Comics Reviews: Batman 313, Detective 520, Brave & the Bold 192, Firestorm 6

Batman 353 coverBatman #353 – “Last Laugh” – Gerry Conway/Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez/Dan Adkins

This one starts with the Joker practicing with a mini-crossbow for his next confrontation with Batman. Joker goes to a condemned hotel to meet up with his gang of henchmen. They weren’t expecting him and one guy is rather abrupt until he realizes who he’s talking to. Joker squirts him with his trick flower and the guy freaks, thinking it’s loaded with Joker Venom, but it’s just water. Unfortunately the snake hiding up Joker’s sleeve is genuine and the guy dies from its poisonous bite. Joker shows the remaining thugs a newspaper and says it’s their next job. The front page has two stories, one about an old train station being demolished and another about some actor getting a statue on Broadway, but we don’t know yet which one Joker’s interested in. In another part of town, disgraced mayoral candidate Arthur Reeves is confronted by Batman, wanting to know where he got the doctored photos (supposedly revealingVicki haunted by Monroe's death Batman’s secret identity) that cost him the election. Reeves tries to run and ends up knocking himself out. He wakes up in the Batcave and finally admits he got the photos from Boss Thorne. Jim Gordon is there and tells Reeves he’s a disgrace. After Robin takes Reeves away, Gordon tells Batman that if Thorne sabotaged Reeves’s run for mayor, he must’ve wanted Hamilton Hill to get elected all along. Batman promises to look into it. The next day, Vicki Vale is covering the demolition of the train station as her boyfriend Bruce Wayne looks on. Vicki has been subdued since finding her boss at Picture News (Monroe) dead by his own hand after a meeting with Boss Thorne. The head of the demolition crew explains to reporters that they’ve set explosives at crucial points and linked them to a computer. If all goes well, the station will be demolished, but the historic facade will fall intact onto a Batman wakes up tied to a cliffbunch of air mattresses. But when the button is pushed, nothing happens. The computer monitor shows a familiar grinning face and Bruce slips away to change into Batman. Back at the Batcave, Batman has Alfred run a check on recent construction permits, figuring the Joker might’ve taken the explosives to use them for his own purposes. They find a construction site on the Palisades across from Gotham and Batman heads out to check it. He finds the missing explosives set up on the cliffs above the ocean, but Joker surprises him and knocks him out with a mini-crossbow dart. When he wakes up, Batman is tied to the cliffside, surrounded by explosives. Joker is pissed off that some actor is getting a statue but nobody is erecting a monument to the Clown Prince of Crime. So he decided to put up his own monument; when the explosives go off in precise sequence, they’ll carve away the cliffs in a particular pattern, leaving a giant Joker face etched into the ground acrossBatman pounds Joker's men from Gotham, like a really fucked-up Mount Rushmore. As Joker boasts, Batman rubs one of his ropes against the rock, breaking it and freeing is left hand. He grabs a small device from his utility belt and activates it, blocking the signal to the explosive charges. Batman frees himself completely and Joker’s men attack. Batman makes short work of them as Joker tries to line him up for a lethal shot with his mini-crossbow. Joker fires, but his dart hits the jamming device in Batman’s belt, turning it off. The explosives go off and half the cliffside tumbles into the ocean, along with Joker and Batman. Batman keeps Joker from drowning, but Joker is thrilled that his plan worked and gazes on his giant rocky likeness with glee. Unfortunately for him, Batman’s jamming device screwed up the delicate timing of the explosives, so the resulting “sculpture” isn’t stable and immediately crumbles into the ocean. Naturally, Joker is despondent, but Batman gets a good laugh out of it.

“The Sting—Batman Style” – Mike W. Barr/Don Newton/Dennis Jensen

This one starts with Robin raising money for a charity called the Gotham Boys’ League. When he hears the League has been robbed the next morning, he’s upset but things get worse when Batman tells him the whole thing was a scam. The guys in charge of the League (Sinclair and Burns) are con men; they have Robin raise money ($50,000) for their phony charity, then claim Robin fakes out the thievesto be robbed and pocket all the cash. Robin’s pissed off and declines Batman’s offer of help to get the money back. Batman figures he can help in another way. Robin tries the old Irene Adler trick of faking a fire to find out where the money is, but it backfires and he has to take off. Matches Malone (Batman’s underworld disguise) shows up and tells Sinclair and Burns he ripped off a bunch of bearer bonds ($100,000 worth) from the Wayne Foundation, but he can’t wait six months for them to mature. So he offers to sell them to Sinclair and Burns for $50,000 today, leaving them to double their money when the bonds mature. They’re greedy enough to go for it and Batman figures he has them, but Robin has plans of his own. That night, Robin disguises himself as Batman and follows Sinclair and Burns when they go to make the exchange with Matches Malone. Robin tries to freak theMatches Malone pounds Robin con men out, using Batman’s reputation to scare them into giving up. Burns is ready to waste him, but Matches Malone steps in and stats beating the shit out of “Batman”. (Naturally, Batman and Robin saw through each other’s disguises right away.) Malone tells Burns and Sinclair to take off with the bonds and afterwards Robin apologizes for screwing up Batman’s scam. Batman says Robin’s plan was pretty good, but his Batman dialogue was terrible. We later find out the money was returned and the two con men ended up with a bunch of Batman leaflets instead of the bearer bonds. They decide to pull any future scams far away from Gotham.

