DCAU #59: Riot Act

IN THIS ONE... The Scarecrow ransoms Gotham City's ability to read, causing riots and all manner of incident. (Two-parter)

CREDITS: Written by Martin Pasko; art by Brad Rader and Rick Burchett.

REVIEW: I don't know Brad Rader, but while his line isn't as clean as Templeton's, it makes up for it with more dramatic lighting, and in issue #4, some very cool ways to integrate the Act titles. While never straying too far from the house style, his action is more visceral and raw, and there are many stand-out moments, visually - the train crash, the Batwing slicing a van in half, Robin's starkly-lit fight at the electronics store, Batman punching a guy through a TV, showing the Scarecrow's hide-out already filled with prone bodies instead of Batman punching his way in, Batman rising out of smoke... Great stuff.

It must help that Martin Pasko is the story editor on the show, so he can avoid repeating things we've already seen, something I thought plagued the first three issues of The Batman Adventures. The Scarecrow as an advocate of higher education taking revenge on a city that's defunding libraries, schools and universities is an interesting one, and perfect for Professor Crane. That he'd use his perception-changing expertise to make everyone dyslexic seems to fit the crime, but Robin makes him realize at the end that it's actually a cross-purposes with his ethos, also perfect. The effects of the Scarecrow's plan on the people of Gotham are also well thought-out, and the "change of heart" ending also makes sense for the leader of the Snakes, the gang hired by the Scarecrow, who gives his boss up after his wizened mother collapses from taking the wrong dosage of her prescription from lack of reading ability.

The theme should be scary to comics readers. They are readers, after all, even if the comic is based on a television series where the English is often garbled by its Korean animators (I wonder if therein lies the origin of this story). And so TVs are dangerous in the tale, either acting as delivery system for Scarecrow's signal, being punched through, getting thrown, or toppling over one of our heroes. After Robin is infected, the next page is wordless and soundless. There's a dream sequence (bonus points for, well, see IN THE COMICS below) because it's notoriously hard to read in a dream. And the last couple panels show Scarecrow reading the newspaper, in jail. At every turn we're reminded of the importance of reading, and Pasko contrasts that activity with the boob tube. Inside joke, or social commentary? Probably both.
IN THE MAINSTREAM COMICS: Seems like Summer Gleason works for WGBS News. That's Morgan Edge's media company from the comics. Issue 5 of The Batman Adventures features Cain and Abel, from the House of Mystery and the House of Secrets respectively (and at this point in the comics, characters in the Dreaming from Neil Gaiman's Sandman), hosting Scarecrow's nightmare.

REREADABILITY: High - Original, exciting, with room to breathe AND allowing itself the integration of DC characters never seen on TV into the DCAU? The Batman Adventures' first classic.

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