Comics Reviews: Batman 322, Detective 489, Brave & the Bold 161, Warlord 32

Batman 322 coverBatman #322 – “Chaos—Coming and Going” – Len Wein/Irv Novick/Vince Colletta

This one starts with Selina Kyle looking through a scrapbook of her exploits as Catwoman and feeling a bit wistful at leaving that life behind. Elsewhere, a newspaper van delivering bundles of the Gotham Guardian is assaulted (and sliced in half!) by Captain Boomerang. He’s pissed off at the Guardian’s owner, who he says owes him a million bucks and has 24 hours to pay up. Batman shows up to tackle Boomerang, but the villain uses the old “endanger-the-innocents” ploy to distract Batman long enough to escape. Batman decides not to call the Flash for help … he does have his pride, after all. He asks Alfred to get Lucius Fox to track down who owns the Gotham Guardian, figuringSelina gets a naughty idea Boomerang will go after him directly. The next day, we see Selina at a doctor’s office, where she gets bad news … she’s dying of an exotic, incurable disease. The doctor says the ancient Egyptians had some kind of herbal cure, but it’s been lost over the years. Selina says she won’t just lie down and accept her fate. In his hideout, Captain Boomerang rails to himself about how much he hates Gotham and how he got cheated when he tried to play it straight for once. He vows to get his money back from the Guardian’s owner, by whatever means necessary. Selina tries to take her mind off her impending death by going to an ancient Egyptian museum exhibit dedicated to cats. The guide mentions that some of the urns on display haven’t been opened in thousands of years, so they probably contain their original herbs and spices. Selina wonders if they might be the medicinal herbs the doctor mentioned, the ones that could cure her. She’s too smart to try anything in broad daylight, but decides a return visit might be in order. Batman knocked outBatman is out trying to find Captain Boomerang and gets a call from Alfred telling him Lucius tracked down the owner of the Guardian; it’s Bruce Wayne’s business rival, Gregorian Falstaff. At Falstaff’s suite, he’s accosted by Captain Boomerang, who pounds Falstaff’s bodyguard and demands the million dollars Falstaff owes him. Turns out Boomerang invested all his ill-gotten gains in a stock that Falstaff sold short, causing it to tank. Falstaff says he’s not responsible for the market, but offers to cover Boomerang’s losses with a cheque. Boomerang demands cash instead, but Batman shows up to interrupt his unauthorized withdrawal. Batman figures he can take Boomerang easily, but his overconfidence betrays him and he gets conked out. Boomerang ties him to a giant rocket-boomerang to send Batman shooting out into space, a gimmick he once used on the Flash—except this time the boomerang is rigged to explode before it leaves the atmosphere. Meanwhile, Selina calls Bruce for help (or maybe for advice), but he’s obviously not there, so she decides to take matters into her own hands. Boomerangbatarang beats boomerang launches Batman on his rocket-rang and watches it explode, but this time it’s Boomerang who was overconfident; Batman used the rocket blast to burn through his ropes and escaped under cover of the smoke from the launch. He and Boomerang throw their respective weapons at each other, and the batarang triumphs. Batman decks Boomerang, and speculates that Boomerang’s shakedown did him a favour by introducing him to Gregorian Falstaff. At the museum, a night watchman discovers a prowler and gets a scratched up face for his trouble. He realizes Catwoman is back in business. We’ll see where that goes next issue.

Noticeable Things:

  • When Boomerang slices the van in half, I’m not sure how big the boomerang he used is supposed to be; it looks normal size when he throws it, but seems to have grown when it cuts the van in half (and would have to be bigger to do that kind of damage). Or maybe it’s just the perspective of the drawing?
  • It’s never said what disease Selina is dying from, just that it’s exotic, incurable, and symptoms don’t appear until it’s too late. Sounds like one of those soap opera diseases.
  • Boomerang talks about how much he hates Gotham, but later says he wants to stay there, once Batman is eliminated.
  • This whole thing about Catwoman having an incurable disease is weird; if the knowledge of the herbs necessary to cure it has been lost for millennia, how did the doctor know about it? It almost seems like Selina is being gaslighted into stealing the Egyptian herbs, though I’m not sure why.

