Batman: Jazz #3
March 9, 2015
If you have to ask what jazz is, you'll never know... but we can definitely say that Batman really has nothing to do with it.
Linkara: Hello, and welcome to Atop the Fourth Wall, where bad comics burn. It's time to put an end to this cacophony of crap, (holds up hands, as if there's supposed to a comic) "Batman: Jazz"! (looks at his hands, noticing he's holding nothing) And once again, the comic has not arrived yet.
(Cut to black)
(Cut to a shot of the cover of "Batman: Fortunate Son" as Linkara begins his recap of the series)
Linkara (v/o): The writer of "Batman: Fortunate Son" decided to take on jazz music...
(Cut to shots of the "Batman: Jazz" series)
Linkara (v/o): ...and crafted a conspiracy theory about a real-life musician who tragically died from substance abuse and instead made him fake his death so he could go to Europe and return under a fake name and play in jazz clubs that have a very loose dress code. He was then attacked by three demonic Picasso paintings called the Brothers of the Bop and put into a hospital. And then somehow Batman got involved in all of this, because, apparently, Gerard Jones, the writer, thinks that Batman is the guy who tackles musical genres instead of the Joker.
Linkara: So until we finally see these creators make (make "finger quotes") "Batman: Country Folk Hero", let's dig into "Batman: Jazz #3".
(AT4W title card plays; title card has smooth jazz playing in the background. Cut to a closeup of the comic)
Linkara (v/o): The cover features one of those Brothers of the Bop demon things, but giant-sized and trying to eat Batman.
Linkara: "Batman vs. Godzilla" proved to be a shocking disappointment.
Linkara (v/o): Is it sad that among the three covers for this miniseries, this is the one I understand the most? And yet, we still have no idea what the hell these Brothers of the Bop things are. Also, there's blood seeping out of the thing's mouth, which means one of two possibilities: either Batman has actually gotten one of his legs chomped off, or the demon bopper has a serious gum disease problem.
(The comic opens to the first page)
Linkara (v/o): When we last left off, Batman was following up on a lead at some palatial mansion where he hopes to get some answers about Blue Byrd, the jazz musician in this story.
Batman: (narrating) Blue Byrd. Jazz musician. Junkie. Victim of racism. Con man. Wounded boy without a father.
Linkara: (as Batman, wearing his mask) The movie rights alone on this are gonna make me a killing.
Batman: (narrating) Everyone who describes him paints a different man.
Linkara: (as Batman) It's almost like human beings are complex and interact with different people in a variety of ways that shape the image they have of him, but that can't be right.
Linkara (v/o): I want answers to this mystery-- as if the mystery were somehow about my own soul.
Linkara: Look, stop trying to pretend the story has anything to do with Batman! Unless it ends with Batman doing (makes motions like he's playing a saxophone) a saxophone solo, this isn't about his soul!
Linkara (v/o): He's at this mansion because it's the home of a gangster [Al Lucha] that supplied drugs to Byrd back in the day. Naturally, Batman is easily able to get past all the guards and reaches the gangster, who's now old and wheelchair-bound.
Al Lucha: Now that we got us a little privacy... what do you want to talk about?
Linkara: (as Batman) Well, yeah, we've got privacy, but you promised me dinner, too. (crosses arms) This date is awful!
Linkara (v/o): Dear Lord, stylized artwork or not, look at how terrible Batman looks. Aside from the fact that he looks like a squat troll or a Sontaran with bat ears, his cape is massive! Did he parachute in with that thing? Batman asks if Blue Byrd owes the guy money.
Al: Hey, I'm legit these days.
Linkara: (as Al) I'm totally legit with my heavily-armed bodyguards outside. I'm only high on one thing now: life! (dances in his seat while singing) You make me feel like dancing...
Batman: Did Byrd fake his death in 1955 to escape your enforcers? Did you send the Brothers of the Bop to kill him when he resurfaced? Is this whole thing about nothing but a lousy busted drug deal?
