Saturday, December 14, 2013

It All Started with the Big Bang! Part 16 (Issue #31)

The Knight Watchman is really Big Bang's flagship character, as there are tons of stories starring him. This issue tackles a pretty obvious situation if you're doing a Silver-Age Batman thing: Bat-Mite-induced shenanigans.

I'm not going to pretend like the Knight Watchman "really" dies: he doesn't, it's a trick of some sort. This isn't a spoiler, it's common sense. Besides, why would anything be as it seems when you're dealing with the equivalent of Bat-Mite, Knight-Sprite?

The story opens with Kid Galahad finishing his homework and hearing the call to adventure over the police radio. Some parade balloons came to life and are running amok. He goes on this one solo, as Reid Randall, the Knight Watchman, was at a business meeting at the time. Being giant balloons, he pops them without trouble.

Blah blah -- it's the work of Knight-Sprite, a cartoonish jester with near-limitless power, who likes to mess around with the Dauntless Duo.

He's actually more of a Mxyzptlk type than a Bat-Mite; Bat-Mite was a well-meaning Batman fanboy, whereas Knight-Sprite is pretty mean spirited. For instance, he sends Kid Galahad to another dimension just so he'll stay out of his way. Alone in Dimension X, Kid Galahad braves some native wildlife before meeting up with the Knight Watchman, whom he guesses was also sent there by Knight-Sprite

Woah, did I just hit on a Garden of Eden thing, or am I doing that "reading too much into their relationship" thing people do with Batman and Robin? Galahad is in trouble due to the alien snake from the story splash, and the Knight Watchman dies saving him from it. Specifically his head gets split open under his hood when the snake bucks him against a tree -- a pretty nasty death for, you know, the kind of story this is trying to be.

 I'm no expert on Silver Age issue numbers or covers, but that's a pretty direct reference to a famous Batman cover, with the roles reversed. Anyway, this took a dark turn, huh? Kid Galahad demands Knight-Sprite send him back to the regular world, and this is all reminding me of the TNG episode "Tapestry", when Picard is in the altered present as a crappy science officer and yells at Q about how this wasn't part of the deal.

Knight-Sprite sends Galahad back to the regular world, and Galahad somberly realizes that the Dimension X thing was all real after noticing scratches on his arm from the snake attack. He swears to live up to the Knight Watchman's legacy as a solo 11-13 year old hero.

Almost immediately he sees a crime in progress, with crooks he recognizes hiding out in a warehouse. He busts in to take them out, but since he's outnumbered 4-to-1 and half their size, it doesn't go so well for him. That's when dun dun duuuuun the Knight Watchman arrives on the scene.

After the gangsters are dealt with, and KW and Galahad exchange "What?!"s, Knight-Sprite shows up to set the record straight -- the Watchman in Dimension X was a copy retrieved from Galahad's mind. He didn't say anything about it because it was pretty much identical to the real deal, and thus he figured it wasn't worth mentioning. It's sort of a cute detail, he really didn't understand why he might have been expected to say it wasn't the real Knight Watchman.

Oh, and when they get home, there's a surprise birthday party for Jerry, because I guess it was his birthday all along and nobody mentioned that. Reid converted their basement into a basketball court as a gift, which seems a little ostentatious but I guess he's sort of rich.

Moving on, we've got the stunning origin of Gorilla Cop! That's right, Big Bang even has its own version of Detective freakin' Chimp. While Detective Chimp was a regular chimp granted intelligence by the fountain of youth or something, Gorilla Cop was a regular cop turned into a gorilla by an "evo-ray".

Sam Douglas is a regular beat cop; he's best pals with his old partner Artie and has a swell girlfriend named Kim, whom Artie is secretly hot for. Sam investigates a light in an abandoned warehouse and is captured by Dr. LA Mental, whose "evo-ray" needs to absorb evolutionary energy by devolving people into gorillas in order to evolve someone further.

Sam is turned into a gorilla by the ray, and is about to be put in a drug-induced rage like Mental's other victims when Artie bursts in. Mental flees, leaving Sam in possession of his faculties (apparently the evo-ray doesn't devolve brains, even though Mental's plan hinges on it evolving his own). Sam can't speak, but tries to tell Artie who he is by flashing his gold tooth, which the evo-ray naturally shaped into a simian canine what do you want from me

That's not quite as silly as it sounds -- after all, Artie saw Sam go into the warehouse and never come out.
This story moves along at a blistering pace from here on out -- Sam (who I'm just gonna call Gorilla Cop from now on) sneaks back into the lab that night to see if he can figure out how to change back or something like that. He discovers an unconscious Artie, Mental, and his girlfriend Kim in a cage. It's not really clear why Mental captured Kim -- I guess he figured Gorilla Cop would come back and wanted leverage. He's used the ray to evolve into the super-intelligent, psychic space guy seen above, but Gorilla Cop deftly smashes the ray gun, causing it to backfire on Mental and devolve him into nothing (while dooming himself to life as a gorilla; compare Hummingbird's origin) Oh, and he can talk now, because he tried really hard.

As is often the case with a Silver Age pastiche (and many real Silver Age stories), I sort of have a lot of questions -- Gorilla Cop clearly got promoted, so he's not on the beat anymore, but he's not a detective, so is he the guy behind the desk at booking or the evidence room or something now? Hell, what does this mean for his relationship with Kim, or Artie's relationship with Kim? And I'm almost positive there isn't a second Gorilla Cop story to clear any of that up, too. Wait, am I really clamoring for more of this? Big Bang Comics, the things you do to me...

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