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Batman #19 - Story 3

August 11, 1943

"The Case of the Timid Lion"

With a title like this, you might think this is a more personal story, but it's really just the next tale of the Joker's exploits. Does it hold up? Let's take a look.

The story opens with a Mister Fish being found in the aquarium at the zoo. Indeed, the Joker seems to be leaving his calling cards as he places people with animal last names in various cages at the zoo with a Mr. Lyon as his next target.

It turns out though that the Joker isn't responsible. Someone is pretending to be him and he intends to find out who. There's some really great shading on the Joker's face as he speaks with his henchman. Meanwhile, Mr. Lyon hires a bodyguard as he's dissatisfied with the police's efforts to protect him. He brings them with him to an exclusive club that is forced to accept the bodyguard detail if he is to enter. The lights suddenly go out as Lyon steps away from the table.

And here is where it gets interesting. Batman and Joker arrive at the club from opposite ends. Both followed Lyon to keep tabs on him - Batman thinking he will capture the Joker and Joker thinking he will find the impersonator. The thing is, Joker comes to think Batman set this all up as a means to trap him. They duke it out in the darkness. As they do, we learn who is impersonating Joker - Lyon himself.

He set up the whole thing so he could hire the guard detail and bring them into the club to rob in the cover of the darkness. They get away with a haul of money and Joker slips away in the darkness when Batman and Robin lose their footing on spilled water. (Yeah, that was a little hard to accept, but there it is.)

The thing is, both Batman and Joker suspect Lyon of the robbery even though Joker gets the blame for it as he is the known criminal. It upsets Joker to be blamed for something he didn't do or earn the benefits from. Lyon's next target it a polo match attended by the elite. As he and his men reveal themselves this time and rob from those attending, Joker and Batman show up once again and get into the mix of fighting.

Lyon tries to escape, but Joker gets the upper hand and is able to capture Lyon, Batman and Robin. He and his man make their escape with the three trussed up on horses taken from the polo stable. The art in this story has really impressed me and why wouldn't it as it's the pencil of legendary artist Dick Sprang.

He brings them to the zoo where he leaves the three in a cage with a real lion. Batman and Robin subdue the animal with their Batropes and Batman is able to retrieve the key to the cage that the Joker conveniently left just what he thought would be out of reach for Batman. Batman then comes on the idea of using a cheetah or hunting leopard (never realized they were one and the same) to track down Joker.

Joker thinks he has the upper hand as he and his man are riding horses, but they are thrown by the animals when they are spooked by the cheetah. Batman quickly lays out Joker and both wind up in jail.

A much better story after the last one that was the first one I genuinely struggled to read through. This one had a good plot and fantastic art. What's next? The final story of this anthology issue, Citizens!

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