Comics Reviews: Batman 363, Detective 530, Batman & the Outsiders 2, Firestorm 16

Batman 363 coverBatman #363 – “Elegant Night Crimes” – Doug Moench/Don Newton/Alfredo Alcala

For the past week, a mysterious man in black (Night-Thief) has been committing robberies around Gotham. Batman has had no luck catching him, as Night-Thief is well-trained and seems to be at one with the darkness. Night-Thief turns all his acquisitions over to his lady, Nocturna (aka Natasha Knight), who he worships—rather creepily—as the Mistress of the Night. Nocturna is pleased with his gifts, but tells him it’s time to strike at her employers … and she knows the perfect occasion. We see Vicki Vale opening an invitation to a fancy party at Wayne Manor. She’s pissed off that Bruce Wayne didn’t invite her personally and decides not to go. Downtown, Harvey Bullock is still driving Commissioner Gordon nuts, this time by “rearranging” his files … in other words, tossing them all over the floor. At Wayne Manor, Bruce isn’t happy about wasting time withBruce meets Natasha a party, but Lucius Fox arranged it a while ago, so Bruce is stuck playing host. Alfred tells Jason to stay in his room during the party and Jason gets mad, saying he might be better off going back to the circus like his friend Waldo wants. At the party, Lucius introduces Bruce to Natasha Knight, who works at the Gotham observatory, which is funded by Wayne Enterprises. Bruce and Natasha start talking about the night and darkness, slinging metaphors all over the place. Bruce seems fascinated by her beauty and doesn’t notice Vicki show up. Vicki definitely notices him talking to Natasha and leaves in a huff. The festivities are interrupted by Night-Thief crashing through the window. He strips everyone of their valuables except Natasha, who Bruce Night-Thief crashes the partynotices isn’t afraid of Night-Thief at all. Jason hears the disturbance and follows Night-Thief when he escapes. Bruce uses the confusion to check outside as Batman; he finds Jason’s tracks (which he assumes were from earlier), but Night-Thief has left no trace. The cops show up and Bullock acts like an asshole, as usual. Gordon shows him how to conduct an investigation properly and Bruce quizzes Lucius about Natasha. Lucius explains her bone white skin pigmentation (the result of a laser accident at the Observatory) and says he’s holding off on paying her compensation because she may be entitle to even more. Bruce asks who knew about the party, since it wasn’t advertised anywhere, and Lucius tells him it was all high-ranking Wayne employees,Nocturna's origin plus a handful of Bruce’s friends. As Batman, he heads over to Natasha’s penthouse and confronts her about being in on Night-Thief’s robberies, including the one at Wayne Manor. She admits it and tells her origin story: she was an orphan, begging in the streets when a man named Charles Knight took her in, like Daddy Warbucks. She grew accustomed to a luxurious life, but years later found out Knight was a mobster when the cops showed up too tell her he’d been eliminated by a rival. Once she’d had a taste of the high life, she couldn’t go back to poverty, so now she lives off ill-gotten gains. Batman cuts through the crap and says she’s just spoiled, pointing out that living with a crook like Knight—even if she didn’t know his true nature—has poisoned her, turning her Batman gets a face full of dustinto a criminal too. Before he can take her into custody, Night-Thief shows up with a gun. Natasha tells him not to kill Batman, since outwitting him is part of the fun. She blows knockout dust in Batman’s face from her compact and the two crooks leave with their loot. But Batman was expecting her to pull some shit, so he was holding his breath. He starts after them, but runs into Jason, who explains how he followed Night-Thief. Instead of congratulating him, Batman gives him shit. Jason says he’s tired of Batman not taking him seriously and is about ready to leave and rejoin the circus. He tells Batman he overheard Nocturna talking about meeting Night-Thief at the observatory, but Jason vows this is the last time he helps Batman. At the Observatory, Night-Thief and Nocturna are reminiscing and we get his origin now. He’s Anton Knight, the mobster’s biological son, and he was off in East Asia studying martial arts when his father died. He knew of NatashaBatman decks Night-Thief from his father’s letters and fell in love with her sight-unseen. It was his idea to steal to continue Natasha’s fancy lifestyle and he now urges her to come away with him somewhere they can adopt new identities. Batman shows up and challenges Anton, whose training serves him well in the darkened observatory against the Caped Crusader. Batman evens the odds by turning on the lights and decks Anton, but Nocturna escapes in a hot-air balloon. Back at Wayne Manor, Bruce gets a check from Natasha for the observatory, which he refuses to accept since it’s stolen money. Upstairs, Jason talks to Waldo on the phone and sneaks out to meet him, taking quite a few clothes along.