Detective 520 coverDetective #520 – “The Haunting of Boss Thorne” – Gerry Conway/Don Newton/Alfredo Alcala

This one starts with Rupert Thorne (aka Boss Thorne, Gotham’s crooked political manipulator) answering the door to find Hugo Strange dressed in a Batman suit threatening him. Thorne tried to get the secret of Batman’s identity from Strange a while back and Strange ended up dead. But Thorne has been seeing what he assumes is Strange’s ghost; believing that got him sent to Arkham Asylum, but after being released Thorne figured things would go back to normal. But Strange’s image keeps haunting Thorne, driving him close to the breaking point again. When Strange suddenly disappears, it’s the last straw. Thorne calls famed “ghost-breaker” Dr. Thirteen to investigate Strange’s supposed spirit. Elsewhere, Batman meets with Jim Gordon, Jason Bard, and Vicki Vale, who tell him Boss Thorne may have been involved in the suicide of Vicki’s boss, Morton Monroe. Vicki shows Batman a photo of Thorne leaving Monroe’sBatman meets Bard and Gordon office minutes before Monroe shot himself. Vicki admits she thought she had photographic proof that Batman was really Bruce Wayne and she overheard Monroe and Thorne arguing about those photos right before Monroe’s suicide. Vicki tells Batman her speculation about his identity almost got Bruce Wayne killed when Deadshot came after him … probably hired by Thorne. (Of course, we know that “Bruce Wayne” was actually the Human Target in disguise because we read Detective 518.) Vicki says she no longer cares about the story as much as she does about Bruce, and Batman says she should tell Bruce that. At Thorne’s place, he tells Dr. Thirteen his history with Hugo Strange and asks Thirteen to prove (or disprove) that Strange’s ghost is haunting him. Thirteen is repulsed by Thorne’s casual admission that he killed someone, but Thirteen can’t help being fascinated by the case. At Gotham Prison, Batman goes to see Floyd Lawton (aka Deadshot) to ask him Lawton saves Batmanwho hired him to kill Bruce Wayne. Lawton whispers something in Batman’s ear and Batman goes nuts, decking a guard. Turns out the deputy warden was the one who let Lawton out for the hit and he orders the other guard to shoot Batman. Lawton disarms the guard and Batman knocks him out, then uses the crooked deputy warden to get through the security door. Batman and Lawton bust out and take off and in gratitude, Lawton admits that he was hired by the mayor (Hamilton Hill) and the new police commissioner (Pauling). To thank Lawton for his cooperation, Batman gasses Lawton and takes him to the Batcave. Elsewhere, Dr. Thirteen goes to Hugo Strange’s old clinic at Greytowers. In spite of the fact that Thorne is an unrepentant scumbag (and Strange was no angel either) Thirteen’s compulsion to disprove the supernatural won’tDr. Thirteen sees Strange's ghost let him walk away from this case. His beliefs were shaken by his investigation of Wayne Manor, and we learn he developed amnesia after that case and can’t remember anything (including Batman’s secret identity). Thirteen checks out Strange’s lab, where he used chemicals to mutate humans into monsters. He’s startled when he’s confronted by what seems to be the ghost of Hugo Strange. When Batman returns to the Batcave, he tells Alfred to keep Lawton locked up since he has evidence they need. Alfred shows Batman a news report with Mayor hill saying Batman is now public enemy number one after helping Lawton escape from prison, which Batman finds hilarious.

