has negative repercussions he is unaware of at the time.  The child welfare agency tries to call Bruce Wayne that night, and even though Alfred explains that he is taking care of Jason, the powers that be are not impressed.

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I do like Colan’s rendition of the Penguin.  And you gotta like any story in which he uses real penguins to delay Batman.

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In the end, this story has more deception than one would think possible.  The Penguin had fake plans to sell, he had no intention of betraying his country.  But the”real” plans the Penguin stole were fakes as well, disinformation leaked by the government.

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Green Arrow begins a 2-part story pitting him against a hit man with a card fetish, the Death Dealer, in this story by Joey Cavalieri and Shawn McManus.

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The Death Dealer is hunting down a man in the witness protection program, currently working as a radio dj, and not overly concerned about hiding his real identity.  Cause that’s why they spent millions to give you a new id.  So you could not care.

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Oliver Queen goes to check on the dj at the radio station, and discovers that the Dealer has locked them both in, and set fire to the place.

 

Detective 526 – Jason Todd dons the costume

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Celebrating Batman’s 500th appearance, Detective 526 (May 1983) is a forgotten, but worthy, anniversary issue.  Crisis on Infinite Earths would remove this story from continuity, and the origin of Jason Todd radically changed, but this work by Gerry Conway, Don Newton and Alfredo Alcala stands on its own merit.

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The Joker calls together a mass assembly of Batman’s enemies.  Croc is out to kill Batman, but he’s a newbie, and not worthy of the honour, the Joker insists.  So he lays out a plan that will give them all chances of killing Batman that night.

The line-up includes the regulars: Penguin, Riddler, Two-Face, and Scarecrow.  Cat-Man, Killer Moth, Mr. Freeze, the Mad Hatter, and Matt Hagen as Clayface had all appeared within the last few years.  The Cavalier had not been seen since an issue of Batman Family in the late 70s.  Tweedledum and Tweedledee had not been seen since the 1940s!  Technically, this is the first appearance of the Earth-1 versions of the characters, but with Crisis looming that scarcely matters.

Some of the newer villains are included as well: Black Spider, Captain Stingaree and the Spook.  Talia is there, without her father being involved in the story, which is rare.

The Gentleman Ghost is a Hawkman villain, but had fought Batman twice in his own book.  This is the only time he appears in a line-up of Batman villains.

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Catwoman watches, but takes no part in the meeting.  Talia also has no interest in killing Batman, but has to fight her way out.

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Both Catwoman and Talia head to the Batcave to warn Batman of the plans against him, but get involved in a cat fight of their own.

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Meanwhile, things aren’t going so well for Dick Grayson.  His great plan to use the Todds against Croc simply put them into his hands, and he has Jason driven to Wayne Manor to keep him safe.

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Barbara accompanies her father as Commissioner Gordon checks out the abandoned theatre where the villains met, and finds evidence pointing to a gathering of their enemies.

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Barbara goes to find Dick, and they suit up as Batgirl and Robin and head out to fight the villains, as Batman does the same, with Talia and Catwoman as back-up.  No one is at home, so Jason is left to explore Wayne Manor, and guess where he winds up?

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The Spook manages to get the drop on Talia, if only for a moment.  But with so many fighting against them, the two women and Batman get taken.

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Robin is the one to find the remains of the Todds, fed to his namesakes by Croc.

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Jason, unawares, has found an alternate Robin costume in the cave, and suited up.  He heads out to join the rest of the heroes.

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Batgirl and Robin fight well together. There is no hint of romance, as there had been in their Batman Family team-ups.  Robin is in a budding romance with Starfire in the pages of New Teen Titans, but their ease with each other reminds one of the bond between them, the best duo of Batman’s supporting cast.

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Jason happens upon  a group of the villains, which gives him the information he needs to find out where everyone else is.

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Finally the big climax, as the Joker gloats over his captured foes.

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Croc had been working behind the scenes with the Joker, using all the other villains to wear Batman down.  He makes his move, but Batman manages to duck at the right time, and Croc takes down the Joker.

