Comics Reviews: Batman 321, Brave & the Bold 160, Warlord 31

Batman 321 coverBatman #321 – “Dreadful Birthday Dear Joker” – Len Wein/Walt Simonson/Dick Giordano

This one starts with Commissioner Gordon at the police station, opening an invitation to a party thrown by the Joker. Naturally, Gordon dismisses it as one of Joker’s stupid pranks, but he’s forced to take it seriously when all the cops in the building start laughing uncontrollably. Batman shows up in response to a call from Gordon and sees the Jokermobile outside the station. The roars of laughter from inside warn Batman the place is filled with laughing gas, so he dons a rebreather device for protection and busts in. As Batman is pounding Joker’s henchmen, Joker takes off with Gordon. The cops tell Batman the reason Gordon initially summoned him was to let him know Robin had been abducted up in New Carthage … by the Joker in disguise. At Bruce Wayne’s penthouse,Selina fights back Selina (Catwoman) Kyle and Alfred are waiting for Bruce to return when Lucius Fox drops in. While they’re chatting, the place is blasted by a bomb that knocks out Lucius and Alfred. It’s the Joker again, there to kidnap Alfred. He’s surprised to see Selina there and more surprised when she pounds his henchmen. Joker pulls out a bouquet of flowers and offers it to Selina; she’s too smart to let Joker get too close, but he strikes long-distance with a spring-loaded boxing glove in the bouquet which knocks Selina out. When she comes to, Batman is there. In Joker’s hideout, he’s gathered Robin, Gordon, Alfred, and various other enemies and tied them all up. Joker is planning to eliminate all his enemies at once the following night and wants an audience, so he puts a notice in the paper about a new company (Harlequin Baking) that’s giving out free samples at the Seaside Coliseum. He figures that’ll guarantee a packed house, and it turns out he’s right. The next night, people are lined up outside the Coliseum for their freebies … including an uninvited guest. Batman knew right away the Harlequin Baking Company was a front for Joker, so he slips inside. Once the Coliseum is full, Joker locks the doors and gasses the audience, putting them all into a trance. He then unveils Joker blows uphis deathtrap … a giant birthday cake with giant incendiary candles. Each candle has someone tied to it and when they’re lit up, Joker’s enemies will be burnt to a crisp. Batman shows up and Joker says he’ll trade Batman’s life for everyone else’s. Batman agrees, but after Joker ties him to the biggest incendiary candle, he reveals he was lying about letting his other captives go. That’s not exactly shocking, so Batman had planned ahead; he’d snuck into the Coliseum earlier and rigged the big candle with a rocket. He now shoots up into the air where he can work himself free of his restraints. Joker sets the other candles to explode, but Batman frees himself and cuts the fuses with batarangs. He also cuts Robin loose and the two of them pound Joker’s men. Joker tries to run and Batman chases him to the docks where Joker has a speedboat ready. Batman snags the boat and waterskis behind until he can climb aboard. He and Joker fight, but the boat goes out of control, heading for some rocks. Batman falls overboard, but Joker is still on the boat when it hits the rocks and blows up. Does that mean Joker’s finally dead? Nah, he’ll be back sooner or later.

Noticeable Things:

  • Joker is surprised to find Selina at Bruce’s place. I guess he doesn’t read the society columns or he’d know they’ve been dating for a while.
  • This is the “homicidal-for-no-reason” crazy version of the Joker. By way of illustration, there’s a scene where he murders one of his henchmen for not laughing at a joke. Let’s hope Joker never plays Vegas.

Brave and Bold 160 coverBrave & the Bold #160 – “The Brimstone Connection” – Cary Burkett/Jim Aparo

