Comics Reviews: Batman 323, Detective 490, Brave & the Bold 162, Warlord 33

Batman 323 coverBatman #323 – “Shadow of the Cat” – Len Wein/Irv Novick/Bob Smith

Last issue Selina (Catwoman) Kyle found out she was dying of some nameless but deadly disease. Her doctor mentioned that the Ancient Egyptians might have found a cure, so Selina was very interested in an Egyptian exhibit that contained jars full of ancient healing herbs that hadn’t been opened for thousands of years. Later, that exhibit was robbed and the guard was scratched by a familiar-looking figure. Following the clues to their logical conclusion, Batman shows up at Selina’s place to arrest her. She swears she’s innocent and Batman says he’ll try to help her prove that in court, but he still has to take her in based on the guard’s account of the robbery. Selina can’t acceptCatwoman escapes that, mentioning that she’d probably never live long enough to make it to the trial. She jumps out the window after distracting Batman with her pussy (she throws her pet cat at him … what did you think I meant?) and gets away. The next day, Bruce Wayne shows up at his office and meets his new temp assistant, Caroline Crown, who seems somewhat taken with him. He’s startled to find Catwoman waiting for him in his office. Bruce and Selina have been dating, but she swore her costumed exploits were behind her. She asks Bruce for help to clear her name, but he urges her to turn herself in. He tries to force her and she considers fighting him, but can’t bring herself to hurt Bruce, who she apparently loves. She sprays him with Batman saves Catwoman from trapsneezing powder and takes off, leaving Bruce believing she’s telling the truth about her innocence. Batman goes to check out the museum and finds a piece of thread snagged on the Egyptian exhibit. Meanwhile, Catwoman goes to see a fence named Pinch and intimidates him into giving her information on the museum robbery. We check in on another simmering subplot, with Lucius Fox’s son going out to meet some “friends” and Lucius worrying he might be doing something bad. In the Batcave, Batman analyzes the thread he found, but can’t determine its exact composition. He can tell where it’s been lately and heads for the waterfront. Catwoman is there ahead of him, following Pinch’s info. She enters an old warehouse, skirting around several traps, and climbing down into the basement. But she misses one trap and almost steps on a hidden pressure plate. Batman knocks her clear, but she assumes he’s there toCat-Man revealed stop her and starts fighting him. Her affliction flares up, giving her a splitting headache, and she tries to run away. She steps on the pressure plate, releasing a cloud of poison gas. Batman gives her his breathing device and gets her clear of the gas, which convinces her he’s on her side. He starts to ask about her headaches (and new fatalistic attitude), but a trap door opens under their feet and they’re dumped into a huge spider web. The web is actually cables coated with polymer adhesive, which holds them fast. Their captor (and the real museum thief) reveals himself, and it turns out to be … Cat-Man! We’ll see what he does with his captives next issue.

Noticeable Things:

  • It seems like Len’s setting something up with the new secretary, Caroline Crown. She immediately seems attracted to Bruce (not unheard of, I know) and is very solicitous of his health when she hears him sneezing in his office. I wonder if there’s going to be some kind of “Fatal Attraction” obsession thing happening?
  • Pinch, the fence Catwoman squeezes for information, looks just like Marvel’s Tinkerer.
  • Cat-Man’s usual schtick is to employ devices with cat-based names, which he continues here; the poison gas was a catabolic agent, and he refers to the giant web as a cat’s cradle.

Detective 490 coverDetective #490 – “Requiem for a Martyr” – Denny O’Neil/Don Newton/Dan Adkins

