Chapter By Chapter (usually) features me reading one chapter of the selected book at a time and reviewing it as if I were reviewing an episode of a TV show or an issue of a comic. There will be spoilers if you haven’t read to the point I have, and if you’ve read further I ask that you don’t spoil anything further into the book. Think of it as read-along book club.
That’s right, only ONE chapter this week. Last time we read three because one was really short and the other two weren’t what qualifies to me as a full chapter. We did get to see a couple of the villains captured and a bit more about Batman lore for those who don’t know the comics, but since I do it wasn’t very exciting for me. I guess it’s just a hazard of an adaptation like this but at least I admit my biases in reviews even if I find praises for things I don’t like and the mistakes of those I do. Reviews are subjective in the end, even if we agree on what makes a story technically good.
This time it’s all one chapter, 11 pages and a paragraph. To me that’s a good length for a chapter. Now we just have to see if we get enough story out of it to move the plot along and how well it stands on its own.
This chapter only has one villain at the front end, though we also get a quick look at what Bane is up to, if only to remind us this is all part of a plan he set in motion to find Batman’s home base. Otherwise it just shows us Bane is not use to life outside of the prison he was forced to grow up in, not used to large spaces and the light. Another segment as both Alfred and Tim noticing Bruce is not getting enough rest but Bruce is getting a bit cranky and he sort of realizes a bit later not even 100% mentally as all this lack of rest is already starting to work on him. Both are important moments to see what the inciting incident is and what part one of this book is building up to. A third short segment we’ll get to later.
Unfortunately, for me as much as Batman, the next villain is Zsasz. Yes, his name is a palindrome. I only know this character from the Arkham Asylum game I have yet to finish and this chapter and already he’s not my kind of villain. I don’t mean the part where he has a cut on his body for every person he’s killed, although it’s another reason for me to not be into 1990s comics (and why it’s called the “Dark Age” of comics, not because the stories were bad but because the stories were kind of messed up). No, it’s a speech he gives later, when Batman gets into the girls school to stop him. Zsazs gives the second most annoying villain speech, the “we’re the same, you and me, hero” speech. (The worst mostly comes from anime, where they ignore the good people in the world, decide war and despotism is the default, and it’s time to destroy the whole planet, tied with the jackass who insists he’s “beyond the concept good and evil” while only doing evil.) “We’re both stalkers in the night and attack people, only you attack ‘villains’ and don’t kill while I go after the pure ones and murder the hell out of them.”
As a critic I’m not against the archetype. However, Zsasz isn’t really the mirror that someone like the Joker is. Instead he just is so insistent that he’s right that needs someone else to be as twisted as him and will work to misinterpret anything if it means proving he’s in the right or that “everybody is just like me”. I hate that character because I want to punch him in the face just on general principle. Sadly he doesn’t really get called out here, but I do like that Batman distracts Zsasz while one of the girls manages to sneak up on him and save her friend. It may show that Batman is smart enough to follow enough of her plan to adjust but it may also show just how run down he is at the moment that he needs her to do this to save one of the other students.
Sadly nobody was in time to save one of the officers that went in, and we’re also introduced to Lieutenant Arnold Kitch, one of Batman’s anti-fans. All we know is that Kitch really doesn’t like Batman. He does seem to be one of the good cops so either he’s against vigilantes, even in a corrupt crime magnet like Gotham City or he thinks the Bat crew is showing up the cops. We aren’t told one way or the other but it forces Batman to sneak into the school. I’m not sure how when it’s established that the school system put iron bars over the windows to protect the girls from criminals breaking in through them, though this is why the girls trapped in the library by Zsasz can’t get out. Irony. Of interesting note is that he’s at least figured out the escape is meant to target Batman, though in his state I wonder if that revelation will stick for long in Batman’s mind.
Also introduces is the current mayor of Gotham City, Armand Krol. I had to look up his first name because it isn’t in the chapter. Did some research and this story is apparently where he goes from hating Batman to being one of his supporters, but right now he would be on the former list. That doesn’t factor here as he is upset Gordon’s men didn’t just shoot the villains down, despite Gordon stating innocent people might have gotten caught in the crossfire. At least as we see him here, Krol seems to be the opposite of Gotham’s other problem. Instead of asking why Batman doesn’t kill the Joker or Zsasz or any other other more kill-happy villains, nobody ever asks why Gotham City’s or the state’s judges and other officials don’t do the job. Easy to let the vigilante do it so the government’s hands are clean and you don’t have to rethink your views on the death penalty I guess. Krol is the type that would probably give Joker a public execution, complete with non-killer party clowns and balloons just to rub it in, making him the opposite extreme of the feel good rules that keep sending Joker or Zsasz to the looney bin instead of the electric chair or somewhere in between. Not that Blackgate Prison is any better at holding villains, mind you.
So we get a full tale of Batman stopping one of the Arkham escapees in one chapter. I wonder what will happen next time? Will chapter 14 stand alone or will I be reviewing multiple chapters in the same article again? Join me next time and find out.
[…] a run of comic stories so there may be good reasons for the short chapters. Plus even though we had a full chapter last time it was a villain I’m not really a fan […]