Comics Reviews: Batman 309, Brave & the Bold 148, Warlord 19

Batman 309 coverBatman #309 – “Have Yourself a Deadly Little Christmas” – Len Wein/John Calnan/Frank McLaughlin

This is a Christmas-themed issue; despite the March cover date, it was probably on the stands in December of 1978. It starts with a bunch of muggers grabbing a young woman’s purse. She freaks out, saying it contains all the money she has left in the world, but the muggers aren’t moved by her pleas. In fact, they seem to think she got off light, since they didn’t rape her or something. The purse only contains five dollars, but before the muggers can go in search of more prey, Blockbuster comes smashing into the alley and kicks the crap out of them. Blockbuster was thought to be dead last issue after STAR Labs failed to cure his monstrous condition, but at the end of the issue we saw him crawling out on his grave.Blockbuster meets Kathy Blockbuster takes the purse and goes looking for the mugging victim. We see the victim (whose name is Kathy Crawford) returning home to her crappy apartment. She came to Gotham to be a star, but found only rejection and poverty. Losing her last five bucks puts her over the edge and she downs a bottle of sleeping pills. She wants to hear a human voice before she dies, so she calls the police station. Batman happens to be there and the desk sergeant hands him the phone, but Batman can’t talk Kathy out of suicide. The cops trace the call and Batman heads over, but Blockbuster shows up before him, busting down Kathy’s door. She’s already half-looped from the pills she took, so when Blockbuster tries to give her purse back she just keels over. Blockbuster’s too stupid to know what’s going on, but he knows she needs help, so he takes her out of her apartment. Batman finds the busted door and the empty pill bottle and starts following Blockbuster’s tracks (which look familiar to him) through the Batman fights Blockbustersnow. Blockbuster finds a hospital, but has a flashback to STAR Labs’ attempt to cure him and associates the hospital with pain, so he takes Kathy right past it. Batman catches up to them and Blockbuster lays Kathy down and tries to convey that he’s helping her. But when Batman mentions taking her to the hospital, Blockbuster thinks he means to hurt her and goes nuts. He and Batman mix it up, but Blockbuster is too strong for the Caped Crusader and pounds him. Kathy wakes partially and almost freaks when she sees Blockbuster, but he starts crying and she realizes he cares about her. He keeps looking for someone to help her and finds a street-corner Santa Claus, who he associates with kindness. But when Santa mentions cops and hospitals, Blockbuster freaks again and runs off with Kathy. Batman catches them again down by the river, which is iced over. Blockbuster runs away from Batman onto the ice, which starts to crack under his weight. Batman follows, which doesn’t do the cracking ice muchBlockbuster's sacrifice good, and they fight again. One of Blockbuster’s punches smashes the ice and Kathy ends up alone on an ice floe, like in some silent movie. She wakes up and starts screaming, so Blockbuster leaps over to the floe to help her. She’s scared of him at first, but soon sees he’s trying to help and lets him pick her up. He tosses her back to Batman just before the floe sinks, taking Blockbuster into the icy river. Later, Kathy promises not to try to kill herself again, since Blockbuster saw something in her worth saving and gave his life for it. She wants to know who he was and Batman just says he was the “spirit of all the Christmases yet-to-be”.

Noticeable Things:

  • Kathy says the five dollars in her purse is all the money she has, but where did she get a bottle of sleeping pills? I’m assuming those aren’t cheap.
  • Kathy refers to her apartment as “furnished in early poverty” which I think is the title of a Harlan Ellison story.
  • Does anyone really believe Blockbuster is dead? Yeah, me neither.

Brave & Bold 148 coverBrave & the Bold #148 – “The Night the Mob Stole Xmas” – Bob Haney/Joe Staton/Jim Aparo

This is another Christmas-themed issue; DC was really cranking them out that year. This one starts with Commissioner Gordon and some other cops finding an empty semi-truck that was used to haul bootleg cigarettes. Batman shows up and we get a little “as you know Bob” back and forth between him and the Commissioner to fill us in. A gang has been buying cheap smokes down South, slapping fake tax stamps on them, and selling them at a big mark-up in Gotham. They’ve even killed store-owners who refuse to sell the smuggled cigs. Batman pretends not to be too invested in the case, but later he hits up all his street informants to get some info. Unfortunately, he comes up with nothing, but we do get some set-ups for later events. First, Batman cruises by Christmas display in the window of “Lacey’s” Department Store; then a kid runs into the street and is saved from getting run over by a street-corner Santa who turns out to bePlastic Man saves kid Plastic Man. Plas is pretty depressed about his life lately, saying the only job a freak like him could get was as a street Santa. Batman thanks him for saving the kid and continues on patrol. Later, Batman swings back that way and finds the entire Lacey’s display has been stolen right out of the store front by a convoy of trucks. He looks for Plastic Man, hoping he saw something, but finds his Santa stuff in a pile and a message scrawled in the snow. Batman follows the message and finds the trucks heading south on the freeway. He jumps on the last truck and finds Plastic Man inside. Plas tells him he spotted the crooks ripping off the store display and they conked him out and brought him along, since they “needed a Santa Claus for the shindig”. Batman and Plas discover tobacco in the truck and realize the guys who stole the Christmas display are the same smugglers Batman’s been looking for. When the truck stops at a gas station, Batman is discovered and starts pounding the crooks, but ends up in an oil pit. Plastic Batman oils upMan pulls him out (and runs him through the car wash!), then says he overheard the smugglers talking about going to Conch Key in Florida. He and Batman head that way (though I’m not exactly sure how they got there) and swim in underwater to avoid detection. It turns out the truck was headed for the estate of a mobster named Jake Doyle (who looks nothing like Allan Hawco) who’s dying and has invited all his mob friends and enemies to his estate for a big party before he dies. Hmmm, I wonder if it’s a set-up? Doyle had his guys steal the Christmas display so he could put together a kick-ass party. His men find Plas (still dressed as Santa Claus) and Batman, and they string Batman up to the over-sized tree. When all Doyle’s rivals are gathered for the celebration, Doyle tells Santa (aka Plastic Man) to unwrap the giant gift on display. A bunch of Doyle’s goons are inside, ready to blast everyone, but Plas uses his pliable bodyPlastic Man makes it snow as a shield to stop the bullets. A big gunfight breaks out and Batman busts loose and starts pounding crooks. It starts snowing, which freaks everyone out, but it’s just a helicopter dropping fake snow as part of Doyle’s party plans. Plastic Man funnels the snow into a whirlwind and buries the gunmen, who quickly surrender. Batman laments Gotham’s loss of its Christmas display, so Plas suggests they conscript the crooks into loading everything on the trucks so they can haul it all back to Gotham. So the display is put back just in time for Christmas, the smuggling ring is caught, and Gotham’s middle class gets to enjoy all the trappings of Xmas, because god forbid they be inconvenienced in any way. .

