Comics Reviews: Batman 351, Detective 518, Brave & the Bold 190, Firestorm 4

Batman 351 coverBatman #351 – “What Stalks the Gotham Night?” – Gerry Conway/Gene Colan/Tony DeZuniga

Last issue, Batman was turned into a vampire by a guy called the Monk. The Monk’s sister Dala, is also a vampire and she turned Dick (Robin) Grayson into a creature of the night as well. This issue opens with Batman watching as Dick drops off Vicki Vale, Bruce Wayne’s current squeeze. Dick tries to give Vicki a goodnight bite, but he notices Batman swinging down and pulls back. Vicki assumes Dick was putting the moves on her and walks off in a huff. Batman gives Dick shit for almost turning Vicki into a monster like them. He decks Dick and carries him away. Back at Wayne Manor, Alfred is startledBatman brings vampire Robin to the Batcave to see Bruce Wayne at the breakfast table, since the last time he saw Bruce he was half-crazed, with fangs and blood-red eyes. Alfred soon realizes that “Bruce” is actually Christopher Chance (aka the Human Target), who Alfred recently hired to impersonate Bruce so Vicki’s suspicions about Bruce being Batman will be laid to rest. Of course, Alfred didn’t tell Chance that; he made up a story about Bruce’s life being in danger, though Chance suspects he’s holding something back. Chance says he’s there because if Bruce is the target of a hitman, it could happen any time. Alfred leaves him upstairs and heads down to the Batcave, where Batman has strapped Dick to a table. Gordon and bard roust the photographerBatman is trying to fight off the vampiric influence and find a cure for himself and Dick, but it isn’t easy. Alfred knows he needs help and calls Father Green (who filled Alfred in on Dala and the Monk last issue). Across town, Jim Gordon and Jason Bard check out the photographer who took the doctored photos that lost the mayoral election for Arthur Reeves. Gordon and Bard figure Reeves was set up to lose and want to know who’s behind it all. At Wayne Manor, Chance watches as Alfred brings Father Green into the house and the two of them disappear. Chance knows something strange is going on and vows to find out what. In the Batcave, Father Green tells Batman the only way to cure himself and Dick of the vampire’s curse is with a serum made from the blood of the Monk since he’s the original vampire.Batman finds the vampires larder Reminds me of the first Morbius story in Amazing Spider-Man. Batman and Father Green go to Dala’s crumbling mansion and she tells them where to find the Monk, thinking she’s sending them to their doom. They go to an abandoned church, where Batman finds the Monk’s latest victims tied to upside-down crosses and partially drained of blood. Batman is repelled at the sight, though the vampiric part of him likes it. The Monk attacks and they fight. Father Green comes in to help, but he gets jumped by Dala. The Monk uses his hypnotic power to sap Batman’s will. The Monk and Dala prepare to feast on Batman pounds vampirestheir fallen adversaries, but seeing Father Green in danger galvanizes Batman and he pounds both vampires. Father Green (who works at a hospital) prepares the serum from the Monk’s blood and injects Batman with it. In downtown Gotham, Vicki Vale notices her photo evidence of Batman’s secret identity is missing. We saw her editor steal the photos last issue and give them to Gotham’s political puppet-master, Rupert Thorne. Thorne shows the photos to the assassin Deadshot and tells him to kill Bruce Wayne … who’s really Batman. Don’t worry, we won’t have long to wait to see what happens; this story continues in Detective 518, which is the next review in line.

Detective 518 coverDetective #518 – “The Millionaire Contract” – Gerry Conway, Paul Levitz/Don Newton/Bruce Patterson

