Comics Reviews: Batman 342, Detective 509, Brave & the Bold 181

Batman 342 coverBatman #342 – “Requiem for a Hero” – Gerry Conway/Irv Novick/Frank McLaughlin

Last issue, Commissioner Gordon received reports about weird things happening at Wayne Manor (possibly the work of a ghost); the Manor is supposed to be empty since Bruce Wayne moved out and left it in the care of the Gotham Historical Society. Gordon hired veteran ghost-breaker Dr. Thirteen to investigate, which forced Batman to get involved since he didn’t want Thirteen finding a secret route to the Batcave. It turned out there was something residing in Wayne Manor, but it wasn’t a ghost … it was Man-Bat. Normally, Man-Bat is friendly (he’s been playing superhero lately), but he seems to have gone crazy now, attacking Dr. Thirteen before fleeing to the Batcave. Batman followed him and was ambushed, and Dr. Thirteen (who used a sonar device to find the secretBatman saves Dr. Thirteen passage to the Batcave) walked in just as Man-Bat was about to kill Batman. Thirteen whacks Man-Bat on the head and gets slammed into the wall for his heroism. Man-Bat gets ready to waste Thirteen, but Batman returns the favour, using Thirteen’s sonar gun to blow Man-Bat’s ears. Man-Bat flees from the sonar attack, leaving Batman to take Thirteen outside so he can be rushed to hospital. Batman is worried that Thirteen might spill the beans about the Batcave, but he can’t hang around the hospital forever. Batman refuses to elaborate on what happened in the mansion and Commissioner Gordon gets all pissed off at him. Gordon apologizes, saying that Hamilton Hill’s mayoral campaign (which blames Gordon’s mismanagement of the police for the high crime rate in Gotham) has been getting to him … especially Bruce talks to Luciusafter receiving a threatening note in the mail. Gordon admits that Hill is a pretty good candidate, who sincerely believes what he’s saying about Gordon … and he may even be right. Batman says peddling hate is bad for the city, whether Hill is right about Gordon or not. The next day, Lucius Fox tells Bruce that someone named Penelope Ivy has been making claims on Wayne Foundation assets. Bruce knows that’s really Poison Ivy, but can’t warn Lucius since Ivy gave Bruce (and the other board members) a post-hypnotic suggestion that keeps them from talking about what she did. Bruce knows he’d better figure something out before Ivy drains the Wayne Foundation dry. Across town, Boss Rupert Thorne checks out the paper and gets pissed off because his candidate (Arthur Reeves) is trailing Hamilton hill in the polls. (In case you hadn’t guessed, Thorne is the shadowy figure we’ve seen in recent issues being released from Arkham Asylum and blackmailing members ofBoss Thorne seeing things again the Tobacconists’ Club, Gotham’s political machine.) Thorne wants to make sure his candidate is elected mayor so he can control Gotham from behind the scenes. He tells one of his men to contact someone named Manning, but after the guy leaves, Thorne sees Professor Hugo Strange while looking in a mirror. But Strange is supposed to be dead; seeing Strange’s ghost was what got Thorne committed in the first place. In Crime Alley, Bruce Wayne drops in on Francine and Rebecca Langstrom to ask about Kirk Langstrom (aka Man-Bat). Francine recounts Man-Bat’s origin and some of his recent adventures, like when Rebecca got sick and Batman accidentally destroyed the cure for her (in Brave & the Bold 165). Man-Bat blamed Batman and Batman attacked by Man-Bateven though Rebecca was cured (in DC Presents 35), Man-Bat’s hatred of Batman grew into an obsession. He lost his job and his sanity started to go; he was so distracted that improperly mixed some formula and turned himself into the savage version of Man-Bat. When Francine suggested the antidote Batman made years ago, Man-Bat freaked out, decking her and taking off. Bruce heads home to get some of that antidote and change to Batman. He checks out the Batcave and finds tunnels he’d never explored before leading to a huge chamber. He finds Man-Bat and they tussle. Batman gives him the antidote, but it has no effect and Man-Bat flies off, still crazed. Batman vows to find him and cure him … someday.