Detective 489 coverDetective #489 – “Creatures of the Night” – J.M. DeMatteis/Irv Novick/Vince Colletta

This one starts with Batman swinging by a nightclub in the low-rent district of Gotham. He notices that Moon the Mystic (a world-famous magician) is playing the club, but as he’s reflecting on that his bat-rope is snapped by what looks like a speeding bird. When Batman lands on the street he hears a scream from a nearby alley and goes to check it out. A woman (who I’m assuming is a hooker) freaks out as Batman approaches and tries to run, but calms down a bit once she recognizes him. She points out her friend, lying in the alley with her throat cut and all the blood drained from her body. She claims she saw a vampire kill her friend then turn into a bat and fly away, but Batman is a man of science so he doesn’t believe her. That’s strange, considering his relationship with Man-Bat, but whatever. Moon the Mystic shows up (with his hulking manservant, Ivorn) and says the woman is correct … the killer is a vampire and MoonBatman meets vampire has been tracking it from city to city, following a grisly trail of bodies. Batman still refuses to believe the killer is an actual vampire and takes off. The next night, Batman hears some cops call for help and finds another body. He chases the killer and it turns out to be … a vampire. Or that’s what it looks like, at least. (Actually, it looks like a cross between Man-Bat and Morbius.) Batman is taken aback and the vampire flees into a nearby building where it encounters Moon, tossing him outside. Moon points to the bat flying away, but Batman heads into the building and emerges minutes later with Moon’s manservant, Ivorn. Batman is suspicious that Moon keeps popping up in connection with the killings, so he disguises himself as Matches Malone and attends Moon’s show. It’s pretty amateurish, consisting of old stand-bys like switching places with Ivorn and conjuring doves from beneath his cape, but Batman gets an idea. Early the next Batman pounds vampiremorning, another hooker is headed home when the “vampire” accosts her, but Batman is waiting nearby and jumps the killer. It turns out to be Moon in disguise; Batman figured he was using his magic tricks to disappear and sending up a dove to simulate a bat flying away. Ivorn shows up and asks Batman to go easy on Moon; apparently he had some kind of mental trauma and developed a split personality, killing women as the vampire and tracking the killer in his normal identity. Batman wonders if the decline in Moon’s career drove him nuts, but Ivorn says it’s more likely the discovery that Ivorn himself is a real vampire that broke Moon’s mind. Ivorn blames himself for Moon’s troubles and turns into a bat, flying up toward the rising sun and dissolving into nothingness. The hooker asks Batman if he saw the same thing she did, but Batman insists it was just really convincing hypnotism … again, a strange attitude for a guy who hangs out with Zatanna and Phantom Stranger.

Commissioner Gordon – “When the Inmates Run the Madhouse” – Paul Kupperberg/Irv Novick/Steve Mitchell

This one starts with a prison riot (which was a fairly common occurrence in the 70s) at Gotham State. Commissioner Gordon agrees to go in unarmed to talk to the prisoners about their demands, but it turns out the riot was orchestrated by a gang of bank robbers that he arrested. They want revenge, so they tie Gordon up and wait for theirGordon pounds leader leader (Morgan), who wasn’t arrested with the others. Morgan hates Gordon because his brother was killed during the robbery, so he disguises himself as a guard to break into the prison (!) so he can waste Gordon. Gordon waits until Morgan is ready to shoot him, then starts pounding the shit out of his captors. He manages to grab a rifle and get away, but the prisoners are still loose and Morgan is still armed and after Gordon’s ass. Gordon remembers a tour of the prison he took not long ago and gets an idea; he broadcasts over the PA that he’ll give Morgan a free shot at him in the central guard station as long as Morgan calls off the riot so nobody else gets hurt. Morgan agrees and tells the prisoners their demands have been met and they should wait in their cells. Morgan goes to the central guard station and takes a shot at Gordon, who ducks; the shot wrecks the control board. Gordon decks Morgan and explains what he learned on his prison tour: if the control board is damaged, all cells and doors lock down automatically. So Morgan just sealed all the prisoners back in their cells; Gordon calls in the cops to restore order.

