Sunday, July 23, 2006

Detective Comics #517

Detective Comics #517, August 1982, DC Comics
writers: Gerry Conway & Paul Levitz
artists: Gene Colan & Tony De Zuniga
letterer: Annette Kawecki
colorist: Adrienne Roy
editor: Dick Giordano

The San Diego sky is overcast today, and a rainstorm from the north is undoubtedly on its way just in time for the close of the Comic Con, to wash the streets of the sheer geek that has infested every cranny of this poor city these last five days. I'm ready to wash my hands of the Con, as well. I spent some time and a considerable amount of money in search of a variety of comics to keep this challenge rolling for the next few weeks. The little doses of diversity from the antique stores and hobby shops I've frequented lately have gone a long way; at the Con, it's one big wave, and it's overwhelming. My head feels as hazy as the sky overhead.

Speaking clouded minds, Detective #517 (a welcome return to the mainstream after my brief marathon of indies) is an issue about obscure transformations. In the lead story, Batman stumbles back to Wayne Manor, suffering from an infectious vampire's bite. Resisting the urge to sample a penny's worth of Alfred's blood (I couldn't resist), the now rampaging Batman hits the streets again and effectively disappears for the rest of the story. In the meantime, a mysterious priest visits the Manor and offers an origin sequence for the responsible vampire, who, I assume from the priest's explanation, is a revamp of the classic villain the Monk. (Revamp. Get it?) Personally, my favorite issue is the cameo of Christopher Chance, a.k.a. the Human Target, summoned by Alfred to impersonate Bruce Wayne during his macabre absence. Chance is an excellent supplemental character for Detective, and the short-lived Human Target Vertigo series is well missed by yours truly.

But I digress. Considering this issue's subplots aplenty, I now realize how frequently circumstances in Batman's world are recycled for every new generation of readership to enjoy. Apparently, around the time of this uncanny tale, James Gordon was no longer Police Commissioner and ran (futilely) for mayor. I remember a similar storyline in the '90s, post "Knightfall," during Moench and Jones' run on Batman. Coincidence? I doubt it. Further, the priest identifies an "Obeah Woman" in his telling of the Monk's origin, and in much later issues of 'Tec regarding the death of Tim Drake's mother, the Obeah Man is introduced and ultimately responsible. Hmm. Hey, didn't Moench and Jones write an Elseworlds or two featuring a Batman-turned-vampire? By then, based on this very issue, the concept was already in continuity!

Sigh. Maybe I should stick to indie books. They don't have the baggage.

This issue's back-up tale is classic camp, even for the early '80s, as Batgirl transforms into a serpent thanks to a bite from the evil Lady Viper. Of course, extracting the villainess's venom enables doctors to create a cure, but alas, Lady Viper is consumed by her own vices and becomes a snake by the end of the tale. Does Arkham have a zoo wing?

Overall, Detective #517 was an enjoyable read, and surprisingly, a nice transition back to reality . . . well, if turning into a vampire or a snake lady is part of reality. I'm coming from the Comic Con. Yesterday, I bumped in a Klingon on the way to the bathroom. At this point, I'll take the bite.


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JSFBOOKS said...

Why does this issue have two different cover? (scroll down to issue 517) and here is the other cover: