Comics Reviews: Batman 355, Detective 522, Brave & the Bold 194, Firestorm 8

Batman 355 coverBatman #355 – “Never Scratch a Cat” – Gerry Conway/Don Newton/Alfredo Alcala

This one starts with Catwoman freaking out about Bruce Wayne dating Vicki Vale. Last issue, Catwoman showed up at Vicki’s place to scare her off, but Vicki and Bruce kept dating, which is really putting Catwoman over the edge … even though she’s he one who dumped Bruce and left Gotham in the first place. Speaking of Bruce and Vicki, they’re driving home from a date when a cat-themed car appears on the highway behind them. Catwoman pulls up beside Bruce and when he tries to get away, his car hits an oily patch and spins out of control, plunging off a cliff into the ocean. Vicki is knocked out and Bruce pulls her from the car. Catwoman realizes she’s put Bruce’s life in danger and dives in to help, but Bruce wants nothing to do with her. A couple of passersby take Vicki to the hospital, butBruce talks to Gordon at the hospital Catwoman takes off, leaving Bruce to wonder if she’s beyond help. At the hospital, Jason Bard and Jim Gordon tell Bruce they’ve been watching Catwoman’s place but haven’t seen any sign of her. Jim tells Bruce that Boss Thorne has been indicted for killing Pauling, the police commissioner. Apparently Mayor Hill wants to meet with Jim about something important, most likely to offer him the Commissioner job again. In the Batcave, Bruce prepares to go after Catwoman and refuses Dick (Robin) Grayson’s offer of help, saying people have to be responsible for themselves instead of trying to make their happiness dependent on others, like Catwoman is doing. Dick says part of being human is depending on others, but Bruce still insists on going it alone. Dick and Alfred are both worried about how cold and unemotional Bruce has Batman pounds the pantherbeen lately, but there’s not much they can do about it. At Selena (Catwoman) Kyle’s apartment, Batman finds the place deserted but gets attacked by Selina’s panther. He pounds the big cat into submission and realizes it hasn’t been fed for days. He rifles through Selina’s stuff and finds a bill for a warehouse space. Downtown, Jim Gordon meets with Mayor Hill, who says his association with Thorne has resulted in a petition for a recall election. Gordon’s not surprised, but Hill says a recall would tear the city apart (and possibly result in Arthur Reeves being elected Mayor), so they have to stop it if they can. Gordon knows Hill is trying to save his own ass, but he also knows Hill is right, so he accepts his old job back as Commissioner. Batman checks outCatwoman fights Batman the Catamont warehouse and gets jumped by Catwoman. She’s so pissed off she’s ready to kill him and almost breaks his jaw with her knee. But when it comes time to finish him, she can’t do it. Catwoman obviously knows Batman is Bruce Wayne at this point, but I’m not sure when she came to that realization; I don’t remember her figuring it out in any previous story. Anyway, she apologizes for being so crazy and Batman apologizes for hurting her by dating Vicki. He says people really do need each other, even though that can lead to heartbreak sometimes.

Noticeable Things:

  • When Hill is enumerating the problems faced by Gotham, he mentions union negotiations, a new bond issue to the major banks, and “this New Federalism insanity”; New Federalism was a program to return some power to the states that they’d lost to the federal government under Roosevelt’s New Deal. You’d think a guy like Hill would be in favour of more power on a local level, but maybe that’s Conway’s voice coming through.

Detective 522 coverDetective #522 – “Snowblind” – Gerry Conway/Irv Novick/Pablo Marcos

This starts with Batman and a Sherpa named Chi in the Himalayas. They’re almost buried by an avalanche and Batman sees a humanoid figure running away. Chi mentions the fabled Yeti and Batman ponders why he’s here, which takes us into an extended flashback scene. A couple days ago, Bruce Wayne was waiting to have lunch with Vicki Vale (who turned out to be too busy) and noticed something startling in a magazine … a photo of Klaus Kristin with a group of pilgrims on a sacred mountain in the Himalayas. (Klaus Kristin was the skier who turned out to be part-Yeti, using his transformations into the snow-beast to steal and kill, and who ended up falling off a cliff back in Batman 337.) When Bruce saw Kristin alive in the photo, he decided to go to Tibet to bring him to justice, once again refusing help from Robin. Batman made his way to TibetKristin saves Batman and gets shot and hired Chi to guide him to Mount Kalais, the sacred mountain. Chi takes him to a lake where pilgrims bathe and they ask about Kristin. Turns out Kristin is still there and Batman chases him into a temple where they fight. They end up outside and fall into the lake, where Batman is knocked out on a rock. Kristin saves him from drowning, but Chi misunderstands and shoots Kristin, who falls back into the lake and swims off. Batman tracks him, wondering why Kristin would save his life after trying to kill him in the avalanche the day before. As they follow Kristin’s trail, they’re attacked by a Yeti and Batman is knocked over a ledge. Chi pulls him back up and Batman finally understands what’s going on. He tracks Kristi to a temple and finds him Yeti topples the giant Buddha statuenear death. Kristin says after surviving the fall in the Alps he came back to his birthplace to redeem himself. Now he welcomes death, but apparently his father doesn’t agree. Yeah, the Yeti that’s been attacking Batman is Kristin’s father (see Batman 337 for the whole sordid story) and he appears in the temple and tries to squash Batman under a giant Buddha statue. Batman uses a flare to blind him (like he did with Kristin in Switzerland) and Kristin begs Batman not to hurt the Yeti, since he was only trying to protect his son. Kristin says he’d prefer to die here than go back and stand trial and Batman figures justice is served either way, so he lets the Yeti carry Kristin off into the mountains to die.

