Comics Reviews: Batman 324, Detective 491, Brave & the Bold 163, Warlord 34

Batman 324 coverBatman #324 – “The Cat Who Would Be King” – Len Wein/Irv Novick/Bob Smith

Last issue, we found out Catwoman is dying of some rare disease (which she hasn’t told her boyfriend Bruce Wayne, though he suspects) and she was suspected of stealing some ancient medicinal herbs from an Egyptian exhibit at the museum. Catwoman and Batman tracked the theft to an abandoned warehouse, where they were captured in a polymer spider web coated with super-strong adhesive. Their captor (and the real thief) turned out to be Cat-Man. Catwoman pleads with him to give her the herbs, since her life depends on it, but Cat-Man says they’re too valuable to just hand over. He flips a switch that starts the webBatman saves Catwoman expanding, which will tear Batman and Catwoman apart since they’re glued to it. Cat-Man takes off and Batman tries to tag him with a Batarang, but only manages to nick his heel. Catwoman passes out from the pain and Batman uses a knife from his utility belt to cut himself free of the web. It’s a delicate operation, since he has to cut his costume away from his body without touching the web with his skin. He uses scraps of costume to move across the web and repeat the procedure on Catwoman. (He slices away quite a bit of her costume … but I’m sure it was all necessary.) He uses the tension in the web strands to catapult (pun intended) Catwoman to safety and springs after her. Batman finds a piece of Cat-Man’s boot that was knocked off by the Batarang and figures it might give him a clue to the villain’s whereabouts, but first he has to help Catwoman. In downtown Gotham, Commissioner Gordon is called to the Selina gets directionsscene of a jewelry store robbery. The robbery was done perfectly, alarm bypassed and jewels lifted without a hitch, but for some reason the thief stopped to strangle the security guard. The murderous burglar left a message scrawled on the wall: “Please stop me, before I hurt anyone else!” That freaks Gordon out, since it’s the calling card of a killer he put away years ago, Kid Gloves McConnell … who’s currently locked up in Arkham Asylum. In the Batcave, Selina wakes up and Batman gives her a spare costume from his trophy case. He’s analyzed Cat-Man’s boot fragment and found dirt from some islands off the coast of Greece. He’s ready to head over there and doesn’t want company. Selina says it’s her life on the line, so she should be involved … plus, it’ll be quicker to administer the cure if she’s right there. She also says she’ll just follow him if he goes without her, so he finally relents and they head for Greece. In Greece, Catwoman gets information from a scuzzy guy in a waterfront bar (and beats the shit out of him when he gets fresh) and tells Batman that a rich Greekjumping Arkopolis shipping magnate (Arkopolis) collects Egyptian antiquities and owns an island nearby, so he’s probably Cat-Man’s buyer. Catwoman has another painful attack, stressing the need for them to hurry. On Arkopolis’s yacht, Cat-Man shows him one of the stolen items, but holds back the rest until the completion of their deal. Cat-Man wants Arkopolis to sign over the deserted island to him so he can turn it into a haven for criminals … in exchange for one-quarter of their loot, of course. Arkopolis signs the deed over and directs his yacht to land on the island. Cat-Man leads Arkopolis and his bodyguards through a bunch of geysers (apparently the island is very active, geologically) to a particular geyser that erupts like clockwork. After the geyser stops spewing, Cat-Man retrieves the rest of the Egyptian treasures from the hole. But Arkopolis didn’t get rich by spending money, so his men pull guns and he demands the loot in exchange for Cat-Man’s life. Catwoman and Batman show up and take care of the thugs, while Cat-Man takes off with all the loot. Arkopolis tries to shoot him, but Cat Man steamedmisses with every shot; Batman mentions Cat-Man’s costume, which is supposedly made of some mystical material that protects him from harm. Arkopolis reminds Batman they’re on his property so they’re the ones breaking the law; he says he’ll be back with a small army and they’d better be gone. Catwoman still needs the herbs to cure her condition, so she and Batman decide to search the island. Cat-Man saves them the trouble by attacking, knocking Batman down and holding his razor-sharp claws to Catwoman’s throat. She tries to make a deal for the herbs, but Cat-Man won’t go for it, so she stamps his foot hard enough to break it. He lets her go and reels toward one of the geysers. Catwoman grabs his cape, but can’t pull him back before the geyser erupts. Cat-Man and the bag of loot are gone and all Catwoman has to show for it is a piece of his cape that tore off. She figures she’s as good as dead, but back in Gotham her doctor tells Bruce Wayne that her disease has miraculously vanished. Selina assumes it’s due to the piece from Cat-Man’s “magic” cape, which the logical Bruce thinks is ridiculous … but he also can’t offer any other explanation.

