Comics Reviews: Batman 361, Detective 528, Brave & the Bold 200, Firestorm 14

Batman 361 coverBatman #361 – “The Most Successful Species” – Doug Moench/Don Newton/Pablo Marcos

This one starts with Man-Bat sleeping upside-down in a bell tower, clutching a frightened Jason Todd in his arms. Man-Bat kidnapped Jason when he overheard him refer to Batman as his father, although Batman’s more of a surrogate father since Jason’s parents died. Man-Bat blames Batman for his own daughter (Rebecca) dying; of course, Rebecca’s not dead, but Man-Bat is so crazed he doesn’t know reality from fantasy anymore. Jason is scared but manages to wriggle free and grab the bell rope. That rings the bell, bringing people running but also waking Man-Bat. Jason tries to keep Man-Bat calm but when a cop shows up with a flashlight, Man-Bat gets pissed off and attacks. He flies off with Jason and another cop takes a hasty shot, hitting a gas pump and turning the scene into something fromMan-Bat threatens Jason an 80s action movie, with an exploding gas station and cop cars crashing all over the place. Later, Commissioner Gordon examines the wreckage and fills Batman in on what happened. Batman goes to see Francine Langstrom (Man-Bat’s wife when he’s in his non-monstrous form) and asks her to help him find her husband. He then calls Vicki Vale and asks her for a favour. Meanwhile, Man-Bat has found a new lair and is telling a trussed-up Jason about how bats are the most efficient mammal breeders because of how they care for their young. Man-Bat wants to turn Jason into a mutated bat like himself, so he goes out to catch some bats to recreate his formula. Batman shows up at the museum where Kirk Langstrom works to look for clues and tells the guard to get out. Man-Bat comes in through the skylight and sees Batman below. Man-Bat attacks, knocking Batman into the fountain where he seems to drown. After Man-Bat leaves, we see Batman fooled him by museum fightleaving his cape and cowl and swimming to safety. Batman checks Langstrom’s office and finds out a new display for bats was being set up in the museum basement. Sure enough, that’s where Man-Bat has Jason and he’s getting ready to inject him with the bat-serum. Man-Bat is distracted when he sees Francine and Rebecca outside the display. Francine pleads with him to stop what he’s doing, but when he sees Batman beside his family, he goes nuts. Man-Bat crashes through the glass to attack Batman, but it’s a fake-out. Batman (wearing a Chinese bat mask) jumps him and they start fighting. Jason manages to cut his ropes on the broken glass and gives Batman a hand against Man-Bat. That distracts him long enough for Bat-Man to deck him and administer the cure to his condition. Tuns out “Francine and Rebecca” were just blow ups of photos that Vicki made for Bruce and Francine’s voice was a recording she made for Batman. Jason points out that Batman needed hisJason helps take Man-Bat down help again and that they’d make a great team and Batman’s too tired (and relieved) to argue much. Later, Bruce thanks Vicki for the photos, but when he mentions he’s taking someone to the movies she freaks out and hangs up before he can tell her it’s Jason. Downtown, Commissioner Gordon gets an unexpected visitor. Mayor Hill promised to appoint an assistant to “help” Gordon (but it’s really just meant to piss him off enough that he’ll resign) and he’s gone ahead and done it. Who’s the assistant? A cop who got drummed off the force for corruption ten years ago … a cop named Harvey Bullock. Yup, this is Bullock’s first appearance since 1974 (in Detective 441, which was his only appearance before this), but he’ll be showing up regularly in Moench’s run.

Detective 528 coverDetective #528 – “Requiem for Skulls” – Doug Moench/Gene Colan/Klaus Janson

