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.
Yep, we’re back to three chapters.
This is more about my format than anything else. The story is enjoyable and unlike Op-Center this is an adaptation of 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 of.
While this and Death And Return Of Superman are largely responsible for the current case of Eventitis in major comic book companies (not the earliest events but I’m talking about a never ending stream of events that disrupt stories other people are working on) this is also when they were good. It wasn’t the event itself that mattered but the themes and NOT destroying the characters in the process. Crisis On Infinite Earths killed off Barry Allen and Supergirl but both were noble sacrifices to save the universe. Now a character dies for shock value and to weaken the heroes’ status as heroes. This is what happens when surface viewing takes over from understanding WHY a story worked. So let’s see if we can figure out what works in this story.
Chapter 14 is in two segments. Bane is trying to follow the Batmobile in the rain but a lightning bolt jostles the helicopter enough that he loses sight. Here we see that Bane is still as much a planner as he is a fighter, but at the same time the helicopter isn’t the only thing unstable here. Bird tries to reassure him and is nearly killed for his “insolence”. Meanwhile Zombie is now seen as the most useful. Bane is loyal to nobody and is using pretty much everyone here. Whether it’s the Venom driving him mad or just the byproduct of his upbringing I’m expecting to see him kill Bird before this part is out. This is not a guy you join forces with long term.
The second segment is back with Tim as his father’s doctor, Shondra Kilsolving, meets to tell us that his father may gain partial lower movement. I’m betting the book is setting her or her methods up to help Bruce when he’s paralyzed. (That’s not much of a spoiler; it’s literally a huge deal in this storyline and what it’s famous for.) Otherwise it just establishes that Tim is too tired to join him and explain why he isn’t able to help Batman.
On to chapter 15. Somehow our shorter chapter STILL has two segments. The first segment is just to introduce Jean Paul Valley but all we know is that he works at one of Bruce’s companies and he arrives a half-hour early for work. Apparently he really likes his job but we don’t really know what connection he has to Batman from the story alone. Which is why it’s weird that in the next segment Alfred is suggested that the overtired Bruce consider asking him for help. So basically this is Alfred’s fault, though I’m sure that wasn’t the intention of any of the writers to have him make this big of a mistake. We also get a mention of Jason Todd when the Joker is brought up and possibly also calling Tim for help. The novel doesn’t really note the time Joker killed Jason Todd, even though we know that Tim Drake became the new Robin because of Bruce’s reaction to Jason’s death and that Batman needs a Robin. We’re lacking so many details as to why this stuff matters. As a comic fan I know the whole backstory but we’re waiting on the novel to explain this stuff. The difference is that Jean Paul Valley is essentially more important to the whole novel than Bane is, but he shows up again next chapter so maybe we’ll learn who he is.
Chapter 16 opens and ends with Jean Paul so I’m going to start on the middle segment. Bane and his crew are trying to figure out which of six possible candidates near where the Batmobile disappeared could be Batman. Interesting that nobody assume Batman is merely being funded by one of these rich people yet Bird suggests Jack Drake could be faking his injuries. Give credit where it’s due. With Bane and company fully focused on defeating Batman he’s gotten far than most of Batman’s other villains in figuring out who he is. Bird goes to find a contact at a local TV station’s news department because the internet in the 1990s isn’t what it is today.
Meanwhile we see Jean Paul doing various mental exercises he learned as part of the Order Of St. Dumas. This includes a series of moves–Batman once referred to it as a kata, the training moves of a martial artist, which Jean Paul thinks could have been taught to them by the Order–with a broadsword. I’d love to know how he got a broadsword into the company gym. This only establishes the existence of the Order but not what connection Valley has to Batman, so it’s odd when during his security rounds Jean Paul is met by Batman, who reveals his identity and takes him to the Batcave. Here, it’s Alfred explaining that Valley is Bruce’s new back-up plan, in case a new Batman is needed. Why not Nightwing, when in a far later storyline Dick would become Batman for a time? At this point Nightwing is still establishing himself apart from Batman and they’re kind of on the outs. I’d have to do a time check to confirm but Dick’s not even operating in Bludhaven yet. The problem is we don’t get a real sense of understanding in the book what makes Jean Paul a replacement. We don’t know about Azrael or the history with Batman. As far as the novel reader knows this could have been Anarky and would have had the same connection with the reader…because they don’t know who he is, either.
And here we put the book down for awhile. Hopefully we’ll get some explanation soon as to why Jean Paul was chosen as a successor and see how long it takes before Bane kills Bird and names Zombie his new right hand man.