064_Batman – The First Of The Assassins ( 1970)

Story by Denny O’Neil
art by Bob Brown & Frank Giacoia

Commissioner Gordon has been notified by Interpol that 15 of Europe’s leading shipping magnates have been murdered and their choice for #16 happens to have his yacht parked in Gotham Harbor. But K.C. Agonistes refuses police protection, assuring Gordon his security force is prepared for anything. The Commish asks a favor of Batman and our hero is only too happy to try on this vaunted security. Once on board, Agonistes takes a shine to Batman and invites him to sail with him and his crew to Nova Scotia. Thanks to a school of trained, explosive-laden dolphins, the ship is destroyed and the four survivors (Agonistes, his fiance, the first mate and Batman) find themselves shipwrecked on an anything but deserted island. Tejja, a member of The League of Assassins, waits in hiding for The Dark Knight and the trio he’s committed to protect.

Jack: One would think that Commissioner Gordon would not need Interpol to tell him that 15 of Europe’s leading shipping magnates had been murdered recently. That should make the news, even in an eventful year like 1970!

PE: Our cover promises lots and lots of deadly Silek assassins but possibly the budget wasn’t there this month as we get one lukewarm would-be killer, dispatched with the oldest trick in the assassin-defense handbook: flares in the cape, concealed just for the right moment (when you’re getting your ass kicked badly).

Jack: The League of Assassins is an intriguing idea that transcends this rather tepid tale.

PE: Here I thought Batman a Master of Detectives and yet he falls for the oldest trick in the book: a straw dummy sitting in front of a campfire. Did he really think a master assassin would be warming himself on the other side of the island in front of a blazing fire? He can tell a dolphin is trained to carry explosives from a half mile off but he steps right into a snare and ends up helpless, hanging from a tree! My confidence in this superhero is shaken, I must say. But then, the Silek assassin does what all the TV villains always did to Adam West and Burt Ward: he’s got The Caped Crusader ready for the throat-slitting and, instead, excuses himself with a “I’m gonna take care of the others, then come back for you!” How long would it take to take care of your most dangerous adversary on the island?

Now we know what Bob Brown could draw really well!

Jack: I had never heard of Silek before, but the web tells me that it is, in fact, a branch of the martial arts!

PE: I had never known Batman carried flares in his cape! Was it just a lucky morning or are they always there? We never find out a thing about the nefarious League of Assassins or why they want to put down 16 shipping bigwigs. Was it a badly shipped crate of shurikens? Nothing else to do? It’s sloppily told story with the only plus being the promise that we’d see more of the League (weird that Denny would tip his hand so much as to tell us the name of the leader) in the upcoming issues of Detective.

Nota - 3,5

“The Living Statue!”

story by Frank Robbins
art by Gil Kane & Frank Giacoia

Batgirl is a prisoner of a madwoman who has murdered the avant-garde director Billy Warlock and framed Barbara Gordon/Batgirl’s beau, Jason Bard. Lucky for Batgirl, Warlock’s girlfriend is hanging around his studio as Batgirl watches her captor engulf the studio around them in flames. Batgirl delivers evidence to the police to prove Jason’s innocence and the hippy with a cane goes free.

PE: Other than the Gil Kane art, this is a bad installment of Batgirl. It seems that this series seems to run alternately hot and cold, with the opening chapter a right corker and the conclusion a stunning failure.

Jack: This is reminiscent of the conclusion of Inglourious Basterds, as Batgirl must save Infra-Red while a film studio burns around them.

PE: Bizarrely, as a second back-up, we get “The Sleuth in the Iron Mask” from Gang-Busters #62 (Feb-March 1958). What made editor Schwartz opt to reprint a 6-page non-Batman story when he had thirty-plus years of The Caped Crusader adventures to choose from? Perhaps the Bob Brown art?

Nota - 2,5

by Peter Enfantino  & Jack Seabrook