Comics Reviews: Batman 318, Detective 487, Brave & the Bold 157, Warlord 28

Batman 318 coverBatman #318 – “My City Burns at Both Ends—It Will Not Last the Night” – Len Wein/Irv Novick/Frank McLaughlin

This one starts with Batman trying to rescue a kid from a burning building. He falls off, but manages to bounce off some telephone wires and land on a pile of fire hoses. Yeah, it sounds impossible, but he is Batman, after all. Commissioner Gordon sees someone on the roof on the burning building and Batman heads up to check it out. It turns out to be the arsonist, dressed in a weird costume and calling himself Firebug. His costume includes napalm projectors and he lights another fire in front of Batman while ranting about how the building has killed enough people and it’s now being killed in turn. Batman uses foam pellets from his utility belt to douse the flames, but Firebug is alreadyBruce and Selina partying gone. This is the second building that’s been mysteriously torched in the last few days and Batman wonders if there’s a connection. But he soon has other things to occupy his mind (and body) as he has a hot date with Selina Kyle. They go to some wild party that takes place on a jet circling the airport (!) and I’m pretty sure they join the Mile-High Club at some point. When the plane lands, their debarkation is delayed because another plane is unloading priceless Egyptian artifacts … specifically, stuff dedicated to Bast, the Cat Goddess. Naturally, Bruce wonders if Selina is interested, but she insists the Catwoman part of her life is completely behind her.  She does seem to be eyeing those artifacts pretty closely, though … We see Firebug (aka Joey Rigger) at home and get his Firebug originorigin story, which he conveniently narrates out loud, even though he’s alone. While he was in the Army (as a demolitions expert) three members of his family died in three different buildings in what were probably preventable accidents. His kid sister died from eating peeling lead paint, his father fell through some rotten floorboards, and his mother died in a stalled elevator after suffering a heart attack. So he’s decided to “kill” the buildings that killed his family, hence his becoming Firebug. At police headquarters, Batman has recalled Firebug’s words about the “killer” building and asks Gordon to check if anyone died in the two torched buildings. Gordon finds out Joey’s father and sister died in the buildings and mentions his mother died in another one. Batman figures out Joey is Firebug and heads out to stop him. At Gregorian Falstaff’s office, Lucius Fox turns down Falstaff’s offer to work for him; you’ll remember Lucius only agreed to meet with Falstaff in hopes of learning something he could use, but that doesn’t seem to have gotten himBatman confronts Firebug much. After Lucius leaves, Falstaff isn’t too disappointed … he tells his lackey he’ll just have to use more unpleasant methods to achieve his ends. At Joey Rigger’s apartment, Gordon and the cops find Batman already there. From the evidence they find, they confirm Rigger is definitely Firebug and his final target is the Gotham State Building. Gordon calls the fire department and Batman heads over to find Firebug, who is already placing his incendiary devices to destroy the building. Batman unplugs his timers and Firebug freaks out, trying to use the napalm blasters in his costume to fry Batman. But he Darknight is wearing a fire-proof costume, so Firebug’s efforts are in vain. He collapses part of the ceiling to give him time to get away, but he doesn’t go far. Batman figures out where Firebug is and sends up an empty elevator to distract him. Firebug falls for it and Batman jumps him, his flame-proof costume letting Firebug goes nutshim walk right through Firebug’s blasts. Firebug is raving about having to destroy the “killer building” and he deactivates all the safety devices in his costume, saying the resulting napalm blast will blow the building to hell. He tries to take Batman with him, but the Caped Crusader dodges and Firebug goes through the security fence on top of the building, plunging downward and exploding halfway to the street. The building was unharmed, but Batman still thinks it was all a hell of a waste. We get an epilogue with three punks breaking into a mausoleum and finding more than they bargained for … Gentleman Ghost, who’s ready to get back into crime. We’ll see where that goes next issue.

Noticeable Things:

  • Would the police commissioner really show up at a fire? Firebug later said he phoned the cops to warn them to evacuate the buildings before he burned them, so that could explain why Gordon was there (though it doesn’t explain why that kid was still in the building).
  • The Gotham State Building looks a hell of a lot like the Empire State Building.
  • Batman’s fire-proof costume is a nice idea, but his face isn’t covered. Plus, if Firebug was putting out that much heat, wouldn’t that affect Batman? What about the lack of oxygen?