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Jason Todd arrives just as Batman has beaten Croc into submission, and delivers the final blow.  Only afterwards does he discover his parents bodies.

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The epilogue sees Bruce sending Catwoman and Talia off together in a car.  Where is he sending them?  Why did he stick these two women in the same car together?  How far did they get before their fight forced the car off the road and into a ditch?

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The issue ends with Bruce and Jason Todd, who is looking relatively ok for a boy whose parents were horribly murdered the night before.  But he is to be the new Robin, and there is a sense of hope.

Which is all kind of weird now, because Jason Todd was given such a different origin, and made such a different character, in the post-Crisis reality.

But for a couple of years, this was the origin of Jason Todd, Robin.

Detective 492 – Batman and Batgirl team-up, a bridge story, Man-Bat ends, and Robin vs the Penguin

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Cary Burkett and Don Newton lead off Detective 492 (July 1980) with a Batman/Batgirl team up, divided into two chapters.  Often the structure of something like this gets in the way of the storytelling, but in this case, it works to an advantage.

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Batman sees the news reports about Batgirl being killed, and heads to see Commissioner Gordon, discovering that Batgirl is at home, alive.  She explains how she used the dummy as a decoy for Cormorant.

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She tells the men she has decided to give up being Batgirl.  Batman argues with her, not to give up the good fight.  He looks to Gordon to back him up, but he is more than happy to not have his daughter out risking her life.

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Batman goes in pursuit of General Scarr, working his way up through the man’s ranks of hoods.  These fight scenes are really nicely intercut with a long conversation between Gordon and Barbara about being a hero, what things are worth the risk, and how Batman can be the way he is.

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Batman reaches Scarr, only to discover that he has fought his way into a trap.  He was the intended target all along.

So then, he was lying to his men in the previous issue when he talked about Batgirl being a threat?  Why?  He had to have informed them about the trap, so they had to know they were luring Batman.

It’s a minor point, but it bugged me as a kid.

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The story moves to the Batgirl half, as she discovers Batman has gone missing, and goes in search of him. She faces Cormorant, and finds that he is far more frightened of her than she of him, because he thinks she has come back from the dead.

Cormorant returns in a Batgirl Special in the late 80s, but no long thinks she is a ghost.

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She finds Batman, and though he has already broken his bonds and is taking out Scarr;s men, she still manages to rescue him.

The story ends as if her trauma is cured, but in reality, this event would leave deep scars.

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Bob Haney and Bob Oskner craft this installment of Tales of Gotham City.  There is some excellently vertiginous art as we read about a bridge, and the people on it one afternoon.

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The story is told from the point of view of a man who works on the bridge every day.  There is a little old man he sees walking the bridge daily.  Today is special, though, as there is a really dramatic guy threatening to jump because a girl doesn’t like him, and felons speeding towards the bridge, with police in pursuit.

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The storyline all come together, and the boy does little to save the girl he claims to love, when she gets grabbed by the felons.  It’s the old man who sacrifices his life for her.

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He gets the girl anyway, as she realizes suicidal cowards are hot.  The old man turns out to be the one who built the bridge many years earlier.  Corny, but I enjoyed it, and the art really carries it.

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Man-Bat has his final story, by Bob Rozakis, Romeo Tanghal and Vince Colletta.

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Kirk returns home to find Francine and the baby gone, long overdue from a shopping trip.  He discovers that they are on a subway car, mysteriously trapped in its tunnel.

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He finds the car, and the giant rat that has caused it to stop. My only complaint with this tale is that there is not enough Man-Bat vs giant rat action, as he drives it away with a torch.

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His series ends on an appopriately “can’t win for losing” note, as Kirk’s help in the situation is dismissed by the authorities, who refuse to take him seriously.

Man-Bat next appears, along with Francine, the baby, and Jason Bard, in Barve and the Bold the following month, in a coda to his series.

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Robin’s story,by Jack C Harris, Charles Nicholas and Vince Colletta, involves a pterodactyl egg on display at the university.

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The Penguin has come to town to steal it, and wants Robin aware of his presence.

