Comics Reviews: Batman 365, Detective 532, Batman & the Outsiders 4, Firestorm 18, Vigilante 1

Batman 365 coverBatman #365 – “Ruins” – Doug Moench/Don Newton/Alfredo Alcala

Last time, we saw Vicki Vale heading to Guatemala for a hot story. She tracked down a shipment of guns from the USSR, funneled through Cuba, and intended for rebels in Guatemala. As she’s taking photos of the rebel trucks, another convoy shows up to hijack the weapons. The newcomers aren’t government soldiers … in fact, they seem like rebels themselves, just with newer equipment and perfectly coordinated moves. Vicki wonders if these new “rebels” might be a CIA-trained team out to expose the rebels’ connections to Cuba. She sneaks onto one of the new trucks to find out where they’re going. Back in America, Bruce Wayne and Jason Todd are heading home after their circus adventure last issue and Bruce reiterates his promise to let Jason work as Batman’s partner. But Bruce isn’t sure if he made that offer sincerely, or if he just said it to get Jason to come home. In Guatemala, VickiVicki gets caught jumps out of the truck when it reaches its destination, an ancient temple in the jungle. The temple has a secret tunnel leading underneath, but before Vicki can investigate, she’s caught. In Gotham, Harvey Bullock visits an unconscious James Gordon in hospital and apologizes for the stupid “joke” that caused Gordon to have a stroke last issue. In Guatemala, Vicki is being held in a dungeon, but her captors aren’t that careful; they left her pen and notebook, so she scribbles a note asking for help and knocks out the guard who brings her meal. We see someone watching on a monitor … someone who knows Vicki is connected to Batman, and who wears purple gloves. I wonder who that could be? She gets outside and the place is crawling with tourists, but none of them speak English. The bandits (who speak perfect English) Vicki tries to escapegrab her again, but she manages to toss the note to a Japanese tourist and hopes he’ll figure out what to do with it. When Bruce and Jason get home, they find a note from Alfred saying he’s away on personal business and doesn’t know when he’ll return. Bruce gets a call from Barbara Gordon about her father, so he and Jason rush to the hospital. Bullock comes in to tell them about the note from Vicki, which made its way to the Gotham police. Bruce pumps him for details and heads home to prepare for a trip south of the border. Jason wants to come, but Batman says his offer of partnership only includes Gotham adventures for now. Batman finds the temple where Vicki is being held and when he lands, there’s a reception committee waiting. He sendsBatman fights guards the Batplane crashing into the ambushers’ vehicles, blowing everything to hell. The trail to the temple is seeded with booby traps, hostile natives, and a couple of pissed-off jaguars, but Batman makes his way through. He distracts the guards at the temple and gets inside, but immediately falls down a chute, landing in a garishly decorated cavern where he’s greeted by his host … the Joker. We’ll see what the Clown Prince of Crime has planned right away in Detective 532.

Detective 532 coverDetective #532 – “Laugh, Killer, Laugh” – Doug Moench/Gene Colan/Bob Smith

Joker greets Batman (who can’t attack him since he holds Vicki hostage) and starts telling him his plans. When one of Joker’s minions objects, Joker wastes him and continues. Apparently Joker has decided to take over the entire country of Guatemala by forcing the rebels and government to ramp up their fighting. Once they decimate each other, he steps in to take over, transforming the whole nation into a gigantic amusement park, a twisted version of Disneyland for criminals. Joker has hired numerous Gotham thugs to form his own army and has them masquerade as rebels or government troops to stir the shit.Alfred and Julia He’s sending them to kill a government general (Diaz), which should push the country over the edge into chaos. Batman asks Joker to let Vicki go, since it’s him the madman really wants. Joker isn’t inclined to cooperate, but Batman says his henchmen aren’t fast enough to stop him from getting his hands around Joker’s throat and choking the life out of him. Joker seems to believe him, so he offers the Caped Crusader a chance to save Vicki. Back in Gotham ,we see where Alfred has disappeared to; he’s hanging out in some shithole apartment on the sleazy side of Gotham with a young woman. No, Alfred hasn’t got a piece on the side, it’s actually his daughter Julia (who we first saw in Detective 501). At the hospital, Bullock apologizes to the still-Batman derails the traincomatose Commissioner Gordon for causing his stroke. Gordon can’t hear him, but his daughter Barbara does, and she believes Bullock is sincere. In Guatemala, Joker has set up one of his classic deathtraps; Vicki is tied to a miniature railway track, while Batman (whose hands are bound with wire) is on top of the train that’s sent speeding toward her. Batman jumps up to break off a stalactite from the ceiling, using it to break his bonds. The train has no controls, but he uses a Batarang to make it jump the tracks, sailing right over Vicki and smashing Joker’s model for his crazy amusement park. Batman and Vicki take off, pounding guards as they go. (Vicki picks up one of the submachine guns and starts blasting, but I’m not sure if she actually killsBatman and Vicki escape the temple anyone or just distracts them.) They make it into the jungle and Batman tells Vicki he has to go stop the General’s assassination. Naturally Vicki wants the story, so she insists on going wit him (and subtly suggests they could bang on the way if Batman wasn’t such a stick-in-the-mud … I guess she’s over Bruce). Joker climbs out of the rubble of his amusement park model, but instead of being mad, he just starts laughing his ass off. I’m not sure if it’s just him being crazy, or if he has something else up his sleeve. Knowing Joker, probably both.