Green Arrow splashGreen Arrow – “Automatic Pirate” – Joey Cavalieri/Trevor von Eeden

Last issue, the newspaper Oliver (Green Arrow) Queen works for was hacked by some weirdo named Hi-Tek. (This was 1982, so it was a very primitive form of hacking, basically just taking over the network and erasing data to extort money.) Green Arrow found out the paper rents data space from another company, so he went to check it out. But Hi-Tek was expecting him (he’d been screwing with their computers too) and Arrow ended up getting caught by the company’s security guards. Arrow convinces the guards (and the company’s manager) that he’s a good guy. The manager says someone’s been erasing their business records and Arrow asks who they time-share their computers with. He finds out there are two possibilities: an electronics dealer called Cyber Supply, and Marconi Junior High School. Arrow naturally heads for Cyber Supply, although weGreen Arrow falls down the elevator shaft modern readers know exactly what’s going to happen, don’t we? Cyber Supply turns out to be a wholesaler for electronics, but Hi-Tek has anticipated Arrow again and has some more robotic surprises for him. He herds Arrow down an open elevator shaft, but the Emerald Archer saves himself and blows up the robots. Arrow realizes where Hi-Tek must be hiding and heads over to the school. Sure enough, Hi-Tek turns out to be a fourteen-year-old punk who was hacking into systems for fun and took it too far. He says he didn’t mean for anyone to get hurt and hasn’t spent any of the money he extorted. He gives Green Arrow shit for his archaic weaponry and offers to design a laser sight for his bow. Arrow realizes the kid might have his uses after all.

Brave and Bold 194 coverBrave & the Bold #194 – “Trade Heroes—and Win” – Mike W. Barr/Carmine Infantino/Sal Trapani

This one starts with a couple of schlubs meeting each other at a mansion in the West Indies. They’ve both been invited by an unknown party, but neither of them knows what it’s about. Their host soon appears and she turns out to be a good-looking woman named Professor Andrea Wye (dressed in an outfit Austin Powers would love, complete with a very Mod mini-skirt). Wye introduces the two guys properly (they were using fake names) as Dr. Double X and Rainbow Raider. Wye is apparently someProfessor Wye introduces herself kind of self-help guru (like Stuart Smalley), who wants Double X and Raider to take on their enemies, Batman and Flash. Since they’ve gotten their asses kicked by those heroes before, neither villain is keen on Wye’s idea, but she tells them all they need is a positive attitude. She gives them her book (Be All the Person You Can Be!) and has them repeat her mantra, “I believe in me.” Well, if that doesn’t help them take out two highly-trained super-heroes, nothing will. Days later in Central City, Flash is at the opening of a new power generator, using his super-speed to quickly bring the device to full capacity (and show off a bit). A guy in a trenchcoat shows up and tries to Flash blasted by Double Xjump into the generator and fry himself. The Mayor is worried about bad publicity and asks Flash to grab the guy, but he gets zapped before Flash can stop him. When Flash approaches, another figure rises from the body and attacks. Flash realizes it was a trap and he’s stuck fighting two opponents who can channel power through themselves (although he doesn’t seem to recognize them as Dr. Double X). Flash leads Double X away from the crowd and tries to kick their asses with super-speed. But Double X anticipates his moves and maneuvers Flash into getting blasted unconscious by charging up an underground pipe. The triumphant Double X repeats the mantra “I believe in me”. In Gotham, Bruce Wayne is at a party pretending to be a playboy goofball. (And speaking of Playboy, the waitresses are dressed like strippers; those billionaires really know how to throw a party.) Bruce endsBatman confronts Rainbow Raider up talking to Commissioner Pauling (this issue obviously takes place before Batman 354, when Pauling is shot by Boss Thorne), who’s worried about the reason for Bruce’s big bash … a priceless emerald Bruce is displaying for the crowd. Pauling says there’s been a rash of strange robberies lately: first a ruby necklace was stolen; then a priceless orange stamp; and finally a load of gold bullion. Pauling figures since the crimes are rainbow-themed—red, orange, yellow—the next theft will involve something green, like Bruce’s emerald. Bruce refuses to let Pauling post guards at the party, saying it’ll ruin the mood. Of course, Bruce is actually Batman and he’s counting on the emerald to draw out the rainbow-loving thief. Bruce knows his plan worked when different heroes delivered to Wye's islandcoloured beams of light sweep through the room, making people jealous, sad, or angry. Rainbow Raider appears and Batman shows up to stop him. Raider grabs the emerald and Batman follows him, but ends up imprisoned in a prism of crystal. I guess Professor Wye’s woo-woo bullshit actually works. Rainbow Raider and Dr. Double X bring their captives back to Wye’s island (where she’s now wearing hot pants) and she congratulates them on their success. She says she has a way to pry all the secrets about the JLA and the Satellite from the fallen heroes. But Flash surprises her by getting up and using his super-speed vibrations to free Batman from his prism. It seems the sedative Double X injected Flash with was rapidly metabolized by the Speedster’s system and he’s just been faking unconsciousness for most of the trip. Professor Wye exhorts her minions to think positive repeat their successes,Batman decks Rainbow Raider but this time their self-confidence isn’t enough. Flash now knows Double X can manipulate electricity, so he douses the pair with water, knocking out their powers and merging them back into one person. Meanwhile, Rainbow Raider hits Batman with various light beams, trying to manipulate his emotions. But Batman has trained himself to control his emotions, so he wades through the light beams and decks Raider. In the confusion, Professor Wye takes off in her plane but Flash figures they’ll get another shot at her someday. Batman thinks if Raider and Double X are the best she can do, she won’t pose much of a threat anyway. I think Professor Wye does make another appearance, in Outsiders in a few years; I’ll review that when we get there.

