Comics Reviews: Batman 332, Detective 499, Brave & the Bold 171

Batman 332 coverBatman #332 – “Fallout” – Marv Wolfman/Irv Novick/Frank McLaughlin

This one starts with a bedraggled guy desperately fleeing Infinity Island in the Indian Ocean. Someone on the island is monitoring the guy and asks if he should send a retriever, but an unseen boss says to let the fugitive have some hope … then snatch it away. In Gotham, Dick (Robin) Grayson is moving out of the Wayne Building. As we saw last issue, he’s pissed off at Bruce for letting Talia stay there. Bruce lets him go, hoping he’s not making a huge mistake. Bruce has been trying to figure out how and why Gregorian Falstaff has been outmaneuvering him in business lately. Falstaff has been taking a loss just to ruin Bruce’s business, and Bruce finds evidence that Falstaff has onlyBatman pounded by a mutate been around for about three years, which means someone must be bankrolling his corporate sabotage … someone with a lot of money. Bruce has figured out that his new secretary, Caroline, is the one who’s been feeding info to Falstaff. But when Batman goes to confront Caroline, he finds a freaky-looking muscled mutate threatening her. Caroline takes off (and we learn she’s only been helping Falstaff because he’s threatening to hurt someone named Elizabeth … her daughter, I assume) and the mutate slaps Batman around before leaving. Robin stops a mugging and takes out some of his frustrations on the punks before deciding to confide in somebody about his Batman problem. Bruce visits Lucius Fox in hospital and fills him in on all Falstaff’s latest moves. Lucius tells Bruce Falstaff tried to hire him away Bruce confronts Falstafffrom Wayne Enterprises a while back. As Bruce is leaving, Caroline shows up and tells him Falstaff has her daughter Elizabeth in one of his hospitals (where she went for treatment) and won’t give her back unless Caroline spies for him. Bruce forgives her and goes to see Falstaff. Falstaff (and his majordomo, Karlyle Krugerrand) aren’t too impressed by Bruce’s threats; Falstaff lets Bruce know he’s gotten hold of Wayne Enterprises Asian oil leases and he’ll soon have the whole company. Bruce is shocked and heads back to the Batcave where he tells Talia about Falstaff’s latest dirty trick. Talia uses some soporific lipstick to knock Bruce out (he hasn’t slept in two days) and goes off to do something vaguely sinister … though we’re not told what. Meanwhile, Robin has spilled everything about Batman and Talia to a third party and asked for her help talking some sense into Batman. Who is the concerned third party? Catwoman, who else? As it turns out, Bruce knew Talia was trying to knockBatman fights mutates him out, so he played along and followed her after she left the Batcave. She ends up at Falstaff’s building and Batman busts in. After pounding Krugerrand, Batman is forced to fight a horde of mutates, but does a lot better this time, defeating them all. Falstaff takes off and Batman tracks him down, but Falstaff has Caroline’s daughter. He threatens to kill Batman with a weird gun that shoots out a huge force bubble, but Talia swings in through the window and kicks Falstaff into the bubble. He disintegrates and Talia says the bubble-gun was devised by her father, who Falstaff used to work for. Because of that connection, she hoped she could get Falstaff to leave Bruce Wayne alone, Falstaff diesbut Batman wonders if her killing Falstaff was to help him, or to ensure Falstaff couldn’t talk. Catwoman and Robin sneak into Falstaff’s building to check him out, since Catwoman thinks there might be a connection between Falstaff and Talia. But when they get to the office, they find Batman and Talia making out (in front of Caroline’s daughter) and Catwoman runs off, crying. Back in the Indian Ocean, the fugitive thinks he’s clear when a force bubble is sent from he island. The bubble disintegrates him, leaving just the raft he was in and a radio beeping out a signal.

Noticeable Things:

  • So Robin doesn’t trust Talia because she’s a criminal, but he’s cool with asking for Catwoman’s help? I know she’s reformed at this point, but supposedly so has Talia.
  • Krugerrand is supposed to be a master of all forms of combat, but Batman takes him out with one punch.
  • Catwoman is supposed to be a strong, independent character, so it’s weird that she totally loses her shit because her ex is making out with another woman … especially since she’s the one who walked out on Batman in the first place.
  • This story arc is called “The Lazarus Affair”, so I assume Ra’s Al Ghul will show up sooner or later, even though he’s supposed to be dead at this point.
  • The “retriever” bubbles are straight out of “The Prisoner” TV show.

