Saturday, March 16, 2013

World's Finest Comics #5 (Spring 1942)

So yes, we're definitely into wartime DC mode here. This cover is actually fairly innocuous in its patriotism, but just you wait -- it's gonna get a whole lot worse in issues to come.

"Crime Takes a Holiday"
Writer: Bill Finger
Pencils: Bob Kane
Inks: Jerry Robinson
Synopsis: Gangster "Brains" Kelly arranges a meeting with fellow mob bosses "Dude" Davis and "Big John" Waller. He has a clever plan -- starting at midnight the next day, there shall be no more crime in Gotham City! And so, no more hold-ups, robberies, and all the crooks in town start following the letter of the law! Police can go home early, and Bruce and Dick are left with nothing to do. Dick suggests retiring, but Bruce points out that there is still plenty of crime in other cities and perhaps they could move there. Because the Batman has sworn on a War on Crime, not just crime in Gotham.
And Bruce is right, in Detroit, Chicago and St. Louis crime continues, but in Gotham all the crooks retreat behind their respectable fronts and become profitable businessmen! Rather than celebrate this great victory, however, Bruce is suspicious and decides to disguise himself and start committing his own crimes to get to the bottom of things! 

So Bruce busts in through the window of Big John's gambling house and sticks the place up! He allows himself to be captured and introduces himself as the Gold Coast Kid. Big John is impressed and offers the Kid a place in the gang. Despite the crime holiday in Gotham City, Big John is planning a job to rob the Curtis Silk Warehouse in Philadelphia. Bruce contacts Dick via wireless radio and tells him to alert the police.
Bruce wonders how the gang plans on pulling the job in Philly without being recognized, and discovers the plot on arrival. Big John's gang wear disguises to appear like the local Quaker City Mob. They commit the crime and hightail it across state lines back to Gotham, with the local mob taking the heat. 
However, after breaking into the warehouse, they are met by Robin and the local police! A two-page fight scene ends with Big John escaping and making it back to Gotham, but he's followed by the Dynamic Duo. Another two page fight scene ends with the Duo cornered by tommy guns. One of the gangsters asks why don't they just kill the heroes there and then, but the boss reminds him that there is no crime in Gotham City!
Instead, Batman and Robin are tied up and locked in the back of a truck which is then pushed off the pier and into the harbour! However, the river is shallow at that point, and the truck lands with it's nose on the bottom and the doors sticking out the top. Batman and Robin balance some boxes to climb to the top and then a saw from Batman's utility belt to cut through the lock and escape. Gotta love that utility belt. And of course the near-death experience has reinvigorated the Dark Knight -- now he has a plan!
Over the coming days, the Hooded Gunmen gang from St. Louis starts robbing the front businesses of crime in Gotham City, as revenge for framing the Gunmen in St Louis. The gangsters are furious, of course, and so the holiday is called off as they track the Gunmen to their hide-out in a fruit market. But of course, the Gunment were actually Batman and Robin in disguise, luring the crooks into a trap! After a fight with some food, the crooks are rounded up and arrested by the police, who suggest that perhaps Batman is the one who deserves a holiday!

My Thoughts: A neat and interesting idea, and a different kind of story for Batman and Robin. Overall not much to say about it, except that I think it's important to note that when crime seems to be over in Gotham, Batman has two reactions: pack up and move to a new city, and then that something must be wrong. He doesn't even consider retiring. There's no moment of celebration. I like that. Batman's mission is a War on Crime, all Crime, he just happens to be based in Gotham City. The fact that he goes off to commit a crime in the absence of any speaks so much to his obsession. 
The Art: Pretty good, throughout. Good actions scenes, good layouts, use of shadows, faces, etc. Standard good quality from Kane/Robinson. I like it when the fight scenes get creative and use props, like in the gym and the fruit market.
The Story: Ultimately the problem with this story is that once Bruce figures out the secret behind crime's holiday, the story is really just spinning its wheels for page-count -- fight scene in a warehouse, followed immediately by fight scene in a gym, followed by a capture, an escape, topped off with a fight scene in a fruit market. It's just some action filler til we get to the foregone conclusion. Still the idea is good, and so is the execution for the most part, and it's an enjoyable read.

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