Comics Reviews: Batman 339, Detective 506, Brave & the Bold 178

Batman 339 coverBatman #339 – “A Sweet Kiss of Poison” – Gerry Conway/Irv Novick/Steve Mitchell

This one starts with Batman returning from patrol early in the morning. He almost misses his jump while coming in for a landing at his penthouse and Alfred suggests that his double life—fighting crime as Batman at night and being businessman Bruce Wayne by day—might be catching up with him. Batman agrees, but there’s not much he can do about it, since quitting either identity isn’t really feasible. Later, Bruce zones out during a board meeting and Lucius Fox suggests he take a vacation to stave off complete exhaustion. Again Bruce ignores the good advice and head off to lunch at the Empire Club with mayoral candidate Hamilton Hill. Bruce says he won’t be endorsing Hill (whose platform has been targeting Commissioner Gordon and the GCPD as incompetent or corrupt), nor will he endorse Hill’s opponent, Arthur Reevesmistaken kiss (whose big issue is getting rid of Batman). A good-looking woman comes over and gives Bruce a big smooch, mistaking him for someone named Raymond. She apologizes and leaves (after mentioning a rendezvous she has with Raymond at the Ambassador Theater at 8:00 that night), but Bruce is suspicious since the Empire Club doesn’t have any members named Raymond. Outside, the woman gets into a car and crosses Bruce’s name off a list. She takes off her wig and we see it’s Poison Ivy and that she’s targeted other men besides Bruce. That night, Batman is staking out the docks when eight o’clock rolls around. He goes into a trance and walks right off the warehouse roof. His sudden appearance freaks out the smugglers he was watching and they take off. The same thing happens as he makes his way downtown; a pickpocket gives himself up as Batman walks by. As Batman Batman hypnotizedapproaches the Ambassador Theater, he sees other members of the Wayne Foundation board already there. If he shows up as Batman, it won’t take long for them to realize he’s Bruce Wayne, so he resists the compulsion long enough to change into civilian clothes, then joins the others as Bruce. The Wayne Foundation board heads inside the theater where Poison Ivy is waiting. She gives each of them another compelling kiss and Bruce realizes there’s some kind of hypnotic drug in her lipstick. She commands them all to sign over the Wayne Foundations assets to her and then orders them not to tell anyone … and if they do, the words will choke in their throats. Bruce realizes he’s about to lose his company, so he switches to Batman as soon as theconfronting Poison Ivy others leave. He goes after Ivy and sprains his ankle avoiding her poison darts. She puts a strangling vine around his throat and takes off. Batman manages to spray the vine with defoliant before it kills him, but Ivy is long gone. Batman returns to the Batcave, but when he tries to call commissioner Gordon to tell him what happened, he literally can’t get the words out thanks to Ivy’s hypnotic suggestion. We’ll have to wait until next issue to see if Bruce loses his company.

Noticeable Things:

  • So I guess Poison Ivy used her toxic kiss on each of the board members to compel them to come to the theater and sign the documents? That’s a good argument for shattering the glass ceiling; if Bruce had some women on the board, Ivy’s plan might not have worked. Or would she have smooched them too?

Robin – “Yesterday’s Heroes” – Gerry Conway/Irv Novick/Bruce Patterson

Dick Grayson is still hanging out with the Hill Circus after clearing his friend Waldo of murder charges last issue. Dick’s filling in on the trapeze for Cleveland Brand, who has a sprained arm. As Dick prepares to do theDick on the trapeze nearly-impossible triple somersault (without a net), he flashes back to his training as a kid with his parents, the Flying Graysons. They taught him to keep trying to better himself, but not to over-reach. After they were killed and Batman took him in, the Caped Crusader reinforced that message. Dick misses his jump on the trapeze but grabs a tent rope and saves himself, making it look like part of the show. He realizes that coming to the Circus to recapture something from his past was unnecessary, because all the lessons he learned from his parents and Batman are still part of him and always will be.