Green Arrow – “Soft Targets” – Joey Cavalieri/Jerome Moore, Adrian Gonzales/Sal Trapani

Last issue, Green Arrow tracked a group of survivalists to their hideout in the sewers, found a city worker ransacking their stash of gold, and ended up Green Arrow shows offgetting caught when the survivalists returned. Green Arrow busts the light and hides in the dark, leading the survivalists away with a flare arrow. He goes through their weapon cache, taking a handful of grenades and giving a speech about deluded the survivalists are. They think they’re optimists, planning for the future and hoping to rebuild, but they’re really pessimists, assuming the worst is inevitable so they might as well help bring it about. The survivalists come back and Green Arrow disarms and defeats them with various trick arrows. He then shows off a bit (and scares them shitless) by juggling the grenades and firing arrows at them. The grenades end up pinned to a water pipe, which douses all the survivalists.

Noticeable Things:

  • In his narration, Green Arrow references John Coltrane, then says he prefers Eric Dolphy to Coltrane. Both were renowned jazz musicians who died young.

Batman and Outsiders 4 coverBatman & the Outsiders #4 – “One-Man Meltdown” – Mike W. Barr/Jim Aparo

This one starts with Halo testing her powers. She changes to her human form while in flight, but can’t concentrate enough to change back as she plummets toward the ground. Geo-Force saves her and Metamorpho and Black Lightning encourage her, saying she’ll do better next time. Batman and Katana are less forgiving, pointing out that she won’t get a second chance in a real fight. Halo wonders where he civilian clothes go when she activates her aura, but Batman puts that off for another time so they can talk about their recent fight in the hospital (in Brave and Bold 200, which is said to have taken place last week). At the state prison, a con named Creegan is getting doused with some special goop to keep his powers from activating. The warden comes in to tell him his request to the prison board has been denied. Creegan freaks out and starts glowing;Creegan freaks and escapes apparently the dampening goop hasn’t been working for a while, but he pretended his powers had been suppressed until he heard from the board. Now he’s pissed off and uses his powers (which seem to be matter manipulation on a molecular level) to stop the guards’ bullets and blast through the wall. The next day, Gaby (Halo) and Tatsu (Katana) are redecorating their new place (which just happens to be Bruce Wayne’s old penthouse). They take a break and Halo flies up off the balcony to get some air. Tatsu gives her shit over risking her secret identity, making Halo feel like crap. Gaby figures Tatsu doesn’t like her much, so she leaves. Across the river, Brion (Geo-Brion and Rex talkForce) Markov shows Rex (Metamorpho) Mason the fancy house he’s lined up for them to live in. It’s normally the Markovian Embassy’s Gotham branch, but Brion has commandeered it. Rex finds a bunch of newspaper clippings about the Outsiders and Brion says he was trying to learn about his new teammates. Brion’s curiosity doesn’t bother Rex … except when he asks about Sapphire Stagg. Downtown, Jefferson (Black Lightning) Pierce moves into his new apartment and receives word that he’s been accepted as a teacher in Gotham. He figures he should be thrilled, but he’s not really feeling it for some reason. At the prison, the warden tells Batman about Creegan’s escape