Comics Reviews: Batman 331, Detective 498, Brave & the Bold 170

Batman 331 coverBatman #331 – “Closed Circuit” – Marv Wolfman (plot), Michael Fleisher/Irv Novick/Frank McLaughlin

This one starts with a guy running through the alleys of Gotham, followed relentlessly by a dude in a trenchcoat. When the runner is finally cornered, the guy in the trenchcoat grabs him, electrocuting him by touch. Later, Batman identifies the dead guy as Spike Rafferty, a criminal who was scheduled for execution but released not long ago on a legal technicality. A few days later, another criminal (Mike Caine) is released from Death Row on a technicality. Batman is pissed off, since he personally put Caine away, so he heads over to Caine’s place to let him know he’s still on Batman’s shit list. Caine scoffs at Batman and the Caped Crusader mentions the weirdo who’s running around electrocuting criminals who weaseled out of theirBatman gets a shock sentences. Caine isn’t worried, but right after Batman leaves, Electrocutioner shows up and fries Caine. Batman hears his death scream and doubles back. He briefly grabs Electrocutioner, but gets zapped for his trouble. Later, Alfred treats the electrical burn on Batman’s chest as he tells Dick Grayson about his encounter with Electrocutioner. Bruce is still pissed off at Dick for dropping out of college and Dick says he’s not a kid anymore and doesn’t need Bruce looking over his shoulder every time he makes a decision. To prove his point, Dick mentions that he’s been looking into the attempted burglary at Wayne Enterprises last issue; not only was Lucius Fox’s son (Timothy) coerced into helping the gang, but the gang aren’t the ones who beat the crap out of Lucius … someone else did. Bruce says that’s fine as far as it goes, but why did a penny-ante gang target Wayne Enterprises in the first place? And how did they get in? Bruce interrupts his secretary Electrocutioner flees(Caroline) as she’s stealing a file from his desk, but he doesn’t notice. We learn Caroline is actually working for Bruce’s rival, Gregorian Falstaff, but before she can get out of the building with the file, Dick asks her to run a check on all of Wayne Enterprises’ holdings. That evening, Bruce visits Lucius in the hospital and Lucius mentions the file he sent to Bruce, which Bruce never saw. Meanwhile, Robin follows the leader of Timothy’s gang to Gregorian Falstaff’s building. Electrocutioner goes after another crook who dodged justice and Batman interrupts him. Electrocutioner isn’t ready to face Batman one-on-one, so he takes off. The next day, Dick tells Bruce about following the gang leader to Falstaff’s building. Bruce is already pissed off at Falstaff for underbidding him on four different projects, even though Falstaff must be losing money. Dick says he found proof that Wayne Enterprises owns aElectrocutioner goes out the window bunch of slum tenements (which the gang leader accused them of last issue) and Falstaff’s newspaper has a front page story about Bruce being a slum-lord. Bruce says he’ll have a chat with Falstaff as soon as he takes care of Electrocutioner. Later that night, Electrocutioner goes after another criminal, but this time Batman is there ahead of him, disguised as the butler. They fight and Electrocutioner ends up clinging to a rail outside the window. He accidentally zaps himself and falls into the sea, but we see a hand come out of the water later. I don’t think Batman fights Electrocutioner again, but Wolfman brings him back in Vigilante. Back at the penthouse, Batman finds Talia waiting for him. She says she needs a place to stay and when Bruce says she can stay with him, Robin freaks and walks out. We’ll see where that’s leading next issue.

Batman asks to borrow Al's face“Wolf in the Fold” – Mike W. Barr/Don Newton/Steve Mitchell

This one starts with Batman telling a cop named Al Nelson that he needs to borrow his face for the night. Batman is already disguised as Nelson and tells the real Nelson to lay low at home until morning. Nelson agrees and the disguised Batman takes over Nelson’s patrol. He’s looking for a guy named Rearden, who was supposed to be investigating the mob but has disappeared, along with whatever evidence he’d gathered. The whispers are saying Rearden might have been paid off, but since Rearden is close to Gordon, Batman figures maybe he’s being set up … possibly by someone on the force. Batman goes to the shooting range with Rearden’s number two man (Samuels), but he hasn’t seen Rearden for a couple of days. Another member of the task force shows up (Trask), but he can’t shed any light on Rearden’s whereabouts either. They head for a squad briefing and afterwards, Commissioner Gordon figures out “nelson” is Batman in disguise when Nelson mentions Gordon’s hunting lodge (which only Batman and Barbara know about). Gordon realizes Batman must beSamuels exposed checking out the task force, since he came in with Samuels and Trask, so Gordon decides to review the duplicate files in his office. Batman switches disguises and goes into the file room as a janitor. He finds the task force files missing, but no clue as to who took them except an oily stain on an empty folder. Batman goes to check the duplicate files in Gordon’s office, but Gordon has already discovered a nasty surprise … someone replaced the files with a bomb. He and Batman defuse it and Batman says he knows who planted it. They confront Samuels (who forgot to wash his hands after target practice, leaving gun oil on the file folder) and Batman knocks him out. He tells them Rearden is fine, just doped up in a shithole apartment someplace. Apparently, Samuels was trying to steal (or destroy) the task force files and set Rearden up for it. I assume he was working for the mob, but that isn’t really specified.

