Comics Reviews: Batman 327, Detective 494, Brave & the Bold 166, Warlord 37

Batman 327 coverBatman #327 – “Asylum Sinister” – Len Wein/Irv Novick/Frank McLaughlin

Last issue, Batman disguised himself as a criminal named Shank Taylor to infiltrate Arkham Asylum. Recent crimes had been committed by people who were supposed to be incarcerated at Arkham, so Batman figured he’d investigate from the inside. He pretended to be a homicidal maniac and was taken to Arkham, drugged, and tossed in a cell … before discovering the new administrator was his old foe, Professor Milo. As soon as he’s recovered, Batman shimmies out of his straitjacket and uses a lockpick he had concealed under his tongue to break out of his cell. He wanders through the Asylum, speculating on who the mastermind behind this new scheme could be. He can’t find any evidence and has to rush back to his cell when theArkham tour guards appear. Unfortunately, Professor Milo has a camera in the cell, so he knows “Shank Taylor” went for a stroll around the Asylum and vows to learn what Taylor is up to. Back in the Batcave, we see the real Shank Taylor being kept tied up and gassed by Alfred., who’s quite worried that he hasn’t heard anything from Batman. The guards take Batman to see Milo, who offers Batman some tea. He assumes it’s drugged and only pretends to drink it. Milo explains his scheme (although it’s fairly obvious): he releases Arkham inmates so they can commit various crimes and takes fifty percent of their loot for providing them with airtight alibis. Since Shank Taylor is a well-known jewel thief, Milo wants him to participate. Batman pretends to go nuts again (smashing the suspect teacup) and is dragged away by the guards. Once he’s back in his cell, Batman breaks out again and steals a Batman costume from Joker’s room. But Batman doesn’t get straitjacket fightfar before he gets dizzy and keels over. He wakes up in another straitjacket, surrounded by inmates. Apparently, the tea wasn’t drugged, the entire cup was, and Batman absorbed it through his pores. Milo has decided that breaking Batman’s mind and leaving him confined in Arkham is more fun than just killing him. To that end, Milo insists Batman isn’t really the Caped Crusader, he’s just another mentally disturbed inmate of Arkham. Milo proves it by asking Batman to break out of the straitjacket (which he can’t do because Milo tampered with it) and to pick the correct shell in the old shell game (which Batman screws up because of all the drugs in his system). Batman actually starts to wonder if Milo is right, but upon seeing how dilated his pupils are in the mirror, he realizes he’s been drugged. That gives him enough of an adrenaline rush to fight off the drug, so Milo tells his henchmen to waste Batman. The Caped Crusader kicks their asses, even though he’s still in a straitjacket. That impresses all the nutcases around him and he capitalizes on that to entice Joan of Arc (one of the delusional inmates) to free him. He goes to find Milo, followed by the gaggle of crazies. He corners Milo in his office, but Milo has a bottle of the concentrated narcotic he used earlier on Batman, and if he smashes itMilo crazy Batman will be driven insane permanently. Naturally, Batman doesn’t back off, so Milo throws the bottle down. Milo is wearing a protective suit and mask, so Batman is forced to retreat back to the hallway. But when Milo tries to escape out the other door, the Arkham inmates are waiting for him. They drive him back into the room and pile on, beating the shit out of him. Obviously the gas can’t really affect them, since they’re already crazy. By the time the gas dissipates enough for Batman to come back and pull the mob off of Milo, it’s too late. No, he isn’t beaten to a bloody pulp, but the attack did smash his protective mask, leaving Milo hopelessly insane from his own gas. I guess Arkham has a new inmate.

Noticeable Things:

  • While wondering who the mastermind is, Batman considers Joker and Two-Face (both supposedly dead at this point), and Maxie Zeus, of whom we get a glimpse in his cell.
  • Apparently, each Arkham patient has their own room, which houses all their stuff even when they aren’t there. That’s how Batman got the spare costume from Joker’s room.
  • If you’re wondering what happened to the real Arkham administrator, Milo stuck him in one of the cells.

