Comics Reviews: Batman 348, Detective 515, Brave & the Bold 187, Firestorm 1

Batman 348 coverBatman #348 – “Shadow Play” – Gerry Conway/Gene Colan/Klaus Janson

This one starts with Bruce Wayne, Dick Grayson, and Alfred moving a bunch of stuff back into the original Batcave under Wayne Manor. That’s right, Bruce has finally decided to move back to the Manor, both as Bruce and as Batman. After almost getting squished when the giant penny rolls off its moorings, the trio are summoned by the doorbell upstairs. Their visitor is a frantic Francine Langstrom with her daughter Rebecca in her arms. Francine is pissed off at Bruce, who promised to find a way to cure her husband Kirk (who we also know as Man-Bat). Francine is so out of it, she passes out and Bruce tells Alfred to take her to a spare bedroom to rest. Bruce blindfolds Rebecca and takes her down to the Batcave, changing intoMan-Bat swoops through the Batcave Batman on the way. When Rebecca sees Batman, she trusts him and he promises he’ll do everything he can to help her father. We get a quick recap of Man-Bat’s origin and how his last transformation left him feral, believing Rebecca was dead and Batman was responsible. Batman has concocted an antidote that’ll accelerate Man-Bat’s condition past the breaking point, either curing him or killing him in the process. Batman takes Rebecca and heads into one of the side tunnels that lead into the labyrinth of unexplored passages surrounding the Batcave. After they leave, Man-Bat—who was apparently hanging from the ceiling of the Batcave all along—swoops down and flies into the tunnel after Batman. Dick knows there’s no way to contact Batman by radio and figures he’ll never track him down in he tunnels, so Batman will just have to handle Man-Bat on his own. Down by the docks, ex-Man-Bat attacksCommissioner Gordon is moping around, depressed at not being a cop anymore since being pushed out of the job by Gotham’s new mayor. His daughter Barbara tries to cheer him up but can’t get through to him, so she decides to call in some help … from private detective Jason Bard. Downtown, Vicki Vale tells her editor at Picture News that she might have the scoop of the year … photographic proof of Batman’s identity. The editor is hot for the story, but Vicki says she’s not 100% sure she’s right and has promised a friend a chance to refute her evidence. After she leaves, the editor calls Boss Thorne, Gotham’s political kingmaker, to tell him about Vicki’s potential bombshell. Thorne thinks it’s funny that he ruined Arthur Reeves’s mayoral campaign with fake proof of Batman’s identity and now the real thing might’ve just dropped into his lap. Under the Batcave, Batman and Rebecca have searched through the tunnels but found no sign of Man-Bat. Batman is ready to headMan-Bat saves Rebecca back, but lights a fire to warm Rebecca while they take a break. Man-Bat (who’s been following them) attacks, knocking Batman over a ledge and flying off with Rebecca. Batman climbs back up and follows, finding them in a huge bat-filled cavern with a big pit in the middle. Rebecca is clinging to a stalagmite on the other side of the pit, but Man-Bat is so whacked out he doesn’t even recognize her; he thinks she’s just some kid Batman brought to torment him. Man-Bat attacks, knocking Batman into the pit, but Batman manages to snag the ceiling with his Batarang. He pulls free of Man-Bat just as Rebecca tries to run away. She falls into the pit and her screams finally get through Man-Bat’s mania. He catches her before she falls too far and Batman administers the antidote. Later, Francine wakes up to find Rebecca and a fully-human Kirk Langstrom standing beside her bed.