Detective 498 coverDetective #498 – “Night of the Savage” – Gerry Conway/Don Newton/Frank McLaughlin

This story opens with a flashback that takes place shortly after Batman 309. When Blockbuster saved the girl and went into the water, Batman called the cops and they searched for Blockbuster but couldn’t find him. Batman isn’t sure whether to believe Blockbuster is dead or not, but we soon see he’s definitely alive. After staggering out of the sea down the coast, Blockbuster is jumped by a couple of assholes. Blockbuster pounds them and makes his way inland to a small West Virginia mining town called Bleak Rock. A dude named Willie Macon is getting pounded by thugs; I’m not sure exactly what it’s about, but it kinda sounds like Macon is a union organizer and the thugs are trying to discourage him, probably on orders from the local business/political boss. Blockbuster pounds the thugs and Macon invites him home, seeing an opportunity to shore up the workers’ position with a muscle-man likeBatman pounds Ajax Blockbuster on their side. Macon’s family welcomes Blockbuster without question and he feels comfortable around them. The rest of the story takes place in the present, months later. Batman has been recovering from the gunshot wound he got last issue and during his convalescence, a big brute has been robbing stores with a very crude smash-and-grab technique. Batman assumes it’s Blockbuster and goes to see Commissioner Gordon. Another robbery occurs at an electronics store while he’s at Gordon’s office and he heads out to catch the thief. It turns out not to be Blockbuster; it’s a guy named Ajax, who’s almost as big (and about as articulate) as Blockbuster, and Batman ends up kicking his ass. A nearby TV is conveniently tuned to a news broadcast about upcoming union elections in Bleak Rock, and Batman sees Blockbuster in the mineBlockbuster behind Macon (who’s running for union boss). In Bleak Rock, Boss Dooley is pissed off at Macon’s attempt to get elected union boss; Dooley has always held the power around Bleak Rock and doesn’t want to give it up, but he knows killing Macon will just bring the heat down on him. One of his thugs notices Batman pulling into town and Dooley gets an idea. Batman asks around and finds out Blockbuster has been working at the mine for months. He heads over there, but gets knocked out by Dooley’s men, who prepare a little dynamite surprise that’ll send Batman down below. Down in the mine, Macon is marveling at Blockbuster’s strength when an explosion is heard from above and Batman plummets down the shaft. Blockbuster catches him, but his hatred of Batman immediately flares up and he’s filled with the overwhelming urge to rip the Caped Crusader to pieces. Will he do it? We’ll have to wait until next issue to find out.

Batgirl in jailBatgirl – “The Tightening Web” – Cary Burkett/Jose Delbo/Joe Giella

Last issue, Barbara Gordon was arrested for killing an old political rival, Congressman Scanlon. She knows she’s being set up, but can’t prove it without blowing her secret identity as Batgirl. Her boyfriend Jim Dover gets her out (he’s a lawyer) and she goes home with her father, Commissioner Gordon. He explains why she couldn’t get a hold of him last issue: he’d gotten a call from someone wanting money for information about Barbara, but when Gordon went to meet the blackmailer, nobody showed up. Barbara thinks it might have been someone she works with, since the blackmail call was made around the time she was being questioned in her office by a detective. She figures one of her coworkers might have overheard and decided to cash in. She also figures a coworker is responsible for setting her up, since the main evidence againstBarbara talks with her father her is her fingerprints on a bottle of pills of he kind used to kill Scanlon. Barbara found the pills on her desk (which is how her prints got on the bottle) but the pills disappeared later; she assumes somebody in her office is responsible. Barbara tells her father she has to clear her name before going to trial, since she’ll either have to perjure herself or admit she’s Batgirl if she’s questioned under oath. She goes to Jim’s office and listens in on a meeting where the District Attorney is disclosing evidence against her. The D.A. Says Scanlon was going to cut funding to HRD, the think tank where Barbara works. Barbara didn’t know about that (and obviously wouldn’t have killed Scanlon even if she had known), but the next piece of evidence is more damning: a purchase order for the type of poison that killed Scanlon, signed by Barbara. She knows it’s a fake, but when she Batgirl poundedsneaks a look at it later, the signature is genuine. She realizes her assistant (Doreen) must have slipped it in with her regular correspondence so she’d sign it without paying attention. Batgirl confronts Doreen, who says some guys wanted her to set Barbara up as leverage against the Commissioner, so he’d spring Doreen’s brother from prison. Doreen never thought Barbara would actually get arrested and tried to back out when she heard. A trio of thugs busts in and Batgirl fights them, but is distracted when one of them grabs Doreen. Batgirl is knocked out and she and Doreen are taken by the thugs to see their boss. Meanwhile, Jim is looking for Barbara; the judge has set a meeting in a couple of hours and if Barbara doesn’t show up, her case might be over before it even starts. We’ll see what happens with all this drama next issue.

