Comics Reviews: Batman 360, Detective 527, Brave & the Bold 199, Firestorm 13

Batman 360 coverBatman #360 – “When Slays the Savage Skull” – Doug Moench/Don Newton/Pablo Marcos, Ron Randall

This one starts with a beat cop named Lew on patrol. A newspaper vendor reminds Lew that two other cops have been stabbed to death lately, but Lew’s not too worried about it. He should’ve been, as the killer comes after him next, spouting off about justice and how he’ll make everyone pay. The killing is interrupted by a car and the killer flees into the night. In the Batcave, Batman is training with Jason Todd, the young acrobat he adopted after Jason’s parents were killed by Croc last issue. (Apparently, it’s been about a month since that happened, storywise.) Batman gets a call from Commissioner Gordon about the latest attack, but this time the victimBatman talks to various cops is still alive. Batman heads to the hospital to get whatever info he can. Jason wants to help, but Batman says he’s nowhere near ready yet. At the hospital, Lew can’t remember any details of the attack until Batman prompts him. Lew recalls the killer’s words about vengeance and making everyone pay. That suggests these particular cops might be targets for a reason, so Gordon gives Batman a file with info about the victims’ former partners and arrest records. Gordon seems a little out of it, having some kind of strange spell while talking to Batman, but passing it off as overwork. Batman talks to numerous cops (who all want a shot at the killer) and finally gets a lead. A beat cop suggests Batman talk to an ex-officer named Jack Crane, though he’s evasive about why Crane left the department. The cop who gave Batman the tip goes out to walk his beat and ends up getting stabbed by the killer, a freak with a Savage Skull attacks Batmanscarred face and red robes. Batman gets a call from Gordon that a note was left at his office, claiming more vengeance had been meted out and signed “SS”. Batman wonders if he should go to Crane’s place or start looking around the city for the killer. Gordon tells him to do whatever feels right. Mayor Hill comes in, still giving Gordon shit for consorting with Batman. Gordon has another attack, this time chest pains, but again passes it off as nothing. Batman checks Crane’s place and finds a collection of knives in a drawer, as well as a message written on the wall in blood: “The Savage Skull Will Slay”. There’s also a photo array of the victims, with Commissioner Gordon’s face at theCrane's past end. Skull returns and flings a knife at Batman, just missing him. They fight and Batman notices Crane’s face really is like a skull, with the flesh and hair charred right off. Skull pins Batman to the wall with a knife and takes off, promising Gordon will taste his vengeance soon. Batman goes to warn Gordon, who tells him Jack Crane’s story. Crane was a cop who responded to a building on fire and chased a black kid coming out the building back inside, where he shot the kid. Crane’s head was basically on fire when he got out of the building, which explains his skull-like appearance now. At the time, Crane claimed the kid was holding a gas can and tried to whack him with a baseball bat, but no gas can was found at the scene … and the kid was shot in Batman pounds Skullthe back. The evidence pointed to Crane overreacting to someone who was probably just fleeing the burning building, so he was kicked off the force. His fellow cops started avoiding him, not because of his scarred face, but because he was so full of bitterness. As Gordon finishes his story, Savage Skull busts through the window and tries to stab him. Gordon has some more chest pains, but Batman’s too busy to notice. He punches Skull out the window and goes after him, chasing him down to the docks. They fight and Batman pounds the Skull, knocking him off the dock. Skull hits his head on a piling on the way down and doesn’t surface. Gordon shows up and Batman tells him they’d better call for a diver to look for Crane’s body.

Detective 527 coverDetective #527 – “Avatars of Vengeance” – Doug Moench/Dan Day/Pablo Marcos

This one starts with Kirk Langstrom finishing up some work at the Gotham Natural History Museum. Kirk realizes he’s been so busy lately that he hasn’t taken the serum that keeps him from turning into Man-Bat. (You’d think he could’ve carved out ten seconds from his schedule to drink the serum that stops him from turning into a monster, but I guess if he did we’d have no story.) Sure enough, he transforms into Man-Bat, who still blames Batman for his condition and flies off, seeking revenge. Batman is at the police station, meeting with Commissioner Gordon to talk about Savage Skull. They haven’t found Skull’s body, though Batman admits the currents near the dock could’ve swept it out to sea. But Mayor Hill won’t accept that as proof and has been telling the press that cop-killer Savage Skull is still at large. Batman leaves,Batman considers his life wondering to himself why he’s been so uptight lately. He thinks he might be getting old, not physically, but emotionally; but he knows he can’t ignore the fight against criminals, so he has no choice but to keep going. At Wayne Manor, Jason Todd asks Bruce if he’ll go to the movies with him tonight and Bruce says yes. Bruce ends up breaking a date with Vicki Vale and she assumes he’s seeing another woman. Downtown, Mayor Hill is giving Gordon shit for not finding Savage Skull’s body, while refusing to take Batman’s testimony of Skull hitting his head during the fall as proof Skull might be dead. Gordon has another chest pain and covers it up again, but Hill says it’s time Gordon had an assistant to help him. (Not because of Gordon’s infirmity, Hill is just trying to piss Gordon off.) Gordon leaves and Hill tries to think of who Alfred encounters Man-Batwould drive Gordon nuts as an assistant. I’m not sure why Hill doesn’t just fire Gordon, but I guess he’s pretty popular in Gotham, so maybe Hill figures it’ll look better if Gordon resigns. At Wayne Manor, Bruce and Jason are getting ready to go to the movies. Jason is still hoping to talk Bruce into making him the next Robin, whereas Bruce just figures Jason needs a father figure to spend time with. Man-Bat sneaks into the Batcave through one of the many caverns leading to it and makes his way up to the secret door behind the clock. Alfred hears noises behind the clock and gets a shock when he opens the door. Man-Bat attacks Alfred and the commotion brings Batman running. They start fighting and Jason wants to jump in and help, but Alfred holds him back. Batman and Man-Bat end up rolling down the stairs into the Batcave and Jason breaks free from Alfred to follow.Batman and Man-Bat fight in Batcave Man-Bat’s about to waste Batman when Jason jumps him, saying he can’t hurt Jason’s new father. Man-Bat is surprised but figures this is the perfect opportunity to get back at Batman … by killing his child. Man-Bat flies off with Jason and Batman gets really pissed off, vowing to kill Man-Bat next time they meet.