Linkara (v/o): Okay, Batman, this is stretching it beyond belief. No gangster sends bebop-themed supervillains to assassinate an old jazz player who owed him some drug money forty years earlier. Maybe kill him, but not go to elaborately silly measures to do so. But yeah, he denies sending the Brothers of the Bop, but of course has his own elaborate yarn about his view of Blue Byrd. Namely, it's how much he used his music to have sex with women and how much he hated white people.
Al: (narrating) He hated white people, that's what I think. That's how he got back at us--through our dames!
Linkara: Batman should add some more descriptors to criminals. They're not only superstitious and cowardly, but amazingly racist and stupidly paranoid.
Al: (narrating) Buzzy Treadwell, he knew what his bread was buttered! He got rich off of white people!
Linkara: (sarcastically) He was the creator of Friends?!
Linkara (v/o): The gangster states that Buzzy Treadwell, the guy Blue Byrd got into a fight with onstage in their final public performance, is the one who actually shipped Byrd off to Europe and helped fake his death. It wasn't the drugs that had done him in, but Buzzy had slipped him something to make it look like he was dead. The gangster agreed to help, figuring it would mean setting Byrd up with his French connection, who would in turn owe him a favor for sending him a big spender.
Linkara: At the very least, it might make for a decent Gene Hackman movie.
Linkara (v/o): The plan backfired when Byrd stopped doing drugs in Europe.
Linkara: Which is kind of weird, since a lot of Americans go to Europe to do drugs.
Linkara (v/o): Batman then pulls the helpless wheelchair-bound man from his chair and demands to know if he sent the Brothers of the Bop after Byrd when he returned. And of course, the gangster has to remind the world's greatest detective that ordinary criminal empires like his don't want big, flashy, over-the-top supervillain types like that getting the attention of the cops or anything. Good Lord, Batman! Did Stryfe loan you his cape?! Why is it extended so high up off your shoulder? Hell, why is your shoulder halfway up your head? Is your head sinking into your neck?! The gangster suggests that maybe Buzzy Treadwell decided to try killing Byrd, and Batman swears he'll be back if he's lied to him.
Al: Hey, you think Al Lucha cares about one little musician? I ran the whole uptown scene! I elected mayors in this town. Governors.
Linkara: (as Al) Senators, presidents, United Nations secretary generals! BOW DOWN BEFORE ME!
Al: Hell, I helped the O.S.S. with the invasion o' Sicily in '45*. There wouldn't be no C.S.I. without me. I was big then.
- NOTE: Al actually says "'43", because that is actually when Sicily was indeed invaded during World War II.
Linkara (v/o): And we see him alone and small in his large room.
Linkara: (mock sadness) Aw, it's really sad and pathetic that the criminal drug kingpin isn't as important anymore. (beat) Why did we need to end the scene like this? (shrugs in confusion)
Linkara (v/o): Batman returns to the hospital, hoping that Byrd is strong enough now to answer some questions, but finds the Countess in the middle of trying to move him to her apartment to try to take care of him in privacy – and possibly security, given that a public hospital has plenty of openings for somebody to assassinate him, and not just with eighth-note bombs like in the last issue. Batman asks her if Buzzy Treadwell could be responsible, and she reveals that indeed, she's read him the Riot Act before on his performance style.
Countess: I told him that his hip-talk and his costume would kill the truth in jazz!
Linkara: What she means is that Buzzy Treadwell had become a jazz-themed superhero. (makes a tossing motion) Little saxophone-shaped projectiles.
Linkara (v/o): Batman swings off to go confront Treadwell, who, to add further evidence to him being responsible, is back in town after a European tour. Okay, so he's back by sheer coincidence at the same time that the Countess managed to recognize Blue Byrd in the club and start an assassination scheme upon him? Yeah, spoilers: Buzzy's not responsible, either, so everything that we'd beheld so far is just the most convenient cosmic alignment in history. The star is probably formed into a saxophone constellation or something. Time for Batman to wax poetic a bit more, this time about Buzzy's trumpet-playing in the club he's in. I'll give the comic this: the descriptions of the music here, despite lacking any actual notes, do paint a very clear picture in your mind what it likely sounds like.
Batman: (narrating) The cool control of Byrd spoke to my own heart. Buzzy Treadwell rides a tiger that I never dared set loose.