Catwoman's hatCatwoman – “The Man, the Bullet, the Cat” – Bruce Jones/Trevor von Eeden/Pablo Marcos

This starts with Selina (Catwoman) Kyle’s hat blowing into the street. A kid tries to grab it for her and almost gets run over by a car. Selina trips before she can help the kid, but a good Samaritan saves the kid instead. He turns out to be a guy named Daniel Brown, who’s running for president of some union. He recognizes Selina and (after introducing her to his wife, Janice, and his running mate, Peter Simmons) asks if Selina will act as security at a speech he’s giving later. Seems Dan has had some threatening notes delivered lately and would feel better with someone of Selina’s rep backing him up at the speech. She agrees and after studying the set-up, suggests Dan give the speech facing a mirror that’ll be set up behind the stage; that way it’ll look like he’s standing there, but if anyone shoots at him they’ll hit the mirror instead.Catwoman catches the wrong guy Dan agrees and makes arrangements to set everything up. Selina heads out to a diner to eat and gets into a scuffle with some bikers who are hassling a waitress. The bikers follow her and run her car off the road, but she changes to Catwoman and chains their motorbikes together, running them off a cliff. The crap with the bikers makes Selina late, but Dan goes ahead with his speech on schedule. When Selina shows up at the Town Hall, she notices a shady dude with a violin case sneaking around outside. She tackles him, but the case turns out to be full of heroin, not a gun. Selina is shocked to hear a gunshot from inside and someone screaming that Dan has been shot.

Detective 515 coverDetective #515 – “College for Killers” – Gerry Conway/Don Newton/Frank Chiaramonte

This one starts with three punks robbing a bank. Batman shows up to stop them and one of the punks uses a flamethrower to flash-fry the Caped Crusader. That’s when we find out the whole scene is just a mock-up at a place called the Crime Academy, which is kinda like Hogwart’s for criminals. The headmaster tells the guy with the flamethrower he screwed up, turning a simple robbery into murder (though the headmaster doesn’t seem to care much about the stuntman playing Batman who got roasted). The headmaster tells his students they should always be prepared and never over-complicate their crimes; half the super villains in the DCU should attend that class. A week later, a couple of losers are rolling drunks near the Gotham docks when Batman shows up to poundVicki presents her evidence to Alfred them. Despite their Academy training, Batman beats them easily but he’s intrigued at the mention of the Crime Academy. He wrings some info out of one of the punks, who was expelled from the academy; how much of a fuck-up do you have to be to get tossed out of a school for criminals? At Wayne Manor, Vicki Vale is talking to Alfred about her long-held suspicion of Bruce Wayne being Batman. Alfred denies it but Vicki has photos and careful measurements of Bruce and Batman’s faces that she insists prove her theory. Alfred asks for a little time to refute her idea (so she doesn’t end up looking stupid) and Vicki gives him until her next Picture News deadline … three weeks. Bruce comes home as Vicki’s leaving and Alfred can see that Vicki’s in love with Bruce, Batman or not, and that Bruce has some pretty strong feelings for Vicki as well. Alfred doesn’t mention Vicki’s photos, resolving to take Robin knocked outcare of it himself. Bruce disguises himself as Matches Malone so he can head out to Los Angeles and attend the Crime Academy. At Gotham University, Dick Grayson sees his ex-girlfriend Dala and decides to follow her. (I had thought Dick was back at Hudson U. but I guess he enrolled at Gotham instead.) Dick isn’t sure why he’s so hung up on Dala; she dumped him after a quick fling, but he can’t seem to get her out of his head. He changes to Robin and follows her out to the middle of nowhere, to a spooky old mansion. After spying on Dala getting dressed and then sneaking inside, he hears weird chanting downstairs. Before he can check it out, he’s clonked on the head by a guy in robes that scream “crazy cultist”. In Los Angeles, Matches MaloneBatman watches the crooks goes to the Crime Academy but sees a couple of criminals from Gotham that have a grudge against “Matches”. He goes to the bathroom and changes to Batman, watching as the two hoods drive off. Batman figures he’d better be careful, because if those two see Matches Malone they’ll kill him. Batman switches back to Matches and goes in to see the headmaster. Meanwhile in Boston, Alfred goes to see a guy who can help him with the Bruce Wayne secret identity problem … Christopher Chance, aka the Human Target.

