Comics Reviews: Batman 356, Detective 523, Brave & the Bold 195, Firestorm 9

Batman 356 coverBatman #356 – “The Double Life of Hugo Strange” – Gerry Conway/Don Newton/Dick Giordano

This one starts with Hugo Strange (who, as we saw last issue, is very much alive) indulging in his favourite hobby … dressing up like Batman. Strange has pulled this trick before, but this time he’s got doppelgangers of Alfred and Dick Grayson as well. Elsewhere, Bruce Wayne is on a date with Vicki Vale, who ditches him to go finish a story. Bruce can’t complain too much, since his love life usually takes a backseat to his crimefighting career, so he tells her to come by his place when she’s done. When he gets in his car to head home, Bruce is gassed and passes out. He wakes up in front of Wayne Manor and makes his way inside, still shaky from the gas. Alfred greets him with some tea, which Bruce realizes is drugged. When he refuses the tea, Alfred tries to stab him and Bruce poundsVicki looking for Bruce him, going a little overboard. He wonders what’s going on, but his thoughts are interrupted by Alfred bringing him some tea. Bruce looks for the Alfred he just pounded, but his unconscious body has disappeared … if it was ever there. Bruce wonders if he’s having a delayed stress reaction and heads to his study. We see Hugo Strange (still dressed as Batman) is watching him through hidden cameras all over the house. At the real Wayne Manor, Vicki comes by to see Bruce but Alfred and Dick tell her he’s out. She assumes he’s out with Selina (Catwoman) Kyle and storms off. Dick and Alfred know Bruce would’ve given them a heads up about Vicki’s visit if he found himself pursuing a case as Batman, so they figure something might’ve happened to him. They head to the Batcave and try to contact him through their com-link. But in the Bruce pounds fake Robinfake Wayne Manor, Bruce is taking a shower to clear his head and doesn’t hear the com-signal. Alfred gives Dick a tracker to home in on Bruce’s com and Dick heads out as Robin to find him. But someone who looks just like Robin has already found Bruce, trying to garrote him in the shower. Bruce beats the shit out of the fake Robin and wonders why he reacted so violently. He’s startled when he meets Dick Grayson outside the bathroom and the Robin that Bruce just pounded has vanished, along with the damage from the fight. (Apparently Strange has a revolving room that let him switch the damaged room with a pristine one.) Another Alfred brings the defeated Robin into Strange’s version of the Batcave and tosses him into a box full of Robins and Alfreds. The way the ersatz Robin lands, I’m thinking it’s some kind of android. Strange is celebrating, saying his months of planning areBruce pounds fake Dick Grayson paying off because Bruce Wayne is starting to lose it. Upstairs, “Dick” attacks Bruce, who throws him down the stairs, knocking his head loose from his body. Turns out Dick is a robot and Bruce finally figures out someone’s gaslighting him. He heads down to the Batcave where Strange is waiting. Bruce recognizes him, even though Strange has gotten rid of his glasses and shaved his beard. Strange gives Bruce a Batman costume and explains how he survived when Thorne’s men threw him into the harbour. Apparently Strange studied yoga and other mystical crap, so he slowed his heartbeat down during the beating to make it seem like he was dead, then escaped later after he was tossed off the pier in the barrel. Strange figures he deserves to the Batman since he protected the real Batman’s secrets. Batman says he’s nuts, but has no choice but to fight him. Outside, the com-signal has led the real Robin to the replica Wayne Manor and he heads two Batmans fightdown into the false Batcave in time to see the two Batmans fighting. Strange knocks the real Batman on his ass and says his major weakness is he’s not ruthless enough. Strange sees Robin and assumes he’s another robot, so he orders him to kill Batman. Robin knows this can’t be the real Batman, so he decks him and Batman gives Strange another good shot. Strange freaks out and says he had the fake Wayne Manor set for destruction to cover his tracks once he took Batman’s place. He pulls the destruct switch, blowing the whole place to hell. At the real Wayne Manor, Alfred answers the door and almost gets shot by a robot Bruce Wayne, but Batman and Robin show up and pound the android. Apparently they ran out of the fake Wayne Manor while Strange was ranting; without his glasses, he didn’t even notice, so he only blew himself up. (Although I think Strange actually does return eventually.)

