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Saturday, 15 July 2017

Batman Family 16 - Batgirl and Robin take on a foe with five identities, and Man-Bat teams with Jason Bard

Two more stories by Rozakis and an Aparo cover on Batman Family 16 (Feb/March 1978).

There are also a lot of guest stars in the Batgirl/Robin story which leads off the issue, with dreadful art by Don Heck and John Celardo. The tale begins as Robin and the Harlequin face the Lumberjack, who steals a saddle and publicly humiliates a dog catcher. Reference is made to the break up of the Teen Titans, in the issue that came out just before this book, and Harlequin mentions that this is her first case since then. I should point out that Harlequin is Duela Dent, in a new identity. Her role is only in this opening chapter, and she is next seen a few months later in the Flash Super Spectacular.

Dick then has a very cold meeting with Lori Elton, who saw him with Duela. He tries once again to convince her she has no reason to be jealous, but it's clear this relationship is hitting the skids. The page also contains some of Heck's worst art. What is going on with that hamburger? Dick is clearly not actually eating it. It looks like it's stuck to the front of his teeth.

Anyway, the story then shifts to Batgirl, who, as Barbara Gordon, has joined her father on a train trip. They are part of the force accompanying a hit man who is being taken to testify on a federal case. The police and fed presence, as well as a county sheriff is being covered with a story about a ruby being transported. Barbara and her father discuss a newspaper story about a ghost cowboy type villain who stole plans for a rocket pack, and wound up exposing a corrupt water commissioner. Then the train gets attacked by a guy dressed as a soldier, with a rocket pack. He is after the ruby, although as it doesn't exist, he doesn't get it. One of the feds is named Faraday. Is this meant to be King Faraday? I like to think so, because I like cameos.

Then it's time for a big family dinner, with the Gordons, Dick Grayson and Lori Elton, who is being all friendly now that one of her rivals is around. They watch on television as a laser wielding foe attacks a state beauty pageant. The original Bat-Girl, Betty Kane, goes into action to try to stop him, but he gets away. Bat-Girl had last been seen as a member of Titans West in the Teen Titans, and is not seen again until 1985, at Wonder Girl's wedding. Watching the show, Dick and Barbara notice that the guy is using moves and weapons from the villain they faced before, and realize that each crime involves something used in the next crime, and that he has been moving up the scale city to county to state. Also, his boots do not match. One is red and one is green. He is colour blind.

So they are prepared when he makes an announcement to Congress, threatening to kill them all unless they resign. Barbara has dyed her red hair green, and Robin is watching in a control booth, to spot the one man who doesn't notice the difference.

Then it's easy to follow him and catch him. Despite Heck's art, I do enjoy this story, if only for the amount of guest stars and clever way the villain works up to his main crime.

Golden does the art for the second half of the Shotgunn Sniper story, reprising his great final page for the opening. While Man-Bat battles Jason Bard the Sniper goes for his real target, Francine Langstrom.

Man-Bat accidentally gets winged by the first shot, realizes Bard is not the Sniper, and then dives in to save his wife from a second shot.

The story is quick and chaotic, but works. Man-Bat goes hunting for the shooter but runs into Bard. Jason happens to be in the same diner as the shooter, who then tries to kill them, giving himself away.

In a nice ending Jason demands that the police share the reward with both him and Man-Bat. Kirk returns home, only to discover that it's time to go to the hospital. Francine is going into labour.

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