Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Riddler and Cluemaster

This series, running from Detective Comics #705-707, is a lot of fun. Two of the Riddler's molls are holding hostages at the courthouse. Is the Riddler about to appear in court? No, it appears they are after someone else:

Meanwhile, the Riddler himself makes an escape from the hospital. But what does he want with the Cluemaster, who is described by virtually everybody in the story as a low-budget Riddler? Well, we find out at the end of the first issue:

So the Riddler sends Batman off on a chase around the city after his clues. Brown thinks that this means he'll get to ride shotgun in the Batmobile, but:

When they get to the first location, the Cluemaster tries a little bluff, refusing to get back into the trunk. But Batman calls him and:

Heheh, the Cluemaster definitely comes off quite the worse in this adventure. However, before feeling too sorry for him, remember that while he's riding in the trunk he talks to the Riddler, offering to help him out.

Predictably, at one of the locations, Batman and the Cluemaster come upon some hoodlums burying a body. Batman fights them while Brown runs and hides, much to the annoyance of the Riddler, who insists that he go back. And when he does, Batman is unconscious and the hoods are about to shoot him:

But the hoods realize they can shoot Brown in the head and not set off the explosives, so he wades into them, fighting for his life. One of the thugs smacks him over the head with a shovel, but at that moment Robin arrives and Batman regains consciousness and they quickly subdue the crooks. They decide to pull a switch, with Robin transporting the Cluemaster to the locations the Riddler insists on (there's a GPS in the explosive vest, so he can check). They put a vocal modulator on Robin so his voice deepens a bit and sounds more like Batman. But the next clue stumps the Boy Wonder and Oracle (who's assisting from her computers):

Fortunately the Cluemaster is able to assist once they've narrowed it down to a hotel suite (putting on the Ritz). This results in a significant promotion for Brown:

Eventually they work out the clues and discover that the Riddler is planning to steal a scorecard from a 1919 game between the Chicago "Black Sox" (i.e., the famed team that threw the World Series) and the Gotham Knights. The part that makes the scorecard valuable is that it was kept by Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, who was appointed Major League Baseball's Commissioner in the wake of the scandal. However, I confess to being a little disappointed when Oracle reveals that the scorecard is expected to sell for $50,000. Say what? This is a 1997 story; 50 grand is peanuts for a master criminal like the Riddler. Batman warns Robin not to be too close to Brown if things get tight on time:

Sure enough, the Cluemaster senses he's in trouble and tries to grab the wheel, resulting in the car flipping over. Fortunately Batman hits the Riddler's cellphone with a Batarang before he can dial the number that will explode the vest, and in the end the Riddler and the Cluemaster are headed back to prison.

Comments: I enjoyed this tale with the obvious exception of the value of the item in question. The story had a light, humorous touch which worked perfectly and the art (Nolan and Roach) complemented that well.

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