“Cat’s Paw” – Marv Wolfman/Don Newton/Steve Mitchell

This takes place right after the preceding story, with Catwoman continuing her investigation of Falstaff and who he might be working for. She intimidates info out of a small-time crook, then foils a robbery at agenerator explosion chemical warehouse and follows one of the thieves back to his boss … Karlyle Krugerrand. Catwoman finds out they’re trying to make more mutates and follows them to a power plant where they intend to energize a bunch of test subjects. Catwoman assumes Talia is behind everything, but Talia is nowhere to be seen at the power plant. Catwoman pounds Krugerrand and the generators explode, unable to handle the massive power transfer. Catwoman wonders if her jealousy of Talia caused her to be overly suspicious, but as she walks away, we see Talia hiding in the shadows and looking pretty damn smug.

Detective 499 coverDetective #499 – “Allies in the Shadows” – Gerry Conway/Don Newton/Dan Adkins

Last issue, Batman found out Blockbuster was alive and living in a West Virginia mining town called Bleak Rock. Blockbuster was living peacefully with a miner named Willie Macon, an agitator for the union against the corrupt political bosses in the area, especially a guy named Dooley, who’d been running the local union for years before Macon started getting support. While Macon and Blockbuster were in the mine, Dooley and his thugs knocked out Batman and tossed him down the shaft. Blockbuster catches him and is about to smash his old enemy when Dooley and his men dynamite the mine, collapsing in on the people below. Dooley sounds the alarm and tells the townspeople there’s been a cave-in and everyone has to dig out the poor souls trapped below, but Macon’s wife knows Dooley’s full of shit and eyes him with suspicion. In theBatman heads for the surface mine, Batman is stunned but otherwise okay, having been partially shielded by Blockbuster. Macon is trapped under a beam and Batman tries to lift it but it’s too heavy. Blockbuster’s fondness for Macon overcomes his hatred of Batman and he pulls the beam off. Macon is pretty busted up and needs medical attention, but there’s a huge rock blocking the shaft access. Batman blows it with plastic explosives (I guess there was no coal gas around?) and opens the way to the shaft. Up top, Dooley and his men figure if the explosion didn’t kill Macon and Batman, suffocation will. Macon’s daughter overhears them and they grab her, but are startled when they hear the second explosion from below. Batman’s plastique has cleared a path, but he still has to climb the broken shaft to lower a sling for Macon to be hauled up. Blockbuster joins Dooley's men poundedhim and they climb up the shaft to the top where another huge boulder blocks the way. Batman figures here’s no way past it, but Blockbuster manages to move it a little, leaving Batman just enough room to squeeze through … if he trusts Blockbuster. Apparently he does, because Bats reaches the surface and gets help, and it isn’t long before Macon and the other miners are rescued. Dooley is watching from his limo nearby and Macon’s daughter starts screaming for help. Blockbuster rips the limo door off and pounds Dooley’s thugs. Batman subdues Dooley himself, explaining to the shocked crook that he wasn’t even there to investigate Dooley … he came to find Blockbuster. Batman decides Blockbuster has proven himself harmless, so he leaves the behemoth in Macon’s care and heads back to Gotham.

Batgirl in chainsBatgirl – “Chains of Guilt” – Cary Burkett/Jose Delbo/Joe Giella

Last issue, Barbara Gordon was arrested for killing a political rival, Congressman Scanlon. She quickly figured out she was being set up, but when Batgirl went to see her assistant, Doreen (who seemed to be in on it), she was jumped by thugs. This story starts with the thugs dumping a chained Batgirl into the harbour, then taking Doreen to see their boss. Batgirl pops the cutting torch out of her utility belt and frees herself from the chains just in time to avoid drowning. She heads for Detective Cameron’s place to sneak a look at his notes, since whoever put Cameron on her trail in the first place must be the one framing her. She finds a name, but can’t believe he’s guilty. But when she checks his house, the thugs are there with Doreen, waiting for orders from the boss on whether to kill her. Batgirl employs a little subterfuge to lure a couple ofBatgirl pounds kidnappers thugs outside so she can take out the third one. She then prepares a trap for the first two and bags them as well. She and Doreen rush to the preliminary hearing for Barbara Gordon and present evidence that the real killer is another politician named Borowitz. Borowitz was diverting federal funds into his own businesses and Scanlon found out; not only was Scanlon going to expose Borowitz, he was going to send the money where it belonged, to HRD (the think tank where Barbara works). Borowitz tries to bluster his way out, but Batgirl brought ledgers from his house, and Doreen is an eyewitness. Borowitz tries to run, but Barbara’s lawyer (and boyfriend), Jim, stops him. Batgirl disappears and Barbara shows up moments later to thank Jim for representing her. Barbara’s father is glad everything worked out, but wonders how long it’ll take Jim to figure out Barbara’s secret identity.

