The Batman Adventures #6
Writer: Kelley Puckett
Penciler: Brad Rader
Inker: Rick Burchett
Colorist: Rick Taylor
Letterer: Tim Harkins
By Erin Bentley
26 August 2009 — Is this a Batman Adventures comic that does not feature a member of the tradition rogues gallery? That's right. This issue will not star the likes of The Joker, The Penguin, or even Catwoman. Instead we are presented with a locked room mystery that would make authors like Dame Agatha Christie and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle proud.
The cover is an interesting one. It depicts Batman with his cape drawn up as three doors surround him. Above him, a sinister green figure with a gun watches him to see what The Dark Knight will do.
The story opens with a crowd of people stumbling on Bruce Wayne in a locked room with a dead body. Oh no! It quickly cuts to an interrogation room where Bruce is being reamed by Harvey Bullock, only to be interrupted by Bruce's lawyer. He reads Bullock the riot act about denying his client's right to consul, and demanding to know where Gordon is. Bullock turns around to say that it's his case, so he's in charge. They exchange insults ranging from a comparison to Josef Stalin and a pinko leftie. Meanwhile, Dick Grayson, who came in with the lawyer, sits down next to Bruce to ask what happened.
The childish name calling between Bullock and Bruce's lawyer was totally unnecessary. All it did was show the feelings Bullock has for lawyers and how lawyers see Bullock — if not the police in general. While this paints the relationship between the police and the lawyers of Gotham City, it brings nothing relevant to this story.
Bruce, with the help of flashbacks, explains to Dick that he was attending a party that was being hosted by one David Crenshaw. While at the party, Bruce is introduced to Jacob Brenner, an unsung hero of American diplomacy. After Brenner leaves to talk to another friend, it's revealed that he has a terminal illness. Crenshaw goes to shake a few more hands before he and Bruce talk business. Later, Bruce retreats to the balcony, from which he hears a gunshot. In his thought balloon Bruce comments that the gunshot came from the balcony above him. Rather than weaving through the crowd, he jumps to the next balcony and enters the room. Inside, he discovers the dying Jacob Brenner. Brenner utters the word "rose" and passes away. Witnesses enter, Bruce is arrested, end flashback.
Okay, I question the ability of the police to throw Bruce Wayne in the clink. All they have is him being discovered in the room with the body, but other than that there is no physical evidence. There is no gun shot residue on his hands or on his clothes. Bruce has no motive to kill Brenner. Granted it is very suspicious to be found in a locked room without an explanation as to how he got there, but without physical evidence or a motive, the police do not have enough to keep him. Also, Brenner had a gun in his hand, making it look like a suicide.
While Bruce is in jail, Dick goes to the house of David Crenshaw hoping to dig up some clues. A quick flub, Dick's hair is not combed back in his Dick Grayson hairstyle, but tousled like Robin's. Bruce, however, has to deal with a cellmate determined to bully him. Bruce is ready to fight, but a guard, who looks suspiciously like Don Knotts, interrupts the two. Bruce calls for help and the guard fumbles, and then drops his gun. As the guard tries to find the keys, the cellmate begins to use Bruce as a punching bag. The guard finally puts a stop to the beating and leaves. The cellmate is about to continue beating Bruce, until he gets a swift kick in the face. With the cellmate knocked out, Bruce tries to go over the clues. At the same time, Dick enters the scene of the crime, and looks around. Just as Bruce realizes that the rosewood clock was a third exit, Dick takes an interest in it — finding the secret door. Bruce realizes that David Crenshaw is the murderer, just as Crenshaw knocks Dick over the head with a gun.
Regarding the guard who looks like Don Knotts, he's clearly an homage to Knotts' most famous character: Barney Fife, the tough-acting but bumbling deputy from The Andy Griffith Show.
Crenshaw is about to make his escape only to open the door to find Batman running up his driveway. He slams the door and runs, but Batman busts through and chases him upstairs. Crenshaw gets to the murder room and proceeds to hold a gun to Dick's head. Batman enters via the clock door and asks Crenshaw why he killed Brenner. Crenshaw begins to explain that Brenner more or less ruined him by writing a letter to the Joint Chiefs. He then proceeds to monologue about how America has remained free thanks to armaments made by men like him, and peace-mongers like Brenner were a threat to everything they worked for. While Crenshaw goes on with his speech, Batman subtlety signals to Dick with a count of three. At the end of that count, Dick falls to the side as Batman throws a Batarang at Crenshaw, knocking him out. With Crenshaw incapacitated, Batman hurries back to the cell where he changes to Bruce Wayne — just as Harvey Bullock reluctantly sets him free. Bullock, however, still wonders how Bruce got into the locked room. Bruce points to his still passed out cellmate and says, "Ask him," before walking out.
I found this issue, despite a couple of shortcomings, to be entertaining. But then again, I have a soft spot for a locked room mystery. I would have liked the story to be a little longer, but then I have to remember that I'm not the target audience; this was written for younger readers. No matter the length, I wish Dick Grayson had been shown doing more detective work in order to spring Bruce from jail. This way we could have gotten a feeling for Dick's detective skills, rather than Batman saving himself.
I loved the way shadows laid on faces; it reminded me very much of black and white films, particularly Casablanca. Those on Bruce Wayne's face are very reminiscent of the shadows on Humphrey Bogart's in the famous "Of all the gin joints..." scene.
Also, faces aren't cartoony, but realistic — especially in the case of the unfortunate Jacob Brenner. The lines on his face make him seem as if whatever terminal illness he's stricken with has taken its toll, but there is something about the way he's drawn that makes it seem as though it hasn't got him down.
I very much like the continuing trend of putting Bruce in different color suits rather than that frumpy brown one we always saw him in during the animated series. In this issue he's wearing a green suit, which is cleverly shadowed throughout the course of the story.
Overall Score: 7