Detective 494 coverDetective #494 – “The Crime Doctor Calls at Midnight” – Michael Fleisher/Don Newton/Bob Smith

This one starts with an ambulance speeding through Gotham’s rain-soaked streets to help some patients in dire need. But this isn’t a regular EMT. it’s a guy called Crime Doctor who helps criminals by “diagnosing” their targets and telling them how best to pull off the job. Crime Doctor finds some thieves about to hit a fur warehouse, but the guards are armed with submachine guns … an unanticipated hiccup. Crime Doctor uses some anesthetic to knock the guards out, giving the crooks the chance to loot the place. We find out Crime Doctor takes his Hippocratic Oath seriously; not only does he refuse to kill anyone, he leaves a note on one of the unconscious guards to warn the guy he has high blood pressure. The crooks start loading up the furs and Crime Doctor leaves. Across town, Commissioner Gordon is in a meeting with city officials about the recent crime spree, wondering who the new expert is that’s planning theBatman wounded crimes so perfectly. Batman crashes the meeting just in time to hear about the break-in at the fur warehouse and heads over right away. He passes Crime Doctor’s ambulance and is briefly distracted by the license plate, which is for a different part of the city. Batman finds the thieves just as they’re about to take off and pounds them, but gets a stevedore hook in the arm for his trouble. He finishes off the thieves and finds the unconscious guards—and the note Crime Doctor left, which really baffles him. We see Crime Doctor returning to his secret underground base, which he operates as a clinic for criminals. Turns out Crime Doctor is really Bradford Thorne, respected Gotham physician. He takes a quarter of the proceeds for planning heists for criminals (or half for a “house call” like tonight’s warehouse job) and donates a lot of the money to charity. That’s right, Thorne isn’t in it for the money, he just likes the thrill of being a crook. The wound in Batman’s arm is pretty deep and Alfred can only do so Thorne treating Brucemuch, so he insists Bruce see Dr. Dundee (the doctor who knows Bruce’s secret and treats many of his wounds). Unfortunately, Dundee is out of town, but guess who he got to cover his patients while he was away? Yup, Bradford Thorne. Of course, Thorne doesn’t know Bruce’s secret, so he makes up a story about getting stabbed with a foil during fencing practice. Thorne buys that and fixes up Bruce’s arm, mentioning that he’ll be attending a charity ball Bruce is throwing later that week. The night of the ball, Bruce Wayne and Bradford Thorne both get wind of something going down; Bruce sees the Bat-signal and Thorne gets a beep from one of his “patients” who’s robbing Monarch Chemicals. They both make their excuses and take off to change and head over to the scene of the crime. When Crime Doctor gets there, he finds his clients have decided to ignore the money in the company safe and steal some Interferon vials instead, hoping to make way more money. Crime Doctor says that wasn’t the plan and the Interferon is needed by sick people. Batman interrupts the argument and pounds all the thieves. Crime Doctor blinds him with his head mirror and tries toCrime Doctor fights Batman slice him with a scalpel. The slice cuts through Batman’s costume sleeve and Crime Doctor recognizes the bandage he put on Bruce Wayne a few days ago. He blurts that out, which distracts Batman long enough for one of the thieves to conk him out. Crime Doctor refuses to let them shoot an unconscious man, so the crooks prepare to blow him away too. But when they hear police sirens approaching, they grab the Interferon and clear out. The thieves wonder why they didn’t finish off Batman when they had the chance, but their leader says not to worry about it. He was tired of giving Crime Doctor a percentage of their haul, so he rigged up a little surprise inside the building; having Batman there too just makes it doubly satisfying. As he finishes saying this, the building explodes, killing Batman and Crime Doctor immediately. What, you don’t think they’re dead? You’re right, but we’ll have to wait until next issue to see how they survive.