This one starts with Harvey Bullock telling a gaggle of cops to search under the docks where Savage Skull disappeared last issue. Commissioner Gordon figured Skull (who was really a disgruntled ex-cop named Jack Crane) was dead and closed the case, but Mayor Hill (and his lap dog Bullock) want to re-open it … mainly to get under Gordon’s skin. But it turns out they’re not wrong; Savage Skull did survive his fight with Batman and is hiding under one of the piers. Skull surprises the cop searching for him and stabs him before taking off. Strangely, the other cops don’t seem worried about their colleague’s absence, assuming he ditched duty to sit in a coffee shop somewhere. But someone (I assume it’s Batman, judging by the blue glove) finds the dead cop under the pier and realizes Savage Skull is still alive. Gordon goes to see the Mayor and runs into Bullock coming out of he office, stuffing an envelope full of cash in hisBatman counsels Gordon pocket. Mayor Hill tells Gordon about Savage Skull’s latest kill and gives him shit for closing the case prematurely. Gordon’s mad, but realizes Hill is right about him being too hasty. Back at police headquarters, Bullock is bragging about his new job and how he was right about the Skull being alive. A veteran cop who remembers Bullock from years ago mentions how Bullock and Crane used to be pretty close, hanging out at the Police Youth League building. He also mentions that the place is derelict now, which gives Bullock an idea. He takes off and Gordon broods in his office. Batman shows up and tries to talk to Gordon, but the Commissioner is pissed off when he learns Batman is the one who found the dead cop and didn’t bother to call him. Gordon is really just worried Bullock will do something stupid and get someone—or himself—killed. Batman encourages Gordon to think like a Bullock finds skulldetective, so after Batman leaves Gordon checks Bullock’s notes and realizes where he went. Gordon takes off after him and Batman follows Gordon, hoping he’s not being as reckless as Bullock while trying to prove himself. At Wayne Manor, Jason Todd is feeling crappy about his dead parents and missing all his friends from the circus when he gets a surprise visitor … his old pal, Waldo the clown. At the old Youth League building, Bullock sneaks in and finds Savage Skull skulking inside. Bullock is shocked to see his old friend’s burnt features, but he’s even more shocked at his crazy diatribe against his fellow cops. Bullock tries to arrest Skull, who pulls a knife. Gordon tackles Skull and Bullock is knocked out while Gordon is stabbed in the arm. Before Skull can finish him, Batman disarms him. Skull challenges Batman, saying he’s the ultimate police officer, always toeing the establishment line. They get into the old boxing ring and fight. Skull is aBatman fights Skull better fighter than Batman anticipated, but Gordon gives Batman the same kind of pep talk Batman gave him earlier, rallying the Darknight to kick Skull’s ass. Bullock wakes up and thanks Gordon for saving him after all the shit he’s given him. Bullock says he’ll take care of booking Skull and that he’s calling a press conference to set things straight. Gordon is pleasantly surprised, but that doesn’t last long. At the press conference, Bullock takes sole credit for catching Savage skull and blames Gordon’s incompetence for Skull being loose in the first place, ending by demanding Gordon be drummed off the force. That’s gratitude for you.

Green Arrow – “Poisoned Art” – Joey Cavalieri/Paris Cullins/Pablo Marcos

Last issue, Green Arrow confronted a goofball named Ozone (a street artist who steals art because he feels he’s been ripped off by the establishment) and ended up getting blown through a window by one of Ozone’s gimmicky Green Arrow saves the spyspray cans. As he plummets toward the ground, Arrow does the obvious and reverses the can, blowing himself back up to the window. Arrow finds Ozone fighting some dude who’s ready to blow his head off. Arrow pins the guy to the wall and Ozone gets away. Arrow interrogates the new guy, who turns out to be a government spook working for a secret scientific organization called ZZZ. He was supposed to test a new canister of toxin (some kind of botulin) by releasing it into the subway, but he ran into Ozone who took the canister by mistake. The guy says if the canister is breached it could kill everyone in the city, which makes Arrow wonder who the real bad guy is. The next day, Oliver Queen organizes an exhibit of Ozone’s work, hoping to lure him into a trap. Rick (the tech kid who’s been hanging around with Oliver lately)Ozone gets away mentions intercepting a weird transmission on the spy radio he built, about an organization called ZZZ and how they’re looking for something secret. Oliver blows him off, but it turns out Rick is more familiar with ZZZ than he let on. At the gallery show, Ozone shows up before Oliver has a chance to change to Green Arrow and uses some sticky spray to anchor everyone’s feet to the floor. Ozone robs the place (and the people) and takes off. The government operative tries to grab him, but Ozone maces him and leaves him in the goo with the others.