Detective 487 coverDetective #487 – “The Perils of Sergius” – Denny O’Neil/Don Newton/Dan Adkins

This one starts out with a writer named Sergius out for a jog. He’s talking to himself (as writers do), trying to work out the details of his latest story. Unfortunately, Sensei (leader of the League of Assassins) and one of his goons overhear Sergius and assume he’s onto them, so Sensei tells his goon to follow the writer. We find out Sergius has been wanting to write a book about Batman’s exploits and keeps putting ads in the personals to contact him. That seems to freak out the Sensei, so he hires newly released convict Ma Murder (real name Mabel Mhurder!) to waste Sergius. Sensei figures hiring local talent won’t tip anyone off that the League of Assassins is presently in Gotham. Ma Murder says she’s getting a bit long in the tooth for killing, but says she has some operatives who can do the job: Twitchy, Ape, and Chuckles. Sensei gives her a run downtheatre fight of Sergius’s schedule and they wait for him the next morning. As Sergius is jogging, he trips over a cat (a black cat, natch), which saves his ass when Ma and the boys pull a drive-by. Batman figures out who was behind the attempted hit and confronts the gang in a movie theatre. He tricks Twitchy into spilling where he hid the gun (why didn’t he get rid of it?) and takes him in. The next day, Ape tries to drop a concrete block on Sergius’s head (real subtle, ain’t he?), but Batman knocks the writer out of the way. He and Ape mix it up and Batman pounds him, then goes to warn Ma Murder that he’s watching her. Chuckles gets a bright idea: why not drown Sergius in his own apartment? And if Batman’s sticking close, maybe they’ll get him too. The next day, Matches Malone (Batman in disguise) comes to check on Sergius. His apartment is like a fortress (probably why no one’s tried to off him there), but that ends up being a hindrance when he and Matches get sealed in. Ma and Chuckles start the taps Batman discovers the assassinsrunning and the place fills up with water. Sergius conveniently faints, which lets Batman doff his disguise and bust out through the kitchen wall into the hallway. Chuckles and Ma were waiting around to see the results of their handiwork, so Batman pounds Chuckles and comes close to decking Ma after she belts him one. Instead, he turns his fists on a couple of teenagers loitering in the hall. One of them was dressed in uncool clothes, so Batman reasoned they must be there to keep an eye on Ma after her first two failed attempts at Sergius. Batman pounds the two teenagers and realizes they work for the League of Assassins, which is exactly what Sensei was trying to avoid. He takes Ma in, but she doesn’t know anything about Sensei’s activities in Gotham, or why he wanted Sergius dead. Meanwhile, Sergius is pretty bummed since his apartment is a disaster zone, but Batman left him a little note that perks him back up.

Noticeable Things:

  • I’m assuming there’s a certain meta context to this story; Sergius O’Shaughnessy was a pseudonym that Denny O’Neil used when writing for various companies. The character doesn’t really look like O’Neil, though.
  • Sergius seems to write pretty pulpy stuff; come to think of it, the whole story is rather pulpy itself.
  • There seems to be some artist/writer confusion in the theatre scene; Batman addresses the shooter as Ape (and talks about how stupid he is), but it’s Twitchy that responds. Batman subsequently refers to him as Twitchy, so I’m not sure why he fingered Ape as the shooter initially.
  • Ma says she met her new operatives in prison; does that mean Gotham prisons are co-ed?
  • Batman says he knew it was Ma behind the first murder attempt because nobody else would be goofy enough to shoot from a moving car. Give it a few years, Bats.

Roy RaymondRoy Raymond – “The Aliens Among us” – Bob Rozakis/Dave Hunt

Roy Raymond is a TV star who also solves crimes, and yes, that’s as goofy as it sounds. Roy is doing an anniversary show where he brings in four supposed aliens and the viewers have to guess which ones are genuine. Roy introduces Morgan Edge (Roy’s show is broadcast on WGBS) to the alien quartet: Breep, a computer from Derlath; Phanto, from a planet of incorporeal beings; Uggh, from a moon of Jupiter; and Madame X, an exile from her homeworld. Edge thinks Roy is nuts, but after he hears each alien’s story, he admits they might make interesting TV—except Madame X, who claims to be from a planet orbiting Polaris (yes, that’s a clue) who has been living on Earth under an assumed name for a few years. Edge thinks she sounds like a publicity-seeking whacko, but Roy assures him he knows what he’s doing. When the show airs, Roy is re-united with his old co-host (and by the way they’re hugging, they were more than just friends) and then proceeds to debunk the aliens. Breep is revealed as a robot built by one of the WGBS cameramen, Phanto is a hologram whipped up by the special effects department, and Uggh is a fake created by the make-up people at the station. The only genuine alien urns out to be Madame X, who is actually … Hawkgirl. Roy figured since the staff was trying to fake him out with their “aliens”, he’d turn things around and bring in a real alien.

