Comics Reviews: Batman 340, Detective 507, Brave & the Bold 179

Batman 340 coverBatman #340 – “A Man Called Mole” – Gerry Conway, Roy Thomas/Gene Colan/Adrian Gonzales

This one starts with a trail being thrown up through the streets of Gotham, resembling the mound of earth left by moles in a garden … except this mound is in solid concrete. The trail leads to a stockbroker named Elder, who’s grabbed by something that emerges from the mound of concrete. Elder’s screams wake someone, who doesn’t see anything strange but notices a terrible stench in the alley where Elder was grabbed. The next morning, Elder’s body is found down by the docks, at the end of another “mole trail” (which a cop thinks was caused by power company excavators). Commissioner Gordon and Batman are startled by the damage to Elder’s body, but can’t figure out why anyone would kill a stockbroker and not even steal his wallet. They get even more puzzled when Elder’sBatman meets the Mole briefcase is found in the Financial District, miles from his body. Batman notices the peculiar stench on the body and briefcase, but isn’t sure what it means. That night, the Mole strikes again, this time burrowing into a psychiatrist’s office and abducting him. The screams of the patient bring Batman from his patrol and he heads down into the tunnel to find the missing shrink. Batman doesn’t find the psychiatrist, but he does run into the Mole, who looks like he’s made out of rock. Mole isn’t happy to see Batman and says he should make him pay, like he has with the others, since all of them are responsible for turning Mole into the monster he is. Batman knocks Mole back and barely escapes as the tunnel collapses. Back at the Batcave, Batman reflects on the Mole’s words and remembers fighting a guy called the Mole a long time ago (in World’s Finest #80, to be precise) … but that Bruce shelters Sandra ClarkMole wasn’t a monster, just a regular crook named Harrah who tunneled into bank vaults. Batman calls the prison and finds out that Harrah escaped after his parole was turned down. The warden tells Batman that Elder, Kurtzman, and a woman named Sandra Clark were on the parole board that turned Harrah down. That still doesn’t tell Batman how Harrah turned into a monster, but at least he knows the next target. Bruce Wayne offers Sandra the safety of Wayne Manor (currently under the stewardship of the Historical Society) and he makes sure the newspapers report that Sandra is staying there. Bruce gets Sandra settled and slips away into the Batcave. Mole makes his way to the Manor and is surprised when he surfaces in the cave beneath the house, though he doesn’t recognize it as the Batcave. (Bruce says that most of the stuff from the Batcave has been moved to the new Batcave under the Wayne Foundation Building downtown.) Sandra wakes up to find the power is out, so she lights a candle and goes to the kitchen. TheBatman fights the Mole again Mole surfaces and grabs her, taking her down to the caves under the Manor. He admits that he is Harrah, the guy whose parole she turned down; Mole says that when he tunneled out of prison, he made it to an old sewer tunnel but was caught by a flood of radioactive waste, which explains his bestial transformation and the foul stench that follows him everywhere. Sandra tries to run and Mole grabs her, but Batman shows up and blinds him with a spotlight, then floods the tunnels. Mole smashes the light, but Batman uses nite-vision goggles to take away Mole’s advantage in the dark. They fight and Batman knocks Mole into the raging torrent, where he’s swept away. Alfred later asks if Batman’s worried about Mole knowing the location of the Batcave—assuming he survived—but Batman says he’ll deal with that when he has to.

Noticeable Things:

  • This whole story seems like a bit of an EC homage; not only are there characters named Elder and Kurtzman (and the stockbroker is said to be happy that shares in “Gaines Preferred” have split), but the whole Mole angle and the moody Gene Colan art have a very EC feel to them.
  • The psychiatrist’s patient, Allen Konigsberg, spouts one-liners and looks a lot like Woody Allen without the glasses.
  • Bruce uses an animatronic Batman dummy outside Wayne Manor to fool Sandra into thinking Batman is patrolling outside while she and Bruce are inside. Apparently, he’s used the dummy on previous occasions to make it look like he and Batman are around at the same time.
  • Gene Colan’s art really suits the dark mood of this story; I think Colan’s a good fit for Batman.