Detective 530 coverDetective #530 – “Passion Nocturnale” – Doug Moench/Gene Colan/Dick Giordano

This issue opens with several vignettes: two owls getting cozy by moonlight; Vicki Vale still pissed off because she thinks Bruce is cheating on her; Jason Todd walking through the woods with a bundle of clothes slung over his back; Anton (Night-Thief) Knight going to court in a special night session; and Nocturna contemplating the night sky. Nocturna notices Jason trekking through the forest and goes to talk to him. Without getting into particulars, Jason tells her about how Bruce won’t let him be what he wants to be. Nocturna points out the obvious, that Bruce is worried about losing Jason, so he’s overprotective. She counsels Jason to return to the one he loves and decides to take her own advice. She goes back to her hideout and arrays herself with various weapons before setting out in her balloon. At Wayne Manor, Alfred fields aNocturna surprises Batman call from Vicki, who really freaks when she hears Bruce isn’t there. She smashes her mirror and takes a photo as a goodbye present. Meanwhile, Alfred finds that Jason is gone. At Anton’s trial, Batman appears as a witness and notices Nocturna slipping into the courtroom. He confronts her and she runs, ambushing him outside and stunning him with her knockout gas. The cops tell Batman that Anton will be shipped to a prison upstate tomorrow. Batman knows that’s a seven-hour trip, meaning at least some of it will take place after night has fallen. Elsewhere, Jason has decided not to take Nocturna’s advice and he resumes running away. Vicki is basically doing the same thing, telling her boss at Picture News that she’ll quit if he doesn’t give her an overseas popping Nocturna's balloonassignment right away. At Wayne Manor, Bruce tells Alfred to go to the circus and bring Jason back … quietly, since the adoption papers haven’t actually gone through yet. Sounds like kidnapping to me, but whatever. Batman disguises himself as a cop and drives the prison van with Anton Knight in it. Sure enough, Nocturna attacks the van, tossing a grenade and hoisting Anton into her balloon. Batman drops his disguise and jumps on the rope with Anton. A Batarang pops the balloon, causing it to crash into a tree. Batman pounds Anton and slaps the cuffs on Nocturna. In the forest, the courting owls are blown up when one of them brings an explosive ring from Nocturna’s hideout; I think it’s supposed to be a metaphor about love turning to obsession or something.

Green Arrow – “Survival of the Fittest” – Joey Cavalieri/Adrian Gonzales/Rick Magyar

This one starts with some paramilitary nutcases attacking the SovietGreen Arrow pounds gunmen Embassy in Star City. Luckily (or not, depending on your point of view) Oliver Queen is covering a press conference for his newspaper, so he changes to Green Arrow to confront the terrorists. The gunmen claim to be acting on behalf of the American government, but their attack is pretty amateurish, so Green Arrow doesn’t buy it. He follows them after they take off and finds their hideout in the sewer system. Turns out they’re survivalists who figure nuclear war is inevitable, so they may as well make it happen now. Green Arrow figures their plan is deluded, but they’re pretty heavily armed with rifles, grenades, and missile silostons of ammo. Arrow wants to find out where the hardware’s coming from before he tries to take them down, so he talks to a Colonel at nearby Fort Carlin. The Colonel tells him the rifle is pretty heavy-duty, only used in times of war and that it could’ve come from anywhere since smuggling, pilferage, and even collectors make it hard to track a weapon’s provenance. As they’re talking an air raid siren goes off and the Colonel gets worried. He and Green Arrow run outside to find the survivalists have activated the missile silos, which are set to fire automatically once the silos open.