As we saw above, Batman received the serum from the Monk’s blood that he needed to cure him of his vampirism. This issue begins with Batman recovering in the Batcave; he’s still kinda out of it, but the cure is working. Robin has already taken the serum and is back to normal. He and Alfred thank Father Green for his help and give him custody of the Monk and Dala. Father Green says he’s been looking for them for a long time; I’m not sure if that’s supposed to mean he’s older than he looks and knew them a century ago, but I guess it’s possible. Robin changes to Dick Grayson and tells Alfred he should find Vicki Vale and apologize for coming on to her. (Actually, he was trying to bite her neck, but I doubt if he’ll mention that.) Alfred says Vicki is upstairs and takes Dick into the living room where hefake Bruce and Vicki heading out finds Vicki and Bruce Wayne about to go out to dinner. Dick’s shocked and after Bruce and Vicki leave, Alfred explains that “Bruce” is actually Christopher Chance, The Human Target. Alfred explains how he hired Chance to impersonate Bruce (with a bogus story about Bruce’s life being in danger) to throw Vicki off the trail after she showed Alfred proof she’d deduced Batman’s secret identity. Of course, the only way to change Vicki’s mind is if she sees Bruce and Batman together at the same time, and since Batman is passed out in the Batcave, Alfred isn’t sure what to do. Elsewhere, others are interested in Batman’s identity. Boss Thorne acquired Vicki’s proof of Batman’s identity and has hired Deadshot to kill Bruce Wayne. Deadshot’s all for it, but warns Thorne he’ll be in trouble if he’s wrong about Bruce being Batman. Thorne Bard and Gordon take a poundingtells his new police commissioner (Pauling) to prepare to eliminate Deadshot whether he succeeds or not. Thorne also tells Pauling to take care of Jim Gordon and Jason Bard, who have been looking into the mayoral election. After Pauling leaves, Thorne sees his old nemesis Hugo Strange reflected in the window and wonders if he’s seeing Strange’s ghost, or if he’s losing his mind again. In the Batcave, Batman gets a call from the prison warden telling him Deadshot has escaped. Batman’s not quite recovered from being a vampire, but decides to track Deadshot down anyway. Downtown, Jim Gordon and Jason Bard are returning to their office when some crooked cops corner them and beat the shit out of them, warning them to stop being so nosy. Batman tracks down the gunsmith who made Deadshot’s fancy wrist-guns and learns Deadshot is heading for the Crystal Ballroom (which is where Chance took Vicki for dinner, although Batman doesn’t know that.) At the Ballroom,Chance takes down Deadshot Deadshot is lining up his shot at Bruce Wayne when Batman jumps him. They scuffle and Deadshot figures he’d better take out Bruce Wayne first since that was the job. He confronts “Bruce”, who stands up to him. Batman busts in and Vicki figures she screwed up big time now that she sees Batman and Bruce together. Deadshot still isn’t sure if Thorne was right about Batman and Bruce Wayne, so he decides to kill both of them to be sure. Chance distracts Deadshot and throws something (I’m not sure what it is, a golf tee maybe?) into the barrel of Deadshot’s wrist-gun, which blows up in his face. Batman takes Deadshot into custody as “Bruce” thanks him for saving his life. Vicki apologizes for suspecting Bruce, although he doesn’t really know what she’s talking about. Batman seems to realize who “Bruce” really is, since he mentions the “chance” that brought him there. In his office, Thorne burns Vicki’s evidence, assuming she was mistaken about Batman’s identity.

Batgirl – “He With Secrets Fears the Sound” – Barbara J. Randall/Trevor von Eeden

This one starts with a guy named Ward Gilbert, owner of the tech firm Gilcom, running away from a costumed villainess called Velvet Tiger. Velvet Tiger and her thugs want a briefcase Gilbert is carrying and they’re willing to do anything to get it. Lucky for Gilbert, Barbara Gordon happens to be nearby and hears his cries for help. After changing to Batgirl, she takes down a couple of the thugs while Velvet Tiger and her last henchman grabBatgirl pounds thugs the briefcase from Gilbert and take off. Gilbert tells Batgirl that Velvet Tiger is actually his sister (Lani) and she’s his partner in Gilcom. At her urging, he invented a way to remotely tap into any computer with Gilcom components … which apparently are in a hell of a lot of computers. Gilbert says he didn’t know his sister was a costumed crook, but now that she’s got the info in the briefcase she can siphon data from any computer with Gilcom components and use it for extortion. Gilbert tells Batgirl that Velvet Tiger is probably in the main terminal room at Gilcom. After Batgirl leaves, Gilbert pulls out a gun and vows to stop Velvet Tiger no matter what. At Gilcom, Velvet Tiger is already gathering data from companies, including one called Vesper Research. Vesper is rumoured to be doing illegal experiments on human subjects and Velvet Tiger figures they’ll pay to keep that quiet. Little does she know, Batgirl is about to bust in on her.

Noticeable Things:

  • This is the same Velvet Tiger that shows up in Hawk and Dove post-Crisis … in case you were wondering.
  • I really like von Eeden’s art here; his Barbara Gordon is a little off-model, but overall it’s pretty cool … moody but not too weird. Kind of a cross between Colan and early Sienkiewicz.

