Comics Reviews: Batman 320, Detective 488, Brave & the Bold 159, Warlord 30

Batman 320 coverBatman #320 – “The Curse of the Inquisitor” – Denny O’Neil/Irv Novick/Bob Smith

This one starts with a mail carrier delivering some stuff to an office belonging to a guy named Sigerson. The mailman and a cleaning lady both think it’s strange that they’ve never seen the mysterious Mr. Sigerson. We soon find out why; Sigerson is an alias used by Batman, and the office is a mail drop. Batman subscribes to a clipping service that sends him info about crimes all over the world, but he doesn’t want that correspondence addressed to Bruce Wayne. The latest batch of clippings contains a story about two priests who were killed under mysterious circumstances in rural Spain; one was covered in bronze, the other hung upBatman fights cops in a meat locker. Batman heads over to Spain (as Bruce Wayne) to check things out. He sees an older priest (Cardinal Ramirez) preaching a bunch of fire and brimstone stuff about how the church has lost its way and the younger generation is all hell-bound. He’s opposed by a young priest (Father Pinto) who says the church must change with the times or be left behind. Bruce realizes the two murdered priests were quite young, so he resolves to talk to Pinto—as Batman. That night, Batman reaches Pinto’s place and someone takes a shot at him with a crossbow. He tries to kind the ambusher, but runs into a couple of guys with guns instead. After pounding them, he finds out they’re cops, there to watch over Father Pinto. One of the cops, Lieutenant Sanchez, says he doesn’t like foreigners interfering in police business. Cardinal Ramirez shows up and accuses Batman of being a pawn of the devil. Batman goes to see Pinto later and asks if he pit escapesuspects anyone of the murders. Before Pinto can tell him, he’s shot with a crossbow bolt (with a hypo on the end, just to be sure). Batman goes after the shooter and trails him to an abandoned chapel outside town. A hunchback pops out of a trap door and tries to skewer Batman, but he dodges the deadly bolt. Another weirdo pops up, dressed in a red robe and calling himself the Inquisitor. He says the younger generation of priests needs to be punished for the heretical stuff they preach. He drops Batman into a spike-filled pit, but the Caped Crusader manages to brace himself across the walls before being impaled. Unfortunately, Batman’s delicate position leaves him vulnerable to the crossbow-toting hunchback, and the Inquisitor leaves him to his fate. Batman beans the hunchback with a skull from the pit and climbs out. Batman heads to the police station, where he’s told Father Pinto died of a drug in his system—which Batman expected. He inquires about Lt. Sanchez and where the nearest bank can be found. At the bank, Lt. Sanchez (who turns out to be the Inquisitor) herds another young priest into the vault, to die slowly of suffocation. Before he can close the door, Batman confrontsinquisitor killed him and lets Sanchez know how he figured out it was him under the Inquisitor robe. Earlier Sanchez mentioned “capital sins” and Batman realized the priests’ deaths symbolized the seven capital sins: the bronzed priest for pride (like a trophy); the frozen one for gluttony (surrounded by food); Pinto for sloth (with a drug that made him lethargic); and this latest one for greed (in a bank vault). They fight and Batman gets the upper hand, but the priest emerges from the vault and distracts the Darknight, giving Sanchez a chance to clonk him with a chair. The priest gets in the way again, trying to stop the fight, and in the confusion the hunchback shoots Sanchez with a crossbow bolt. The priest says he’ll hear Sanchez’s last confession. Later Batman goes to see Cardinal Ramirez and mentions that he checked him out. Apparently, Sanchez was Ramirez’s son from before he became a priest. Batman counsels him that “he who is without sin should cast the first stone”.

Noticeable Things:

  • Were clipping services still a thing in 1980? I know they were big back in the early 20th Century (they’re practically de rigueur in Call of C’thulhu) but I figured they’d be obsolete after TV and radio shrank the world.
  • Can people who have already been married and had kids become priests later? I didn’t think that was allowed.

