Comics Reviews: Batman 325, Detective 492, Brave & the Bold 164, Warlord 35

Batman 325 coverBatman #325 – “Death—Twenty Stories High” – Roger McKenzie/Irv Novick/Steve Mitchell

This one starts with Commissioner Gordon in his office at police headquarters. A crime wave has hit Gotham, just as Gordon is up for re-election and now someone’s making threats against Batman, so Gordon activates the Bat-Signal and waits on the roof. He figures someone is trying to ruin his chances at being re-elected and wonders if his opponent (Brand) is behind it. He also wonders if it isn’t time for him to step aside and let someone else be commissioner. Batman shows up and scoffs at the death threat, but notices the gleam of a sniper scope on a nearby roof. The sniper hits the Bat-Signal, shattering the glass, and Batman goes after him. He runs the guy to ground and intimidates him into saying it was the “Candyman”, Sweet LouBrand helps Batman Milligan, who hired him. The next day, Bruce Wayne shows up for a debate between Gordon and Brand, which doesn’t go well for Gordon because of the crime wave. Bruce slips away and makes an appearance as Batman, endorsing Gordon for the press. Brand’s campaign manager, Tom Hamilton, accuses Batman of endorsing Gordon because Gordon lets him do whatever he wants. Brand gives Hamilton shit and says he’d be proud to work with Batman if he’s elected. Hamilton congratulates him on his great soundbite, but Brand insists he was sincere. A couple of gunmen pop up and blind everyone with flashbulbs. Batman’s cowl protects him and he decks one of the gunmen, while Brand tackles the other. Later, Bruce Wayne is at a meeting with a bunch of other big business types, trying to convince them to back Gordon in the election. They’re all backing Brand, even though Bruce (and Lucius Fox) say they’re behind Gordon all the way. Bruce figures he needs to do something as Batman to help Gordon, so he goes to see the Candyman. Batman knows Candyman would never put out a hit on him, so he asks who did and Candyman says it was Brand. Batman saves GordonAfter Batman leaves, Candyman is happy that his lie seems to have worked; obviously this is a set-up. When Batman reaches Brand’s office, he finds Brand dead. Turns out Hamilton was behind the big crime wave, trying to help Brand win the election, but when Brand found out he wasn’t interested in playing along, so Hamilton shot him. Hamilton says Gordon is next and Batman will be the cause of Gordon’s death. Batman disarms Hamilton, who falls out the window. Candyman and his thugs show up—apparently they were working with Hamilton all along—and Batman fights his way through them. Batman figures out the hit on him was just a blind. He remembers the “missed” sniper shot and some workers replacing the Bat-Signal lens that morning and realizes they must’ve rigged the Signal to blow up. He rushes to police HQ and knocks Gordon off the roof, just before the Bat-Signal explodes. He manages to catch Gordon before he splatters and fills him in on everything. Later, we see that Gordon stayed in the election … and he won again.

Detective 492 coverDetective #492 – “Vengeance Trail” – Cary Burkett/Don Newton/Dan Adkins

This story continues from the Batgirl tale last issue, when she was shot by an assassin called Cormorant and fell of a building. Alfred wakes Bruce Wayne with the devastating news (which has made the front page of the morning paper) and Bruce changes to Batman and calls Commissioner Gordon. Gordon says he needs to see Batman right away and Batman can tell by Gordon’s tone that something’s up. Thus, he’s not really surprised (and let’s face it, neither are we) when he gets to Gordon’s house to find Batgirl, wounded but still alive. She saved herself by grabbing the flagpole from which the Batgirl dummy was hanging and dropped the dummy to the street to fool Cormorant into thinking he’d killed her. The story in the papers was cover, to keep the bad guys thinking they’d succeeded, but Barbara’s brush with death has her spooked. She tells Batman she’s done with crimefighting and if he wants to keep risking his life, that’s up to him. Commissioner Gordon isn’t exactly broken up about Barbara’s decision,Batman ambushed but Batman is rather disappointed. Elsewhere, we see Cormorant’s employer, General Scarr (a crime boss who fancies himself a military genius and runs his operation like a campaign), preparing a trap for Batman. Scarr assumes the Caped Crusader will want revenge for Batgirl’s death, so he sends some me to a local costume shop. That night, Batman shows up to check out the costume shop, having gotten the name from the costume on the Batgirl dummy. Batman recognized the M.O. Of Batgirl’s assassin as that of the Cormorant, and knows Cormorant is too smart to leave such an obvious clue behind. Consequently, Batman is expecting trouble at the costume shop … and he finds it, as a bunch of gunmen ambush him. In parallel panels, Barbara and her father talk about his motivation for being a cop (basically, he wanted to help people who need it) and Batman’s possible motives. As Batman pounds all the gunmen at the costume shop (including one dressed in a gorilla costume!), Gordon tells Barbara that firing squadBatman is driven by something deeper, something that cuts him off from the rest of society. Batman gets Scarr’s name from one of the thugs and passes it on to Gordon, while laying a few plans of his own. Barbara has never even heard of Scarr and wonders why he wants her dead … and why she’s willing to let Batman and her father fight her battles for her. Scarr’s men wake up in the costume shop and head back to his base, but one of them is Batman in disguise … an obvious ploy, which Scarr figures out quite easily. We get a quick summary of Scarr’s origin: he was in the Army, but never made it past the rank of Private, had delusions of grandeur, and went AWOL after being wounded during bayonet training. After finishing his tale of woe, Scarr chains Batman up and prepares to have his men execute him by firing squad. Don’t worry, you don’t have to wait a month to find out what happens; the tale continues in the very next story …

