Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Batman #479 (Early June, 1992)

After having been missing for a week, a banker in his twenties named Robert Buick was found nearly dead by the Batman. Buick's nude body showed clear signs of torture, and he was discovered with his feet and hands bound by rope, dangling in a crucifix pose from a fire escape. After receiving care at a hospital, Buick displayed emotional trauma, and feigned memory loss when questioned about his captors. Buick also fearfully demanded he be tended to by a male nurse, and later tried to contact his friend Peter Langan, but got an answering machine. "You have to call me. It's urgent! You--you could be killed!" Batman had run a feign of his own, pretending to have left while secretly observing Buick's actions.

While driving home from a club, yuppie Peter Langan was run off the road by a pickup truck. The driver proved to be a statuesque blond with an amazonian build, clad in skimpy brown leather from mask to sandals. Langan went from mad to lecherous at the sight of her, but the woman made clear "I dress to please myself, and I'm far from sorry" with a kick to his face. As Langan was judo thrown against a wall, he learned "The name is Pagan. And you and your kind-- can show me nothing at all!"

Batman had determined Langan's path from the club to his penthouse with the help of a doorman, but caught sight of the wrecked sports car en route. The Dark Knight Detective could tell from the point of impact that a light-colored truck was likely involved, and had been damaged in the crash, based on the trail of oil it left behind.

Pagan had taken Peter Langan to an abandoned warehouse, where she began battering him physically and verbally. "Scream all you like, Peter. No one will hear... Beg? That must be hard for such a macho man, Peter! Not very nice when someone makes you plead, now is it? Makes you sick when you realize they have all the power and you have none. Doesn't it? Especially when they ignore your pleas!" Pagan was disappointed Langan fainted after fewer blows than Buick, but "I'll be here when you wake up!"

Batman found the abandoned truck, and determined from footprints that "she" had switched vehicles. From the Batmobile, he called Lieutenant Kitch, the investigator on the case. As a favor, Kitch cross-referenced Buick and Langan in the police records, and found they had both walked on an assault and battery charge against a girl a couple of years back.

Pagan tossed a bucket of water on Langan, and his beating continued. "You know why I'm doing this, don't you, Peter? Remember Sondra?" Langan did, as a drunken accident. "Beating a seventeen-year-old girl unconscious was an accident?" Pagan believed the male judge in the case was guaranteed to side with the wealthy yuppies over an also-drunk teenager. "You left scars that could never heal. You stole her life! ...I'm going to teach you what it's like, Peter...!"

Batman met Sondra Mercer's parents, who explained that their daughter was a vivacious, friendly girl everyone loved before "those animals" destroyed their entire family. Sondra couldn't even stand to be near her father anymore, while Langan and Buick got off scot-free. The Dark Knight wanted to know where he could find Sondra now. "Is this some kind of sick joke? Sondra committed suicide a week after the trial!"

Pagan made Langan cry out the same plea Sondra made to him. "Please don't hurt me. Let me go! I won't tell anyone if you just let me go...!" The men hadn't listened then, so why should Pagan now? Just as she had pulled a knife, Batman found the pair, and a batarang disarmed Pagan. Batman tried to get through to Marian Mercer, the sister who felt like she had died with Sondra, but couldn't get past the vengeful Pagan. The man-hating vigilante had some solid moves, but she wasn't fool enough to take on Batman, and instead leapt out a six story window to a waiting guide wire. Sliding down to a motorcycle she had stashed, Pagan shouted back "...you haven't heard the last of me! Gotham's a man's city-- it needs a woman to redress the balance! I'll be back!"

Batman expected Pagan might escape, and took the time to chain the back wheel of her chopper before rescuing Langan. Pangan was thrown off the bike and knocked unconscious. Langan began to thank the Batman. "You have no reason to thank me, Mr. Langan... I'm handing you over to the police. And one more thing-- don't ever thank me again!"

"Pagan" was by Alan Grant & Tom Mandrake. I'm not sure what Batman intended to turn Langan over to the police for, as double jeopardy would prevent re-visitation of the assault charge. Maybe Peter had confessed to raping Sondra, but that was left ambiguous, and would be damned tough to prove in court. I believe it's also worth sharing that I saw an awful lot of parallels between this story and the plot to the fourth Clint Eastwood "Dirty Harry" picture, Sudden Impact, in which Sondra Locke played the vigilante.

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