Noticeable Things:

  • Obviously Lacey’s is a stand-in for Macy’s in New York, who are (or were) famous for their Christmas displays.
  • Throughout the issue, the cigarette smuggling is referred to as “buttlegging”, which I guess is like bootlegging but with cigarettes. I refuse to use the term because it just sounds stupid to me.
  • Batman references the last time he saw Plastic Man, which I think was in B&B #123. Originally, I think this was meant to be an Earth-1 version of Plastic Man, but later I think it was established that there was only one Plas. Post-Crisis, the Plastic Man who served with the All-Star Squadron in the 1940s and the modern Plas were said to be the same guy. I guess being plasticky keeps him from aging.
  • When I first saw the message Plastic Man left in the snow, I was hoping he’d written it with piss, but it turned out he just used his finger. I’m not sure how he knew where the trucks were headed, unless he overheard the crooks talking.
  • Apparently the store display included live reindeer.
  • I’m surprised Plastic Man can be knocked out with a blackjack to the head. Wouldn’t his powers protect him? I mean, bullets don’t hurt him, so why would a conk on the head?
  • So, Doyle had to send his men all the way to Gotham to get a Christmas display? Maybe he just wanted that specific display, since it was in a famous store, but you’d think he could find something closer.
  • Seriously, these must be the stupidest or most trusting mobsters ever if it didn’t occur to any of them that Doyle might be setting them up.

Warlord 19 coverWarlord #19 – “Wolves of the Steppes” – Mike Grell/Vince Colletta

This continues Morgan and Tara’s quest to find their son Joshua, who was stolen away by Deimos a few issues ago. Last issue, Morgan and Tara tangled with some aliens who flew around Skartaris in a giant artificial moon. They appropriated some rocket sleds from the aliens (before blowing them to shit) and have been using the sleds to scour Skartaris looking for Joshua. So far they’ve had no luck, but Morgan remembers the seer they consulted said Deimos was in a place equally in light and shadow, so he figures they should try the far rim of the world, where the polar opening leads back to Earth. We see Deimos watching Morgan in a crystal ball, while his hench-witch, Ashiya, plays with Joshua. Deimos warns Ashiya not to get too attached and reminds her that even though she looks totally hot at the moment, she’s really a shriveled old hag. Ashiya says Joshua might not care if he saw her in her true form,Deimos degenerating because he might be able to see through to the real person underneath. Deimos cautions her again, saying Joshua is only a tool to bring Morgan to Deimos so he can exact revenge. Deimos seems to be degenerating physically and he drinks some kind of noxious brew to halt the process. The drink comes from some prisoner he holds in his dungeon and I get the impression the prisoner isn’t providing it willingly. Ashiya wonders how a baby can help against Morgan other than as bait, and Deimos says he has a grand plan to kill Morgan using Joshua. He says there are a few pieces of the puzzle that haven’t quite fallen into place yet and sends a storm to assail Morgan and Tara as a way of setting his plan into motion. The storm forces Morgan and Tara to crash-land and Tara is found by barbarians led by a guy named Torgash. He tries to grab her and she cuts his hand off; before he can retaliate, Morgan shows up and he barbarian brawland Tara start cutting into the barbarians. The barbarians are ready to take off when Morgan’s sky-sled explodes nearby, knocking him and Tara out. A barbarian named Nikolas stops Torgash from killing them, saying the entire tribe gets to vote on their fate since they killed several tribe-members. Morgan and Tara wake up tied to a post in a longhouse and Torgash tells them the tribe has decreed they’re to be flung into a pit with two hungry bears. (I wonder if George R.R. Martin is a Warlord fan?) Morgan’s savage side comes out and he busts loose, lunging for Torgash, who moves out of the way. Another barbarian isn’t so lucky and Morgan drags him into the bear pit. He tosses the barbarian to the bears and picks up his sword, just as Torgash throws Tara into the pit as well. Morgan tries to fight the bears, but gets pounded. Before the bears can finish him or Tara, a spear flies down into one bear’s head. bear fightA rope is lowered and Morgan and Tara climb out to find Machiste and Mariah are their rescuers. They turn out to be the leaders of the barbarians, which Morgan finds rather amusing. Why they weren’t there when Morgan and Tara were brought in, I have no idea. Anyway, Morgan punches Torgash into the bear pit as Deimos looks on in his crystal ball, saying his plan is complete and he’s ready for his final triumph. We’ll have to wait to see what that entails.

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