Comics Reviews: Batman 364, Detective 531, Batman & the Outsiders 3, Firestorm 17

Batman 364 coverBatman #364 – “The Man of a Thousand Menaces” – Doug Moench/Don Newton/Alfredo Alcala

This one starts with the Brewster family attending the circus in a small Indiana town. Mr. Brewster has his wallet lifted while waiting in line, but his wife convinces him to see the show before reporting it. Unfortunately, the pickpocket is after more than just petty cash; he gets the Brewster’s address from the wallet and goes to break into their empty house. As the Brewsters watch the aerial show (which includes Jason Todd), they wish their oldest son Eddie could be there, but he’s home sick. The burglar (an ugly-looking bastard) runs into Eddie and whacks him on the head with a gun after telling him he’s just been robbed by the Chimera. When JasonAlfred talks to Jason finishes his act, he heads back to his trailer to consult his notes. Jason has noticed that there are reports of burglaries in every town the circus has visited. He figures someone in the circus is the Chimera, who’s always described as being hideously ugly, but none of the descriptions match each other. Jason thinks someone at the circus is using various disguises to become the Chimera and he wonders if it could be one of the clowns, since they’re pretty good with makeup. Jason’s friend Waldo (who is a clown) tells him Alfred is there to see him. Alfred begs him to come back to Wayne Manor and Jason admits the circus isn’t as much fun as it once was, but he refuses to return unless Batman accepts him as a crime-fighting partner. Jason doesn’t mention the Vicki gets her assignmentrobberies, but he figures if he can solve them himself Batman will have to take him on as a partner. Turns out Batman is there too and he tells Alfred to head home while he checks things out. He finds Jason’s notes on the robberies and decides to stick around for a while. Back in Gotham, Vicki Vale’s threat to quit Picture news has finally motivated her boss to give her an overseas assignment, in Guatemala. The next day, Jason meets a new roustabout at the circus and thinks there’s something familiar about him. At Wayne Manor, Alfred receives an unexpected visitor and whoever it is really freaks him out. At the circus, Chimera disguises himself again and decides to break his pattern by striking twice in the same town, but this time he figures he’ll go after Jason Todd. Chimera overheard Alfred talking to Jason and thinks Bruce Wayne will pay a lot to get the kid back. Outside, the new roustabout (who’s obviously Batman in disguise) watches Chimera and trails him. There’s a hell of aeveryone following someone rainstorm pounding down, so it’s hard to see anyone, much less track them closely, but Batman is an expert. He doesn’t notice Jason following him; Jason figures the roustabout is Batman and doesn’t want him interfering before Jason can break the case himself. Chimera goes to Jason’s trailer but of course he’s not there, so Chimera goes looking for him. Jason trails Batman and sees him looking in the trailer, so he starts wondering if he was mistaken and maybe the roustabout really is Chimera after all. Batman gets worried about why Chimera as snooping around Jason’s trailer, so he sheds his roustabout disguise and goes after Chimera as Batman. Jason checks his trailer to make sure the roustabout didn’t take the files he has about the robberies. Batman Batman fights a lionconfronts Chimera in the big top and they fight, but Chimera manages to run out into the storm. Back in Gotham, Harvey Bullock prank calls Commissioner Gordon to tell him Batman has been shot and when Gordon opens his drawer to get his keys, fake snakes pop out. Bullock thinks it’s hilarious until he finds Gordon keeled over from what looks like a heart attack. At the circus, Chimera lets a lion out of its cage and Batman is forced to use gas to disable it, but gets knocked out by Chimera, who lets out more lions. Jason found his files intact, so he’s back to thinking the roustabout really is Batman; he follows someone into a trailer, but it turns out to be Chimera … and he’s really Jason’s friend Waldo.

Detective 531 coverDetective #531 – “The Face of the Chimera” – Doug Moench/Gene Colan/Alfredo Alcala