Detective 507 coverDetective #507 – “Dressed to Die” – Gerry Conway/Don Newton/Dan Adkins

Last issue, a weird super-villain named Manikin, whose body is covered in a metallic sheath that makes her strong, started killing fashion designers. Batman interrupted Manikin’s latest murder attempt (on a designer named Hoston) and the place started on fire. When Hoston sees a shape looming out of the smoke, he assumes it’s Batman but it’s actually Manikin, ready to finish Hoston off. Batman grabs Manikin and they struggle. She starts strangling him, but suddenly stops and staggers away, gasping for air. She busts the door down and takes off, leaving Batman to save Hoston from the fire. Hoston is half out of it, mumbling about recognizing Manikin as someone named Miranda.Miranda attacks Hoston at the hospital We see Manikin being taken home by her chauffeur (who we saw last issue) and we find out her name is Miranda and she’s a former model. The chauffeur is her brother Victor and he’s helping her get revenge on the people who burned her, ending her career and almost killing her. Manikin is obviously the woman Batman pulled from the burning car at the beginning of last issue, which explains why she was reluctant to hurt him. We get an interlude at Arkham Asylum, where the State Attorney General is upset that a certain inmate is being released. We’re not told who it is, but he was admitted after suffering from paranoid delusions and seeing ghosts, so I Batman meets Lou Grantthink we can make a pretty good guess. Bruce Wayne goes to the Gotham Gazette and learns about the model Miranda, who was hideously burned when her car was sabotaged. He figures she blames one of the fashion designers, so she’s killing them all. Bruce whips up a latex spray to seal off Manikin’s metal suit; he thinks she broke off the fight at Hoston’s place because she couldn’t breathe properly, which means her outfit has no reserve air supply. If he can cut off her air, it should knock her out. Bruce disguises himself and hangs around the hospital where Hoston is recuperating. Manikin shows up (also in disguise) after reading about Hoston’s whereabouts in the paper. Bruce recognizes her monotone voice, but before he can spray her with the liquid latex, she throws Hoston at him. Bruce only has seconds to act, so he jumps Manikin, knocking her out the window. They shed their disguises and start fighting, but Manikin’s metal suit (which VictorBatman almost suffocates Miranda designed to protect her burnt body) makes her stronger than Batman. She tosses him (and Victor) aside and goes back in to kill Hoston. Hoston recognizes her as Miranda and starts blubbering, saying he’s sorry for planting the bomb that disfigured her (which he did because she was going to quit modeling to go into movies). She starts strangling him, but Batman retrieves the latex and sprays it all over her. She can’t breathe, but refuses to take her mask off because of her mangled face. Victor takes it off for her, saying he never cared about her outer beauty, just the beauty that was inside. Batman overheard Hoston’s confession and asks if he’s proud of his handiwork, saying Miranda’s ugliness is nothing compared to that in Hoston’s soul.

Noticeable Things:

  • The designers Manikin kills (or tries to kill) are based on real people: Kelvin Cline (Calvin Klein); Will Glass (Bill Blass); Hoston (Halston).
  • The scene at the Gotham Gazette is full of in-jokes. Not only do the editor and owner look like Lou Grant and Mrs. Pynchon, but in the newsroom foreground there are two characters who look a lot like Betty Brant and Ben Urich from the Daily Bugle.
  • We get more of the “delusional Arkham patient” subplot in Batman 341, as Gerry starts bringing the continuities of the two comics closer together.
  • There’s a Tales of Gotham back-up (by Barr/Spiegle) about a street musician named Leslie who wants to be a famous violinist, but her parents are trying to discourage her. Her hero (a famous violinist violinistsnamed Rudolf Yanok) is in town and she sneaks in to see him. Her parents try to get Yanok to discourage Leslie from playing violin, but he says anyone who wants to add joy to the world shouldn’t be discouraged. When Yanok plays, he notices none of the people in the audience are really connecting with his music, except one, so he stops playing to give them shit. The girl runs out and Yanok realizes it must be Leslie, so he follows her and says she’s reminded him of why he started playing in the first place. Leslie’s parents tell her they’ll support her efforts and she and Yanok end up playing in the street for change.
  • There’s another back-up (by Rozakis/Von Eeden/Mitchell) about adiamond thief caught diamond stolen from a display case in a gallery. Commissioner Gordon has narrowed it to four suspects and Batman figures out whodunnit … the woman in charge of displaying the diamond, who used special glass to refract the sunlight and make it look as though the gem had disappeared so she could grab it afterward.

 

Brave & the Bold 179 coverBrave & the Bold #179 – “Time-Bomb With the Thousand-Year Fuse” – Martin Pasko/Ernie Colon/Mike DeCarlo

