Not a dream!  Not a hoax!  Not an imaginary story!  The DEATH of Batman!

…of Earth2.

Your Major Spoilers (Retro) Review of Adventure Comics #462 awaits!

Adventure462CoverADVENTURE COMICS #462
Writer: Paul Levitz
Penciler: Joe Staton
Inker: Joe Staton/Dick Giordano
Colorist: Adrienne Roy
Letterer: Ben Oda
Editor: Ross Andru
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: $1.00
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $60.00

Previously in Adventure Comics: Founded in 1940, the Justice Society of America was the first super-team (by most definitions, anyway) and featured the stalwart heroes of Detective Comics and All-American Comics working together in one All-Star title.  As the years passed, heroes came and went, DC and AA merged into one publishing concern, and superheroes went by the wayside for a few years.  When a new superhero boom started up, the original 40’s heroes were revamped and reworked, save for a few exceptions, and eventually the original versions were deemed to live on an alternate world called “Earth-2”, where the elder heroes were explicitly the ones who lived the adventures 30 years previously.  (Even in the Silver Age, editors weren’t always sure what to do with a hero older than a nebulous 29 years of age.)  In the 1970s, the JSA reformed to take on new threats and train a new generation of heroes to take up their mantles.

It is in the Gotham City of Earth-2 that our story proper opens…


Meet Bill Jensen, a convicted criminal who blames former Batman, now police Commissioner Bruce Wayne for his incarceration.  Worst still, he has somehow been given power enough to pole-axe The Flash, The Green Lantern and the mighty cos-mystical energies of Doctor Fate, any of whom could conceivably be the most powerful person in the world in the right company.  But why does Jensen blame Commissioner Wayne?


That’s the thing, this issue doesn’t really put a lot of thought into that, nor does it really delve into the methods that might have given him such phenomenal cosmic abilities, instead focusing on a menace so powerful that only Batman can face it.

Which is weird, what with the whole “not having powers and also half a dozen more powerful heroes are already down thanks to this guy’s sudden power surge” thing…


While Bruce Wayne takes the fateful steps that will clearly doom him (because, c’mon, we’ve all seen the cover blurb, you guys), Bill Jensen ups the ante, vowing to fling a JSA member to their death every second until he gets what he wants, starting with the Fastest Man Alive…


I truly love that Joe Staton Batman panel, one of the most heroic Bat-poses I’ve ever seen, but I kind of hate that the writer has done such a good job of making Jay Garrick useless.  Given his super-speed, there are literally half a dozen ways for him to save himself without breaking a sweat, but this isn’t his story.  Batman makes his way to the top of the towers, as Jensen shears off the top of one to make a point, ranting that Batman must bring him Bruce Wayne, not realizing that Wayne is right there before him in a pointy mask…


Green Lantern and Doctor Fate fall before the might of Jensen’s onslaught, while Batman’s son and daughter are nearly incinerated, forcing Bruce Wayne to make the worst decision of his life: Press on and confront a foe far out of his league…


In his final moments, Bill Jensen’s hatred consumes him, and the object of his rage (though, again, this is only his second appearance and it’s still kind of unclear what actually caused that rage and stuff), leading to one of many solemn Batman-related graveside moments in the Wayne family plot…


The entire Justice Society Of America has assembled for the first time in years to pay their respects to their fallen comrade, and Dick Grayson and Helena Wayne say goodbye to their father while the whole world watches.  (Whether or not anybody notices the lack of Huntress and Robin in the JSA ranks is unremarked upon, though it would have been the hook of this story had it been told in the Silver Age of Comics.)  After Bruce is laid to rest, Dick swears that he won’t let his father’s sacrifice be in vain: “Batman will live on!”

And then, Helena stops him…


This whole story is a secret-identity nightmare.  Batman is killed publicly, but Bruce Wayne laid to rest.  Huntress and Robin stand alongside their teammates in civilian garb.  But the worst of all is the fact that Huntress declares that Batman is dead, dead, dead, allowing anyone with a timeline to figure out who Bruce is, and by extension, Helena and Dick.  The story ends with Doctor Fate wondering how in the world Jensen gained his strange powers, a cliffhanger that…

…is quickly wrapped up in the next issue with little fanfare, leaving the whole exercise feeling very ham-fisted from a story perspective.  Astonishingly, this isn’t the only time a JSA member is murdered as a random plot point.  In fact, it’s not even the only time it happens in 1979, as Mr. Terrific will be bumped off a few months later in an issue of Justice League, in a manner just as meaningless and inexplicable.  Since this is the Dollar Comic era of DC, though, that JSA tale isn’t the whole issue, as we get a Don Heck drawn adventure of Barry Allen…


…Deadman as rendered by the legendary Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez…


…a Wonder Woman story that also serves as a “Where Are They Now?” moment for Sargon The Sorcerer…


…and more Don Heck work on Aquaman.


It’s easy to see why the anthology format appeals to publishers, as it allows them to give most of the Justice League some visibility while keeping lesser lights like Deadman and the JSA in play.  Sadly, the era of Dollar Comics was short-lived, as the ad-free titles went away entirely in 1983, thanks to a combination of paper costs and American disinterest in anthology titles, leaving the Justice Society without a book of their own until 1991 or so.  All in all, though, the death of Batman is entirely unsatisfying, with some excellent Joe Staton art being the only real selling point, leaving Adventure Comics #462 with a merely okay 2.5 out of 5 stars overall.  The overarching lesson of this issue is really the realization that blatant marketing stunts and “event comics” are by no means a modern innovation…


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Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture! And a nice red uniform.

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