This one starts with Batman interrupting the League of Assassins as they unload some contraband explosives at the docks. Batman pounds the thugs, but gets jumped by Ra’s Al Ghul’s bodyguard, Lurk. Batman and Ra’s have had sort of a truce going since Sensei usurped leadership of the Assassins from Ra’s. Ra’s obviously figures helping Batman will help him regain control of the League from Sensei, and Batman apparently considers Ra’s the (slightly) lesser of two evils. So why would Ra’s send his bodyguard to attack Batman? That’s exactly what the Caped Crusader asks Lurk after he pounds him (though Lurk does injure Batman’s arm in the process). Seems Ra’s sent Lurk to stop Sensei’s men, but Lurk decided to go after Batman because of a previous grudge. Batman warns him Ra’s Al Ghul hates disobedience and leaves him to ponder his future. At Gotham Airport, Commissioner Gordon and the Mayor meet a plane carrying fourcops take precautions religious leaders (of different denominations) who have come to Gotham for a meeting about world peace. One of the holy men, named Reeney, gives Gordon shit about the armed escort he’s provided. Reeney is a militant pacifist (if that’s not too much of a contradiction) and eschews weapons of all kinds, even in the hands of lawmen assigned to protect him and the other preachers. Gordon pulls his men back to appease Reeney, but has them follow to the meeting place, a secluded mansion in the country. (No, it’s not Wayne Manor; this place is called the Matthews Estate.) The place is surrounded by guards and has been checked multiple times to ensure the delegates are safe. In the Batcave, Batman has brought in (blindfolded, of course) Barton McManus, the geologist he rescued from Sensei’s men last issue. Batman needs to know what Sensei is planning and McManus tells him everything he remembers. Sensei cops shoot Batan downwas especially interested in a certain fault line that runs near Gotham. McManus says if explosives were set off at the right spot, it could trigger an earthquake along the fault line … which just happens to run under the Matthews Estate. Batman takes off (leaving McManus in the Batcave … let’s hope he’s not the nosy type) and finds Sensei’s men filling a trench along the fault line where they’ve planted the explosives. Batman pounds them, but learns the explosives are set to go off in thirty minutes. Before he can get into the trench to defuse them, another thug tosses some dynamite that buries the trench under rubble. Batman doesn’t have time to dig up the explosives, so he heads for the Matthews Mansion. When he approaches, Commissioner Gordon’s paranoia gets the better of him and he orders his men to shoot down the Whirly-Bat. Batman crashes, but manages to jump clear, although he injures his arm again. Some thugs find him and he pounds them, then heads inside to warn about the impending earthquake. Everybody leaves, except Reverend Reeney; he refusesReeney the martyr to be intimidated by threats of violence and wants to stay. There’s always one in every crowd. Batman considers decking the recalcitrant preacher and carrying him out, but says he won’t; Batman says everyone is responsible for their own choices and Reeney is welcome to his martyrdom if that’s what he really wants. Outside, Batman finds the others haven’t escaped yet, and for good reason … Sensei is holding them at gunpoint. He was there all along, disguised as a member of the delegation (the Japanese member, which he seems to think is quite clever). Batman points out that the earthquake will kill him too and Sensei says he doesn’t care. He considers himself an artist of death and thinks the satisfaction of killing peace-seekers in such a unique way will be worth dying for. Sensei claims everything from Kathy Kane’s murder onward has been leading to this moment; Batman says Sensei is nuts and that at least Ra’s Al Ghul has a practical use for the Assassins, not some twisted vision of artistry. Batman and SenseiSensei looks about ready to blast Batman, but Reeney comes through the door all sanctimonious, and Sensei shoots him instead. Batman punches Sensei, but his fucked up arm isn’t strong enough to do much damage and the mad Assassin escapes into the mansion. Batman tells Gordon to get the other delegates to safety while he goes after Sensei, but Ra’s Al Ghul shows up and tells Batman Sensei is his problem now. Batman reiterates what he’s said all along, that he’ll bring Sensei and Ra’s in for their crimes, but Talia shoots Batman with a knockout dart from behind. Ra’s tells her to save Batman’s life and it looks like he’s going to pursue Sensei into the house. The explosives go off and the earthquake hits, collapsing the house into rubble. Days later, Batman recovers in a secluded cottage with Talia, who tells him she doesn’t know what happened to Sensei or her father. She says Batman should enjoy his brief moment of respite from his war on crime and he thinks maybe he can afford to take it easy, since Kathy’s killers seem to have met justice.