Linkara: (as Batman) Ironically, he's playing a jazz-themed version of "Eye of the Tiger".
Linkara (v/o): Batman confronts Buzzy after the concert.
Buzzy: Man, I thought they made you up! But Buzzy should know that the most de-light-ful possibility is always truest! Look at you there with that crazy cape and those little slits for eyes!
Linkara: (as Batman) Yeah, I swapped out my mask for one that wasn't quite finished yet, so (moves arms around) I'm kinda having a hard time seeing you right now.
Linkara (v/o): And "crazy cape" is right. I can't tell if that thing off to the side is a statue or a Symbiote from Marvel that's attached itself to Batman. When Batman asks Buzzy about the attack, the members of Buzzy's band attack him.
Bandmate: Lib Bozzy a-lone!
Linkara: (as the bandmate, pretending to cry) Lib Bozzy alone! He a human!
Linkara (v/o): Naturally, a bunch of random jazz musicians are not really a match for Batman, and Buzzy tells them to knock it off since he's here to help Byrd. And now it's time for Buzzy's Rashomon of Blue Byrd, explaining what the fight that the two of them had was really over.
Linkara: (listlessly, his head resting on his hand) You know, everything in this damn book is about music. It would have been less repetitive if it turned out the fight had really been about a parking ticket!
Linkara (v/o): It turns out that area in the park where Batman first found Byrd used to be a club, the one where Byrd had first become a musician and discovered his style. Buzzy says that the drugs were to "quiet the other pain in him," but that it was getting in the way of his ability to make music instead. The "fight" they had was when Byrd was having trouble finding the beat that they were playing, and when Buzzy suggested the band slow down to let him catch up, Byrd took offense. They had always struggled to keep up with him, and now he was having trouble. Buzzy left the stage that night to try to shake Byrd out of his funk and make him realize what he was doing to himself. Unfortunately, instead, he went to the Countess' place, got high, and nearly overdosed. The Countess, in turn, called Buzzy in.
Countess: Look what you have done to jazz.
Linkara: Um, lady, your first instinct when your greatest love was dying was to call his bandmate (makes a wagging motion with his finger) to wag your finger at him? You're kind of an idiot, aren't you?
Linkara (v/o): Buzzy isn't a damn puppy; CALL THE HOSPITAL! Byrd was still alive and asked Buzzy to get him out of the country so that he could try to rebuild his life elsewhere. He did so and made sure to keep it secret from the Countess. Not surprising, considering she cared more about thumbing her nose at Buzzy than helping the dude.
Buzzy: Koko would've dug her claws in somehow, gummed it up. She said I was bad for Byrd. And she'd do anything to prove she was right.
Linkara: (as Buzzy) You do not want to watch MythBusters with her. She smashed in two TVs when she disagreed with the conclusions they made.
Linkara (v/o): So yes, with this bit of information, the truth stands revealed on the next page: the Countess is the culprit as she starts monologuing to the half-conscious Byrd.
Countess: You were about to destroy yourself in ways far worse than death. Commuting to the suburbs. Watching television. Sagging into middle class "respectability," just as the world wanted.
Linkara: (as Countess) How dare you make decisions about your own life!
Countess: The fight with Buzzy broke you. You were mumbling about "cleaning up." You were abandoning the tortured quest for truth.
Linkara (v/o): The "truth", which could only be found through playing a saxophone and doing drugs?
(Cut to a clip of an episode of Dragnet)
Sgt. Joe Friday (Jack Webb): (to a hippie) So don't you con me with your mind-expansion slop. I deal with kids every day. I try to clean up the mess that people like you make out of them. I'm the expert here. You're not.
(Cut back to the comic)
Linkara (v/o): She also admits that it wasn't a drug overdose that did him in all those years ago, but pills she had slipped into his drink to try to kill him. It wasn't a strong enough dose and now she intends to inject him with a poison to finish the job.
Countess: Look at you. An old man. You could have been tragic youth! The flame snuffed too soon that shows us all the cruelty of the world! We needed you to be that! To show them the true meaning of jazz!
