Batman Knightcast 12: BATMAN #406

Batman Year One continues! Ryan Daly and Chris Franklin review Batman #406, the third chapter in the blockbuster reimagining of the Dark Knight’s first year on the job. Plus, Free Comic Book Day talk as well as listener feedback from last episode.

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Music from the Batman and Batman Returns original motion picture soundtracks by Danny Elfman. Additional music: “The Brazilian” and “In Too Deep” by Genesis.

Thanks for listening!

22 responses to “Batman Knightcast 12: BATMAN #406

  1. Great episode as usual fellas!

    I remember how striking the bed sheet pattern on the final page was in the collected edition, I had no memory that it wasn’t in the original. Not a big fan of creators going back and messing with their original work (*cough* cough* Special Editions *cough*cough*) but there are some definite improvements here, taking advantage of more sophisticated printing techniques.

    Yes, someone with 12 cats (a life I aspire to) has to be careful that their place doesn’t get too rank, but I don’t get the sense these are indoor cats. I figure Selina lets her kitties come and go as they please, offering the proverbial three-hots-and-a-cot if they want. So the place is probably not too offensive.

    As you mention, this issue is mostly an extended action sequence, but that’s what I like about it–out of the four issues, YO is mostly just people talking. So it’s a nice change of pace to have this bravura set piece that finally lets us see Batman, in action, for an extended period of time. The way Mazzucchelli paces the scene with the cat, as we follow it out the window and into Selina’s waiting arms, is masterful.

    Finally, regarding the feedback–it’s funny idea to think that Bats is showing Holmes old issues of DETECTIVE. Holmes probably took one look and said “Bob Kane clearly didn’t draw this!”

    1. I forgot to mention it in my own comment, but the small army of cats kind of bugs me. I think it’s the inherent association with anymore than 3 cats being a sign of a kooky (if not outright crazy) person. I would have preferred that she only have a couple of cats and her affection for them is shown through direct action rather than abundance. But then again, there’s only so many pages and a multitude of cats gets a comparable message across in fewer images so sometimes you have to go for the economical route.

    2. Rob, what’s funny is in a very few issues, we’re going to get into yet another Bob Kane art controversy. Perhaps the last one that dogged his career. The hits just keep on comin’!!!


  2. Ok, I’m sorry guys, but I can’t leave this alone. So about Selena beating up the pimp, and the question of whether or not this settles the specifics of her sex work profession status. I feel that your heteronormative cis-centric perspective has left you blind to the issue of the sex positive practice of mutually non-consentual… Nah, I’m just fucking you. You’re right, this dead horse was already thoroughly beaten (with everything from a riding crop to a velvet laced cat-o-nine tails.) But come on, admit. You liked getting beaten, just a little bit. (Ryan, if you read this feedback I’m going to insist on the whip crack going RIGHT here, ideally with an added moan after. You can go stock moan or provide your own, as you see fit.)

    As for the issue itself, I may be alone but the cover doesn’t do much for me. It’s a great piece of art, but it honestly leaves me pretty cold as a cover image. It’s something I’d probably have done little more than glance at on a shelf or spinner rack. I’m also going to disagree with Chris, because I don’t think Mazzucchelli pulled off that Catwoman suit either. Her silhouette is gorgeous, but when we get up close the whiskers kill it for me every time without fail. That’s the kind of detail that really needs to be left off. It’s distracting in the same way I think it’d be distracting if Batman’s mask had an authentic upturned nose-piece. Finally, I really like the emphasis on Batman’s innate goodness and desire to save, not just punish the guilty, and you both highlighted that very well. It’s something that has largely been lost overtime, not least of which by Miller himself as shown with his God-Damn Batman from All-Star Batman & Robin. But it’s so important, because it’s what makes him a hero instead of just a rich nut who beats up the mentally disabled rather than get a good shrink.

    1. I’ll be honest Vera, when I started to read this, my eyes began to roll up inside my head, but they quickly fell back into place. Thanks for being a good sport about all of this.

      I don’t want to hear Ryan moan, so I hope he uses a stock sound clip. Brrrrrr!!!

      Yeah, the whiskers on the Catwoman costume are a bit much. As far as her costumes go, its honestly not a great design, but I think Mazzuchelli made it work better than anyone.


  3. Another one of those pitch perfect issues that makes it difficult to not sound like a fawning buffoon when discussing.

    I love everything about that fight, especially Batman quickly reduced to a couple of weapons and his mitts. Despite that, he still manages to nearly the beat this goon squad, even before the bats come.

    And you see how the approach to life in general is different between Batman and these particular cops. They could not care less for the dead vagrants; he gets shot in the arm saving a stray cat. (That panel, when Batman is shot in the arm is another of those classic Mazzucchelli panels where the fewest lines convey so much energy.) And Gordon saying ‘they are making him a hero’ is fantastic. Batman is a populist hero, fighting for the people whether it be super-villains or entrenched corruption.