Cop dropRobin/Batgirl – “The Mind Warp Mystery” – Jack C. Harris/Don Heck/Vince Colletta

This one starts with Robin and Batgirl in Gotham to investigate a drug connection between Gotham and New Carthage (where Robin attends Hudson University as Dick Grayson). They’re on the scene as an undercover cop plunges out of a window. Robin catches him (though he was already dead from his bullet wounds) and Batgirl heads into the building, but the perpetrators are already gone. She does find a potential witness, a mousy guy named Reynolds, but he can’t remember anything clearly. Robin remembers a Hudson University professor named Theel who’s working on a memory-enhancing drug. Reynolds agrees to let Theel use the drug on him to help him remember details about the cop-killers. Batgirl congratulates Robin on his idea, saying she knows he’s really Dick Grayson … which he neither confirms nor outright denies. A few days later, Commissioner Gordon and his daughter Barbara (who was on thechopper crash Congressional committee that awarded Theel his research grant) head to Hudson U. with Reynolds. Upon landing, their helicopter crashes when one of the wheels breaks off, but everyone gets out safely—with a little help from Robin, who was watching the landing as Dick Grayson. Reynolds is freaked out that someone might be after him, but the campus cops say everyone at the University seems to know about Reynolds and why he’s there, so they can’t narrow down the suspect list. In Professor Theel’s lab, he prepares to inject Reynolds with the memory-enhancer, helped by his assistant, Boyde, who’s late. But when Reynolds is injected, he keels over dead; Theel figures he had an allergic reaction to the serum. A month goes by and Robin keeps investigating, but doesn’t find much, except that Theel and his assistant have both disappeared. Robin sees the Bat-signal and checks it out; it’s Commissioner Gordon (with a portable Bat-signal) Robin jogs Barbara's memorytrying to contact Batgirl. Gordon tells Robin Batgirl is really his daughter Barbara (which Robin already knew) and that he saw her a while back but she didn’t even recognize him. Robin wonders if Barbara’s memory loss, Professor Theel’s memory experiments, and Theel and Boyde’s disappearance are all connected. Gordon says he’ll check Theel’s lab and Robin asks around until he finds Barbara, but she doesn’t recognize him either. He digs through her purse and shows her the Batgirl costume she carries there. (Lucky for her she doesn’t wear the costume or Robin would’ve had to start ripping her clothes off.) The costume jogs her memory a bit and he convinces her to put it on (let’s hope he turned his back like a gentleman when she was changing). Barbara’s memory still isn’t back, but she sees Theel on the street and remembers she was supposed to meet him. He says it’s time for her “treatment”, but when Robin confronts him, Theel reveals he know Robin’s secret identity. Theel says he wanted revenge on Commissioner Gordon because Gordon talked him into using the untested serum and hisconvenient death grant was canceled after Reynolds died, so Theel figured he’d get back at Gordon through his daughter. He injected her with the antidote to his memory-enhancer, which causes people to forget instead of remember. I’m not sure biochemistry works that way, but whatever. Theel interviewed Barbara, taping her answers; since she forgot everything as soon as she said it, the only way to regain her memories would be to listen to the tapes, but Theel planned to destroy them, thus leaving her an amnesiac who couldn’t remember her own father. But during the interview, she spilled that she was Batgirl, Dick was Robin, and Bruce was Batman. Theel figured he had a gold mine, so he kept the tapes to sell to the underworld, from whom he’s already gotten an offer. I think this is bullshit; remember what happened when Professor Strange figured out Batman’s identity? (Or what’s coming up with Crime Doctor and Sterling Silversmith?) If Gotham’s criminals knew Theel had Batman’s secret identity, he’d be dead within a day. Anyway, Barbara's memory almost restoredRobin suddenly realizes that Theel’s assistant, Boyde, must be the drug connection. Boyde knew about Gordon bringing Reynolds (and blabbed it all over campus) so he could’ve sabotaged the helicopter and poisoned the memory enhancer. And the only way the underworld could’ve known to contact Theel about Batman’s secret identity is if Boyde read it in Theel’s notes. They head for Theel’s lab, where Boyde has Gordon at gunpoint. Batgirl remembers how to toss a Batarang and snags Boyde’s gun, allowing Robin to deck him … but not before a stray shot kills Theel, taking his knowledge of their secret identities to the grave. I knew Theel would somehow end up dead; that’s what always happens when someone learns the superhero’s identity. Robin plays the tapes of her interview for Batgirl (thus restoring her memory), but asks that she not listen to the last tape, which contains his and Batman’s secret identities. He leaves and we see Batgirl burning the last tape, the implication being she didn’t listen to it (though she could’ve listened to it before burning it). Why do I get the feeling this whole story was just a way to eliminate Batgirl’s knowledge of the Dynamic Duo’s secret identities? I think that’s stupid, and I’m not sure if it sticks; I know Batgirl is fully aware of their secret identities later on, so this whole thing seems rather pointless.