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Dick winds up having the same romantic problems with Jennifer Anne that he was having with Lori Elton, as he keeps having to disappear and make excuses for breaking dates.  Oh, and there’s that man in black again.

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The Penguin has a fairly silly death-trap prepared for Robin, shutting him in a cage and firing it into the air.  He escapes, and nabs the villain.

 

Detective 484 – Batman vs Maxie Zeus, the Human Target has a mystery client, Batgirl tries to save her father, Robin returns to the circus, the Demon vs Baron Tyme, and an unsolved case of Batman

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Batgirl’s story gets the cover spot for Detective 484 (June/July 1979), though it’s deceptive in implying that Batman and Robin are also part of that story.

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Batman’s main story, by Denny O’Neil and Don Newton, is a follow up to last issue, as Batman penetrates Olympus, the penthouse retreat of Maxie Zeus.

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We get a bit of background on the villain.  He comes from wealth and education, and is credited as being an organizational genius.  His pretense of being a Greek god is looked on with amusement by his gang, who stay with him despite this.

Although he knows Batman is coming for him, and in spite of the pleas of his men, throughout the tale, that he flee, Maxie Zeus remains secure that he will triumph.

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Batman makes it past Zeus’ bodyguard, Odysseus, and winds up in his “Scylla or Charybdis” trap – between attack dogs and whirling blades.  The scene in which he survives by sending the dogs into the blades is pretty awful, but the only way out.

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Even when he is captured, Maxie does not seem in any way put out. Instead, he is delighted when Batman tells him his pride was his undoing.  And Maxie is not out of the picture, returning in a couple of months.

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The Human Target gets an unusual case in this issue, courtesy of Len Wein and Dick Giordano.  He is called on the phone and warned off of helping Floyd Fenderman, but no such person has contacted Christopher.

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So rather than disguise himself as the potential victim, Chris has to try to find out who the victim is.  He does adopt a disguise for part of the tale.

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But for the climax of the action it is simply Chris being himself.

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The story ends on a cute note, as Christopher discovers that Fenderman has been trying to get into contact with him for days.

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Jack C Harris, Bob Oskner and Vince Colletta are the creative team on this Batgirl story, in which she hunts down the men who tried to kill her father.

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She meets with a fair bit of resistance when she insists that the case is hers.  The Gotham police feel it’s their duty to avenge their boss, and want to call Batman in as well.  Fortunately for Barbara, he is busy with Maxie Zeus.

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Despite that conflict, and the cover, this is a fairly simple story.  When she goes to check on her father, she spots the bejewelled nurse, and her suspicions are aroused.  She prevents a second attempt on her father’s life, and rounds up the bad guys.

Not bad, but it could have been much better.

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Robin returns to Haly’s Circus for the first time since his parents’ deaths in this story by Jack C Harris and Kurt Schaffenberger.  There are a number of stories in which Dick returns to Haly’s Circus for the first time since his parents’ deaths, but I believe this one genuinely is the first.

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He is surprised to see posters for the Flying Graysons, but discovers that it’s merely a stage name for performers playing off the notoriety of the dead performers.  Oddly, Dick is neither repulsed nor offended by this.

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The story recaps his origin – the candlelit vow is there.  It is always featured in his origin to this point.  It gets dropped eventually, and I’m going to keep an eye out for when that happens.

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The rest of the story has him stopping some crimes at the circus.  Adequate, but not exceptional.

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Baron Tyme and Jason Blood continue their confrontation before Merlin’s tomb in this story by Len Wein and Steve Ditko.

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The Inspector leads the townsfolk into the remains of Castle Branek, but Tyme is powerful enough to hold them all off as he opens Merlin’s tomb. The distraction does allow Jason the opportunity to turn back into Etrigan.

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Tyme discovers the tomb is empty, and Etrigan beings down the castle around him.  The Demon passes on the Eternity Book to the Inspector, and feels that all is done, but we see that Tyme survived the collapse.

