Comics Reviews: Batman 337, Detective 504, Brave & the Bold 176

Batman 337 coverBatman #337 – “Where Walks a Snowman” – Gerry Conway/Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez/Steve Mitchell

This one starts with a gunman barricaded inside a sporting goods store. With all the guns and ammo inside, the guy can hold out against the cops for quite a while, so Commissioner Gordon asks Batman to help. The Caped Crusader slips into the store and finds a half-crazed gunman, freaking out about someone doing something bad to him, like they did to Jackie. Batman takes the guy down and soon finds out who Jackie is when he comes across a guy completely encased in ice. Some frosty footprints lead out of the store, suggesting the perpetrator left before the cops showed up. Later,Jackie's fate the gunman calms down enough to tell his story: he and Jackie busted into the sporting goods store to rob the place, but the alarm box was iced over. They ran into another thief who looked like a walking snowman and he iced up Jackie before taking off. The gunman freaked when the cops showed up, thinking they were in league with the snowman … which doesn’t really make sense, but I guess the guy was traumatized seeing his partner flash-frozen in front of him. Batman heads for his penthouse to put in an appearance as Bruce Wayne at a party he’s supposed to be hosting. The guest of honour is a famous skier named Klaus Kristin. Bruce gets suspicious when he notices Kristin’s shoes are covered with slush and Snowman robs storeAlfred tells him Kristin arrived only moments ago. Bruce figures Kristin is too famous to be a crook, which sounds backwards to me. The next night, the Snowman strikes again, robbing a store and freezing a guard to death. Batman is busy checking out Kristin’s place. He finds a closet that’s strangely lacking in clothes, a ski brochure with a page missing, and Kristin’s diary. He gets an alert about the robbery and shows up in time to see the dead guard being taken away. Later, he reads the diary and finds out something shocking about Kristin. The diary was actually written by his mother and tells the story of when she went to the Himalayas for a U.N. Relief mission 17 years ago. She got lost and almost froze to death, but was rescued by someone and nursed back to health. She rewarded her rescuer with sex, but freaked out when she realized he was a Yeti. She died giving birth nine months later (the last diarySnowman goes over the cliff entries were made by her sister), giving birth to Klaus Kristin. Bruce finds a copy of the brochure Kristin had and figures Kristin has skipped town for a ski resort in Austria. He heads over and leaves Kristin a message from Batman, setting up a meeting on the mountain. Kristin shows up as the Snowman and uses his half-Yeti heritage to try and freeze Batman. The Caped Crusader gets away and sends Kristin rolling down the mountain. When he goes to check, Kristin attacks again and Batman fires a rescue flare in his face. Kristin stumbles back off a cliff and Batman wonders if that wasn’t his desire all along.

Noticeable Things:

  • Roy Thomas gets credit for a “plot assist” on this one.
  • Bruce says Kristin is the “new Jean-Paul Kelly”, which I assume is a reference to real-life skier Jean-Claude Killy.
  • The flashbacks showing Kristin’s mother and the Yeti are shadowy (and her diary mentions how dark the cave was), but would she really not notice she was boning a Yeti?

Robin waits in the big topRobin – “Murder on the Midway” – Gerry Conway/Don Newton/Larry Mahlstedt

This one starts with Dick Grayson heading to Florida to check out Hill’s Circus. He got a letter from his old circus pal, Waldo the clown (who we saw in DC Presents 31) asking for help. Waldo shows Dick around the circus, introducing him to the owner, Lourna Hill, and the star performer, Deadman. No, not that Deadman … this is Boston Brand’s brother, Cleveland, but he wears an identical costume and does a trapeze act much like his late brother’s. While Dick is watching, Cleveland misses a jump and fucks up his shoulder upon landing. Dick says he can take Cleveland’s place for the show that night and demonstrates hisDick goes after a killer acrobatic skill. While Dick’s on the trapeze, someone shoots one of the clowns. Dick sees somebody running away and tackles him, but it turns out to be his friend Waldo. Dick can’t believe Waldo is guilty, but the detective tells him that it looks open-and-shut and as soon as they find the bullet (which passed right through the clown), Waldo will be put away for good. Dick figures the real killer will come looking for the bullet, so he stakes out the big top that night (as Robin) and catches someone sneaking around … Lourna Hill. Is the circus’s owner a killer? We’ll find out next issue.

