Comics Reviews: Batman 350, Detective 517, Brave & the Bold 189, Firestorm 3

Batman 350 coverBatman #350 – “Nightmare in Crimson” – Gerry Conway, Paul Levitz/Gene Colan/Tony DeZuniga

Last issue, Dick (Robin) Grayson found out his ex-girlfriend (Dala) is a vampire. Unfortunately, he found out the hard way, after being kidnapped by Dala and bitten on the neck. He escaped and almost got run down by a priest on the highway. The priest took him to a hospital, where he’s now recovering. Robin has a fevered dream about Dala turning into a gothic monster and trying to kill him, and he wakes up to find Father Green watching him with worry. Robin thanks Green for helping him, but he’s ready to get out of the hospital, even though he’s not quite feeling perfect yet. When Robin looks in the mirror, his reflection is indistinct; Father Green seems to notice as well, but says nothing. Meanwhile, Batman is just getting back to WayneRobin looking under the weather Manor after putting the Crime Academy on ice out in California. Alfred greets him as usual and both of them are surprised when Robin comes roaring in on his motorcycle. Robin says he’s worked things out with Dala and she’s invited him and Bruce Wayne to a special party. Bruce says he’ll come and points out that Robin looks a bit haggard. Robin says he’s fine and neither Bruce nor Alfred notice the red glow in his eyes. Downtown, Morton Monroe breaks into Vicki Vale’s office at Picture News to find the proof she has of Batman’s identity. Monroe is her editor, but she refused to give him the evidence until “a friend” (who we know is Alfred) has a chance to refute it. But Monroe secretly works for Boss Thorne, Gotham’s unseen string-puller, who wants the proof right away. Right after Monroe leaves with the Batman decides to prowl aroundphotos, Vicki comes in, but she doesn’t notice anything wrong. She gets a call from Bruce inviting her to the party that night. At the party, Bruce notices Dick looks even worse and wonders if Dala has something to do with that. She leads Dick around like a puppy on a leash, so Bruce decides to do a little snooping. He ditches Vicki and sneaks upstairs, breaking into a locked room. He notices a couple of wooden beams with bloodstains on them; last issue, we saw this was Dala’s “larder” and the beams had a couple of bodies attached, both missing most of their blood. Bruce looks out the window and sees Dick and Dala walking off into the woods; he realizesBatman bitten by the Monk something bad is going down and changes to Batman. Batman goes prowling through the woods and is noticed by Father Green, who’s also lurking around. Batman finds Dick’s coat in a bush and wonders if Dick’s just getting some action from Dala. Batman’s thoughts are interrupted when a cloaked vampire (the Monk)  leaps from the shadows and attacks. He’s bitten on the neck before he can kick the vile creature away. As he ponders whether he was really just attacked by a vampire or not, Dick slips up behind him and knocks him out. Dala glides up and praises Dick for capturing Batman.

Catwoman wakes up with blood on her dressCatwoman – “Those Lips, Those Eyes” – Bruce Jones/Tony DeZuniga