Detective 491 coverDetective #491 – “The Riddle of the Golden Fleece” – Denny O’Neil/Don Newton/Dan Adkins

This one starts with some thieves breaking into the Wayne Foundation Building and knocking out a security guard (whose name is O’Hara, though he looks nothing like Stafford Repp). It seems a researcher on the Foundation’s payroll has created a type of cloth made of gold. Unfortunately, the result was kind of an accident and since he didn’t write down the formula, he’s not sure how to duplicate it. Bruce Wayne says he can use the Foundation lab to work on recreating the formula, but the thieves bust in to steal the gold cloth. They gas the scientist and Bruce, who manages to slip in some nose filters to protect himself. He changes to Batman and catches the thieves outside, where he pounds them. The top thief turns out to be a guy named Fred Britt, who works for Maxie Zeus. Britt is kind of hunchbacked, which Batman assumes is the reason Zeus hired him, for his resemblance to Hephaestus. Batman figures he can “persuade” Britt toZeus escapes talk, but never gets the chance because somebody puts a bullet in Britt’s head. Batman tries to find the shooter, but he’s long gone. Batman realizes the thieves must’ve had a lot of fancy tech to get through the security at the Wayne Foundation, but thinks Maxie Zeus will be the only one who knows what’s up. Later at Arkham Asylum, Maxie Zeus (a crime boss who believes—or pretends to believe—he’s the Greek god Zeus) gets a visitor … Fred Britt. Zeus asks about the Golden Fleece and Britt says he got it, which somehow tips Zeus off that this isn’t the real Britt. He knocks the impostor out and takes off. When “Britt” wakes up and peels off his disguise to reveal himself as Batman, the warden gives him shit for letting Zeus get away. But Batman has figured out how Zeus saw through his masquerade, and he knows where Zeus is going. Batman stops by the Wayne Foundation where the scientist tells him the gold cloth he recovered from Britt is a fake and without the genuine article he can’t possibly recreate it. Batman assures him he’ll have the real thing back soon. In a suburb of Gotham, a couple of Zeus’s Batman talks to Zeusthugs hang around outside a private girls’ school. Batman pops up and pounds them, then heads inside where Zeus is about to give his daughter (Medea) a present. Batman interrupts them, giving Medea a new doll (which she loves) instead of the Golden Fleece that Zeus was trying to give her. Batman explains that he knew about Medea (since he has extensive files on all his enemies) and figured the gold cloth was meant for her, since he mythological Medea helped Jason steal the Golden Fleece. Zeus is impressed and “allows” Batman to take him back to Arkham. On the way, Batman says he’s figured out the rest of Zeus’s scheme too: the thieves at the Wayne Foundation would’ve needed fancy burglar tools, but they weren’t carrying any, so someone must’ve let them in … probably the same someone who blasted Britt before he could talk. Back at the Foundation, Batman returns the real gold cloth and lays out his theory about an inside man to the security guard, O’Hara. O’Hara confirms it by whipping out his gun and shooting Batman before taking off. But O’Hara doesn’t get far before Batman appears in front of him, like some avenging spirit. Turns out Batman was pretty sure of his theory, so he went to O’Hara’s place earlier and switched the bullets in his gun with blanks.