Detective 504 coverDetective #504 – “The Joker’s Rumpus Room Revenge” – Gerry Conway/Don Newton/Dan Adkins

This one starts with a shadowy figure slipping into a toy shop and killing the owner, who has just finished making a special new toy to the intruder’s specifications. Apparently the toymaker knows too much about his client. Obviously the client is the Joker, although he’s not shown fully. We get confirmation the next day as Batman is called to the scene and finds the dead toymaker with a ghastly grin frozen on his face and a joker playing card on his chest. Joker broke out of Arkham a few days ago and Batman is pissed off that they weren’t notified, but Commissioner Gordon says Joker’s file as lost. Mayoral candidate Arthur Reeves shows up to harangue Batman (which is a major part of his campaign strategy), with a TV news crew there to document everything. Batman notices some mud on the floor and takes aJoker grabs the gold train sample, but Reeves sees him and gets in his face about it. Batman basically tells him to go to hell and takes off. The next day, Bruce Wayne makes an appearance at a fancy department store where some rich dude has brought in a solid gold model train. Gas bombs come flying into the plaza and everyone starts laughing like maniacs as Joker parachutes down from the roof. Bruce changes to Batman (using nose filters to block the laughing gas) and confronts he Joker when he tries to grab the gold train. Joker gets the train and zips up toward the ceiling on a special harness. Batman snags him with a Batline, but comes away with nothing but Joker’s shoe for his efforts. Batman notices a strange chemical smell on the parachute Joker left behind, so he analyzes it and finds it’s a chemical used in ice cream manufacturing. That, along with an analysis of the mud from the toy shop, Batman attacked by toysgives him an abandoned ice cream factory in Malcolmville. Bruce watches a news report about the theft of a priceless teddy bear … the only clue being a joker playing card at the scene. Bruce figures Joker is deliberately leaving him clues to lure him to the factory. It’s obviously a trap, but he decides to play along. That night, Batman shows up at the old ice cream factory and takes out a couple of guards. He hides inside a crate they were delivering and two more guards take the crate into Joker’s Rumpus Room. Batman climbs out of the crate, but Joker was ready for a ruse. He pops his head out of a door in the Rumpus Room wall and taunts Batman, saying he’s prepared the room with a bunch of lethal toys. The toys attack and Batman has to avoid aBatman catches Joker jack-in-the-box with a samurai sword, explosive trucks, toy soldiers with real bullets, and ravenous teddy bears, among others. The toys cling to him like leeches, which gives him an idea how to fight them. When Joker comes back to check things out, he gets a punch in the mouth and winds up buried in ice cream. Batman explains that he tricked the toys into attacking the samurai jack-in-the-box instead of him, and they ended up disabling each other.

Noticeable Things:

  • The teddy bear that Joker steals is called Puff Bear, featured in the famous Chris Redbreast stories by A.A. Milner … obviously a reference to Pooh Bear, Christopher Robin, and A.A. Milne.
  • The old ice cream factory is called Happy Humor, which I assume is a play on the real-life Good Humor Company.
  • Two of Joker’s henchmen are named Mickey and Donald.
  • There’s a Tales of Gotham back-up (by Paul Kupperberg/Delbo/Giella) about Commissioner Gordon rooting out a crooked cop on the force named Larsen. Larsen’s in bed with someLarsen blows himself to hell gamblers, but when Gordon catches him in the act, the gamblers tie them both up and plant a bomb to kill them and destroy the evidence. Gordon gets them loose and goes to warn the building’s residents, but Larsen shows what a prick he is by only trying to save his own ass. He runs across the bomb while looking for a way out, but when he tries to toss it out the window, he misses and the bomb explodes, killing Larsen. Everyone else makes it out and Gordon tells reporters that Larsen died in the line of duty.

Brave and Bold 176 coverBrave & the Bold #176 – “The Delta Connection” – Martin Pasko/Jim Aparo