This one starts with Selina (Catwoman) Kyle waking up in a motel room with blood on her dress, no clue where she is, and no idea how she got there. If you’re thinking the old cliché about a dead hooker involved … you’re right. Selina finds a dead woman in the next room, who looks like a hooker. There’s something familiar about the woman, but the only thing Selina finds on her is a matchbook. Selina gets dizzy and has a flash of memory of a guy saying she looks exactly like someone. She realizes the dead woman’s face looks just like hers; aside from the blonde hair and trashy clothes, they could almost be twins. Selina hears a noise in the bathroom and changes to Catwoman to investigate. She surprises a guy trying to break in and jumps him, but heintruder gets away gets away when Catwoman has another dizzy spell and another memory … this time of some thugs shoving the dead woman in the back of a car. She vows to find out who killed the girl and figures she can use the resemblance to her advantage. After breaking into a wig shop, she disguises herself as the dead woman and shows a cab driver the matchbook. He takes her to Georgie’s Bar and warns her to be careful, as it’s kind of a rough place. The bartender addresses her as Candy and says the mob was around earlier, looking for her no-good husband, Roscoe. He tells her to go backstage and get ready, so Selina heads back and puts on a sexy little outfit. While she’s Selina at the strip clubchanging, Roscoe comes in to pick up Candy’s check, but he doesn’t stick around. Catwoman figures she’ll get a good view of the club from the stage, so she goes out and the crowd starts yelling for her to take it off. It’s only then that she realizes she’s in a strip club. Really? The fishnet-clad thigh on the matchbook, the barely-there outfit she changed into, the all-male clientele with their tongues hanging out … none of that tipped her off? I can’t believe Catwoman could be that naive. (At least this is pre-Crisis Catwoman; post-Crisis she was a hooker in her younger days, so she’d definitely know a strip club when she saw one.) Anyway, she spots the guy who tried to break into the motel room and she ducks off-stage (which disappoints the crowd) and comes back as Catwoman, which really gets them worked up. By the time she gets through the throng, her quarry has headed up to the roof. He chases him but misses her jump because of a crumbling ledge and winds up hanging from a rooftop while her quarry pulls a gun on her.

Noticeable Things:

  • When Batman returns from California in the Batplane, he’s shown landing in a field and taxiing into a ramshackle barn that hides a tunnel to the Batcave. I always thought the Batplane landed in a hollow mountain (or hill) and was conveyed to the Batcave by elevator.

Detective 517 coverDetective #517 – “The Monster in the Mirror” – Gerry Conway, Paul Levitz/Gene Colan/Tony DeZuniga

As we saw in Batman 350 (reviewed above for your convenience), Batman was investigating Robin’s girlfriend Dala and got more than he bargained for … like being bitten by a vampire. Batman stumbles home and tries to come to terms with the monster he’s become (although he can still see himself in the mirror, so maybe he hasn’t fully turned yet). Alfred comes in and Batman decks him, then reveals his vampiric state. Batman almost gives in to the all-consuming hunger that now drives him, but he holds back, sparing Alfred and headingBatman spares Alfred down into the Batcave. Before Alfred can follow, the doorbell rings. It’s Father Green, the priest who helped Robin last issue. Green says someone at Wayne Manor needs his help, not as a healer of bodies but of souls. Downtown, Jim Gordon and Jason Bard watch as Olivia Ortega finishes her nightly newscast. They talk to her afterward and she hands over the photos she was given which were supposed to expose Batman’s identity as a mobster back during the mayoral election. The photos turned out to be faked, insuring Hamilton Hill an easy win as Mayor, but Gordon and Bard think something’s fishy. After examining the photos, they decide to check out the studio where they were processed. (This was long before the days of digital, kids.) Speaking of photos, Morton Monroe hands over the ones he Thorne looks at the evidencestole from Vicki Vale’s desk (in Batman 350) to his boss, Rupert Thorne. Unlike the photos Gordon and Bard just got, these are real, and they actually show all Vicki’s calculations leading to her conclusion that Batman is really Bruce Wayne … something Boss Thorne seems to believe. Alfred takes a break from talking to Father Green to call Christopher Chance (aka Human Target) who he’s engaged to impersonate Bruce Wayne in order to allay Vicki’s suspicions. I guess with Father Green sniffing around, Alfred figured it was time to get that particular ball rolling. After Alfred hangs up, Father Green tells him a story about a plantation owner in Louisiana named Dubois. Just after the Civil War, Dubois (who was a racist bastard) was cursed by a voodoo ritual in the bayous and became a vampire, soon infecting his sister with the sameBatman deals with a thief curse. Father Green says Dubois is the vampire who bit Batman (he calls himself the Monk now) and Dala is his sister. Alfred tries to deny it, but Father Green tells him straight out … Batman is now a vampire. We see evidence of that as Batman grabs a thief in an alley and gives him a vampire bite. (At least, that’s what it looks like he’s doing; either way, he scared the shit out of the guy and left him unconscious.) Back at Dala’s mansion, Vicki is wondering where Bruce went, but Dick Grayson says he can get her home, and helps Vicki into a limo as Dala and the monk look on. Downtown, Batman watches the sun rise and vows to fight the evil inside himself, no matter what.

