Posts tagged ‘Ra’s Al Ghul’

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 490- Batman relaxes in a garden, Batgirl learns to dance, a snowy encounter, Robin takes a test and Black Lightning takes a shower

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Denny O’Neil and Don Newton being their League of Assassins war storyline to a conclusion in Detective 490 (May 1980), although it’s a bit less confrontational than the cover implies.

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Batman fights Lurk for the second time, following their encounter in a DC Special from a couple of years earlier. Lurk looks almost identical to Ra’s Al Ghul’s earlier sidekick, Ubu.  In later years, it would be established that Ubu is more of a title than a name, so Lurk would be the second Ubu, really.

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Working with the seismologist Batman freed last issue, he determines that the League’s plan is to cause an earthquake.  Checking the fault lines, Batman figures out that the goal must be a high level peace conference being held in an estate on the line.

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Batman has to fight his way in, and warns the men to leave before the earthquake hits, and is less then impressed with one religious leader who refuses to go, saying it would be bowing to terrorism.

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Ra’s Al Ghul, the Sensei and Talia only show up for the last few pages.  Talia shoot Batman with a tranquilizer, and takes him away, as his father and the Sensei have their standoff in the mansion.  It gets destroyed in the earthquake.  Though the implication is that both men have died, Ra’s Al Ghul shows up in Batman not too long down the road.  The Sensei, however, may well have died, as his next appearance is in the Deadman mini-series, set years earlier.

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The story concludes as Batman and Talia relax in a garden as she tends to his wounds.  The big battle with a bit of a let-down, but the ending is strong, if only because it is such an untypical, happy ending.

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Batgirl’s story, by Mike W Barr, John Calnan and Joe Giella, has her on the trail of someone who is trying to kill a b=famous ballet dancer.

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In order to keep an eye on the potential victim, Barbara goes undercover as a ballerina.  Probably wise, as the murder attempts just keep coming.

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The story has a sadly ironic resolution, as the wannabe killer is revealed as the ballet master’s son, who felt his father was keeping him out of the spotlight.  The father is devastated – he was planning to retire that night, and make his son the main dancer.

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Bob Rozakis and George Tuska craft an excellent Tales of Gotham City in this issue.  There is no talking, but the narrative relates a radio interview with a policeman about how women need to keep safe and know how to protect themselves.  As we read this, we watch a woman struggling to drive during a snowstorm.  Her car gets stuck, and she sees a shadowy man approach.

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The story has a happy ending – the man is a police officer – but it’s great to see that the woman is shown capable and prepared to defend herself.

So a good story, if not a really “Gotham”-y story.

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Jack C Harris, Alex Saviuk and John Calnan put Robin into the middle of an exam nightmare in this issue.

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After a teacher finds evidence that some students had the exam questions before the test, he announces that there will be second exam, the first was invalid.  Jennifer comes to tell Dick, and almost catches him in his Robin gear.  Perhaps he should change out of it before sleeping.

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The professor himself turns out to be the bad guy, selling the exam results for extra money.  Perhaps not a ground-breaking story, but certainly a realistic, university-based tale.

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Black Lighting, who had not been seen since an issue of World’s Finest the previous year, begins a short run in Detective with this issue.  Marty Pasko, Pat Broederick and Frank McLaughlin are teh creative team as high school teacher Jefferson Pierce dons his costume again to help another student.

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The story is a curious one.  It begins with the student kidnapped out of the school showers.

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The trail leads him to drug dealing gangs, and an aging voodoo queen, but even still, Black Lightning cannot make any sense of their actions.

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But the voodoo queen knows what she is doing, even if no one else does.  The story ends with an electrocuted Black Lightning and the student trapped together.

Detective 485 – Batwoman gets murdered, the Demon ends, and Man-Bat faces SST

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The League of Assassins returns in this Denny O’Neil/Don Newton story that pits the Sensei against Ra’s Al Ghul.

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Kathy Kane, the former Batwoman, is in town with her travelling circus, and Batman has received word that the League are going to be attacking there.  Puzzled as to why, he goes to check it out, and discovers Kathy holding her own against them.  This is Kathy’s first appearance since her team-up with the Freedom Fighters in the final issue of their book.

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All is well until the Bronze Tiger shows up.  A master of martial arts, he battles Batman while another member of the League murders Kathy.