hard lessonTales of Gotham City – Jack C. Harris/Dan Spiegle

This is a little morality tale about street life in Gotham. A ne’er-do-well named Flip is trying to get a new high score on a pinball machine, cheered on by his friends, and idolized by a kid named Juan. Flip gets a delivery job from the arcade owner (who’s obviously crooked as hell), but he wants to hang around and make sure nobody screws with his machine. Juan volunteers to deliver the package (which I’m assuming is dope) and Flip lets him go without a second thought. The arcade owner gets a call that the West Side Mob is after the package and Flip tells him not to worry about it. We see Juan making his way across town, dodging numerous inner-city perils, while Flip plays pinball. But it seems Flip has a conscience after all, because he leaves his game to find Juan before the West Side Mob does. When Flip finds Juan, the mob is already there, and Flip tells Juan to run but the kid is too scared. Flip gets shot trying to protect Juan and before he dies, he gives Juan a pinball and tells him to get out of the life because there’s no free games on the streets.

Batgirl watches interrogationBatgirl – “The Lesser Evil” – Cary Burkett/Jose Delbo/Frank Chiaramonte

Last issue Batgirl caught a couple of thugs running away from a suspicious fire near the old theatre she’s trying to save from being torn down. This story opens with Commissioner Gordon telling Batgirl that the cops can prove the thugs started the fire, but they won’t admit who ordered them to do it. Gordon suspects it’s a local mob boss named Vance, since these scumbags are known to be on his payroll. Gordon tells Batgirl that Vance is engaged in a local mob war with a rival boss named Beeler, which explains why they torched the building, since Beeler owns it. Batgirl takes off to pick up her Batcycle from a local garage and heads across town before changing to Barbara Gordon. She goes to visit Tracy Dover, the girl Batgirl rescued from the fire last issue. Tracy was traumatized a few issues ago when she saw Batgirl get shot and now has some kind of hysterical paralysis in her legs. Barbara tells Tracy’s father that herBarbara meets with Tracy and her father research firm helps victims like him and Tracy. Barbara makes a connection with Tracy and promises to return; Tracy’s dad seems kinda sweet on Barbara too. Not far from the Dover house, Barbara passes the Winston Theater, which is scheduled to be torn down to make way for new low-income housing. Barbara wants to figure out a way to build the housing without knocking down the historic theatre, and she’s not the only one. A bunch of protesters are picketing in front of the theatre (there were picketers there last issue too), which surprises Barbara since the city’s plan to raze the theatre isn’t common knowledge yet. Suddenly, some thugs attack the picketers and Barbara quickly changes to Batgirl and starts pounding them. She overhears one of the protesters (who looks like a skid row wino) mention being paid to pounding thugspicket in front of the theatre, so after driving the thugs away she interrogates the guy. He says he and the other protesters were paid to march in front of the theatre by a slick-looking dude who’s lurking across the street. Batgirl follows the guy to the house of the mob boss, Beeler. By lip-reading, she figures out that Beeler has been leaning on his rival, Vance, and Vance got nervous enough to send some thugs to clear out the protesters because he doesn’t want anyone looking too closely at the Winston Theater—specifically, at the city’s original plan for the new development. Batgirl breaks into Vance’s house and finds the original plans for the housing development, which left the theatre untouched but closed down numerous illicit businesses owned by Vance. Vance hears her and shows up with a shotgun. He admits he bribed the council to bury the original plan andBatgirl intimidates Vance substitute the new one and when Beeler found out, he started trying to draw attention to the theatre to get someone to investigate—which technically worked, since Batgirl figured it out. Vance is ready to blow Batgirl away, but she uses Batman’s old stare-down trick of slowly advancing and hoping the guy with the gun will be too intimidated to fire. It works and she takes Vance out before he can blast her. Later, Barbara Gordon recommends to her think tank that the city follow the original plan, leaving the theatre intact and getting rid of Vance’s sleazy businesses. Her colleagues congratulate her, but she’s not thrilled at being used by Beeler, who now has a free hand in the neighbourhood with Vance gone. Batgirl sends Beeler a warning that he’s next on her list.