Noticeable Things:

  • This is an updating of the original Monk story from Detective 31, which involved Julie Madison. The Monk’s origin here is different, so I guess that original story is supposed to have taken place on Earth-2 and this is the Earth-1 equivalent. Years after the Crisis, Matt Wagner did the Batman and the Mad Monk miniseries, which connects to the original story. I’m assuming that mini probably pushes this story out of continuity.

Batgirl – “A Tale of Two Serpents” – Cary Burkett/Jose Delbo/Joe Giella

Last issue, Batgirl woke up after being bitten by Lady Viper and found she had transformed into a snake from the waist down. She’s pretty freaked out at first, but remembers that Lady Viper could make herself look human, so Batgirl changes shapeshe concentrates and changes her snake-body back into her own legs. She’s still in danger of succumbing to the venom and turning into a snake for good, as her ssssibilant ssspeech patternsss prove. She tells her homeless friends (who helped her last issue) to look for Lady Viper and heads for the hospital. The doctor tells her he’d need an undiluted sample of the venom to concoct an antidote, so Batgirl goes out to look for Lady Viper (dressed in hot pants now … I wonder if she used Supergirl’s tailor?) She can’t find her fanged foe, but one of the homeless people comes through, bringing the bum Lady Viper frightened away from the boxcar a couple issues ago. Batgirl scares the shit out of him too, but gets the info she needs. She checks out the boxcar and finds it’s Lady Viper’s hideout. They fight and Lady Vipersnake fight starts squeezing Batgirl to death, but Batgirl turns back into a snake-woman and the two of them tussle, giving inspiration to slash-fic fans everywhere. Batgirl overcomes her adversary and extracts the venom from her fangs. She briefly considers taking Lady Viper’s place as a ruthless criminal, but comes to her senses and takes the venom to he hospital, where it’s turned into an antidote. After being cured, Batgirl heads back to deal with Lady Viper, who’s just waking up. But Lady Viper has spent so much time in snake form that she starts devolving into an actual snake, like Batgirl almost did. Batgirl figures the transformed villain will be fine in the Reptile House at the Zoo.

Brave and Bold 189 coverBrave & the Bold #189 – “Dead Men Tell Tales” – Robert Kanigher/Jim Aparo

