Gamblers Anonymous, Part Two

Bloggified by Jake on Tuesday, February 28, 2006

When last we left Batman and Superman, they were teaching young readers about gambling, and doing it poorly, stressing that--while they stand for truth and justice--if you feel you're not winning enough at a casino, it's only "cheating" if you get caught.

Oh, and if the cheating thing doesn't work out, always carry a small vial of poison with you when you go to the casino in case you need to kill yourself before anyone calls in your markers.

Now aboard an alien ship headed for a gambling planet, Superman decides there's plenty of time to get his hair done. (I was going to make a joke using "fluff and a blow" here, but decided you, dear reader, are far too cultured to laugh at that.) The alien gamblers, decide to pass the time with a few wagers.Batman, you're now the legal property of aliens because of a bad roll of some giant novelty dice. While you're sitting in your glass house, pointing out others' gambling addictions, would you like some stones to throw? Do you have a kettle around anywhere and might you like to point out what color it is?

When they finally arrive on Ventura, the Gamblers' Planet, we are introduced to a world where the capital has been replaced by a National Casino and machines do everything so the people can spend every waking hour gambling. Superman is taken around to learn more about the planet so he won't be at a disadvantage when they do the Big Gamble for Batman's Life! which now has an added stake that if Superman loses, he also must stay on Ventura forever.What does it say when Superman is more concerned and rattled about the fact he's met a woman with the same initials as some other chicks he's dated than about the fact he's going to be betting his friend's life and his own freedom against a culture that holds gambling in such high regard it does nothing else? Get your superpriorities in order!

The first place he goes is the Prison for Bad Losers as a warning. On Ventura, there is no greater crime than complaining after you lose a bet. While there, word comes down that one of the prisoners has escaped. Superman helps find him just as he's about to blow up the planet.You mean there are no guards posted at the power station that keeps the whole planet running and has the power to destroy everything? Not even a fence around it? Shit, they are hardcore gamblers.

Considering the Venturans earlier made it clear they can kill Batman with a mere thought, you might think this is no big deal, but one of the alien theorizes the mental energy might damage the control panel, accomplishing the same results as letting the prisoner throw the switch. The only other option is to disconnect the control panel by going inside the fusion sphere, but who could possible survive the intense radiation within?

Fortunately, it takes the scorned loser longer to pull the switch than it takes to explain all this, for Superman to bore through a hundred yards of solid ground, and to disconnect the wires inside the sphere, rendering the control panel inoperative.

With the slow-reflexed madman in custody, the tour continues. Superman learns about some of the games the Venturans play, including one where the winner is struck by lightning and another where they split an atom to bet on what particles will be emitted. In light of these ridiculous games and a culture so obsessed with gambling there is nothing they won't wager on, Supes decides the situation is hopeless and he can never "win against such skilled gamblers."

Before the Man of Steel can go back and snap Batman's neck, sparing him the slow painful death to which Superman has resigned him, Lurala, whose secret mission was to break the hero's confidence by showing him all this, has a change of heart. She takes him to a Venturan school where the kids are learning gambling skills.Umm... well if your opponent is Batman you could just give him some dice capable of rolling anything other than a seven or eleven... or shove him inside a big plastic ball.

And is this really the best guy they could find to teach Poker Face 101?Superman realizes the tour was all a tactic to screw him up psychologically before the Big Gamble for Batman's Life! and gives Lurala a huge kiss.Granted, her initials were "L.L." so he had a basis for assuming she'd want his tongue in her esophagus, but this seemed a little forward. Maybe during the lightning bolt game he could have started saying something like "So, uh, does your husband play this game very often? What? Oh, you're not married? Then I meant your boyfriend must--what? You're not dating anyone?" I guess when your erect penis is capable of smashing a steel-reinforced concrete bomb shelter to rubble, you don't feel the need to be subtle with the ladies.

Eschewing psychology alone, the Venturans take the "get into your opponent's head" thing literally later that night, using some kind of dream laser to project directly into Superman's brain a dream where he is told to throw darts at some balloons because gamblers have bet on which one he'll hit.I just don't get the Venturans' motivation. It's been stressed to us they love gambling above all else. It would seem to me they'd be perfectly happy betting on what color balloon is going to be popped by a randomly thrown dart. Why do they need to add the "and then we'll kill someone too" addendum?

He hits Batman's balloon--and it's a shame he didn't aim a little down and to the left--but when they pick up the torn rubber from the popped balloon, Superman's face is on it instead of Batman's!This seems a good time to point out one salient fact from this story. The Venturans never... never... NEVER cheat!

When Batman went to the casino assuming the games were rigged, he found they all were fair. While their games may be stupid, they're legitimately run. They stress being a good sport and fair play to such an extent they have a prison just for people who whine about losing! The only cheaters in this book are the paragons of virtue, Batman and Superman!

(On an only semi-related note, my daughter saw I was writing about a comic that takes place in a casino and asked me to include the following joke:
Why shouldn't you play poker in the jungle? Because there are too many cheetahs.)

Finally, it comes time for the Big Gamble for Batman's Life!, in which Superman and one of the aliens will each pick a planet in our solar system and through the use of "force beams" stop its revolution around the sun. The lack of forward momentum will then cause it to plunge into the sun.I have five points to make here.

1. If the alien is half as skilled a gambler as we're supposed to assume he is, he would have taken Mercury, not Earth. Mercury is significantly lighter than Earth, making it easier to slow and stop in its revolution, and is the planet closest to the sun, making for a much shorter trip to its fiery destruction.

2. Again, the Venturans should be just as happy betting on which model planet will crash into the model sun as they would be betting on crashing a real planet into a real sun and killing billions of people in cold blood.

3. Once Superman realizes the stakes, why doesn't he say, "You guys are fucked in the head. I'm not risking the lives of everyone on Earth in a stupid bet. If you're smart, you'll let me go home now and take Batman with me because now that he's had twenty-four hours to study you and your planet, he's devised about eight thousand ways to ruin you and everything you've ever loved."

4. Now that we realize that sore loser who was going to flip the switch at the power plant was doing so in retaliation for having his entire planet plunged into a star, he really seems like a pussy for not doing it.

5. An asteroid is not a planet!

Of course, as evidenced by the fact I'm writing this and you're reading it, the aliens accepted Superman's stupid circumvention of the rules and the Earth was not destroyed.Of course Superman's coming back. A girl with L.L. initials is to Superman what a drunk coed in a halter top is to a frat boy. "Your honor, the bitch's initials were L.L. so she's practically beggin' for it!"

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