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The final story in the issue is one of the Unsolved Cases of the Batman.  As with the Public Life of Bruce Wayne, this was intended as a back-up story in Batman, but moved here as a result of the DC Implosion.

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The story, by Denny O’Neil, John Calnan and Frank McLaughlin, has a scientist decipher notes by Galileo for the creation of a universal solvent, and a way to contain it.

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He creates the solvent, but cannot contain it, and it dissolves everything, including the notes.  Batman manages to turn it into a non-destructive gas, but the secret is lost.

So the case is only “unsolved” in that Batman did not find out the secret of creating the destructive solvent.  That’s not really unsolved.  That basic problem was likely a factor in ending these “unsolved” tales.

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The issue’s back cover features a pin-up of Batman’s major villains.  The Joker, Penguin, Riddler and Two-Face are joined by the Scarecrow, who hasn’t usually made the cut for such spreads before, as well as Ra’s Al Ghul, the new kid on the block.  Catwoman’s appearance is a bit out of date, as she had already started on her road to reform, but I’m not complaining.

 

 

Detective 474 – Deadshot returns

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Before this story, Deadshot had made only his debut appearance, in Batman in the early 50s, and a one panel cameo, in prison, in an issue of Detective Comics shortly afterwards.  Detective 474 (Dec. 77) brought the character back, gave him a better outfit and mask, and he soon became a major player in the DC Universe.

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The story, by Steve Englehart, Marshall Rogers and Terry Austin, opens with some really great bonding between Batman and Robin, before he heads off, back to school, and a meeting of the Teen Titans.  Wonder Girl cameos, and there is a visual of Duela Dent, at this point calling herself Harlequin, as well.  In fact, this meeting would see the Titans break up, but there is no hint of that.

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The Penguin is returned to prison, and placed in a cell next to Floyd Lawton.  The Penguin has a laser monocle he intends to use to escape, but Floyd grabs that off of him and uses it himself.

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A lot of this issue is spent on the supporting cast.  Boss Thorne gets another visit from Hugo Strange’s ghost, and Silver St. Cloud goes on a date with Bruce, asking perceptive questions, and making him wish he could tell her the truth.  We also get to see her at work, organizing conventions.

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Considering the impact this story had, it’s kind of surprising how little time Deadshot gets in it – but what he has is worth the wait.  The mask would not normally be shown to be reflective, as on the page above, but even still it looks great.  And Batman and Deadshot wind up fighting on a giant, functioning, typewriter, in a beautiful throwback moment.  This is the convention at which Silver is working, and she is in the crowd, seeing Batman for the first time.

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And it only takes one look, and she knows.

Detective 473 – The Penguin goes after the silver bird

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The Penguin toys with Batman and Robin in Detective 473 (Nov. 77), another Englehart/Rogers/Austin collaboration.

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The Penguin returns to the theatre for the next round of bidding on Batman’s identity, only to discover that none of the other bidders showed, nor did Strange.  He hears the Joker’s laugh, and, unsure of what is happening, decides to write this off.

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Bruce is on the mend, and goes to see Silver St. Cloud in the hospital, along with Dick.  Although the scene is G rated, it’s still by far the more intense physical relationship that we have ever seen Bruce in at this point.

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Boss Thorne, meanwhile, is deriving no pleasure from Hugo Strange’s death, as his ghost begins haunting Thorne.

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But the meat of the story is the Penguin.  Batman and Robin believe he has plans to steal a silver sculpture, the Malay Penguin. Someone has started backing a musical next door, the sounds of which keep setting off the sensitive alarm system.  The Penguin is seem lurking nearby, and though he flees the heroes, he leaves odd clues – such as “never pitch rolls at a bank.”

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Dick can’t make head not tail out of the odd clues, but does piece together a viable solution to the Penguin’s plans to steal the statue.  And he is completely wrong.

Bruce has figured out that the statue is not the goal at all, that the Penguin intends to hijack an airplane, and stops him.

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It’s an entertaining tale of wits and diversions, with the added touch that the Penguin had stolen the Malay Penguin before the story even started.  And a pleasant change to see Batman and Robin working together again.

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