Now that everyone’s had the weekend to see The Dark Knight and scrape their jaws up off the floor, the conversations have trended from talking about how awesome this movie was to speculating about how awesome the next one’s going to be.
I’ve had more than a few “wouldn’t it be great if…” conversations in the store over the past couple days and there was a good one going back and forth with the usual suspects over email this afternoon, mostly revolving around the villains, because really: Where do you go after that? Me, I wouldn’t even venture to guess.
But I can tell you who it won’t be.
Don’t get me wrong here: There’s plenty of bad guys you can just toss right out to begin with. I’m pretty sure we won’t be seeing The Dodo Man again anytime soon, and unless Christopher Nolan decides that the thrill-a-minute pre-Crisis Jason Todd Custody Battle would make for some compelling cinema, things aren’t looking good for Nocturna and the Thief of Night, either.
If you want the sure bet, though, there’s only one to go with:
ORCA THE WHALE WOMAN
Orca–who I don’t think is ever actually called “Orca the Whale Woman” in the comics–is already pretty well-known on the comics blog circuit, but for those of you who aren’t familiar with the character, let me assure you: She’s even more terrible than she looks, and is pretty widely acknowledged as being one of the worst Batman villains of the past decade. I’d feel pretty safe in saying that we’re all glad she’s gone, but things being what they are, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that there were a bunch of degenerates on LiveJournal openly weeping when she was capped in Face the Face.
I’ll explain: Originally created by Larry Hama and Scott McDaniel during a run that also gave us such villainous luminaries as The Banner, who was essentially just Paul Wingfield (the crazy militiaman from GI Joe #4) with an American flag cape, Orca starred in the last story before Batman got good again with the arrival of Ed Brubaker. Seriously, I think the record’ll back me up when I say that I’ve got some love for Larry Hama’s comics, but goddamn, that run was atrocious. It doesn’t help that Scott McDaniel always seemed to draw Batman in mid-pelvic thrust…
…but it all ended up being justly criticized as one of the worst runs on the title ever, and Orca just might be the worst part.
So here’s how it goes: Orca is in reality paraplegic marine biologist Grace Balin, which I just realized when I was re-reading it is a pun on baleen whales. So there’s that.
Anyway, when socialite Camille Baden-Smythe, who is the kind of stereotypically evil plutocrat that spends her weekends plotting to tear down the local breakdance crew’s rec center to build a toxic waste dump, sets her sights on evicting Grace from her aquarium, the scientist is understandably upset. Fortunately, she minored in Evil Chemistry, and so she’s able to whip up a serum that blah blah blah etc.:
Thus, after sewing up a sufficiently elastic costume–and yes, it actually is a costume, begging the question of why she even needs one–and christening herself after her favorite Michael Anderson film, she sets off to steal Baden-Smythe’s huge-ass diamond necklace so that she can give a bunch of money to homeless people.
This, incidentally, is the best part of the story, as it deals with the fact that a marine biologist (generally speaking) would have no idea how to fence a six million dollar diamond necklace, although this being Gotham, you’d think it wouldn’t be that hard. In any case, that part’s quickly tossed aside so that Batman, by complete coincidence can stumble on Baden-Smythe’s highly illegal business practices and bring her down.
This, as you might imagine, can only be accomplished by putting on his special Whale-Fighting outfit and shouting expository dialogue while kicking.
This is what happens when you write about a toy line for a hundred and fifty issues, folks. You start coming up with stories for action figure variants that don’t even exist.
In any case, it’s just awful and the worst part is that it goes on for three issues. That might not sound like much, since it’s about half of today’s standard story arc, but trust me, when you’re reading a comic where Batman argues morality and the class system with Orca the Whale Woman, three months feels like a Goddamn eternity.
To be fair, though, the story does have one redeeming quality, and that is this:
An inexplicably hilarious picture of Alfred using a billion-dollar Batcomputer to model Dr. Balin busting out of her jeans. Say what you want about Orca, but that makes it all worth it.