|Throwback Review – Batman #445 – March 1990|
Review by Bryan Lomax
|Published by DC Comics||March 1990|
Batman goes to Russia to help the Moscow police commissioner catch The NKVDemon, protégé of The KGBeast, who is out for revenge against those who betrayed his master. The Demon works his way through a hit list of 10 people, much the same way as the KGBeast attempted to do in Gotham, only this time the hunting ground is his home turf in Russia. Can Batman accomplish what he once did in a city he is unfamiliar with?
‘Batman: Ten Nights of the Beast’, written by Jim Starlin in the late 80’s, is one of the seminal works of that decade. Marv Wolfman, no slouch when it comes to writing Batman, is given the task, two years later, of writing a direct sequel to that story. ‘When the Earth Dies! Chapter One: Red Square, Bloody Square’ is a pretty good starting point for it.
Wolfman bookends his story with two sequences. The opener sees Batman catching a villain in Gotham, his home turf, precisely because he knows every street, every alleyway, every sewer tunnel. The closing scene plays out similarly, only this time the villain escapes, precisely because Batman doesn’t know the layout of the city he’s in. In Moscow, the streets, alleyways and sewers belong to The Demon.
I love when stories are bookended. It’s a great device that writers can use to show us a change has happened, whether it be in a character’s personal growth, or in their circumstances. Here we see that Batman is Gotham. Gotham is as much a part of him as the air in his lungs. Without it, he cannot breathe, he cannot function as well as he once did. It gives his nemesis the edge.
That nemesis in question is probably the weakest element of the story, as The Demon is essentially just The Beast, only with a slightly different costume. I would rather they had just brought back The Beast himself. It would be much more fun to see a rematch with the iconic villain, where Batman no longer has the upper hand, instead of giving us a carbon copy in his place.
I always have a sense of nostalgia for Jim Aparo’s artwork. He’s not my favourite, but seeing his work always takes me back to my childhood, when I started reading comic books. It’s very much a golden era for me personally. But it’s great that both Aparo and inker, Mike DeCarlo, both return here, as it was the two of them that brought the ‘Ten Nights of the Beast’ storyline to life.
It must be said that this particular story is very dated as it assumes quite heavily on the audience’s knowledge of Russian politics of the time. And seeing Bruce just randomly bumping into Vicki Vale whilst dining out in Moscow is very quaint. Also, it seems to me that, if The Demon spent as much time doing stuff as he does gasbagging about a better Russia, he might actually stand a chance of achieving his goal. Some of his dialogue is stilted to say the least.
A great nostalgia trip for anyone who read comics as a child of the 80’s, but reading Jim Starlin’s ‘Ten Nights of the Beast’ before this is strongly recommended.
Review by Bryan Lomax, 24/07/21