Brave and Bold 200 coverBrave & the Bold #200 – “Smell of Brimstone, Stench of Death” – Mike W. Barr/Dave Gibbons/Gary Martin

This is the final issue of Brave and Bold, featuring the quasi-team-up of the Earth-1 and Earth-2 Batmans. The premise rests on the fact that many (though not all) people on Earth-2 (the home of the Golden Age heroes) have an identical counterpart on Earth-1 (which is the Silver Age earth we’re more familiar with). On Earth-2, a kid named Nicholas Lucien somehow senses that he has a double on some parallel world, but soon forgets about it since there’s no way to reach this psychic twin. The Earth-2 Lucien grows up to be a criminal named Brimstone (whose schtick is hell-themed weapons and such), while his Earth-1 counterpart becomes a respectable businessman with no criminal tendencies. Brimstone lures some crooks toarchery competition his hideout (a meat-packing plant) and tells them he’s ready to make a comeback. The crooks aren’t impressed, since Batman kicked Brimstone’s ass years ago, but they change their tune when Brimstone demonstrates his explosive white phosphorus pellets. Not long after, Batman and Robin are called in by Commissioner Gordon, who gives them a taunting note from Brimstone, along with a set of rings. Robin figures Brimstone’s target is a jewelry store, but Batman points out that the rings fit together in a concentric pattern, pointing to a different target … an archery show with a big cash prize. Batman’s hunch is right and he and Robin come close to catching Brimstone, but during the fight the sprinkler system is set off, allowing Brimstone and his men to get away (although without the money). Robin capturedBrimstone’s next clue is a piece of charred paper, which Batman subjects to numerous tests, all negative. Robin suggests it might just be a regular piece of paper plucked from the garbage and Batman remembers another term for Hell is Gehenna—a place where rubbish is continually burned. Brimstone’s target is the Gotham Waste Disposal payroll and the Dynamic Duo show up in time to stop him getting the money. Brimstone and his men flee inside the Disposal facility, pursued by the heroes. Robin gets knocked out (naturally) and placed on the conveyor belt leading to the incinerator. Batman saves him just in time, but Brimstone gets away again. Brimstone figures it’s time to finish Batman once and for all, so he lays a trap. The next clue is an ordinary fishing lure, which Batman quickly figures out … there’s only one bait company in Gotham that sells the hellgrammite lure. At the bait company, Brimstone and his men are waiting on the roof, which features a giant fishing rod as advertising. Robin rushes ahead and gets captured (as usual),Batman escapes and pounds Brimstone forcing Batman to surrender. Brimstone takes them back to the meat-packing plant where he’s set up a deathtrap for Batman. Batman is shoved into a pit where nozzles in the walls start pouring molten lava (at least that’s what Brimstone claims it is) into the pit. Batman pulls one of the nozzles out, which only increases the lava flow. Brimstone is already gloating when the pit blows up and Batman climbs from the rubble. Brimstone freaks and tries to incinerate him with his white phosphorus tablets, but they don’t work and Batman knocks him out by ramming his head into a metal brazier. Batman used Brimstone’s own set-up against him; knowing his deathtrap would have a hellish theme, he took some potassium nitrate from a meat-packing Brimstone wakes up decades laterbag and picked sulphur (also known as brimstone) and charcoal from the wall of the pit. Using the nozzle he tore off and a strip from his costume, he fashioned a crude pipe bomb, which let him blow his way of the pit. (Oh, and Robin switched Brimstone’s phosphorus tablets with heartburn pills, in case you’re wondering.) Brimstone is apparently rendered comatose by the blow to his head and ends up in the prison infirmary for decades. When he finally awakens, his first thought is revenge on Batman. The Joker squelches that idea quickly, showing Brimstone a newspaper (which Joker obviously saved) about Batman’s death a few years ago. Brimstone is pissed off that he’ll never have a chance for revenge, but remembers his childhood conviction that there’s another Nicholas Lucien out there somewhere. If that’s true, there might be another Batman too … which means another chance at revenge. Brimstone’s hatred is so great that he sends his consciousness across the dimensional barrier to Earth-1, leaving his body comatose again, but for a different reason. (This Earth-2 adventure apparently takes place in 1955, which means Brimstone spent 28 years comatose.)