Catwoman – “The Cat and the Conover Caper” – Bob Rozakis/Gil Kane

This one starts when Selina (Catwoman) Kyle bumps into an old member of her gang named Louie Conover. Conover claims to have gone straight—working at a factory—but he’s acting nervous and Selina knows he’s hiding something. She feels guilty since he went to prison for helping her schemes, so she figures she’ll follow him and see what he’s up to. Conover meets a corporate type and they slip into the factory where Conover works, a videoCatwoman takes down the thief game company called Pinway. Catwoman is disappointed to see Conover picking the locks and bypassing the alarms, leading the other guy into Pinway’s main office. The guy checks out some designs for a new video game that he claims is better than Pac-Man and Space Invaders put together. Catwoman busts in to take down the two thieves and when Conover’s pal pulls a gun, she uses her whip to knock him out. Catwoman is surprised when the cops jump out to arrest the guy; turns out Conover hasn’t really gone crooked again, he was just playing along. While bypassing the alarm, Conover sent an SOS in Morse Code that brought the cops running to the factory. Catwoman apologizes for suspecting Conover and they head out to grab a coffee.

Brave and Bold 192 coverBrave & the Bold #192 – “You Can Take the Boy Out of Smallville…” – Mike W. Barr/Jim Aparo

This one starts with a trio of thieves counting the money they stole from a charity drive in Metropolis. The thieves are hiding out in Gotham, figuring Superman won’t look for them there, but Batman has already tracked them down. He sends Superman a signal to let him know and the Man of Steel zooms to Gotham as fast as he can. But when he shows up, something weird happens … he’s surrounded by a strange glow and pops out of existence, only to be replaced by his younger self, Superboy. Batman and Superboy pound the thieves and Batman introduces himself by revealing his identity. That reassures Superboy, who has met the younger version of Bruce Wayne, and Batman quickly determines that Superboy has been transported from him own timeBatman gives Superboy advice (1967) into the present. Of course, that means Superman is taking Superboy’s place in the past; we see him flying out of the Kent house before his parents can see him. He tries to fly forward through time, but runs into an impenetrable barrier. In the present, the same thing happens to Superboy and Batman says someone must have put the time barrier up recently, since it’s never been there before. Batman deduces that whoever is maintaining the barrier would need special components, so he and Superboy break into a an electronics company to trace the parts. Batman keeps instructing Superboy in how to do things, including using his powers; he’s actually pretty condescending, but I guess he has to talk down to someone since Robin isn’t around. They trace the parts to a shady business in Metropolis and when Batman goes in to ask questions, a thug tries to shoot him. I guess they’re on the right track. After taking down the thugs, Batman finds a crude drawing of an eye and a Superboy and Batman pound thugspool cue and gets an idea who might be behind this whole scheme. He tells Superboy to scan for enemy headquarters, but Superboy sneaks a peek at the Kent house and quickly figures out his parents are dead. He so despondent he’s ready to give up, but Batman gives him shit and snaps him out of it. Superboy tells Batman he found a few places that he couldn’t see into (because they’re shielded with lead), including a penthouse apartment. They check it out and Batman’s hunch proves correct … the mastermind (and I use the term loosely) behind everything is Ira Quimby, aka IQ. Since his last run-in with Superman, IQ has been studying solar flares and has determined that an impending flare will enhance his brain to superhuman levels. He knew Superman would be able to absorb all the flare’s radiation so he sent Superman into the prehistoric past. At least that’s what was supposed toSuperman escapes the kryptonite happen; but IQ fucked up as usual, only sending Superman fifteen years into the past, which shunted Superboy to the present, since two version of the same person can’t co-exist at the same time. Superboy attacks IQ, who blasts him with kryptonite energy. Superboy surprises him (and Batman) by sloughing off the radiation like a snakeskin. Superboy flies into space to stop the solar energy while Batman takes care of IQ. Superboy explains that he took Batman’s advice and planned ahead, wearing lead long underwear to shield him from any possible kryptonite problems. Superboy heads back to his own time (where Batman says he’ll forget everything that happened … which is probably a good thing, since he won’t remember what a patronizing prick Batman was) and Superman pops back to the present, wondering what the hell is going on.

Nemesis – “Operation: Overkill” – Cary Burkett/Dan Spiegle

This one starts with the final member of the Council (Irene Scarfield) watching a crappy actor named Peter Downs rehearse Macbeth … crappily. Everyone knows Downs sucks, but since Irene is bankrolling the production, and she wants Downs in the lead role, there isn’t much they can do about it. Nemesis fools IreneI assume Irene is banging Downs, or wants to. Downs goes out for a smoke and gets knocked out by Nemesis, who’s disguised as Downs. He goes back in and gives the performance of a lifetime, impressing the hell out of everyone. Afterwards, Irene takes him home but he isn’t able to get any info out of her on Operation Overkill, something he heard about a few issues back. He doesn’t want to make her suspicious, so he plants a bug on her and says good night. Valerie picks him up and they follow Irene to a restaurant where she meets a bunch of other crime bosses. Nemesis figures she’s planning to resurrect the Council with her in charge, but when he listens in on what Operation Overkill actually entails, he knows he can’t stop her alone. That’s right, next issue Nemesis teams up with Batman to finish off the Council once and for all.