Noticeable Things:

  • In Jason’s room there’s a poster of Shang Chi; makes sense, since Doug Moench and Dan Day both worked on that comic at Marvel (as did Dan’s brother Gene, who had just died a few months before this comic came out).

Green Arrow – “Getting Up” – Joey Cavalieri/Paris Cullins/Pablo Marcos

This one starts with a goofball named Ozone (a very 80s character) using spray cans to commit crimes. Ozone is an artist who feels he’s been exploited by gallery owners who take his “urban art” (which is shit he’s spray-painted on public buildings) and make money from it without acknowledging him at all. Ozone decides to rip off the gallery where his artOzone vs Green Arrow is on display and uses his fancy spray cans to get away. On the subway, he runs into some kind of spy (or saboteur) who’s about to plant a canister of his own, although I doubt this one contains paint. Ozone picks up the suspicious can without paying much attention and takes off. At the Daily Star, Oliver Queen gets a visit from Rick, the techie kid who’s been helping him out lately. Rick shows Ollie a police scanner he built and Ollie hears a bulletin about a break-in at the offices of some porno magazine. Green Arrow shows up to find Ozone inside. (Ozone’s robbing the magazine because they’re doing an article on his art without crediting him.) Ozone uses a gimmick canister to blast Green Arrow right out the window. We’ll see if he splatters on the street next issue.

Brave and Bold 199 coverBrave & the Bold #199 – “The Body-Napping of Jim Corrigan” – Mike W. Barr/Ross Andru/Rick Hoberg

This one starts with Jim Corrigan on a train, doing a crossword and trying to put the moves on a good-looking woman named Kelindra. He’s interrupted when the train’s emergency brakes slam on and they realize a bridge up ahead is broken. Corrigan lets the Spectre loose from his body and Spectre holds up the bridge until the train is safely across. But someone conks Corrigan on the head and when the Spectre returns to join his human host, Corrigan is nowhere to be found, just Kelindra looking totally innocent. Spectre searches the train and can’t find Corrigan. He figures there must be some magic at work and freaks out. In Gotham, Batman is pounding some crooks when Spectre shows up to ask for help tracking down Jim Corrigan. Spectre has used his powers to place the train in temporalKelindra's ritual stasis, preserving any evidence on board. Batman follows some drag marks off the train to a road, where Spectre uses his powers to find the tracks of the vehicle that took Corrigan away. In a haunted-looking house, Kelindra is performing a ritual over Corrigan’s body to infuse it with a new soul. (Kelindra has really sexed up her wardrobe … must be a requirement for female spellcasters.) Corrigan’s body is warded by spells, but Kelindra bypasses them, infusing the soul of her lover (Stephos) into Corrigan. As Stephos (in Corrigan’s body) and Kelindra get ready to bang, we get the history of their star-crossed love. Kelindra was betrothed to a mage named Vanton, who had saved her father’s life. Vanton was pretty repulsive, but his assistant Stephos was rather hot, so Kelindra started boning him. Vanton caught them and killed Stephos … physically, at least. Stephos’s soul was Spectre raises the roofcondemned to follow Kelindra for the rest of her life, visible only to her. Vanton then cast an immortality spell on Kelindra, to insure she’d be tormented by her dead lover’s soul forever. Kelindra studied magic for decades, trying to reverse the spell but couldn’t quite do it, until she discovered Jim Corrigan … a man whose soul could voluntarily exit his body. So she kidnapped Corrigan to use as a vessel for Stephos’s soul. Unfortunately, she didn’t count on the Spectre, who’s so pissed off he tears the roof right off the house. The saboteurs and kidnappers Kelindra hired are in the house too, but they’re no match for Spectre and Batman. Spectre demands Corrigan’s body back but Stephos refuses, so Batman knocks him out, forcing Stephos’s soul out. Spectre then challenges Stephos to an astral duel. Stephos has existed in astral form for a long time, so he’s used to the battlefield, while Spectre is weak from being separated from Corrigan. Stephos changes into a monster and gives Spectre a pretty good fight until Spectre siphons some of Batman’s energy to bolster his strength. astral plane fightSpectre overcomes Stephos and brings him back to the material plane in a force cube to mete out vengeance. Batman pleads for mercy and gets pissed off when Spectre seemingly kills Kelindra. But Spectre says he just removed the spell that gave her immortality, so she aged rapidly and died. Corrigan is fine, but Batman says he wishes things could’ve ended better for Stephos and Kelindra, who were victims of circumstance. Spectre says they actually did get a happy ending, since their souls have been reunited forever in the afterlife. Join me in two weeks for the last issue of Brave & the Bold, and a preview of a new series.