Batgirl – “At War With General Scarr” – Cary Burkett/Don Newton/Bob SmithBatgirl splash

This one starts with Batgirl back in costume, tracking down General Scarr. Even though she’s still freaked out about almost dying, she can’t let Batman risk himself while she sits at home and does nothing. She used her photographic memory to recall that Cormorant had a security card with the logo of the Krak de Chevaliers Building on it, so she heads over there (taking a cab, since she can’t swing with her arm in a sling). At the Building, she hears gunfire and gives the guard her security pass … a punch in the mouth. Upstairs, Batman has evaded the first salvo from the firing squad and manages to grab Scarr with his legs. The firing squad holds back, afraid of killing their leader, which gives Batman the chance to pick the lock on his manacles (using a lockpick he snuck from his utility belt when Scarr was recounting his origin). Once Batman is free, he starts pounding Scarr’s thugs, and tells Scarr he allowed himself to be captured, to give the cops time to move in. Scarr is prepared and shuts Batman into a testing room for weapons, then deploys mini-tanks and planes against him. Batgirl arrives but when she Batgirl pounds Cormorantsees Cormorant watching Batman’s ordeal, she freezes up and can’t bring herself to attack him. Batman is getting tired from dodging Scarr’s weapons, though he manages to take out one of the mini-tanks by redirecting a blast from another one. Batman tries to block Scarr’s vision with some smoke pellets, but the venting system takes care of that and Batman is tagged by one of the planes, stunning him. Downstairs, the cops have bagged some of Scarr’s goons, but have to work their way through the building floor by floor. Batgirl is still freaked out at the thought of facing the guy who almost killed her, but manages to overcome her fear and confront Cormorant. Ironically, when he sees she’s still alive, Cormorant loses his shit and falls apart, proving he’s a coward at heart. Batgirl takes him out and busts into the control room. Scarr tries to run, but Batgirl decks him and shuts off the deadly machines just as Batman’s exhaustion is about to catch up with him. After saving Batman’s ass, Batgirl seems to have her confidence back and I’m sure she’ll never be shot again as a plot device.

Tales of Gotham – “Fifty Million Tons of Soul” – Bob Haney/Bob Oksner/Bob Smith

This is a cute little fill-in story about a guy named Rusty Krebs, who works as a maintenance guy on Gotham Memorial Bridge. At the moment, he’s painting rust spots, but seems inordinately proud of his job, and waxes philosophic about the long history ofshootout the Bridge and what it means to the city. Krebs notices some old dude wandering across the Bridge, counting the rivets (apparently he’s a regular) and then sees a young guy (David) getting ready to jump off the Bridge because his girl dumped him. Krebs tries to talk the kid down and wonders why the cops aren’t there, but we see the cops are busy trying to catch a getaway car full of crooks by sealing off the far end of the Bridge. David is ready to jump and Krebs is about to try and snag him when David’s ex (Linda) comes by to stop him from jumping. The crooks grab Linda to use as a shield when they confront the cops, so Krebs and David swing down and land on the crooks’ car. They almost get blasted, but the old man whacks one of the crooks with his cane, and the others blow him away. The cops shoot the crooks down like dogs and one of he cops recognizes the dead old man as Carleton Wainwright, the guy who designed and built he Bridge forty years ago.

giant ratMan-Bat – “We Are Experiencing a Slight Delay” – Bob Rozakis/Romeo Tanghal/Vince Colletta

This one starts with Man-Bat returning home to find his wife and daughter (Francine and Rebecca) haven’t gotten home yet. He calls the friend they were visiting and realizes they must be on a subway train that went into a tunnel and never came out (a story that’s being splashed all over the news). Man-Bat heads out to offer help to the cops, but the Captain doesn’t like vigilante types horning in on his turf. The cops figure a street gang has hijacked the train and Man-Bat runs into three gang members in the tunnel and pounds them. When he gets to the subway train, he finds the power in the tunnel is cut and the train is all smashed up, and wonders how three punks could do that much damage. He goes to help the passengers, but they freak out … not at him for once, but at the giant rat right behind him. He drives the rat away with fire and changes to Kirk Langstrom when the power comes back on so he can join his family. Later, Langstrom narrates the dénouement, saying the hijacking was orchestrated by the train’s motorman and a track worker, and the authorities seem to want to cover it up … as well as covering up any mention of the giant rat.