Atom – “Computer Crisis” – Bob Rozakis/Alex Saviuk/Vince CollettaAtom vs aliens

This is a goofy little story about Atom using the computer on the JLA Satellite to do some scientific research. When the data comes out wrong, Atom shrinks and goes inside the computer where he finds a Dharlu, an alien that fought the JLA and merged with the computer back in JLA 130. Turns out the alien reproduced, so now there’s a whole shitload of Dharlus infesting the computer. Atom fights his way through and emerges from the computer. He realizes the Dharlus were trying to get out, so he sends them out into space on an electronic pulse … let’s hope it didn’t just kill them all instantly.

Alfred helps RobinAlfred Pennyworth – “The Bogus Butlers” – Bob Rozakis/Jose Delbo/Bob Smith

Another weird story, this time with Alfred as the hero. Alfred comes across a photo in the newspaper of Batman rounding up a gang of butlers who burgle their employers, but he’s startled to see the main burglar is Alfred himself. He decides to investigate and ends up at a bar where the criminal butlers hang out. One of them assumes Alfred is a crook (because of the photo in the paper), so Alfred plays along to find out more. He invites the crooked valet and his pals to one of Bruce Wayne’s sex pads to plan another crime, but when they get there the other butlers are suspicious of him and pull guns. There’s a knock at the door and it’s another Alfred, who proceeds to pound the crooks (with a little help from the real Alfred). Turns out it’s Robin disguised as Alfred, which makes sense since the phony Alfred in the photo had to be someone close to Batman to go along with his scheme to flush out the crooks.

Batman – “Where Strike the Assassins” – Denny O’Neil/Don Newton/Dan AdkinsBronze Tiger and Batman meet again