This one starts with a trio of crooks hitting an armoured car. But this wagon doesn’t contain cash … it holds a time capsule heading for the Science and Technology museum. The thieves think the capsule contains all kinds of high-tech gadgetry worth millions, but Batman shows up and kicks their asses. A thousand years in the future, a couple of scientists examine an alien “egg” (which looks a lot like the time capsule Batman saved) on a remote asteroid facility. They talk about how the egg was dug up in the Nandorian system, a relic of a bygone age. But the egg contains living anti-matter, which explains why they’re being so careful with it … if it was opened, the anti-matter reaction would blow the whole asteroid to shit. Of course, something that powerful is a tempting target for criminals andLegion vs Halkor whattaya know, some scumbag busts in to steal the egg. The Legion (Cosmic Boy, Sun Boy, Chameleon Boy, Projectra, Colossal Boy, and Element Lad) is on patrol nearby and head to the asteroid after they get the emergency call. They find unconscious guards and several attackers, who turn out to be robots. After dealing with the robots, Sun Boy, Colossal Boy, and Projectra are taken out by the (human) thief, who uses a hypnotic eye to knock them out. The thief teleports away … reappearing at the Science Museum in Gotham City in 1981! Batman stumbles on the scene as the futuristic thief easily takes out the guards with his hypnotic eye and switches the anti-matter egg with the time capsule. Batman shows up too late to see the switch take place, so he assumes he got there in time. He smashes the Batman wakes up in the futurehypnotic eye and grabs the thief, who teleports back to the future … taking Batman with him. In the future, the Legionnaires realize the thief was Anton Halkor, notorious cybergeneticist, and they fear they know where he got his hypnotic eye weapon—from one of their deadliest enemies. Speaking of Halkor, he meets with his boss (who Halkor calls “Argus” but whose face we can’t see) and reports that he switched the anti-matter egg with he time capsule in the past. Halkor also mentions bringing Batman back with him, but says he knocked the disoriented hero out and left him in an alley. We see Batman waking up and he immediately realizes he ain’t in Kansas—or Gotham—anymore. At Legion Headquarters, we see some more Legionnaires (Duo Damsel, Shrinking Violet, and Shadow Lass) hanging out with reserve member Rond Vidar, who’s built a portable variation of his time cube. This version can not only project people through time, but acrossDuo Damsel thrown back in time space and dimensional barriers too. Halkor and his boss are spying on the Legionnaires and we learn a few things: Halkor’s boss is Rond’s father (aka Universo); Halkor and Universo broke out of prison together and are working together; Rond is being forced to betray the Legion and work for the bad guys; and Halkor has some device that lets him sabotage Rond’s new time cube … a fact Halkor demonstrates by sending Duo Damsel back in time when Rond tries to show her how his time cube works. Batman does some computer hacking and breaks into Legion HQ, where he’s quickly detained. He explains why he’s there and the Legion say they’ll help him, as long as they can verify that he’s really Batman. In Universo’s hideout, Rond shows up to Batman and the Legion discuss optionsreport to his father and show him the new time cube (and we learn that Universo’s lair has a hypnosis shield around it, hiding him from being seen, although Rond is immune to the effects). Batman and the Legion figure out that Halkor switching the time capsule with the anti-matter egg is a ploy to set off an anti-matter explosion in the Gotham District of Metropolis, since the capsule is due to be opened a thousand years in the future … in other words, now. Batman says he’ll go back in time to stop Halkor, but the Legionnaires say he can’t screw with the timeline like that … plus, someone has sabotaged all their time travel devices. They wonder who could’ve sabotaged their time equipment and what happened to the three Legionnaires guarding it. Halkor calls them to gloat about the sabotage and the missing Legionnaires, which confirms for the Legion that Universo is the mastermind behind everything, since he and Halkor busted out of prison together. Halkor challenges the Legion to find him and Batman has aHalkor taken down hunch where he might be. The Legion cancel the time capsule unveiling, but know Halkor is preparing a trap for them. In their hideout, we see Halkor and Universo getting ready to confront the Legionnaires. We find out that they used a special mind-control helmet on Rond, since he’s immune to his father’s hypnotism. Universo takes Rond’s portable time cube and heads for the Gotham District. The Legionnaires track Halkor to his hideout in the old sewer system (Batman heard water dripping in the background when Halkor called) and jump him. Halkor reveals that the three lady Legionnaires are trapped in the past and will die there unless they surrender. But the other Batman sends bomb into spaceLegionnaires (and Batman) sneak up on Halkor, using telepathic earplugs to home in on their friends. Thy take Halkor down and find Rond unconscious. They head for the Gotham District where Universo is waiting to ambush them. Batman uses the chaos to slip into the chamber holding the “time capsule” and work on the mechanism before it opens and sets off the anti-matter bomb. As Universo uses his hypnotic pendant to make the Legionnaires fight each other, Batman attaches an anti-gravity device to the bomb and jumps out of the way. The bomb is flown into space where it explodes harmlessly, just as Duo Damsel, Shrinking Violet, and Shadow Lass areBatman's farewell returned to the present through Rond’s time cube. Apparently, Universo set it to bring them back right at the time and place of the anti-matter explosion. Rond (now free of his mind-control) shows up and jumps his father, ripping the hypnotic pendant from his neck. That frees the hypnotized Legionnaires and they make short work of Universo. Rond fixes the time bubble and Cosmic Boy takes Batman back to his own time.

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