Earth-1 splash“Hell on Earth” – Mike W. Barr/Dave Gibbons

On Earth-1, a black church, a Hispanic community center, and a Jewish building in Gotham are all bombed, which sets off riots across the city. Distressed citizens demand action from City Hall and Commissioner Gordon tries to calm people, even as he sends riot cops to settle things down. Three leading civil rights activists (black, Hispanic, and Jewish) prepare to put out a joint statement in a live press conference, calling for calm and an end to the rioting. But the statement won’t air until midnight, so Gordon calls in Batman to find the bomber before things get worse. Gordon has a note saying the bomber doesn’t want money, only to see Gotham burn. Batman analyzes the note and finds spores from a hellbore plant on it, so he starts checking places that process that flower and comes up with a few possibilities. His first stop is the Lucien Chemical Company, which heBatman fights bikers assumes will be a dead end, since Nicholas Lucien is an upstanding citizen. But he’s wrong; inside the chemical plant, a gang of bikers called the Demons are waiting to jump him. Lucien appears on a monitor, telling Batman his biggest strike against Gotham is yet to come if Batman can’t find him in time. Lucien talks about a rematch, but of course Batman doesn’t know him, although he notices Lucien is speaking hesitantly, almost like he’s being forced. (Which he is, by the Earth-2 Brimstone’s consciousness, but Batman doesn’t know that.) Batman pounds the Demons and finds a clue on one of them … a Greek dictionary. That leads him to the Hellenic Club, where Brimstone has set another trap. The air is laced with hellbore spores, ground small enough that Batman’s nose filters can’t screen them out. Batman wakes up in a pit with a TV camera watching him. Brimstone taunts Batman blows up another pithim, saying he won’t find any convenient minerals in the pit wall this time, but of course Batman has no idea what he’s talking about. Brimstone says he’s going to blow up the studio where the tolerance broadcast is being aired at midnight (which is fifteen minutes away), plunging Gotham into a nightmare of racial violence. The pit starts filling with lava and toxic gas, so Batman tears some insulation from the wall to give him something to stand on while he thinks. Brimstone is sure he’s going to win this time, even though Lucien’s consciousness is trying to fight him off. Batman’s makeshift raft gets him within reach of the camera and he deactivates it. Moments later, there’s an explosion and Batman emerges from the pit unharmed. Brimstone tries to blow up the studio, but Batman decks him before he can push the button and the message for racial unity goes out over the airwaves. Apparently, Brimstone’s boasting gave Batman the idea he needed to escape; heBatman farewell splash reasoned that the gases in the pit might be explosive, so he pulled the camera apart and shorted a couple wires together to get a spark. Lucien wakes up and claims not to remember anything that’s happened, saying he feels like he was a prisoner in his own mind but now he’s free. Batman’s instincts tell him Lucien is being sincere, so he takes him to a hospital. On Earth-2, Brimstone’s mind has regained his body, but now he’s completely paralyzed and will have to live out the rest of his days as a quadriplegic. On Earth-1, Nicholas Lucien passes every lie detector test possible and is released. Batman believes that Lucien’s body really was being used by some outside force against his will. Batman isn’t sure exactly what happened, but feels it may have been his greatest challenge yet. So, that’s it for Brave and the Bold, but this issue also contains a special preview of B&B’s replacement series, Batman and the Outsiders.

Outsiders preview coverBatman & the Outsiders Preview – Mike W. Barr/Jim Aparo

This one starts with Commissioner Gordon giving a terrorist named Miklos shit. Miklos is a patient in Gotham Hospital after trying to kill himself and Gordon resents having to use cops to guard his terrorist ass. Miklos leads to the People’s Army, and expects his disciples to break into the hospital … not to rescue him, but to kill him, as well as themselves and anyone else they can. Sure enough, Miklos’s fanatics sneak into the hospital dressed as orderlies after killing a guard. One of them tries to cause havoc in the Burn Ward with a flamethrower, but is taken out by Metamorpho and a new superhero called Halo (who seems to have trouble with everyday knowledge, like what part of the human body is a “leg”). More terrorists invade the Recovery Ward, but before they can kill anyone, an old lady blunders into their midst. She turns out to be moreHalo pounds a terorist deadly than she appears, puling off her disguise to reveal herself as another new hero, Katana (who wields a sword that can telepathically communicate with her). Katana pounds the terrorists, causing a distraction that allows Jefferson Pierce to change into Black Lightning and take out a few more. Batman is outside and realizes one terrorist is unaccounted for. He makes it to Miklos’s room with explosives strapped to his body and threatens to take out half the hospital. Batman and the others show up just as the terrorist detonates the explosives. Outside, another new hero (soon to be everybody’s favourite, Geo-Force) sees the wall blow out and flies up to use his gravitic and energy powers to Black Lightning does his thingprotect the crowd from falling debris. Geo-Force is afraid his teammates might be dead, but only Miklos and the other terrorist got blown up. Batman, the Outsiders, and Commissioner Gordon were all shielded from the blast by Metamorpho. Batman tells Commissioner Gordon that he’s no longer part of the Justice League and these are his new teammates. This sets up the new Batman & the Outsiders series, which I’ll be reviewing in place of B&B. (In fact, this story actually takes place after the first three issues of Batman & the Outsiders, so that storyline will show how the Outsiders got together in the first place.)