This one starts with two members of the League of Assassins sneaking into a hospital room to waste someone. Batman shows up and pounds them and it turns out to be Bronze Tiger who was their target. Bronze Tiger is in hospital after being knifed by Sensei’s men in Detective 485, so he doesn’t feel any loyalty to the League, but he can’t really remember much about Sensei’s operation. The only thing he recalls is Sensei wanting to go after a geologist for some reason. Elsewhere, two more Assassins chase a guy through a crowded Bingo hall, where he stops to re-arrange the board before fleeing. When Alfred reports that occurrence to Batman, he immediately deduces that the fleeing man is the geologist Bronze Tiger mentioned, and that the numbers he re-arranged refer to coordinates on a geological map of Gotham. The coordinates are for Skyway Park (an roller coaster fightamusement park), so Batman disguises himself as a vendor to check things out. He notices a guy guarding the door to a fun house and decks the guy after confirming he works for the Sensei. Inside, Sensei has the geologist doing calculations on a survey map of some kind; when he’s done, Sensei is ready to kill him but Batman stops him. Sensei takes off while his henchman takes the geologist outside and onto the roller coaster. Batman has to let Sensei go to save the innocent victim; he swings up to the top of the roller coaster using another ride and decks the assassin before he can kill the geologist. So, what was the point of all this? It’s a continuation of the League of Assassins story that started a few issues back, and it’s leading up to a confrontation with Sensei. But we’ll have to wait until next issue to see more of that story.

Brave and Bold 161 coverBrave & the Bold #161 – “A Tale of Two Heroes” – Gerry Conway/Jim Aparo

This one starts with Batman heading for police headquarters to confer with Commissioner Gordon about a serial killer roaming Gotham’s streets. But before he can get there, Batman blinks out of existence to be replaced by Adam Strange. Turns out Adam was framed for a murder back on Rann, so he arranged to switch places with Batman via the zeta-beam, figuring the World’s Greatest Detective could clear his name. On Rann, Batman is greeted by Alanna and Sardath, who explain why he was shanghaied. Adam responded to a distress call and ended up locked inside a control room with some dude. By the time the door was opened, the dude was dead, Adam was unconscious (with a smoking blaster in his hand), and everything was recorded on video cameras … except the footage doesn’t actually show Adam’s face. But since juries on Rann are computerized, they follow the preponderance of evidence, evencops come after Batman though everyone knows Adam is no murderer. The city cops show up, looking for Adam and get pissed off when he’s not there. They seem to have already made up their minds on his guilt (especially their commander, Captain Malace) and aren’t too happy to see another outworlder hanging around. They try to blast Batman, but he escapes, leaving the cops to take Alanna and Sardath in for questioning. Batman decides to check out police headquarters to see what they have on the case. We learn (in an “As You Know Bob” aside from Alanna to Sardath) that Sardath’s altering of Adam’s body chemistry during the switch with Batman means something terrible will happen if the switch isn’t reversed in two hours. On Earth, Adam decides to take over Batman’s hunt for the serial killer and Gordon agrees, showing him Batman pounds real killerthe dead bodies. Gordon says there’s no common link among the victims, but Adam spots one right away and says he knows how to catch the killer. On Rann, Batman breaks into police HQ and checks the videotapes of the murder. He realizes Adam was set up, but before he can figure out what to do, he’s confronted by the real killer … Captain Malace. (Which a name like that, he might as well have had a sign around his neck.) Malace blames Adam for the troubles Rann has had, saying every time Adam shows up something bad happens, like a space-age stormy petrel. Batman pounds Malace, but the tapes exonerating Adam are burnt up during the fight. Batman gets an idea on how he can still help clear Adam’s name. On Earth, Adam has tracked the killer to a tattoo parlor, after noticing all the victims had fresh tattoos. He finds the owner of the tattoo place stalking his next victims, a young couple. Adam’s ray-gun is back on Rann, so he grabs the killer and drags him into the air, struggling not to get knifed. Of course, that’s the time the zeta-beam starts to wear off. On Rann, BatmanAdam catches serial killer shows up in robot court and tells the droids to check Captain Malace’s gun for fingerprints and compare it with the one Adam supposedly used during the murder. Before Batman can explain himself, the zeta-beam wears off and he and Adam switch places again … I guess that was the “terrible” thing Alanna alluded to earlier. The robots check Malace’s gun and find his prints over top of Adam’s, which (apparently) proves it’s really Adam’s gun and the one used in the murder was Malace’s, which he switched with Adam’s … or something. Anyway, Adam is cleared and back on Earth, Batman pounds the killer and brings him in.

