Comics Reviews: Batman 304, Firestorm 5, Warlord 15

Batman 304 coverBatman #304 – “To Hell With Batman—and Back” – David V. Reed/John Calnan/Dick Giordano

This one starts with Batman interrupting a truck hijacking. He’s pounding the thugs when one of them conks him with a wrench. They load him into the truck and it seems like the whole hijacking was just a ruse to get Batman’s attention. Batman comes to and can’t remember anything except the feel of cold metal on his fingers. His arms are cramped from being spread apart in the same position for a long time. But consciousness doesn’t bring any answers, as Batman seems to be floating in a disembodied state. He passes through the iron bars of a gate, then finds himself on a Gotham street. But nobody can see him and one guy walks right through him. Batman witnesses a shootoutBatman losing it and is filled with frustration that he can’t do anything to stop it. He starts wondering if he’s some kind of ghost. Of course, we know this is probably just some super-villain’s convoluted plot—but which one? Turns out it’s the Spook. He’s using drugs to make Batman suggestible, and special effects to disorient him. Once Batman is convinced he’s dead (or at least incorporeal) Spook takes him out to the docks and has a mob enforcer shoot him. Batman assumes the bullets will pass through him harmlessly, but when one hits his arm, he realizes he’s no ghost and falls into the harbour. He hides under the dock and listens to Spook congratulate the enforcer for killing Batman. Naturally, Spook has been recording everything so he can take credit for eliminating Batman without having to actually pull the trigger. He conks out the Batman pounds Spookhitman and takes the murder weapon (to auction off), but leaves the hitman alive, since he doesn’t want the cops on him for murder. Batman wanders around a bit, wondering where the Spook’s hideout is. He remembers his arms being spread apart when he woke up and the feel of cold metal on his fingers and deduces it was a railroad track.  The old railyard is near the docks, so Batman heads for the roundhouse in the middle of the yards. He surprises Spook and his henchmen and beats the shit out of them. He reviews the Spook’s tapes and sees how they dragged him to the roundhouse, drugged him, and used special effects to convince him he was a ghost.

Noticeable Things:

  • Looks like David V. Reed has been doing more research; this time we’ve got chloral hydrate and words like “meniscus” being tossed around.
  • This whole caper—with the special effects, drugs, and hypnotism—seems more like Mysterio’s style than Spook’s.
  • The whole “ghost wandering around” thing has a bit of a Deadman feel to it, but Batman never references him.
  • There’s a “Public Life of Bruce Wayne” backup story by Reed, Mortimer, andfake doc Chiaramonte. It’s about Bruce Wayne going to see his doctor (whose name is Douglas and who apparently knows Bruce is Batman) and while he’s there, a couple of thugs show up. One of them is wounded and they force Dr. Douglas to treat him at gunpoint. Bruce notices pool chalk on one guy’s fingers, so he checks out the local pool halls and finds someone willing to talk for a handful of cash. He gets an address for one thug and heads over there, after disguising himself as Dr. Douglas. He gets the thugs to open the door, then beats the shit out of them. He lets the press believe Dr. Douglas was the one who caught the scumbags.

Firestorm 5-coverFirestorm #5 – “Again: Multiplex” – Gerry Conway/Al Milgrom/Bob McLeod