Bard at graveTales of Gotham – “Fragrance of Death” – Mike W. Barr/Dan Spiegle

This is basically an origin story for Jason Bard, the detective who sometimes helps Batman on his cases. Bard is at a cemetery, leaving roses at a grave. The caretaker (who looks like Captain Highliner) asks why Bard leaves roses on this particular grave every week and Bard says the deceased is the guy who killed Bard’s father.  The Captain invites Bard to his place for some fish-sticks and to tell his life story. Bard’s father was an abusive prick, so his mother took him and left. They moved around for a while until finally settling in a small town where they could have some kind of normal life. Bard’s mom even started growing roses, something she couldn’t do before because his dad was allergic to them. But Bard’s father eventually tracked them down and showed up wanting money. Bard’s mom told him to go to hell and he shot her before taking off. Bard swore he’d find his father and make him pay, but it wasn’t easy. His mom had burned every photo, he had no relatives, and no criminal record that Bard could find. Bard ended up joining the Marines and going to Vietnam, where he hurt his knee and was sent home. He studied criminology on the G.I. Bill, still hoping to be able to track down his murdering father someday. After becoming a detective, Bard put the word out on guysBard's father dies with rose allergies and a scar on the right hand (since Bard’s mother apparently stabbed her ex before he killed her). One of Bard’s informants tipped him to a coupe of dudes who might be allergic to roses, so Bard disguised himself and pretended to be hiring talent for a big score. He brought some roses into the room, but neither guy reacted. Afterward, Bard found an allergy pill on the floor, and one of the guys came back and pulled a gun. He recognized Bard as his son (apparently Bard’s sting wasn’t as subtle as he thought). Before he could ventilate Bard, the informant showed up and tackled the old man, but ended up getting shot for his trouble. Bard disarmed his father, but he had a heart attack, either from the exertion or his rose allergy, I’m not sure. His last word was “rose” which turns out to be the name of Bard’s mom. So it’s the dead informant on whose grave Bard places the roses every week … which actually seems a bit morbid when you think about it.

runaway vanRobin – “The Target of the Death-Dealer” – Jack C. Harris/Alex Saviuk/Vince Colletta

Last issue, Dick Grayson noticed a weirdo in a black suit following him and his girlfriend Jennifer around Hudson University. Now he’s tailing the man in black (as Robin) when a van—with no driver—goes out of control and almost runs over a bunch of students. Robin stops the van and the driver says he was delivering new equipment when the van went out of control, so he freaked and bailed out. Robin has to make a quick change since Dick is expected at a meeting for the University newspaper, the Hudson Herald. Dick meets up with Jennifer, the editor (Kenny), and a new staffer, Doris Dexter. They find the newspaper room unlocked and the old printing press (which is all Hudson can afford, apparently) blows up. Most of the current editions are ruined and Dick finds some debris suggesting the explosion was no accident. Doris and Jennifer decide to hand out the remaining editions, but the car they were going to use also blows up … let’s hope they stay out of the bathrooms. A security guard is hurt in the car explosion and Doris’s brother (Ben Dexter, star basketball player and stereotypical angry black man) shows up, saying he doesn’t like his sister hanging around with “lawmen” like Robin and didn’t even want her coming to Hudson in the first place. Robin trails Bentaken down by basketball into the woods, where there’s a phone booth for some reason. Ben calls someone and Robin eavesdrops, learning that somebody is pressuring Ben to throw a big game tonight. Robin figures the “accidents” are warnings that Ben better do what he’s told or his sister will be in trouble. Robin confronts Ben (who tries to fight him) and tells him to play his best at the game and Robin will make sure nothing happens to Doris. At the game, Robin sees the van driver hanging around and realizes he couldn’t have been delivering new equipment like he said, since the University is almost broke. He goes after the van driver, but lets Ben take him down with a basketball. Tuns out the guy is a big gambler who was trying to fix the game. Robin donates the reward to Hudson to buy a new printing press. He notices the man in black lurking around and figures he’d better find out who the guy is and what he’s up to.

Black Lightning in troubleBlack Lightning – “Short Circuit” – Martin Pasko/Pat Broderick/Frank McLaughlin

Last issue, Lightning was trying to help a student named Lincoln who was having trouble with some Haitian gangsters who run a store that sells voodoo paraphernalia. Lincoln’s mom died from taking their phony cure and Lightning stopped Lincoln from taking revenge. That made the store owner (Jacques) think Lightning had some kind of magical powers, so he used Lincoln to lure Lightning to the store and imprison them, hoping he could steal Lightning’s magic. But Lightning’s powers are scientific, not magical, so Jacques lit the store on fire and took off with his mother, leaving Lightning and Lincoln to die. Lincoln thinks Lightning was killed trying to bust out, but it turns out he was only stunned. He wakes up and breaks the door open, getting Lincoln out just in time. Lightning goes after Jacques, who’s fleeing with his mother and a trio of thugs in a van. Lightning hears Jacques talking about how he wanted Lightning’s powers to fight another gang who were shaking him down and who crippled his mother.Lightning shows his moves Lightning stops the van, but quickly realizes his electrical powers are gone. He uses his athletic prowess and Olympics skills to take the thugs out. Jacques almost gets away, but his mother stops him long enough for Lightning to bean him with a hubcap. She says everything Jacques did is her responsibility. Jefferson Pierce decides he’s not that worked up about losing his powers, since he was never sure how he got them in the first place. He figures he can just depend on his own skill from now on. It almost seems like this was meant to be the end for Black Lightning; maybe after Tony Isabella quit writing him, DC decided to retire the character. It won’t last forever though, as Lightning comes back with his powers restored in time to join the Outsiders in a few years.