This one starts with a bang … literally. Gunshots ring out and a guy comes flying through a window just as Batman is passing by. Batman catches the guy and takes him to a nearby rooftop, but his wounds are so bad he doesn’t have much time left—just enough to gasp out crucial plot information. He’s a government agent investigating the theft of a new rocket fuel formula. The formula is in four parts, two of which have already passed through Gotham. The agent exhorts Batman to find the thieves before the other two parts of the formula are passed on, and says Batman should look for “Brimstone”. Batman vows to carry out the agent’s assignment, but finds no clues to the espionage. He gets a break when Linda Danvers (aka Supergirl) shows upBatman finds a clue at Bruce Wayne’s office saying her father was kidnapped. Coincidentally, he was working on a new rocket fuel formula for STAR Labs. Batman and Supergirl check out Professor Danvers’s study. Batman mentions how tidy Danvers is and points out a caramel apple core in the trash. Supergirl says her father would never eat something so messy at his immaculate desk, so Batman figures the kidnapper left it and that they can get dental impressions from the bite marks. Elsewhere, we see Danvers’s kidnappers, led by a shadowy dude. He says they’ve got the third part of the formula and just need the last part, the one Danvers was working on. They pump him full of truth serum to get his cooperation. Batman’s dental comparison leads to a guy named Casbeer, a snatch-and-Supergirl madgrab man who operates out of an arcade. Batman and Supergirl head over and Batman walks in to look for Casbeer. He ends up fighting some thugs and Supergirl comes in to help. She busts into Casbeer’s office and is ready to take him apart when Batman stops her. When she busted in, Casbeer lit up a piece of paper he was examining, which tells Batman he’s got something to hide. Thanks to Supergirl’s super-vision—and total recall—she recreates the paper, which turns out to be a map to the drop point for the stolen formula. Batman realizes his old enemy Colonel Sulphur is probably behind the caper (since sulphur and brimstone are synonyms), so he disguises himself as Casbeer and makes the drop … with a fake formula. Supergirl uses her vision powers to track the formula through a bunch of different couriers and dead drops, until it lands in an old munitions factory near the ocean. The walls are lead-lined, so she can’t see in, but before she and Batman can invade the place, they see a plane taking off. Batman figures it might be heading to Sulphur’s hideout (if he isn’t in the factory), so Supergirl follows the plane and Batman goes into the factory. But Sulphur is expecting him and the Caped Crusader is gassed and tied up alongside Fred Danvers. Sulphur tells Batman he got the real formula from Danvers with the truth serum and he’ll be taking it out of the country himself. The lane was a diversion to getSupergirl shakes up the sub Supergirl out of the way and Sulphur has rigged a bomb to blow up Danvers if Batman steps off the pressure plate he’s currently standing on. Of course, if Batman does nothing, the bomb will explode at dawn anyway, killing him and Danvers. Sulphur leaves—taking Batman’s utility belt—and Batman quickly gets out of his ropes. He snags a nearby chair and uses it to hold down the pressure plate so he can free Danvers (and presumably disarm the bomb, though that isn’t mentioned). Batman calls Supergirl to let her know she’s on a wild goose chase, then retrieves a spare utility belt from the Batmobile. Supergirl gets back and Batman figures Sulphur is leaving by submarine (he mentioned escaping in the briny deep), so Supergirl zips underwater until she finds the sub. She shakes them up and forces the sub to surface, where Batman is waiting. Batman pounds Sulphur’s henchmen and after what he did to her father, Supergirl enjoys decking Sulphur.

Noticeable Things:

  • There are a few places where Supergirl seems to be a rank amateur and Batman has to point out clues to her. I get that he’s supposed to be the veteran detective and she’s the rookie who’s still learning, but she should’ve known to check the garbage can for clues … or that Casbeer lighting a piece of paper on fire was significant. Doesn’t she watch detective shows on TV?
  • Would a chair weigh the same as Batman? Maybe it only takes a few pounds to hold down the pressure plate.

Warlord 31 coverWarlord #31 – “Wings Over Shamballah” – Mike Grell/Vince Colletta

This one starts with Travis Morgan resting on top of a ziggurat, surrounded by blood, gore, and the bodies of a bunch of dogs. A quick flashback shows how he got to this point: Morgan was on his way to Shamballah to warn them about the coming Theran invasion (and beg for Tara’s forgiveness) when a pack of wild dogs started chasing him. He ran to the ziggurat and climbed up, but the dogs kept coming, so he turned to fight and ended up slaughtering them all. He kills the last dog and accidentally activates a hidden switch that drops him inside the ziggurat. He lands on a pile of treasure, guarded by a couple of trolls … dead trolls, luckily for him. Judging by his surroundings, and the carvings he finds, the temple dates back to the Age of the Wizard Kings. He reads some glyphs that say the treasure  was hidden away by thetroll fight Wizards when humans from the outside world first came to Skartaris. The only way to access the temple is to drench the steps in blood, which Morgan inadvertently did while fighting the dogs. Morgan has no interest in goblin gold, but does grab a fancy-looking shield with a black eagle on it as a replacement for his own. As he turns to leave, the trolls lumber to life and attack him. He fights back, but since the trolls are technically already dead, they’re kinda hard to kill … even his trusty Automag can’t stop them. But while standing under the trap door to the outside, Morgan discovers that sunlight can hurt the trolls, so he reflects the light with his shield and burns the trolls to a crisp. He climbs out of the temple and seals it up again, thinking the treasure could help Shamballah rebuild after a war with Thera. Morgan is within sight of Shamballah now, but it turns out the Wizard Kings had another trick up their sleeve: the eagle device on Morgan’s new shield comes to life and carries him off, right over Shamballah and toward the sea. Morgan stabs the eagle with no effect, but a bolt of lightning finally causes the huge bird to drop him into the ocean. He washes up on shore, at the feet of someone who looks rather … large. We’ll see what new trouble Morgan is in next issue.

Noticeable Things:

  • The Wizard who wrote the message in the temple is Mongo Ironhand, Machiste and Mariah’s pal from the Wizard World back-ups.
  • I get that Grell is having Morgan go through a lot of shit before he finally gets back to Tara, but now it almost seems like he’s coming up with artificial reasons to keep Morgan away from Shamballah. I mean, a giant eagle on his shield carrying him off, really?
  • Great art, as usual.dogfight

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