and a series of chemical company robberies that look like his work. The warden also mentions that Creegan swore to kill Batman. The Caped Crusader decides to stake out possible targets and Black Lightning’sMeltdown fights Katana stakeout pays off. Batman, Halo, and Geo-Force head over to help, as Black Lightning realizes Creegan is coming up from the sewers under the building. Lightning tackles him but gets blasted, leaving Metamorpho (who’s disguised as a garbage can) to grab Creegan (now calling himself Meltdown). Meltdown melts his way out of Metamorpho’s grasp and heads inside, where Katana comes after him. He uses his powers to magnetize her sword and charge himself with opposite energy, pulling the sword toward him. Katana goes with the flow and kicks him in the face. Meltdown grabs her sword but gets a surprise when his powers can’t dissolve it. He tosses the sword and tries to run, but Geo-Force’s gravity power stops him. Halo attacks, slowing him Geo-Force decks Meltdownwith one of her auras, but Meltdown speeds up his own molecules and breaks free. He grabs Halo and when she tries to use her heat aura, he manipulates her energy so it goes beyond her control. She turns back to Gaby Doe, shutting down her powers and Katana jumps in to help, getting blasted in the arm for her trouble. Geo-Force decks Meltdown, knocking his mask right off. His face is all fucked up, like it’s melting, and he says he needs the radioactive stuff he’s been stealing to keep his body from breaking down completely. Creegan begs Batman to give him the radioactive chemicals, but Batman says no. Later, Warden Brewster gets a call from Batman telling him Creegan has escaped and is heading his way. Brewster gets a file from his safe and is preparing to destroy it when Batman and Geo-Force show up and stop him. The files are from the prison board, recommending that Creegan receiveBatman tells off the warden special radiation treatments to help his condition … a request Brewster denied. Creegan comes in, temporarily back to full health thanks to some radiation from Metamorpho. Brewster says he’s tired of convicts getting away with everything, manipulating the system, bribing his own guards, and pretending to be rehabilitated to get leniency. He figures the only rehab for criminals is death and says Batman should understand. Batman says denying cons who truly want to turn their lives around isn’t what he’s about (although, depending on the writer, Batman could just as easily be on Brewster’s side instead of Creegan’s). Creegan apologizes for all the trouble and Batman Tatsu and Gaby make upsays he’ll talk to the prison board. Brewster’s assistant (who’s quite progressive) will be taking over as warden. Back at the penthouse, Tatsu’s wounded arm is recovering and Gaby asks why she’s always yelling at her if she cares enough to risk her life for her. Tatsu says she’s harsh because she cares; she’s lost everyone who ever meant anything to her and she doesn’t want to lose anyone else she cares about. Naturally, they hug it out. This is the beginning of the quasi-mother/daughter friendship between Gaby and Tatsu, which will continue through the rest of the series.

Noticeable Things:

  • Creegan first got his powers and fought Batman way back in Batman 195. More recently, he faced Superman and Black Lightning in Black Lightning 4 and 5 (although he called himself Cyclotronic Man then).

Firestorm 18 coverFirestorm #18 – “Squeeze Play” – Gerry Conway/George Tuska/Rodin Rodriguez

