Comics Reviews: Batman 303, Detective 479, Brave & the Bold 143

Batman 303 coverBatman #303 – “Batman’s Great Identity Switch” – David V. Reed/John Calnan/Dick Giordano

This one starts with Batman fighting Neanderthals. Don’t worry, he wasn’t thrown into the past by Darkseid (like that could ever happen!), he’s just fighting some thugs dressed like Neanderthals at the Natural History Museum. One of the cavemen bonks him with a rock and they flee. The guards find a stunned Batman and ask him if “Dodo Man” was trying to rob the Museum, but Batman’s too confused to give them answers. He leaves and notices the Bat-Signal outside, so he ducks into the shadows and changes into … Bruce Wayne? Yup, he’s got some kind of weird identity-switched amnesia. Bruce swings into Gordon’s office and Gordon realizes he’s the Batman, so he assumes Batman is disguised as Bruce Wayne for some reason. He tells Bruce that a swindler named Big Max has surfaced at acasino fight casino and Bruce says he’ll take care of it. He heads over to the casino and beats the shit out if Max, who has no clue who Bruce is. One of the other patrons does recognize Bruce, which should be great publicity for Wayne Enterprises. Bruce returns home, freaking out Alfred when he realizes Bruce has been playing Batman in his civilian identity. When he comes out the next morning in the Batman costume and says he’s going to the office, Alfred’s fears are confirmed: Bruce thinks the Bruce Wayne identity is the superhero and Batman is the cover. After Batman leaves (to walk to work) Alfred goes through his casebooks and finds out about the stakeout of the Museum last night. He reads up on a crook called Dodo Man, who compulsively steals anything to do with dodo birds; since the Museum just opened a dodo exhibit, Batman thought he had a chance to catch the thief red-handed. Alfred doesn’t know what triggered the memory fuck-up, but starts thinking of ways to reverse it. Meanwhile, Batman is mobbed on his way to work, but most people assume he’s just some nutcase pretending to be the Caped Crusader. He gets run off by cops, chased by kids, and tossed out of Bruce Wayne’s Country Club. At the docks, a couple of scumbags try to jump him and he knocks them into the water, trying not to give away his “secret”.dock fight Finally he heads home and goes to bed. Alfred has been planning all day, so when Dodo ManBatman (as Bruce Wayne) jumps in his car to go on patrol, Alfred follows. Bruce gets a signal from a bug that leads him to the Natural History Museum. He heads inside and finds the bug under the wing of a stuffed dodo, which instantly triggers his memory back to normal. He switches to Batman just in time to catch Dodo Man, who hid inside the Museum until everyone was gone. He pounds Dodo Man and turns him over to the guards, then takes off. Outside, Alfred sees him leave (as Batman) and knows that planting the bug on the dodo worked. He drives Bruce’s car back home and Bruce gives him shit for joy-riding. Alfred says he can explain, but I’m not sure Bruce will buy all that “reverse identity” stuff; I barely buy it myself.

Noticeable Things:

  • In the opening fight scene with the Neanderthals, everything is coloured deep blue. I’m assuming that’s supposed to reflect the darkened museum, but it looks a bit weird.
  • I can maybe see Gordon thinking Batman would go around disguised as Bruce Wayne (that’s an explanation/excuse Batman’s used before), but why would he swing through Gordon’s window dressed as Wayne?
  • There’s an Unsolved Cases of the Batman back-up story called “If Justice Be Served” by Denny O’Neil/Michael Golden/Jack Abel. It tells of an old guy who died of a heart attack while playing tennis with Bruce Wayne. The rumoursjustice said the old guy had a shitload of money in his safe, so Batman goes to check it out. He saves a reporter from being pounded by the old guy’s son, but realizes the reporter stole a bunch of newspaper cuttings from the old guy’s safe, leaving the money untouched. Batman tracks the reporter down and learns the old guy had once committed murder and the reporter is going to write a story about it. The old guy’s kid finds him and gets shot, but the reporter falls out the window, scattering the evidence. Batman lets the papers blow away and says nothing to Commissioner Gordon about the old man’s past. Batman figures the life of charity and generosity the old man led makes up for whatever he did in his younger days. It’s a nice sentiment, but I can’t really see Batman letting a murderer off, considering what happened to his own parents.

