Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Who Shot Mlle. Marie?

Cover Art by Jim Aparo

 Mademoiselle Marie was created by Bob Kanigher and Jerry Grandenetti in 1959--another wonderful addition to DC's ever-growing stable of World War II characters. Marie had been a farm girl, but after joining the Resistance, she pretty much became an anti-Nazi Death Machine. Simply put, she was too cool for words and it is literally impossible to avoid falling in love with her.

Unlike Marvel, DC's war-time characters did not have much presence in stories set in contemporary times. An older Sgt. Rock popped up a few times in The Brave and the Bold, but the continuity status of those were debatable even at the time. (Many people lumped those tales into Earth B--a universe created to contain stories from B&B and World's Finest that didn't quite fit into DC's primary universe.)

So it's an inherently fun idea when, in Detective Comics #501 (April 1981), we get to find out what Marie's been doing since the war.

Sadly, she's apparently been spending that time dead, having been shot by an unknown traitor near the end of the war.

This all comes out in the open when both Alfred Pennyworth and Lucian Fox receive telegrams and--without a word from either of them to Bruce Wayne--travel to France.

It turns out both men served with the French Resistance during the war--Alfred as a British agent and Lucian as an OSS liaison. Both men had known Mlle. Marie. And now Alfred at least is suspected of having murdered her.

Well, Bruce Wayne is nothing if not nosy. He follows, saves them from an assassination attempt and catches a couple of the would-be killers. But the gunmen are both former Resistance, as is most of the men who later kidnap Alfred and Lucian. There's a young lady leading the kidnappers--someone that Alfred actually knocks out Batman to protect.

Cover art by Jim Aparo

This is Marie's daughter Julia. As the story continues into Detective #502, we find out that Marie was pregnant when she was shot. She lived long enough to give birth, occasionally whispering Alfred's name in her delirium. Then she vanishes and a body later found in the river is assumed to be her.

Julia assumes her mom was whispering the name of the man who shot her--so now she and her friends plan on holding an unofficial execution. Batman convinces them to wait 12 hours so that he can find the real traitor.

It's here that I think the story suffers a little. Though the tale is overall a strong one, I think it would have benefited from being a three-parter rather than a two-parter. Bruce/Batman's investigation is covered in a brief montage. When he finds the real traitor, he has a solid reason for suspecting him--but actual proof depends on the guy having kept the very same gun with which he shot Marie 35 years earlier. That's a bit of a stretch. Adding an issue to the story would have given writer Gerry Conway room to flesh out the mystery and give it a stronger conclusion.

Anyway, Alfred is cleared and--to the surprise of absolutely no one--turns out to be Julia's father. It's established that he didn't know about Julie until a couple of years after the war, which provides adequate justification for why the single most responsible person in the DC universe would apparently abandon his daughter. By then, she's been essentially adopted by another family, so Alfred decides to send cash, but never tell Julia about himself. It's debatable whether this still makes sense now that Julia is in her 30s and knows she has a biological dad out there somewhere, but the emotions generated here are sincere.

Also, whether Marie died back in 1945 is called into question. Sadly, I don't think the pre-Crisis DC stories ever got around to resolving this.

Don Newton's interior art is fantastic and the tale effectively keys off Batman's ability as a skilled detective. Making it a three-parter to flesh out the mystery and give the whodunit part a stronger conclusion would have helped a lot, but the art and the strong characterizations given to Alfred and Julia tip these issues into the awesome column.

Next week, we'll join a couple of members of Our Gang for a riverboat journey.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...