This one starts with Firestorm trying to make sense of all the crazy shit that’s happened over the last few issues. First, Multiplex and Enforcer figured out Firestorm is really an amalgam of Ronnie Raymond and Martin Stein, they captured Firestorm briefly, and Ronnie’s dad was killed by a bomb. Then Firestorm was attacked by a new menace (Firehawk), who turned out to be Lorraine Reilly, the Senator’s daughter who Firestorm met once before and who’s been missing. Firestorm took Lorraine to the hospital and she’s fine, at least physically, but can’t remember being Firehawk or even where she’s been for the last couple weeks. Firestorm decides to give his brain a rest and heads back to Doreen’s house, where he’s been staying since his dad died. At Henry Hewitt’s mansion, Multiplex has managed to recreate the nuclear accidentHewitt gets powered up that gave him and Firestorm their powers. But Hewitt is disappointed at how his experiment with Firehawk turned out, so he decides he’ll be the next test subject. Hewitt has a compromised immune system, so he dons a metal suit before undergoing the procedure. Multiplex cranks up the reactor as Hewitt’s bodyguard Micah looks on. The radiation runs wild (as it did before) and Multiplex realizes Martin Stein must’ve made changes to the reactor after the initial accident. He shuts down the experiment, but nobody’s quite sure if Hewitt survived or not. The next day, Enforcer (aka Leroy Merkyn) is being indicted at the courthouse when something starts shaking the place apart. Merkyn runs for it (grabbing the Enforcer suit from the evidence Hewitt kills Merkyntable) and finds Hewitt waiting for him outside, still wearing the metal suit. But Hewitt (who calls himself Tokamak now, after a Russian fusion reactor) isn’t there to rescue Merkyn, he’s there to kill him. Tokamak demonstrates his new powers, generating plasma rings of magnetic energy, which he uses to crush Merkyn into nothingness. Tokamak takes off (after blasting a cop car), reveling in his newfound power. He takes the Enforcer suit and gives it to Micah, asking her to become the new Enforcer. Hewitt says he feels much healthier since getting his powers, but Multiplex notices he seems to be in pretty rough shape. Hewitt refuses to be examined though, saying he has things to do. At school, Ronnie’s nemesis Cliff Carmichael actually acts human for once. He tells Ronnie he’s adopted, so he doesn’t know who his real parents are, and when Ronnie’s dad died it made himalmost run over by mobsters think about how he’s been acting. Ronnie’s hanging out with his girlfriend Doreen when a car tries to run them over and the men inside come after them. They hide and the men leave, but Ronnie overhears them saying they work for someone named Boss Shine. Back home, Doreen’s dad (who’s a cop) tells them it must be “Shoe” Shine, a big-time mob boss. Ronnie has never heard of him and says it must be a mistake, but Doreen’s dad makes him promise not to go out anywhere until he can look into it. Ronnie was supposed to see Stein and continue their investigation as Firestorm, but he figures he’d better do what Mr. Day said. He and Doreen are watching TV and she tells Ronnie she loves him. He Martin exercisingsays it back and it seems like she’s ready to go all the way, but a bulletin comes on about Tokamak attacking the hospital where Lorraine was taken, so Ronnie takes off. At Harry Carew’s apartment, Harry is putting Martin Stein through an exercise regimen to detox him and help get his mind off his troubles. Stein is not enjoying it and is happy when Ronnie shows up to drag him away. They become Firestorm and head for the hospital, phasing through the wall to Lorraine’s room. Lorraine is happy to see Firestorm and gives him a big smooch. He reluctantly cuts their reunion short to ask if Lorraine remembers anything and she says she thinks Henry Hewitt might have had something to do with her kidnapping. Tokamak really starts blasting theFirestorm fights Tokamak hospital, so Firestorm has to face him to protect Lorraine. Lorraine’s father is being held in a nearby helicopter by Enforcer as insurance. Ronnie figures Tokamak will be an easy win, but Stein gets worried when he realizes Tokamak controls plasma energy. Stein is right; Tokamak shrugs off all Firestorm’s attempts to contain him and wraps the hero in plasma energy, shrinking him down until he disappears. We’ll have to wait until next issue (which is the first Firestorm Annual) to see how he gets out of this one.

Vigilante 1 coverVigilante #1 – “A Fable for Our Times” – Marv Wolfman/Keith Pollard/Dick Giordano