Detective 506 coverDetective #506 – “Who Dies for the Manikin?” – Gerry Conway/Don Newton/Steve Mitchell

This one starts with a flashback to ten months ago, when Batman pulls a woman from a flaming car wreck. She’s pretty burnt, but should survive. The incident takes on new meaning when Batman finds the remains of a bomb in the car. In the present, Bruce Wayne watches a debate by mayoral candidates Hamilton Hill and Arthur Reeves, who have targeted Commissioner Gordon and Batman, respectively, as the major issues in their campaigns. Bruce tires of their scapegoating and heads out as Alfred catches a report about a fashion designer who was brutally murdered … the second one in a week. At a club downtown (called Studio 52) Bruce hangs out with his latest girlfriend, but gets more excitement than he expected. A woman who talks like a robotManikin pounds Batman grabs a fashion designer in the club and starts strangling him. She claims he ruined her life so she’s taking his. When a bouncer tries to stoop her, he gets sapped across the room and the same thing happens to Bruce. After killing the designer, the woman heads outside where a car and driver are waiting for her. Bruce quickly changes to Batman and catches up, tackling the woman and ripping her dress off. But instead of getting some eye candy, Batman is shocked to see the woman seems to be made of metal, possibly gold; she refers to herself as the Manikin. She says the golden covering is no disguise, it’s her life and she wants payback on the people who made her that way. She pounds Batman and takes off, but he figures he can get some info from the dress and wig she left behind. He goes to see a fashion expert … Selina Kyle, ex-Catwoman, who’s not thrilled to see him but agrees to look at the dress. She says it’s an original by Hoston, so Batman goes to see him. Hoston confirms the dress is his, but notices something odd about it. Before he can Batman fights Manikinelaborate, an incendiary is tossed into the room, igniting all of Hoston’s creations. The doors are locked, so Batman smashes through a window to the showroom, but the fire doors are locked too. Manikin’s voice drifts through the room, telling Batman she didn’t want to hurt him but he’s befriended her enemy, so he deserves what he gets. Batman realizes Manikin has disguised herself as one of Hoston’s mannequins, but he picks the wrong one and gets clonked from behind. Manikin gives him another chance to leave, but he tackles her again. As Hoston watches (hiding under a chair) they struggle until they’re obscured by smoke. Hoston creeps forward cautiously to see if Batman won the fight, but it’s Manikin who looms out of the smoke in front of him. We’ll have to wait until next issue to see if she finishes him off.

Noticeable Things:

  • Studio 52 is obviously a stand-in for the real-life Studio 54, and I assume Hoston is supposed to represent Halston, who was a fixture at Studio 54 … and quite the dope peddler, if the stories are true.
  • Selina tells Batman that she was keeping her distance to figure things out, but Catwoman appeared in Brave & the Bold not long ago; I guess that didn’t fit into Gerry’s continuity so he ignored it.

Batgirl splashBatgirl – “Farewell My Lovely” – Cary Burkett/Jose Delbo/Joe Giella

Last issue ended with the Hunchback Killer about to strangle Batgirl after she accidentally gassed herself. This issue opens with the Hunchback thinking Batgirl is dead and taking off. He returns home and starts playing a song on a mandolin; apparently, his “muse” demands that he kill before she inspires him to compose new music. Batgirl wakes up and heads home, feeling stupid for knocking herself out. She gets a call from her boyfriend (Jim) and goes to a classical concert with him. Watching the string section makes her remember something and she tracks down the cello player after the concert. She points out the callouses on his fingers and asks what would cause a double-creased callous. He says any double-stringed instrument couldHunchback Killer knifes himself cause that, the most likely being a mandolin. She checks music stores near where the Hunchback Killer has been striking and tracks the sale of mandolin strings to one person. When she gets to his place, he’s getting ready to go out hunting again but decides it’s Batgirl’s fault he couldn’t finish his composition, so he has to kill her. He almost stabs her but she asks to hear his composition, so he ties her up and plays it. It’s really good and he gets lost in the music, finishing the song spontaneously as Batgirl tries to work her way loose from her bonds. He says there’s only one thing left to do and stabs himself in the heart just as Batgirl gets loose.