Batgirl dummy hanging from buildingBatgirl – “The Assassination of Batgirl” – Cary Burkett/Jose Delbo/Joe Giella

This one starts with a guy called General Scarr holding a meeting of criminals. Scarr is pissed off that Batgirl (who has ruined lots of his operations in the past) has recently relocated from Washington back to Gotham. Scarr says he’s engaged a top assassin called Cormorant (who looks kinda like Tackleberry from Police Academy) to take care of her before she interferes in any more of their business. Speaking of Batgirl, we see her (in her civilian identity of Barbara Gordon) heading to her new job. Barbara recently lost her re-election bid for Congress (hence the move from Washington) and now has a job at HRD (Humanities Research and Development) as head of the Social Services department. I’m not exactly sure what HRD does, but it’s some kind of research company dedicated to “solving urban problems and encouraging cultural development” … whatever that means. Barbara talks to her boss, James Stein, and meets a couple of co-workers: Richard Bender (head of the Historical department), who she likes; and Robert Barton (head of the Performing Arts department), who’s kind of an asshole. That night,Batgirl fights Cormorant Barbara’s father (Commissioner Gordon) calls and says he’s got something Batgirl might be interested in. She heads downtown where someone has hung a dummy Batgirl from a building with a note that says it’ll blow up if anyone except the real Batgirl approaches it. Batgirl checks it out and finds no explosives, but someone takes a shot at her. She pretends to fall and springs back to confront the would-be killer, who turns out to be Cormorant. (Cormorant’s gun looks like one of those cut-down M-1 Garands the Special Forces guys in Vietnam called “Enforcers”.) Batgirl is ready to take Cormorant out, but he doesn’t play fair; he has a tied up kid as hostage and says he’ll blow her away if Batgirl doesn’t surrender. As soon as she steps out from cover, he blasts her and she falls off the roof into the street. We’ll have to wait until next issue to see if she’s really dead (though I suspect Cormorant’s Batgirl dummy will end up playing a part in this).

Brave and Bold 163 coverBrave & the Bold #163 – “Oil, Oil, Nowhere” – Paul Kupperberg/Dick Giordano

This one starts with Batman interrupting a bunch of thugs hijacking a gasoline truck. He pounds them all and we learn these hijackings have been an ongoing problem in Gotham lately. Because of his good deed, Bruce Wayne ends up being late for an ecology seminar that he’s sponsoring. When he finally shows up, he runs into Commissioner Gordon and a Senator named Hargrave, who takes an instant dislike to Bruce. Seems Hargrave spent half his life in the Army and prefers his heroics out in the open, so he doesn’t approve of Bruce’s friendship with a masked vigilante like Batman. The scene shifts to Metropolis and we find out the gasoline hijackings aren’t confined to Gotham … there’s one in progress in Suicide Slum. Unfortunately for the hijackers, the crime goes down right outside the apartment of Jefferson Pierce aka Black Lightning. Lightning jumps the hijackers as they try to take off in the tanker truck. As he’s poundingLightning fights hijackers them and fighting for control of the wheel, the truck goes around a corner and runs over an old lady. Lightning freaks out and tells the cops he thought he recognized one of the hijackers and that he’s going to track them down and make tem pay. Maybe a little displaced guilt there, since he’s at least somewhat to blame for the old lady getting run over. The next day, Batman checks in with Gordon about the hijackings (and gets an earful from Hargrave about vigilantism), but the cops can’t figure out where the hijacked tankers from the two cities are being kept. In Metropolis, Black Lightning shakes down a local boss and gets a tip that one of the hijackers might be holed up in the mountains between Gotham and Metropolis. Batman has come to the same conclusion after researching possible facilities to store the stolen gasoline. He checks out a recently constructed storage facility and runs into Black Lightning takes out HargraveLightning, who’s also prowling around. They beat the shit out of a bunch of guards, almost fall down an elevator shaft, and finally find out who’s behind the whole scheme. You probably guessed it a while back, but Yeah, it’s Senator Hargrave. Seems he’s some kind of right-wing nutcase who wants to invade the Middle East and take over the oil fields, which explains why he’s stealing gasoline … tanks and planes don’t run on corn syrup. Hargrave has amassed a private army of like-minded zealots and Lightning is so pissed off he jumps into the middle of them and starts swinging. Batman goes after Hargrave, who jumps into a tank and threatens to blast the gasoline tanks, blowing the whole place to hell. Hargrave is ready to do it, but Lightning decks him from behind (apparently half of Hargrave’s men ran away and the other half got pounded by Lightning). Lightning makes a joke about gasoline being over a dollar a gallon … ah, the good old days.