This one starts with a quick recap of how Adrian Chase became Vigilante after mobsters killed his family. The scene shifts to the Greenwich estate of a mobster named Quilt and his henchman, Brand (who looks a little like Jesse Ventura and has a real fetish for the colour white). A stray cat comes after a litter of puppies and Brand is ready to waste the cat, but the mother dog takes care of it. Quilt reminds Brand that rule number is: protect what’s yours. (Remember that, it’ll be important later.) Later, Brand shows up at the house of Al and Eppie Reynolds, a nice couple with a kid named Tommy (though Al does look quite a bit older than Eppie). Brand says he’s there to get something back for Quilt and we see why he’s called Brand when he holds a red hot branding ironAl gets killed by Brand near Eppie’s face. Al has no clue who Brand (or Quilt) is, so he pulls out a gun and takes a shot, blowing Brand’s sunglasses off. Brand takes off, but he isn’t hurt too bad and promises this isn’t over. Three months later, Al is sentenced to a year in jail for using an unlicensed gun. Al figures he’s being railroaded and accuses the judge of being in Quilt’s pocket before taking off. It turns out the judge was being paid off and he ends up out at Quilt’s place for a fancy dinner. Al comes busting in with a shotgun to waste Quilt (or maybe the judge), but Brand kills Al instead. Elsewhere, Vigilante is being all angsty and contemplative, brooding over Simon and Garfunkel lyrics. He’s gotten himself a couple of helpers in his crusade: Theresa Gomez, a research assistant, and J.J. Davis , Vigilante and his teamcomputer wizard and weapons expert. (I guess J.J. Is the Microchip of this comic.) Theresa tells Vigilante about her friend Eppie’s husband being killed, but Adrian says he doesn’t do commissions. His job is to take down criminals who have gotten away because of loopholes and blind spots in the legal system. But when Theresa mentions Quilt, Adrian is interested, since (as the District Attorney) he’s been trying to put Quilt away for years. As Vigilante heads out to meet Eppie, we learn that he’s been on his criminal-killing crusade for about six months, and that the cops are after him now. Even so, he’s vowed to die before fighting a cop who’s only doing their duty. Vigilante meets Eppie, who tells him she used to be Quilt’s secretary and he’s trying to kill her because he’s afraid she’ll squeal about all the illegal shit he’s done, but he ended up killing her husband instead. Eppie says Al was the best man shefighting through Quilt's security men ever met; even though she was already pregnant when they met, he married her anyway and raised Tommy as his own. Vigilante attacks Quilt’s estate and fights his way through security, finally confronting Brand. Their fight carries them through the window into the house where Quilt calls Brand off so he can chat with Vigilante. Quilt admits he engages in illegal business practices, but points out that Vigilante operates outside the law too. He also tells him that Eppie stole a bunch of files when she left and has been blackmailing him ever since. Quilt says if Eppie had just handed over the files, her husband would still be alive. Vigilante leaves (after decking Brand), but vows to get Quilt sooner or later. Brand is ready to go after Vigilante learns the truth from EppieVigilante right there, but Quilt says the best way to handle him is to let his own anger consume him. Vigilante checks out Eppie’s pace, but she’s long gone. He has his computer expert (who he calls Terry instead of J.J. For some reason) check her out. That leads him to Eppie’s father’s place on Long Island, where she went to hide out … and where she hid the files she stole from Quilt. Vigilante’s digging has revealed that Eppie hasn’t been spending a ton of money, so her blackmail must’ve taken another form. She admits that Quilt is Tommy’s father and she used the files to keep him away from their son. Brand followed Vigilante to Eppie’s father’s house and he attacks, almost killing both of them. Vigilante chases him and they end up at Coney Island, where Vigilante throws brand off the top of the Cyclone (the big roller coaster). Eppie patches Vigilante up and says she’s ready to take off again,Vigilante throws Brand off the roller coaster but he gives her a speech about how law-abiding citizens shouldn’t have to move to get away from criminals, and how the little guy doesn’t have to surrender their freedom to the scumbags. Vigilante goes back to Quilt’s place and tells him he’s going to turn the files over to the cops. He reminds Quilt that none of this would’ve happened if he hadn’t gone after Eppie and Quilt says he didn’t want the files … he wanted his son. Quilt says he’s just trying to protect what’s his and pulls out a gun. Vigilante blows him away and says that’s just what Eppie was doing … protecting what’s hers. Just to hammer the point home, Quilt falls next to the box of puppies; told you it would be important later. So I guess this is Marv’s DC version of the Punisher (a character he did Vigilante shoots Quiltwrite a couple times over at Marvel). There are a lot of similarities: the origin, the helpers, the fancy tech, and the general attitude toward crime and its perpetrators. This story was fine (if familiar), but it seemed a bit overloaded; it might’ve worked better stretched out over two or three issues. As it is, there’s almost too much stuff crammed into one issue. Maybe that’ll change as the series goes on and Marv has more room to work. (Although Marv actually won’t be on the series for much more than the first year, so I assume the tone will change when Paul Kupperberg comes on.)

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