Batgirl finds sniperBatgirl – “Dance of Death” – Mike W. Barr/John Calnan/Joe Giella

This story starts with Batgirl jumping a guy with a rifle outside her father’s house. Commissioner Gordon has a house guest (Charles Rey) who’s been receiving threats lately, so a guy lurking in the bushes with a rifle probably isn’t a good sign. Batgirl stops the sniper from firing, but he uses a smoke bomb to escape. Batgirl heads inside, where she changes to Barbara Gordon just in time to meet a visitor, Charles Rey’s son, Philipe. Charles is a famous ballet dancer with his own company, who’s been getting threats to canceling his tour. His son is kind of a dick, yelling at Charles and begging him to step down as lead dancer for the sake of the company … and so Philipe can take his place. Charles refuses and Philipe storms off, leaving Barbara to Batgirl tosses explosive package out the windowwonder if there’s a connection between the threats, the sniper, and Philipe’s prickish behaviour. The next day, Barbara disguises herself as an exerciser for Charles’s company to keep an eye on him. He receives a package which she realizes is a bomb and (after a quick change to Batgirl) tosses it out the window. She figures it must’ve been an inside job, since the cops outside would’ve intercepted any incoming packages. She eavesdrops on a conversation between Charles and his daughter, Cecile. Cecile is pissed off at the way Charles neglected her, Philipe, and their mother (before she died), but Charles says he has a gift and can’t deny it to the world. He says she’ll change her mind about him when she hears his big announcement after tonight’s show, but Cecile says she wishes he was dead. So now Batgirl has two main Batgirl catches killersuspects for whoever’s after Charles. She lurks around during the show, watching everyone carefully. She notices Philipe offering Cecile some water, which she says tastes like shit. (Actually, she says it tastes like chemicals.) After the performance, Batgirl notices something weird about Cecile’s flowers and deduces they’re full of poison gas. She snags them with her batline just before the gas spews out, freaking the shit out of Cecile. Batgirl figures the “chemical-tasting water” was the antidote to the gas, and since Philipe was urging Cecile to drink it, he must be the one who booby-trapped the flowers. Philipe admits it and tries to use his ballet moves to fight Batgirl, but she kicks his ass. Charles is heartbroken his son tried to kill him … especially since he was going to announce his retirement and Philipe’s appointment as head of the company.

Tales of Gotham – “Encounter” – Bob Rozakis/George Tuska/Bob Smithcop helps woman

This is a short tale that shows some woman getting in her car and then getting stuck in the snow. There’s a “voice over” (in captions) of Commissioner Gordon being interviewed about how women can stay safe in Gotham. He talks about staying out of dark areas and not travelling alone (way to victim-blame, Commissioner!) as we see a shadowy figure approach the woman’s snowbound car. The sinister figure turns out to be a cop who pushes her free as Gordon’s tells the interviewer the main thing they’ve done to protect women is putting more cops of the street. An O Henry ending to be proud of.

Robin rushing to his dormRobin – “The Deadly Answers” – Jack C. Harris/Alex Saviuk/John Calnan

This one starts with Robin frantically trying to return to his dorm room at Hudson University and change to Dick Grayson because his girlfriend (Jennifer) is about to knock on his door. Jennifer is all worked up because she has to break a date with him. It seems some students in her physiology class got caught cheating and the prof is making them all retake the exam. Dick says it’s cool if she needs to study and he’ll have lunch with her the next day. The cheating scandal is the talk of the campus, especially since the physiology prof (Milton) is kind of a dick and promises the new exam will be twice as hard, which means a couple days’ respite while he prepares it. Dick wonders if whoever’s buying exams is failing the course and decides to investigateRobin investigates (it’s been a slow month, apparently). In the cafeteria, Dick notices some weirdo in a black suit following him, but ditches the guy because he doesn’t have time to confront him. He changes to Robin and breaks into the Records office to see who’s flunking physiology. He comes up with three likely candidates to buy tests and charms the switchboard girl at the men’s dorm to intercept any calls to those particular guys. A call comes through and Robin pretends to be the cheating student. He arranges a meeting and confronts the test seller (who’s wearing a mask), but before he can reveal who it is, a couple of disgruntled students show up with a gun. They’d bought the previous test and were pissed off that the guy called to sell them a new one. Robin disarms them, but the masked man gets away and the students have no Robin catches bad guyclue who he is. Robin runs into some security guys, who tell him no unauthorized people have been by that night. That tells Robin who the test seller is and he does a little more digging. The next day, he shows up in Professor Milton’s class with proof that the prof was the one selling answers to his own test. Seems Milton didn’t get tenure and was short on cash, so he started selling tests and figured out a way to jack up the price by “exposing” the cheating and making a harder test. Milton tells the university who bought tests, which means the honest students (including Jennifer) don’t have to retake it. Which leaves time for her and Dick to bang … I guess Dick did have a good reason for getting involved.