Batgirl – “In the Coils of the Serpent” – Cary Burkett/Jose Delbo/Joe Giella

Last issue, Batgirl went to a carnival sideshow to investigate a mysterious murder and ran straight into a snake woman who calls herself Lady Viper … and Batgirl’s deathly afraid of snakes. Lady Viper grabs Batgirl in her coils and starts squeezing her to death. Before Lady Viper can finish Batgirl off with her poisonous bite, Batgirl asks to hear her origin and Lady Viper obligingly tells it. Basically, she always had an affinity for snakes that led toBatgirl squeezed by Lady Viper a psychic bond with them. That set her apart from humanity and she had to join the carnival to make a living. While touring Europe she found an ancient statue of a snake goddess, older than any other artifacts ever found. (Maybe it was from Atlantis?) She bought it and just a little while ago the moonlight caused the statue to shoot out a beam that changed her into a snake woman. As Lady Viper’s been telling he tale, Batgirl has retrieved a laser and some tear gas from her utility belt. She gets free of Lady Viper, but not before being bitten in the neck. The gas makes Lady Viper flee but she vows to get her revenge on Batgirl … a revenge that’s already beginning with the poison coursing through Batgirl’s veins. Batgirl knows she has to catch Lady Viper, but at the moment she’s so tired she can hardly keep from keeling over …

Noticeable Things:

  • The Crime Academy headmaster talks (and sorta looks) like a cross between John Houseman and Sydney Greenstreet.
  • We’re told Mirage is a Crime Academy graduate, though it didn’t stop Batman from catching him.

Brave and Bold 187 coverBrave & the Bold #187 – “Whatever Happened to What’ser’name?” – Charlie Boatner/Jim Aparo

This one starts with Batman seeing a man being pulled into the water down by the docks … except it’s not quite a man, it’s Iron from the Metal Men. Batman recognizes Iron’s assailant, a robot known as a Floating Fury, which the Metal Men defeated years ago. Iron’s head gets knocked off and Batman stuns the Floating Fury with his laser torch long enough to free Iron from its clutches. The Fury whacks Batman, who barely makes it back to the surface. He’s met by three more of the Metal Men (Gold, Platinum, and Mercury), who say they’re out looking for their teammatepieces of Tin rain down Tin, who’s missing. Batman recalls there’s another member of the team (Lead) and vaguely remembers a seventh member, whose name he can’t bring to mind. As they reach the shore, pieces of metal start raining around them. It turns out to be Tin, torn apart; his last words ask forgiveness from someone named “Beautiful”. That name sounds familiar to Batman, but the other Metal Men don’t recognize it. They take off to look for Lead and to get some revenge on Tin’s killer. Batman decides to call Doctor Will Magnus, who created the Metal Men. Magnus shows up to collect what’s left of Tin and Iron, and Batman mentions Tin’s last words. Batman says “Beautiful” Batman gets mad at Metal Menwas what Tin called his robot girlfriend, although everyone else referred to her as “Nameless”. Doc Magnus doesn’t remember her, but mentions the short-lived Metal Women who he once created as companions for the Metal Men (including a Platinum Man for Tina). Magnus says those ill-advised creations were accidentally melted in magma, and seems to be rather happy about it, saying nobody likes to be reminded of his mistakes. The other Metal Men return with Lead’s body, which is all acid-scarred. Batman finds a message burned into Lead’s back: “This is for Nameless.” None of the Metal Men or Magnus knows what it means and Batman gets pissed off that they’ve forgotten someone who was once their teammate and friend. He takes the only clue he could find—a piece of metal clutched in Tin’s hand—back to the Batcave for analysis. It turns out to be platinum with traces of Gas Gang attackssulfur in it. Meanwhile, the remaining Metal Men are hiding out like Batman told them to, but they’re getting restless. They soon get more excitement than they bargained for when the Gas Gang attacks. By the time Batman gets there, Gold and Mercury are destroyed and Platinum’s fading fast. She tells him the Gas Gang accused them of leaving Nameless to die; Tina says that jogged her memory and she now remembers nameless, but isn’t sure what happened to her. She says Nameless was there when the Metal Women were destroyed, but when Doc Magnus revived the Metal Men afterwards with a special C-X charge, Nameless was gone. Batman takes the last three Metal Men to Magnus, who works his ass off to rebuild them. Before he can revive them, Batman tells him to leave out the C-X charge this time, since that’s what took away their memory of Nameless. Batman says he knows Doc was trying to spare them the pain of losing Nameless, but it’s time they knew the truth.Batman fights BOLTS When the Metal Men wake up, Tin tells Doc how he remembered Nameless and went looking for her, but was attacked by Platinum Man. Speak of the devil, Platinum Man comes busting in with the Missile Men and tries to kill Magnus. Batman says he can end this whole mess and leaves the Metal Men to protect Doc while he goes to the fissure in the earth where the Metal Women died. He climbs down into a subterranean chamber with a river of magma flowing through it. The chamber is guarded by a giant robot called B.O.L.T.S., one of the Metal Men’s oldest foes. Batman buries the robot under rock and opens the vault it was guarding. Back at Magnus’s lab, Platinum Man busts loose and is ready to kill Magnus when Batman returns with the object of Platinum Man attacksPlatinum Man’s obsession … Nameless. Nameless gets Platinum Man to call off the attack, then tells how she’d always felt inadequate because Tin had cobbled her together himself out of spare parts. She’d asked Magnus to rebuild her in a better form, but something went wrong and she caught on fire. Magnus thought her destroyed, but she wandered half-dead to the site of the battle with the Metal Women. Platinum Man was in a similar state of agony and they rebuilt each other. Platinum man fell in love with her and kept her prisoner until now, while he re-activated the Metal Men’s old foes to attack Magnus. Platinum Man hated Magnus for building and abandoning so many machines, but Nameless begs the Metal Men to go easyNameless sacrifices herself on him. Tin proposes and Magnus marries them, but the ceremony ends on a sour note as a Missile Man near Doc Magnus is primed to explode. Tin and Platinum Man both want to protect Nameless, but she doesn’t want anyone dying in her name, so she takes the Missile Man up into the atmosphere, where it explodes. Tin begs Magnus to rebuild her, but she’s been completely vapourized. Tin mourns his new bride, Nameless … or as he refers to her, Beautiful.