    For me that is the biggest thing about that last panel. I think Gordon looks at the gun as the symbol of all that is wrong with the city and the system. Gordon wants to be a hero. He wants to become a hero for the people. But he needs to break away from the system he is plugged into.

    As for Essen, Mazzucchelli does a good job of subtly vamping her up, not cheesecake but not dowdy either. Compare her to Mrs. Gordon with her tired face and frumpy clothes. Add the stress and pressure of being a cop and working together, I can understand Gordon’s temptation. Just sad he gave in.

    Man, I love this story.

  4. Could this be my favorite issue of Batman of all time? It just might be. The M&M team got so much right here.

    As to the ongoing debate about shoehorning this series into continuity: Of course it won’t fit. This is the worst Gotham’s ever been depicted. This is probably the one version of Gotham where it makes sense nobody would care about a pair of wealthy parents getting gunned down. This is the type of town where that would probably celebrated with a lot of “Serves ’em right,” and whatnot.

    But you know what? It doesn’t have to fit. It works as a story. If people have a hard time rectifying where to place this 4-issue gem, what happens when Batman has five books going on simultaneously during the down times they aren’t interconnected?

    Once again, another good show, Ryan and Franklin. I use your first name when you have me on your show.

    1. I use your first name when you have me on your show.

      Chris, don’t make the same mistake I did and fall for this emotional blackmail!

  5. I’m another one who finds the cover impressive rather than enticing, it is most exceeding dull for the most action-packed issue of the series. Miller and Mazzuchelli were on fire here; I wonder what they might have done hadn’t they stayed on the book, telling stories in the present day.

    The only thing I hated was Gordon proving to have feet of clay, and bonking Essen.

    Chris, you’re wrong, the Detroit League had fans, me among them. Those final issues in particular, written by JM DeMatteis, were really powerful, poignant in parts. I’m a huge fan of the Satellite JLA, but that doesn’t mean this series was without merit. What DC should have done is spin them out of the JLA title after three months into their own JLD book, returning the mainstays to the original title. Mind, then you’d likely never have gotten the post-Legends League.

    Don’t worry about the repeated second or two from last time, Ryan – the Japanese have a theory about perfect vases being even more perfect if they have a tiny imperfection, so just imagine this as a wee crack in Gotham (not that degrees of perfection makes any sense, that’s like that silly phrase ‘very unique’). And I wasn’t having a go, just wondering!

    1. Do we know for sure if Gordon and Essen did the deed? I haven’t read the final issue with that in mind. Of course it’s still cheating, but I’m not sure they sealed the deal if you know what I mean. I’m not going to look until we get to that issue and our examination of it, just to keep things spontaneous.

      All kidding aside, I liked the JLD era enough to continue buying the book. Okay, I dropped off once Aquaman left (hypocrite) and came back with #250 cuz…well…Batman. But it wasn’t a bad book really…it just wasn’t the Justice League to me. It’s just fun to pick on them. 😉


  6. I haven’t heard the whole episode yet but have you guys mentioned that Bruce Wayne was supposedly modeled after a young Gregory Peck? Alex Ross later continued using Peck as Bruce in Kingdom Come.

    1. Yes, and yes! I had kinda sorta forgotten that, since Ross slowly moved away from the Peck influence and went straight to basing it on his model/friend who always posed for Batman.


  7. I’ll stand by the cover. Not to rag much on modern armored Batman but I find it more awesome that this more vulnerable man in a cape and cowl is going up against the obscenely geared up SWAT team.

    With issues concerning police conduct in recent years, the corrupt and tyrannical police force depicted here make them feel as familiar a foe as any supervillain team.

    Great use of the cat to showcase Batman’s nobility, the police’s inhumanity, and destiny with Selina.

    Shame, Jim Gordon. Shame.

    I didn’t see shirtless Clark Kent leave money behind when he jacked those clothes in MAN OF STEAL.

    While Darwyn Cooke (1 yr. RIP) did justice designing her modern look, Year One is my favorite Catwoman costume. Hair tucked in and more form-fitting than a leather suit, Tim Sale brought back my fondness with his Long Halloween purple variant.

  8. I think I prefer the coloring from the newsprint edition this time. I expect the intention was to make this issue more of a piece with the muted recoloring for the collections, but it’s too flat and monochromatic to convey the excitement of the action sequence as realized in the floppies. I like the crimson blood and red skies, as well as Selina Kyle’s scarlet dress allowing her to stand out in the crowd. The new bedspread print is too busy and calls too much attention to itself. I also like the two-toned shading over the faces of Kyle and Gordon in the original printing. Still, whatever, Richmond Lewis did a better job on both passes than most anyone else could have, so I’m just nitpicking over personal preferences.

    Conversely, I suspect this issue’s story works better in the collection than as an individual offering. It’s the big set piece of the arc, and it’s meant to flow right out of #2 and right into the build-up for the final chapter. As I’m reading the story for the first time with month-plus gaps between installments, I do find this one the weakest of the set. There’s some nice character bits and a welcome opportunity for Batman to display true heroism, but in isolation it’s bloated and nowhere near as engaging as the rest of the issues. It’s only better than 95% of all comics ever published instead of 99%.