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The killers flee, and Ra’s Al Ghul shows up.  Batman realizes that Ra’s manipulated the League into attacking Kathy, so that Batman would seek vengeance against them.  Ra’s Al Ghul and the Sensei have rival plans for the League, and this storyline sees the war between them for dominance.  Talia pops up as well, but all she does is cry about loving Batman.

Up to now, the Sensei’s connection with the League of Assassins had mostly played out in Deadman stories, while Ra’s Al Ghul appeared to be their leader in Batman tales.  Though it is never spelled out in detail, the League must at this point be split between the two factions.

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The Bronze Tiger, Ben Turner, had been a supporting character in Richard Dragon, Kung-Fu Fighter, and had been kidnapped by the League when the series was cancelled.  Here we learn that the Sensei (who last appeared in a late issue of Phantom Stranger, for those keeping track) has hopes of making Bronze Tiger into his greatest weapon.

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Batman and the Bronze Tiger battle, but one of the members of the League jumps in, shooting a poisoned dart at Batman.  Though the Sensei kills the man who did this, Bronze Tiger is furious at the breach of honour, and turns on the League.  The lights go out, conveniently, so Batman misses the climax of the action, finding only the bloody masks of Tiger and Batwoman.  The story continues, although not immediately.

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The Demon’s series comes to an end with this story, by Len Wein and Steve Ditko.  The Demon stashes the Eternity Book with a relative of the previous caretaker, but this man wants nothing to do with it, and tosses it on the trash.  The book does not return until the Demon’s own series, in the 90stec_485_007

Jason Blood returns home, only to find his friends held captive by Baron Tyme. He demands the Eternity Book, but when he discovers that Jason no longer has it, comes up with a different plan.

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He casts a spell that half-transforms Jason into Etrigan, and then draws on the mystical energy of the transformation to pull his missing half back to reality.  This almost works, until the Demon steps behind a mirror, and Tyme’s spell winds up backfiring on him, sending his entire body to the nether realm.

That’s it for Baron Tyme, who has never been seen again.  The Demon, along with Glenda and Randu, appear next in the pages of Wonder Woman a couple years down the road.  Harry Matthews has to wait a few more years, until the Demon miniseries by Matt Wagner, to return.

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Man-Bat returns to Detective, with a story by Bob Rozakis, with art by Don Newton and Frank McLaughlin.

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Kirk Langstrom and Jason Bard are called on by a woman whose husband has been acting strangely, sneaking out at night.  She suspects he is having an affair, and hires the detectives to follow him.

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Since Man-Bat excels at surveillance, he follows the man to an abandoned building, where he dons a suit of armour and goes flying out the window. Man-Bat is convinced he has a super-villain on his hands, and starts fighting him.  But once he sees the man’s expression, he realizes that the guy is just not in control of his suit at all, and helps him crash safely.

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The story ends with Kirk complaining about how irresponsible the man was, trying to be a hero but not taking proper precautions and risking his own life, becoming a menace to others. It takes Jason Bard to point out the irony.

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Although I didn’t find either the Robin or the Batgirl stories worth writing about – both deal with art thieves, and both have mediocre art – there is a really nice pin-up of them by Dick Giordano on the back cover.

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 448 – Bat-Murderer concludes

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Len Wein, Ernie Chan and Dick Giordano bring the Bat-Murderer saga to a spectacular finale in Detective 448 (June 1975), in a full-length story.

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Batman gets Jack Ryder to do some legwork for him, and he informs Batman that he has traced a connection between the League’s shooter, from the last issue, and a circus just outside Gotham. He offers to help Batman investigate the circus, but Batman insists he will handle it on his own.

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In disguise, Batman goes to check out the circus.  It’s not too hard to guess that the snake charmer woman might be Talia, but there is another, subtle yet effective, clue on this page.

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Batman sticks around after the circus closes.  Sure enough, the snake charmer turns out to be Talia, who explains that the reason for framing him was to destroy his Gotham life, as they still wish him to join the League.

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Batman is no more inclined to join them than last time, and as the fight ensues, the clown reveals himself to also be in disguise.  It’s the Creeper, who figured Batman needed help whether he wanted it or not.  And though the Creeper believes the ringmaster to be Ra’s Al Ghul, Batman has spotted the discrepancy in the midget strongman’s shadow, and has figured out that he is really Al Ghul.