This one starts with Batman investigating the murder of a small-time crook named Cowper, who was suspected of being involved in a gem heist a couple years ago. The murder was done by a professional and Batman notices some inconsistencies, so he heads back to Wayne Enterprises to check them out. He’s surprised to find Selina (Catwoman) Kyle waiting to see Bruce Wayne. Selina tells Bruce she has a sister named Felicia in prison in Louisiana. Selina has heard that a hit man is going to pose as a guard at the prison and kill Felicia, though Selina doesn’t know why (or won’t say). Bruce says she should just tell the authorities, since she’s reformed now, but we’re privy to Selina’s thoughts and she knows that whatever she tells Bruce Wayne, Batman finds out soon after. We also find out that Selina has some knowledge of what happened to Cowper, though she doesn’t mention that to Bruce. Down in Louisiana, aSwamp Thing helps Felicia dude named Traller hangs out with a local guy called Lubin, who offers him a bed for the night. Lubin’s mother mentions a power outage and a breakout at the nearby prison and says someone stole some clothes off her line that morning. Lubin and Traller go out to look around and find a woman wearing the stolen clothes while burying a prison uniform. They chase her and she literally trips over Swamp Thing, who sees a couple of toughs threatening a woman with shotguns, so he decides to beat some sense into them. Batman shows up in his Bat-chopper, having figured out that Selina’s sister was involved in the same diamond heist as Cowper two years ago. Batman heard about the prison break and searched the nearby swamps until he found Felicia. His luck runs out as an errant shot cripples his chopper, which Batman fights Swamp Thingcrashes in the swamp. The chopper plummets toward Felicia, but swampy pushes her out of the way and takes the brunt of the impact, which knocks him out. In his dazed state, Felicia reminds him of his dead wife, Linda, back when he was still Alec Holland. Felicia takes off and Batman staggers out of the swamp, concussed from the crash. He gets the chopper wreckage off Swamp Thing, but can’t hang around waiting for him to wake up. Batman tracks Felicia and finds her dead from a broken neck. Swampy has followed him and in his delirium thinks Felicia is Linda and that Batman killed her. They scuffle, but Batman brings Swampy back to his senses and explains everything about Felicia. Swampy is overwhelmed by thoughts of Linda and how he’s failed to regain his humanity, so he wanders off into the swamp. He sees a vision of Felicia saying the word “delta”, and figures he’s losing his mind. He finds Batman again, who’s buried Felicia’s body and is ready tocatching the killer track down her killer. Batman asks Swamp Thing about the guys who were chasing Felicia and he says they were fishermen. Batman’s concussion is dulling his faculties and he feels like he’s missing some vital clue. Swampy wonders if his vision was his own subconscious prodding him to remember something he overheard while half-awake, so he gives Batman the “delta” clue … which Baffles the Darknight Detective, since they’re nowhere near the Mississippi Delta. They track the fishermen back to Lubin’s place, where they hear them arguing about Felicia. Traller claims the “swamp monster” killed Felicia while Lubin was unconscious, but Batman sees a clue that convinces him Traller is the real killer. Batman and Swampy bust in and Swampy slaps Traller around while Batman explains to Lubin that Traller is a hired killer in disguise. Traller takes off in a motorized pirogue, Swamp Thing gets philosophicalfollowed by Batman and swamp Thing. They catch him and beat the shit out of him, and Batman explains that Felicia had a triangular mark on her face that matches Traller’s fraternity ring … a ring that’s shaped like the Greek letter Delta. Traller confesses that he was hired by the guy who masterminded the gem heist two years ago; the guy was ready to dig up the loot and wanted to eliminate everyone else who knew about it. Batman thanks Swampy for his help and the behemoth heads back into the swamps. He finds Felicia’s shawl on top of her grave, even though she was buried in it and he gets all weird and philosophical. I feel like Pasko’s trying to make some deep point, but I have no idea what it is; is Felicia supposed to still be alive? Did her spirit leave the shawl for Swampy to find? I have no clue, but Swampy seems to think it’s significant.

Noticeable Things:

  • I’m not sure if we’re supposed to think Selina suspects Bruce’s secret, but she does know there’s some connection between him and Batman. Then again, this story takes place at a time when Selina is supposedly avoiding Bruce, so maybe it’s just weird characterization. Looks like Haney’s not the only B&B writer who plays fast and loose with continuity.

Nemesis at the theatreNemesis – “Endgame” – Cary Burkett/Dan Spiegle

Last issue, Nemesis found out the Council member he was tracking (Chesterton) is playing a real-life chess game that will probably culminate in him kidnapping the Queen of England. Nemesis decides to recruit a knight of his own to counter Chesterton’s game, so he, Valerie, and Inspector Boches attend the theatre to see Sir Lionel Burbage. They talk to Burbage backstage, telling him about Chesterton. We see Chesterton defeat a computer at chess and then ponder his own machinations, wondering who’s been moving against him. Nemesis and Boches review their strategy and Nemesis goes over the notes he copied from Chesterton’s books at the Council meeting. Boches gets aSir Robert's rescue call from Sir Robert Greene (the knight Chesterton kidnapped a couple issues back) telling them where to find him. They go to rescue Sir Robert, but Nemesis wonders why the knight doesn’t seem to recognize him, even though they’ve met. Later, Nemesis ponders Chesterton’s notes, trying to figure out the notation “Bishop takes Rook”. He recalls that a rook is also called a castle and there’s a ceremony at Windsor Castle that day. At Windsor, we see Chesterton’s plan come off perfectly, as the Bishop of Winchester unknowingly carries a sonic device into the chamber that knocks everyone out … except Sir Robert Greene, who was wearing special earplugs. He lets Chesterton’s men in and they grab the Queen, heading for Queen fights backChesterton’s yacht. Turns out Sir Robert is still being held by Chesterton; the guy Nemesis and Boches “rescued” is Robert’s twin brother, Sidney. Sidney says he went along to save Robert’s life … and for the money. Naturally Chesterton plans to kill both of them, but Nemesis and Boches show up, having planted a tracker on the Queen. Chesterton grabs the now-conscious Queen and threatens to kill her, but she shocks him by knocking him on his ass. Yeah, the “Queen” is really Valerie in disguise, using Sir Lionel’s acting tips to pull off the ruse. Chesterton bitches about being caught, but Nemesis leaves an extra piece on Chesterton’s chess board … the figure of Lady Justice.


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