Batman and Outsiders 2 coverBatman & the Outsiders #2 – “Markovia’s Last Stand” – Mike W. Barr/Jim Aparo

Last issue Batman quit the JLA when they refused to help him rescue Lucius Fox, who’d been taken hostage during a revolution in Markovia. Batman talked Black Lightning into helping him and they slipped into Markovia to find Lucius, but ended up getting captured, along with Metamorpho (who’s there for his own reasons). A couple of newcomers popped up too … a girl with energy powers and no memory who Batman dubbed Halo, and a bloodthirsty swordswoman named Katana. Batman finds himself in prison with Black lightning and a disassembled Metamorpho. His captor comes in (with Lucius, who’s fine for the moment) and introduces himself as Baron Bedlam. He tells Batman (andBedlam gets his scar us) his origin: Bedlam’s father was a common worker until the Nazis invaded in World War II. Bedlam’s father joined them and was made regent of the country, which meant Bedlam became an entitled asshole. (To illustrate his scumbag status, we see a woman being hanged for rejecting his advances … her smashing a bottle over his head is how Bedlam got his distinctive facial scar.) Once the Nazis were defeated (and Bedlam’s father ended up on the gibbet), Bedlam fled and started building up his power base. He’s now leading the revolutionaries who have invaded Markovia, trying to take back what he thinks of as his birthright. Batman is hoping Black Lightning will use his electricity powers to blast Bedlam, but he doesn’t. After Bedlam leaves, Halo and Katana meetBatman gives Lightning shit and he says he doesn’t have his electrical powers anymore … and that the last time he used them, he killed a girl. Outside, Halo is wondering how to help Batman when Katana grabs her. After warning her to keep quiet, Katana says she’s there to help Black Lightning, who kinda got caught because of her last issue. Halo admits she feels responsible for Batman’s capture and they decide to team up. Not too far away, Geo-Force finishes climbing out of the shallow grave where he was dumped last issue, but he’s still pretty out of it. A guard tells Bedlam about Katana and Halo’s attack and he orders all the prisoners killed, except Dr. Helga Jace, whose file he’s been perusing. In the prison, Batman tells Black Lightning his powers are probably fine, it’s just his guilt that’s keeping him from using them. Batman hears the guards coming and tells Black Lightning he’ll have moreBlack Lightning's back, baby deaths on his conscience if he can’t overcome his guilt. After a struggle, Lightning’s powers come back and a blast of electricity re-animates Metamorpho. Metamorpho takes out the guards and frees Batman and Black Lightning. They go looking for Lucius but he’s already been rescued by Halo and Katana. Black lightning’s not thrilled about working with Katana, since he saw her waste some guards last issue. Katana says she killed the guard captain (and his protectors) because he was responsible for the deaths of the people she cared about most. She points out that the guards who were about to kill Lucius are still alive and Batman talks to one of them. The guard tells him Bedlam went to the castle to wrest control of the country from Prince Gregor and he took Dr. Jace with Outsiders help the Markovianshim. Metamorpho (who wants Jace to turn him human again) says he’ll help Batman against Bedlam and the others quickly volunteer as well. Batman is leery of working with another group so soon after quitting the JLA, but thinks this time might be different since these people are more interested in fighting for the cause than following rules. We see Bedlam has taken Dr. Jace to her lab and forced her to give him the same treatments she gave Geo-Force, imbuing him with volcanic powers. Bedlam flies off to the capital to direct the final assault. Prince Gregor is leading his loyal troops (and a bunch of ordinary citizens willing to die for their freedom), but Bedlam’s insurgents are very well-trained and get the upper hand. Batman and his new teammates show up to turn the tide, rallying the Markovians against the invaders. Bedlam shows up and starts pounding everyone with his new powers, but Geo-Force stumblesGeo-Force fights Bedlam onto the battlefield and remembers what’s going on. He goes after Bedlam and they end up fighting on the castle walls, beating the shit out of each other. Bedlam’s troops are about to kill Dr. Jace when Metamorpho shows up to save her and she asks him to take her to the castle. Geo-Force is getting the worst of the fight and Bedlam is about to cave in his head with a huge stone when Bedlam’s strength suddenly fades and he drops the stone on his own head. Dr. Jace shows up and explains that the geo-power can only be retained permanently by those with the blood of the royal family … and if Bedlam tries to gain the powers again, it’ll kill him. Batman mentions a trial at the World Court, but Geo-Force says Bedlam should be judged by the people of Markovia. He tosses Bedlam down to the mob and the implication is that they tear him apart, but I’m pretty Outsiders assemblesure we’ll be seeing him again. Jace tells Metamorpho she’ll do whatever she can to find a cure for him, but she can’t promise anything. Batman suggests they all team up and promises to help each of them find what they’re looking for: how to use their powers properly, who they really are, or even just a purpose in life. Metamorpho christens them the Outsiders and Batman says he’s heard worse names. I think this issue worked better at establishing the team than the first issue did, although we’ll have to wait to delve into each character’s personality and background. But some of the foundation has been laid, like in the Halo/Katana friendship which will become very important as the series goes on.