Detective 488 coverDetective #488 – “The Spook’s Death Sentence for Batman” – Cary Burkett/Don Newton/Dan Adkins

This one starts with a bunch of escaped cons taking over the control tower at Gotham Airport on a foggy night. Anticipating Die Hard II, they threaten to crash a couple of planes into each other unless they’re provided with money and a plane on which to escape. Unfortunately for them, Batman shows up and starts pounding them. The leader (Simon Thatcher) is the last one standing, but he’s so freaked out by Batman that he doesn’t even try to shoot him and Batman decks him. The preceding story was recounted in Thatcher’s best-selling book, “Memoirs From Death Row”, which we see Bruce Wayne has been reading to his latest girlfriend, Selina Kyle. Because of her past as Catwoman, Selina is a little bothered by the stuff about Batman, so Bruce stops his recitation. Elsewhere, we see a group of men discussing Thatcher’s book and allBatman decks Thatcher at the control tower the money it’s been making. Thatcher’s publisher, his ghost-writer, his agent, and the head of the book company are all upset that Thatcher’s impending execution will negate the possibility of a sequel, which would be sure to make a ton of money. The publisher “suggests” that if Thatcher were to somehow escape death row and put out a follow-up memoir, they’d all be rolling in cash. Later, we see one of the four (though we don’t know who, since his face is obscured) meeting with the Spook. Spook is a villain who charges to break people out of prison, a job made easier for him because he’s the architect who designed Gotham State Prison and he built a bunch of secret tunnels into the place. Unfortunately for Spook, Batman found the entrance to the cell Thatcher’s now in and blocked it off months ago. Spook figures he can still get Batman pounded by guardsThatcher out … it’ll just take a little more planning. At the Wayne Foundation, Bruce Wayne and Lucius Fox discuss Thatcher’s book, lamenting that a crook should be so popular. Bruce sees the Bat-signal and heads off to see Commissioner Gordon, who tells him there’s a break-out at the prison. Batman heads over and finds a full-scale riot going on. He figures someone is trying to bust Thatcher out, but wonders who, since all Thatcher’s men are in prison too. Spook is hiding nearby and uses a hypnotic ray to make all the guards see Batman as Thatcher. The guards jump him and before he can explain who he really is, they knock him out. Spook’s ray makes the guards see him as Batman, so they let him take “Thatcher” back to his cell. Spook gets the real Thatcher out (although we don’t see him) and leaves Batman in his place. When Batman wakes up, he tries to convince the guards of who he is, but Spook’s ray hasn’t worn off so all they see is Thatcher … and since Thatcher is due to be electrocuted soon, that means Batman will be the one who gets zapped. Batman gets the guard to callBatman escapes prison Commissioner Gordon, figuring he can convince Gordon of his true identity. But Gordon has a convenient (or inconvenient, depending on how you look at it) heart attack, leaving Batman to his fate. Spook can’t resist taunting him and sends an inflatable balloon of himself to let Batman know who’s responsible for his predicament. Or maybe Spook thought Batman would be lonely on Death Row and needed some companionship. It wouldn’t have worked too well, since as soon as Batman touches the Spook-balloon it explodes. Batman reasons it must’ve been made of flammable material, similar to magician’s flash-paper. Not long after, the guards come to take “Thatcher” to the chair. Batman uses the remnants of the flash-paper dummy to blind the guards and escapes. He figures Commissioner Gordon’s heart attack was too convenient and finds Gordon tied up at home; obviously, Spook impersonated Gordon for the “heart attack” and left the hospital as soon as he was left alone. Batman sees a Batman catches Spookcopy of Thatcher’s book at Gordon’s place and realizes who hired Spook. He heads to the apartment of Thatcher’s agent and nabs him and the Spook. Spook’s blow-up doll taunts mentioned that he was getting a “percentage of a percentage”, so Batman deduced that Thatcher’s agent must’ve hired Spook, since agents get a percentage of their client’s money. Batman drags Spook and the agent to prison and finds the real Thatcher in another cell; Spook stashed him there during the break-out and planned to return through his secret tunnels and retrieve him once things calmed down. Batman vows to find all of Spook’s tunnels and block them off, and he stashes Spook in Thatcher’s old cell. It’s not said what happens to Thatcher, but I assume he’s duly executed.

