Comics reviews: Batman 329, Detective 496, Brave & the Bold 168

Batman 329 coverBatman #329 – “Twice Dies the Batman” – Marv Wolfman/Irv Novick/Frank McLaughlin

Last issue, a guy named Carl Ternion sent Batman a tape claiming he killed a man named Anton Karoselle … twice. Karoselle’s death was ruled accidental by the courts, so Ternion figured he was protected by double jeopardy from being prosecuted again. When Batman started looking into it, he found clues that an old foe of his was behind the whole mess. This issue starts with Batman trying to find proof of his hunch. At the office of recently murdered plastic surgeon, Albert Ekhart, Batman is going through the files when someone tosses a grenade through the window. Batman barely saves himself, but the bomber gets away … and the files are destroyed. Batman tries the city morgue next, but finds the file room there afire in the file room raging inferno. When he tries to retreat, Batman realizes he’s locked in, so he goes through the fire to find a window to escape through. Back at Wayne Enterprises, Batman tells Alfred he got a look at Karoselle’s file before the grenade blew up Dr. Ekhart’s records and Karoselle was a patient of Ekhart, and he didn’t exist before that. Ekhart must’ve been hired to change Karoselle’s face and fingerprints, but now that Karoselle’s death records have burned up, Batman has no way to check them for clues. Since Karoselle was suspected of killing District Attorney Stevens, Alfred figures it’s just a bunch of mobsters bumping each other off. But Batman knows who Ternion really is so he’s sure there’s more to it … especially since Ternion boasted of killing Karoselle twice. We see Ternion at Gilda Stevens place (she’s D.A. Stevens’s widow) and Gilda is quite taken with him, saying she never thought she’d find love again after her first two husbands died. But Ternion Two Face revealedis looking in the mirror and freaks out, taking off and leaving Gilda to wonder what the hell his problem is. We soon see, as Ternion turns out to be Two-Face, which most of you probably figured out a while ago. Batman checks out Karoselle’s house and finds newspaper cuttings about Two-Face and Boss Maroni. He goes to see Gilda and tells her his suspicions about Ternion being Two-Face … who was Gilda’s first husband back when he was still Harvey Dent. Two-Face is watching from a rooftop across the way, but can’t kill Batman because his coin flip lands with the good side up. Two-Face remembers being cool with his former assistant Stevens marrying Gilda, since he made her happy. But when Karoselle killed Stevens, Two-Face avenged him for bringing Gilda more pain. Batman notices Two-Face watching and heads back to the Batcave to prepare a ruse so he can capture Two-Face. Alfred says Two-Facefake Maroni grabs Gilda isn’t worth all the trouble, but Batman says Harvey Dent is worth it. As Two-Face continues to watch Gilda, he’s shocked to see Boss Maroni bust in and grab her. He freaks out and follows, wondering how Maroni can be still be alive since Two-Face already killed him … twice. He trails Maroni and Gilda to the courthouse, where he used to work as Harvey Dent. He ends up in a courtroom and Maroni walks out to confront him. We finally get the truth behind the “killed him twice” boast: Two-Face tried to kill Maroni once for scarring him, but Maroni survived that, although he was paralyzed from the waist down. After Karoselle killed Stevens, Two-Face found out he was a client of Dr. Ekhart and soon learned Batman capturedthat Karoselle was actually Maroni. So he killed Karoselle, avenging his own pain as well as Gilda’s loss of her husbands. So how can Maroni be standing here now? Yup, it’s Batman in disguise, screwing with Two-Face’s mind. Two-Face freaks out and conks Batman on the head, tying him up and threatening to blow his brains out. Alfred is nearby and runs a film of Harvey Dent being scarred by acid and later when the bandages were removed from his face for the first time. Two-Face really starts losing his shit, but Batman says he always gives his victims a 50-50 chance. Two-Face prepares to flip his coin, but Gilda pops up in the jury box and says she still loved Harvey even after he was Two-Face. She says she can forgive the stuff he did initially because he wasn’tTwo Face chooses to get help right in the head, but if he kills Batman, he just a cold-blooded murderer and she’ll never look at him the same again. Two-Face wants to use the coin to decide Batman’s fate, but Gilda says he uses the coin as a crutch, to avoid responsibility for his actions. She says she can’t make any long-term promises, but if he chooses to get help, she’ll stand by him … and if he chooses to kill Batman, they have no future whatsoever. Two-Face drops the gun and is taken away by the cops. Batman tells Alfred that Harvey Dent deserved a chance to prove himself, and maybe there can be a happy ending to all this.

