Comics Reviews: Batman 336, Detective 503, Brave & the Bold 175

Batman 336 coverBatman #336 – “While the Bat’s Away …” – Bob Rozakis (plot), Roy Thomas/Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez/Frank McLaughlin

This one starts with a goofy villain called the Bouncer busting out of a jewelry store that he just robbed and ping-ponging around to escape from the cops outside. A reporter asks the cops if there was any sign of Batman and it turns out the Caped Crusader has been missing for a few weeks … and Gotham’s criminals are taking advantage. Commissioner Gordon doesn’t know where Batman is either, and he’s really hoping old Bats isn’t dead. At a conclave of criminals, a guy called the Monarch of Menace claims he’s responsible for Batman’s disappearance; Monarch says he grabbed Batman a few weeks ago and has been holding him prisoner ever since. Unlikely as that seems, a coterie of costumed crooks (including Bouncer, Cluemaster, Spellbinder, and a few other no-name doofuses) believe him and are willing to fork over 10% of their take toBatman attacks Cluemaster keep Batman off the streets. We see Spellbinder robbing an armoured car using his illusion powers to disorient the guards. In the Batcave (not the original, the one under the Wayne Foundation) Alfred is startled to find Batman there. Apparently Alfred didn’t know where he was either, but he’s glad to see him back. Batman swings by police headquarters and eavesdrops on Gordon and his men trying to decipher a note from Cluemaster. Batman figures it out right away and interrupts Cluemaster’s robbery of an appliance store. After pounding Cluemaster and his men, Batman finds another gang busting into a bank and takes care of them too, after overhearing them talk about Monarch. Their lookout gets away and goes to see Monarch, threatening to blow the whistle since Monarch obviously Batman pounds Spellbinderhasn’t been holding Batman captive for weeks like he claimed. Monarch kills the would-be blackmailer and figures he’d better make some new plans now that Batman’s back. The next day, Bruce Wayne goes to a board meeting and assures his people that Wayne Enterprises’ downturn will soon be reversed. That night, Spellbinder robs a fur warehouse and Batman shows up to stop him (canceling Spellbinder’s illusion powers with tin foil strips). Commissioner Gordon is happy to have Batman back, but the Darknight has bigger fish to fry. In monarch’s hideout, he’s called all the remaining crooks together and says he’s decided to leave town. He’s willing to kill Batman (if they pay him) before he leaves … or he could just turn the vigilante loose. The crooks decide it’s a small price to see Batman dead and hand over the cash … except for Spellbinder. But how could Spellbinder be there when weBatman decks Monarch just saw him captured? Yup, it’s Batman in disguise, and when he reveals himself, all hell breaks loose. Some of the crooks go after Batman, but most of them just try to get the hell out of Dodge. Batman is there for Monarch, so he ignores most of the other rabble, though he does pound the ones that get in his way … including Bouncer, who he uses like a pinball to rack up a high score. Batman catches up with Monarch, who forgoes his usual gimmicks are tries to strangle the Caped Crusader. Batman plays possum and takes Monarch down in his moment of triumph.

Noticeable Things:

  • It’s never really specified, but I assume Batman’s absence was while he was held captive by Ra’s Al Ghul; it seems to have come after Batman helped Alfred and Lucius in France, since Alfred mentions “lingering” for a while over there … which doesn’t fit with the ending we saw in Detective 502, but whatever.
  • Batman first fought the Monarch back in Detective 350. He’s only met Cluemaster once before this (in Detective 351).
  • This is a very “Roy Thomas” kind of story; Batman is more colloquial than usual and there are numerous Roy Thomas tics … a cop is named Officer Krupke, a reference to the Shadow, the use of classic villains, a mention of Missouri.

Detective 503 coverDetective #503 – “The 6 Days of the Scarecrow” – Gerry Conway/Don Newton/Dan Adkins

This one starts with Bruce Wayne reading about a mayoral candidate named Reeves who seems to be gunning for Batman, using the Caped Crusader as a political hot point. That night, Batman stops a pawnshop robbery and gets a dart in the neck from an unknown assailant. He immediately takes his universal Antidote and the dart doesn’t seem to affect him. The next day, Bruce Wayne gets some strange reactions at work; a secretary freaks out after running into him in the hall and his old friend, Commissioner Gordon, seems terrified just being near him. It’s pretty obvious there was something in the dart that makes people afraid of Batman/Bruce Wayne. Naturally, a fear-based toxin makes us think of Scarecrow and guess who we see hiding out on a farm north of Gotham?

panic at the disco
Panic at the disco.