Linkara: (confused) So the true meaning of jazz is (makes "finger quotes") "yolo"? (shrugs)
Countess: Well, you still can. Few know that "Willie Little" is Blue Byrd. If my boys silence those few, your legend will remain intact.
Linkara: So, with this latest reveal, let me share a revelation of my own: "Batman: Jazz" and "Batman: Fortunate Son" ARE THE SAME DAMN STORY.
(Cut to shots of "Fortunate Son")
Linkara (v/o): Both are about a highly artistic musician praised for their artistry and lack of want for money. Both feature someone who could be considered a close friend trying to destroy them because they feel that the musician is better as a martyr to their art, rather than continue on living and potentially sully that artwork. Both feature wild conspiracy theory rewritings of history: Charlie Parker's life and death for "Jazz"; Sid Vicious and his girlfriend in "Fortunate Son". And both involve lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of pretentious preening about the music and how good they're supposed to be, as if their bodies were "forged by the heavens"! We'll get into this a bit more later, but in the meantime, more crazy!
(Cut back to "Batman: Jazz")
Countess: You have to understand, Blue. You have to be grateful to me. Because I love you, Blue. I'm the only one... who loves the true you.
(Cut to a clip of an episode of Star Trek)
Marta: (pulling a knife on Spock) He's my love and I have to kill him.
(Back to the comic again)
Linkara (v/o): Fortunately, Batman arrives in the nick of time to stop her. The Countess summons the Brothers of the Bop, revealed to be her entourage, who would normally be wearing masks, and not surprising, given that their normal appearance makes them look like late 1970s computer programmers. And yet, they still have that drum attached to a dude's stomach that launches missiles. In this case, it's a missile that collides directly into Batman's leg and injects drugs into him.
Bop Brother: The drugs go in the bat! No matter no matter no mat! The drugs go in the bat! And down he fall, into his mind... What be-bop hell will this cat find?
(Cut to a clip of an episode of Scrubs)
Dr. Cox: Blah-blah, blah-blah-blah, blah-blah-blah, cool hip-hop lingo, blah-blah, blah-blah-blah.
(Cut back to the comic)
Linkara (v/o): So Batman starts tripping balls...
Linkara: Which I seem to say more often on this show than you would ever think...
Linkara (v/o): But fortunately, he's brought out of it by, of all things, Buzzy Treadwell playing his trumpet.
Buzzy: Yep. Nothing like a little be-bop to wake a man up.
Linkara: You heard it here first, folks: the cure to drug addiction... is jazz music.
Linkara (v/o): Unfortunately, as The A-Team showed us, even jazz can be a drug.
(Cut to a clip of an episode of The A-Team)
Mr. T: He's on the jazz... He's on the jazz...
(Back to the comic again)
Countess: Be-bop! Be-bop! BE-BOP KILLED BLUE BYRD!
Linkara: (as the Countess, shaking fist) And Rocksteady helped!
Linkara (v/o): Apparently, during Batman's drug trip, the Brothers of the Bop got in full costume, making me wonder how, if they had enough time for that, they didn't just kill both Blue Byrd and Batman, but whatever. Batman and Buzzy promptly kick the crap out of them. Buzzy apparently has superpowers, too. Or at least his clothes do, since they have the magical ability to keep their pattern vertical no matter how he moves his body. Byrd regains consciousness and asks for his saxophone back.
Countess: Don't play, Byrd! Don't play! Jazz is dead!
Linkara: So, like, no other jazz musicians ever interested you? It was only Blue Byrd? He dies, and the genre dies with him? Come to think of it, what exactly are you the Countess of?
Byrd: Never, Koko-baby. Never. Only what you think jazz is.
Countess: Then... Then what is jazz? Someone tell me...what is jazz?
Linkara: The best weapon in the war on drugs, apparently.
Byrd: Guess it's like Louis Armstrong said: "If you gots to ask, you'll never know."
Linkara: I prefer a different Armstrong quote: "All music is folk music. I ain't never heard a horse sing a song."
Linkara (v/o): With the Countess and the Brothers of the Bop taken, we bookend the series with the same narration Batman started with in the first issue.