interrupted dateRobin – “The Hazing Homicide” – Jack C. Harris/Charles Nicholas/Vince Colletta

Another campus tale; maybe I’d appreciate these more if I’d gone to college. This one starts with Dick Grayson and his girlfriend Jennifer having a moonlight swim (in bathing suits … get your minds out of the gutter) when they find a dead body floating in the lake; talk about a mood-killer. The dead guy is a student named Proctor … a varsity swimmer, so probably didn’t drown by accident. Dick takes Jennifer to her dorm, calls the campus cops, and changes to Robin before returning to the lake. Proctor’s new girlfriend shows up, freaking out, and another dude named Biff Braddock tries to comfort her. Biff says he’d never leave her for a stupid frat and Robin notices Proctor is wearing a Tr-Sigma fraternity shirt. He figures the drowning might be a hazing gone wrong, so he goes to check out the frat house. It’s locked up tight, so he sneaks in and finds the chapter president giving a couple guys shit for hazing pledges by making them swim across the lake. They say the pledges were all good swimmers, but the president points out that one of them never came back. They say they figured he wimped out and took off, but Robin interrupts to tell them their missing pledge drowned. They try to run, but Robin bags them easily. The next day he takes them to the morgue toRobin pounds Biff identify their handiwork, but they both say Proctor wasn’t the missing pledge (whose name they don’t even remember). The cops figure they’re lying, but Robin has figured out who the missing pledge is, and that he’s Proctor’s killer. Have you figured it out? Probably not, since the clue was so damn obscure even Sherlock Holmes would’ve had trouble seeing it. (Plus, I didn’t point out the clue at the appropriate time.) Turns out Biff Braddock used to date Proctor’s new girlfriend and wanted her back, so he killed Proctor when he saw him at the lake. Robin figured it out because Biff’s hair was wet and he was wearing cut-offs when he showed up at the murder scene, meaning he was the third pledge swimming the lake that night. Later, Dick and Jennifer go back to the lake, and Jennifer speculates that Robin must be a student at the university. Dick distracts her with some smooching, which I’m sure led to some hot lake sex. (Yes, this time your minds can roll around in the gutter.)

Black Lightning grabs some crooksBlack Lightning – “Explosion of the Soul” – J.M. DeMatteis/Gerald Forton

This one starts with Black Lightning collaring a couple of street punks. They’re glad to see it’s him and not the “Slime Killer” who’s been wasting criminals in Suicide Slum lately. Their relief doesn’t last long, as Lightning pounds them for knocking over a grocery store around the corner. The next day at Garfield High School (where Black Lightning is principal Jefferson pierce in his secret identity), Pierce congratulates a student named Jonathan Davis on being a good writer and tries to encourage him to follow up. But Jonathan figures there’s no point since he’s stuck in Suicide Slum where nothing ever seems to change. That night, Lightning runs across the Slime Killer and his latest victims and they fight. The Killer ends up blinding Lightning with some spray paint and taking off. A few days later, Pierce goes to Jonathan’s house to tryJonathan helps his father to get through to him again. But Jonathan’s father is no help, saying the world is basically shit and there’s no point fighting it. I guess that’s where Jonathan’s rosy outlook comes from. Pierce notices Jonathan’s dad has boots stained with spray paint, just like the Slime Killer wore the other night. He comes back as Black Lightning, but the place is empty. He hears noises outside and interrupts the Slime Killer before he can waste his latest victims. They mix it up again and the Killer rants about how his wife and daughter were killed by the “slime” in the streets. Jonathan happens by and realizes the Slime Killer is his dad, about to stab Black Lightning. Jonathan talks him down and when the cops take the Killer away to the psych ward, Jonathan goes along, saying his father needs him.