Yup, Scarecrow brings a couple of crime bosses in to demonstrate his latest discovery. He shows them a rabbit that’s been injected with his new toxin; not only are foxes terrified of the rabbit, but the gangsters are too. When some thieves show up at a roller disco (yeah, this was 1981 all right), Batman arrives to stop the robbery. But he doesn’t have much to do since the crooks—and the patrons—are scared shitless of him. The next day, Bruce calls in sick and sequesters himself in his room. Alfred is so freaked out he can’t even bring food into the room. He calls Robin for help and Robin quickly gets hold of Batgirl. When they arrive in Gotham, they get a bulletin about Scarecrow robbing a mall and head over there. Scarecrow and his men get away, but leave some clues behind. Robin and Batgirl analyze the remains of Scarecrow’s fear-gas pellets while talking to Batgirl finds troubleBatman on an intercom. Batgirl finds the name of a chemical company and Batman suggests she check it out while Robin looks around the pawnshop where Batman was darted the other night. At the chemical company, Batgirl’s questions start a fight; turns out they’re shipping PCP, so Batgirl grabs the manager and interrogates her about the fear-gas pellets before calling in the DEA. Robin finds a corn husk on the roof across from the pawnshop and figures it must’ve been left deliberately. The closest cornfields are north of Gotham in Hudson County, which fits with the info Batgirl got. They end up in a town called Hortonville and ask an old rube if anything strange has been going on. He directs them to the Murphy farm and they head out there. Naturally, the dude was a lookout for Scarecrow and warns his boss that Robin and Batgirl are coming. The duo run across a Batman scarecrow outside the farm and it seems to be giving off some kind of fear gas. The sensation is so strong it overpowers the two heroes, knocking themRobin and Batgirl ambushed out. Batman worries when he can’t contact Robin and Batgirl, so he reviews their data. After getting a call from Commissioner Gordon telling him Scarecrow claims to have Robin and Batgirl as prisoners, Batman decides he has to risk going out. He asks Gordon to clear the highway north and heads out in the Batmobile. Scarecrow is preparing to inject Robin and Batgirl with a high dose of his fear pheromone to drive them insane with fear. When an alarm goes off, he sends his men (who have been injected with an antidote to the fear pheromones Batman is exuding) to see what’s up. Batman takes the place of the scarecrow in the field and ambushes the crooks. When he burning down the barnshows up in the barn, Scarecrow sends a robot owl (!) after him, but Batman lights up some straw to burn the robot. That lights the whole barn on fire and Scarecrow figures Batman is losing his mind. He tries to strangle the Caped Crusader, but Robin kicks him in the face, knocking him back onto his own needle full of concentrated fear. Batgirl grabs the antidote for Batman’s condition and they get out (with Scarecrow) right before the barn collapses. Later, the trio go to see Scarecrow at Arkham Asylum, where the villain’s fear pheromone has rendered him so phobic he’s even afraid of himself.

Noticeable Things:

  • I had this comic as a kid; I think this was my first exposure to Scarecrow … unless I’d seen him in a JLA story with the Injustice League, but I don’t think so.
  • We see two Batmobiles in this story, the one Robin drives and a back-up one that Batman uses later. The back-up is said to have a faulty transmission, which may be why it was replaced in the first place.
  • This is the start of a long run by Gerry Conway on Detective; later, he takes over writing Batman as well and integrates the two titles pretty well. We can already see some of Gerry’s long-running themes developing here … the political machinations of Reeves (and his opponent in the mayoral race, Harold Hill, who has a beef with Gordon) and Catwoman’s return (with Bruce pining for her here) both start in this story.

