Comics Reviews: Batman 367, Detective 534, Batman & the Outsiders 6, Firestorm 19, Vigilante 2

Batman 367 coverBatman #367 – “The Green Ghosts of Gotham” – Doug Moench/Don Newton/Alfredo Alcala

This one starts at a once-elegant Gothic mansion in Gotham;s slum. The mansion has seen better days, but was recently purchased and we see a purple cloud of spores being released from the skylight. The spores—six million strong—drift across Gotham, but luckily only fifteen end up doing what they were designed to do. Meanwhile, Bruce Wayne and Jason Todd are getting dressed to go out on patrol. Jason’s wearing a variation of Robin’s costume, but he still hasn’t taken a crime-fighting name yet. We learn it’s been a quiet two weeks since last issue, so they’re not really expecting trouble, but they’re going to findBatman confronts plant monster it. The spores that came to fruition have mutated into weird humanoid plant monsters, a little like Swamp Thing. One of them surfaces by a tugboat in the river, another accosts a couple in an alley, a third shambles through the park, and another crawls out of a manhole, causing a car to crash. Batman and Jason are nearby and come to help. Batman tackles the monster but gets brushed aside like a bug. He hits it with a Batarang, which has no effect other than to come back with a piece of the monster stuck to it. Jason’s happy they finally have something to do. The plant monsters (all fifteen of them) converge on the old mansion, where their creators await. In case the plant angle didn’t tip you off, it’s Poison Ivy who’s behind all this, with help from analyzing the plant mattera chemist named Lignier. Lignier has found a way to induce limited intelligence in plant matter (hence the monsters), but Ivy says when they turn that process around they’ll really be getting somewhere. Batman heads to the conservatory to show his sample to a botanist, who tells him it appears to be a plant with human-like properties. He even finds a chloroplast, a cell that stores photonic energy for the plant to use when there’s no light. Batman isn’t sure what it all means and Jason suggests the obvious … pick up some weed killer. At Wayne manor the next day, Alfred pops in to apologize for being away so long … then tells Bruce he’ll be away a while longer, this time in Montreal. Bruce gets an invitation to something called Exotica, but ignores it. Coincidentally (or not), many top executives at Wayne Enterprises receive the same invitation, including Lucius Fox. At the police station,Gordon and Vicki hear about the monsters Bullock still feels guilty about causing Commissioner Gordon’s stroke, so he’s being extra helpful (in other words, a giant pain in the ass). Bullock tells Gordon about the green monster sightings around town and Gordon wonders if Bullock is screwing with him again. At Picture News, Vicki Vale receives news of the green monsters with the same skepticism. She’s distracted, still wondering if she should give it another shot with Bruce. That night, many of the people who received invitations to Exotica (not all from Wayne Enterprises) show up at the ruined mansion and are startled to find an edenic paradise inside, full of trees, grass, and flowers. Poison Ivy is their host, dressed like Poison Ivy's paradiseEve in the Garden, although given Ivy’s proclivities (and the hot outfit she’s wearing), I’d say she’s more like the Serpent than Eve. She makes everyone change into a jockstrap and lie around in the grass, telling them they can cure the stresses of their high-powered jobs by relaxing in her garden of peace. As they relax, gas is pumped in to knock them out and vines sprout from the ground, feeding off the slumbering executives. They do feel better after the “treatment” and promise to return. Ivy gives each of them a plant to take home. The next day, Lucius Fox calls Bruce to tell him a lot of the executives are acting weird, happy but distracted, and prone to making accounting mistakes. Bruce goes to check things out, seeing Lignier in the tree outside the Wayne Building, but assuming he’s just a landscaper. Bruce talks to aBatman confronts Ivy couple of whacked-out execs and notices the strange plants on their desks. He remembers the Exotica invitation and asks Lucius about it. Lucius confirms he and the others got an invite, but he threw his away. Bruce decides he’d better check things out … as Batman. He goes to the old mansion and finds Poison Ivy, whose involvement he’d suspected since she tried to take control of Wayne Enterprises before. Ivy says she was released from prison and is just trying to help people, but when Lignier comes in, Batman knows there’s something else going on. That night, he and Jason come back to snoop around and Batman gets jumped by the green monsters. He yells for help Jason gets knocked outand Jason comes in, but Ivy’s ready and shoots a poisoned dart at him. Batman deflects it with his Batarang and Jason goes after Ivy, wanting to prove himself. Batman fights his way loose of the monsters and follows, just in time to stop Lignier from killing Jason. Ivy dumps a bunch of chemicals and lights them up, making her escape while Batman and Jason drag Lignier to safety. The plant monsters burn up with the mansion and Jason seems kinda out of it. Batman tells him they’ll get Ivy next time, but Jason’s actually excited because when Batman yelled for his help, he called him Robin.