As we just saw above, the Chimera turned out to be Jason’s friend Waldo, who pulls a gun and tells Jason he’s worth quite a bit of ransom money from Bruce Wayne. Outside, Batman wakes up surrounded by lions but uses the standard lion-tamer trick of eye contact and sheer will power to intimidate the great cats back into their cages. Jason doesn’t believe Chimera is really Waldo; he assumes it’s another disguise and manages to escape into the storm by tossing a shoe at the crook. Jason now figures the roustabout he met isn’t really Batman, so he’s on his own. He considers calling the cops but decides to see things through and try to catch Chimera himself. Unfortunately, Chimera is a master of disguise, so Jason can’t trust anyone at the circus. He climbs toJason investigates the trapeze platform in the big top to hide out and plan his next move. In a Gotham hospital, Commissioner Gordon is in a coma with his worried daughter Barbara by his side. The doctor says Gordon had a stroke, although it sure looked like a heart attack in Batman 364. At the circus, Jason runs into Waldo who acts like everything’s cool. Jason figures either Waldo’s innocent or he’s a really good liar. Jason wanders around the circus trying to figure out who Chimera might be, but ends up eliminating everyone as a suspect. He wonders if Chimera could be someone who’s attached himself to the circus but changes disguises constantly to throw off suspicion. While Jason is performing he gets another horrible idea: what if Chimera killed the real Waldo and took everyone drops their disguisehis place? After his act, Jason heads to Waldo’s trailer (since Waldo is busy performing) and runs into Batman there. Waldo comes in right behind him and Jason tells Batman Waldo is Chimera. But it turns out this isn’t the real Batman, it’s Chimera in another disguise, and Waldo is actually Batman in disguise. Got all that? Chimera says he’s going to shoot Batman in three minutes (when the clown cannon goes off in the big top) and then he’ll ransom Jason to Bruce Wayne for big bucks. Batman distracts Chimera and he and Jason beat the shit out of him. Batman reveals the real Waldo isn’t dead, Chimera just drugged him and stuffed him in the closet. Batman is impressed by Jason’s detective work (even if he didn’t quite figure things out perfectly), so he agrees to letJason helps Batman fight Chimera Jason become his partner provisionally. Jason’s so happy he doesn’t even want to see Chimera’s real face and Batman tells him he isn’t missing anything. Down in Guatemala, Vicki Vale went to see a source and was greeted with a gun, but it turns out he’s just being cautious. He apparently supports neither the government nor the rebels, but he does confirm the rebels received a shipment of Russian weapons funneled through Cuba. Vicki pays him for the info and says it’s time for her to blend in if she’s going to get the full story.

Green Arrow – “Shelter From the Storm” – Joey Cavalieri/Jerome Moore/Mike DeCarlo

Last issue, Green Arrow tangled with some extreme survivalists who want to start World War III because they think it’s going to happen anyway. They Green Arrow blows up missile command boardinfiltrated a military base and set off the nuclear missiles before scurrying back into the sewers. Green Arrow uses his magnetic arrows to keep the silo doors from opening all the way, then destroys the control panel to shut down the missiles. He heads into the sewers to track the terrorists. When the survivalists get back to their base in the sewer, thy find a sewer worker going through their stuff. They find some gold Krugerrands on him that they’d been stockpiling (since paper money would be useless after a nuclear war) and decide to blow him away. They’re interrupted by Green Arrow stumbling into their hideout, so they decide to waste him too. We’ll see if they succeed next issue.

Noticeable Things:

  • The survivalist leader tells his men the nukes are launched automatically as soon as the silo doors open and that a local radio station had been accidentally opening the doors because its frequency was the same as that needed to launch the missiles. He screwed around until he could duplicate that accident, which is how he was able to open the silo doors. That thing about a radio station accidentally opening missile silos sounds vaguely familiar (and crazy enough to be true), but I couldn’t find anything online about it.

Batman and Outsiders 3 coverBatman & the Outsiders #3 – “Bitter Orange” – Mike W. Barr/Jim Aparo

This one starts with some weirdos in costumes breaking into a chemical plant and killing a guard. The scene moves to Markovia, where Geo-Force (Brion Markov) is saying farewell to his brother Gregor, Markovia’s new king. Geo-Force wonders if he’s doing the right thing going to America with Batman and the Outsiders, especially since his teammates all seem to have problems of their own: Katana, a deadly but secretive swordswoman; Metamorpho, a self-proclaimed freak who wants to be human again; Black Lightning, a reluctant hero; and Halo, a girl with no memory of her past or true identity. Batman radios ahead for Alfred to prepare for visitors, but to keep his identity a secret. When they reach Wayne Manor, Batman pretends Bruce Wayne is an acquaintance whochecking out the Batcave lets him use the mansion and the Batcave underneath. Elsewhere, the guys who hit the chemical plant have been busy blowing up other chemical manufacturers. Their leader (Agent Orange) gives them a speech about how their country abandoned them after Vietnam and how they were screwed over by the government. Apparently Agent Orange as disfigured by chemicals deployed by the Army, so he has to wear a gas mask to hide his face now. He seems to be getting revenge one chemical plant at a time, but he’s got even bigger plans for Gotham. The next day, Bruce Wayne takes Halo to see a doctor. He can’t find any physical reason for her memory loss, but says she’s a healthy girl of around sixteen. She does seem to have an aptitude for Halo at the doctormusic (she spontaneously starts playing the piano in the doctor’s waiting room), so that’s one clue for Bruce. He urges her to choose a name for herself and she goes with Gabrielle Doe (or Gaby for short, which rhymes with “maybe”). Bruce says he’ll draw up the paperwork to make the name legal, then he takes her clothes shopping. Later, Batman takes Katana to Bruce Wayne’s former penthouse (in the Wayne Foundation Building) and says he’d like her and Halo to live there together. Katana is worried about her secret identity, but Batman has already figured out that she’s Tatsu Yamashiro, well-known swordswoman whose family was recently killed. Katana is worried that others may penetrate her disguise, but Batman offers to helpBatman sees through Katana's mask her protect her secrets. She agrees to live with Halo, which Black Lightning thinks might be a mistake. Batman assures him that having a younger person around will mellow Katana, thinking back to his own relationship with Robin. He shows the team the auxiliary Batcave under the building, which is now Outsiders headquarters. Batman gets a call from Alfred about some surveillance devices he’d placed on a farm. He takes off, telling the Outsiders they’re not ready for the field yet, but when he gets out to the farm he finds Halo and Katana have followed him. He agrees to let them help and they sneak up on some of Agent Orange’s men digging up toxic waste. Apparently the government scaring the prisonerbought the farm to bury the waste there years ago and now Agent Orange wants to dig it up. Batman and his teammates attack and start kicking ass. Agent Orange blasts Halo and tries to finish her off, but Katana cuts his gas mask hose and he takes off in a helicopter. Batman grabs one of Agent Orange’s men, who tries to be a tough guy. But when Katana threatens to slice him up (and Halo begs her not to kill him “like the others”) he decides to talk. Batman congratulates Halo and Katana on their ruse, but it turns out they weren’t bullshitting. The Outsiders head for Agent Orange’s base where he’s preparing to take off in a couple of helicopters and drop gas bombs (which he calls Bitter Orange) on Gotham. Geo-Force wrecks one chopper, but theBatman gets Agent Orange other one takes off. Black Lightning and Katana pound the goons at the base while the others chase the chopper. It drops the bomb, but Geo-Force, Metamorpho, and Halo neutralize the gas before it spreads. Batman latches onto the chopper and forces it to crash in the water, pulling the unconscious Agent Orange back to shore. They take Agent Orange back to his base and Batman unmasks him in front of his men. Turns out he’s not disfigured, he just said that to get his men to follow his crazy orders … which they were pretty much inclined to do anyway, I guess they just needed some justification.