Brave & the Bold 175 coverBrave & the Bold #175 – “The Heart of the Monster” – Paul Kupperberg/Jim Aparo

This one starts with Metallo stealing some uranium from STAR Labs’ Gotham City branch. Naturally, Batman tries to stop him, but Metallo is tougher than Batman’s usual foes. Luckily, Metallo’s not operating at full power, but he does blast Batman with a green Kryptonite ray. Normally green K doesn’t affect humans, but Metallo has modified the ray somehow and it causes Batman agonizing pain. The next day, Lois Lane shows up at Wayne Enterprises to ask Bruce for a favour. (I notice Lois is showing a lot of thigh while talking to Bruce; I guess she knows how to get a favour from him.) She doing a story on SKULL (the industrial espionage organization that Metallo was involved with a while back) and has set up a meeting with a former SKULL operative named Cranshaw. Lois tells Bruce that Metallo escaped prison a while ago usingLois asks Bruce for a favour uranium to power his mechanical heart instead of the usual Kryptonite. Cranshaw contacted Lois to tell her Metallo wants to kill him and he’s prepared to give her an exclusive on SKULL if she can guarantee his safety. Lois wants Bruce to arrange a meeting with Batman so she can bring him along when she meets Cranshaw. I’m not sure why she doesn’t just bring Superman, but Bruce says he’ll arrange things. Batman drops by Lois’s hotel later and they head to the docks to meet Cranshaw. Cranshaw meets Lois and tells her Metallo hates everyone who was involved in turning him into a cyborg. Metallo (having followed Lois) shows up and confirms that, telling Cranshaw that the uranium he’s now using to power his heart is killing him. Batman jumps Metallo, but the cyborg is too strong for him. Metallo blasts Metallo pounds BatmanCranshaw with green K when he tries to run and Lois tosses a trash can to distract the cyborg. It doesn’t do much good though; Metallo takes off with Cranshaw and Batman, leaving Lois pissed off. At his hideout, Metallo explains how he got green K to affect humans. (It’s some pseudo-scientific stuff about how green K affects Kryptonians because of their super-dense bodies, so by changing the Kryptonite’s density, Metallo made it affect humans … or something.) He leaves Batman tied up, taking his utility belt. But Batman being Batman, escapes rather easily. Lois has gotten a tracker from STAR Labs but can’t find Metallo anywhere in the city. After returning to STAR, she’s surprised to find that’s where Metallo is hiding. He’s forcing Cranshaw to build a lead shield to keep his uranium heart from killing him.Metallo and Cranshaw caught Batman fights his way past a STAR robot that Metallo has reprogrammed, as Lois sneaks in through the ducts. Batman finds Metallo, who blasts him with green K again. Lois jumps Metallo, stopping him from killing Batman, and when Metallo prepares to waste both of them, his power supply blows up. Turns out Cranshaw sabotaged the shielding around Metallo’s heart so his use of green K would destabilize his power source. Cranshaw tries to escape (he is still wanted for crimes with SKULL), but Batman bags him easily and Lois prepares to write a hell of a story.

Nemesis rescues ValerieNemesis – “Queen: En Prise” – Cary Burkett/Dan Spiegle

Last issue, Nemesis figured out that the Council member he’s set his sights on (Chesterton) has been playing a real-life chess game where he plans to abduct important targets: a knight named Sir Robert Greene (which Nemesis tried to stop), the Bishop of Winchester, and the Queen of England. Nemesis had to let the Bishop get kidnapped in order to save his erstwhile ally, Valerie Foxworth, who followed him to England against his wishes and got grabbed for her trouble. After using truth serum on the thugs he bagged last issue, Nemesis rescues Valerie by switching places with a thug. They get away, but Nemesis isn’t too happy with Valerie. He contacts the Scotland Yard detective (Boches) investigating Greene’s kidnapping; Boches thought Nemesis might be the kidnapper, but Nemesis turns the captured thug over to him instead, convincing the detective of his innocence. Nemesis gives Boches everything he has on Chesterton’s scheme, including a note thatNemesis escapes his pursuers says “Bishop takes Rook” and the one saying “Knight takes Queen”. They’re startled to hear that the Bishop of Winchester has returned home, less than 24 hours after disappearing. They go to see him and he’s a bit banged up, but can’t remember anything about where he’s been for the last day. Chesterton’s men are watching the Bishop’s house and recognize Nemesis, so they try to kill him as he and Boches are heading back to London. Nemesis goes off-road to evade them and gets an idea how to stop Chesterton, asking Boches if he can arrange tickets to the theatre that night to see an actor named Sir Lionel Burbage. Nemesis says they may need a knight of their own to checkmate Chesterton. We’ll see the endgame next issue.

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