Brave and Bold 178 coverBrave & the Bold #178 – “Paperchase” – Alan Brennert/Jim Aparo

This one starts with Batman investigating the latest in a string of murders. Each victim was killed in a different way, but a chain of paper dolls was left on each corpse, and this one has printer’s ink and shreds of paper under his fingernails. Batman can’t figure out how the victims are connected, since they range from junkies and derelicts to drunk college kids. In the studios of WHAM-TV, Jack Ryder (aka the Creeper) watches as a reactionary blowhard (Clayton Wetley) pontificates about the moral decay of society and how much better things were in the old days. Ryder hears about the latest “paper doll” murder and heads out to take a look as Creeper. But the murders and Wetley’s rhetoric have gotten the public worked up and they stat throwing stuff at Creeper, figuring he’s aCreeper almost crushed by paper freak like the Doll-Killer. Creeper takes off and runs across another murder being committed by a life-sized paper doll. Batman shows up too and the Doll attacks Creeper, saying he’s scum and deserves to die while constricting him with newspaper he’s somehow turned steel-hard. When Batman tries to help, the Doll goes after him too, so Batman uses a torch from his utility belt to light the Doll up. He and Creeper figure it’s over, but the Paper Doll reforms himself and runs off. Batman wonders if the Doll might be some kind of supernatural creature, since it animated ordinary newspapers and turned them hard as steel. The next day, Ryder is at the studio, listening to more of Wetley’s racist crap and thinks that maybe he shouldn’t have given up his own show; at least he’d be able to counter Wetley’s fear-mongering with Batman and Creeper fight the Paper Dollsome level-headed commentary of his own. That night, Batman and Creeper patrol high risk areas and run into the Paper Doll about to assault a Hispanic woman. They get slapped around, but Batman gets a piece of the Doll for analysis. He finds out it’s washi paper, used in origami … and Wetley is a big collector of origami art. They head to Wetley’s place to see if he has anything to do with the Paper Doll, since it does seem to be targeting the same people Wetley has been railing against. Wetley denies knowing anything about it and Batman figures he wouldn’t be so stupid as to make a creature out of origami paper when everyone knows he collects it. Batman says they need to lure the creature out and Creeper says he can give it an irresistible target. The next night, Ryder goes on TV (after taking a vacant anchor position at the station) and argues against Wetley’s bullshit, saying democracy is forPaper Doll immolates itself everyone not just the majority. As he leaves the studio, he’s attacked by the Paper Doll and Batman brings Wetley to see the results of his rhetoric. Batman figures the Doll is animated by Wetley’s subconscious and some kind of latent psychic powers. Wetley admits he had powers like that as a kid but suppressed them because everyone made him feel like a freak for having them. The Doll starts beating the shit out of Batman and Creeper and Batman says Wetley is a conduit for his listeners’ hatred, so he has to break that connection to get rid of the Doll. Wetley still resents being treated like a freak as a kid, but says he’s no killer; the Doll burns up before finishing the heroes off, but Creeper wonders if it’s really over … after all, Wetley’s audience is still filled with hate.

Nemesis splashNemesis – “The Bitter Choice” – Cary Burkett/Dan Spiegle

Last issue, Nemesis was captured by a member of the Council, Samuel Solomon. Solomon wants Nemesis to eliminate all the other Council members so Solomon can take over; if Nemesis refuses, Solomon will blow him away. Nemesis busts loose and pounds Solomon’s guards, but Solomon activates a device he had attached to Nemesis’s chest while he was unconscious. It stimulates his heart so it beats faster and faster, which will give Nemesis a heart attack if Solomon doesn’t turn it off, and if Nemesis tries to remove it, the same thing will happen. Nemesis keels over from the strain and realizes Solomon holds all the cards, so he’ll have to play along for now. Solomon says their first target is Kingston, a Council member Nemesis has tangled with before. He sends Nemesis to Kingston’s base in Houston and sends his goon (Lucas) along to make sure Nemesis doesn’t try anything. Lucas has a remote activator forNemesis escapes Nemesis’s heart stimulator, so he can kill him if he pulls any shit. As they’re flying to Houston, Nemesis waits until they’re over a cloud bank and attacks the pilot. Lucas pulls out the activator and Nemesis jumps him, grabbing the activator and letting himself get punched right out the door. Lucas figures Nemesis is dead meat, falling from that height. But Nemesis uses the belt parachute we saw last issue to save himself, hidden from Lucas’s view by the cloud bank. When Nemesis lands, he hopes Lucas will report him as dead, because Solomon still has an activator and could cause a heart attack at the touch of a button. We’ll see how Nemesis gets out of this one two issues from now, as next issue is a full-sized team-up of Batman and the Legion of Super-Heroes.

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