Batman: (narrating) This is Uptown, where sounds in the night usually lead me to violence and pain.
Linkara: Well, considering what happened over the last few issues, that's still true.
Linkara (v/o): Batman says his farewell to Byrd, asking if he's going to stick with his pseudonym or return to his real name [Willie Leaper]. He says he's sticking to the pseudonym since he doesn't want people listening to him just because he's a famous junkie or a guy who came back from the dead.
Byrd: I wore a lot of masks in my life. I guess you found that out.
Linkara: (as Batman, wearing his mask) Yes, although I remain confused about the mask made out of grass. (as Byrd) Look, it was for this ACI educational short thing, and I regretted every minute of it.
Byrd: But there's a time when you don't need the mask anymore. You catch that tune at the heart of things. You play it, then other people play it with you. And you don't have to be alone. That's jazz.
Linkara: (sarcastically) But I thought jazz couldn't be explained or defined. Or is it that it's only okay to explain it as long as nobody asks first?
Linkara (v/o): And so, our comic ends with the punks from the first issue who had attacked Byrd returning. It seems the kids just want to play their music and got rid of their friend who had a gun before. Thus, the generations bond, playing their boombox and the saxophone at the same time together. And all while Batman watches and listens, huddled between two gargoyles.
Linkara: (as Batman, imitating his huddled pose) God, why didn't I wear the bat thermal underwear today? It's freezing out here! (normal again) Unfortunately, this comic sucks.
(For Linkara's closing shots, there are alternating shots of "Batman: Jazz" and "Fortunate Son", as both are compared to one another)
Linkara (v/o): What I'll grant to "Batman: Jazz" is that it's a hell of a lot better written than "Fortunate Son". Blue Byrd is nowhere near as annoying and unlikeable as Izaak Crowe, and I'm actually quite happy he lived, versus Crowe, who I was just glad finally had an end to his drunken, drug-crazed, hallucinatory ramblings. Another difference is that this seems to have a hell of a lot more respect for jazz than rock 'n' roll, despite what the creators might have said. Here, they actually are clear that jazz is not just one thing, as opposed to the narrow definitions and wildly inaccurate ideas espoused in "Fortunate Son". And while I don't like how Batman seems to be a bit player in this and could be replaced with any hard-boiled detective, it's better than the retcons trying to get Batman involved in "Fortunate Son" by having him be this massive enemy of rock music. Unfortunately, despite the few strengths it does have, the writing is also where the story falls apart. As I've said before, despite continually trying to punch us with the similarities of the two characters, it just doesn't work, and this is not a story that needs to have Batman be a part of it. And while the revelation of the Countess as the villain is well-handled, it raises a bunch of plot holes: Why did the Countess make her henchmen dress like the Picasso jazz drawings? Where did they get the equipment for their weaponized gas bombs, missiles, and stylized grenades? Why do they all speak in scat and rhyme? How is it that all of these people just happen to be in town at the same time for this final encounter?! Why does this story keep trying to make us sympathize who are truly NOT DESERVING OF THAT SYMPATHY?!
(Cut to the obligatory clip of Batman Forever)
Bruce Wayne (Val Kilmer): It just raises too many questions.
(Cut back to the comic)
Linkara (v/o): Artistically, for something that's supposed to be about the beauty and energy of jazz, they could not have picked out a worse artist for it. I get the pencils being more stylized, but the colors are terrible. Everything is murky and washed out and dark and unpleasant to look at. If the art was supposed to represent jazz, you made jazz completely unappealing.
Linkara: I may not know what jazz is, but I know what I like, and this is not it. (gets up and leaves)
(End credits roll)
Also: Blue Byrd is still kind of a dick since he let his loving wife believe he's been dead this whole time.
Coming soon: Buzzy Treadwell IS... SAXMAN!
(Stinger: The panel showing Batman's final conversation with Blue Byrd is shown)
Batman: I understand why you needed the masks, Mister Byrd. I understand the pain of early loss, of violence, of isolation from mankind.
Linkara: (as Batman, wearing his mask) Which is why I have no sidekicks and have never been part of any superhero groups.