Robin – “Burn, Robin, Burn” – Gerry Conway/Trevor von Eeden/Frank Chiaramonte

Last issue, Dick Grayson caught a ride from a weirdo truck driver who wasRobin brings down the cross spouting on about how he hates outsiders, blah, blah, blah; Dick followed the guy and found he was part of some satanic cult that was getting ready to sacrifice a girl. Robin got knocked out and wakes up in this issue tied upside-down to a cross. Before the cult leader can sacrifice the girl, Robin knocks the cross into the fire and decks the leader. Robin and the girl take off and he ambushes some cultists that come after them. The leader heads for his truck, but Robin is already there. He decks the leader and takes off in the truck with the girl, leaving the cult leader still spewing hate.

Noticeable Things:

  • This issue marks the beginning (unofficially) of stories being continued between Batman and Detective; a note at the end of this issue says to read Detective 509 before the next issue of Batman. Luckily, it’s the next review on my list …

Detective 509 coverDetective #509 – “Nine Lives Has the Cat” – Gerry Conway/Don Newton/Dan Adkins

This one starts with Bruce Wayne and Selina (Catwoman) Kyle on a date, finally admitting that they love each other. Bruce says he doesn’t care about Selina’s past, but that seems to bother her and she cuts the date short. At home, she wonders why Bruce is still harping about her being Catwoman. Her thoughts are interrupted when Cat-Man (no relation) busts through the window. He’s supposed to be dead, but he reminds her that cats have nine lives. He says she has something of his and he wants it back. When he attacks her, she tears his mask and his face is scarred; she doesn’t have much time toCat-Man attacks Selina ponder that before he knocks her out. Meanwhile, at the hospital, Batman and Commissioner Gordon visit Dr. Thirteen who’s recovering from his fight with Man-Bat. Thirteen apparently has a form of selective (and very convenient) amnesia, so he can’t remember what happened inside Wayne Manor … including his finding the Batcave. I’m wondering if Thirteen really has amnesia or if this is just his way of paying Batman back for saving his ass. Later that night, Alfred wakes Bruce (who almost breaks Alfred’s arm) to tell him about an alarm at the Wayne Research Institute. Batman goes to check it out; he wonders if Poison Ivy might be behind the alarm, but figures she wouldn’t have to break in since she basically owns the Wayne Cat-Man decks BatmanFoundation now. At the Institute, Batman finds that someone has tried to get into one of the labs … the one containing the fragment of Cat-Man’s cape that Catwoman gave Bruce after their last encounter (in Batman 324). The cape fragment is safe, but Cat-Man is lurking near the lab and jumps Batman, screaming that the piece of cape belongs to him. They fight and Cat-Man manages to knock Batman out, after Bats slips on a fallen glass beaker. Batman wakes up staked down on a beach someplace with the tide coming in. Cat-Man believes his cape is magical; not only has it supposedly saved his life numerous times, it cured Catwoman of a fatal illness. But when he fought Batman and Catwoman in Greece, the cape was torn, so even though Cat-Man survivedBatman pulls up stakes his fall into the geyser, he came out all scarred up. He leaves Batman to drown when the tide comes in, saying Catwoman will soon join him. Batman lets the tide wash over him, loosening the stakes holding him to the beach until he can pull free. On Cat-Man’s boat (which is not a catamaran, but he apparently calls it one anyway), Cat-Man tries to heal his scars with the piece of cape he recovered. It doesn’t work and Selina says he must be all out of lives. Cat-Man gets pissed off and says he’s going to slice up Selina’s face, but before he can start, Batman shows up. They fight and Batman knocks him into the water, where Cat-Man supposedly drowns because he (ironically) can’t swim. Cat-Man Cat-Man supposedly drownsused to be a big game hunter and mercenary, you’d think he’d know how to swim … and why didn’t Batman jump in to save him? I think we’ll be seeing Cat-Man again. The next day, Bruce says goodbye to Selina, who’s decided she can’t get away from her past as easily as she’d like. She’s leaving town to sort her shit out, but says she’ll maybe be back some day. Bruce is heartbroken, but his life is about to get even more complicated; some woman is across the street taking photos of him and it sounds like she knows Bruce is Batman. We’ll get more on that in the next issue of Batman.

Noticeable Things:

  • The woman taking photos of Bruce says she knows him but hasn’t seen him in years. We can’t see her face, but the caption says she has “flaming red hair”. Hmmm, who could that be?