    I’m unwilling to sit in judgment of Jim Gordon. This is a man putting his life on the line every day, against crooks, politicians, and even his fellow officers, to try to make this city just safe enough so that his child can survive it. In that situation, working every long, miserable day next to an intelligent and achingly attractive woman, the smell of her perfume one of the few highlights of his current existence? Sarah Essen is the woman he’s actually sharing his life with, not the platonic ideal of fidelity to the increasingly estranged woman he’s legally bound to. At the same time, I won’t judge Barbara Gordon for Jim’s indiscretions either. Dragged pregnant to a strange, dirty, brutal city where her already compromised husband abandons her to pursue his obsessions? She doesn’t deserve that. Nobody does.

    I’ll be honest here– the tone of the sex work discussion on the podcast was pissing me off, and both sides said their piece at length, so I’m glad the dispute has been allowed to be tidied up and placed in a discreet box under the bed.

    Despite my protestations, I’m still ambivalent toward Miller’s Catwoman. Butched-out “crazy” cat lady hanging out in a dive with a probable under-aged prostitute? Do I have a problem with prejudices toward people in that circumstance, or do I have a problem with Frank Miller feeling the need to so radically alter Selina Kyle in a manner more reflective of his own ongoing predilections than as a way of exploring a female supporting player? All I’m certain of is that I’m accepting of Holly’s stylized speech pattern in this story, but I do not want more of her, and know that there is at least a little bit more of her to come after Year One.

    Something I just realized is that from the very beginning, Batman was a quasi-deputy of Jim Gordon who mostly reinforced the status quo over his first fifty years. It was the Golden Age Superman who was forcing his way into the Governor’s bedroom to demand a reprieve for an innocent woman, or forcing a negligent mine owner into his own subterranean death trap, or illegally extraditing the highest officials of foreign governments to appear before the World Court for crimes against humanity. In Year One, drawn in a style reminiscent of Joe Shuster, Batman completes his role reversal with Superman begun in The Dark Knight Returns to become the vigilante populist the Man of Steel started out as. It was Batman who had been the (always prepared) boy scout, only to force that role onto Superman in one of the most highly visible and highly humiliating vehicles in comic book history.

  9. Great job Ryan and Chris, also Chris and Ryan. There are a couple of points on which I’d like to chime in. First, Gordon’s dilemma. You mentioned that this kind of depiction of marriage was new territory at DC. Not really. In previous continuity (and wouldn’t that make a great opening caption to a comic book?), Alfred had fathered a child out of wedlock, Perry and Alice White were going through a very rough time in their marriage, and Jean Loring-Palmer had had a workplace affair. Also, Shiera Hol had up and left Katar with no explanation. (A story-line which I believe was not resolved before the Red Skies came along.)
    Ryan also praised Miller for having Batman abandon his utility belt. I call shenanigans! He still had various devises secreted on other parts of his costume! Frank is right, Bruce is the ultimate Boy Scout. His motto is Be Prepared! Blow pipe AND poison tipped darts AND ultra-sonic signal device AND a wad of cash. On one hand, it makes sense and I’d like to know if other writers added to it. For instance, lock-picking tools in special sleeves on his gloves. On the other hand, I like to see Batman be more resourceful. Maybe he had the darts but had to use a piece of electrical conduit as a make-shift blowgun. In this fight he wasn’t going to be able to take the time to analyze the composition of the crumbling mortar of the building to create an explosive decoy or something, but I like when the hero uses an Adam Strange type of solution. Or MacGyver type of solution of you prefer.
    But the bat summoning thing.
    Now, it looked great! Truly awesome! Just a fantastic job by Mazzuchelli! BUT…it felt like a Deus Ex Machina. A bat-summoning device. Change the frequency just a few megahertz and it’s a Shark Repellent. A bat-summoning device. What Hawkman can do with his voice, what Aquaman can do with his mind, Batman can do with a machine. That he keeps…where? “Holy desperation, Batman! Without our utility belts we’re helpless!” ” Not entirely, Robin. Fortunately, I keep my Bat Bat-Attactor in my shorts. Right next to a wad of large bills. The tens and twenties are in the heels of my boots.” Again, it looked great, but it felt like a trope of older stories where the develops or reveals a previously unknown power, skill, or weapon that is never referenced again.
    Finally, I hope that you will share Vera Wilde’s comments again. And when you do, I suggest you pronounce that first name with a short E. It sounds more appropriate.

  10. The Whip rides again!

    So yes, all the cat stuff is why I love this issue more than any other (and it’s also interesting that this “first Batman story” includes Selina and not that usual standard, the Joker), but just a look through the Gallery provides plenty of other reasons.

    (Sorry I’m keeping comments short, I’m desperately trying to catch up on all my favorite podcasts.)

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