Firestorm 8 coverFirestorm #8 – “Typhoon Warning” – Gerry Conway/Jerome Moore/Rodin Rodriguez

This one starts with Firestorm in Professor Stein’s lab at Concordance Research, testing to see if there’s any limit to his energy powers. Apparently there is, because when he cranks his power up as high as he can, it overloads the machines and blows them o hell. In the next lab, Harry Carew (who’s an audio tech and has bugs planted all through Concordance … for research) hears the commotion and comes running to see what’s up. He finds Martin Stein and Ronnie Raymond sweeping up after their “experiment” went wrong. Carew knowsCarew comes to see what's up something’s up but obviously he’d never suspect Ronnie and Stein of being Firestorm. When Carew leaves, Ronnie tells Stein he’s happy that Firestorm isn’t omnipotent, since having that level of power would be scary. Stein reminds him their power is almost unlimited, so they’ll have to be careful how they use it. Meanwhile in Australia, a guy named David Drake is released from hospital, where he’s supposedly been cured of whatever was afflicting him (although David knows better). He’s gotten a kiss-off letter from his wife and he feels like crap, which seems to be affecting the local weather patterns. In New York, Ronnie goes to the movies with his Ronnie decks Cliffgirlfriend Doreen and their friends Jackson and Stella. Doreen tells Ronnie she doesn’t mind him talking sports all the time with Jackson, but she wishes he’d include her too since she’s a sports fan. Cliff Carmichael is sitting behind them at the movie and gets pissed off that they didn’t notice him, so he puts a lizard in Doreen’s popcorn bucket. (At the museum, Carmichael stuck a frog down Ronnie’s shirt, now a lizard in the popcorn; does he constantly walk around with reptiles and amphibians in his pockets?) Doreen freaks out about the lizard and it causes a stampede out of the theatre. When he sees Carmichael laughing his ass off, Ronnie knows he’s responsible for he lizard and decks him. Carmichael challenges him to a real fight after school on Monday and Ronnie accepts. Doreen tells Ronnie she doesn’t want him fighting and he gets pissed off and basically tells her to go to hell. Across theTyphoon goes after Hammer river in a Brooklyn bar, a former ship’s captain named Anton Hammer tells the story of how he fell from grace with the sea, and witnessed the birth of Typhoon. We saw the story in Flash 294-296, but Hammer’s version is biased in his favour. He glosses over the fact that he tried to kill one of his own crew (the guy who became Typhoon) and was ready to waste more people to keep it secret. Instead, he blames Concordance Research for his troubles, specifically Professor Stein who was in charge of the survey project. But Hammer is about to get a wake-up call, as David Drake shows up … and of course, Drake is the crew member Hammer tried to kill, now better known as Typhoon. Typhoon uses his weather manipulating powers to blow Hammer out the door into a storm raging outside. Hammer begs for mercy Firestorm fights Typhoonand tries to shift the blame onto Professor Stein, but Typhoon’s not in a forgiving mood. At Concordance Research, Stein is reviewing the tests on Firestorm, wondering where all heir excess power comes from, or where it goes when they absorb energy. He’s interrupted by a tap on the window, right before Hammer’s broken body comes smashing through. Stein notices a storm outside and sees Typhoon, so he triggers the Firestorm matrix, drawing Ronnie from home. Firestorm flies out to confront Typhoon, but soon realizes this fight won’t be as easy as their first one; Typhoon is completely out of control, almost like he’s taken on the aspects of the storm itself, making him wild and unpredictable. He still wants Stein and thinks Firestorm is protecting him, so he blasts Firestorm, sending him plunging into the river unconscious as Professor Stein desperately tries to wake Ronnie’s consciousness.

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