Robin – “The First Bird” – Jack C. Harris/Charles Nicholas/Vince CollettaRobin watching

This one starts with Robin (in the pouring rain) observing a pterodactyl egg being transferred to the collection at Hudson University. Why is he wasting his time on crap like that? Robin wonders the same thing, but the egg was found by the Archaeology department, using grant money some people thought could’ve been spent elsewhere. So Robin is making sure nobody screws with the egg before it’s placed in the collection. Robin changes to Dick Grayson to meet his girlfriend Jennifer, getting her an umbrella from a nearby vendor. As they go in to check out the egg exhibit, the rain stops but their umbrella (and everyone else’s) starts spewing gas. Dick changes back to Robin in the confusion and slaps on a gas mask. He finds a couple of thugs (also masked) trying to steal the egg and jumps them. They take off using a flying umbrella, which leaves Robin (and all of us) pretty sure who’s behind all this. Sure enough, the thugs report back to Penguin, telling him Robin foiled their egg theft, but Penguin doesn’t seem too bothered by it. He’s obviously catching Penguinplanning something. On campus, Dick and Jennifer have an argument about his constant disappearances and inattentiveness. Dick switches back to Robin to observe the transfer of the egg to the vault under the Archaeology department. He notices the guards are phonies and jumps them, but walks right into their trap … they drop a birdcage over him. Penguin shows up and tells Robin he never really cared about the egg, he just wanted to get back at Batman by wasting his ex-sidekick. Penguin activates the birdcage, which takes off like a rocket; Penguin says the cage will fall apart at a predetermined altitude, leaving Robin to splatter. Robin busts his breathing apparatus (the one he used to counter the gas earlier) and blows the bottom out of the cage. He acrobatically lands on Penguin and his thugs, knocking them out, and saving the egg. Robin takes off and notices the mysterious man in black who’s been shadowing him for the past couple issues. He vows to find out who the guy is and what he wants. We’ll see if he finally does next issue.

Brave and Bold 164 coverBrave & the Bold #164 – “The Mystery of the Mobile Museum” – J.M. DeMatteis/Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez/Steve Mitchell

This one starts with Batman in Midway City, helping transfer two valuable statues from Gotham to the Midway Museum. Hawkman is on the street, unloading some fake crates while Batman brings the real statues in via the roof. But the ruse doesn’t work and Batman is attacked by some kind of weird energy that causes him to hallucinate some nightmarish images. He blacks out momentarily and falls from the Bat-Copter, but manages to save himself before hitting the ground. Hawkman flies up and catches the Copter before it crashes. As the real crates are taken into the Museum, Shiera Hall (aka Hawkgirl) supervises. Batman mentions that he was the victim of some kind of attack, and he and Hawkman are shocked when the entire Museum rises up into the sky … with Shiera still inside. She’s knocked out by an unseen adversary and Batman snags the Museum withmuseum goes crazy his batline and climbs up just before a force-field appears around it. Hawkman can’t bust through, so he goes to get some Thanagarian tech to help. Batman uses oxygen masks on himself and the still-unconscious Shiera as the Museum rises high into the atmosphere. Batman is attacked by suits of armour, but when he pounds them he finds them empty. Hawkman comes back with an energy disruptor and shorts out the force-field, which causes everything inside to go wild, like Night at the Museum on acid. Hawkman has brought an extra set of Nth Metal wings, but since Shiera’s still out of it, Batman puts them on. As Hawkman prepares to retrieve the statues, the Museum really goes nuts, animating a dinosaur skeleton and a mummy. The glow that surrounds the animated objects is also around Shiera, even though she’s still unconscious. But as Batman and Hawkman dispatch their animated foes, Shiera gets up and grabs the statues. She’s still not talking and slaps Hawkman out of the way when he gets too close. She takes the statues and flies out the window—without wings—as the Batman vs Hawkman in mid-airMuseum settles back down to Earth. Batman has figured out some of what’s going on, telling Hawkman that whatever force made the Museum fly is now inside Shiera, borrowing her body for some purpose as it tried to do with him earlier. Hawkman’s not in the mood to listen and he and Batman have a brief aerial duel. Hawkman’s experience wins out and he takes off after Shiera, even as Batman tries to warn him that delaying the force—thus keeping it inside Shiera longer than necessary—could be dangerous. Hawkman catches Shiera and she fights like hell to get away, but he can tell that whatever’s inside her is killing her. She finally snaps out of it and they land. Batman explains his deductions: some kind of alien entity wants the statues transported somewhere and was using Shiera’s body to do it, but the energy was almost too much for her. Batman’s surmise is confirmed when a weird alien eye appears in the sky and says the statues represent its ancient gods; they accidentally came through aacid trip dimensional rift and it’s been trying to return them and tried to use Batman but didn’t realize how fragile humans are. Shiera help up better because of her exposure to the Absorbascon, but she couldn’t last long enough to get the statues back through the dimensional rift either. Batman and Hawkman volunteer to work together, hoping that splitting the alien energy will let them last longer. They make it through the rift (which is like a really wild acid trip) with the statues, but are afraid they’re trapped forever. The entity says there are plenty of devices that’ll take them home and they pop back into Earth’s dimension right outside Midway City Museum. Batman, being the logical one, can hardly believe the whole experience, but Hawkman assures him it’s real.