Firestorm 6 coverFury of Firestorm #6 – “The Pandrakos Plot” – Gerry Conway/Pat Broderick/Rodin Rodriguez

Last issue, Pied Piper stole the legendary Pipes of Pan from Senator Walter Reilly, who had bought them from a strange Greek sailor named Pandrakos. The Pipes give Pied Piper the power to control people, so when Firestorm came to stop him, Piper used the Pipes to enthrall the crowd outside Reilly’s townhouse into attacking Firestorm. He manages to fight them off by transforming a nearby fire hydrant into a fire hose and soaking the crowd down. He blasts Pied Piper with the hose too, knocking him out and sending the Pipes flying. Firestorm goes inside to check on Lorraine Reilly, who’s so grateful she lays a big smooch on him. Unfortunately, her father is watching, stuck to the wall where Pied Piper left him. Firestorm frees him and learns about the Pipes Reilly bought from theLorraine thanks Firestorm Greek sailor. Lorraine tells Firestorm she overheard the sailor mention his ship (the Hermes) and she gives Firestorm some more smooches. While Firestorm is … distracted, the Pipes fade away and the people outside regain their free will. Later, Professor Stein lends Ronnie Raymond some clothes (Ronnie was in the shower when he and the Professor became Firestorm) and listens to him complain about his woman troubles. Basically Ronnie still loves Doreen, who dumped him, and was only using Lorraine to try and forget her. Stein suggests the obvious, calling Doreen and apologizing. Ronnie does and Doreen has been missing him too, so she agrees they should get back together. After the phone call, Stein reminds Ronnie that Lorraine has the hots for him now and Ronnie asks how he should handle that. Stein says he’s on his own this Pied Piper gets goatytime. At the prison downtown, a guard hears a cry for help from Pied Piper’s cell and finds the villain looking like a satyr, with the legs of a goat. At Concordance Research, Martin Stein greets his colleague Harry Carew and gets shit from his boss for being absent all the time. Carew is the guy who stole a tape recording that Stein had erased and tried to restore the audio, thinking it might have something good on it. But Carew has realized Stein is an okay guy and feels guilty, so he decides to tell Stein the truth and return the tapes. But when he goes into Stein’s office, he’s gone; the only thing Carew can find is a newspaper with the story of Pied Piper’s grotesque transformation. Ronnie is in summer school and Cliff Carmichael is being a dick to him as usual. Ronnie gets in trouble and is told to leave the classroom, which is lucky since Stein triggers the Firestorm merger right at that moment. Stein explains about Pied Piper’s condition, so Firestorm heads to the prisonPied Piper tells how he tracked the pipes hospital to see for himself. Pied Piper tells Firestorm he’s been searching for the Pipes of Pan for years and finally tracked them to a Greek antique shop. He found out from the owner (who seemed to have hooves instead of feet) that the Pipes were with a sailor named Pandrakos who planned to sell them to Walter Reilly in America. Pied Piper realized the Pipes were authentic and went to Reilly’s place to get them, but he’s now regretting it. Firestorm heads out to sea and tracks down the Hermes. He’s wearing earplugs, but the Pipes knock him off the ship with a sound wave, so he phases up through the decks. He realizes Pandrakos is actually the Greek god Pan, who created the Pipes to give to unsuspecting mortals. The music transforms the listeners and players into satyrs like Pan, who has gotten lonely for his own kind after all satyr sailors attackthis time. I guess being the last of the old gods on Earth could get lonely at times. The Hermes crew have already turned into satyrs and attack Firestorm. He tries to get rid of the Pipes by using his molecular powers, but Pan is a god and just conjures them up again. Firestorm tries a different tack, enclosing Pan in a metal box so nobody can hear the music from the Pipes. A sudden wave sends the box over the side of the ship and into the ocean depths. Firestorm looks for it, but can’t find it anywhere. The sailors are back to normal and Ronnie tells the Professor he’d much rather be a man than a god.

Noticeable Things:

  • The prison guard is reading some kind of comics fanzine and mentions “elves, aardvarks, and talking ducks”; I assume those are references to Elfquest, Cerebus, and Howard the Duck. He also mentions how fanzine reviewers get way too serious about comics … maybe a meta-comment by Gerry?

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