Comics Reviews: Batman 357, Detective 524, Brave & the Bold 196, Firestorm 10

Batman 357 coverBatman #357 – “Squid” – Gerry Conway/Don Newton/Alfredo Alcala

This one starts with Batman beating the hell out of some gangsters and capturing their leader, a guy named Lester. Batman wants to know who gave Lester the drug concession in Gotham. Lester says that since Batman put the old mob boss (Falco) away, a new guy has moved in to take over the action … a guy called the Squid. Across town, Commissioner Gordon is undergoing his first physical since being reinstated. He’s in pretty good shape for a sixty-year-old, but the doctor says he has high blood pressure. He’ll have to stop smoking, cut down on salt, and take pills. Gordon isn’t too impressed with her list of demands. Elsewhere, a numbers runner named Taylor is being hunted down by some guys on motorbikes, led by a bald bruiser called Dome. Dome says he’s taking over Taylor’s racket, since Taylor’s former boss (Falco) is in prison. Taylor says he has protection now and Dome soon finds out he’s not lying.Croc shakes down a circus Some dudes with machine-guns show up and put a bullet through Dome’s hand, then chase off him and his thugs. Taylor thanks the new boss, who says the only thanks he wants is Taylor’s loyalty. At police headquarters, Batman tells Gordon that the Squid is in Gotham trying to take over the mobs. (In case you’re wondering, yes, this is the same Squid Batman took down in Detective 497, but back then he was a spy selling government secrets.) In the Jersey Palisades, Dick Grayson goes to the circus to see his old friend Waldo the clown. Dick is unaware that the circus owner (Sloan) is being hassled by a couple of guys who want protection money to insure no “accidents” happen. One of the extortionists is named Slick and looks a bit like Ringo Starr is he was a pimp. The other guy is Croc, who we saw last issue; Croc is still wrapped up in a raincoat and hat, so we can’t see his face yet, but he squid devours thugseems to be the one calling the shots. Dick watches a new family of aerialists, the Todds, who remind him of his own circus days with his family. At an abandoned marina in Gotham, Squid has called a meeting of mobsters (including Croc) to establish himself as the new man in town. He demonstrates his power by feeding a tied-up rival to his giant squid. Squid himself is kinda ridiculous: he’s short and chubby, with poufed-up hair and a lisp that makes him sound like Barry Kripke from Big Bang Theory. But the spectacle impresses the gangsters and they don’t object when Squid says he has plans for Falco, who gets sentenced tomorrow. Batman has guessed Squid will make a move against Falco, so he enlists help from reporter Olivia Ortega, who helped expose Boss Thorne’s machinations. Ortega has an interviewBatman fights Squid's men with Falco before the sentencing and brings her camera crew to film it. Falco is given 18 years, but as he’s being taken back to prison, Squid and his gang attack the van. Squid burns through the bottom and leads Falco away through the sewers to the marina. But when they get there, Squid tells Falco to drop his disguise; yup, it’s really Batman, who went in as one of Ortega’s crew and took Falco’s place before sentencing. But Squid figured it out and has a reception committee waiting. Batman does pretty well, considering the odds, but ends up getting knocked out. He’s tossed into the tank with the giant squid, but don’t worry, we won’t have long to wait to find out what happens.

Detective 524 coverDetective #524 – “Deathgrip” – Gerry Conway/Don Newton/Dick Giordano