Tales of Gotham City – “The Last Duty” – Denny O’Neil/Johnny Craig

This one’s about a transit cop named Clem Schnectady, who’s been on the job for twenty-five years and is about to retire. In all that time, he’s never caught a real criminal, just rousted drunks and helped lost old ladies. He’s never even had to draw his gun … whichClem catches the crook is apparently pretty old-fashioned, as some of his younger colleagues make fun of it. Another cop tells him there’s an alert out for a spy named Skinsky who stole some top-secret papers from the U.N. A conductor warns him that there’ll be a short power outage as the subway train goes through a certain tunnel. Clem helps a lady onto the subway and is annoyed by an asshole prophesying doom. Right before the train goes into the tunnel, Clem gets an alert that Skinsky is on his train, disguised as a woman. The train goes through the tunnel and the power goes out; when it comes back on, the woman that Clem helped earlier is gone. The religious whacko points out the window is open and says she must’ve climbed out, but Clem is dubious. At the next stop, the cops are waiting to arrest Skinsky, but he’s not there. Clem opens one of the seats and finds a dude in his underwear. Clem tells the cops that underwear dude was originally dressed as the religious nut and Skinsky was dressed as the woman, then Skinsky put on the religious nut outfit and the other guy tossed the woman disguise out the window and hid. Clem pulls off the religious guy’s disguise to reveal Skinsky, who whips out a gun. Clem disarms him and when the other cops ask why he didn’t just blow the guy away, Clem says he didn’t want to spoil his perfect record on his last day.

Batgirl on motorcycleBatgirl – “The Leader of the Dark Lords” – Jack C. Harris/Jose Delbo/Frank Chiaramonte

This one starts with Batgirl almost running over a dude with her motorcycle. The dude gets jumped moments later by members of the Dark Lords, a street gang. Batgirl pounds them and they take off. The guy she saved turns out to be Len Rockwell, leader of a rival gang, the Invaders. The Dark Lords’ leader was found dead on Invaders’ turf the night before and Rockwell was picked up for the murder, but the cops couldn’t hold him since they couldn’t find the murder weapon. Rockwell says he’s innocent and takes off. Batgirl leaves too, but doubles back and sees the Dark Lords’ new leader (Salgoto) return to find the knife he dropped. Batgirl heads for police headquarters and we learn she lost her re-election bid for Congress. Now she’s feeling down that she can’t fight for the people of Gotham as Barbara Gordon and wonders if she should keep fighting as Batgirl. At police HQ, she snags the file on the gang murder and runs into her father, Commissioner Gordon, who gives her a pep talk about notBatgirl catches killer being a quitter. Batgirl goes to Dark Lords’ hideout and talks to one of the gang, who says things were fine under their old leader; the gang used their muscle to protect the people in the neighbourhood and there was no beef with the Invaders. But after their leader was killed, everything went to hell and now the new leader, Salgoto, is trying to start a gang war with the Invaders. Batgirl heads for the docks to stop it; she grabs Salgoto before he can start any shit and tells the others Salgoto is probably the one who killed their old leader … which explains why he didn’t want to lose his knife. Batgirl tells them to listen to the peacemakers like Rockwell and stop all the killing. She heads home, where she tells her father she’s ready to keep fighting as Batgirl, and will try again as Barbara Gordon in the next election.

