Stretching in to Help

October 15, 2003

By Avi Green

Batman: Gotham Knights #41: Rubber Soul
Writer: Scott Beatty
Penciler/Inker: Toby Cypress

It’s been awhile since Ralph Dibny, the Elongated Man, and his lovely wife Sue Dearborn-Dibny, who had a feature of their own in Batman’s Detective Comics during the 60’s, got some time in the spotlight, but now, with this issue, here they come out of semi-limbo after a few years to help solve a mystery in Gotham City, where Sue, who’s a mystery novelist, has come to sign books at a local bookstore, with the help of Batman – get this – disguised as a street hustler named Matches Malone, a gangster who'd accidentally shot himself while trying to escape from Batman in 1972. Batman then thought to take up the dead crook's identity as one of his own elaborate disguises - besides being a crimefighter who wears a mask, he's trained in various other disguises too, and this helped him a bit when while on the trail of Ra's al Ghul back in the Bronze Age.

A lethal new drug that can turn people’s bones and body to elastic and kill them in the process has been making its way into Gotham, and Batman turns to the Dibnys to help in searching for the culprits who’re manufacturing the deadly drug, which is named Elastix and sometimes known by the slang “rubber soul”.

And we also get to have a good chuckle or two at how Ralph, good comedian that he is, stretch his neck all the way around the bookstore they’re in, trying to talk to the Matches-disguised Batman/Bruce Wayne before he goes out, since he’d rather they come out after they’re done when there’s not much attention by anyone else. As Sue tells him, “Dear, um, you’re creating a fire hazard in here.” Since, by stretching his Gingold water affected neck all over the place, he’s getting in the way and much to the startlement and bewilderment of many of the people in the store, though when they realize for certain that this is the guy who made quite a name for himself as a sleuth and showbiz performer in the years gone by, they’re quite flattered to meet him there.

They go to a resturant where Bats fills them in on details, and the headquarters where the criminals are keeping their stuff is at an internet dance club called Dot-Jam uptown. And then, we get to enjoy seeing both Elongated Man and Bats take on some of the crooks in the back rooms in tongue-in-cheek style, while Sue sits in the main lounge at a table, trying figure out where and how the customers are getting their hands on the drug, and then, she realizes that the “smilie” stamp that the door guards stamp on the hands of the customers entering must be the way that they’re being exposed to it. Good that she didn’t have it stamped on her when she came into the club. When the police arrive to take away the crooks at the club, they say that Sue is the one who’s solves the mystery, and indeed she has, smart woman she is. Bravo!

It’s not over yet. Their next destination is the main HQ of the manufacturers. And the ringleader, with Bats coming after him and trying to break down the door he’s fled through into the building, tries to flush a remaining chemical beaker down the drain, but finds that the bathroom he’s locked himself in for that purpose is flooding. So, what does he do? Uses himself as a drain, what else? Just like all criminals who’ve got nowhere else to go but the exit from the stage of life do.

Overall, it’s an okay filler issue, meant to serve as an interlude between the previous story arc of Knight Moves and the next issue, and it does pretty well in bringing out the tongue-in-cheek side of the Dark Knight, who could always use a good, lighthearted story like this every now and then.

So that’s that, and the next day, at Wayne Manor, we find Bruce and Timothy Drake, the current Robin, looking over a signed book by Sue Dibny…and also wondering whither the fate of Alfred. Which, of course, remains to be seen in the next issue.

Black and White Batman: I’ll be Watching
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Penciler: Ryan Sook

It’s a typical day in a juvenile detention center in Gotham City, and a janitor in the building has to warn two troublemaking youngsters pursuing another one around the hallway from causing trouble.

This seemingly ordinary janitor, as we learn, was once something of a delinquent himself a few years before, having taken part in some minor crimes, and who once carried a gun, even though he never actually fired it…which is probably why the Caped Crusader, who took out a few other hoodlums he was with, let him go, seeing him cower behind some boxes in the alley they were in: he didn’t really enjoy or want to be a criminal, and begged Batman to let him have another chance, and so, Batman did just that, after having him hand over the weapon.

Now, he works daily as a janitor in this juvenile detention center, and thanks the Dark Knight for reforming him. He sometimes wonders if Batman is watching him, but either way, he’s glad to be going straight now.

It’s pretty good, the first B&W backup story I know of that Brubaker’s written, and another good story of how the Caped Crusader affects the lives of the citizens of Gotham he patrols over.

Copyright 2003 Avi Green. All rights reserved.

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