Detective 534 coverDetective #534 – “Brambles” – Doug Moench/Gene Colan/Alfredo Alcala

This one starts with the plants Ivy gave the Wayne Enterprises execs sending out pollen which activates a trap in he big tree outside the Wayne Building. The trap sends out spores that cause all five executives to leave the building like zombies, walking mindlessly to the site of the burned Exotica mansion. At the police station, Lignier is interrogated by Commissioner Gordon, Harvey Bullock, and Bruce Wayne, who says Lignier was tampering with the tree at the Wayne Building. Gordon has no solid evidence to hold Lignier for long, even after they find out five executives from Wayne Enterprises have been reported missing. Bruce phones Lucius, who tells him the execs tried to transfer funds to a Swiss account, but the bank flagged the transaction (after Ivy’sIvy drains executives attempt at the same thing in Batman 344) and Lucius stopped it. But now the execs are missing and Bruce wonder if embezzlement might be the least of Ivy’s plans. He’s right … we see Ivy using a fancy machine to drain the mental energy of the Wayne executives (leaving them brain-dead) and transfer it into the minds of her green monsters (who apparently survived the conflagration in the Batman issue I reviewed above). Ivy’s procedure allows the monsters to speak, but they’re completely subservient to her will. Bruce and Jason try to figure out Ivy’s agenda and Bruce wonders if her now-burned paradise holds a hellscape underneath. Ivy has really been leaning into the Garden of Eden imagery, so Batman decides they should Jason capturedcheck the ashes of the mansion to see what lies beneath. His hunch is right and Jason falls through a hatch into Ivy’s underground lab. By the time Batman catches up, Ivy has a thorny noose around Jason’s throat, threatening to kill him if Batman gets too close. Ivy calls forth her new-and-improved plant monsters, who no longer need light to survive. These plants can feed vascularly, which means they can undermine the very foundations of Gotham, causing buildings to collapse and streets to flood, leaving Ivy to root through the rubble. Batman fights the monsters and Ivy is distracted enough to loosen her grip on the noose. Jason protects his throat with his gloves and tosses Ivy over his shoulder. She tries shoots another poisoned dart at him, but he dodges this one and decks her. Jason puts the thorn noose aroundJason takes Ivy down Ivy’s throat, threatening to kill her if she doesn’t call of the monsters. She obeys and Jason knocks her out with a nerve pinch. Instead of being mad that Jason threatened Ivy, Batman tells him his actions may have bordered on the cruel, if the purpose hadn’t been so noble. A morally flexible Batman … I like it. Later, Bruce tells Jason that Lignier has agreed to restore the executives (and reduce the monsters back to vegetable matter) in exchange for a lighter sentence. Bruce and Jason then toss out a bunch of stupid names for Jason’s costumed identity … my favourite is Batman and Guano.