Brave and Bold 190 coverBrave & the Bold #190 – “Who Killed Adam Strange?” – Mike W. Barr/Carmine Infantino/Sal Trapani

This one starts with Batman materializing on Rann after being transported there by the zeta-beam. He’s accosted by a couple of overzealous soldiers from Ranagar, who think he’s working with some invaders who’ve been giving the city trouble lately. Alanna comes along to explain who Batman is and tell him the bad news … Her husband, Adam Strange, is dead. Batman tells Alanna he received a letter from Adam’s lawyer on Earth asking him to come to Rann and find out what happened to Adam. Alanna says Adam was murdered and takes Batman to Adam’s tomb. The invaders strike at the city again and Alanna runs off to help the defense forces, telling Batman to find her husband’s killer. Alanna’s father, Sardath, tells Batman the invaders are the Rannians’ ancestral enemies, the Kirri. They’ve invented a weapon thatSardath takes Batman to the crime scene can turn anything—including living beings—to water. Sardath has tried numerous devices to counter the water-weapon, but none have worked, not even Inertron shields. Sardath figures the Kirri paid someone close to Adam to kill him, since Adam was the one who always beat the Kirri before. Sardath shows Batman the lab where Adam’s body was found and Batman checks out the video. He notices Adam was shot several times with a blaster, but there’s no evidence of who the shooter was. Batman notices that Adam tried to write something in his own blood, but it’s not in any known language or code. Hours later, Batman summons Alanna and Sardath to the lab to show them something he found … video of Adam fighting the Vantorians and being turned into living vapour. Batman points out that Adam beat the Vantorians Adam revivedbecause he used the zeta-beam to return to Earth, where he was reconstituted in his original body. Batman says if the zeta-beam returns Adam to Earth in the same state he left it, they could beam his corpse to Earth and he should be reconstituted alive, since that was his state of being last time he used the beam. Batman has Sardath beam him and Adam’s body to Earth, where Adam wakes up alive. This seems like a pretty big deal; if Adam can return to life by beaming back to Earth, he no longer needs to fear dying on Rann. Anyway, Sardath beams the duo back to Rann immediately and Alanna is thrilled. Batman plays a bluff, pretending he figured out who shot Adam, but he’s actually just bluffing. His gamble works and one of the guards gives herself away. She’s taken into custody just as the Kirri attack again. Batman helpsdefeating the Kirri with ice shields Adam and the security forces meet the threat and wonders if Adam can come up with a way to stop the Kirri turning everyone into water. Of course Adam does figure it out; if everything the weapon hits turns to water, then the only thing it can’t affect is … water. Adam and the others freeze the surface of a lake and use the ice as shields against the Kirri weapons. Since the Kirri expected their weapons to be unbeatable, they never developed any others, so it doesn’t take long for Adam and his forces to kick the Kirri’s asses. They celebrate together before Batman and Adam return to Earth, though Adam’s already calculating how to get back to Rann … and Alanna.

Nemesis working outNemesis – “Murderer’s Proxy” – Cary Burkett/Dan Spiegle

This one starts with Nemesis working out and thinking about his recent adventures. Valerie shows him a newspaper story about Kingston being shot and Nemesis figures (correctly) that Maddox must be behind it, since they were rivals for territory and the leadership of the Council. Nemesis decides he’d better study the files on the last two Council members, which pisses Valerie off since they were supposed to go out and celebrate. Speaking of the last two Council members, Ms. Scarfield is pushing Maddox to put something called Operation Overkill into effect. Maddox isn’t ready yet and has other things on his mind, like not letting Scarfield or anyone else know that he had Kingston killed. It may be too late for that, as one of Kingston’s men (Dawson) shows up to accuse Maddox of wasting Kingston. Dawson says ifNemesis knocked out proof comes up, Maddox will be finished and Scarfield will be the only Council member left. Maddox gets worried and figures he’d better eliminate Sheffield, the guy he ordered to kill Kingston. He calls a hitman (Butcher Boston) to take care of it. But “Dawson” was really Nemesis in disguise, feeding Maddox a load of crap to scare him into making a move. Nemesis planted a bug in Maddox’s office, so he overhears the phone call to Butcher. Nemesis follows Butcher in disguise and interrupts him as he’s about to waste Sheffield. Sheffield takes off, but his girlfriend distracts Nemesis, giving Butcher a chance to knock him out. Butcher isn’t sure who Nemesis is, but he’s ready to blow him away regardless.

