Last week, commenter Jason asked if I was planning on doing anything to celebrate the one-year anniversary of The-ISB.com, and while the thought had occurred to me, I really didn’t think it was all that necessary. After all, I already celebrate the ISB’s Awesomeversary every year on January 6. I even buy a cake every year, and when you get right down to it, that’s just weird.
Clearly, pastries aren’t necessary this time around, but a full year of the New ISB ought to get some kind of mention, so I thought I’d take this opportunity to go back over a classic. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you The Single Greatest Comic Book Of All Time:
Yeah, I know: Not only have I talked about this comic before, but I tend to talk about it–or at least one scene–at every available opportunity. Still, the last time I actually went into detail about Batman #425 was more than three years ago, and even that post lacked the benefit of a scanner.
So let me set the scene here: Imagine that you’re six years old, and in addition to various hair and polo shirt-related issues, you have a problem. You’re spending the Thanksgiving break at your grandparents’ house in Ohio, six hundred miles away from your NES, and those guys don’t even have cable. So with boredom setting in, you wander across the street to the convenience store with your dad to get some comics to kill the time, and you see that thing up there along with the previous issue.
Now at this point, I’d read a couple of comics before, and I knew a little about Batman from Superfriends and the ’66 TV show, but that did absolutely nothing to prepare me for the mind-blowing I was about to receive. This thing was like a match to the powderkeg that was my brain, and believe it or not, it wasn’t just about the car battery. But we’ll get to that in a second.
So here’s the plot:
Someone’s kidnapped Jim Gordon and sent a letter to Batman demanding that he show up with Robin in tow and no police. Why? Because in the last issue Robin fucking killed a guy.
Oh, relax: He was a total cokehead scumbag who slapped around his girlfriend until she committed suicide, but thanks to his father’s diplomatic immunity, Batman couldn’t bring him down legally. So at the end of the story, Batman shows up to Fellipe’s penthouse to find Robin on the balcony looking down at Fellipe, who just took a 20 story dive to the cement, we get one of the few true moments of Jason Todd being a total badass:
Did I mention I read this story of domestic violence, drug abuse and vigilante justice when I was six?
Anyway, once the handy two-page recap’s out of the way, we find out that Batman recognizes the junkyard where they’re keeping Gordon from the one photograph–because, you know, he’s Batman–and thus he sets off to settle the score without telling Jason, who stows away Speed Racer style in the trunk of the Batmobile. And this is where it starts to get good.
Come to think of it, every story I’ve read about Batman going to a junkyard to save Robin is awesome. I mean, admittedly, there’s only two, but still. It’s nice to have a track record.
So Batman gets to the spot where Jose’s holding Gordon, and at this point, this issue totally turns into Die Hard In A Landfill, Starring Batman. And there is nothing about that that doesn’t sound awesome.
Really, though, you’ve got to wonder what the hell Jose was thinking here. Admittedly, he’s bereaved, but the guy’s a career diplomat and he’s trying to set a deathtrap for Batman. You’d think one of his pals would sit him down and explain that Batman wrestles a tiger while escaping a crushing wall trap before breakfast. But alas. Jose was… inconsolable.
So for the next nine pages, Batman just beats the living crap out of everybody he comes across, dispatching them with what I can only describe as cold enjoyment. And then this happens:
That’s it. That’s the moment. That’s where the ISB was born, although it wouldn’t actually show up for another seventeen years. You can draw a line straight to the comics I read today and everything makes sense: The way Batman casually looks around for something to use, the delight he takes in “getting improvisational,” the thug’s reaction and the grin Batman’s got in the shadow, the way the guy just crumples. You don’t hear a whole lot about Mark Bright, but man. That is a beautiful page.
But here’s the thing: The way I talk about the car battery and how much I love it, you’d think that was the climax of the fight scene, but it’s not: That’s the second guy. There’s nine more thugs before Batman even gets to Jose and his bodyguards.
So let’s see how it works out for them:
Ah, the ol’ make-em-shoot-each-other trick. What’s interesting about this one, though, is that Batman’s pulling off a six foot vertical leap. That’s like two feet higher than Jordan! What, did he spend a season with the Harlem Globetrotters when he was traveling the world to learn his Batman skills?
Of course he did. He’s Batman.
The dreaded Bat-Backhand, with Aparo Effect.
Oh man, this one is awesome. Three guys, all armed with Uzis, and Batman just takes them out like it’s nothing. I mean, that’s a right-left-right-left ya toothless. And then you say “Goddamn, he’s ruthless.”
In fact, I’m pretty sure I did say that. And that Ice Cube wrote that line about this comic.
But the most awesome thing about this one? Look closely and you’ll see that Batman has knocked out the third guy before the first one hits the ground.
Whoops! Dart in your neck!
And that’s all of them. After that, all that’s left is to confront Jose and his team of bodyguards. Of course, I should note that through this entire sequence, Batman is completely chilled out. Even when Jose’s got a gun in his face, his narration is “This won’t be easy at close range. I’ll probably end up taking a bullet or two.” It’s so matter of fact that Batman kicking the hell out of these guys is already a foregone conclusion.
Fortunately, taking a bullet isn’t necessary: Robin shows up to provide a distraction, Batman frees Gordon with a couple of Batarangs and takes out the bodyguards–who go down about as quick as you’d expect–and then, for some reason, Batman decides to climb up a stack of cars.
Why? I don’t know. He’s Batman. Just roll with it.
And you know what? Until I re-read it this week, I never realized that the sound of a stack of automobiles crashing down on a man is “KAR-TUNKK!!”
Truly, this is the comic that keeps on giving.
Special thanks to BitterAndrew for help with this one.