Told you we didn’t have long to wait! Batman fights free of his ropes and kicks the giant squid in the eye, causing it to go nuts. In the confusion, he slips away and climbs out the window. Croc sees him but doesn’t say anything. When Squid realizes Batman is gone, he sends his men out to find the Caped Crusader. Croc says Squid’s whole set-up smells like loser so he’s cutting out. Squid tries to stop him and we get our first look at Croc’s face. Turns out his name is pretty apt … he looks very reptilian. Squid is freaked out and lets Croc leave, but says he’ll make him pay. Outside, Croc (wearing his overcoat and hat again) notices Batman hiding on the roof but again keeps quiet, making Batman wonder why Croc didn’t squeal on him. At Wayne Manor, Dick Grayson is throwing a party for his circus friends, with the Flying Todds (Joseph, Trina, and Jason) as the guests of honour. (Waldo the clown wearsTrina walks in on Bruce getting patched up his clown makeup to the party; that guy needs to get a hobby.) Vicki Vale is there, trying to balance running Picture News (she’s now the editor) and her social life, although Bruce Wayne is nowhere to be seen. Commissioner Gordon is there too, pissed off that he can’t drink because of his high blood pressure. His daughter Barbara notices he looks a bit tired, but I don’t think he’s told her about his check-up yet. Bruce staggers in and Dick and Alfred take him to another room. As they bandage his bruised ribs, he recounts his fight with the squid and his escape. As they’re working, Trina Todd comes in looking for Dick and sees them bandaging Bruce … who’s holding his Batman shirt in one hand. Seriously, none of these geniuses thought to lock the door? Dick tells Trina to keep her mouth shut until they can talk and she agrees. At the Squid's fever dream right before dyingold marina, Squid is holding another gang meeting. Across the street, Croc climbs a water tower and uses a sniper rifle to take a shot at Squid. He misses and Batman comes crashing through the window. He and Squid fight and Squid ends up pulling a guy and blowing Batman away. In case you hadn’t guessed, that was just a fever dream running through Squid’s mind in the last few seconds before he died, like in “Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge”. Croc’s shot actually killed him right off. When Batman and the cops show up, all the mobsters are long gone. Batman finds the spent bullet, which apparently passed through the window, the squid tank, Squids body, and ended up in the floor. Batman figures if they can find the powerful rifle that fired that bullet, they’ll have Squid’s killer.

Green Arrow – “Heat of the Moment” – Joey Cavalieri/Irv Novick/Ron Randall

Last issue, Green Arrow tracked a crooked union rep to a meeting of high rollers who are trying to take over Star City under the leadership of a goofball calling himself Machiavelli. Green arrow busted up the meeting butGreen Arrow fights Executrix Machiavelli’s bodyguard (a woman called Executrix) attacked him. Arrow manages to avoid her lasers and reflect them back on her, which takes the wind out of her sails. After pinning her to the wall, he interrogates her about Machiavelli. She says he’s an ex mob lawyer who wants to help the criminals take over Star City. Machiavelli figures with criminals running the mayor’s office and the courts, they can make a ton of money, and the pubic won’t object as long as they make some cash out of the deal too. Arrow talks to a Rasta dude who tells him someone was recruiting muscle earlier to invade a meeting at City Hall. Arrow figures Machiavelli will use the politicians as Machiavelli makes his movehostages to get what he wants, so he sneaks into the meeting and hides. Half the audience is full of crooks, who shout down the mayor before he can say much. Machiavelli comes out and goes into a spiel about how all the politicians are the real crooks and are lining their pockets with union money and public funds. The criminals in the audience start yelling for Machiavelli to be the new mayor, so the mayor tries to push him off stage. The mayor’s bodyguard pulls a gun, but before Green Arrow can stop him, someone else puts a gun to Arrow’s head.

Brave and Bold 196 coverBrave & the Bold #196 – “The Two Faces of Midnight” – Robert Kanigher/Jim Aparo

This one starts with Ragman prowling the streets looking for some urban terrorists called the DFD (Dynamiters for Democracy) who have kidnapped an heiress named Nina Norwood. Ragman hears an explosion and sees someone plunge through a window toward the street. He saves the falling man, who turns out to be Batman … alive, but not in great shape. A guy in a car roars down the street and tosses a Molotov cocktail to finish Batman off. Ragman deflects the fire-bomb and catches a second one, throwing it back at the guy’s car and blowing him to hell. Ragman figures he’s found the DFD (since they love to play with fire and explosives), but knows he has to get Batman somewhere safe. They get a lift from a friend of Ragman’s, a woman named Opal who seems to have the hots for him. She drops Ragman and Batman at the junkyard RagmanRagman's origin uses as a hideout. Ragman reflects on his origin … basically, he’s a guy named Rory Regan who went to Vietnam and came back kinda traumatized. His father owned the junkyard and found some loot hidden by mobsters in an old mattress. When the mob came looking, Rory’s father wouldn’t talk so they juiced him with electrical wires. Rory tried to save him and everybody got zapped, but Rory survived. He found the Ragman suit, which his father had either found or made for him, and he tried to help the poor people in his neighbourhood by giving them money for their junk. His fiancée thought he could do more for people if he moved to a better neighbourhood and she finally got fed up and walked out, so Rory became Ragman to fight crime. Batman wakes up and thanks Ragman for saving him. Batman was at the apartment looking for Nina Norwood, after the DFD sent her father a message asking him to come. Ragman as Batman almost gets blown upRory’s ex comes by (she’s a newspaper photographer now) looking for Rory; she wants him to get a job at her newspaper and has a meeting with a tipster about the DFD. Ragman says Rory isn’t around, but he’ll watch her back at the meet. Batman is ready to go back to the building where he almost got blown up to look for clues, but Ragman says he’s still not fully recovered. They switch costumes and Ragman goes to snoop around, dressed as Batman. He runs into some DFD thugs, who try to waste him. He gets away and heads back to the junkyard, but a close call with a grenade has taken its toll. Batman goes to the meeting with Bette (Rory’s ex), still dressed as Ragman. Bette’s informer tells her the DFD are going to hit the bank owned by Nina Norwood’s father within 48 hours. The DFD shows up at the meeting and attacks Batman, who falls into the water with one thug. Seconds later, anNina overcomes the brainwashing explosion rocks the waterfront, making Bette think Ragman is dead. But Batman makes it back to the junkyard to tell the real Ragman about the bank heist. The heroes switch back to their original costumes and stake out the bank. Batman notices something odd about the Brink’s guards who show up at the bank … one of them is a woman. (Brink’s apparently didn’t employ women as guards back then.) Batman and Ragman bust in to find the DFD trying to rob the bank. The woman disguised as the guard turns out to be a brainwashed Nina Norwood. A DFD punk orders her to waste Batman and Ragman, but she fights off her conditioning and refuses, so the DFD scumbag starts blasting. Nina takes the shots meant for the heroes, who pound the rest of the DFD. Batman and Ragman take Nina to hospital where she stops breathing. They combine to give her CPR and she pulls through.