Firestorm 4 coverFury of Firestorm #4 – “The Icy Heart of Killer Frost” – Gerry Conway/Pat Broderick/Rodin Rodriguez

Last issue, Killer Frost froze the entire island of Manhattan in New York City. The people are flash-frozen, so they’re not dead, but Killer Frost threatened to kill them all unless she’s made ruler of New York. Firestorm decided his best bet was to play along, so this issue opens with him kneeling at Killer Frost’s feet. She tells him she used to dream about being queen of a fantasy realm and Firestorm figures she’s nuts, but has no choice but to humour her. Killer Frost doesn’t trust him and decides to give him a test. She says a queen needs a consort, and not just any consort, but a real stud-muffin; she wants Curt Holland. Who’s Curt Holland, you ask? He’s a Burt Reynolds analogue. (She points to a billboard advertising his latest movie,Firestorm attacks the JLA “Smokey and the Thief Wreck Georgia”.) Now Firestorm really thinks she’s lost it, but she shows how serious she is by icing up the billboard so it falls toward the frozen people below. Firestorm saves them and promises to head out to California and bring back Curt Holland. Before he gets too far, he runs into some of his fellow Justice Leaguers—Superman, Wonder Woman, Hawkman, Red Tornado, and Zatanna. They tell him they’ll take over from here, but firestorm knows how tough Killer Frost is (and how crazy), so he prefers to handle things himself. Against Professor Stein’s advice, Firestorm attacks his teammates, encasing Superman in a bubble of kryptonite and Zatanna in a steel sphere. Wonder Woman saves Superman, while Hawkman and Reddy grab Zatanna. Before they can retaliate, they see Firestorm transforms on the SatelliteFirestorm feels like an asshole for the way he acted. They accept his apology and offer their own; they were being pretty condescending and the unwritten rule for super-heroes is “The hero on the spot has the primary responsibility.” They all head up to the JLA Satellite and Firestorm explains how Killer Frost will kill millions if he doesn’t bring her back a hunk in a few hours. Zatanna wonders if the frozen people are even still alive and Firestorm mentions his first encounter with Killer Frost, when she flash-froze a bunch of people at an Arctic research station. He managed to thaw those people out, but now that there are millions of victims, he figures he can’t handle all of them. When he mentions how extreme cold sent Killer Frost into suspended animation once before, Hawkman says they could whip something up in the Satellite lab to stop her, but Reddy points out they’d need an expert in physics. Firestorm splits into his two halves, Professor Stein and Ronnie Raymond.Holland refuses to help Most of the JLAers are surprised at how young Ronnie is (except Superman, who knew Firestorm’s secret) and Professor Stein is shocked to be surrounded by the JLA on a satellite 22,300 miles above Earth. Ronnie and Red Tornado beam down to Hollywood to see Curt Holland, but Holland says he’s just an actor and declines to get involved. I like to think Burt Reynolds would’ve said yes under the same circumstances. Ronnie’s pissed off and Reddy tells him it’s a bad idea to meet your heroes. Back on the Satellite, Professor Stein has cobbled together a portable thermafrost freezer. He says it can freeze the air around Killer Frost instantly and since she needs to absorb heat to function, it should knock her out. The only problem is, it’s not exactly inconspicuous, being the size of a small TV set. Ronnie gets an idea Killer Frost puts the moves on the fake Hollandon how to hide the freezer unit. Back in New York, Killer Frost is getting pissed off, but she’s thrilled when Firestorm shows up with Curt Holland. She grabs Holland and gives him a big smooch, but she’s surprised when he doesn’t immediately ice up like all the other men she’s kissed. (I wonder how she expected to bang Curt Holland if a mere kiss freezes him?) She realizes “Holland” isn’t human and he pulls off his disguise, revealing himself as Red Tornado. Firestorm distracts Killer Frost while Reddy activates the freezer unit concealed inside his android body. Killer Frost realizes what’s happening, but Firestorm accelerates the process by pulling all the air away from her, creating a vacuum that allows the freezing unit to chill her into oblivion.Firestorm takes down Killer Frost Professor Stein points out that New York is still a gigantic popsicle, but Firestorm knows what to do. He activates the thermafrost unit in Reddy’s body in reverse (since Reddy was encased in ice by Killer Frost), sending a heat bubble up over Manhattan. The temperature rises gradually enough that everyone thaws safely and the water all runs off into the East River. The mayor congratulates the exhausted Firestorm and Red Tornado for saving the city, but says they’re both meshuginah. Firestorm and Reddy do a riff on the Czech brothers from Saturday Night Live, which seems a little out of character for Reddy.

Noticeable Things:

  • If the Curt Holland/Burt Reynolds thing wasn’t obvious from the movie title, Holland looks just like Burt Reynolds and drives a trans-Am. His director is named Hal (I assume that refers to Hal Needham) and his co-star is named Sybil, which could be a Cybil Shepherd reference, but with that spelling I’m thinking it’s a sly call out to Sally Field, who played Sybil in the TV movie about a woman with multiple personalities.

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