CREDITS: Written by Kelly Puckett; art by Mike Parobeck and Rick Burchett.
REVIEW: Not sure where this would fit the chronology, given that Croc should NOT be running around free, and should therefore NOT get a mere "keep your nose clean" warning from Batman, but then this is a world where underground (read: illegal) fighting is reported in the sports section of the local newspaper. Puckett's writing sometimes over-simplifies the world, in line with who he thinks his audience is (and yet, there's a girl selling cigarettes at the fight), and yet over-complicates his plots. For example, in this story, Batman is looking for a mobster who calls himself the Mobster, but is later called Mandrake, so why not just call him Mandrake from the start? (Quite beyond the fact that Mobster is way too generic; is he supposed to be an analog of the Kingpin?) And while the comic runs parallel stories of Batman's quest and Croc's sports movie stuff, 22 pages are barely enough to contain and do justice to both stories.
Croc is sympathetic sympathetic in this story, without being the dumb goon Batman painted him as in "Almost Got'im", an unbeatable wrestler who fears a rematch with the only fighter to ever beat him in the ring. The connection between the Masked Marauder and Mandrake is what allows Batman to show up, and it's fun that Croc essentially saves the Bat's life to throw the Marauder back in the ring so he can finally beat him, but who IS the Marauder? Why does he wear a mask? These are questions I would have liked to see answered. Alternatively, a mob moving in from another town - what town? - is interesting in and of itself, but that's not a thread we're allowed to follow either. Two stories are woven together at the detriment of each.
The late great Mike Parobeck (The Fly, Justice Society of America) provides the art on this, and there's no question he's well-suited to the DCAU. He doesn't even really have to change his style. I only wish the script allowed for more varied action. It's dynamic and all, but it's not much more than people throwing punches.
REREADABILITY: Medium - Lots of good ideas, but none feel finished.