Detective 523 coverDetective #523 – “Inferno” – Gerry Conway/Gene Colan/Tony DeZuniga

This one starts with someone—or something—crawling out of a manhole. A few days later, a fur display is robbed and the whole place is trashed, with numerous mannequins smashed to pieces. James Gordon is on the scene (yes, he’s officially Commissioner Gordon again) and explains to Batman what’s up. Batman wonders if the robbery was more personal, considering the damage done, but the owner claims not to have any enemies. Batman finds some mold on the floor and collects it before leaving. Not too far away, the fur thieves are holed up in an old asphalt plant. Apparently is was their “secret weapon” who did all the damage during the robbery … Solomon Grundy. Grundy seems to have taken a shine to the mannequins from the display and brought several back to theCroc walks out hideout with him. But he’s already getting bored with these “toys” and wants new ones. The leader of the thieves (a guy named Heller) says they’ll get Grundy some new toys soon. Another member of the gang, who’s bundled up in a coat, hat, gloves, and scarf, is apparently the one who recruited Heller and his men. But while this guy (who Heller calls Croc) was away, Grundy wandered into the asphalt plant (drawn by the heat from the furnace) and made himself at home. He tagged along on the robbery, smashing into the building and giving the thieves all the furs, keeping the mannequins for himself. Heller tells Croc he’s not needed anymore and Croc says he’ll leave, but warns Heller that Grundy may not be that easy to control. His words prove true, as Grundy gets mad and tells Heller it’s time to get some new Batman fights Grundytoys. At the Batcave, Batman has analyzed the mold and knows he’s facing Solomon Grundy, so he reviews all the info Superman sent him on the monster. Batman gets an alert about another robbery, this time at a collectible toy store, and heads off to check it out. He finds the place torn apart and Heller and his men dead. Apparently they tried to take Grundy’s toys away. Grundy is sitting in a corner, pulling the heads off dolls. Grundy attacks and Batman plays dead until Grundy leaves. The Darknight Detective finds traces of tar in Grundy’s footprints and gets an idea where to look for him. Meanwhile, Dick Grayson goes to a circus to see his old friend Waldo the clown, who tells Dick he needs help with something. At the asphalt plant, Batman shows up and Grundy freaks out, tearing the place up to get to him. Grundy’s too strong to fight hand-to-hand, so Batman tricks him, luring Grundy into walking into the furnace where he apparently burns to ashes.

Noticeable Things:

  • As far as I can tell, this is the Earth-1 version of Grundy, who spontaneously formed In the sewers of Metropolis in Superman 319. The original version is still on Earth-2 (or maybe he’s on the Earth-2 moon at this point, I’m not quite sure; we’ll see him in Infinity Inc.)
  • In case you’re wondering, yes this is the first appearance of Killer Croc, although we don’t get a look at him yet. Gerry introduces the character here, but it’s Doug Moench (and later writers) who flesh out the backstory and turn Croc into a fan-favourite.

Green Arrow – “Mob Rule” – Joey Cavalieri/Irv Novick/Ron Randall

This one starts with Rich (the fourteen-year-old hacker who Green Arrow recruited to help him last issue) fixing the computers at the Daily Star. Arrow gets an update about another strike in the city, this time by transit workers. Downtown, the strikers and their boss are getting pretty pissed offGreen Arrow breaks up the riot and some of the bystanders are getting into it too. Just as a full-scale riot is about to start Green Arrow shows up to settle things down. Afterwards, he notices the big boss man and the header striker getting pretty chummy, so he shadows the boss and overhears him talking on his cell phone about how the other guy was a ringer and there was supposed to be a riot before Green Arrow’s interference. Arrow tails the guy to a meeting of a bunch of high rollers, most of whom have been convicted of various white collar crimes. They’re consorting with a weirdo named Machiavelli (who dresses like Christopher Columbus for some reason); Machiavelli says he’s put agents provocateurs in Green Arrow meets Executrixorganizations all over Star City to sow chaos. Soon every faction—blacks and whites, rich and poor, union and management—will be fighting in the streets. People will be looking for someone who can rise above the chaos and take over, which is where this little cabal comes in. Arrow enters and recognizes most of the people there (they were peers of Oliver Queen back when he had money), but he’s not sure what to make of Machiavelli. Machiavelli isn’t worried about Arrow’s presence, since he has an ace in the hole … a female bodyguard called the Executrix. As everyone takes off, Arrow tries to bring Executrix down, but she blasts his arrow with a couple of mini-lasers, then turns the deadly beams on the Emerald Archer himself.

