reviewbubble.jpgbatman659picon.jpgI ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti

I usually don’t mind seeing grotesque depictions in my comic books. I’m an adult regardless of what my wife says, and know the difference between make believe in real life. However it is reel life that gets to me, especially when so much of a character’s modus operandi borrows from Hannibal Lecter. Or is it the Black Dahlia murder? Or is it Darkman?

01.jpgBatman #659 – Grotesk
Writer: John Ostrander
Art: Tom Mandrake (a), Nathan Eyring (c)

A horror genre movie start out innocent enough; two cops show up, expecting (or perhaps hoping) to come across the Joker, make an arrest and get out of patrol. Of course things never work out quite that way.


When Jim Gordon shows up, one of GPD CSI guys is on the scene. Only problem is Gordon doesn’t know who CSI Gary Peterson is. Must be because it is such a Dark Knight – GROAN!

I don’t know what is worse, knowing the Batman is tapped into all of your computer systems, or knowing your IT Department is full of idiots that don’t know how to keep a system secure. The lack of security allows Batman to know exactly what is going on with the case; three murders, all burned, but only after portions of their faces have been cut off.

The media has already dubbed the villain Grotesk. But since no one has seen him, why did the media insist on naming him after the first widely used sans serif type face? If you thought Russian, it’s an easy mistake to make, since there appears to be a new Russian mafia type called Perun lurking about and causing all sorts of troubles.

And the trouble Perun is causing just happens to be at Leslie Thompkins clinic. Even though Leslie has been banned by Batman from ever coming back to Gotham, he still protects the clinic from those who wish harm.

Perun is after Dr. Amina Franklin, not for drugs, but to extort money from her. The mob claims money is owed to them from her dead brother. How convenient for Batman, who shows up at the clinic to put a stop to the shenanigans. And if that doesn’t sound like well developed plot development, just wait, it gets better.

Just has fight heats way up, some members of the gang are burned to a crisp by non-other than the lead villain.


The two battle; Grotesk with his flame thrower, and Batman using his keen battle sense. I wonder why he didn’t use his Bat-a-rangs, which he seemed to have a large supply of when he was taking out Perun’s gang.

Grotesk turns his arm mounted flame thrower on an oncoming car, presenting Batman with a decision – save the innocent victim, or let the serial criminal get away. Well duh…

When the fight is over, Dr. Franklin comes outside to see what is going on, and we learn that she is the brother of Dr. Wayne Franklin, a successful plastic surgeon, who died in a warehouse fire two months ago.

Back at the Batcave, exposition further reveals that Wayne Franklin was working with Jaqui Tremayne, one of the three victims, on a device called the I-GORE that will revolutionize surgery. When Franklin was killed, Tremayne’s company unveils their own device called Mimic. Perhaps the medical company doesn’t think a dead man will come back to sue them for stealing his design, hence the obvious “we stole this idea” name.

Oh, and it just so happens Bruce Wayne and Dr. Amina Franklin were romantically involved with one another a few years ago. Again, what an interesting (sarcasm) plot development – GASP!

Now, when I first saw Grotesk, he is drawn very Quasimodo like, which at first had me thinking it was the return of Harold. Hey it could happen – look at what happened with Jason Todd after that Superboy Prime punch. But then when you see the name of Dr. Franklin’s I-GORE device, the character is much more of a servant (think Igor).

John Ostrander has written a lot of stuff ranging from Gotham Nights, Suicide Squad, and X-Men to name a few, but unless he is pulling a fast one, with the killer revealed to be someone else completely, he is literally beating us over the head with the set up, and I get the feeling the payoff is going to be severely disappointing. It is all so cliché, with signs pointing to Dr. Wayne Franklin as Grotesk, with Dr. Amina Franklin-stein pulling the strings. I’m going to give Ostrander the benefit of the doubt here and hope he has something up his sleeve.

The Good

  • Nothing like seeing a rookie cop vomit on the crime scene
  • Mmmm, he cuts off portions of the face and sews them together to make his mask
  • I love seeing artists depict winter weather, and Mandrake doesn’t disappoint
  • Grotesk = Sans Serif (type)face – Sans meaning without…get it… Grotesk, without a face…

The Bad

  • One plus one is…
  • What you need another hint? It starts with a T…
  • Aw jeez man, TWO! One Plus One is TWO!
  • Don’t forget to rub the lotion on that skin mask
  • “I’ve banged all the women in Gotham – all of them. No really…All…of…them…”

Early on in this issue (pages 1 – 5), I really got into it and thought this could be the introduction of a really cool character, but that eagerness quickly turned into, “you’ve got to be kidding me”. Everything about the issue seems to be so cut and dried, leaving little detective work to be done, instead relying on a series of numbered dots. I’m confused as to why other reviewers are saying this is a great mystery. Perhaps they should check out Paul Dini’s work over at Detective Comics to see a real detective story. I just get the feeling we’ve seen this entire story before. I’m going to give Ostrander a chance and see what he can do with the Batman. The artwork by Mandrake is very good, bumping my rating up to 2 out of 5 Stars.

Parting Shot


Discuss this issue in the Major Spoilers Batman forum.

The Author

Stephen Schleicher

Stephen Schleicher

Stephen Schleicher began his career writing for the Digital Media Online community of sites, including Digital Producer and Creative Mac covering all aspects of the digital content creation industry. He then moved on to consumer technology, and began the Coolness Roundup podcast. A writing fool, Stephen has freelanced for Sci-Fi Channel's Technology Blog, and Gizmodo. Still longing for the good ol' days, Stephen launched Major Spoilers in July 2006, because he is a glutton for punishment.

You can follow him on Twitter @MajorSpoilers and tell him your darkest secrets...

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  1. Matthew
    December 8, 2006 at 4:01 am — Reply

    Wait, Tom & John are on Batman? What happened to Morrison? Did I miss something?

  2. December 8, 2006 at 7:05 am — Reply

    Instead of pulling a Wonder Woman or a Civil War, Morrison and Hubert are taking 3 or 4 issues off so they can work on the next arc and deliver on time.

  3. December 8, 2006 at 7:23 am — Reply

    Wow. Go Grant! Now, if somebody could only convince Quesada that timeliness matters…

    Never gonna happen.

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