Noticeable Things:

  • The statues are referred to as Old Ones and look very C’thulhu-esque, as does their home dimension.
  • I know Batman is supposed to be a man of science and all, but why does he always have to be so skeptical about mystic stuff? He’s seen enough of it with the JLA (Zatanna is his teammate, for God’s sake) and guys like Deadman that you’d think he’d accept it as fact by now.

Warlord 35 coverWarlord #35 – “Gambit” – Mike Grell/Vince Colletta

Last issue, Travis Morgan was transported to the Age of Wizard Kings by his new sword, Hellfire. He was briefly re-united with Machiste and Mariah before using the sword to return home. But instead of ending up back in Skartaris’s present, he pops up in what looks like modern-day Earth … he figures it’s somewhere on the East Coast, maybe Jersey. He’s in the living room of a fairly nice house in the suburbs, but before he can figure out what the hell’s going on, he’s challenged by a belligerent swordswoman named Agnes. They mix it up and Morgan tries to get some answers, but Agnes isn’t talking. When Morgan gains the upper hand, Agnes grabs a rifle from the nearby gun case, but someone (all we see is a shadowy silhouette hovering over the action) yells out “Foul!” and explains that Agnes is a “chaotic good primitive, with no knowledge of modern weapons”. Another shadowyMorgan vs Agnes figure agrees and concedes the battle to Morgan. Morgan is unaware of this exchange and is shocked when Agnes fades away just as he tries to shoot her with his Automag. Morgan is even more shocked when he starts thinking he could use a good drink and a wise-ass bartender materializes behind the bar across the room. He offers Morgan a drink and it turns out to be drugged. Morgan is hauled into the kitchen by some weirdos in red robes. They prepare to sacrifice him to the god Arachides (using one of those electric turkey slicers), but we see the shadowy figures again and one of them is rolling dice. (Have you figured out what’s happening yet? Yeah, I thought you would.) The dice roll saves Morgan’s ass and he starts wasting his would-be executioners. One of the acolytes uses the turkey slicer on himself, and the ritual blood-letting summons the fiery demon, which rises out of the stove. His sword is useless stove top demonagainst the fire-demon and Morgan ends up getting tossed through the window onto the front lawn. The demon picks up a car and prepares to squash Morgan, but he gets another lucky dice roll and dodges the car which busts open a fire hydrant and extinguishes the demon. Morgan takes a breather against a nearby tree, wondering at his uncanny luck. He’s even more bewildered when the tree turns out to be a fake. The house is now on fire from the demon’s attacks and Morgan figures he’d better get back inside before it goes up in smoke, in case his only portal home is in there. Inside, he runs into Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum armed with an axe and a chainsaw. After some more lucky dice rolls, Morgan takes them out but the fire has spread and he figures his last chance to get back to Skartaris is gone. We finally see the two gamers (Mike Grell and Jack C. Harris) sitting around someplace that looks like Mount Olympus, arguing about the game they just played. Their editor (Joe Orlando) tellsD&D game them they’d better get their next story in on time and they talk about what a crazy adventure they cooked up for Morgan (which I assume is the story we just read). Grell also says he’s got even wilder adventures planned for Morgan and we see Morgan instantly transported back to Skartaris where Shakira and one of the Keebler elves are waiting for him. Morgan assumes his magic sword Hellfire is responsible for his crazy adventure and, remembering Mongo Ironhand’s warning that the sword must taste blood every time it’s unsheathed, runs his thumb along the blade.

Noticeable Things:

  • Yeah, this is basically a meta story about Mike Grell and Jack C. Harris playing Dungeons & Dragons with Morgan as a character (although in the comic, the game they play is called Devils and Demons, and they use regular dice instead of D&D dice). Apparently this story was inspired by a weird dream Harris had after pigging out on pepperoni pizza. I’ve noticed a lot of Morgan’s adventures have a D&D flavour to them, so I’m not surprised to learn Grell is a gamer; I think it’s pretty cool, actually.

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