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The rollar coaster ride that is Larry Hama continues in...
Batman #580 (SPOILERS)

Hama, McDaniel, Story

Reviewed by JYD.

This is the second best issue Larry Hama has put out during his reign in "Batman" and I can't help but wonder what influcence Scott McDaniel had (as Scott is listed as co-writer in the credits). There are the usual complaints present, but then the issue takes a strange 180...and becomes something else entirely! Let's take a look at what my thoughts were for this issue.

The one-dimensional Romantic/Dickensian waifs, homeless, and villianous characters I mentioned in my last review are still here. Smythe the wicked bitch of the west has not changed (I'm of the feeling that one must empathize with a story's bad guy/gal--like Cigerette Smoking Man in "The X-Files"--you can't just have ONE trait that subsumes a character). The "huddled masses" on the streets remain a remnant from "Oliver Twist" or "David Copperfield"--they're a loyal, good natured, joking bunch--not an ounce of 20th century reality to them (you expect them to break out into an elaborate "Mary Poppins" chimney sweeper-ish song-and-dance number at any moment).

What has changed in this issue is the amount of subtlety. Obviously Dr. Balin is ORCA, but Hama isn't coming out and saying it (which is good! Not since Bullock's mysteroius comments at the end of #576 do we get a bit of a mystery)--Balin has some cheesy dialogue which ruins the "surprise" sequence on pgs. 14-15, but I've come to expect that from the Lethal One--Gah! Am I growing numb to Hamian dialogue to the point of going soft in my reviews? I sure hope I'm not losing my edge...

Thankfully, I'm still able to recognize the parts that I do not like. We, as readers, are dropped on pg. 1 into the middle of a battle scene in the Gotham Aquarium. Batman and THE ORCA, continue their philosophical discussion on the decadence and corruption of the so-called meritocracy of Gotham from pgs. 17-22 of Pt. 1. This obligatory "Marvel"ous exposition is not surprisingly intermixed with punches, body slams, and DDTs off the top rope runs through pages 1 through 6--the only time everyone shuts up is after ORCA has to jump into the water again (yes!). Nothing too out of the ordinary. While the conversation is interesting (and certainly socially educating) it's simply a rehash of every other Marxist/structural dialectic argument from Anthropology and Sociology. I'm not surprised that THE ORCA is a raving Po-Mo, but it could have been fun to see Batman fighting ORCA both physically, but also theoritically, by taking a Neo-Evolutionary stance. Heh. The character and word choice of THE ORCA is lifted straight out of the politicians of "Reds" or extreme liberal movies like "The American President." She's radical and dispises violence, yet she has to fight her way to victory. Go figure.

If you can put aside the cliched dialogue (Smyth=Cruella de Ville, terrorizing children, forcing factory workers into 19 hour shifts, and buying off inspectors w/ typical Vaudevillian gusto), or forced sappiness of the shelter scene (I was expecting kum by yah to be sung any moment), and make it through the entire story, you would actually SEE Batman doing a little detective work, reading lips, showing up in his Sargent Scar outfit from "Year One" and *GET THIS* witness a fight scene that has ZERO distracting banter!! Plus, page 8 and pgs 17-22 have a running boxed in overlogue that is, I swear (!), both well-written and, dare I say, gripping! Not only well-placed drama (not melodrama, but drama) but a fine set up for a great climax in #581 awaits the reader of #580 (and that aqua-Bat suit? Looks pretty nifty).

I was impressed, as always, by Scott McDaniel's work--even though Hama's dialogue ruined pgs. 1-7 for me, Larry played up Scott's talents--Batman versus the orca (the mammal) was pretty tense and, as always, Batman versus THE ORCA (the 900 pound sea-bitch) is well drawn. Scott--if your writing skills helped out the Hamameister this much, then I hope you consider gunning up the old Word for Windows again.

So, what else can I say? Well, this issue was fairly tumultuous (ups and downs galore)--but it was above the previous issues in terms of quality. And to think that Larry's scored 2 decent stories (1 of them, #578, being excellent) out of the past 3 issues IMO. If only #578 had started out Hama's run or if "Powerplay" hadn't been so awful. Hama could have actually done something with his "Batman." But too late! Now all of my complients could go to hell in a handbasket if #581 turns out to be utter sh1t. If that's the case, then bring on Brubaker!!

Grade: B-

Man...I must be in a good mood or something, to rave over a "B-" rated comic book! I need to stop drinking this much Coke before I review these issues.