Brave and Bold 166 coverBrave & the Bold #166 – “Requiem for 4 Canaries” – Michael Fleisher/Dick Giordano/Terry Austin

This one starts with a big break-out at Gotham State Penitentiary. Batman rounds up most of the fugitives, but it turns out Penguin was behind the break-out and he got away. Batman knows Penguin swore vengeance on the four henchmen who ratted him out, all of whom moved to Star City after the trial, so he figures that’s where Penguin will head now. In Star City, Penguin gets some muscle by blowing away a local crime boss and taking over his gang. Penguin brings in a bunch of canaries (since he’s trying to find the “canaries” who sang to the cops—I guess he’s going for a theme) and tells his new henchmen he’s going to take care of the guys who sold him out … and Batman for good measure. Elsewhere in Star City, Dinah (Black Canary) Lance and a friend are attending a nightclub performance of a famous singer. During the show, the lights go out just as a high note shatters a salt shaker on a nearby table. Phosgene gasBlack Canary knocked out comes out of the shaker, killing the guy at the table. Dinah figures it must’ve been a set-up and her hunch is confirmed when she sees Penguin slipping out of the club. Dinah ditches her friend and changes to Black Canary. Outside, Penguin tells his men the first hit went off perfectly (using a nightclub singer, also referred to as a “canary” in the business); Black Canary interrupts them and starts kicking the crap out of everyone but gets conked out by one of the thugs. Before he can blow her away, Batman shows up and is forced to let Penguin and his men escape when Penguin gasses the unconscious Black Canary with more lethal phosgene. When Canary wakes up, Batman tells her about Penguin’s vendetta and she suggests they work together, since she knows Star City so well. Batman agrees and they head over to see a local loan extra intimidationshark who knows every sleazy thing that happens in Star City. She asks for information and he’s not too cooperative until Batman looms up behind Black Canary (without her knowing) and scares the hell out of the guy. They find out one of Penguin’s targets is running a pawn shop not far away, so they head over. But by the time they get there, the place has been blown up … Penguin went in disguised as an old lady and left a mechanical canary that exploded. Batman and Black Canary decide to split up to cover the last two targets; Batman heads to a flophouse where one of them has been hiding out. His vigil is interrupted when Black Canary shows up in the alley, saying her guy was already dead when she got thee. Then she starts talking about how scared she is and how she needs comforting, and starts rubbing up against Batman like a dog in heat. Hesexist rescue realizes something’s wrong and tosses her aside, taking off. Elsewhere, we see Penguin and his men have captured Black Canary and tied her to a chair (in her underwear, since the fake Canary has her costume). Batman busts in and starts kicking ass and we learn (though he doesn’t tell Penguin) that he knew the woman in the alley wasn’t the real Canary because she had blonde hair … real blonde hair, as opposed to the blonde wig Black Canary wears over her dark tresses. Just as Penguin is about to blast Batman, Black Canary knocks her chair over and spoils his aim. Batman slaps the shit out of him and frees Canary, who says Batman is her hero.

Noticeable Things:

  • I’m not sure why the four rats didn’t flee to four different cities instead of all going to the same place, but I guess criminals aren’t known for their brains.
  • The singer Dinah and her friend go to see is named Betty Butler aka “The Divine Miss B”, which sounds like Bette Midler and “The Divine Miss M”. But Butler is a blonde and she’s shown singing “People”, which I associate more with Streisand than Midler.
  • If you’re wondering how Batman found Penguin’s hideout, he traced the large order of canaries Penguin made earlier. Since Star City is much smaller than Gotham, there was only one bird dealer in town to check.
  • There’s kind of a sexist undercurrent running through this story. I think Fleisher is aware of it (when she calls Batman her hero and kisses him at the end, Black Canary says “Liberated ladies aren’t supposed to say things like this”), or maybe he’s doing it on purpose, either to bring attention to it or to make fun of stories that try too hard to be PC. But there are some cringeworthy moments in here: Batman intimidating the loan shark without Canary’s knowledge, then congratulating her for getting the info is especially patronizing. Oh well, at least they didn’t end up banging on a filthy dock.

