Comics Review: Batman 289, Brave and Bold 135

Batman 289 coverBatman #289 – “Sign of the Skull” – David V. Reed/Mike Grell/Vince Colletta

This issue starts with the villain narrating the story. He tells us his name is Cosmo Dugger aka Skull Dugger, and he has anhedonia, which means he’s incapable of feeling joy. He recounts how he was attending a baseball game and used an invention to steal the joy from the batter who hit a home run. Unfortunately, that killed the player, which seems to have come as a surprise to Skull Dugger. He next used his joy-draining machine on an actor who just won an award, killing him too. Later that week, Batman is summoned to the hospital by a Dr. Somers, who shows him the body of a recent lottery winner who dropped dead. She mentions the baseball player and actor and says they all died of heart attacks, but points out a mark on each of their heads, the mark of a skull. Dr. Somers’s superior comes in and says she’s suspended for involving Batman. He seems to think the skull mark is just a weird bruise, but there’s obviously something else going on. Dr. Somers Batman vs body snatcherstells Batman the lottery winner’s body is being stolen. Batman stops the thieves, but the one outside gets away. He reports back to Skull Dugger, who doesn’t seem too upset about not getting the body. He sends the thug on another mission and uses his machine to experience some of the joy he stole from the dead guys. Batman reviews tapes of the three deaths and notices Dugger in the background. He figures out who he is and heads for his house. Bats finds Dugger’s Recogito machine, on which he’s been recording his plans. He hooks himself up to it and almost blows his mind, but gets a clue to where Dugger will strike next. Dugger and his thug (Wiley) are at an old mansion and Dugger gives him the key, the alarm code, and the safe combination. It’s pretty obvious Dugger’s setting Wiley up so he can steal his joy when he loots the safe. But Wiley’s not as stupid as he looks … he brought some back-up. They take Dugger inside and start working on the safe. Batman shows up and starts pounding them, but every move he makes causes him unbearable pain. Batman conkedDugger conks him out and zaps Wiley just as he opens the safe. Wiley dies and Dugger takes his body home to figure out why his victims keep dying. He finds the skull mark on Wiley’s forehead and realizes Batman was tracking him. He finds what’s left of the Recogito machine and says all the stuff from the machine overloaded Batman’s senses (or something), so now whenever he’d normally feel joy, he feels pain instead. At police HQ, we see Batman in a chair, afraid to move. We’ll have to wait till next issue to see what happens.Batman freaked

Noticeable Things:

  • To me, the face on the cover looks a lot like Ra’s Al Ghul; I’m wondering if that was a deliberate mislead to sell more issues.
  • Would Batman really be careless enough to just hook himself to Dugger’s machine, with no clue what it does?
  • If joy causes Batman pain, I guess Bruce Wayne won’t be getting any action for a while.

Brave and Bold 135 coverBrave & the Bold 135 – “More Than Human” – Bob Haney/Jim Aparo

