13 July 2016

Faster than a DC Bullet: Project Gotham, Part XXX: Batman: Ten Nights of the Beast

Comic trade paperback, 96 pages
Published 1994 (contents: 1988)

Borrowed from the library
Read January 2016
Batman: Ten Nights of the Beast

Writer: Jim Starlin
Penciller: Jim Aparo
Inker: Mike DeCarlo
Colorist: Adrienne Roy
Letterers: John Costanza, Agustin Mas

Year Twelve, June
I'm sort of pushing the definition of Batman's "early years" at this point, but I wanted to maximize my Jason Todd stories before seeing him get killed off in A Death in the Family. He actually doesn't play a very big role in Ten Nights of the Beast, which pits Batman against the KGBeast, the trained Soviet assassin. I'd first encountered him in the uncollected miniseries Robin III: Cry of the Huntress, but this was his first appearance. Here he goes rogue and travels to Gotham City to disrupt the Star Wars missile defense program, and Batman must team up with the Gotham PD, the FBI, the CIA, and the KGB to stop him. The KGBeast has a list of ten key Star Wars personnel (conveniently, they're all residents of Gotham or will visit it during the same week) that he's working his way through, but despite acquiring his list early in the book, the KGBeast is so strong and powerful there's not a whole lot Batman can do to stop him: Batman gets pushed to his limit as the KGBeast kills person after person on the list, plus anyone who gets in his way. (Or gets his Iranian Shi'ite terrorist friend to do it for him.)

One of my favorite things in comics is people who have to wear hats to disguise the masks they're wearing as a disguise.
from Batman vol. 1 #419

The problem is that the KGBeast is so good that the story becomes implausible. There is an early effort to move one of the people on the list out of town, but other than that, Batman and company take little preventative action. The last person on the list is President Reagan,* who for some reason still comes to Gotham for a fundraising dinner! It really pushes my credulity that in a circumstance where the KGBeast has caused deaths in the triple digits in pursuit of his goal that anyone would think it appropriate to bring the President of the United States into the city where's he operating. Also, given Batman only saves the lives of about three of the people on the KGBeast's list, I don't see how the Star Wars program isn't permanently crippled. It's a very small victory, I guess.

Greatest double-take in the history of comics?
from Batman vol. 1 #420

Jim Starlin seems to really like stories where Batman is pushed to his limit-- it's something we'll see again in The Cult and A Death in the Family-- but this one doesn't really work for me; you don't feel the desperation to the extent the story needs you to. I'll expand on this in my writeups of both those collections, but I think the problem is Jim Aparo. Or rather, the Starlin/Aparo collaboration. Aparo is a great artist and supposedly a great Batman artist, but I think he's more remembered for his ten-year run on The Brave and the Bold than his late 1980s Batman stint, where I don't think he's a good tonal match for Starlin's dark and brutal scripts. But like I said, more on that next week.

* Previous appearances of Ronald Regan include Legends, Millennium, and the Deadman storyline in Action Comics Weekly. There's probably more I'm forgetting. Invasion!, maybe? DC Comics really loved this guy, I guess.

Next Week: Batman faces a Dark Knight of the Soul when he comes up against The Cult!


  1. We've finally got Robin III collected in the recent new Vol. 2 Chuck Dixon collection.

    1. Oh yeah! I read Ten Nights (and wrote this review) six months ago, two months before that came out.