Detective 479 coverDetective Comics #479 – “If a Man Be Made of Clay” – Len Wein/Marshall Rogers/Dick Giordano

This one starts right where the last issue ended, with Clayface about to reduce Batman to protoplasm. Batman grabs a severed electrical cable and zaps Clayface, then kicks him away. He tosses a smoke pellet and heads for high ground, but when the smoke clears, Clayface is gone, taking the high-tech doodad he came to steal along with him. Batman hears a car start and prepares to chase Clayface, but finds the Batmobile’s wheels have been torn off. Clayface drives off in a stolen car, but since he wasn’t able to release his “fever” on Batman, the pain overwhelms him and he crashes. Walking down the road, he almost gets run over by some drunken asshole and his date. The drunk shows no remorse at almost running Clayface down, so Clayface releases the fever into him, liquefying him and freaking out his date. She runs into the woods and ClayfaceClayface escapes takes the car. Batman has salvaged the whirlybat from the Batmobile’s trunk and tracks Clayface to the accident scene. He finds the distraught woman and tries to comfort her, but she reminds him of Silver too much and he pulls back. Clayface stops for gas and the pump jockey freaks out when he sees his face. Clayface takes off and the scared gas jockey reports a “monster”. The cops realize who it is and throw up a blockade on a bridge. Clayface aims the car at the blockade and bails out, then heads to the top of the bridge to go over the cops. But Batman’s waiting for him and Clayface jumps into the river to elude him. At the wax museum, Clayface adds his stolen component to a bunch of machinery that he says will turn him human again. But when he tries to activate it, nothing happens. He realizes Batman has found him and unplugged the device. They fight and the machinery is wrecked, which makes Clayface go nuts. Batman removes the power pack for his exoskeleton, making Clayface sluggish from all the weight he now has to carry. Batman vs ClayfaceBatman captures him and rags him outside, but some candles were knocked over during the fight and the museum goes up in flames. Clayface freaks out and heads back inside to rescue “Helena”, his wax mannequin girlfriend. The place collapses before Batman can stop him, but the firemen later tell Batman and Gordon that no trace of Clayface’s body was found.

Noticeable Things:

  • The first thing I thought of when I saw that Clayface had torn the wheels off the Batmobile was that old “jingle Bells” spoof: “… Batmobile lost its wheels and Joker got away!” Or Clayface in this case. I have to believe it was intentional on Wein’s part.
  • There’s an interlude with a mysterious woman coming to the Wayne Foundation building looking for Bruce Wayne and saying she’ll come back later when he’s in. It seems pretty obvious it’s Catwoman (she has a cat on a leash and is wearing a jaguar coat) but we’ll have to wait to see where that goes.
  • It’s never explained how Batman tracked Clayface to the wax museum.

Hawks vs Fadeaway Man“True Heroes Never Die” – Len Wein/Rich Buckler/John Celardo

This is the back-up story, featuring Hawkman and Hawkgirl, who are returning to Midway City after a long mission on their home planet of Thanagar. But they find out they’ve been fired from their jobs at the museum and replaced by a guy named Anton Lamont. Carter (Hawkman) Hall says he’ll talk to the museum board and Lamont freaks out, wrapping Carter and Shiera in his cloak and making them disappear. They reappear on the edge of a cliff, but don’t have their wings to fly to safety. They call a bunch of birds to fly them home, where they grab their gear and confront Lamont at the museum. He’s trying to steal a pistol invented by DaVinci that he tweaks to produce extra power. The Hawks jump him and he turns out to be Fadeaway Man. He uses his fancy cloak to fight them but they get the upper hand, so he tries to blast them with DaVinci’s pistol. Hawkman accidentally turns the pistol back on Fadeaway Man and he disappears into his own cloak. Before the Hawks can examine the cloak, it too fades out of existence.

Noticeable Things:

  • This is Fadeaway Man’s first appearance. His “magic” cloak is later revealed to have belonged to famous occultist Cagliostro. Fadeaway Man will pop up again in Brave & Bold.

Brave and Bold 143 coverBrave & the Bold #143 – “Cast the First Stone” – Bob Haney, Cary Burkett/Jim Aparo

