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by Michael Hutchison

Batman 430 Batman 430
Fatal Wish

Written by Jim Starlin
Pencils by Jim Aparo

Alas, this is one of those dreaded stories that adds just a little more depth to the murder of the Wayne family. There are now more intricacies to this botched mugging than there are people responsible for the Kennedy assassination! Just from memory, we have: Thomas Wayne dressing as a bat to investigate a crime; Martha Wayne fighting child prostitution, causing the porn kings to hire Joe Chill; Bruce spotting a severed head in the trashcan at his boy's school earlier that day; and this tale…which is perhaps the best.

Batman is summoned to help take down a sniper atop a bank building. He sneaks up to the roof and faces off against the sniper. Finally, the sniper is done in by a bullet from a police sharpshooter. That's pretty much the whole story.

This is the Batman I like. He appears in mid-afternoon and stands on a street talking to Gordon. No scaring the bejeezus out of his friends just because it gives him a mystique. In the confrontation with a single untrained opponent, he makes a few human errors; none of this "Batman could kick Galactus' butt!" nonsense that fanboys spout. And when Batman sprints out into the street, we don't have to sit through the usual, "There really is a Batman? I thought he was an urban legend!" garbage that Denny has mandated.

Oh! About that origin story? During the fight with the sniper, the man exclaims, "I wish you were all dead!" This prompts a flashback to a day when Bruce's father, upset by the stock market and drinking too much, slapped Bruce. Sobbing into his mother's arms, Bruce shouted that he wished his father was dead. Later, Thomas came out of the den and apologized; he then offered to make it up to the family by taking them all out to see "Zorro" and you can see where this is going!

As I said, Bruce Wayne's "theater night" story gets reupholstered every few years, usually revealing the "true motive" for the killings and sending Bruce on yet another quest to rectify his parents' murders. This story, however, generates interest not through such sensationalism but through exploration of who Bruce is. By the last page, we realize that underneath the decades of training and the imposing exterior, Batman is still a frightened little boy who would just like his daddy back.

My vote: 5 out of 10

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Batman: Holy Terror Batman
Holy Terror

Written by Alan Brennert
Pencils by Norm Breyfogle

Batman has had a LOT of Prestige Format Elseworlds stories. Too many, in fact. This is the best one. If you haven't bought it, buy it.

In a world where Oliver Cromwell did not die of illness but lived on to strengthen the British Empire and Church, Bruce Wayne is about to join the priesthood. However, Jim Gordon reveals that his parents were murdered by the Church! Adopting a bat costume, Bruce investigates and finds a laboratory where Saul Erdel (the scientist who brought J'onn J'onzz to Earth) is experimenting on meta-humans. I'll say no more…except that Zatanna is in this and she is handled very well!

I loved the numerous cameos by other DC characters, and the art by Breyfogle just hammers home the fact that he is probably the best Bat-artist of the late 80s and early 90s.

My vote: 10 out of 10!

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All characters are ™ DC Comics
This column is © 1999 by .
The scanned covers are © 1999 DC Comics.