Nemesis – “Arena of Despair” – Cary Burkett/Dan Spiegle

This one starts with Kingston, one of the last few Council members, testing the trap guns he’s set up in a corridor of his house. He knows Nemesis will come after him sooner or later, but he wants to control the battlefield. One of Kingston’s henchmen (Brewster) has told him about Nemesis’s connection to Marjorie Marshall, so Kingston sends Brewster to grab her. Meanwhile, Nemesis is recovering from his wounds from the last time heNemesis gets ready took on Kingston. Nemesis spends his downtime inventing and testing new weapons for when he goes after Kingston again. When Nemesis hears about Mrs. Marshall’s kidnapping he checks with his favourite snitch, Roadrunner. Roadrunner tells him the Kingston mob left all kinds of clues that they were behind the kidnapping, and Nemesis figures Kingston is luring him into a trap. He has to help Mrs. Marshall, so he heads for Kingston’s place in Houston, with Valerie Foxworth stubbornly tagging along. Nemesis parachutes onto Kingston’s estate and takes out a few guards. When Kingston finds out Nemesis is there, he arranges a TV hookup with the other two Council members, Maddox and Scarfield. Kingston (who fancies himself a modern-day Roman emperor) has set up an arena of death for Nemesis and if he succeeds in killing Nemesis, Kingston will become the new leader of the Council.

Firestorm 1 coverFury of Firestorm #1 – “Day of the Bison” – Gerry Conway/Pat Broderick/Rodin Rodriguez

