DCAU #101: Going Straight

IN THIS ONE... Batman recollects how his reformed rogues so seldom stay that way, including the Ventriloquist, Harley Quinn, Scarecrow, and Roxy Rocket (1st appearance).

CREDITS: Written by Paul Dini; art by Bruce Timm, Mike Parobeck, Matt Wagner, Dan DeCarlo, Klaus Janson, John Byrne, and Rick Burchett.

REVIEW: Using the Annual format to tell thematically linked short stories, Going Straight is at its weakest when it abandons that theme in the final story, featuring the Joker  without Batman ("Laughter After Midnight"). It's good, and has good jokes and violence, but I don't know why it couldn't have tied more strongly with the theme. And that theme is one of BTAS' staple tropes - villain going straight only to fall off the wagon. It happens a LOT, and not always for the same reason, and that's reflected in Dini's stories here.

For the Ventriloquist, it's because other ruthless people force him to animate Scarface again, in "Puppet Show". This is a heartbreaker in which Arnold Wesker finds a new friend, a frog that's part of a kids show, and even betrays Scarface through Croaky. Try to keep it together when Scarface takes the upper hand and essentially "kills" the froggy puppet. In "24 Hours", Harley Quinn as drawn by famed Archie artist Dan DeCarlo can't help answering the Joker's call, even though he is bound to betay her. A fun little story told almost exclusively without dialog. The Scarecrow might have gone straight in "Study Hall" if his baser impulses hadn't been awakened by the mistreatment of one of his students at the hands of a date rapist. In that moment, Crane becomes a vigilante, no different from the Batman, but since he escaped Arkham to take on this "reformed" identity, the Bat really does need to bring him back.

That leaves the frame tale to give us hope. Dini and Timm introduce Roxy Rocket, a very fun steampunk Amelia Earhart type who flies on the back of missiles, and who's played as a return engagement for Batman even if it's technically her first appearance. They'll eventually use her on the show, but here at least, she really does stay on the straight and narrow, only taking one last ride to stop Catwoman from framing her. Roxy has a good heart, and we see her try to save Selina when she falls off a building, but of course, that's hardly needed, and she gets scratched for her good deed. So the one villain that truly reforms is someone we just met; kind of takes the stuffing out of it, but I'm not sure who they could have taken from the rogues gallery to play that role. Bottom line, I want to see Roxy again, so that's a win.
IN THE MAINSTREAM COMICS: Roxy Rocket first appears here, but will eventually show up in animation. She was introduced to the main DCU in 2006, first in a cameo in Detective Comics #822 written by Dini, and then more fully in Batgirl #6 (2012) facing off against Stephanie Brown.

REREADABILITY: High - A great bunch of stories, one of them introducing a cool new foe.


American Hawkman said...

Is "Laughter After Midnight" the one where the Joker is trying to get home after a long day of Jokering?


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