Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Back in Black, Part 3

This is it: Batman #387 and part three of the origin of Black Mask! Yesterday we reached point the where things seemed to be coming together. Black Mask had found his "queen" and Batman was fed up with trying to ferret out his masked adversary.

Oh yes, and I promised you a masquerade, didn't I?

Indeed. It is the most obvious trap available. And Black Mask agrees. But Black Mask doesn't know that Batman is trying to bait him; he thinks it's just Bruce Wayne. And Black Mask assumes that Bruce Wayne is setting an obvious trap that he believes Black Mask will see through and therefore pass up. Which is exactly why Black Mask decides to go.

Confused yet? That's okay. All you need to know is that Bruce Wayne is having a masquerade ball and Black Mask is attending. With a date, of course.

Bruce Wayne, meanwhile, attends alone. But there's a crasher at this party... And it's not Black Mask! After all, he received a fancy invitation.

Yes, Bruce Wayne -- as he was wont to do in the 80's -- bumps into one of his many exes. It doesn't go particularly well. Lots of soap opera back in those days... But at least he eliminates another guest as Black Mask.

Still, at this party it's Alfred doing all the detective work. He eliminates guest after guest until...

I don't have to tell you who's wearing the raccoon mask, do I? This is a Batman comic, after all. Roman Sionis takes a shot... But this is Batman and Robin we're dealing with. Things don't go according to Black Mask's plans.

Bruce Wayne and Robin tag team Roman Sionis, who flees the scene in a classic "jump through the window" move. The guy has style, I'll give him that.

But Roman doesn't get away scott free. Robin trails him back to the cemetery where he discovers that Black Mask is headquartered out of the Sionis family crypt. Robin quickly summons Batman.

Oh yeah, the Batman is on the case! Very soon he meets up with Robin at the phone booth by the cemetery. (it was the 80's! no cell phones!) Together the Dynamic Duo enter the graveyard, intent on putting an end to Black Mask's reign of terror.

But Black Mask didn't get where he was by being completely stupid. He's got help as well:

Still, Batman and Robin make short work of the False Facers. After all, they're only flunkies, right? Guys like that are a dime a baker's dozen in Gotham City. After taking out the thugs, they approach the crypt. Batman warns Robin to "stay sharp."

Black Mask disappears into the coffin! What a crazy guy! He can't get away there! Unless...

Yeah. False bottom, tunnel. Which obviously leads to...

Yes, he drives a hearse. I said the guy had style, didn't I?

Batman and Robin pursue in the Batmobile. Black Mask retreats to the old Sionis family estate, vacant since Black Mask abandoned the identity of Roman Sionis.

But for Black Mask, abandoning that identity isn't enough. He's decided that he has to completely and irrevocably kill Roman Sionis.

I told you he was crazy.

Really crazy.

Really, really crazy.

So as Batman and Robin struggle against the last of Black Mask's thugs, the man himself sets out to destroy Roman Sionis once and for all.

With the False Facers finally put down, it's time for the final, climactic showdown with the leader of the False Face Society: Black Mask!

Perhaps I should have said anti-climactic. Faced with the defeat of his minions, Roman Sionis flees wildly into the flames.

Still, Batman and Robin are able to save Roman Sionis from the fire. But not from himself.

The heat and the flames have burned the mask onto his face. As Batman puts it, Roman Sionis has been "masked for life." He is taken away to Arkham Asylum... Where he receives one final visitor.

Thus ends the origin of Black Mask. Obviously, Black Mask escapes. He continues with his petty vengeance and crime lord activities off and on for years. He's never really much of player. That is, until Ed Brubaker brings him back in the pages of Catwoman.

In Catwoman Black Mask is a wholly different animal. Smarter, more sadistic, and far more compelling. It's never explained how he gained his now iconic "death's head" look. But he wore it until the end. And since this is a post about the beginning of Black Mask, it's only fitting that I should show you his (apparent) end:

With that, Black Mask dies. He had a long strange journey as a villain in Gotham City. He started with a gimmick and gained an army. He became Catwoman's archfoe and ruled Gotham's underworld not once but twice. He killed a Robin and then was killed himself.

And now he's back. Which version of Black Mask will we see? Is it Roman Sionis behind that leering skull? Only time will tell...

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At 10:26 AM, Blogger SallyP said...

You know, that is actually a pretty good story, past AND present. I do have to say, that when I kick the bucket, I want one of those snazzy coffins with a hidden bottom and a crypt below. It would be JUST so snazzy.


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