Comics Reviews: Batman 344, Detective 511, Brave & the Bold 183

Batman 344 coverBatman #344 – “Monster My Sweet” – Gerry Conway/Gene Colan/Klaus Janson

This one starts with Batman returning to his penthouse at the Wayne Building, where Alfred is waiting to ask him about Arthur Reeves’ big announcement. Reeves (who’s running for mayor) has been harping about Batman being a criminal and wanting to shut down his vigilante activities; he just announced that he knows Batman’s secret identity and will reveal it at a press conference that night. Batman isn’t sure if Reeves really knows he’s Bruce Wayne, but there’s not much he can do until Reeves talks to the press. Batman is exhausted, as he’s really been burning the candle at both ends lately and the strain of maintaining two full-time identities is taking its toll. He tells Alfred it mayPoison Ivy shows who's boss be time to make a decision about that. As if Reeves’ possibly knowing his secret wasn’t bad enough, Bruce also has to contend with Poison Ivy who’s hypnotized him (and the other board members) into signing over all the assets of the Wayne Foundation. Speaking of Poison Ivy, she’s hanging out in her arboretum hideout with her bodyguard, Ivor. Local mob boss Big Jack Johnson comes by in answer to her summons. Ivy tells Johnson that she’s taking over Gotham’s mobs and he’d better fall in line. Johnson thinks that’s funny and gets ready to walk out. Ivy uses her control over plants to grab Johnson with a strangling vine. Johnson’s thug pulls a gun and Ivy kicks his ass, knocking him through the window. Johnson and his thug take off and Ivy warns him Ivy steals the Wayne Foundationnot to retaliate. Downtown, Arthur Reeves talks to Commissioner Gordon about his press conference that night. Gordon tells Reeves Batman is no criminal, but Reeves insists his photos will prove the truth. Reeves tries to gain Gordon’s loyalty by promising Gordon’s job will be safe if he backs Reeves (Reeves’ rival, Hamilton Hill, has been blaming Gordon for recent police violence and corruption), but Gordon tells Reeves to go to hell. At Gotham National Bank, Bruce and the other board members reluctantly sign over all the Wayne Foundation’s assets to Poison Ivy; they can’t fight her hypnosis, which also prevents them from telling anyone they’re acting under duress. Bruce tells Ivy she won’t enjoy her ill-gotten gains because even she has a conscience, but she just laughs. Ivy’s feeling pretty good as she leaves the bank, but her triumphant mood dissipates as she sees Batman standing on the sidewalk outside. He doesn’t say anything, just stares at her, which freaks her out.Batman freaks out Poison ivy She tells Ivor she won’t let Batman ruin her mood, but he wages a psychological war of attrition that wears away at her. Everywhere Ivy goes, Batman is there, never saying a word just staring at her with a weird smile. By the end of the day, she’s ready to pull her hair out, and decides she has to get rid of Batman once and for all. She gets an idea to use her special hybrid plants as a weapon against the Caped Crusader. At the Wayne Building, Bruce runs into his old flame, Vicki Vale. (She’s the redhead who’s been secretly taking photos of Bruce for the last couple of issues and seems to have figured out that he’s Batman.) Bruce has a meeting with Lucius Fox, so he has to put off his reunion with Vicki until Reeves makes a startling accusationtomorrow. After the meeting, Bruce heads over to Arthur Reeves’ press conference, changing to Batman on the way (and scaring the shit out of some dude who wanted to drag with Bruce Wayne). Batman and Gordon watch Reeves’ big revelation; he holds up photos that show Batman is really mobster Big Jack Johnson. Reeves’ opponent Hamilton Hill tells Gordon and Batman that Reeves is a disgrace and he’ll tell that to the press. Gordon doesn’t trust Hill, not just because he’s been bad-mouthing Gordon, but also because he just seems shifty. At Bruce Wayne’s penthouse, a visitor returns from a long hiatus … and it’s someone who knows the entry procedures. Hmmm, who could that be? Later, Batman decides it’s time to conclude his campaign against Poison Ivy and put her right over the edge. But when he busts into her rooftop greenhouse, she’s prepared. She’s used her biochemistry skills to transformBatman meets the plant monster Ivor into a hulking plant monster … a condition Ivor isn’t completely happy with. He obeys his mistress though, and attacks Batman, who quickly finds himself at a disadvantage. Elsewhere, TV reporter Olivia Ortega gets an envelope from an anonymous source and whatever’s inside almost knocks her off her chair. At Ivy’s hideout, Batman manages to knock Ivor down. Ivy figures Ivor is useless now, so she tries to blast him and Batman with poisoned darts, but Robin swings in and knocks her on her ass. Batman is distracted long enough for Ivor to grab him by the throat. Batman tosses him off the roof as Robin takes care of Ivy. When the cops show up, Batman insists they help Ivor before him and Ivor is impressed with his selflessness. Ivor tells the Robin surprises Poison Ivycops about Ivy hypnotizing the Wayne Foundation board and stealing their money. Batman and Robin head home and Robin says he might be sticking around for a while. When they get back to the penthouse, they see Olivia Ortega on TV with a special report about Arthur Reeves; Ortega has proof that the photos Reeves has of Batman as Big Jack Johnson are fakes, and Ortega says Reeves must have faked them just to score some cheap political points. Since the election is the next day, Reeves’ campaign is pretty much screwed; Batman, Robin, and Alfred aren’t exactly broken up about that.