This one starts right where last issue left off, with Firestorm getting pounded by Hyena. You may recall, Firestorm had taken on members of the “Shine gang” (the father and leader of the gang is called Shoe Shine and his semi-competent son is Spit Shine … yeah.) and Hyena seemed to hate the gangsters too. But as soon as Firestorm mentioned cops, Hyena went nuts and attacked him. Hyena hates cops even more than gangsters, apparently. Firestorm gets slapped around by Hyena, who’s too fast for him to tag with his powers. During the fight, Firestorm accidentally releases the gangsters he caught last issue, which makes their boss, Spit Shine, very happy as he observes from nearby. But someone else is keeping an eye on Spit—Ronnie Raymond’s principal, Wallace Hapgood. He immediately assumes Spit must be after him, but takes the time to phone a warning to somebody, who he thinks is Spit’s real target. In ahyena fight downtown hospital, Danton Black (aka Multiplex from issue #2) is still comatose, but his ICU unit starts having power fluctuations, then explodes. Outside the school, Firestorm is still having trouble with Hyena, but finally manages to drop a power pylon on the creature’s head. Before he can celebrate, Spit Shine conks him out from behind with a gun. Spit and his thugs take Hyena with them, but leave Firestorm when they hear police sirens. Firestorm wakes up and decides he’s done being a superhero. Professor Stein tries to reason with him, but Firestorm splits, leaving Stein disoriented again. Cliff Carmichael (the intellectual snob who bullies Ronnie at school) sees Firestorm fly by, then observes him changing to his civilian identity. But Carmichael can’t tell who Firestorm changed into, so he tries to reason it out. Because of the warning Firestorm gave Carmichael a couple issues ago, Cliff figures it must be some one at Bradley High who hates him. But when you’re a dick like Carmichael, you make a Carmichaellot of enemies, so he has trouble narrowing it down. Of course, the one person he doesn’t even remotely suspect is Ronnie Raymond. Meanwhile, Professor Stein calls McGarrin (the detective he hired last issue to shadow him and figure out what’s happening during his mysterious blackouts) and McGarrin comes to pick him up. At Shine headquarters, Spit is in shit for bringing Hyena back with him. His mother (yeah, she’s a gangster too … nothing like keeping it in the family) slaps him around and says they don’t need the trouble Hyena might bring. Hyena wakes up and attacks, but jumps out the window when Mrs. Shine tries to blast him. Ronnie takes Doreen Day to meet his dad at the newspaper, but he’s not there. Apparently, he got a phone call and took off like a bat out of hell. I wonder who that was from? Ronnie also learns that his dad has only been a reporter for a couple of years, not twenty years like he told Ronnie. The cops investigate Multiplex’s escape and Professor Stein tells McGarrin he had another blackout as they sit it a bar together. McGarrin wonders ifMultiplex powering up Stein is just a drunk. In the subway, Ronnie stews about his dad lying to him and Multiplex (who’s been draining power all over town) shows up to suck some juice from the electrified rail. Multiplex splits in two—which gives him super strength—and wrecks an oncoming subway train. Ronnie changes to Firestorm, pulling Stein away from the bar. Luckily, the drunken prof had just slipped under the table, so McGarrin doesn’t actually see him disappear, but when he looks under the table, Stein is gone. Well, wasn’t that convenient. Stein being drunk doesn’t help Firestorm’s coordination and he gives some pretty bad advice that gets Firestorm grabbed by Multiplex. Firestorm has trouble concentrating and Stein tries to get his shit together as Multiplex begins absorbing their energy. That starts to pull Ronnie and Stein apart, Firestorm gives Multiplex energywhich could kill them both. Ronnie decides to give Multiplex more energy than he can handle, which causes him to split numerous times. Multiplex ends up with hundreds of bodies, but they’re all only a few inches tall, rendering them powerless. Firestorm’s feeling even more hammered now, which the reporters notice, so he leaves. When a photographer tries to get a picture of all the tiny Multiplexes, they all wink out of existence. Doreen is wondering what happened to Ronnie and Firestorm tells her to check the subway station. Nearby, Multiplex and Hyena watch Firestorm leave and plan to team up for revenge against him. Turns out the Multiplex (and all his offshoots) that Firestorm fought in the subway station was a duplicate, not the original. But we’ll have to wait to see what happens with all that, because this is the last issue of the ongoing Firestorm comic.