“The Case of the Hijacked Heart” – Mike W. Barr/Rich Buckler/Frank McLaughlin

This story revolves around a mobster (Razor Reynolds) in the hospital for a heart transplant. Rival criminals figure he’s a sitting duck, so they’re sending hit teams after him. Batman and Robin pound the hitmen and Batman and Robin fight heart hijackersRobin checks out security, which is pretty tight around Reynolds. Reynolds’s right-hand man gets in to see him, and so does his daughter, who’s pissed off about her father’s “business”. The donor heart arrives at the airport, but rival mobsters try to grab it. The cops pin them down long enough for Batman and Robin to show up. They pound the thugs, save the donor heart, and learn who hired the organ-nappers. Robin delivers the heart to the hospital and tells the cops to arrest Reynolds’s daughter, who arranged the heart theft. There’s a sub-plot about Mary Ann, the homeless snitch who got pounded last issue after Batman asked her for information. The doctor is pissed off that Batman hasn’t come to visit Mary Ann, even though he found time to help save a crook like Reynolds. But when Robin and the doctor go into Mary Ann’s room, it’s filled with flowers and chocolates, and Batman is swinging away on his Batline.

Detective 496 coverDetective #496 – “Murder on the Mystery Ship” – Michael Fleisher/Don Newton/Dan Adkins

This one starts on a cruise ship off the coast of Gotham, where the first annual Horror Film Expo is taking place. Plenty of rich and famous people are aboard, including Batman, who saves an actress (Myra Gentry) when a huge Godzilla statue almost falls on her. Batman meets her director (and former actor) John Carlinger, who shows Batman around the Expo’s exhibits. Aside from the usual memorabilia (Godzilla, Hitchcock and Vincent Price tributes), there’s a special exhibit on Basil Karlo, once the most famous horror actor of all. Batman remembers Karlo well, since he went crazy after missing out on a film role and started killing people under the name Clayface. Batman caught Karlo and he’s now in Arkham Asylum. We check in with Karlo at Arkham and see that he’s reading about theKarlo goes nuts Horror Expo. He’s pissed off that they gave a Horror Film Expo and didn’t invite him; in fact, he’s so pissed off he ends up strangling a nurse and taking her keys, still mumbling about how the Horror Festival snubbed him. On the ship, Bruce Wayne talks to an old friend who tells him Carlinger is being audited by three of his top stars (Motherwell, Darnell, and Gentry) because they think he’s been fiddling the books to screw them out of their profit-shares. Karlo pretends to be a doctor and is picked up by a hunter in a truck, but when an announcement comes on the radio about an escape from Arkham, the hunter figures out who Karlo is. Karlo solves the problem by blowing the hunter away with his own shotgun and stealing his clothes and truck. Karlo gets a guy at the waterfront to rent him a speedboat (by convincing him he’s a famous singer hired to perform on the cruise ship) saving woman in pooland heads out to the ship. Karlo is gratified to see all the tributes to him and his movies, including an exact replica of his old dressing room. He uses the makeup to transform himself int Clayface, but is interrupted when John Carlinger comes in. When Clayface finds out Carlinger is the guy in charge of the Expo—and the guy who failed to invite him—he goes after Carlinger with a knife. Later, Clayface shows up at the pool, ranting about how everyone’s forgotten him and tainted his legacy. He shoots the actor Motherwell and Batman tries to grab him. Clayface punches him, leaving a streak of theatrical makeup on Batman’s costume, then tosses a napalm grenade into the pool. Batman rescues a woman from the conflagration and notices the makeup is gone from his costume. He asks where Darnell is and heads down to the lecture hall in time to stop Clayface from blasting him. Clayface gets away again, but Batman’s pretty sure where he’s heading. When Clayface gets back to his dressing room, he’s startled to see anothertwo Clayfaces Clayface waiting for him. He freaks out, saying he killed Clayface and stuffed his body in the closet; sure enough, when he opens the closet, Clayface’s corpse tumbles out and the doppleganger reveals himself to be Batman. Apparently, when Clayface attacked him earlier Carlinger won the fight, killing the maniac and usurping his identity so he could go after the actors who were trying to audit his books. That—and the fact that this Clayface used water-soluble makeup instead of greasepaint, which the real Clayface would’ve used—told Batman he was dealing with an impostor. He decks Carlinger and turns him over to the cops when the ship reaches port.