Noticeable Things:

  • Vicki Vale hasn’t appeared since Detective 320.
  • Robin says he learned a lot during his road trip (which we’ve seen in the back-up stories of the last few issues); he says he needs Batman’s friendship and that Gotham is his home, no matter how much they disagree on things. But Dick’s been appearing in New Teen Titans for the last little while and living in New York, so I’m not sure how the chronology all fits. And it gets worse in Detective 511, when he goes back to Hudson University; I have no idea how he could do that and appear in New Teen Titans at the same time (where he’s shown to be living in New York).

Detective 511 coverDetective #511 – “The ‘I’ of the Beholder” – Gerry Conway/Don Newton/Frank Chiaramonte

This one continues from Batman 344, with Hamilton Hill winning the mayoral race in a landslide. Bruce is happy Arthur Reeves lost, but can’t help wondering if there’s something fishy going on; Reeves had photographic “proof” that Batman was really mob boss Big Jack Johnson, but the proof was exposed as fake just in time to tip the election Hill’s way. Bruce figures Reeves might have been set up to take a fall. Across the river at a race track (the Raytona 500, which apparently takes place in New Jersey), a goofball in a red-and-orange costume (Mirage) uses a gem to make people see things that aren’t there. The visions seem to be of things that the people fear—being attacked by a lion, falling off a cliff—which lets Mirage waltz in and steal all the gate receipts. He exits through the race track, making a driver crash because he thinks he’sVicki takes photos driving off a snowy cliff. Vicki Vale is there taking photos and Mirage gives her a vision of a polar bear about to attack, but like any good journalist she keeps taking pictures. Mirage gets away and the next morning Vicki examines the photos she took and is surprised that the polar bear didn’t show up in any of them. Her editor is thrilled that she got pictures of a crime in progress (and a spectacular car crash at the track), but Vicki’s pissed off that none of her photos show what she and the other people experienced … polar bears, precipitous cliffs, and so on. She seems to think Mirage’s gem actually transported them away from Gotham to different locales, eve though her photos show she was there the whole time. You’d think she could figure out that it was all in her Dick meets Dala(and everyone else’s) head, but maybe she’s not too bright. She goes to lunch with Bruce Wayne and they’re both a bit distracted; she’s thinking about Bruce being Batman and he’s still pining over Catwoman. We see Dick Grayson registering to go back to Hudson College (so I guess Bruce won that argument) and he runs into a total babe named Dala. She’s kind of snotty, but Dick is immediately attracted to her and turns into a stuttering idiot. She agrees to go for coffee with him. At the Wayne Building, Bruce has fallen asleep trying to sort out the ledgers after Poison Ivy’s brief takeover and Lucius Fox wakes him up. Bruce sees the Bat-signal and realizes he can’t go on like this much longer. He tells Lucius to call a board meeting for tomorrow morning and takes off. Downtown, disgraced mayoral candidate Arthur Reeves stops by to see his “benefactor”, the guy who gave him fakeReeves and Boss Thorne photos supposedly exposing Batman’s identity. Reeves is startled to see he’s been working for Boss Thorne, who’s just gotten out of Arkham Asylum. Thorne pretended he wanted to help Reeves become mayor, but he obviously wanted Hill to win all along. Reeves runs away when Thorne starts laughing like a maniac. Commissioner Gordon tells Batman Mirage has been robbing places all over town, using his gem to create shared illusions that result in mass hysteria. Gordon gets a call that Mirage has been seen at a fashion show near the beach. Dick Grayson just happens to be at that show, so when people start freaking out he changes to Robin to tackle Mirage and his men, who are trying to steal jewelry from the models. Mirage causes the illusion that Robin (and everyone else) is under the ocean. Robin is attacked by an octopus and even Robin and Batman react to illusionsthough he intellectually knows it’s an illusion, he can’t help reacting to what he sees. Batman shows up and falls prey to the illusion, thinking the Batmobile is under water and being attacked by a hammerhead shark. Mirage gets away and when the illusion clears, the Dynamic Duo find out an old man had a heart attack because of the illusion. Batman says Mirage is guilty of murder and vows to bring him in. He and Robin compare notes and figure Mirage is using a combination of sight and sound to cause his illusions, so Batman rigs up some earplugs that’ll at least partially protect them. They go out looking for Mirage and Batman finds him robbing an armoured car. Batman puts in his earplugs and jumps Mirage and his men. Mirage is shocked that Batman is immuneBatman decks Mirage to his illusions, but one of the thugs gets in a lucky shot, destroying one of Batman’s earplugs. Batman has a vision of being attacked by a leopard, but by sheer will power he overcomes it, smashes Mirage’s gem, and decks him. The next morning, Bruce Wayne tells the Wayne Foundation board that he’s stepping down immediately and appointing Lucius in his place. They try to talk him out of it, but Bruce’s mind is made up. He later tells Dick that he had to choose between his life as Bruce Wayne and his life as Batman and he’s happy with the choice he’s made.