Noticeable Things:

  • Firestorm is canceled after this issue because of the DC Implosion. He next appears in DC Presents, then joins the JLA, then gets a backup feature in Flash, where this storyline is continued. I’ll be reviewing all of those when I get to them.
  • The end of this issue promises Typhoon will appear next ish, but we have to wait until Flash #295 to see him.
  • If you’re wondering how Hyena’s claws can cut through metal and concrete, they’re diamond-edged and vibrate at an ultra-sonic frequency.
  • I’m not sure why the gangsters didn’t kill Firestorm when they had the chance, other than the fact that killing off the main character would be bad for the story.
  • As the thugs are leaving with Hyena, Spit Shine mentions that they WERE there to get Principal Hapgood, but we’ll have to wait to see what that’s all about.

Warlord 15 coverWarlord #15 – “Holocaust” – Mike Grell/Joe Rubinstein

This one starts with Morgan, Mariah, and Machiste finally getting to Shamballah. They’re not inside yet, just observing the city from a distance. Morgan’s been champing at the bit to get back to Shamballah so he and Tara can be reunited. Mariah admits to Machiste that she’s in love with Morgan (which Machiste already knew), and Machiste basically says he wouldn’t mind being her second choice, since Morgan’s both clueless and in love with Tara. A ray beam shoots from the city, taking the branch from under Morgan’s feet, but he manages to save himself (Tarzan-style) before splattering on the ground. They people approaching and hide, but it’s only some refugees fleeing the city. They tell Morgan the city is cursed, haunted by some demon that came up from the depths. He asks about Tara and is told she’s waiting in the palace for her husband. Morgan rushes into the nearly deserted city and straight to the palace, where he does find Tara waiting. Of course, she decks him. Seems she’s a tadgreetings upset that it took him so long to get back—and a tad jealous that he’s been traveling with Mariah the whole time. Tara and Mariah draw swords on each other, but Morgan breaks it up and gives Tara a big smooch. That seems to calm her right down, because nothing placates a woman like sexual advances, right? Mariah freaks out and runs off, followed by Machiste, and Morgan finally realizes Mariah has the hots for him. Before he can do anything about it, more deadly rays shoot up through the floor and melt half the throne room. Morgan’s ready to get the hell out, but Tara says they can’t leave and takes him into the next room to meet his son, Joshua. Yup, while Morgan was wandering around Skartaris, Tara had his kid. Her father is dead, so Morgan’s son will be king someday and Tara says she won’t abandon Shamballah, since it’s their son’s future kingdom. She tells Morgan the rays are coming from beneath the city and he has an idea what might be causing them. Tara gives Joshua to a nanny and she and Morgan head underground. They find a moving ladder (kind of like that one level on Donkey Kong) and ride it to a vast central cavern, where Morgan finds what he was expecting—a huge Atlantean computer complex. The main computer that runs all the devices in Shamballah has deteriorated over the centuries and he AI is now complex It tries to blast them with lasers and taunts them with it’s mechanical voice. They find the central power source—a solar collector fed by parabolic mirrors refocusing mirrorssunlight—and climb up to where the mirrors are set up. Tara points out that they can’t stop the sun, especially since the sun never sets in Skartaris. Morgan and Tara redirect one of the mirrors s it burns through the cavern wall, releasing an underground river which floods the computer chamber and wrecks the computer. They return to Shamballah, but find the nanny dead and Joshua being stolen away by … Deimos, riding a dragon. But isn’t Deimos dead? Apparently not, and now he’s got Morgan and Tara’s son. We’ll see what they do about it next issue.

Noticeable Things:

  • Tara says she’s pissed off that Morgan’s been gallivanting around with “that red-haired hussy”, but how did she even know about Mariah? She hasn’t seen Morgan since he got back from Earth, so all her anger toward Mariah is just from seeing her walk into the room behind Morgan, which seems a bit too judgmental to me.
  • Tara says Joshua will be king since her father (the old king) was killed by the rays, so I guess women can’t inherit the throne in Shamballah? I think we do see Tara acting as regent later, if not queen in her own right.
  • Before heading underground, Tara gives Joshua the watch that Morgan gave her to wear as an armlet. That’ll be important in future stories.

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