This is a weird one, folks, so hang on to your chakras. We start with someone describing how he switched the Sphinx at Gizeh for an exact copy, dumping the old one into the Mediterranean sea. Supposedly, this gave rise to “another fable of Atlantis”, but in the DC universe, Atlantis was real, so I don’t know why he said that. Who is “he”, you ask? It’s everybody’s favourite mystic weirdo, Dr. Tzin-Tzin. Tzin-Tzin heads for Gotham City to confront Batman. We then see Batman, pounding some crooks and clashing with Commissioner Gordon’s fill-in, P.J. Maddox (Gordon is on vacation). We go back to Tzin-Tzin, now in Gotham and performing some sort of ritual. The next day, Bruce Wayne is in a parade and saves a kid from getting run over. But everyone in the parade is suddenly frozen. Bruce changes to Batman and chases someone, but only manages to grab a scarf. The crowd comes to life briefly to stop him from capturing the perpetrator, but just as quickly regains their senses. Bats realizes who he’s dealing with, though when he explains it to Maddox, he doesn’t believe it. Batman goes to do some research and ends up building his own tsam khang to put himself in a trance and track Tzin-Tzin to the new Gotham Stadium. Tzin-Tzin is in the process of stealing the stadium, by levitating it; didn’t David Copperfield do that one? Batman fights Tzin-Tzin, using his own mystical energy. Bats wraps Tzin-Tzin up in the netting behind home plate and then just pounds the shit out of him so he can’t concentrate enough to fight back. Bats warns Maddox to keep Tzin-Tzin in solitary confinement, so he can’t bounce his tsal off anyone to gain power … or something. I dunno, this mystical stuff just doesn’t do much for me. Now that I think about it, this story might’ve worked better as a Doc Strange tale.
- I’ve never cared much for Tzin-Tzin; all the stories that feature him seem like they’re trying to make some grand metaphysical point, but it just sounds like a bunch of horseshit to me. Or maybe I’m just too stupid to get the point.
- David V. Reed really lays on the mystical stuff here, and bombards us with jargon: tulpa, angkur, tsam khang, dibchen, siddha. I’m all for verisimilitude, but Reed seems like he’s REALLY into this stuff.
- Alfred asks Bats if he actually believes all the mystical bullshit, and Bats tells him belief doesn’t matter. He says electricity works whether you believe in it or not, but I’m not sure that’s an apt comparison.
- Tzin-Tzin conjures some demons, but Bats knows they’re just illusions (which is apparently one of the main tenets of this type of Tibetan mysticism … if you can’t see through the illusion, you’re not worthy).
- Maddox shows up and sees the stadium still levitating. Batman says it’ll settle back to the ground in a few minutes, but wouldn’t all the foundations and stuff be torn out? I think they’d have a hell of a repair job on their hands.
- Faced with a floating baseball stadium, Maddox has no choice but to believe in Tibetan magic. He says he’s going to check out some books on the subject; I get the feeling David Reed had a few he could lend him.
- I’m not sure if Reed was actually into all that stuff, or just did a ton of research for this story. Either way, it gets to be a bit much at times. Plus, some of his info seems to be a bit off; he calls Tzin-Tzin’s knotted scarf a tulpa, but from what I could find on the subject, tulpa refers to an apparition conjured by force of will that takes physical (albeit illusory) form.
As the issue begins, we see some bad dudes about to pound an old man. Richard Dragon shows up and pounds them instead. The bad guys take off and Dragon gives the old dude an air pump and repair kit to fix the flat tire on his bike. He also gives him a quarter for a cup of coffee (yeah, coffee used to be a quarter and I feel really, really old). All that happened a year ago. Now, Richard Dragon is in Gotham and he’s jumped in the park by an assassin for hire called the Stylist (which is kind of a stupid name for an assassin, if you ask me). They fight and Dragon takes him down, but Batman interrupts and fights Dragon, thinking he’s the aggressor. They mix it up like Marvel heroes and Batman is impressed that Dragon can hold his own against him. Dragon tells him the Stylist was the bad guy, but he’s long gone. They’re followed by a guy in a limo, who gives them an envelope from the old man that Dragon helped a year ago, who turns out to be rich, eccentric weirdo Calvin Curtis; now, who does that bring to mind? The envelope holds a quarter and a key to a safe deposit box in Las Vegas. they jump to the conclusion that the box contains Curtis’s will, disposing of his billion-dollar estate. Bats tracks down Stylist and gives him a beating, which is captured on film by a news crew, making Batman look bad. Batman disguises himself as Richard Dragon and lures Stylist to the park to trap him. But Stylist figures it out and stabs a cop while making his escape. Batman and Dragon track Stylist to Mexico (with help from a baggage-handler who’s a kung fu enthusiast). They figure out that Curtis’s ex-partner, Carlos Esteban, is in the crime-riddled city they’re headed to. Esteban was always crooked, and now probably wants the key to the safe deposit box and that precious will. Bats and Dragon find the fortress where Esteban is hiding and sneak in. Inside, Esteban is talking to Stylist, trying to get him to go back after Dragon. But Stylist is mad at himself for stabbing the cop (why did he do it then?) and thinks he’s lost his honour. Esteban is about to shoot Stylist when Bats and Dragon bust in and pound Esteban and his men. Stylist returns the favour, decking Esteban when he’s about to put a machete in Dragon’s back. Stylist then flees into the jungle and Bats and Dragon track him. Stylist finds some convenient quicksand in the jungle and drowns himself in it; his way of restoring his honour, I guess. Later, in Las Vegas, Batman and Dragon open the safe deposit box and find Curtis’s will. It left everything to his old partner, Esteban … as long as Esteban stayed within the bounds of the law. Since he’s currently rotting in a Mexican prison, all the money goes to charity. The box also contains the air pump Dragon lent Curtis, and a thank-you note. And that’s it for this one; join me on Wednesday for my newest Lost Girl review, and Friday when I check out Superman 308 and Action 468.
- So yeah, Calvin Curtis was Howard Hughes and I guess Richard Dragon was kind of like Melvin Dummar, except not full of shit. I’m assuming this story was written in late 1976, after Hughes died; the so-called “Mormon will” wasn’t declared a fake until 1978, but maybe the case was already in the courts and Haney knew about it. Either that, or he’s some sort of precog.
- We get some more Eastern philosophy in this issue, but unlike the Tibetan Buddhism of Batman #284, this gives us Bob Haney’s take on martial arts. Even though Bruce Lee died in 1973, the whole karate/kung fu craze was still going on in the late 70s. A lot of people seemed to miss the true spirit of martial arts back then, reducing it to the “chop socky” stuff of the movies, but Haney seems genuinely interested in the philosophy behind the fighting … though sometimes he goes overboard, with the characters spouting “Oriental wisdom” every few lines.
- Even though it’s been a year, Dragon remembers the old man right away on seeing the quarter, which seems like a bit of a stretch to me. But this is Bob Haney writing, so logic is off the table.
- Batman says he has a warrant for Stylist, but would that even be valid in Mexico? Maybe it’s an extradition warrant?