It must be great to be a mainstream comic villain.

People talk about the world of Grand Theft Auto having no consequences for violent mayhem. It seems like they're unfamiliar with the world of Gotham City.

Here are a series of images from Batman: Battle for the Cowl #1. In case you're unfamiliar with the storyline, it concerns the long process of deciding who's going to take over for Batman during his long exile in the distant past (or possibly the Australian outback - it's unlcear). Now, a normal person upon hearing that Batman's "dead" would naturally just assume that Dick Grayson would take over being Batman. DC, on the other hand, took four months and fifteen issues, for a combined cover price of 45 dollars American, to get to that point.

But 'decompressed storytelling' isn't why we're here, so on to the panels. As usual, the dialogue has been redacted due to my poor understanding of copyright law.

That's Batman's ne'er-do-well son Damien (like in the Omen, get it?). He's used the fact that he's driving the Batmobile to pick up a teen girl. He's kind of an unlikable dirtbag, and it's entirely unclear how old he's supposed to be (because they don't want to commit to Batman's age - although, seriously, if you're worried about that, don't give him a worthless son character, huh?).

Oracle, the former Batgirl, has tired of Damien's antics, so she uses a computer override to make the Batmobile eject the teen girl (please note her pink converse high-tops), then she heads it towards the docks, where a group of supervillains, notably Poison Ivy and Killer Croc are murdering dozens of Two-Face's mob soldiers. That drive is subsequently interrupted by the most superfluous sound effect in the history of comic books:

Seriously? "SLAM"? I know the editors over at DC think that the average comic book reader is a moron, but isn't this the bottom of the barrel? Do they really think that people wouldn't know what was happening in this panel? Anyhow, the Batmobile winds up in a swamp, and Damien has to crawl out. What does he find when he gets there? Killer Croc and Poison Ivy, of course!

And what's that Croc is tossing away? Yup, it's the teen girl's shoe, with the severed foot still inside. While Damien was incapacitated for a few moments, Croc captured and devoured an innocent bystander that Damien and Orcale had conspired to put into harm's way. How does the bat-team deal with this situation? Dick flies in on a rocket-glider and rescues Damien before Croc can eat him as well, making a joke about him being on the 'sushi menu'.

You'll notice that the resolution in now way involved summarily executing Killer Croc for that act of... um... you know, I'm not sure if he's still human enough to count that as 'cannibalism'. The point is, he just killed and ate a teenage girl. How is he allowed to live more than a few seconds longer, really, the amount of time it takes to stuff a bat-bomb into his mouth and hold his jaws shut? The kicker? That horrifyingly brutal off-panel murder will never be mentioned again, nor will any thought be given to the grieving relatives of that poor girl.

If and when Croc is recaptured, he'll be tossed in Blackgate Prison or Arkham Asylum (which, given how many times it's been rebuilt over the past couple of years you'd think it wouldn't look like a 12th-century moorish dungeon any more - do they only hire architects for the rebuilding who specialize in 'dank'?) until he slaughters a few guards and escapes, then goes back to cannibalizing innocent people.

Oh, and this random, summary-execution-deserving violence isn't just restricted to formerly black mutant alligators. Here's a panel from issue 3 of the same series, in which Two-Face, before killing a subordinate, announces that he's decided to chum the waters with a bucket full of the chopped-up remains of that subordinate's wife and children.

Say what you will about Stardust: The Super Wizard's rank stupidity as a character, at least he knew how to know how to handle a situation like this. By turning all the villains into worms with human heads who are then speared on hooks and lowered into the water, still screaming. The screaming then attracts fish who devour them. The end.

Is it any wonder I've been reading mostly Golden Age comics?

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