Noticeable Things:

  • If you’re wondering how the zeta-beam reached Batman in Gotham when it always strikes Earth south of the Equator, Adam says Sardath bounced it off the moon somehow. He also did something to Adam’s physiology to allow him to exist on Earth (temporarily) without dying.
  • Seriously, the cops couldn’t notice that every victim had a tattoo? No wonder Batman is so busy.
  • The tattoo parlor guy said he was killing people who got tattoos because they’re “sinners”, but if he feels that way, why the hell does he run a tattoo shop? And where did he learn to do tattoos in the first place?

Warlord 32 coverWarlord #32 – “Land of the Titans” – Mike Grell/Vince Colletta

Last issue, Travis Morgan was within spitting distance of Shamballah (and his estranged wife, Tara), but was carried out to sea by a mystic bird and dropped. He washed up on shore and was found by a couple of giant dudes. When they grab him, Morgan naturally fights back, putting his sword through one behemoth’s throat before the other one zaps him with some kind of taser-type thing. The giant takes Morgan (on a flying disc!) to a nearby city and dumps him in the throne room, reviving him with he same taser device. Morgan finds himself in front of the Queen, Amarant (who looks a bit like Red Sonja), who tells him their race  of giants is almost extinct; there were only six of them left, but now it’s down to five since Morgan killed one. He protests that it was self-defence, but gets conked out by one of the giants. He wakes up in a cell with a hot woman hovering over him; no, he’s not in heaven, this is Shakira, who’s destined toMorgan fights giants become a major character in the series. For now, she’s just a babe in a fur bikini (which I’m sure Morgan appreciates) and says she’s there to help him escape. She never really explains how she got there—or how she got into Morgan’s cell—so I guess she’s some kind of servant … or slave. Shakira says she needs a mighty warrior like Morgan to help her escape and he needs her knowledge of the place to help him. He’s reluctant, but doesn’t have much choice. Shakira leads Morgan to the forge where slaves manufacture weapons. Morgan wonders why the slaves don’t rebel, since they outnumber the giants about 50-to-1, but Shakira says the slaves are so used to subjugation that they almost consider the giants to be gods. Morgan and Shakira are spotted and Morgan kills another giant by knocking him into the forge. He grabs an axe and starts doing his berzerker bit, but he and Shakira get zapped by another giant with a stun gun … though Morgan manages to bury the axe in the giant’s head as he goes down. Morgan and Shakira wake up in irons in the throne room. The Amarant is pissed off that Morgan has decimated half her race … so I guess no snu-snu for him. Morgan gives a speech about how the slaves might serve the giants willingly if they shared their technology, but as long as they’re subjugated they’ll always want freedom. Amarant slaps him down and says he (and Shakira) are fated to die for defying her. They’re thrown into a gladiator pit—with their weapons … Amarant is nothing if not sporting—and are soon confronted by their adversary, a pissed off woolly rhinoceros.rhino attack Naturally, Morgan plays Mr. Macho and almost gets killed in the process. Shakira shows her own mettle by distracting the beast and luring it to smash into the wall underneath the queen, who tumbles down to her death. The rhino is killed by the falling debris and Shakira kicking assMorgan and Shakira waste the last two giants. The slaves flee, not wanting to tangle with Morgan and Shakira … and possibly not knowing what to do with their new-found freedom. Shakira tells Morgan she mourns Amarant’s death, since she was the Queen’s favourite. But she says the Queen tried to break her spirit, which nobody can do since it’s her nature to be independent. She then reinforces that statement by turning into a cat. Yup, Shakira is a woman who turns into a cat … or possibly the other way around. Either way, we’ll be seeing a lot more of her as she joins Morgan on his adventures … at least until she gets bored. You know how cats are.

Noticeable Things:

  • Amarant says Shakira was always her “favourite”; I’m not sure if that just means she was a favoured servant, or something more. Or maybe Amarant knew Shakira was a cat and she was her pet?

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