Noticeable Things:

  • There are some names in this story that might be references to real life; John Carlinger sounds a lot like John Carpenter (and his latest movie was “The Fog From Beyond”) and of course, Basil Karlo sounds a lot like Boris Karloff, though I don’t think Karloff was a homicidal maniac.
  • After Karlo escaped from Arkham and killed the guy in the truck, there’s no blood on the guy’s clothes even though Karlo just blasted him with a shotgun.
  • So, I guess this is meant to be the end of the original Clayface. Basil Karlo comes back in the Mudpack storyline (post-Crisis), but I’m not sure if his death here is explained or just ignored.

Batgirl splashBatgirl – “Stealer of Souls” – Cary Burkett/Jose Delbo/Bob Smith

This one starts with a guy in a freaky-looking mask (named Dr. Voodoo) conducting a ritual. Yeah, it’s one of those stories that are half “cultural misunderstanding” and half “racist caricature”. A guy is listening at the door and Dr. Voodoo uses his power to turn the guy into a “living zombie”, subservient to Dr. Voodoo’s will. We see Barbara Gordon with Tracy (the girl who has hysterical paralysis after being involved in one of Batgirl’s cases) and her father, Jim. Tracy has been practicing and can now stand on her own. Barbara is glad her friendship has helped Tracy, but after the kid is in bed, we see Barbara’s interest in the family runs a little deeper, as she and Jim make out on the couch. Elsewhere, a District Attorney seems to think Barbara Gordon murdered someone and he has the proof. The next day, Dr. Voodoo uses his power to enslave a bunch of people at the diamond exchange, forcing them to loot the place. Batgirl interrupts and almost gets her ass kicked before Dr.Batgirl uses noise to thwart Dr Voodoo Voodoo gets away. Batgirl finds an old man who wasn’t affected by Dr. Voodoo’s power and figures it’s because the old guy’s hearing aid wasn’t working. Batgirl makes an arrangement with her friend Jeff (who stores and maintains her motorbike) and heads to where she thinks DR. Voodoo is holed up … an old leather tanning factory. (She spotted chemicals on the hand of one of Dr. Voodoo’s henchmen that she’s sure come from working with leather.) Batgirl busts into the factory and Dr. Voodoo tries to enslave her, but Jeff is outside in one of those trucks politicians use for campaigning in the streets, and he blasts some music really loud. That disrupts Dr. Voodoo’s power (which works by sound), freeing the men under his control and preventing him from enthralling Batgirl. Dr. Voodoo gets away, vowing revenge and Batgirl recovers the stolen loot. She goes outside just in time to stop Jeff from getting a ticket for excessive public noise.

Brave and Bold 168 coverBrave & the Bold #168 – “Shackles of the Mind” – Cary Burkett/Jim Aparo