Noticeable Things:

  • The crossword Corrigan was doing shows the names of several inkers, including J(ohn) Severin, (Rick) Hoberg, (Mike) Esposito, (Jim) Mooney, (Frank) Giacoia, as well as “Metal Men”, a series Ross Andru worked on.

Firestorm 13 coverFirestorm #13 – “Split” – Gerry Conway/Pat Broderick/Rodin Rodriguez

Last issue, Firestorm found that his partial transformation into a hyena wasn’t just causing him to have emotional outbursts, it was keeping him from changing back into Ronnie Raymond and Martin Stein. After reading Summer Day’s diary (Summer was the original Hyena) Firestorm came to Kenya to look for a cure for his condition, though Stein is skeptical about the mystical curse angle, being a man of science. Ronnie reminds him they don’t have much choice. A Kenyan military jet comes to check Firestorm out and his hyena instincts take over, causing him to attack the plane. Later, Firestorm apologizes to the Kenyan president for destroying the plane, but he shows him the diary and explains his problem. The president believes Firestorm (the fact that heHarry meets Clarissa looks like a talking hyena certainly helps his credibility) and says he might be able to help. Back in the States, Lorraine Reilly is being held in a dark room somewhere. She’s not sure who has her, but her threats about her father (a Senator) calling the FBI don’t seem to worry her unseen captors. At Concordance Research in New York, Harry Carew gives his boss (Quentin Quale) shit for firing Martin Stein. Quale says Carew is too soft and that a drunken loser like Stein had to go to make room for real scientists. Stein’s ex-wife Clarissa shows up to look for him and is pretty upset when she finds out he’s been fired. Carew invites her out for coffee and she accepts. In Kenya, the president has given Firestorm the location of the village where Summer was stationed with the Peace Corps. Ronnie is suspicious that the president was so helpful and Summer's diarywonders if there’s some hidden reason. He goes over Summer’s diary again—basically she was with the Peace Corps, tried to help a wounded guy who bit her, then later found out about the were-hyena curse—and tries to figure out the president’s angle. As he’s thinking, a heat-seeking missile targets him and he destroys it. Tracking it back to a tank on the ground, Firestorm realizes there are anti-government forces operating in that area and the president must be hoping Firestorm will deal with them. Before he can figure out what to do, he’s knocked out by a tribesman who sneaks up behind him. In New York, Ronnie’s father (Ed Raymond) is at school, freaking out because Ronnie’s missing. After yelling at the principal (who’s an old friend) and Doreen, he almost takes a swing at the basketball coach before calming down and leaving. Everyone wonders why Ed is such a dick and the principal says he knows but can’t tell without betraying a confidence … and putting two lives at risk. In Kenya, Firestorm is having dreams about being a hyena, hunting gazelles and ripping them apart withFirestorm captured by villagers his teeth. Stein tries to wake up the Ronnie Raymond half of their psyche to tell him their hyena mutation has accelerated. Meanwhile, two villagers (Jubal and Kanyatta) argue over what to do with Firestorm. Kanyatta is basically the village witch doctor (although he and his brother Jubal both went to the same university) and believes in the were-hyena curse. Jubal is the leader of the anti-government rebels, who figures Firestorm is just an imperialist tool who was infected with some weird disease by Western science. Jubal wants to kill Firestorm and continue the fight for freedom, but Kanyatta says not all tribal legends are just legends. Kanyatta helps the villagers with his pseudo-scientific witch doctoring, so they obey his orders not to harm Firestorm. Jubal leaves, but says they aren’t done yet. Kanyatta tells Firestorm that he and Jubal are alike, lost to the violence inside them, but Firestorm freaks outJubal will not be so easy to cure. Kanyatta starts a ritual and exorcises the hyena from Firestorm, turning him human again. Unfortunately, Jubal has decided his brother and the villagers are an impediment to their cause, so they come back and blow everyone away. Firestorm freaks out and pounds the guerrillas. He goes back to Nairobi and gives the president shit, saying if he’d known about the guerrillas maybe all the villagers wouldn’t be dead. He tells the president he’s as much of an animal as Firestorm was, but at least Firestorm had the curse as an excuse. Firestorm heads back to the States, wondering how Summer and Dr. Shi can be cured, now that Kanyatta is dead.

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