Robin on truckRobin – “The Iron Solution” – Jack C. Harris/Kurt Schaffenberger/Joe Giella

This one takes place in West Germany (yes, there used to be two Germanys; ask your parents) where Wayne Enterprises has some businesses. Dick Grayson is attending meetings and is bored out of his mind when he learns one of the banks connected with Wayne Enterprises was robbed in a rather spectacular fashion … someone blasted right through the wall. Dick asks to see the scene of the crime and finds a few clues that compel him to return later as Robin. He finds tank tracks and figures he should check out the closest U.S. Military base. At the base, he finds a tank being loaded into a supply truck and taken off-base. Robin talks to a friendly guard and figures the robberies are being committed by Army personnel using tanks to crack the banks; they use the truck to move the tanks around, since driving a tank down the street tends to attract attention. Robin jumps onto the truck but the driver figures out he’s there and tries to shot him. Robin fakes him out and the driver crashes the truck, but theRobin catches thieves rear is opened … no tank. Robin feels like an idiot, but he feels even worse the next day when he finds out there was another robbery. That means the tank was taken off-base, but he isn’t sure how. He heads back to snoop around and realizes the “friendly” guard must’ve tipped the driver that Robin was hitching a ride. He pounds the guard and remembers the newest tank is capable of moving sideways; he reasons the trucks must have removable side panels and the tank was transferred sideways to the next truck in line while he jumped on the decoy truck. He heads for the line of trucks, exposing the tank in one of them. Before they can blast him, Robin tips over the truck and calls the MPs to arrest the crooked soldiers. Turns out they were robbing banks because the dollar was wasn’t worth shit due to all the recent devaluations.

Noticeable Things:

  • It isn’t said exactly where this takes place, but the Army base Robin visits is Krabbenloch Kaserne, which was located in Ludwigsberg, just north of Stuttgart until 1993.

Odd ManThe Odd Man – Steve Ditko

This is … just weird. Odd Man is a private investigator named Clay Stoner who dresses up like a whack-job and uses weird gimmicks to catch crooks. The story starts with him interrogating someone about some jewel robberies. He gets some info and heads for the latest robbery, but he’s too late, A freak dressed like an Egyptian pharaoh has encased the victim in some kind of plastic that he shoots from a gun. Odd Man tries to capture the Pharaoh, but he escapes. He absconds  with only one of the gems, which Odd Man finds … odd. Odd Man checks out other people who own Egyptian treasures, but finds the Pharaoh has beaten him to it. As Stoner, he talks to an old friend, a judge named Brass, who takes him to a museum to look at the new Egyptian jewel exhibit. The museum director, Haxer, tells Stoner he’s donated his entire collection to the museum (at the suggestion of a Ms. Nyla) so he’s not worried about anyone trying to rob him personally. Stoner is suspicious ofironic fates Nyla and her servant, so he asks the judge to check a few things. Meanwhile, Nyla and the Pharaoh check out Haxer’s collection, but find out he held back the one gem they want. The Pharaoh goes to get it from Haxer, sealing him in plastic afterward. Stoner and the judge figure out Nyla is behind the robberies and Stoner goes to see her … as Odd Man. He’s captured and sealed inside a sarcophagus, but melts his way out and goes after Nyla and Pharaoh. Turns out Pharaoh was stealing those specific gems to reconstruct an ancient necklace because he thinks Nyla is the reincarnation of some long-dead Egyptian queen … or something. Anyway, Odd Man uses his gimmicks to fight them, Nyla is accidentally encased in plastic, and Pharaoh freaks out and encases himself. Now let us never speak of it again.