Last issue, Batman was chasing a modern-day Nazi who found a canister of deadly toxin (Inferno-A) hidden since World War Two. Batman got some help from the Thorn (a woman with a split personality who hunts criminals to avenge the death of her father), but Batman didn’t appreciate the assist and told Thorn it was too dangerous for her to be involved … even though she saved his life. I’m not sure if Kanigher is trying to make Batman look sexist or just stupid; maybe the latter, since Thorn is Kanigher’s creation he may be trying to make her look heroic by saving the ungrateful Batman. Batman investigates the only lead he has, Dave Phillips, the hospital orderly who was the last to see the Nazi who hid the Inferno-A alive. But the trailThorn saves Batman from divers goes cold when Phillips’ car is dragged from a lake and two burned bodies are found inside. Batman sees the SS ring on one corpse’s finger, so he figures Phillips got the location of the stolen canister and died before he could use it … but then who poisoned the lake last issue? Batman dives down where the car was found and comes across a laminated photo of some young punks giving Nazi salutes at some kind of meeting. Batman is attacked by divers and almost gets killed, but Thorn shows up again and saves his ass. After she patches him up, Batman thanks her by forbidding her to help him any further. Seriously, when did Batman turn into a male chauvinist? He drops Thorn off (wondering about her secret identity) and decides to consult an expert about the Nazi photo. He goes (as Bruce Wayne) Batman saves the Presidentto see a guy called Leon Weiner, who identifies the leader in the photo as Martin Bormann. Weiner tells Bruce that Bormann is alive in Brazil, running a Nazi training camp in the Matto Grosso. Bruce heads to Brazil and doesn’t know that Rose Forrest (aka Thorn) is on the same flight, or that she’s bringing a coffin with her. In Rio, Bruce attends Carnivale and is amused to see a float with numerous people dressed as Batman. The Batman doppelgangers turn out to be assassins, trying to kill the President, so Bruce changes to the real Batman and kicks their asses. He asks the American Ambassador about Bormann, but the Ambassador says nothing can be done … officially. He manages to get Batman a plane and he criss-crosses the jungle looking for clues. He runs across a Nazi plane and follows it to a hidden base in the jungle, but another plane shoots him down. BatmanRose finds out the truth crawls from the wreckage and is surrounded by armed Nazis, but Bormann has other business to take care of. Rose Forrest has shown up on the plane Batman followed, still escorting the coffin. Turns out the coffin contains David Phillips (who’s actually Bormann’s son) and he has the canister of Inferno-A. Phillips switched with some patsy and drove his car into the lake, but his girlfriend knew something was up so she stole the photo Batman found and dropped it as a clue. Apparently ransacking the grave of Rose’s father (and numerous others) was cover for finding the Inferno-A is one specific grave. Rose brought Phillips in the coffin because he promised to tell her what he did with her father’s remains; turns out he tossed them in the lake. Rose is so distraught she runs off into the jungle, where Bormann Thorn saves Batman again and blows up the Nazi baseassumes she’ll die. Bormann gives the order to kill Batman but Thorn shows up and saves him again, blowing the Nazi base to shit. The canister of Inferno-A can’t be destroyed by fire, so Batman and Thorn take it into the river and drop it to the bottom, confident that the piranha infesting the river will keep anyone from getting it. The Nazi base burns to the ground (Batman refers to it as a Holocaust … a little on the nose there, Bob) and Batman and Thorn flee into the jungle. Batman wonders about Rose running into the jungle and Thorn emerging minutes later, so he asks Thorn if he can hypnotize her. She says yes (which seems rather trusting of her), but assumes Batman is trying to put the moves on her. He hypnotizes her, but when he asks her real identity, she just says “I am the Thorn”.

Noticeable Things:

  • I assume Leon Weiner is meant to represent real-life Nazi hunters like Simon Wiesenthal, though Weiner doesn’t look like Wiesenthal.
  • There were rumours in the 70s and 80s about Martin Bormann being alive in Brazil. Supposedly a skull found in the Matto Grosso in the late 80s was positively identified as his, but I think later evidence indicates that Bormann died in Berlin at the end of the War.

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

Last issue, Nemesis invaded the estate of Jay Kingston, one of the three remaining members of the Council. Kingston (who fancies himself a modern-day Roman Emperor, right down to letting lions roam his estate) kidnapped Marjorie Marshall to get Nemesis’s attention. Kingston watched as Nemesis triggered an explosive trap, thinking he’d finally killed Nemesis and gained leadership of the Council. But one of Kingston’s most trusted men (Sheffield) is secretly working for another Council member (Maddox), who ordered Sheffield to kill Kingston. Sheffield is about to do it, but decides to wait because a guy named Brewster is with Kingston and Sheffield figures he’ll need Brewster when he’s running Kingston’s territory (which is the reward Maddox promised him for wasting Kingston). But Nemesis isn’t dead yet; he suspected a booby trap and set off the explosives before he opened the door. The blast blew a hole in the wall,Brewster killed by a lion revealing a secret passage. Nemesis follows it to the monitor room and takes out all the guards. He locates Marjorie and disables all the monitoring devices before blasting a hole through the floor. When the cameras go out, Brewster heads out to look for Nemesis, giving Sheffield his chance to kill Kingston … a chance he doesn’t pass up a second time. Nemesis avoids some more traps and finds Marjorie, then calls Valerie (who’s been waiting outside in a helicopter) for a quick evac. He gets Marjorie out as Valerie lands to pick them up, but before they can board the chopper, Brewster shows up and threatens to shoot Marjorie. Before he can shoot anyone, one of Kingston’s lions slaughters him and Nemesis, Marjorie, and Valerie fly off in the chopper.