Black Lightning – “Lightning Strikes Twice Out” – Martin Pasko/Pat Broderick/FrankLightning McLaughlin

This one starts with Jefferson Pierce, teacher at Garfield High School, playing basketball with one of his students, Lincoln Trask. Piece gives Trask extra attention since he comes from a troubled home and might be tempted to go down the wrong path. After the game, Lincoln gets kidnapped from the showers and Pierce runs outside just in time to see a van speeding off. He changes to Black Lightning and tracks the van to a voodoo store, Mama Mambu’s. It masquerades as a tourist trap, a place to buy kitschy voodoo shit, but actually caters to the Haitian immigrants in the neighbourhood, to whom voodoo is a legitimate religion. Lightning pounds a couple of thugs, but gets conked by a masked man who comes out of the store. We get a quick flashback to establish how things got to this point: Lincoln’s mother died when she refused to go to a hospital, instead trusting flashback to Lightning stopping Lincolnthe voodoo cures she bought at Mama Mambu’s, which turned out to be bullshit. Lincoln’s sister told Pierce that he was so pissed off he was going to trash the store. Pierce stopped him (as Black Lightning) and told him as long as the store sells their medicine as “novelties”, they can’t be touched. So that explains why they went after Lincoln, and when Lightning wakes up he’s forced to watch as his captor (a Haitian dude named Jacques) orders his men to pound Lincoln for payback. But Jacques surprises Lightning by starting a fire in the room where he’s being held, practically daring the hero to bust out and rescue Lincoln. In another room, Jacques confers with his mother and we find out that she had a vision of someone with the power of “the fire from the sky in time of rain”, whose power could help them defeat their enemies. Jacques saw Lightning use his powers with Lincoln and figures Lightning is calling on aLightning busts loose Loa (a spirit) for his lightning powers. When he calls on the Loa to free him from Jacques’ trap, Jacques can steal Lightning’s spell and summon the Loa himself. Lightning does use his powers to escape the burning room, but Jacques is disappointed to learn there is no Loa involved. He and his mother flee the burning building as Lightning tries to rescue Lincoln. Lightning uses his power again to zap the lock and sets off the sprinkler system. The combination of water and electricity zaps him and Lincoln figures he’s dead … killed by his own power. Lincoln laments Lightning’s seeming demise and wonders how long it’ll be before the fire consumes him. We’ll see what happens next issue.

Brave & Bold 162-cover (Copy)Brave & the Bold #162 – “Operation: Time Bomb” – Bill Kelley/Jim Aparo