Batgirl saves ZiglerBatgirl – “The Case of the Campaign Crimes” – Jack C. Harris/Dick Giordano/Steve Mitchell

This one starts with Batgirl racing across Gotham to the TV studio. She busts in just in time to stop a Congressional candidate named Della Zigler from being shot by a fake camera firing real bullets. Batgirl pounds the “cameraman”, saying the real one was found tied up earlier. Batgirl takes off to change to Barbara Gordon, then comes right back to the studio. Seems Ms Zigler is running against Barbara for her seat in Congress and they’re supposed to have a televised debate tonight. The debate goes on (a bit late) and we see that Barbara and Zigler agree that Gotham’s biggest problem is crime, but disagree on how to stop it: Barbara thinks the criminals themselves should be hunted down and prosecuted, but Zigler figures they have to go after the roots of crime, like poverty, hunger, and general despair. We see a bunch of crooks watching the debate, lamenting that their first murder attempt failed and planning another. After the debate, Barbara tells everyone she was probably the intended target of the murder (given her tough stance on crime), but someone takes aBatgirl catches shooter shot from across the street that just misses Zigler. Batgirl tries to catch the shooter, but he gets away. Later, he compares notes with her father, Commissioner Gordon, and gets a brainstorm. She realizes she knows Zigler’s campaign manager from somewhere … he’s a mobster named Chase in disguise. When she exposes him, he confesses the mob is after him and he pretended to be Zigler’s campaign manager so he could get close to Barbara Gordon and maybe get some FBI protection. Batgirl is pissed off that he put so many people in danger, but uses the info he’s willing to spill to round up a bunch of mobsters. Chase doesn’t have enough on Dexter Doyle, the mob boss, to put him away, but Batgirl leaves Doyle a message that she’s got her eye on him. Unfortunately, Batgirl’s mob-pounding activities have put a crimp in Barbara Gordon’s re-election campaign; we aren’t told who wins, but the implication is that it ain’t Barbara.

Noticeable Things:

  • Judging by the name (and the hat), Della Zigler is DC’s version of Bella Abzug.

Brave and Bold 157 coverBrave & the Bold #157 – “Time … My Dark Destiny” – Bob Haney/Jim Aparo

This one starts with a Senator going for a helicopter ride. Unfortunately, his pilot has been replaced with some scumbag who tries to kidnap him, but Batman jumps onto the chopper and forces it down. He gets the Senator out, but the fake pilot blows up with the chopper. Turns out the Senator was a target of a professional shakedown gang called Extortion Inc. and he’s only the tip of the iceberg. Batman leaves the Senator with the cops and soon finds himself at the scene of another of Extortion Inc.’s strong-arm attempts. This time it’s a  real estate mogul they tried to grab. His bodyguards fought off Extortion Inc.’s muscle-man (known as the Enforcer), but he took out half of them in the process. One of the bodyguards claims the Enforcer took a double-barrel shotgun blast in the chest and wasn’t even fazed. Batman goes to see his old pal, Martin Tellman, a member of the Gotham Crime Analysts. Batman wants Tellman to pretend to have bought the Kalihari Rose (a flawless pink diamond) as a lureBatman discovers Kamandi to get Extortion Inc.’s attention. It works, and the crooks call Tellman and give him instructions on where to bring the diamond if he wants to keep breathing. Batman disguises himself as Tellman and when the Enforcer shows up to get the diamond, Batman recognizes him … it’s Kamandi, the boy from the future. But Kamandi has never been a crook before, and he sounds much more primitive than usual. Kamandi doesn’t seem to know his own name and he decks Batman and takes off. Batman follows and sees him collecting more loot for Extortion Inc. … this time a priceless vase. Batman sheds his disguise and confronts Kamandi again. Kamandi sort of recognizes Batman, but that doesn’t stop him from trying to beat the shit out of the Caped Crusader. During their brawl, Kamandi’s foot accidentally bumps a wooden piling and he freaks out; Batman wonders if he might literally have an Achilles Heel. Kamandi Batman fights Kamanditakes off and Batman returns the vase. Batman gets a call from Tellman, saying Extortion Inc. have hit him up for money this time and Batman again disguises himself as Tellman to make the drop. Kamandi checks the cash for tracking devices, but Batman talks a reformed pickpocket he once collared into planting a bug in Kamandi’s pocket; I guess that makes him a reverse-pickpocket. Batman trails Kamandi to Extortion Inc.’s hideout, where he finds the boss and one of his stooges. Conveniently, they’re discussing Kamandi and how he appeared from nowhere one day and kicked the shit out of half their crew, so they hired him. The goon says he had a doctor implant a dose of cobra venom in Kamandi’s heel, so if he gets out of line they can waste him. When the goon mentions that Kamandi’s great strength seems to be wearing off (and he’s not as stupid as he was) the boss decides they should use the cobra venom now, before it’s too late. Batman busts in before they can kill Kamandi, who seems to know who Batman is now. The two of them pound the Extortion Inc. goons and Batman callsBatman and Kamandi pound crooks the cops to deal with them. He takes Kamandi to the Batcave and hypnotizes him to learn how he got to the present time. Apparently, Kamandi was in Australia in his own time and found some huge wall of force. He was sentenced to death (because the Wall is considered taboo or something) , but escaped and went through the Wall. He turned stupid but invulnerable for a while, but now that he’s back to normal he ants to go home. Batman removes the cobra booby trap in his heel and they head for Australia. When they get thee, a bunch of Aborigines seem to know why Kamandi is there and help him prepare to return home. They anoint him with “magic dust” and tell him to wait at the top of the sacred rock (which definitely isn’t Uluru) for the moon’s kiss. Kamandi hangs around on top of the rock and a portal opens back to his own time. No, none of it makes sense; obviously Bob Haney wanted Batman and Kamandi to co-star and just hand-waved all the logic of them getting together.