Green Arrow – “Werewolves of London” – Joey Cavalieri/Chuck Patton/Shawn McManus

Last issue, a guy called Detonator was threatening a billionaire (Warren Whelmsley), who refused to give in to his demands. Detonator blew up Whelmsley’s plane and Green Arrow figured the black box might have evidence about Detonator’s identity, so he went to retrieve it. Detonator had the same idea, but nether of them accounted on the crashed plane being onGreen Arrow takes out a biker the turf of a biker gang, who claim the black box for themselves. A three-way fight ensues, with everyone trying to get the black box. Meanwhile, Whelmsley’s girlfriend (Meredith Moran) is giving him shit for not paying Detonator off. Meredith points out that most of Whelmsley’s staff has quit, since it isn’t healthy to be around him, but Whelmsley insists recovering the black box (and catching Detonator) will solve everything. At the crash site, one of the bikers takes off with the black box, pursued by Detonator. Green Arrow takes the last biker down and scares him into telling him where the bikers’ hideout is. It’s at the municipal dump (of course) and Green Arrow sneaks up to observe the place. Unfortunately, a guard sneaks up on him and puts a sword to his throat.

Batman and Outsiders 6 coverBatman & the Outsiders #6 – “Death Warmed Over” – Mike W. Barr/Jim Aparo

This one starts with Gabrielle (Halo) Doe throwing a temper tantrum because she doesn’t want to go to school. Gaby has no memory and is scared of going to school where she won’t know anyone, but Tatsu (Katana) Yamashiro insists, saying she’s too young to be afraid of life. Tatsu reasons with Gaby and promises she’ll take her to see the Star Trek movie again and play video games with her if she agrees to attend school. Gaby finally gives in, determined to be fearless like Tatsu. But Tatsu has her own worries, like how she’ll manage her secret identity. Bruce Wayne shows up to help, showing her a building he bought for her to establish a Japanese bookstore. Bruce plays the playboy wastrel role to the hilt, even hitting on Tatsu, which totally throws her off any suspicions of him being Batman. At Gotham General Hospital, Rex (Metamorpho) Masonhospital attack and Brion (Geo-Force) Markov are visiting Dr. Helga Jace, who’s recovering from being roughed up by Dr.Light. Jace is looking forward to resuming her work with Metamorpho, trying to cure his condition, and she mentions another project. Before Brion can inquire further, Jace’s roommate comes in, a kid named Anna Singer who needs a kidney transplant. The kidney is just arriving from another hospital, but some weirdo in a trenchcoat tries to grab it from the guards. He gasses them, making them keel over, and the gunshots bring Metamorpho and Geo-Force running. The organ thief turns out to be a guy in a fancy costume who can fly and shoot waves of cold. Before he can get away with the kidney (which he seems to want for Jefferson gets madpersonal reasons) Metamorpho and Geo-Force stop him. He drops the kidney and flees, leaving Geo-Force to shore up the collapsing roof. At Edison High School, Jefferson (Black Lightning) Pierce starts his new teaching gig. He almost pounds a snotty student, but stops when he remembers how the last time he lost his temper, someone died. At the hospital, a doctor tells Metamorpho and Geo-Force that the guy who tried to steal the kidney robbed the hospital ten years ago … and he hasn’t aged at all in that time. Gaby gets home from school late, having made some new friends. Tatsu remembers she forgot to talk to Gaby about boys, but before she can start that heavy conversation, they’re summoned to an Outsiders meeting by Batman. Gaby is excited to become halo (and potentially risk her life), which Tatsu finds funny, seeing how scared Gaby was to go to school. Batman tells the team about thePhilip and friends Cryonic Man (which is Batman’s own designation of the guy) and how they’re going to fight him. Meanwhile, the guy in question is hiding out in a dilapidated house, where three people are encased in glass tubes in the basement lab. Turns out the guy’s name is Philip and his stealing organs has something to do with the people in the tubes, with whom he can communicate telepathically. One of them is a young woman (Melissa) who Philip is sweet on, while the others are a Professor Raymond and his wife. Professor Raymond is missing the lower part of his leg and we see Philip has a scar around his lower leg that seems to indicate it was sewn on. The weirdest thing about all of it is that Philip thinks it’s 1955 … or at least that’s what he tells Raymond. He sees a TV report about a transplant doctor (Dorland) coming to Gotham tunnel fightand decides to go after him, even though he suspects a trap. As Dr. Dorland heads toward Gotham, Cryonic man attacks his limo in a tunnel. Batman and Black Lightning (who were disguised as the chauffeur and Dorland) come out fighting. While Black Lightning and Cryonic Man mix it up, Batman calls in the others. Halo helps Lightning with Cryonic Man while Geo-Force and Metamorpho try to keep other drivers from getting killed. Cryonic Man gasses Katana and Geo-Force, then flash freezes Batman (who he doesn’t recognize … maybe he is from 1955) and the others before taking off with the unconscious Katana.