Brave and Bold 183 coverBrave & the Bold #183 – “The Death of Batman” – Don Kraar/Carmine Infantino/Mike DeCarlo

This one starts with someone breaking the Riddler out of prison using a gimmicky bunch of clues to do it. Naturally, Riddler can’t resist that, so he plays along. Elsewhere, a guy named H. Rutherford Creighton (a British crime fiction writer) gives a speech at a convention of crime buffs, including Commissioner Gordon and Bruce Wayne. After the banquet, Creighton disappears but a note is left behind saying Batman had better show up at police headquarters the next night or Creighton is dead. Gordon gets word that Riddler has escaped from prison, so he figures that’s who’s behind all this. The next night, Batman shows up at Gordon’s office and finds someone has sent a board game called The Death of Batman; the game has a board, clue cards, and even a rule book just like aRiddler cracks the clue real board game. The rules say Batman has to follow the clues and penetrate the maze to save Creighton. He’s not allowed to get any help from the cops and he has to find Creighton before dawn (which is in about seven-and-a-half hours) or Creighton’s dead. The game has one resolution … Batman’s death. Batman follows the first clue to a phone booth by the docks where he runs into the Riddler. But Riddler isn’t the one behind this puzzle; someone has been giving him clues too, saying he and Batman have to team up. Batman goes along for Creighton’s sake and Riddler stays in it for he love of the puzzle … plus the chance to kill Batman if their adversary fails. Riddler deciphers the first clue before Batman does, but the Caped Crusader redeems himself by figuring out the next three. (All the clues have to do Batman decks Riddlerwith detective fiction: Sherlock Holmes, Poe, Hammett.) A clue leads to a low-level punk named Luis who threatens Batman and Riddler with a gun before handing over the next clue. Riddler doesn’t like being treated like crap by some loser, so he tosses an incendiary (which he swiped from the Batmobile) into Luis’s hideout after they leave. Batman is mad but can’t afford to fuck around with Creighton’s life at stake. The next clue leads to Creighton’s estate, where they find a bunch of money that’s supposed to be used as ransom for Creighton. Riddler gets a card saying he can have the money if he kills Batman, but Batman beats the shit out of him and heads out into the hedge maze just as the sun is about to rise. Batman finds a giant checkerboard pattern at the centre of the maze and sees Creighton tied up and some thug pointing a gun at him. Batman throws his utility belt away and tosses the money to the thug, but it turns out Creighton was behind the whole thing. He tells the thug to keep the money and kill Riddler on his wayRiddler saves Batman and vice versa out. Creighton tells Batman (who suspected he was behind everything but couldn’t be completely certain) that he’s dying and wants to commit a real crime before he goes. He picked Batman as his victim because Batman’s real-life detective skills made Creighton’s fictional detectives redundant. Creighton has soaked the entire hedge maze in gasoline and lights it up, immolating himself and making Batman hug the ground to get a few extra breaths of air before he burns too. But Riddler has pounded Creighton’s thug and instead of taking the money, decides to assuage his curiosity by coming up the hydraulic elevator to see the solution to the mystery. His arrival gives Batman another breath and Batman ends up saving Riddler when he succumbs to the smoke. Later in the hospital, Riddler says he had to save Batman because he’s the only one who knows the solution to the mystery and Riddler just has to know it. Batman promises to fill him in on everything … next prison visiting day.

Nemesis – “Fox and Hounds” – Cary Burkett/Dan Spiegle

Last issue the remaining Council member hired notorious assassin Greyfox to find and kill Nemesis. Greyfox knows Nemesis is in New York, but not where he is or what face he’s wearing, so he puts out feelers all over the city. Nemesis has settled Valerie Foxworth (and her brother Chris) into new Nemesis takes down some thugsidentities and decides he’d better go dark too. He changes his own identity, switches license plates on his car, and moves into a hotel. Later he goes to see Roadrunner, his Huggy Bear-type informant. But Roadrunner warns Nemesis there’s a huge price on his head, but it urns out Roadrunner has been talking to the wrong people; some thugs have been watching him and they bust in to waste Nemesis. He takes them out (with his non-lethal toxic dart gun) and asks Roadrunner about Greyfox’s hideout. While Nemesis cases Greyfox’s lair, taking photos of his associates so he can infiltrate, Greyfox’s own research has paid off. Someone found the helicopter Nemesis stole a few issues back, even though it’s been altered a bit. Greyfox checks it out and threatens the airport manager’s daughter so he’ll lure Nemesis there. It works, and Nemesis shows up at the airport, allowing Greyfox to get him in his crosshairs. We’ll see if Nemesis gets his head blown off next issue.

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