Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Retro Review: Batman #324 (1980) - "The Cat Who Would Be King"

Writer: Len Wein
Art by: Irv Novick, Bob Smith, and Glynis Wein
Cover Price: 40¢
Release Date: May 31st, 1980
Review by: Joey Casco
Please go check out Joey's awesome site 

In Batman #322 we learned that Catwoman has a terminal illness and the only cure is a mixture of herbs known to the ancient Egyptians. Luckily, the Riverside Museum has ancient Egyptian urns shaped like cats on display and they contain, you guessed it, a mysterious mixture of herbs. Soon after, somebody dressed in a cat costume was seen stealing them from the museum. In Batman #323 Catwoman insists that she wasn't the thief, so her and Batman track down the real culprit to a catacomb (get it?) only to be trapped in a cats-cradle netting made from cables covered with adhesive, and greeted by... CAT-MAN!

Batman #324 starts with Batman and Catwoman trapped, stuck to the cables, and Cat-man standing proudly over them. Catwoman threatens to kill him when she gets loose, and Batman pretty much admits he's an idiot because he should have known it was Cat-man all along. Who else is stealing cat stuff dressed as a cat in the middle of the night if it's not Catwoman? Cat-man tells them that he expected Batman to come, which is why he set the trap, but he didn't expect to see Catwoman because she's a criminal just like him. Catwoman begs Cat-man to hand over the urns to save her life, and Cat-man's just like PFFFFFT you ain't getting out of here alive anyway! He hits a button on a remote control and the cables begin to move and vibrate, doing damage to the bodies of our heroes. And then Cat-man peaces out!

Catwoman immediately goes unconscious, but Batman remains cognitive and functional. He tries to sling a Batarang at Cat-man as he's running away, but he only cuts off the heel of his boot. Slowly and carefully, Batman uses a pen-knife to cut his uniform that's attached to the cables, and steps on those pieces and parts of his cape to get over to Catwoman cut her free, and toss her back on land. I thought this was actually a pretty cool scene, as it was slow paced (three pages) and showed the patience and strength of Batman, with his uniform in tatters as he essentially goes tight-rope walking. He grabs the heel of Cat-man's shoe that was chopped so he can perform analysis on it in, and he picks up Selina to get the hell out of there.

Back in the Batcave, after Selina wakes up and puts on her Catwoman uniform, Batman tells her that he knows about her illness and calls her out for not telling him. Catwoman says she tried to tell him (Batman #323) but really, in my opinion, why would she? She doesn't know you're Bruce Wayne; she knows you as an old arch nemesis that kept trying to bring her down. She SHOULDN'T tell you shit! Anyways, the analysis of the boot heel is finished and it found soil from the Ionian Islands in Greece. Batman tries to leave without Catwoman but you know that's not going to happen. Oh, she's going. If you lock her up she'll get out and be right behind you, Bats. So he tosses his hands up like WTF (it gave me a good laugh) and they take off in the Batplane.

In Greece, Selina (not as Catwoman) is seen in a bar getting information from the locals. A man named Mikos tells her that an entire chain of small islands is owned by multi-millionaire Andros Akropolis, who has a thing for collecting Egyptian artifacts. Mikos says that since he gave her what she wanted he wants it was time to get paid, but he grabs her forcefully so it's not money that he's expecting.. Of course, Selina kicks his ass and meets Batman outside. "I know ways of making men talk that even the almighty Batman can't match!" Oh Selina. You flirt.

We jump over to Cat-man on a yacht with Andros Akropolis, and it's revealed that the artifacts that he stole were going to be exchanged for ownership of one of the islands. Cat-man's plan is to turn it into a sanctuary for wanted criminals. He'd charge them 25% of their loot, and they could hide out there to avoid prosecution. Cat-man, Akropolis, and his men set foot on the island and Cat-man goes to a geyser that he calls "Old Trusty", he waits for it to go off, and then when it stops he reaches in and pulls out a bag containing the artifacts. And then...

Cat-man gets away with the artifacts, the mystic cloth of his uniform charming him again as every bullet avoided him, and Batman and Catwoman are left with Akropolis and his guards. But Akropolis says that he was recovering the items for the government and they can't prove otherwise, then reminds them that they're trespassing.  Catwoman wants to break his jaw but Batman holds her back. "Let him go! Like it or not, he's right! There's nothing we can do to them!", and they watch Akropolis get on his yacht and leave.

Suddenly, without warning, Cat-man returns and kicks Batman in the back of the head, then grabs Catwoman with his claws on her throat. His terms: give him a ride off the island and he'll spare her life. Catwoman tries to work out a trade, hitching a ride for the herbs, but Cat-man refuses so she stomps on his foot and he falls back into "Old Trusty" which goes off, boiling his body as he screams and falls to his doom. Catwoman collapses on the beach realizing it was all over for her. The herbs were destroyed. There was no hope left. This was the end. Only, it wasn't.

Bits and Pieces

Cat-man comes off as such an arrogant jerk and I love it so much that it makes me want to see more of him. And he dies. HE FRIGGIN' DIES! Those two things alone make this issue a good read. But there's also the intense rope walking scene, Selina using sex to get information and then just beating the guy up, and Batman backing down instead of punching bad guys. One thing that would have made it better, though, is if the collector was Gregorian Falstaff (from Batman #322) instead of this Andros Akropolis. That would have tied this three-parter up in a nice little bow.


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