Brave and Bold 171 coverBrave & the Bold #171 – “A Cannon for Batman” – Gerry Conway/Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez

This one’s kinda weird; I guess it isn’t just Bob Haney that comes up with wacky story premises. It starts at an auction, where Bruce Wayne buys an old chest that belonged to Martha Jennings (who he describes as the “Florence Nightingale of the Civil War”). At home, Bruce finds a secret compartment in the chest with an old Civil War campaign patch depicting his Bat-symbol. His curiosity piqued, Bruce goes to his old friend Carter Nichols, who hypnotizes him into believing he’s time-traveling to the past. Bruce finds himself (as Batman) in 1862 and interrupts three Confederate soldiers jumping Martha Jennings. Batman gets some help from Scalphunter, the Western hero, but Martha isn’t too grateful. In fact, she’s pretty brusque, caring more about helping the beaten soldiers than any social niceties. After putting the wounded Confederates in her wagon,Battle of Bull Run Martha continues her mission, delivering medical supplies to a Union camp and Batman and Scalphunter decide to escort her. At the camp, the Union leaders are dead and Martha is disappointed that she won’t be able to deliver her stuff to General Pope’s outpost, since none of the grunts know where it is. Scalphunter knows, and says he can take her there. Martha stops the Union soldiers from killing the Confederates in her wagon and gives Batman shit even though he helped her. They head out to find General Pope and end up at the Second Battle of Bull Run, where Martha is sickened by the wholesale slaughter. She says she’s supposed to deliver her supplies to a farm a couple miles behind the Union lines, so Batman and Scalphunter decide to scout the location for her. Batman runs into some Confederate artillery and gets caught while trying to lead them away from Martha’s path. Batman ends up Batman and Scalphunter pound Confederatestied to a cannon as bait for the Union troops. Sure enough, seeing him distracts them long enough for the Confederates to ambush them. The Confederates plan on taking Martha’s supplies, but Batman works himself loose from the cannon and sets off some fireworks for his own distraction. Scalphunter joins him and they beat the shit out of the Confederate troops. Martha delivers her supplies and tells Batman he and Scalphunter are no longer needed. Batman tells her that softening her demeanor wouldn’t make her weak, it would actually help her connect with people she’s aiding. She says she’ll try and mentions making a Bat-style campaign patch to commemorate their adventure. Having found the answer to his question, Bruce returns to the present satisfied.

Noticeable Things:

  • Professor Carter Nichols appeared in a number of old Batman stories where he (supposedly) sent Batman and Robin back in time. Here, Batman says that Nichols’ time-travel isn’t real, it’s just a form of hypnosis where the subject fills in the details from their own knowledge of the era and subconscious feelings. But if that’s true, how did Batman know so much about Scalphunter? And how did he know the origin of Martha’s Bat-patch? The patch actually exists, so if Batman was never “really” in 1862, what inspired Martha to create it?
  • Batman wonders about Scalphunter’s motive in helping Martha and speculates there might be a connection between the two. I don’t know if that’s referring to something in other Scalphunter stories (most of which were written by Gerry Conway) or not. As far as I can tell, Martha Jennings never appeared anywhere else.

Nemesis disguised in casinoNemesis – “Double or Nothing” – Cary Burkett/Dan Spiegle

This one starts with a disguised Nemesis winning a pile of money in a Las Vegas casino. He’s trailed by thugs after leaving, but manages to give them the slip. Nemesis has been playing in the casino every night in a different disguise; the place is owned by a member of the Council named Curtis, and all the games are rigged. But Nemesis used his knowledge of electronics to re-rig the games in his favour, knowing that would draw Curtis to the casino. Nemesis has noticed a blonde in a fur coat hanging around every night too, and when Curtis finally shows up, she whips off the coat to reveal a bomb. Her father was ruined by the casino, so she’s going to blow it—and Curtis—to hell. Nemesis can’t let her blow up a bunch of innocent people, so he rips the bomb off of her and tosses it away.Nemesis saves bomber lady Curtis’s thugs start shooting and Nemesis shoots back, dragging the girl out of the casino and taking a bullet in the shoulder. She accidentally sets off his disguise-changing spray, revealing his true face. She tells him her name is Valerie Foxworth and her father was bled dry by the rigged games at the casino until he finally killed himself. She decided to get revenge, and didn’t much care about bystanders, since they just stood around watching her father’s slow path to destruction. Nemesis passes out from blood loss and Valerie tries to revive him as Curtis and his thugs appear with guns drawn.

Noticeable Things:

  • Even though the Head of the Council died last issue, Nemesis says his mission isn’t over until all the Council members have been brought to justice and his brother’s name is cleared completely.

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