Firestorm 19 coverFirestorm #19 – “Golden Boy” – Gerry Conway, Carla Conway/Gene Colan/Rick Magyar

This one starts with a security guard at some building being killed by a freaky-looking guy who kinda resembles Floronic Man, except this guy’s skin is more golden in tone. He blasts pollen at the guard, causing hives, an asthma attack, and death. Firestorm shows up an hour later, drawn by the crowd around the building. Apparently, Firestorm has been flying around the city stopping petty crimes, which Professor Stein thinks is a waste of time and energy. Ronnie insists they should do something to make a real difference, but Stein wonders if Ronnie’s just trying to impress Lorraine Reilly (aka Firehawk). As the dead security guard is wheeled out, Firestorm finds a vine growing up the elevator shaft. He and the cops follow it to the offices of an attorney named Benton. The place hasFirestorm teaching punks a lesson been ransacked, but Firestorm finds a file (covered in pollen) about Ollins Medical Lab, which Benton grabs from his hand. Benton tells him to get lost, so Firestorm decides to try a different tack. He goes to Times Square to find a phone booth and gets accosted by a trio of punks. Firestorm rearranges their clothes and weapons, scaring the shit out of them. Stein thinks it was juvenile, but Ronnie says he needed some action. Firestorm finds the address of Ollins Lab in the phone book and heads over. The Lab is pretty fancy, but Stein says it’s not as prosperous as it looks. Ollins was once in the chemical warfare business, but after peace broke out they shifted to cosmetics and over-the-counter medicine, sending the business downhill. Stein says he Firestorm fights Goldenrodwas offered a job there but turned it down because the Lab was second-rate. Firestorm finds the plant-guy (who calls himself Goldenrod) accessing a computer and gets a faceful of pollen. The allergic reaction sends Firestorm reeling and he ends up outside. He manages to fight off the asthma, but he’s got a serious case of hives. Firestorm heads back in to tackle Goldenrod again, who animates some vines and branches to strangle him. Since Firestorm’s power can’t affect organic materials, he’s close to being choked to death, but manages to blow up a gas pipe and incinerate the vines. Goldenrod is long gone but Firestorm checks the computer and finds he was looking up info on a drug called Nuevafed. The drug never got FDA approval and Stein is worried when he sees one of the developers on Nuevafed was a guy namedGoldenrod's origin Bonwit, an irresponsible genius who advocates human testing. Firestorm heads to Bonwit’s house but it’s been smashed to rubble by giant plants growing through it. They find Bonwit, half-dead from Goldenrod’s accelerated allergy attack. Bonwit tells them he developed a new antihistamine, but couldn’t get Ollins to sign off on human testing. So he convinced Benton (the lawyer) to find him a guinea pig who was desperate enough to let them test an unapproved drug on him. Benton found a guy named Delmar, who was kind of a drunken loser and really needed money. But when they gave Delmar the drug, it started mutating him into something no longer human. Bonwit and friends dumped Delmar’s body in the woods, but it turned out he wasn’t really Goldenrod destroys himselfdead, just in a transitional state. Bonwit dies and Goldenrod shows up, telling Firestorm he has to kill him to preserve his secret. Firestorm doesn’t want to fight Goldenrod, since he’s the victim, but when Goldenrod tries to kill Firestorm again, he has no choice but to hit Goldenrod with a nuclear blast. That opens a crevice in the rubble and Goldenrod’s remains fall in, but before Ronnie can feel too guilty, a cloud of spores flies out of the crevice into the air. Stein says there must’ve been some vestige of Delmar left in Goldenrod and now he’s seeding, sending his essence into the air to destroy himself.