Firestorm 17 coverFirestorm #17 – “On Wings of Fire” – Gerry Conway/Pat Broderick/George Tuska/Rodin Rodriguez

This one starts with Ronnie at his dad’s funeral, still trying to process everything. Everyone is very supportive (even asshole Cliff Carmichael) and Doreen’s dad says Ronnie can stay with them for the time being. Ronnie notices Principal Hapgood (an old friend of his father’s) by the street, but Hapgood doesn’t come over to talk to Ronnie. Instead he’s talking to some slick-looking dude in a limo, asking if he can tell Ronnie the truth about his father. The guy says no, reminding Hapgood that “policy” dictates they keep quiet and that Ed Raymond broke the rules by moving back to New York and he paid the price. Later, Firestorm is zooming around the city pissed off and Stein tries to talk some sense into Ronnie. RonnieFirestorm mulls over his options doesn’t buy the official explanation for his dad being blown up (some radicals were paying him back for a story he wrote for the newspaper), but Stein reminds him that not everything has a reason … sometimes shit just happens and you have to deal with it. Firestorm doesn’t notice he’s being observed by a helicopter, which is linked to Henry Hewitt’s mansion in Virginia. As we saw last issue, Hewitt wants to recreate the accident that fused Ronnie Raymond and Martin Stein into Firestorm. He’s got Multiplex (who also received his powers in that same accident) and Enforcer helping him and they’ve built a device to duplicate the nuclear explosion that created Lorraine becomes FirehawkFirestorm. They’re using Lorraine Reilly as a guinea pig and they’ve used sensory-deprivation to wipe her mind clean so they can basically program her however they want. Hewitt is also holding Lorraine’s father, Senator Reilly, in the mansion, using his daughter’s safety to keep him compliant. Multiplex activates the reactor and Lorraine is bathed in nuclear energy. The reactor almost runs out of control before they can shut it down, but Lorraine ends up being transformed into a being that can control fire; she even manifests fiery wings from her body. Hewitt imposes his will on her and christens her Firehawk. Firestorm is still flying around New York trying to figure out his next move, but he’s interrupted when Firehawk ambushes him. Her ranting clues Firestorm in that she’s working for someone else (and that she’s nuts), so he chases after her. Firehawk’s ambient flame stats fires all over that Firestorm has to douse, so she gets the drop on him again.Firehawk attacks Firestorm She sets him on fire, forcing him to dive into the river to recover. In Washington, the cops, FBI, and Nuclear Regulatory Commission are all going through Senator Reilly’s office looking for clues to his disappearance. Roxanne Sharpe (the reporter we saw last issue) is snooping around and soon realizes not only is Reilly missing, but his daughter too. Sharpe figures that’s why Reilly changed his vote on the bill about awarding a virtual monopoly in nuclear research to Hewitt Corporation and decides to dig deeper. In New York, Firehawk rampages through the streets, setting stuff on fire all over the place. Firestorm puts out all the fires, but when she sets a person on fire, he freaks and tackles her. He smashes her down into St. Patrick’s Cathedral Firehawk turns out to be Lorraine Reillyand she’s knocked out, but Firestorm is stunned when she turns back into Lorraine Reilly. (She’s also naked, which may have stunned him for a different reason.) Back at Hewitt’s mansion, he gives Multiplex and Enforcer shit for Firehawk getting defeated. Multiplex says Firehawk never went all out against Firestorm, so her basic instincts (as a good person) must still be there, even after the sensory conditioning. Multiplex points out that the process worked, although each individual affected ended up with different powers. Hewitt says he’s done giving powers to underlings, so he’ll be the next subject for the process.

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