Saturday, April 7, 2012

Detective Comics #51 (May, 1941)

"The Case of the Mystery Carnival"
Writer: Bill Finger
Pencils: Bob Kane
Inks: Jerry Robinson and George Roussos
Synopsis: Bruce and Dick are out on a car ride in the country to get some "fresh air" and a "break from crime". They happen upon an amusement park that happens to be owned by one Colonel Dawes, whom Bruce describes as an old friend. (Bruce Wayne has friends? Wait! Dawes? Dawes...)
After going on some of the rides and games (Dick cleans out the shooting range of course), Bruce notices slot machines being played, something Colonel Dawes would've never allowed. Bruce goes to see Dawes in the administrative office, but the Colonel doesn't seem to recognize Bruce. He walks off with another gentleman, scratching his left leg. Bruce points out to Dick that Dawes lost his left leg in the Great War, and Bruce recognizes the other man as a small time crook from Gotham. Realizing something is afoot, the pair change into Batman and Robin and begin an investigation.
They follow "Dawes" and his companion into the wax museum, and discover a hidden room in the back. Listening to the conversation inside, they discover that the amusement park has been taken over by a gang of criminals. They've gotten one of their men to impersonate Dawes while they collect all the profits from the amusement park. So they're basically running the business legitimately? They're even keeping Dawes alive for some reason. They do mention that they're also picking the pockets of the patrons, but that almost seems unnecessary at this point, and other than the kidnapping its the only really illegal thing they're doing. 
Anyways, Batman and Robin burst in, but are overpowered, tied up, and left in a room with the kidnapped Colonel Dawes. Why the crooks didn't kill any of them is a question left unanswered. The crooks themselves are freaking out, thinking that if Batman has discovered their game than the cops must not be far behind. They reason to get out while the getting's good, and decide to hold-up the entire park before escaping. (So they don't quite understand the basic concept of quitting while ahead...)
The Dynamic Duo end up getting rescued by the crazy Park caretaker, and Batman decides to take Colonel Dawes to a hospital and leave Robin to stop the gang "without getting hurt." I am sorry to say that I question your tactics, Batman.

Robin attacks the gangsters, leading them on a merry chase through the park's fun house, complete with the usual gags regarding halls of mirrors and so on. It's a pretty visually dynamic sequence, filled with plenty of fun.
Meanwhile, Batman's already back from driving into town and back apparently, and gets his own four page action sequence as he chases the gangsters around the park, cornering the leader and chasing him onto the rollar coaster, where they have a dramatic battle. At one point Batman punches him so hard it knocks him off the car, but rather than let him fall to his death Batman catches him, and continues punching him. 
Batman and Robin leave the crooks for the police and head home.
My Thoughts: Basically a lighthearted "filler" piece, an opportunity for some fun action setpieces, but no real substance here. I mean, what passes for substance in a Golden Age comicbook.
The Art: The artwork is pretty darn good. While nothing super stands out, there's certainly a competence in depicting the action and chases in an exciting and dynamic fashion that is a huge step beyond where this series was even a year previously.
The Story: Why would a bunch of city crooks decide to take over an amusement park? Why would they keep Dawes alive if they had a guy capable of impersonating him? The story here is really, really light, largely an excuse to engage in the action sequences. Finger's taking a vacation here, like the characters are, handing in a breezy story that allows for some fun for the art team.

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