Batgirl splashBatgirl – “The Fires of Destruction” – Cary Burkett/Jose Delbo/Joe Giella

Last issue, some goofball scientist accidentally irradiated himself with energy from a meteorite and turned himself into a big-brained megalomaniac called Annihilator. He ended up fighting Batgirl and Supergirl and proved stronger than they’d imagined, grabbing Supergirl and draining her powers. Batgirl soon notices that Annihilator is sweating and has a scratch on his head, so he must only be draining energy from Supergirl not her powers, otherwise he’d be invulnerable. Batgirl uses gas pellets to distract Annihilator and getsBatgirl uses Supergirl as a shield Supergirl away from him, using her as a human shield when he tries to blast her. Supergirl revives and gives Annihilator a taste of heat vision, but he reflects it back at the super-heroines and disappears. Supergirl thanks Batgirl for saving her and asks if she can do something to repay her. Batgirl gets the Maid of Might to carve out a secret tunnel to the garage where she keeps her Batcycle so she can come and go unseen. Jeff (the mechanic who looks after the cycle) is quite taken with Supergirl, which makes Batgirl a bit jealous. Annihilator goes back to his lab and calms down. Turns out the stress of his big change made him go nuts, but he’s totally fine now. He no Annihilator prepares to blast Batgirllonger wants to cause random destruction … he wants to destroy Gotham and rebuild it as a paradise with himself in charge. What a relief that he’s not acting crazy anymore. He also decides to build a ray gun that’ll change others to be like him; specifically, some lucky woman who can be the “Eve” to his new superior race, with himself as Adam , of course. Batgirl remembers a patch on Annihilator’s shirt and connects it to Vesper Labs, so she and Supergirl head over. Annihilator (whose powers now include precognition) is waiting for them; he’s chosen Batgirl to be his bride and prepares to blast her with the ray that’ll change her into Mrs. Annihilator. We’ll see how that works out next issue.

Brave and Bold 181 coverBrave & the Bold #181 – “Time, See What’s Become of Me” – Alan Brennert/Jim Aparo