Noticeable Things:

  • This version of Ragman’s origin is different from the post-Crisis version, where the suit has a much bigger back story.
  • At one point, Ragman accuses Batman of being too flippant and not taking things seriously enough!

Firestorm 10 coverFirestorm #10 – “Prowl” – Gerry Conway/Pat Broderick/Rodin Rodriguez

This one starts with the Hyena catching and devouring a bunny rabbit in the Arizona desert. Coincidentally (or not), Firestorm is heading to the airport the next day to meet his girlfriend, Doreen Day. Doreen’s sister (Summer) is coming in from—wait for it—Arizona, where she’s been undergoing therapy to help stop her transformations into Hyena. After saving a stalled Lear Jet from crashing, Firestorm splits into Ronnie Raymond and Martin Stein. Stein takes an airport shuttle back to Manhattan, wondering what to do now that he’s been dropped by Concordance Research. Ronnie goes to meet Doreen, who catches him ogling another girl’s ass, and her dad. Summer shows up and seems to be fine but Ronnie can’t help remembering how vicious she was as Hyena. Summer introduces them to one of her therapists, Dr. Jivan Shi, who’sDoreen checks on Summer completing a residency in New York. That night, Doreen (who apparently sleeps in a very revealing nightie) has a bad dream and goes to check on Summer. When she finds Summer’s room empty and the window open, Doreen goes to tell Ronnie what she fears … that Summer has become Hyena again. Ronnie says she might just be over-medicated and wandering around and offers to look for her. He transforms into Firestorm (pulling Stein away from a scintillating night in front of the TV) and starts searching. Ronnie figures Summer might go to see Dr. Shi, since she has no friends and doesn’t really know many people. When Firestorm gets to the hospital, people are running out in a panic, so Ronnie’s hunch is obviously right. Hyena is inside, creating Firestorm fights Hyenahavoc. Firestorm tackles her, but ends up almost getting killed. Stein notes that Hyena is bigger now and much more vicious. Firestorm tries to get through to Summer but the only thing that slows Hyena down is a whiff of ether. Hyena busts out the window and takes off. Firestorm looks for her, but can’t find her. he’s not looking forward to telling Doreen her sister has turned back into a monster. Doreen’s not happy but she she and Ronnie go back to her place to break the news to her parents, who have called the cops since both their daughters were missing. Doreen’s dad thinks she and Ronnie were getting it on, but Summer’s arrival distracts him. Summer is in a daze and can’t remember where she’s been or what she’s been doing. Summer goes inside with her family, leaving Ronnie to wonder why she doesn’t smell like ether, sinceRonnie knocked out by Hyena Hyena was soaked in it at the hospital. Ronnie wonders if maybe the Hyena he fought wasn’t Summer after all, but before he can ponder it too much, Hyena jumps out from behind a bush and knocks him out with a slash to the back of the neck. Ronnie wakes up hours later and makes his way to Stein’s house to tell him Summer wasn’t the Hyena they fought. Stein bandages Ronnie’s wounds and is about to tell him he lost his job when Stein’s ex-wife Clarissa shows up. From the look on Stein’s face, I don’t think it was an amicable divorce.

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