Firestorm 3 coverFury of Firestorm #3 – “A Cold Time in the Old town Tonight” – Gerry Conway/Pat Broderick/Rodin Rodriguez

This one starts with Firestorm searching for the two punks who killed John Ravenhair’s great-grandfather (in issue 1). He finds a couple guys who fit the description and is convinced when one of them tosses away the old man’s beaded necklace. Professor Stein urges Ronnie to let the cops handle it, but Ronnie is pissed off about the old man’s death (which led to John Ravenhair becoming Black Bison), so he wants to deal with the punks personally. After exploding a lighter in one guy’s face, Firestorm chases the other guy into traffic and just saves him from being run over at the last second. Firestorm turns the punks over to the cops and takes off. On the way home, Ronnie admits to the ProfessorKiller Frost breaks loose that he seriously considered letting the punk get run over. The next day, Ronnie and his classmates attend the old man’s funeral. Stein is there too, lurking in the back and wondering if they’ve really seen the last of Black Bison. After the funeral, Doreen tells Ronnie she’s tired of him disappearing all the time with no explanation, and apparently no concern for how worried she is. She tells him she can’t put up with it anymore and dumps him. Downtown, Killer Frost is on trial, locked securely in a container that keeps her from using her powers. Luckily for her (and unluckily for everyone else) she gets a bleeding-heart judge who says since Killer Frost’s powers have never been legally proven in court, she’s being unlawfully confined. Of course, as soon as the power-dampener is turned off, Killer Frost starts freezing everyone, Ronnie gets slappedincluding the judge; there’s gratitude for you. Frost has decided ruling the world was too ambitious, so she going to settle for taking over New York. Her diatribe is broadcast live on all stations, but the two people who could do something about it are otherwise occupied … Martin Stein is deep in an experiment and Ronnie’s at school. After school, Ronnie tries to talk to Doreen but she won’t listen. Ronnie’s friend Jackson tries to cheer him up and they walk home together. Ronnie’s dad is there (which is rare, since he’s usually absent) and gives Ronnie shit for getting suspended from the basketball team. He even cracks him one in the face; I had no idea Ronnie’s dad was that much of a prick. Ronnie has had enough of trying to live up to everyone else’s expectations, so he goes outside and becomes Firestorm, pulling Professor Stein from his lab and flying out to a garbage scow in the harbour to brood. Stein tries to make Ronnie feel better, but heKiller Frost freezes New York doesn’t have much luck. Back at Stein’s lab, a colleague named Carew comes by and sees Stein is gone, so he stats rifling through Stein’s desk looking for ideas to rip off. He finds Stein’s tape recorder (a reel-to-reel job) and even though the tape’s been erased, Carew figures he can reconstruct it since he’s an audio expert. Is that actually possible? Sounds like bullshit to me. Meanwhile, Killer Frost is at a reservoir in the Bronx that handles most of the water supply for New York. She freezes the water solid, not just at the reservoir but through all the pipes in the city. That causes pipes to burst all over and everything to become coated in ice. On the garbage scow, Ronnie is still feeling sorry for himself but quickly snaps out of it when he Firestorm flies through the wall of the Mayor's mansionnotices the ice coating the entire city. Killer Frost is at the Mayor’s mansion (I guess it’s supposed to be Ed Koch, although it doesn’t look exactly like him) and she tells the Mayor she’s now queen of the city and everyone better start worshiping at her feet. Firestorm phases through the wall and she throws some razor sharp icicles at him before fleeing to the roof. Firestorm follows, but before he can attack, Killer Frost points out that she’s frozen the entire city, eight million people at her mercy. She says if he bows to her and calls her queen, maybe she’ll let everyone live. Stein urges Ronnie not to give in, but Ronnie points out that it looks like killer Frost has already won. We’ll see how Firestorm gets out of this one next issue.

Noticeable Things:

  • Killer Frost says she escaped from Limbo where she was left at the end of JLA 197, but she doesn’t specify how she got out. I assume all the other villains are free as well.

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