Friday, August 17, 2007

Collect This! The Lazarus Affair 2

The series of posts on this Batman story got delayed by a variety of things, so I'm going to spend the next couple of days getting through the remaining issues of "The Lazarus Affair."

Batman 333 opens with an introduction to another mysterious player in the story: a white-haired man wearing a trenchcoat, who picks up the signal sent by Archer Templeton in the previous issue.

Who is this white-haired mystery man? My guess is it's CNN anchor Anderson Cooper. We'll have to wait until later to see if I'm right.

Meanwhile, Batman has traveled to Switzerland disguised as Gregorian Falstaff's henchman Karlyle Krugerrand in order to search Falstaff's safe deposit box located in what's called a "criminal bank." However, Batman doesn't realize that Krugerrand is dead--killed in an encounter with Catwoman at the end of the previous issue. Batman thinks he's gotten through the tight security system, only to have a trap sprung on him.

Now, here's the panel that immediately follows:

How did Batman get his jacket, pants, shoes, and gloves off while hanging by one hand? Maybe he was wearing those tearaway, velcro pants that basketball players wear for warm-ups.

Also, does building a bank on top of a volcano fill clients with confidence that their assets and valuables will be safe?

Whatever the case, Batman manages to escape the deathtrap, and a James Bond-style ski chase ensues, complete with lasers.

Batman takes a laser beam to the ribs, though, and has to make his way back to Bruce Wayne's Swiss chalet, where Talia is waiting for him. And here, we get the obligatory shirtless Batman scene, which occurs in nearly every Ra's al Ghul story.

I think it's great that Batman leaves the mask on while Talia administers the "salve." You just know at one point in their relationship, Talia instructed Batman to "leave the mask on," and that's how things have gone since.

Of course, one of the dangers of doing a shirtless Batman scene is that someone doesn't get the memo that Batman is shirtless. Let's take a closer look at the fifth panel from above:

Rather than seeing this as a mistake, though, I'd just like to believe that Bruce Wayne has a Batman symbol tattooed on his chest. Perhaps that's what Talia's doing in the second panel.

One of the many things I like about this story is how Marv Wolfman characterizes Bruce Wayne. Though he does come across as a bit whiney in the above scene, complaining about painful relationships, Bruce Wayne is otherwised characterized as an international playboy with some James Bond qualities.

There is especially a lot of sexual innuendo in the dialogue between Batman and Talia: we know exactly what they mean by "comforting," a word that appears in bold every time it's used. I'm surprised that Bruce doesn't put up air-quotes when he says it.

And speaking of sexual innuendo, I'm really surprised at what DC let Marv Wolfman get away with back in 1981:

Man, someone at the Comics Code Authority must have been asleep at the wheel!

(And by "Chinese border," she really means "utility belt.")

Anyway, Batman and Talia decide that their next step is to sneak into China. This installment ends in Hong Kong, where Bruce Wayne is gassed and taken prisoner.

The issue also contains a related backup story featuring a Robin and Catwoman team-up. After leaving the Batcave in a huff last issue, Robin seeks out help from another of Batman's love interests.

This team-up squares the love triangle established in the previous issue, and much drama comes from Catwoman's jealousy of the Batman-Talia relationship.

Following their own investigation, Catwoman and Robin also make their way to China, where they join with the mysterious, white-haired trenchcoat guy from the beginning of the issue:

Turns out it's not Anderson Cooper after all, but DC universe secret agent King Faraday. I may be wrong about this, but I think this is Faraday's first appearance in a DC comic after decades in limbo. After this story, I always thought that King Faraday was a cool character, and he's been used off and on as the go-to secret agent ever since. And now, he can be seen regularly in the series Checkmate.

The issue ends with Faraday, Catwoman, and Robin all being taken prisoner, which sets up the reunion with Batman and Talia for the final half of the story.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Currently reading these issues myself and stumbled upon your write-ups. Highly entertaining! You find so much fun and humor in these issues. In response to your pondering, Faraday appeared in Batman #328 and #329 prior to this.