Firestorm 14 coverFirestorm #14 – “Enforcer” – Gerry Conway/Pat Broderick/Rodin Rodriguez

This one starts with Firestorm startling a window washer so much he falls off his scaffold. Firestorm saves him before he splatters, but feels a bit guilty for causing him to fall in the first place. Firestorm splits into Ronnie Raymond and Martin Stein and we find out Ronnie is trying to help Stein after he lost his job at Concordance Research. Ronnie has gotten Stein a job where he works, a fast food place called Bun ’n Bun. It’s a bit of a step down for stein after being a scientist, and the frenetic pace of taking and filling orders is too much for him. As the orders pile up, the manager fires Stein and when Ronnie protests, he’s fired too. Outside, Stein’s ex Clarissa sees it all happen and isn’t exactly brimming over with sympathy. (She’s congratulating herself for dumping a loser like Stein.) She’s still working for whatever secret organization she was last issue and reports Stein’s current predicament toEnforcer slaps Ronnie down them. Two more operatives are circling in a nearby helicopter and one of them is a mercenary named Enforcer in sophisticated battle armour. Enforcer jumps down to the ground and confronts Ronnie and Stein as they leave the restaurant. Enforcer says his employer wants to see Stein and when Ronnie tries to stop him, Enforcer slaps him down. Stein objects but gets gassed for his trouble, and Ronnie ends up getting knocked through a store window. Enforcer flies off with the unconscious Stein, going on about how all the bystanders were too cowardly to do anything and how he almost admires Stein for having the guts to stand up to him. Elsewhere, Lorraine Reilly is still being tormented by her unseen kidnapper, tortured by blinding lights. Lorraine in troubleHer father (Senator Reilly) is shown his daughter’s plight on a video screen by a woman named Mica. She says her employers will let Reilly know what they want from him soon and he’d better do it, or Lorraine will be in trouble. Mica leaves Reilly’s office by stepping into some kind of warp, like a Dimension Door spell in D&D. Ronnie has recovered from his fight with Enforcer, but when he tries to trigger the change into Firestorm, nothing happens. In a hidden lab somewhere in the city, Stein has had neural disruptor pods hooked to his temples to prevent him from changing into Firestorm. Stein is surprised that Enforcer knows about him and Ronnie being Firestorm and Enforcer says he heard the tape Stein made (about how he became Firestorm) and later tried to erase. Enforcer says it isn’t really Ronnie they want, but if Stein doesn’t cooperate, Ronnie might end up as aStein burns off the disruptor laboratory test subject. Ronnie has gone to Concordance Research, hoping to pick up a lead on Professor Stein. He runs into Stein’s colleague, Harry Carew, who says he hasn’t seen Stein since he was fired. Carew is the guy who reconstructed the audio on the tape Stein erased, so I guess we’re supposed to think Carew might be Enforcer, but that seems a bit too obvious to me. Ronnie goes home and wonders where the Professor might be. Stein is put into a lab that’s an exact replica of the one he shared with Danton Black before the accident that created Firestorm. Stein uses a soldering iron to burn the disruptor off his head so he can trigger the change to Firestorm. Firestorm Firestorm blastedblasts some guards and goes looking for Enforcer, but ends up finding more than he bargained for. Enforcer is in a mini-tank and uses the weaponry to stun Firestorm long enough to slap some neural disruptors on him. Firestorm is taken to a stasis chamber and Enforcer congratulates his boss for being able to guess what Stein would do. Yeah, the whole thing was part of the plan, capturing Firestorm one piece at a time, as it were. Turns out the mastermind behind it knows Stein very well … it’s his old partner, Danton Black—or as he calls himself now, Multiplex. We’ll see what he has in store for Firestorm next issue.

Noticeable Things:

  • The silhouette of the guy holding Lorraine Reilly could possibly be Multiplex based on the shape on the helmet, but that might just be a fake-out.

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