Brave and Bold 195 coverBrave & the Bold #195 – “Night of Blood” – Mike W. Barr/Jim Aparo

This one starts with Andrew Bennett, centuries-old vampire contemplating his state and wishing he could experience daytime again. He turns into a bat and heads out into the Gotham night, concerned about a spate of “vampire killings” that have taken place lately. Bennett lands in the park and changes into wolf form, concealing himself in some bushes to keep an eye on an innocent young couple. An older man approaches and it turns out the young couple are the vampires. They attack the older guy, but Bennett comes out to confront them. They were warned by someone they work for (who seems to be familiar with Bennett) that he might interfere, but he ends up taking both of them out. The young man is (accidentally) shot by his partner with a silver bullet, whoBatman makes a deal with Hodges Bennett then skewers with a tree branch. Bennett finds a matchbook for Club Dracula in one of the piles of clothing and decides to check it out. Across town, a gangster named Hodges is freaking out because his daughter is near death from what seems to be a vampire bite. Hodges is so desperate he’s called Batman for help. Batman wants to stop the vampire killings, so he’s willing to help. He’s fascinated that Hodges’ daughter is the only victim so far to have survived the initial attack, though she isn’t doing too well. Hodges promises Batman he’ll give him everything he has on his associate, Johnny Gunnarson, if Batman saves his daughter. After Batman leaves, the private nurse who’s looking after the dying girl calls Johnny Gunnarson to warn Bennett freaks out a poseurhim. Batman checks the bodies at the City Morgue and finds a clue. Bennett has gone to the Club Dracula, which turns out to be a place for wannabe Goths and poseurs. But Bennett can sense that there are some genuine vampires there … and he knows they can sense him too. Batman shows up outside the club and disguises himself as a regular schmo. But Gunnarson has a man watching the place and he reports Batman’s presence and his disguise. Batman noticed the “bite marks” on the victims were made by fake fangs, not real ones, so he figured Club Dracula would be the place to look. But Gunnarson’s men are waiting to grab him and the true vampires are ready to waste Bennett. Two separate fights break out, but they soon merge into one, as Bennett takes out Gunnarson’s goons (their bullets not hurting him since they aren’t silver), and Batman uses a crucifix to take the vampiresfight at the vampire club down. He’s ready to use it on Bennett too, but Bennett explains who he is and that he’s trying to track down his ex-lover (Mary) and her cult, the Blood Red Moon, who are probably behind the vampire killings. Batman agrees to work with Bennett and takes some plastic fangs from one of the guys they pounded. Outside, Batman finds one of Hodges’ men and tells him to check the plastic vampire fangs for a possible virus. He also warns that the nurse at Hodges’ place is probably a spy. Batman tells Bennett that Gunnarson’s men got to the club so fast, he must have an informant … and he must be mixed up in the whole vampire thing. Bennett can sense that Batman is a man obsessed, much like himself, but doesn’t know why. They head for Gunnarson’s place, where Bennett gets shot saving Batmanhe’s holed up with Bennett’s ex, Mary. Bennett goes after Mary while Batman takes on Gunnarson … who’s been transformed into a vampire. Batman impales him with a table leg, but Gunnarson says he’ll take Batman to hell with him. Bennett is about to end Mary with some holy water when he hears a blood-chilling scream and goes to help Batman, who’s about to get shot by Gunnarson. Mary flies off to continue her reign of evil and Bennett grabs Gunnarson’s arm before he can shoot. Unfortunately, the gun is loaded with silver bullets, so Bennett goes down right before Gunnarson expires from his wounds. Bennett figures he’s as good as dead, but he wakes up later at Hodges’ place. Apparently Batman provided blood for a transfusion while the doctor removed the silver bullet from Bennett (which wasn’t in a vital spot). Hodges’ daughter recovers and Bennett thanks Batman for saving his life. Batman figures the vampiric victims in the morgue will have to be “staked”, but other than that, everything’s cool. Bennett leaves to keep pursuing Mary, leaving Batman to wonder at all the supernatural weirdness.