This one starts out with the Metal Men digging up a 100-year old time capsule on the shared property line between two buildings. One of the buildings belongs to Bruce Wayne, the other to a woman named Ruby Ryder. Unfortunately, Ryder is another of the loud, man-hating feminists who were all over comics in the 70s. I’m not sure if there were a lot of them in the real world, or if that was just the impression that most men had at the time; I suspect it’s the latter. Despite her snottiness, Bruce kinda has the hots for her (of course). Anyway, the Metal Men find a capsule and a weird-looking “humanoid” busts out. (By the way they use the term, and Doc Magnus’s later explanation, I think Humanoid is synonymous with android in this issue.) He claims to be Jason Morgan, the “offspring” of the guy who buried the capsule (Thaddeus Morgan). But another humanoid jumps out and saysBatman pounded HE’S the real Jason Morgan. He starts pounding the first one and rips his arm off, revealing him to be robotic. Bruce takes off and the Metal Men tackle Jason Morgan, but get their asses kicked. Morgan grabs Ruby Ryder and takes off like Quasimodo with Esmerelda. Batman goes after him, but he gets pounded too. The cops show up and the Metal Men and Batman take the first humanoid back to Doc Magnus’s lab. The humanoid has a piece of parchment clutched in its hand. Magnus says Thaddeus Morgan was trying to build an android back in the 19th century, but the broken one they brought in is made of modern materials. He figures it couldn’t be more than a month old or so. While they’re talking, the other humanoid sneaks in and grabs the parchment. Tin sees him and everyone tries to grab him, but he smashes through the roof and gets away. Batman goes looking and sees lights at Ruby Ryder’s penthouse. Turns out she and the humanoid are lovers (!) and she was the one who put the fake android in the capsule. Apparently, it’s some scheme to destroy Bruce Wayne and the parchment will help her do it. Batman’s surprised (and maybe a tad jealous), but he figures he should play it cool. He goes home and later gets a call from Tin, who was watching Ryder’s place. The humanoid prettyTin slaughtered much slaughters Tin by the time Batman gets there. He finds out Ruby and Morgan are at the courthouse and heads over. Morgan is presenting the parchment to a judge as the Last Will and Testament of Thaddeus Morgan. It leaves everything to the humanoid, Jason Morgan, but the judge says a humanoid doesn’t have legal rights. Ruby offers to prove Morgan is human (for a minute there, I thought she was going to show him some candid shots of them doing it). She does a bunch of non-scientific crap and the judge arbitrarily rules Morgan is human and slaps a restraining order on Batman for good measure. Good thing Bob Ingersoll wasn’t doing his column back then or his head would’ve exploded. Batman goes back to Magnus’s lab and finds out Tin is dead (or at least, his responsometer is smashed). Batman wants to charge Morgan with murder, but Magnus says Tin wasn’t human so that wouldn’t work—plus, if Morgan was charged, Batman would be admitting that he IS human after all. Magnus tells Bats the broken robot was manufactured by Ryder’s company (I thought Batman already knew that from watching Ryder and Morgan in theMorgan owns the building penthouse? Maybe he couldn’t hear their conversation?) Batman figures Ryder must’ve wanted whatever’s in Thaddeus Morgan’s will, so she made a fake humanoid and planted it (and the will) in the capsule. But what’s in the will? Batman finds that out as soon as he gets to the Wayne Building. Apparently, Thaddeus Morgan owned the land that Bruce’s building is on, so he now owns Wayne Enterprises. I’m not sure that’s how the law works, but I guess that’s how it is in the DC universe. We’ll have to wait till next issue to see if Bruce gets his building back.

Noticeable Things:

  • On the cover the humanoid looks kinda like Marvel’s Mr. Hyde.
  • I can see nobody noticing the parchment in the humanoid’s hand when it was dark, but how did no one see it in the brightly lit lab? Especially Batman, the master of observation.
  • Was Tin really the best choice to watch the building? Wouldn’t Mercury have been able to hide better? And they know Tin can’t fight worth a shit.
  • The captions and dialogue say it’s the “Wayne Building” that Morgan takes over, not the “Wayne Foundation Building”. It doesn’t really look like the Wayne Foundation Building either, so I’m not sure if this is meant to be a different building, or if it’s just Haney playing fast and loose with continuity as usual.
  • I’m really not sure about legal ownership of the building passing to someone just because it’s on their land, but even if that’s the case, would Morgan have the right to dismiss all of Wayne’s employees and take over his office? Wouldn’t Bruce’s company be a separate legal entity from the building it’s housed in?
  • As I mentioned, Ruby Ryder seems to be a stereotypical 70s feministRyder and Morgan who hates men and is pissed off all the time. But when she first gets grabbed by the humanoid, she yells for Batman to help her, and later she seems pretty enamored of the brutish humanoid. That was another stereotype about feminists in the 70s, that under all the equality talk what they really wanted was to be seduced (or manhandled) by a brutish alpha-male.

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