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The ’80s Revisited: The Untold Legend of the Batman #2


untold_legend_of_the_batman_0002"With Friends Like These…"

Writer: Len Wein
Artist: Jim Aparo
Colorist: Glynis Wein
Cover by: Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez
Editor: Paul Levitz
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: August 1980
Cover Price: 40 cents

This is the "middle chapter" of the mini-series…"only" 3 issues. I knew the first issue from having read a copy that Grandpa had; and the third issue (as I’ll get to soon) is one of the single most familiar-to-me-comics ever.

This issue opens with a furious Batman seeking answers in a bar from the lowlifes that might have some knowledge–any knowledge–of anyone brazen enough to break into his sanctuary and steal–and destroy–one of the most precious items he owned. The situation deteriorates as Batman loses himself in a rage rarely seen (at least until post-Death in the Family). He’s snapped out of it by the arrival of Robin (Dick Grayson), and the two head back to the Batcave. Meanwhile, Dick reminisces about his own past with Batman, and how Batman’s affected his life. Once back in the Cave, the two interact with Alfred, who muses on his own background and coming to be butler to the Caped Crusaders; as Batman pores over files of suspects, we get a glimpse at the extended rogues’ gallery, and a bit about the origins of the Joker and Two-Face. Robin suggests they try police headquarters–and a conference with Jim Gordon–but as he readies to leave, a beeping is heard…and our heroes barely have time to seek cover before the Batmobile explodes. Batman declares war on the as-yet-unrevealed villain.

Of the three issues, I’m least familiar with this one. This was actually the "gap" for me in the story, that I first read (I believe) in a paperback reprint of the story–one of those mass-market paperback-size black and white things. I feel like the "focal" origins here are Robin and Alfred, and once again realized how much this version of both has stuck with me and formed the foundation of my understanding of the characters. We also get another reference to a warehouse explosion that I’ve always considered to be a contrivance or such–but I actually wonder (though have yet to actually opt to do the research) if this ties the story to anything in the ongoing Batman or Detective Comics titles, like if the explosion happened in an issue of either title and then this mini takes place as a "side trip" exploring the ramifications.

Visually, I had a definite sense of deja vu, thanks to Aparo‘s art, and I’m amazed to consider that this was published in early 1980, and that Aparo was still (or again?) a key Bat-artist up to stuff I read in my earliest then-modern explorations of Batman stuff in 1989 and the earliest part of the 1990s. I’m also somewhat amazed at the reminder of this being published in a much different time, where the issues (while part of a singular mini-series, a singular story) don’t flow nearly as smoothly one-into-the-next as they do now. Nowadays, it seems like in many collected volumes, one almost has to GUESS at where the issue-breaks are (accounting for mid-issue high moments and such) where this obviously picks up after the events of the first issue, but it’s a sort of "cold start" that does not REQUIRE one to have read the previous issue to follow along with THIS issue.

Chances are, especially these days, if you’re considering reading this issue, you’ve got #s 1 & 3 as well; and cheesey/hokey/flimsy as the STORY-story is (it’s a loose plot to give us the excuse to see a bunch of characters reflect on their origins, and by these better know "the rest of the story" as readers), it’s worth reading. This firmly embodies late-70s/early-80s pre-Crisis Batman, and is a product of its time. I don’t care for the cover proclamation of this being "an instant collector’s item"–if it SAYS it’s a collector’s item, it’s probably NOT. Then again, there’s the original comic edition; there’s a comic-on-cassette reprint edition; there’s a reprint edition that came in boxes of cereal; and there’s the MMPB collection…so DC got plenty of mileage out of this one 3-issue arc; and certainly formed my basis of understanding for these characters!

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