Warlord 34 coverWarlord #34 – “Sword of the Sorcerer” – Mike Grell/Vince Colletta

This issue starts out with parallel storylines of Morgan in the present and Machiste and Mariah, who are still stuck in the past, in the Age of the Wizard Kings. Mongo Ironhand has led Machiste and Mariah to Wralf the Wretched, the most powerful wizard around, in the hope that he’ll send them back to their own time. Unfortunately, Wralf is kind of a dick, so he refuses to help … and he isn’t too happy when Morgan suddenly materializes in his throne room. Yeah, that’s the other thread of the story: last issue, Morgan saved a bunch of forest elves from some marauding Hawkmen. The elves decide to reward him with a fancy sword named Hellfire (the sword was made for a Hero to wield, and they figure Morgan qualifies), and he seems to like it, but notices there’s a hole near the hilt. One of the elves mentions Hellfire used to have a magical gem in the blade that was stolen and then broken. Morgan recognizes that as the Hellfire Stone, the broken pieces of which he’s been carrying around. He fits the pieces of thenon-demon fight Stone into the blade and Hellfire flares with magical power and sends him through time and space to Wralf’s throne room in the Age of Wizard Kings. Machiste and Mariah are surprised and delighted to see him, but Wralf isn’t so thrilled. He demands Morgan hand over Hellfire and when Morgan refuses, he drops everyone down a couple of chutes. Machiste, Mariah, and Mongo end up in a dungeon, while Morgan is almost dumped into a bottomless pit, but manages to save himself. While making their way out of the dungeon, Mongo and friends run into a demon. They start fighting it, but Mongo realizes there’s some kind of sorcery at work and casts Dispel Magic, revealing that the demon was actually Morgan. Mongo explains that Wralf cast a spell on the others so they saw Morgan as a demon, since Hellfire makes Morgan immune to spells. Mongo points out that Hellfire is the same sword that Wralf wears—not a copy, but the actual same sword due to the vagaries of time travel. Mariah explains how they Hellfire duelaccidentally ended up in the past (and that Tara made it safely back to Shamballah), but says they can’t figure out how to return home … hence the visit to Wralf’s place. Wralf teleports in and demands Hellfire again, and Morgan tells him to fuck off again. Wralf challenges Morgan to a duel, encasing the others in a force field so they can’t interfere. Morgan and Wralf duel, each with the exact same sword, but Morgan’s skill tips the balance slightly and he shatters the gemstone in Wralf’s sword (which explains how the gem was shattered in the first place … sounds like a paradox, but it’s magic, so who knows?) Morgan is distracted and Wralf almost kills him, but Hellfire seems to act on its own, skewering Wralf through the throat. Mongo warns Morgan that the price of Hellfire’s Protection from Magic power is that it must taste blood every time it’s drawn. That macabre fact doesn’t seem to bother Morgan too much, and he’s even happier when Mongo tells him he can return to his own time just by sheathing the sword. Morgan feels guilty about leaving Machiste and Mariah behind, but they say Tara needs him more … plus they’re enjoying banging each other’s brains out in this medieval fantasy world. Morgan heads back to the future and Mongo celebrates that he’s now only 377th in line for the throne of Wizard World.

Noticeable Things:

  • I’m not sure what caused Morgan to teleport back in time in the first place. I’m assuming it’s not going to happen every time he draws the sword, so I guess it was just plot necessity?
  • Shakira is shown on Morgan’s shoulder (in cat form) at the start of the story, but she doesn’t travel back in time with him.
  • This whole issue has a very D&D feel to it. I know Grell was into RPGs, so I wouldn’t be surprised if this was lifted straight from a campaign. (Of course, next issue is the “D&D story” featuring some surprising guest appearances, so maybe Grell was just on a roll.)

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