This one starts with a guy named Montgomery Walcott wrapping up his evening TV newscast for Cosmic Broadcasting. We’re told Walcott is the most trusted and respected journalist in the country … he even looks a bit like Walter Cronkite. Fellow newsman Jack Ryder congratulates Walcott, but says he worries someone Walcott has exposed with his hard-hitting journalism might seek revenge. Walcott laughs it off and leaves, and we see Batman is tailing his limo. The limo takes Walcott to a clandestine meeting with a major drug dealer (the same one Batman was looking for last issue), then to a sleazy dock where Walcott talks to a barge captain. Batman realizes he’s cracked the Alhambra connection and we get a recap of last issue. (Batman was tracking a dope dealer, hoping to find the big drug kingpin of Gotham. He found a ship called the Alhambra that went down during the War, but when he tried to find the ship’s log, Aquaman attempted to stop him. Turned out Aquaman thought his lighthouse keeperCreeper attacks Batman father might’ve been responsible for the Alhambra sinking, but the log book exonerated him. The log also gave Batman the name of the man who used drugs stolen from the Alhambra to start his illicit drug business in Gotham … and that man was Monty Walcott, which explains why Batman had such a hard time believing it last ish.) Now that he’s confirmed Walcott really is the drug kingpin, Batman is ready to act, but gets jumped from behind. He tussles with his opponent, who turns out to be the Creeper aka Jack Ryder, TV newsman. Ryder tells Batman he was protecting Walcott, but Bats shocks him by showing Ryder the evidence that Walcott is the major drug baron in Gotham. Ryder is shaken, but says they need more proof before they take Walcott down and offers to work with Batman. The next day, the duo is at Cosmic Broadcasting, where Walcott is about to do a shady deal on the roof. Batman thinks it’s going after thugsstrange Walcott would do business in broad daylight, right where he works, but Creeper says he intimidated the barge captain too much for him to have lied. Creeper jumps the thugs and Batman follows, but it turns out to be a set-up. While the thugs try to take care of the superheroes, Walcott climbs the antenna tower to hitch a ride on a helicopter. Creeper goes after him and plays his “crazy vigilante” shtick to the hilt. Walcott is freaked out and almost falls to his death, but Batman catches him. Later, Commissioner Gordon is ready to make a deal with Walcott, but the crook says he’ll only talk in Gordon’s office. Walcott’s lawyer leaves and when Walcott is brought to Gordon’s office, he says he’s done cooperating and tries to leave. Batman grabs for him, but he and Gordon are overcome by a wave of vertigo and Walcott walks out the door. Batman realizes the “lawyer” was a fake and calls Ryder at Cosmic Studios to check thedock fighting broadcast room. He finds the fake lawyer messing around in there and decks him. Batman explains to Gordon that the Alhambra log book mentioned a drug weapon, a type of gas that’s harmless until activated by a certain radio wave. Batman deduced the fake must’ve set off a gas bomb near Gordon’s office, then went to the studio to send the radio wave, which is what caused the vertigo effect. Gordon figures Walcott will leave the country, but says there are so many ways out they can’t cover them all. Jack Ryder gets a brainstorm and says he knows where Walcott is. Creeper shows up as Walcott is loading his boat and pounds Walcott’s thugs. Walcott runs but is confronted by Batman and faints from sheer fright. Creeper compliments Batman on his scary presence … high praise indeed.

Noticeable Things:

  • Batman remarks that justice moves swiftly when the defendant is a celebrity; ah, how times have changed.
  • As usual, the flow of the story relies on information that the readers don’t have—in this case, the existence of the vertigo weapon—but that’s normal for Haney.
  • It’s weird that this issue and the “wire-head” story in Batman both deal with guys who are supposedly at the top echelon of crime in Gotham. Too bad it wasn’t coordinated better, it would’ve made an interesting crossover.

Chance decks killer“The Cat and the Canary Contract” – Len Wein/Dick Giordano

The back-up is a Human Target story. It starts with Christopher Chance trying to strangle his latest client, a guy named Amos Sharkey. Turns out Sharkey is a loan shark (of course) and Chance’s father borrowed money from him years ago and was shot by Sharkey’s hitman when he couldn’t pay it back. Chance tried to stop the killer but he was only a kid. The encounter gave him an immunity to fear and he trained himself to physical perfection so he could help people in trouble. The Feds say Sharkey’s testimony is crucial and Chance is a professional, so he shouldn’t let personal feelings dictate his actions. Chance reluctantly agrees and disguises himself as Sharkey. At FBI headquarters, the lights go off and an assassin comes out of a vent, but Chance is ready and eludes the killer. He hides in the FBI’s Hall of Infamy, a waxwork collection of Most Wanted criminals. The killer stalks through the darkened room and shoots what he thinks is Sharkey, but Chance just stuck Sharkey’s suit on a dummy of John Dillinger. Chance pounds the assassin, and when he’s being taken away in handcuffs, Sharkey gloats about how he fucked up. The assassin says someone will get Sharkey sooner or later and Sharkey freaks out, lifting a gun from an FBI agent.sharkey's end Chance knocks the gun out of his hand and says Sharkey is a marked man … for the rest of his life. He also says he feels sorry for Sharkey, and I think he actually means it.

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