Firestorm 9 coverFirestorm #9 – “Baby, the Rain Must Fall” – Gerry Conway/Jerome Moore/Rodin Rodriguez

Last issue, Typhoon came looking for Martin Stein (who he blames for turning him into a weather-manipulating monstrosity) but found Firestorm instead. Firestorm got blasted and ended up unconscious in the bay. Stein manages to waken Ronnie Raymond’s consciousness in time to keep from drowning, but Firestorm notices Typhoon is still attacking Concordance Research, where Professor Stein works. Typhoon’s relentless pounding has weakened the building and flooded the streets below. Firestorm shields the building from more heavysteaming it up weather, then turns all the water in the streets to steam … which isn’t the smartest solution, since it blinds everyone and causes numerous traffic accidents. Stein gives Ronnie shit for being so impulsive and Ronnie freaks out, letting out a huge blast that gets rid of the storm instantly. The blast also splits Ronnie and the Professor into their individual selves; luckily they’re close enough to a rooftop that they escape with a few bruises, and a sprained arm in Ronnie’s case. Typhoon has vanished, but Stein is sure they’ll see him again soon. At school the next day, Ronnie runs into Cliff Carmichael, the asshole he’s supposed to fight with after school. Doreen Stein's contract torn uptries to talk them out of it, but both of them are eager to pound each other. At Concordance Research, Stein’s boss takes in the damage Typhoon caused to the lab and adds it to Stein’s recent record of being late to work and not completing projects. The boss tells Stein his contract isn’t being renewed. Stein’s colleague, Harry Carew, tries to cheer him up, but Stein says he’s got nothing left now … and opens a drawer with a bottle of scotch in it. Stein had a problem with booze before, but he kicked it, so I’m not sure why he’d keep scotch in his desk … you’d think he’d have thrown it away. Elsewhere, Typhoon goes by his old house and sees his kids playing in the yard. He soon realizes his wife has remarried and decides there’s nothing left for him. He ends up on a bridge where the cops try to grab him, thinking he’s getting ready to jump. He freaks out and uses his weather powers to sweep the cops right offRonnie gets pounded by Cliff the bridge. Typhoon still blames Stein for screwing up his life and he heads for Concordance Research to find him. At school, Ronnie and Cliff square off. Normally, Ronnie would mop the floor with him, but Cliff’s been working out and Ronnie’s sprained arm limits his effectiveness. Cliff ends up decking him, but Ronnie is the one who gets all the sympathy from Doreen and his friend Jackson, leaving Cliff to wonder if he really won after all. Meanwhile, Stein has been getting wasted at a bar (I’m not sure what happened to the bottle of booze in his desk … maybe it was almost empty?), where Harry Carew tries to cheer him up. Some people come into the bar saying the streets are practically flooded and Stein realizes Typhoon is back. He knows he was stupid to get drunk while Typhoon was still a threat, but he doesn’t have much choice but to initiate the Firestorm matrix. Ronnie is recovering Firestorm blasts Typhoonfrom the fight and luckily Doreen and Jackson have left when he disappears. Ronnie knows something’s off as soon as he becomes Firestorm and Stein confesses that he had a few drinks. Firestorm tries to get through the powerful storm, but can hardly make any headway. Ronnie is still pissed off about losing the fight to Cliff earlier, so he refuses to lose again. He powers his way through to the heart of the storm, where typhoon is waiting. Stein isn’t sure they can survive another all-out blast like last night, but Ronnie doesn’t care. He lets loose with a he blast of nuclear energy, making Typhoon disappear and the storm clouds vanish. Firestorm saves himself from a crash-landing and Stein wonders where the extra energy for those big blasts is coming from, since it can’t just spontaneously generate. Ronnie has other things to think about; he’s finally gotten back on the basketball team and tonight is his first game. He makes it in time (barely) and the coach lets him play. I guess his arm is okay now, since there’s no mention of it still hurting.

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