BHOC: BATMAN FAMILY #11

This was the first all-new issue of BATMAN FAMILY, eschewing reprints in favor of completely original content. I’m pretty sure that this was another comic book that my family had two copies of when my younger brother Ken subsequently bought a copy as well, something he would do from time to time for no earthly reason that I ever understood. It must be said that the cover image is at once both odd and fun–Batgirl’s “wedding costume” is an unflattering scream. But there is something strangely elegant about Robin’s tuxedo-costume. I guess it’s easier to improve upon bare legs and elven boots.

Throughout the run of BATMAN FAMILY, the authors of the lead feature had been playing with the notion of a Batgirl-Robin romance (despite the age difference between them, not that it was really all that great.) This is a relationship that would become a pillar of the DC Universe in particular after the CRISIS, when both characters were appearing regularly. But the sell here was getting to the culmination of that relationship straight away. 

This multi-part story opens with an assassination attempt on Robin as he’s at a Hudson University basketball game as a special guest. The killer only manages to shoot the basketball Robin is holding, which somehow prevents the Boy Wonder from being shot. Robin makes short work of his assailant and learns that the secretive Maze has put out a contract on him. Elsewhere, a mysterious figure communicates with a shadowy mastermind, complaining that the contract has already gone awry. The mastermind promised to double down on is efforts.

In Washington DC, Batgirl is shadowing some suspicious characters trying to rack down an information leak from one of the committees that Congresswoman Gordon chairs. But the guys she’s following turn the tables on her, and she’s almost run down in an underground parking lot–only her acrobatic skill allows her to survive and take out the would-be killers. And again, the mystery man complains to the shadowy Maze head that he paid for both Batgirl and Robin to be offed and he’s not getting his money’s worth. But he’ll give Maze one more change to make good on their assignment–but only if he calls the shots on this next attempt.

A few days later, strangely, the underworld gathers in a auditorium in response to invitations to the wedding of Robin and Batgirl–invitations that indicate that a double-execution will follow. Putting aside why you’d need the pretense of the wedding for this, the auditorium is packed with gunsels, as a seemingly-entranced Robin and Batgirl come out to exchange vows. But when the bad guys open fire, Robin and Batgirl vanish, having dropped through a concealed trap door, and are able to get the drop on everybody–including the Maze chief, who was posing as the minister.

So, yeah, the story so far, while action-packed, doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. So Batgirl takes a page out at the end to try to explain it all. The guy who took out the contract in the first place was Robin in disguise, and he also set up the faux-wedding. Again, absolutely no good reason was given for why this was staged as a wedding. But hey, they had to justify the cover image somehow. 

This was followed up by a pair of shorter stories. The first was the initial installment of a regular Man-Bat strip, drawn by the energetic newcomer Marshall Rogers. This was a fun series that cast Man-Bat as a straight-up super hero despite his monstrous trappings. This initial entry put him up against a villain called Snafu, whose effects to disorient his victims’ senses are undone by Man-Bat’s own sonic sonar.

And the issue wraps up withe the headlining team-up that nobody requested: Commissioner Gordon and Alfred! The pair are preparing a surprise birthday bash for Bruce Wayne at Wayne Manor–and in order to prevent Gordon from stumbling onto the entrance to the Batcave or find the Hot-Line phone (maybe you should have thought of this before you invited him out to the Manor, Alfred…) the crafty manservant uses his acting skills to pretend to be a burglar and draws Gordon away from the incriminating locations. It is worth pointing out that, throughout all three of these stories, Batman himself makes no appearances whatsoever–if you were a reader who picked up this issue thanks to the Caped Crusader’s name in the logo, you may have walked away disappointed; one drawback of dumping the Batman reprints.

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