Noticeable Things:

  • In Bedlam’s flashback, Sgt. Rock and Easy Company are shown as the liberators of Markovia.
  • Batman tells Bedlam that the world won’t stand for him invading a sovereign country and Bedlam mentions Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Afghanistan as places that were invaded without any outside interference.

Firestorm 16 coverFirestorm #16 – “Blackout” – Gerry Conway/Pat Broderick/Rodin Rodriguez

This one starts with Firestorm losing his shit and splitting apart into Ronnie Raymond and Professor Martin Stein. Ronnie finds himself falling through a featureless black void until he runs into Stein, who steadies him a bit. Ronnie can’t remember anything that’s happened recently or how they got there … wherever “there” even is. Stein urges him to remember and Ronnie finally does dredge up a memory of that morning. Firestorm was heading to the police station to check on Multiplex; he was worried Multiplex might tell someone that Firestorm is really Ronnie and Stein. He got even more worried after finding out Multiplex escaped custody, but figured there was nothing he could do but wait. Ronnie went to school and ran into the principal, who took him to hisRonnie sees Reilly's interview on TV office and asked him about his life before he and his dad moved to New York. Ronnie told him they lived in Eugene, Oregon where his father worked at a newspaper, but he got a job offer in New York so they moved. Ronnie is confused, since Principal Hapgood is an old friend of his father, so he should’ve known all that stuff already. Hapgood seemed like he was about to tell Ronnie something, but changed his mind. As Hapgood was writing a late slip, Ronnie saw a news report on the receptionist’s TV featuring an interview with Senator Walter Reilly. The reporter who grilled Reilly before (Sharpe) was back at it, asking him to explain why he voted to give a virtual monopoly on nuclear power to Multiplex shows up in Reilly's officeHewitt Corporation. Reilly gave her some bullshit about competition being unhealthy in a dangerous industry, but Sharpe asked him about his daughter Lorraine and whether she’s gone missing or not. Reilly gave her shit and left, but Ronnie decided she might be in trouble so he triggered the Firestorm matrix. Stein suggested the FBI should handle Lorraine’s kidnapping (if she was even kidnapped), but Ronnie had an instant distrust of the FBI and insisted they look for Lorraine themselves. Firestorm flew to Washington to talk to Senator Reilly, who was scared to talk for fear of endangering his daughter. Multiplex popped into Reilly’s office in a very sophisticated warp bubble and created several duploids to delay Firestorm while he teleportedEd freaks out after a phone call away with Reilly. Soldiers busted in and demanded to know what Firestorm did with the Senator, so Firestorm was forced to flee. He figured there was a connection between Reilly changing his vote on Hewitt Corporation and Multiplex kidnapping Lorraine, so he headed back to New York to see if Ronnie’s dad might know something about Hewitt. At the Daily Express, one of Ed Raymond’s colleagues told Ronnie that Ed had gotten a phone call and was pretty freaked out by it. He was going on about how “they” had left him alone for fifteen years but now they were back. Ed freaked and left, and his coworker tells Ronnie that Ed looked like he was about ready to lose it. That freaked Ronnie out and he told Stein they’d better get home to see Firestorm remembers everythingEd right away. That’s the last thing Ronnie can remember, but Stein urges him to try for more. Stein leads Ronnie through Firestorm’s actions, flying north over Manhattan to the Raymond house and seeing Ed Raymond on the doorstep, about to go inside … right before a firebomb went off. Ronnie finally remembers that horrific moment and Stein says he had to force him to recall that because he’d had some kind of traumatic break with reality and remembering the truth was the only way to get back. We see Firestorm on his front lawn, freaking out as his father’s body burns in the background. So is Ed Raymond really dead? We’ll find out next issue.

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