The answer involves time travel, undertaken via the Silver Age Batman method of visiting Dr. Carl Nichols. In "Glove Story", Scooby and the gang are visiting the Gotham City Museum of Culture, where there's a big Batman exhibit. But someone seems to have stolen something from among the trophies the Dark Knight lent the museum; specifically, the purple gloves on his first appearance costume are brand-new fakes, apparently replacing the originals, which must have been stolen.
What happened? Well, as with all things time-travel, it's complicated, but to figure it out, Velma, Shaggy and Scooby travel back in time to the era when Batman was still wearing his original purple-gloved costume.
They start their investigation at Wayne Manor, where the Alfred of years ago informs them, "I truly regret that my employer has no use for teenaged associates nor a dog." That's before First Appearance Batman and "Year One" Bruce Wayne encounter the kids and Scooby though, and their inspiration is underlined in a later panel.
Here's a light-hearted Scooby-Doo crossover that takes interesting bits from the whole history of Batman comics,then. The only bad thing? This is just a limited series.
Interestingly, that story, "Davenport House," isn't really about Maps or centered around the idea of Maps as Robin; she's basically just a Robin, and the story would be little changed were Kerschl to have written and drawn any of the other half-dozen or so potential Robins into it. She's basically there for the same reason Robin is almost always there: To give Batman someone to talk to.
It's essentially just a very clever ghost story with a mystery element, one that allows Kerschl to play up the idea of Batman as the "spirit of Gotham," as others have done in the past. All in all, not bad for eight pages...and it was a delight to see Maps again. It would be great if Kerschl and company could find a way to temporarily revive the Gotham Academy characters; there are so many teens in Batman's stable of sidekicks that it doesn't seem like it would be that hard to do so, and make it marketable enough to appeal to Batman fandom at large for the space of a miniseries or original graphic novel or so...
There are four other stories included in this issue, none of which really take advantage of the black and white format to do anything special or tie-in to it in some notable way, although it is interesting to see what Nick Bradshaw's hyper-detailed art looks like sans color, for example, or what Riley Rossmo's art look likes in black and white (Rossmo, as I am sure I've noted before, is one of my favorite current Batman artists).
The best of the lot is probably Daniel Warren Johnson's "Checkmate," a nice, evergreen, "portrait" sort of story about Batman's relationship with Alfred, how he learned to think ahead and how doing so leads to his peculiar crime-fighting strategies, which can include something as counterintuitve as letting a low-level thug beat on him for a while until his prey comes along. Two-Face is in that story.
As for the rest, they are Joshua Williamson and Rossmo's "A Night in the Life of a Bat in Gotham" (featuring a nice appearance by the Batman family on the final splash page), Chip Zdarsky and Bradshaw's "The Green Deal" (most notable for Batman's intimation that he might already have his own plan to save the world from the climate crisis and environmental degradation, so it's too bad he's not real!), and Becky Cloonan, Terry Dodson and Rachel Dodson's "The Fool's Journey," in which Batman investigates a murder at Haly's Circus, back when Dick was still young enough to be using a pacifier.
All in all, there's a lot of great art, and enough quality comics to justify the hefty $5.99 price tag.
There's a hot springs scene, so the attempts at titillating nudity (or, here, near nudity) are thankfully mostly decoupled from sexual goblin-on-human violence for once. We also learn a new tidbit about the lizard man necromancer, as apparently his people can eventually ascend to become actual dragons.
Despite my somewhat flippant first sentence up there, I still find the book engaging, and am still in a state of active suspense regarding many aspects of the narrative, from elements of the protagonist's origin story to the origin of the goblins themselves. And, or course, what creators Kousuke Kurose and Kumo Kagyu ultimately have in store for the relationship between goblin and slayer.
In Jesus For Farmers and Fishers: Justice For All Those Marginalized by Our Food System (Broadleaf Books; 2021), author Gary Paul Nabhan writes that Jesus sought his disciples among the “fellaheen,” the food-producing peasantry in first century Galilee, the fishermen, subsistence farmers and day-laborers who found themselves marginalized and exploited by the Roman Empire, which goes a long way towards explaining why so many of Jesus' teachings revolved around fishing and farming. Nabhan then re-tells several stories from the gospels and various well-known parables, transforming them, or at least giving them vitality and even slightly different—or at least deeper—meanings, once additional agricultural or fishing context is added and explained. It's not simply a book recontextualizing and explaining certain teachings, however; Nabhahm also draws parallels between the fellaheen of the first century and the low-wage, often exploited food-producers of our own society, and how certain modern farming and fishing methods threaten the land and sea and their ability to remain productive.
Michael E. Mann's The New Climate War (PublicAffairs; 2021) is a particularly pugilistic entry into the ever-growing library of climate crisis literature. A long-time combatant, Mann's time in the trenches has meant he's got plenty of scores to settle and thoughts on climate activism (like, are you doing it wrong, for example) and what he calls "climate inactivism," which outright denialism is morphing into. That, in fact, is the new war he mentions in the title. While the scientific issues are about as settled as science of any kind ever is, the enemy army is moving away from denial and into various tactics to delay change. There's plenty of interesting stuff in here (I was particularly intrigued with the discussion of deflection campaigns past and present), even if it's ultimately probably not your best option for a book on the climate crisis. More on my other blog, which you should visit now and then if you want more frequent Caleb-writing-about-stuff in your Internet-reading diet.
Finally, I listened to the audiobook version of Carlos Lazoda's What Were We Thinking?: A Brief Intellectual History of The Trump Era (Simon & Schuster; 2020). Each chapter is a rather expansive essay from the Pulitzer Prize-winning book critic for The Washington Post devoted to a genre of Trump books, from resistance literature to the so-called "chaos chronicles" about what was going on behind the scenes at the White House, from would-be explanations from what those in the heartland were really thinking to how conservative intellectuals were responding to Trump's ascendancy. In this manner, Lazoda seems to able to review dozens of books at a time, often extracting the most relevant information from them and assembling it in a way that helps contextualize it while finding broader themes.
If the news is the first draft of history, then Lazoda's book reads a bit like the third draft, as he makes sense of the constellation of books about Trump and the last half-decade or so. I found myself actively envious of Lazoda's writing while listening; not necessarily the way he writes, but the way he thinks and is able to assemble such pieces out of reading, say, eight books (or maybe he would read 20 and only mention eight). It's a valuable skill that I marveled at, and wish that I possessed it to apply to books on the environment (as I'm reviewing them, perhaps inefficiently, one-at-a-time on my other blog) or to books about comics, which no one seems to really be covering (but then, it's hard enough finding decent reviews of comics themselves, I suppose reviews of books about comics is asking too much).