This one starts in San Francisco, with Bruce Wayne saying good night to Barry Allen and Hal Jordan after a night of hanging out. But Bruce’s business in Frisco isn’t just to spend time with his JLA buddies; he’s looking for a mobster named Kurland, whose father has recently put him in charge of his drug operations. Batman stakes out Kurland, hoping he’ll lead him to bigger fish, but things get screwed up when Hawk shows up. Hawk is one half of the duo Hawk and Dove, brothers who disagreed on pretty much everything even after they gained powers fromKurland falls off the roof some weird disembodied voice. Hank Hall became Hawk, the aggressive asshole, always wanting to pound criminals into the dirt, while Don became Dove, someone more inclined to finding a peaceful solution at any cost. Hawk attacks Kurland and starts pounding him, until Batman jumps in to give him shit for screwing up his stakeout. Kurland tries to be tough and accidentally knocks himself off the roof, plunging to his death. Hawk turns back into Hank Hall and takes off. Unfortunately, one of Kurland’s men saw the transformation, so Batman figures he’d better find Hawk before the thug tells Kurland Senior who killed his son. Too bad Batman doesn’t know Don gets some advice from his girlfriendHawk’s secret identity and didn’t get a good look at his face. Hank’s counterpart (and brother), Don Hall is in nearby Berkeley, getting fired from his job at the Welfare Office. On the way home, he rousts some muggers, who don’t even recognize him. Don wonders if his time has passed him by; he feels like a relic of the 60s, someone who’s out of step with the selfishness of the 80s. His mood doesn’t get any better as his girlfriend tells him he should forget his crappy Welfare job and do something with his talents. He says he’d rather help people and doesn’t want to end up like his brother, who ended up going corporate and has nothing but an ulcer and a lousy line of credit to show for it. Don’s girlfriend is sick of him defining himself by his brother all the time and leaves. Meanwhile, Kurland’s thug has filled him in on what happenedHank's wife is brutally honest with him to his son. Kurland tells him to find out who Hank Hall is and grab him. Kurland feels guilty for dragging his son into the criminal life, but figures he owes it to him to avenge his death. At home, Hank Hall gets shit from his wife for running around playing hero again. She says she’s tired of living with someone who doesn’t trust her—or love her—enough to be honest. When she tries to leave, Hank threatens to pound her, but comes to his senses and lets her go. He wonders why everything is so fucked up; he followed the “right” path in life: military service, wife, house, good job … so why is he so miserable? He finally decides the only thing to do is go back out as Hawk and take down Kurland the way he took down his son. Batman has been trying to figure out who Dove knocks a kidnapper through the windowHawk is and manages to track down Dove through some solid detective work. Dove tries Hank’s number and finds out his wife is at a hotel, but when they head over there she’s being menaced by Kurland’s thugs. Batman takes one down and Dove tries to go easy with the second one but knocks him out the window. He saves the thug, but he’s so freaked out he tells them where to find Kurland. Hank’s wife begs Dove to help Hank because he’s really losing his shit. It’s worse than she thinks … Hawk is in one of Kurland’s clubs, busting up the place and threatening to rough up a stripper unless they tell him where Kurland is. He gets knocked out and taken to Kurland’s boat down at the docks. Batman and Dove are watching the boat and follow the thugs carrying Hawk, since Batman knows they have to find Kurland or Hawk will never be safe. On the boat, Hawk wakes up and realizes what an asshole he’sHawk losing his powers been lately. He gets a visit from the mysterious voice that gave him and Don their powers; the voice says Hawk and Dove were supposed to realize that neither of their opposing philosophies was the right path. They were supposed to find common ground and both ease their rigid worldviews, but neither of them has changed in the last twelve years, so maybe they’ll smarten up if they lose their powers. Unfortunately, Dove is underwater at the moment, planting an explosive on Kurland’s boat. He transforms back to Don Hall and swims for the surface, but without his powers he’s having a tough time. Kurland drags Hank on deck and prepares to kill him. He asks why Hank wasted his son and Hank says he was trying to prove something to his Kurland taken downfather, even though his brother was the one their father always related to best. Hank says he didn’t mean to kill Kurland’s son, but he’s responsible to he’ll take the consequences. Kurland starts having second thoughts, since his son was trying to live up to his expectations the same way Hank is with his own father. The explosion goes off and Don climbs onto the boat, exhausted. Batman comes in swinging and Don does likewise, while Hank just stands there unmoving, even when he’s about to get shot. Don decks the gunman and Hank points out the irony of Don being the aggressive one and himself being passive. Batman says they were both so afraid of turning into each other that they froze themselves into roles they should’ve outgrown a long time ago. He says people have many sides, violent and peaceful, and denying them makes you die a little inside. I’m not sure if this story sticks … I think it might be ignored by later writers, but that’s too bad. Hawk and Dove were relics of the 60s and it’s about time they moved past that, so I think Brennert did a good job here. And I get the feeling he’s not just writing about these particular characters, but about the 60s in general. Maybe the idealism of the 60s got frozen in people’s minds and they ended up disappointed that it couldn’t translate into the 70s and 80s. But maybe the idealism didn’t need to die off, it just needed to adapt with the times.

Nemesis splashNemesis – “Heartbreak” – Cary Burkett/Dan Spiegle

Last issue, Nemesis had a device strapped to his chest that could accelerate his heart … causing him to have a heart attack. He broke into Dr. Rice (the inventor)’s place to see if he could find a way to disable the device, but Rice caught and set off the device, sending Nemesis’s heart racing. Nemesis tosses his knife to get Rice to drop the controller, which lets his heartbeat return to normal. Nemesis decks Rice and thinks he has a plan to get the accelerator off his chest for good. Nemesis disguises himself as Rice and goes to the mansion of Samuel Solomon (member of the criminal Council, and the guy who had Rice put the device on Nemesis’s chest). He fakes Solomon out long enough to deck him and quickly switches disguises so now he looks like Solomon. Nemesis orders Lucas, Solomon’s bodyguard, to send all the security men to search theNemesis fights Lucas grounds while he checks the lab with the master control for the heart accelerator. Lucas decides to check Solomon’s study and finds the real Solomon tied up. They find Nemesis in the lab trying to deactivate the heart stimulator device and Lucas jumps him. Nemesis manages to take Lucas out, but Solomon is ready to throw the control switch and send Nemesis’s heart into overdrive. But Nemesis saw that coming, so he wired the extra heart stimulator (which he brought from Rice’s lab) onto Solomon when he was unconscious. So when Solomon throws the switch, his own heart accelerates rapidly, while Nemesis is fine because he’s already deactivated his own stimulator. The strain kills Solomon, so that’s one more Council member Nemesis can cross off his list.

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