This month’s featured crossover is a story titled “The Penguin Affair, and appeared in two issues of Batman and one issue of Detective Comics. This story occurs near the beginning of a relatively peaceful time in the history of Batman. In real world time, “A LonelyPlace of Dying,” the story of how Tim Drake becomes Robin, finished six months ago, and Knightfall is still over 3 years away. As you probably guessed, this is a Penguin story. However, it also introduces a character named Harold, a genius hunchback, that will make appearances in Batman stories up to “Hush.” Summary and review will be after the break.
Issues: Batman #448-449, Detective Comics #615
Writers: Marv Wolfman and Alan Grant
Artists: Jim Aparo, Norm Breyfogle, and Mark Bright
The story starts three months ago, with a deformed man with a hunchback is walking down the street. One car full of people insult him as they pass him, while another car stops so that its occupants may get out and beat up the man. The Penguin has his driver, Lark, pull over, but not help the man until his attackers have left. Lark then carries the man back to the Penguin, who promises him that he is in a safe place. Now in today, Batman is responding to a disturbance at the Gotham Stock Exchange, where it turns out that the disturbance is a flock of birds. While Batman is subduing the birds, the Penguin is narrating to Harold (the hunchback) about why he hates Batman. This hate stems from Batman only fighting the freaks, and is harming the birds. Finished watching Batman, Penguin is pleased that Harold’s invention to control the birds had a successful first test run. Penguin then moves on to several games of chess he is playing on the computer. He explains that he likes the game because of the strategy involved with the game, and there is only one player that is able to compete with him. His chess playing is only interrupted by his love of a show named “Heartstrings,” and its lead character named Heron. After some more kind words for Harold, Penguin has him start the second test. Here, Harold has the birds disable the alarms at a bank, and rob the vault. After seeing the successful test, the Penguin decides that he wants to have some fun and takes control. The Penguin has the birds cause a massive car crash. While Batman is assisting in with crash recovery and other disasters caused by the birds, one of Penguin’s birds delivered a ring to Sherry West, the actress that plays Heron. Batman returns to the cave to contemplate things, and is shown to be playing the same computer chess game that Penguin is playing. On the set of her show, the police are standing guard, but the Penguin still sends his birds after her, and is able to abduct her.
The Penguin has sent his birds all over Gotham to cause chaos. Batman helps a store owner that was attacked. At his base, Penguin begins sweet-talking Sherry West. At first, she tries to explain that she’s not the character she plays, but she begins to play along, figuring that she can survive longer by doing this. Across Gotham, the birds have knocked out radio stations and the control tower at the airport. This causes a plane to crash. Batman is figuring that the Penguin is behind these bird attacks, but is unsure of why. On cameras attached to the birds, Penguin spots Batman and has his birds attack him. The birds chase Batman all the way back to the cave, even managing to get inside the Batcave and into Wayne Manor. Batman is finally able to get the birds to stop attacking him by realizing that the birds reacted to the remote used when he opened the cave, and uses an Ultrasonic transmitter to disable the birds.
Batman performs an autopsy on one of the dead birds, and discovers that they are being controlled by a tiny microchip in their brains. Batman figures that since Penguin hasn’t done any major crimes with the birds for his own personal gain, everything up until now must have been a demonstration. Batman uses Alfred to contact some of his contacts around the world to see if there has been any talk about a major sell going on. They find a couple, and are able to track them down at the airport, and put a short range tracer on them. When Penguin uses his transmitter again, Batman is going to use Waynetech satellites to triangulate the approximate position, and use the tracers for the exact location. (This was Tim Drake’s idea.) At the Penguins snowy mountain headquarters, Harold overhears Penguin tell Lark that he is planning on getting rid of Harold. Harold then sees that Penguin has Sherry West tied up because she won’t marry him. While Penguin is setting up his auction, Harold visits Sherry West. Penguin tries to start the auction, but his guests demand a demonstration. Unable to find Harold, Penguin controls the birds himself, even blowing up someone that questioned why they were here to see trained birds. This activation leads Batman to Penguin’s location. Penguin sends the birds after Batman, but he’s better prepared for them now with an extra padded suit. Harold tries to stop Penguin, but Penguin is able to easily knock him down. Batman is able to disable Penguin’s transmitter, and connects his own ultrasonic transmitter to stop the birds. Penguin is apprehended, and Sherry tells Batman that Harold was fooled by the Penguin, and didn’t want to hurt anyone.
These issues are some that I hadn’t actually read before deciding to do this entry. They’d been sitting in my long boxes for quite some time because I’d bought them when buying a bunch of comics from a 50 cent box. I have to say that I rather enjoyed the story. Sure it was a pretty outlandish plot, but it’s nice to escape reality from time to time. Also helping my enjoyment is the absence of thought bubbles narrating what is plainly visible in the art. It’s a problem I have when reading older comics. (John Byrne’s Man of Steel comes to mind.) And I’m not exactly certain when that started to disappear. (These comics were written in 1990.) All in all, I recommend reading the story, especially if you’re a fan of the Penguin.