This one starts at a French château during World War II, with Iron Major (the Nazi with the iron hand and mortal enemy of Sgt. Rock) gloating about a new stratagem called Operation Time Bomb. A bunch of American tanks have somehow been sabotaged so they’ll explode right before an Allied offensive, giving the Germans a chance to stage their own counter-attack. Iron Major says they’ve already wired a “test tank” to make sure it works, and we see the tank (which is all by itself in the middle of the woods for some reason) blowing up. Bruce Wayne happens to be in London and gets a call from his friend Alan Davies, who runs the munitions depot where the American weapons are processed and shipped. Davies mentions he suspects sabotage at his depot, so Bruce shows up as Batman … but he’s too late. The saboteur has shot Alan, who does manage to gasp out the name of a French town called Marteau before dying. TheDavies shot saboteur escapes in a speedboat before Batman can grab him. Batman heads for Marteau, where he runs into Sgt. Rock and Easy Company. Easy is supposed to join the tank battalion for the big attack, but they’re investigating reports of infiltrators near Marteau. A bunch of Germans pop up and Easy is soon mired in a firefight. Batman heads for Marteau and finds the saboteur outside an inn on the outskirts of town. He grabs the guy, but gets surprised by a gaggle of German soldiers. Easy Company show up and start blasting, leaving Batman to get inside the inn and try to save the radio. But one of the Germans destroys it, leaving Batman with no clue who was on the other end of the transmissions. All the other soldiers fight to the death and the saboteur swallows a cyanide capsule, frustrating Batman and Rock even more. Iron Major receives news that the base was raided and wonders if Rock is behind it. Batman fight at the innand Rock realize the radio couldn’t transmit very far and talk to Rock’s superiors about looking for the main Nazi base. Batman ponders what might have been sabotaged at the London depot and figures out it must have been the newly arrived tanks. They find the explosives in the tanks and Rock points out the Germans would be blown to hell too, unless their line is a feint and they plan to be somewhere else. The Captain mentions a château not far away where lights have been seen, even though it’s supposedly deserted. You’d think they would’ve checked that already, but whatever. The Captain also mentions one tank was sent out for recon, so it might still explode. Batman grabs a jeep to head to the château, while Rock tries to catch the wayward tank. Batman sneaks into the chateau (dropping his radio in the process) and starts pounding Nazis, but gets knocked out by Iron Major. He’s tied up and taken to the dungeon. Rock and Easy find the booby-trapped tank and defuse the explosives. RockRock vs Iron Major says they’re heading for the château to help Batman. Just as Iron Major is about to unmask Batman, Easy crashes the tank into the chateau and starts wasting Nazis. Batman gets loose and finds out the radio he dropped has been on the whole time, letting Rock know exactly what was happening. Iron Major surprises them and Batman disarms him with a batarang. Rock and Iron Major start beating the shit out of each other and Easy tells Batman there’s a second bomb in the tank that they can’t disarm. I’m not sure why only this tank had a second bomb, but whatever. Batman grabs Rock and drags him out just before the tank blows, taking the château with it. In the rubble, they find Iron Major’s iron hand, but Rock doesn’t believe he’s seen the last of him … and neither do I.

Noticeable Things:

  • It’s never specified, but this is obviously the Earth-2 Batman, since he’s alive during World War II.
  • As far as I can tell, there’s no town named Marteau in France. The story says it’s a West Coast town, but I guess it was just made up for this issue. I’m not sure why they didn’t just use a real place. (Marteau means “hammer” in French, incidentally, but I’m not sure if that’s relevant to the story or not.)
  • I’m no expert, but I always thought you had to hold the button down on a walkie-talkie to transmit … so how was the one Batman dropped able to transmit with no one holding the button?

Warlord 33 coverWarlord #33 – “Birds of Prey” – Mike Grell/Vince Colletta

This one starts with Travis Morgan and his new companion, Shakira (who he met last issue) zipping through the sky on a high-tech flying disk (which they also acquired last issue). Morgan is asking Shakira about herself—especially her ability to turn into a cat—but she’s playing coy. They’re suddenly attacked by Hawkmen, dudes with golden wings sprouting from their backs. Shakira is captured and Morgan almost falls to his death, just managing to grab a cable attached to the flying disk. Unfortunately, the disk is out of control and crashes, knocking Morgan out. He;s found by the Keebler Elves (or close approximations) and taken to their wooded village. When Morgan wakes up, they all freak out but he soon assures them he’s friendly, and that he’s no ally of the Hawkmen, who the elves hate because theyMorgan kills sentries constantly raid the village and kidnap women. The elves give Morgan a drink of home-brew that curls his toes, and mention that the Hawkmen are out raiding. Morgan figures that’s his chance to get up to their aerie (which is at the top of a gigantic tree) and prepare a surprise when the Hawkmen return. The elves want no part of his crazy plan, but do supply him with some rope and some of their home-made hooch. Morgan gives them shit for not fighting their enemies, then starts climbing the tree. He runs into a couple of flying sentries, but manages to take them out by playing Tarzan. When he reaches the aerie, he finds it full of human bones, which pretty much tells us the fate of the Hawkmen’s prisoners. He sees the hunting party returning and pours the high-proof booze all over the aerie. He hides and jumps out when the Hawkmen mad as a wet catarrive, dragging Shakira with them. Morgan grabs her and lights up the spilled booze, setting the aerie alight. He tells Shakira they have to jump into the water below, but since she’s a cat she’s not having it. She transforms into feline form, but Morgan grabs her and jumps, splashing down into the water below. The aerie burns like an oversized torch and the elves thank Morgan for getting rid of their enemies. Shakira has transformed back to human form, but still looks pretty bedraggled; she’s definitely not happy with Morgan.

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