Brave and Bold 170 coverBrave & the Bold #170 “…If Justice Be Blind” – Cary Burkett/Jim Aparo

This one starts with a guy getting gunned down on the steps of Gotham police headquarters. Commissioner Gordon is appalled, especially since this is the fourth killing lately and they have no leads. Batman recognizes the killer’s M.O. As that of Danny Krebs, a gun for hire. Gordon mentions that the underworld has put a hit out on a mysterious crusader known only as Nemesis and wonders if there’s a connection. Batman does some detective work and tracks Krebs to a scuzzy apartment. He hears a gunshot and realizes Krebs must’ve polished off another victim, but when he busts in he finds Nemesis standing over the dead body. Batman knows Nemesis isn’t he killer (his gun is the wrong calibre) and they run outside to look for Krebs, but he’s gone. Nemesis tells Batman the underworld are after him because he’s in town looking for the leader of the Council, known only as the Head. NemesisBatman meets Nemesis figures Krebs is working for the Head because he found a lit of names among the papers he stole from the Council meeting last issue. The names are guys who worked for the Head in Gotham and they’re the ones Krebs has been bumping off. With the last one on the list, Krebs is their only lead, so they team up to find him. Batman seems impressed by Nemesis’s disguise abilities and Nemesis is impressed at Batman’s knowledge of Gotham’s underworld … which leads them to Krebs again. But they’re not the only ones after him; the head sent some hitmen to tie up loose ends and Krebs winds up dead, despite Batman and Nemesis’s best efforts. The hitmen realize Nemesis is the one with the price on his head and fall all over themselves trying to waste him, but hitmen try to kill NemesisNemesis and Batman take them out. In the Batcave, Nemesis mentions he’s trying to get justice for the Council killing Ben Marshall, who Batman knew. Batman remembers Marshall was killed by one of his own agents, Craig Tresser. Nemesis doesn’t mention that Craig was his brother, but he does tell Batman that Craig was brainwashed while investigating the Council by an ex-Nazi scientist named von Riebling. Batman figures von Riebling might be their way in and finds out he had a brother who was in the Gestapo. A few days later, Bruce Wayne arranges an auction of World War II Nazi memorabilia, which brings a well-known collector and Nazi sympathizer named Krispen out of the woodwork. Nemesis shows up at the auction disguised as an old man and lets Krispen see an SS tattoo on his arm. Krispen follows him and says he can help the old Nazi find a new life. Nemesis mentions that his name is von Riebling and Krispen takes the bait. He calls later to say he knows where von Riebling’s brother is and arrangesvon Riebling blows up evidence a meeting. Batman follows the disguised Nemesis, knowing the real von Riebling will see through Nemesis’s masquerade pretty fast. Sure enough, von Riebling knows right away that Nemesis isn’t his long-lost brother and orders his goons to grab the impostor. Nemesis fights them as von Riebling goes to destroy his brainwashing machine and other evidence. Batman tries to stop him, but von Riebling blows everything to hell and escapes. He goes to the Head to tell him about Batman and Nemesis and the Head says they’ll have to take care of the vigilantes once and for all. And they’ll start by grabbing Ben Marshall’s widow. When Nemesis gets the message about Mrs, Marshall, he goes to meet the Head’s thug Brewster, who searches him thoroughly for weapons and bugs. Nemesis is taken to see the head in the old plant exhibition in Gotham Park. The Head turns out to be an old guy in an iron Batman sneaks inlung, crippled years ago in a gun battle with Ben Marshall. Von Riebling has constructed another brainwashing machine and is going to brainwash Nemesis to kill Batman. (Von Riebling’s loyal service is rewarded by Brewster shooting him … the Head figures he’s a liability since Batman and Nemesis tracked him down so easily.) Batman followed Brewster and Nemesis to the Park and makes his way through an array of deadly traps to find Mrs. Marshall. When he gets to her room, an alarm goes off and the Head tells Brewster to go kill Batman, but before he can even get out of the room, Nemesis busts free from the brainwashing machine. Apparently he had a razor-knife under a false patch of skin on his arm; I guess Brewster didn’t use a metal detector to search him. Nemesis knocks Brewster out and tells the Head he’s going to kill him. Batman comes in and tells Nemesis he knows he’s reallyNemesis makes a choice Tom Tresser, brother of Ben Marshall’s brainwashed killer. Mrs. Marshall comes in and begs Nemesis not to kill the Head, saying Ben wouldn’t have wanted him to pervert the law in the name of vengeance. Batman says he’ll let Nemesis make up his own mind and naturally, Nemesis chooses to spare the Head. But von Riebling isn’t quite dead yet and with his dying breath he uses the knife Nemesis dropped to cut the oxygen supply to the iron lung. The Head dies (as does von Riebling) and Batman figures it was some kind of divine justice. But the Head’s death only partially balances the scales of justice for Ben’s murder; as long as the Council is still around, Nemesis’s job isn’t finished.

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