After experiencing the heavy hitter that is The Killing Joke last week, I headed for some lighter Batman tales. I wanted to marvel at the character and his powers rather than ponder whether he’s crazy (even though that’s still in the back of my head). The stories in Batman in the Seventies seemed to do the trick. The language is delightful and snappy, the art by Neal Adams and Dick Giordano damn near jumps right off the page, and Batman and Robin are in fine form. I fell head over heels for one story in particular: #237, Night of the Reaper.
It’s Halloween time in Rutland, Vermont, and Dick Grayson attends the local parade featuring lots of superheroes with his college buddies. And of course, folks are dressed up like Batman and Robin. Dick notices one of the fake Robins getting beat up and very soon after discovers a costumed Batman impaled upon a tree. Not a good way to go, but that grisly scene leads to this gorgeous image:
I realize gorgeous is a weird word to choose for a death scene, but that art. Wow. The trail leads the pair to The Butcher and The Reaper.
Besides drooling over the pages, I also found myself amused and enthralled by the words. Even though the choice of phrases in some places seems completely ridiculous, it somehow just works. It fits the story and kept my eyes moving fast because I couldn’t wait to read the next panel. I love when that happens. Dick Grayson in particular gets some of the greatest lines in this story.
And then there are the superhero costumes that show up (hey, it is Halloween after all). I especially like Webslinger Lad!
And did I mention the dynamic art?
The combination of those factors would probably be enough for me to enjoy the issue, but crazily enough, it also tells a good story. The Reaper’s turns out to be Batman’s ally, Doctor Gruener. His desire for revenge against a Nazi – The Butcher – led to innocents being killed. Gruener realizes that he’s become like the very man he hated, but he meets a tragic end.
After enjoying the heck out of this story I learned that the Rutland Halloween parade is a real thing. Tom Fagan was a real person. Apparently, this story led to further tales about the Halloween parade in Rutland and they even crossed over between Marvel and DC. I’m looking forward to tracking them all down.
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