This is the second ongoing Firestorm series (the first only lasted five issues back in 1978) and continues right up into 1990. Firestorm is a composite being, made up of high school student Ronnie Raymond and physics Professor Martin Stein … though Ronnie’s usually in control of Firestorm, which causes Stein some frustration. The character has a bit of a Spider-Man vibe to it, but it’s different enough to be interesting. I’ve never read the series, so I figured I’d give it a try. This one starts with Firestorm catching a nap on a cloud after patrolling half the night. Professor Stein warns Ronnie that sleeping in mid-air isn’t a great idea, but since he’s used his molecular changing powers to make himself really light, Ronnie figures it’ll be fine. Unfortunately, falling asleep cancels his power and he barely saves himself from splattering on the street. Firestorm heads back to Ronnie’s place before splitting and Ronnie has toJohn and his great-grandfather give Stein cab fare to get home. The next day, Ronnie’s still exhausted and his as is dragging all day. Elsewhere, one of Ronnie’s teachers (John Ravenhair) is preparing to head to work. John’s great-grandfather (who refuses to call him by his “white man’s name”) is kvetching about John assimilating too much into white society. Grandfather reads a newspaper article about an exhibit of Indian artifacts at the Natural History Museum donated by a Senator named Walter Reilly (remember that name, as he’ll be quite important in future issues) and gets pissed off about it. He’s also not happy that John is dating a white woman, but John’s in no mood to argue. Grandfather feels some pain in his chest but covers it up, giving John a Bison Cult talisman before he leaves. As soon as John is out the door, his great-grandfather keels over. At school, Carmichael puts a frog down Ronnie's shirtJohn breaks up a scuffle between Ronnie and his nemesis, Cliff Carmichael. Carmichael is kind of the Flash Thompson to Ronnie’s Peter Parker, except Carmichael’s the genius and Ronnie’s the dumb jock. Downtown at Concordance Research, Martin Stein is using lab equipment to brew coffee. He records a recap of Firestorm’s origin, giving us a short version of the character’s history up to now. Afterwards he realizes what all of you are thinking, that having a recording like that is really stupid, so he erases it. In Central Park, Grandfather knows he hasn’t much time left to live, so he prepares a ritual he hopes will pass his knowledge and magical power to John through the Bison talisman. A couple of punks notice him and figure he’ll be easy pickings. At the Natural History Museum, John Ravenhair has taken his class (and his girlfriend Vanessa, the school nurse) on a field trip. Cliff is being an asshole as usual, putting a frog down Ronnie’s shirt. John and Vanessa talk but Grandfather’s spell makes John dizzy and he goes to theJohn becomes Black Bison bathroom to get his shit together. Just as Grandfather’s mind (and soul) join with John’s, the punks whack him on the head, killing him. That forcibly shoves Grandfather’s soul into John’s body and he freaks out, busting out of the bathroom like a maniac, screaming about vengeance on the white man. Ronnie knows he needs help, so he initiates the Firestorm matrix. Stein feels it coming and ducks out of a meeting right before disappearing. At the museum, John breaks into a display case and takes the headdress of the Bison cult. He christens himself Black Bison and uses his newfound power over the natural world to blow Vanessa down the hallway when she tries to talk to him. Black Bison wonders why he didn’t just fry her Black Bison blasts Firestormwith a lightning bolt and acknowledges there are two conflicting voices in his head. Firestorm comes after him, but Black Bison zaps him and uses his powers to animate the exhibits in the museum. Black Bison rides off on a horse, leaving a mountain lion and grizzly bear to attack the bystanders. Firestorm saves Doreen (Ronnie’s girlfriend) by changing the Mountain Lion into a teddy bear, then wrestles the grizzly away fro his friend Jackson. Carmichael is menaced by an animated Indian brave, so Firestorm tosses the bear and knocks the stuffing out of both exhibits. The brave’s arm continues to attack Carmichael, so Firestorm saves him … by transmuting the arm into a small alligator. By the time Firestorm gets outside, Black Bison has escaped into Central Park. Stein points out if Ronnie hadn’t wasted time screwing withFirestorm takes out a bear Carmichael they might’ve caught Black Bison. Stein says they’d better search the Park until they find him. Firestorm leaves with Carmichael still bitching and Doreen wondering where Ronnie disappeared to. Not far away, Senator Walter Reilly returns to his townhouse and runs into his daughter, Lorraine, who’s been thrown out of another fancy prep school. As they head inside, we see Black Bison watching them; he vows to pay Walter back for stealing his past by stealing Walter’s future. I assume he means Lorraine, who’s destined to become a very important part of Firestorm’s life. We’ll see what Black Bison is planning for her next issue.

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