By all means, scroll back up and check out that page again for the shadow clue.

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As Commissioner Gordon and the police arrive, the Creeper runs off.  Batman tries to leave as well, but Gordon picks up a gun and shoots Batman in the back.

The only real drawback to this story is the resolution and explanation, with the gun that points and shoots itself, and burns out the mechanism that causes this.  The faking of the death certificates is well with the League’s normal range of abilities, but the gun is a bit much.

The Creeper next appears, in a couple of months, in the Joker’s short lived comic.  Talia pops up a few months later in the pages of Black Lightning, but Ra’s Al Ghul has to wait until a couple more years, returning as the judge in the “Where Were You the Night Batman Was Killed?” storyline in Batman.  The next big plot they are involved in is not until the 80s.

Detective 445 – Bat-Murderer continues, and Robin begins, again

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Len Wein and Jim Aparo’s Bat-Murderer saga has its second chapter in Detective 445 (Feb./March 1975).

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Jack Ryder cameos, recapping the previous issue’s events, and setting up his larger role to come next issue.  Alfred actually asks Batman if he did it, but really we can excuse that lack of faith as the necessary set-up to hear Batman’s side of the “murder.”

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Batman figures that Ra’s Al Ghul must have some knowledge of what is going on, or possible be behind it, and breaks into Gotham prison to question him.  Ra’s openly admits to being behind his daughter’s death, and then promptly pulls out a gun and kills himself.

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In a really nice touch, Batman escapes the prison using one of the Spook’s passages.  But now he is wanted for two murders.

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Robin’s series moves back into Detective from Batman, after a year with no solo tales, in this story by Bob Rozakis and Mike Grell.  Robin joins the rotating back-up slot.

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Robin is still at Hudson University, but his previous supporting cast and campus issue based stories are done.  This tale deals with vandalism of a football from a historic game, and a long held grudge leading to a murder attempt.

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The story isn’t bad, and Grell’s art is a treat.  Police captain Frank McDonald is introduced, and will be a part of the Robin series for the next few years.

Detective 411 – Talia Al Ghul debuts, and Batgirl avoids becoming a blouse

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Denny O’Neil is joined by Bob Brown and Dick Giordano for this chapter of the League of Assassins tale, though the cover at least is by Neal Adams.

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Having failed to kill Batman, Dr. Darrk has been marked for death by the League of Assassins.  Batman tracks him to China, and the story takes place on a train as they cross territory that is friendly to neither, but where Batman is in more danger.  Darrk travels with a mysterious woman.  She is silent for much of the story, and her identity only clear about halfway through.

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It’s a well-written story, making the most of the train, and the variety of locales and people they meet along the way.

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After Batman gets injured, the woman tends to him, and we learn that she is Talia Al Ghul, the daughter of Ra’s Al Ghul.  Ra’s has not yet appeared, this mention is the first reference to him in the comics.  All part of the gradual build of the menace and scope of the League.  Dr. Darrk has taken her captive as protection against the League.

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The story comes to a surprising conclusion as Talia shoot and kills Darrk.  Up to that point, she had seemed a weak and helpless victim.  Even still, her facial expression during the shooting does not match the woman we would come to know.  One is left to assume, given the events in later stories, that Talia was playing helpless throughout this entire story, lulling Darrk into a sense of security.  Was she doing this anyway, before Batman became involved?  Or was her being taken captive by Darrk simply a way of ensuring she would get to meet Batman in person?  I believe it’s the latter, and Darrk was unwittingly a pawn in her, and her father’s, interest in Batman.

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Even Dick Girodano’s inks cannot save this Frank Robbins/Don Heck story.  Batgirl manages to escape from the dress cutting machine, so the criminals go after the designer herself, injured in a skiing accident in Europe.

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Batgirl saves the designed from being murdered, and captures the killers.  In the end, all the pundits are routed, as the designed bases her new wardrobe on Batgirl’s outfit.

Yeah, ugh.

This story is followed by a 2-parter dealing with wigs.  Killer wigs that crack open the skulls of women too dumb to take the crushing wigs off of their heads before they die.  These two tales are definitely the low-point of her series, but Heck’s art continues for the duration of her run, making even her passable stories unappealing.

 

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