This one starts with Batman pounding some muggers before answering the Bat-Signal. Commissioner Gordon tells him the Regency diamond has been stolen from a supposedly impenetrable vault, with impeccable security, in under ten minutes. Whoever did it—Batman suspects a well-organized gang—must be experts at bypassing security devices. When he gets home, Batman sees a TV ad claiming that he’ll be appearing at a charity benefit in a week’s time, something he knows nothing about. He soon learns more, as Green Arrow pops up and says he’s the one who promised Batman would appear at the benefit. Green arrow says he recently busted a teenager (Samson Citadel) who’s a whiz at busting into places and he’s been coaching the kid to channel his talents in a more positive direction … as an escape artist. Since Batman’s a master in thatone thief gets away area, Arrow figured an introduction from the Caped Crusader would help Samson’s career. Batman is reluctant, since he doesn’t want to muddy his brand by appearing to be some kind of sideshow entertainer, but Green Arrow points out that half of Batman’s “dark and dangerous” schtick is pure theatre anyway. Batman says he’ll do it, but Green Arrow will have to take over his patrol of Gotham that night, otherwise crooks will have a field day knowing Batman is otherwise engaged. Arrow agrees and Batman takes him out immediately to get him acclimated to the Gotham scene. They run into a crew robbing a museum and split up to tackle them. Since the museum is another place with impeccable security and these guys bypassed it like it wasn’t even there, Batman figures they’re the ones who stole the diamond too. He pounds them, but when he checks in with Green Arrow, he sees one of the crooks has sprung himself from Arrow’s handcuff arrow … like a trained escape artist. Batman figures Arrow’s friend Samson must be the Batman caught by Rhinehartmissing crook, but Arrow swears he’s straight. He says he’ll talk to Samson and if he’s involved in the robberies, he’ll bring the kid in himself. Batman takes the other thieves in, all of whom swear they have no memory of being anywhere near the museum that night. Batman goes through their stuff and finds a swizzle stick from the Magicians’ Club. When he checks the Club out, he’s jumped by a big bruiser and captured when the whole room tilts under his feet. His captor turns out to be famous stage hypnotist, the Great Rhinehart (who looks like pretty much every stage magician you’ve ever seen, including Harry Blackstone Jr. and Reveen). Rhinehart admits he used hypnotism and drugs to turn people (including Samson) into his mindless minions, sending them to break into the impenetrable places. He plans to steal the receipts for the charity show before leaving town. Rhinehart wraps Batman in a sheet, locks him in a coffin, and throws the coffin into a tank full of piranha … how else would a stage magician kill someone? Meanwhile, Green Arrow has been talking to Samson, who insists he has nothing to doSamson breaks the mind control with any robberies. But when Samson gets a phone call from Rhinehart, he whacks Green Arrow on the head and takes off. Arrow follows him, as Batman struggles to escape the death-trap. Arrow trails Samson to the theatre where he and Rhinehart are breaking in to steal the box office receipts. Arrow confronts them and Samson decks him. Rhinehart gives Samson a gun and tells him to waste Green Arrow, but Arrow urges Samson to fight the mind control. Samson manages to overcome Rhinehart’s conditioning and drops the gun. Rhinehart takes off, but he’s jumped by Batman, who pounds him. After Rhinehart is taken to jail, Batman explains to Arrow and Samson (and us) how he escaped the death-trap. After getting out of the handcuffs and sheet (which was easy for a guy like Batman) he moved one of the weights in the coffin (which were used to make it sink) to cause the coffin to stand on end in the tank. Then he just busted out the top (which was now above the waterline) and climbed out of the tank. Samson is impressed, but Batman says he only had to escape a physical trap. Samson’s struggle was harder, since he had to escape a trap of the mind.

alley fightNemesis – “Swift Wing of Recompense” – Cary Burkett/Dan Spiegle

Nemesis has been trying to balance the scales of justice after his mentor and father figure Ben Marshall was shot … by Nemesis’s own brother, Craig. Having found a reference to a mob boss named Vanders in his brother’s files, Nemesis waylays a crook in an alley and interrogates him about Vanders. The punk says Vanders is involved in some smuggling across the Texas-Mexico border, and mentions that Vanders is affiliated with the Kingston mob … the mob that killed Ben Marshall. That surprises Nemesis, since he was there when his brother shot Marshall. The thug takes advantage of Nemesis’s wandering mind and attacks, yelling for back-up. Nemesis fights back, using special paralyzing ammunition that he developed while working for the government. He takes off and uses another invention to instantly change his appearance in case the thugs come looking for him. Nemesis decides to get close to Vanders by disguising himself as one of Vanders’ associates, a guy named Dole who’s currently in prison. Nemesis convinces Vanders he’s Dole and Vanders tells him he’s working for Kingston Construction, getting ready to build an airstrip for them to run dope from Mexico. Nemesis breaks into Kingston Construction’s offices and finds a hidden drawer full of files. Kingston is constructing legitimate airstrips while skimming money andpoetic justice top-grade materials for their own illegal strip. Nemesis doctors the purchase orders, so the illegal airstrip gets all the shitty materials. He finally finds a file on his brother and it looks like the mob knew Craig was working for the government all along. Instead of killing him, they sent him to the Council (a group of top-echelon mob bosses) and the Council brainwashed him into killing Marshall. Weeks pass and the illegal airstrip is finished. Nemesis uses the time to get deeper into the Kingston mob, finally earning the trust of one of the bosses, who he hopes can lead him to the Council. But on a flight to the airstrip, turbulence causes Nemesis’s quick disguise gas to go off, exposing him to the mobsters. They start fighting and Nemesis bails out, using a rocket pack to avoid splattering on the ground. When the plane lands on the airstrip, the shoddy materials used during construction cause the plane to crash. Nemesis figures tips the scale a little more toward justice, but things still aren’t balanced.

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