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Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Bat Lash 7 - Bat Lash ends

Sergio Aragones, Denny O'Neil and Nick Cardy bring a sad conclusion to the saga of Bat Lash in issue 7 (Oct/Nov 69). Whether or not they knew the book would end with this issue, it still ties things up effectively.

We find out more about Bat Lash's past in this story, as he runs into Don Pasqual, who worked on his father's farm. Pasqual has not seen Bat since the murder of his parents, and reveals that he took Bat's traumatized younger brother in. In this story, the boy is called Billy, although his name was given as Tom in the previous issue. Psaqual explains that, to keep the boy safe, he took him down to Mexico and gave him to a doctor to raise. Over the years, he lost track of Billy, but now Bat knows his brother survived.

We then jump to follow Billy's tale. He is now a bounty hunter, who must spend an awful lot of time keeping his outfit sparkling white, in a time before washing machines, when he spends his days amidst dirt and sand. As Bat Lash is a wanted man, Billy sets out to make him his next bounty.

Billy has no memory of his life before his days in Mexico. His earliest recollections are of being trained to fire a gun, and joining revolutionaries in overthrowing the government there. Once the revolution was over, Billy had no purpose in life, and not much of an identity beyond being a shooter, so he took up bounty hunting.

The tale feels so incredibly tragic, as it inevitably draws the two characters together. Needless to say, neither one recognizes the other as his brother when they meet.

Don Pasqual puts things together, but before he can speak, he gets shot. The Clinton Gang has been following Bat Lash, noticing how much he looks like Billy, the bounty hunter who killed their father. The two brothers work together to kill the Clintons, and succeed in this, but too late to get any useful information from the dying Don Pasqual.

Both men sense there is some connection between them. Billy feels that he ought to know Bat Lash and Don Pasqual, but does not put things together. He and Bat Lash part amicably, although Billy intends to try to bring him in the next time they meet. After Don Pasqual's funeral, Bat Lash heads off, and never does wind up seeing his brother again.

The series has moved from such a breezy and fun one to a much darker book by the time it ends, although I like it just as much as I did at the beginning.

It would be nine years before Bat Lash would make a return, in the Scalphunter series in Weird Western Comics, but he would have a long life as a supporting character in various DC western series.

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