Vigilante 2 coverVigilante #2 – “Guilt” – Marv Wolfman/Keith Pollard/Pablo Marcos

This one starts with a flashback to a couple of years ago when Adrian (Vigilante) Chase was still the district attorney. He’s trying a guy named Kord who supposedly raped and beat a nun at a convent just down from the Alganian Embassy. Two Alganian guards saw Kord do it and picked hi out of a lineup, but Kord (who had a previous assault conviction) insisted he just came to see what all the screaming was about and didn’t hurt anyone. Kord was convicted and freaked out before being dragged off. Adrian’s father wasn’t impressed with his win, saying Adrian should join his big law firm and make some real money instead of being some kind of crusader for justice. Adrian didn’t want to defend white collar assholes who everyone knew was guilty, so he told his father to shoveKord gets fired his job. Now two years later, Adrian’s wife and kids have been murdered and his father makes the offer again. But Adrian’s really had it with the system, so he refuses again and his dad throws him out. Adrian tells his friend (and hacker/armourer) J.J. what happened and J.J. reminds him they need money to continue Vigilante’s mission. Adrian’s other associate (Terry) calls to tell him Kord’s conviction has been overturned and he’s been released. J.J. finds out Kord’s living with his mother, so Adrian changes into Vigilante and heads out. Meanwhile, Kord’s prison time is making it hard for him to keep a job, since none of the longshoremen he works with want a nun-raper on the payroll. The crew threaten to quit, so Kord is fired. When he goes home, his mother Vigilante fights Kordand wife tell him they’ve been getting threatening calls all day and a mob outside have been throwing stuff at the house. Kord’s wife gives him shit for ruining their lives, reminding him it isn’t the first time he went to prison for being violent. Kord freaks out and when Vigilante shows up, he attacks, taking out his anger on the masked avenger. Kord’s so pissed off with everything that’s been happening, he goes nuts and tries to kill Vigilante. After Vigilante pounds Kord (and Kord’s wife reminds him Kord was freed from prison), Kord tries to give up but Vigilante won’t let him. He keeps pounding Kord, who loses his shit again and really goes nuts, even trying to use a chainsaw on Vigilante. Vigilante decks him and starts pounding Kord, urging him to confess but Kord keeps insisting he’s innocent. I’m sure you guessed where this was going a while ago … turns out Kord is telling theVigilante pounds Kord truth. J.J. shows up to stop Vigilante’s rampage and tell him Kord was freed because someone else is guilty. Apparently the Alganian ambassador’s son raped the nun and his guards lied and identified Kord to cover for him. The rapist went home with diplomatic immunity (I don’t think that’s how diplomatic immunity works, but whatever) and Kord is completely innocent. Vigilante realizes he almost beat an innocent man to death (not to mention wrecking his mother’s house) and decides he needs to quit being a costumed crusader. Adrian tells J.J. and Terry that he can’t afford to make mistakes like that and he can’t afford to second-guess himself in the field, so he’s better off quitting. Adrian goes back to his father and takes the soul-sucking job Terry tells Adrian he's a sell-outdefending guilty rich assholes. He wins his first case, but isn’t thrilled about it. Terry and J.J. are even less happy and Terry reminds him how they met. She’d been raped and beaten and her attacker got off on a technicality, so Adrian and his wife took her in after her father threw her out for wanting an abortion. Terry thanks Adrian for helping her testify against her attacker, but says he’s a total sell-out now who’s forgotten the difference between the good guys and bad guys. J.J. wonders why she’s being so hard on Adrian and she says only diamond can cut diamond. At his father’s firm, Adrian is assigned a case where he has to exonerate a Senator’s kid accused of rape. Adrian remembers prosecuting the guy for rape before and figures he should go toAdrian tells his father to shove his job prison, but his father says the law isn’t about guilt or innocence, it’s about working within the system. He tells Adrian that the law was made by rich men and the only thing to do is use it as it’s written to do what you can. Adrian tells his father he cares about the intent of the law, not the law itself, and quits. Adrian goes back to tell Terry and J.J. the crusade is back on and they’re going to get it right this time.

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