Silver Screen to Glossy Panel

BATMAN VERSUS PREDATOR #1-3, DC Comics/Dark Horse Comics, 1991Dark Horse Comics holds some pretty good licenses, including Aliens, Predator and Star Wars, regularly giving us more insight into the workings of those universes beyond the movies they appeared in. Marrying the lesser of these three (Predator) with Batman could have been done with a by-the-numbers approach: Throw two "cool" properties at one another and reap the big bucks. But no, Dave Gibbons writes a complete Batman story, not just a cool battle. He's better known for his art, but those duties are here held by Andy and Adam Kubert. It's some fairly early work: Sometimes I can catch them trying to be their dad, or flavor-of-the-moment Jim Lee, and some of the action is a little hard to decipher, but it looks nice.

What makes it work, I think, is that we get everything that makes Batman the badass cool character he is over the span of three issues.

Issue 1: The world's greatest detective. A Predator lands in Gotham looking for its "champion". It gets the idea to kill a boxer when it sees a local bout on tv. A fun element comes into play here, because the Predator can only use dialogue it's recorded from a local source. So it's all about "Next round" and stuff like that. Imagine if it'd gotten a commercial instead: "Mom, I don't feel so fresh." Now, that would confound Batman. (It watches a lot more tv during the series, so it gets to call Commissioner Gordon a "Pot roast" in issue 2.)

So after killing a junkyard dog, a junkyard guy, a stray cat and a load of boxers, it's naturally getting a little antsy for some real prey. Well, it just so happens Batman is stalking the mystery killer himself, a mystery all the more difficult to solve because the whole story is set during the start of a gang war between mob bosses. But the Predator's been marking its territory, and Batman is on the trail.
Bats, man! That is gross! Anyway, Batman pulls a Sherlock Holmes and thanks to dirt, shit 'n' piss left at the scene, deduces that the alien is holing up at an old junkyard by the river. They meet, they fight, and Batman has to escape trailing on a wire behind his automated Batmobile. Indeed, he'll spend most of the second issue looking like this:
Issue 2: The prep artist. I've mentioned it before, and by no means am I the original source for this, but given enough prep time, Batman can take down Superman or Darkseid or even Dick Chaney. Ok, so looking like that, Batman prepares for the coming battle. This is clearly the Predator's issue because he gets to kill without opposition. Batman can't do nuthin'. That's ok, because all the alien kills is mobsters, televangelists and politicians, so no one on the side of good. But when he goes after Commissioner Gordon, it's the old "I don't care if I've been quartered and beheaded, Alfred, I'm getting up from this bed" routine.

But the preparation is all, and he's managed to overcome his problems with the help of a little suit:
Hey, it's even got built-in radar so that he can see the Predator as a red smudge rather than a blue smudge! He finally has the advantage!

The creators obviously knew that Issue 2 was going to be lower on action so they included a ton of beautiful pin-ups of Batman and Predator fighting it out. Hard to pick a favorite, but surprise artists include Mike Kaluta, Walt Simonson and Steve Rude, while the usual excellent work can be seen from Mike Mignola and Matt Wagner. Gibbons and Daddy Kubert also each do one.

Issue 3: The ASS-Kicker!!!! Face it, this is why we really love Batman. We respect him for those other things, but we love 'im because he breaks heads and takes names. In that order. And what a very cool battle this is. He manages to strap the Predator to the front of the Batmobile and drives him to the Batcave, which he's booby-trapped (all about the prep, people).

When the thing is trapped and pumped full of rhino tranquilizers, it starts an auto-destruct sequence ("Pot roast"), so Batman opens the cage to zap the Predator with a high wire cable to stop the countdown. That releases the monster and screws up Bats' special goggles. Alfred buys us some time by shooting it with an antique elephant gun. But the tranqs are really screwing with its head so before it can kill Alfred, it runs out for fresh air (just like me at every party I've ever been to). Batman follows, of course. It gets through the window of the sports room, so coming through, Batman picks up...
...a bat! And then proceeds to pound America's favorite pastime into the alien beast with a Lewisville slugger. It takes balls to actually pull off that gag (ahh the art of the unintended pun... you've got to be pretty badly wired to say that one without meaning to).

And when it's down, a spaceship with a dozen more Predators lands in Bruce Wayne's backyard. But you've got to understand the rules of the game, and once beaten the Predators know they've lost. They hand Batman the Predator's sword, samurai-like, and leave Gotham. The lesson is: Don't be a sore loser. Or maybe: Don't f*%# with the Batman. Either is good advice.


Tommy! said...

Thanks for the good review. These sound really cool & soon I'll have to track them down, sounds like a good read.

BATMAN FAN? Visit The Bat-Blog!

Thanks, Tommy

Madeley said...

I really rate this series, although the "sequels" sucked. It's one of the few inter-company crossovers that stands up on its own as a great story in its own right. Plus, it's one of the only works I've got a "creator story" about.

A couple of years ago at the Bristol comics expo I took the collected edition of the series with me to be signed by Dave Gibbons (really nice bloke, by the way). He looks at it, and says "Did I do this one?". So he flips to the title page with his credit on it, and says "Oh, yes I did." And cheerfully signs it.

So the series may not be amongst the most memorable he's done himself.

De said...

One of the more neat things to come out of the '90s. I've never read the sequels so I'm curious if they're any good. Though anything has to be better than JLA vs. Predator.

A crossover I'm not sure Dark Horse thought about but I'd love to see it: Predator vs. Planet of the Apes.

Stephen said...

don't f with the batman. truer words were never spoken.


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