Warlord 28 coverWarlord #28 – “The Curse of the Cobra-Queen” – Mike Grell/Vince Colletta

This one starts with Morgan and Ashir the thief parting ways. Ashir is heading back to Kaambuka to do his princely duty, and Morgan is going to find Tara and beg her forgiveness for being such an asshole. As Morgan rides off, a meteorite crashes to the ground and he figures it’ll inspire a dozen new cults and superstitions. We see a fragment of the meteorite landing in the jungle and bathing a cobra in its interstellar rays. Later, Morgan is riding through the jungle and gets jumped by a bunch of women dressed in snaky costumes. He fights, but gets knocked out for the umpteenth time and wakes up tied to some poles. In front of him is a snake-woman—not just a regular woman dressed like a snake, like the others, but a woman with scales and a reptilian sort of face. She actually cuts Morgan loose and starts doing a sensuous—andMorgan fights giant cobra hypnotic—dance. Just when he thinks he’s going to get lucky, she freaks out because there’s a mongoose in the bushes. She changes into a gigantic cobra and entwines herself around Morgan. Her cultists flee (apparently they had no idea she was actually a huge snake … yeah, right) and she almost crushes Morgan before he slices, stabs, and shoots her. He wonders if she was a snake that became a woman, or a woman that became a snake; either way, she’s mongoose chow now, and Morgan leaves her to continue his journey.

Noticeable Things:

  • It’s explained that time in Skartaris is relative, so I guess that’s how the cobra evolved into a woman after the meteor crash and inspired an entire cult, all in the short time it took Morgan to ride into the jungle.
  • The snake women’s outfits (on the cover especially) really remind me of Teela from Masters of the Universe. I wonder if whoever designed Teela’s outfit was a Warlord fan?Morgan tied to stakes

Machiste and Mariah smooching“Wizard World” – Mike Grell

This is the second story of this issue, showing us what Tara, Machiste, and Mariah are up to. They’re on the road to Shamballah when a piece of the meteorite lands nearby. Mariah’s scientific curiosity is piqued and she goes to check it out, even though Tara warns her the fragment has landed in a forbidden place. Mariah ignores her and gets sucked into a portal, emerging thousands of years in the past. She lands in the summoning circle of Sorcerer Supreme (well, maybe not supreme, but he’s working on it) Mongo Ironhand, who assumes he’s conjured Mariah up and tries to put the moves on her. She quickly sets him straight. Back in the present, the portal is growing smaller every moment and Machiste says he has to follow Mariah because he loves her. Tara wishes him well (they’re only a few miles from Shamballah anyway) and he jumps through the portal. He and Mariah declare their feelings for each other—and make out a bit—but Mongo is pissed off that his conjurations netted him a couple of humans rom the far-distant future instead of the three-headed dog he as hoping for. Just then, a three-headed dog appears in the summoning circle … and it looks pissed off. We’ll see where this goes next issue.

Noticeable Things:

  • The whole Wizard World thing seems played for laughs, like a goofy D&D campaign.
  • Mongo Ironhand continually swears “By Zot!”; Scott McCloud’s Zot comic didn’t come out until 1984, so I’m not sure if Mongo’s favourite word is in reference to something specific, or if it’s just something Grell thought sounded funny.

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