Ralph catches the thievesElongated Man – “Minus One Miracle Car” – Mike W. Barr/Eduardo Barreto/Joe Giella

This one starts with Ralph and Sue at a car show, admiring a car that runs on garbage. (No, it’s not a DeLorean.) The car disappears and Ralph jumps in to solve the mystery. He finds the driver half-unconscious in a garage, but no sign of the car. He gets pushed into a painting conveyor, but manages to escape. By now, everyone is accusing everyone else, but Ralph can’t figure out how the car was stolen since the elevator is too small to accommodate it. He and Sue check out the maintenance area and Sue points out that the tracks there are heavier than the ones in the showroom. Ralph deduces that the car that was “stolen” was a fake that was folded up and taken away in the elevator. The driver was in on it, but the mastermind was the company owner, who had stolen the design from another company and was trying to cover by pretending they’d stolen the car from him. There’s recurring joke about Ralph’s garish checkered jacket and its resemblance to the checkered flag in an auto race, but overall this is typical filler fluff.

Robin – “The Great Campus Kidnap” – Jack C. Harris/Kurt Schaffenberger/Vince Colletta

This one starts with Dick Grayson registering for the new semester at Hudson University. He’s told by the registrar to report to Kenmore Hall, but Dick has his eye on a hot fellow student named Jennifer Anne. When he talks to her outside, she’s heading for Kenmore Hall too, but gets jumped by some guys in a van and Dick is conked on the head. He goesRobin pounds kidnappers after the van as Robin but loses them. The campus cops tell him there were a bunch of simultaneous kidnappings, all by guys in vans. Robin tracks the vans into the woods but the tracks split and he realizes all the kidnapped students must’ve been transferred to one van, but there’s no way to tell which one. Chief MacDonald tells him there’s no ransom demands yet, but all the missing students are from rich backgrounds, including Dick Grayson, who’s also missing. Robin calls Kenmore Hall to cover for his disappearance, but finds out Dick Grayson was never expected there … nor was Jennifer Anne. He remembers a van waiting for him on the street and realizes the registrar set them up, so he tracks him down. Robin leans on him and the registrar admits he needed money so he set up rich kids to be kidnapped. He says they’re being held in the new stadium, which is still incomplete. Robin sneaks in and rescues the kidnapped students, then confronts the kidnappers and pounds them. The cops bust in just in time to save Robin from getting shot by the last guy and Dick later tells Jennifer Anne he helped Robin crack the case. She’s so grateful, she lays a big smooch on him, and Dick calls Bruce Wayne to tell him not to worry about any ransom demands he gets in the mail.

Brave and Bold 159 coverBrave & the Bold #159 – “The Crystal Armageddon” – Denny O’Neil/Jim Aparo

This one starts with Batman confronting two members of the League of Assassins. He’s not trying to capture them, just to prevent them from entering a certain building, where death awaits. But you know how stubborn assassins can be, so they don’t listen and Batman has to fight them. He takes one down, but the other gets too close to the building, which is turning into some kind of crystal. The assassin turns to crystal as well, when something drips onto him from out of the building. Ra’s Al Ghul shows up and he and Batman compare notes. They both know a guy named Professor Hatter has developed a deadly formula that can turn anything it touches to crystalHatter brothers fight back (which then crumbles to powder with a touch). But Hatter has disappeared, taken by the League of Assassins, who want to use his formula for their own ends. Ra’s knows the formula is too dangerous to exist … a drop of it in the ocean could turn the entire world to crystal. Ra’s tells Batman that the assassins have taken Hatter’s brother to use as leverage. Before he can inform Bats where they are, he keels over. Talia shows up and explains her father is near death. On a Chinese ship in the Indian Ocean, the League does try to force Hatter’s hand by threatening his brother. But the two fight back and Hatter’s Ra's goes crazybrother is killed. Hatter is heartbroken. Talia and Batman take Ra’s to a Lazarus Pit to renew his life. When he’s revived he goes temporarily nuts and almost strangles Batman, but comes to his senses in time. Ra’s says Hatter is in Hong Kong, so they head that way in a supersonic jet. Hatter is wandering around Hong Kong and decides the world would actually be better off if it was turned to crystal. He doesn’t want to die in a shitty back alley, so he heads back to the boat to toss his formula in the harbour and destroy the world. As Batman, Talia, and Ra’s are speeding toward Hong Kong, Batman analyzes the formula and figures out that silicon stops it from proliferating—the Professor’s lab and the vial containing the formula are both made of silicon. Ra’s sprays Batman with a silicon compound and gives him a glider to reach the ship, since there isn’t time to land anywhere. Batman reaches the ship, but hascrystal neutralized to fight his way through assassins to get to Hatter. The Professor pours out the formula before Batman can stop him and the ship (and Hatter) turns to crystal and shatters. The silicon spray protects Batman, but he’s worried the crystal effect will spread through the water. Luckily for him, Ra’s switched to a smaller plane and sprayed silicon around the ship, so the crystal effect is halted. Batman thanks Ra’s for saving humanity, but says they’ll be enemies again next time they meet. Ra’s doesn’t mind that, but Talia is pretty broken up about it.