Nemesis scalesNemesis – Cary Burkett/Dan Spiegle

This starts with an old lady getting a delivery which turns out to be a set of scales with her dead husband’s name on it. There’s also a note from someone named Tom saying the scale will be balanced someday. We learn the woman’s husband (Ben Marshall) was head of “the biggest law enforcement agency in the county”, which I assume is the FBI. Marshall was shot by a sniper because he was getting too close to something big. Outside, we see the guy who sent the note, Tom Tresser. He knew Marshall and has sworn to avenge him, but has to wade through a lot of criminals to do so. To that end, Tresser has abandoned his old life and taken the name Nemesis. He starts with a guy named Ogden, who was high on Marshall’s list; Ogden is crooked as hell, but always uses middlemen to do his dirty work … like a hitman named Peal. Peal is in town, so Nemesis figures he must be going to do a job for Ogden. Nemesis disguises himself as a drunk and cases the bar where Peal hangs out. He makes contact, but Peal makes him and half the bar tries to blow him away. Nemesis takes offOgden shoots Peal and gets away, but he managed to plant a bug on Peal when he brushed up against him. Peal goes to Ogden and is told to waste a business rival. Nemesis gets everything on tape and Peal is arrested quickly. When confronted with the evidence, Ogden freaks out and guns Peal down, insuring that he’ll do life for murder. Nemesis was watching from nearby and decides he’s tipped the balance of Justice a little, but still has a long way to go. He places a couple of bullets with Ogden and Peal’s names engraved on them on one side of a scale; on the other side is a heavy weight that reads “Marshall”. Nemesis says he’ll keep working until the scales are balanced, and we find out that it was Tom Tresser’s brother who killed Marshall.

Warlord 37 coverWarlord #37 – A Horse of a Different Color” – Mike Grell/Vince Colletta

This one starts with Travis Morgan stalking a wild horse so he and Shakira can have some quicker transportation. Shakira’s not impressed with his plan, and for good reason … the horse is a Pegasus and flies away with Morgan on its back. It heads to a gleaming city on top of a spire of rock in the jungle, while Shakira tries to follow on the ground as best she can. On the way, she’s jumped by a centaur and she quickly kicks his ass. He seems smitten and offers to do anything she wants, so she tells him to help her find Morgan. The centaur says he can take her to the Pegasus’s home, but she might as well give Morgan up for dead. As Morgan explores the city atop the spire, he notices the place is filled with lifelike states, from every era of Skartaris history dating back to the Age of Wizard Kings. He meets the city’s ruler, Astarte, a beautiful woman who immediately puts the moves on him. Yeah, you see where this is going. The centaurharpy attack leads Shakira to the base of the spire, telling her the city is called Grimfang and that no one can climb to it, so she might as well stay on the ground with him. Shakira turns into her cat form and makes her way up the rocky peak, fighting off a hungry hawk on the way. Astarte is trying to get Morgan to drink some wine when Shakira jumps in and claws her face, making her drop the goblet. Morgan realizes the wine is actually blood and it’s the source of all the “statues” in Astarte’s place. Astarte transforms into a harpy to kill Morgan, but he throws some of the blood in her face and when it gets into the scratches Shakira made, Astarte turns to stone. Shakira wonders how they’ll get out of Grimfang, but Morgan grabs the Pegasus and they fly off, leaving the centaur to wonder what might have been.

Noticeable Things:

  • The centaur really seems to have the hots for Shakira, but how would that work exactly? I mean, wouldn’t he be proportioned like a horse down there? He’d split her in half … unless he’s really into oral. I’m probably over thinking this.
  • Shakira mentions she’s going to help Morgan because he’d do the same for her, but she points out that she’s not known for her loyalty, like most cats.
  • It’s nice to see that Shakira can take care of herself without having to be rescued by Morgan. (In fact, she saves him in this one.)shakira pounds the centaur

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