Noticeable Things:

  • In case you’re wondering why Ra’s is going against the League of Assassins, this story takes place at a time when Sensei had usurped the leadership of the League from Ra’s.
  • Ra’s reveals that he follows Batman’s exploits very closely; he knew about the glider Bats used against Maxie Zeus in Detective 484, for instance.
  • Would pouring the antidote in the water around the ship really stop the crystal effect from spreading? There’s fathoms of water beneath the ship too, so the crystal could propagate in that direction. Maybe it needs exposure to air to work?

Warlord 30 coverWarlord #30 – “Warpath” – Mike Grell/Vince Colletta

This one starts with Morgan almost back to Shamballah, where he’s going to beg his wife’s forgiveness. But he runs across an army of Therans on the march for the city. He’s so distracted, a leopard sneaks up on him and he has to kill it quietly to avoid attracting the invading army’s attention. Morgan realizes Shamballah will be taken by surprise (and the outlying settlements decimated) by the Therans, so he resolves to beat the army to the city and warn them. The fight with the leopard spooked his horse, so he has to go on foot, and figures he can save time by going straight through a swampy expanse that the Therans will have to detour around. But other perils lurk in the swamp and Morgan gets swallowed by a giant icthyosaur. He cuts his way out of its belly and makes like Tarzan, figuring the trees will offer a afer route through the swamp. He beats the Theran army to the outlying areas of Shamballah and decides he should warn the farmers so they can mount a defense toswamp fight delay the invaders long enough for Shamballah to prepare. As he’s musing, someone cuts down the tree he’s in. It turns out to be a local woodsman named Dagin. Morgan tells him about the Therans and says they need to warn the nearby villages, but Dagin wants to help his own family first. Morgan talks him into warning the villages, saying the Therans won’t bother with one cottage when there are entire towns to loot. Morgan convinces Dagin to give the alarm at one of the villages while Morgan warns the other. Dagin makes Morgan swear he’ll get Dagin’s wife and son (who are right in the Therans’ path, on the other side of a huge gorge) to safety if anything happens. They warn the villages and tell them to send word to Shamballah. Morgan and Dagin meet by the gorge and Morgan decides to play Horatius so Dagin can get his family out of harm’s way. Dagin gets back to his cottage and we see that his “son” is Morgan at the bridgeactually Joshua, Morgan’s son, who Morgan thinks he killed. Dagin and his wife are the cottagers the witch entrusted Joshua to after switching him with the clone Deimos made. Dagin tells his wife to take Joshua and flee, but he stays behind to see if he can help Morgan. Dagin looses his pile of logs into the river and they spill over the cataract toward the narrow bridge spanning the gorge. Morgan has been retreating toward the far shore, and when he sees the logs he jumps clear, leaving his Theran attackers to be smashed off the bridge and down the river. Morgan thanks Dagin for his help and says the Theran attack is blunted for the moment. But he can feel the tension in the air … Thera will soon attack in force, and it’ll be total war between them and Shamballah. We’ll see if he’s right next issue.

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