Comics Reviews: Batman 369, Detective 536, Batman & the Outsiders 8, Firestorm 21, Vigilante 4

Batman 369 coverBatman #369 – “Target Practice” – Doug Moench/Don Newton/Alfredo Alcala

This one starts with Julia and Alfred in Montreal. Julia is telling Alfred how her adoptive father, Jacques Remarque, died of a supposed heart attack, falling off a bridge into the river. His body was never recovered and Jacques left a letter telling Julia that Alfred was her biological father. Julia suspects Jacques may have been murdered and it seems she may be right, as a sign above her and Alfred is shot and falls toward them. Alfred pulls her to safety just in time and they run for the Metro. Another shot causes a passing car to jump the curb, almost running them down. A third shot sends glass flying from the Metro sign and Julia just saves AlfredAlfred and Julia almost get killed from having his throat cut by the shards. In the Metro, Julia is thankful their adversary is such a terrible shot, but Alfred wonders if he’s actually a brilliant shot and they’re lucky to still be alive. On the subway, Julia tells Alfred how she found artwork that had been looted from the Louvre by the Nazis in Jacques’ attic. It turned out Jacques had been working for the Sûreté, trying to recover the missing art and that’s probably what got him killed. Julia found a note in Jacques’ stuff about meeting a guy named Larouche in Montreal with a certain figurine, so she took the figurine and came to Canada to avenge Jacques’ murder. Alfred doesn’t like the idea of his daughter playing vigilante and reminds her they already have a killer on their trail. Speaking of which, the mysterious assassin causes the subway car to derail, but loses Alfred and subway derailedJulia in the crowd before he can finish them. I’m not sure why Doug Moench is being so cagey about who this killer is, since the cover tells us it’s Deadshot. Anyway, Alfred tells Julia they need help and he’s calling Batman. Back in Gotham, some drunk in a bar tries to place a bet with a bartender who’s a numbers runner, but Harvey Bullock comes in to roust them. Instead of arresting them, Bullock walks off with most of the money, telling the bartender to set up a meeting with the mysterious new crime boss in town because Bullock wants in on the action. In Montreal, Alfred and Julia fill Batman in on everything and Batman asks if Julia knows where the rest of the looted artwork might be. She has no idea, but speculates that someone must be worried, since Jacques found some of it and got killed for his trouble. She says the SûretéBatman fights Deadshot has numerous suspects as to who might have the art: ex-Nazis, collaborators, gangsters, even terrorists. Batman examines the figurine Julia brought and finds a note in a secret compartment. He heads off to the address on the note, leaving Julia fuming about not being able to get her revenge. Batman knows from the tricky shots that it’s Deadshot who’s been trying to waste Julia. He checks out the place mentioned in the note and finds the missing artwork, plus a dude named Armand. It turns out to be a trap and Deadshot attacks. Batman leads him outside and heads into Parc Mont Royal, using the trees and darkness to hide from Deadshot. Batman messes with Deadshot’s head, trying to psych him out. He does manage to rattle the killer, but the fight is Batman stops Julia from killinginterrupted when Julia and Alfred show up. Julia still wants revenge on the man who killed Jacques, so she aims a gun at Deadshot, who forgets about Batman to take care of Julia, his original target. Batman exposes himself, distracting Deadshot, and hurls his Batarang to deflect Julia’s shot. Instead of killing Deadshot, her bullet just hits his leg, incapacitating him. Julia is shocked by the violence (and her close call) and thanks Batman for stopping her before she murdered someone. Batman slaps Deadshot around a bit to get him to tell who hired him to kill Julia, but none of them are prepared for the answer. According to Deadshot, it was Jacques Remarque.

Detective 536 coverDetective #536 – “Facing the Dark, Blindly” – Doug Moench/Gene Colan/Bob Smith

This continues directly from the above issue. Batman learns from the Montreal cops that Larouche was a local gangster with ties to Syrian terrorists. The inspector thinks the Syrians might want the looted art to finance some operation, possibly in Chad. Deadshot has stuck to his story about being hired by Jacques Remarque, who’s supposed to be dead. Julia is so desperate to believe Jacques could still be alive, she’s coming up with excuses for why he’d hire Deadshot to kill her. She posits that Jacques has infiltrated the art thieves’ network and is simply pretending to be a villain. When Alfred tries to talk some sense into her, she accuses him of being jealous since Jacques was more of a father to her than him. Batman cautions Julia not to blind herself to the truth by ignoring the facts in favour of what she wants to see. Back in Gotham, weDr. Fang see the bartender that Bullock rousted going for a meeting with the mysterious new crime boss in town. The bartender is pretty creeped out by all the secrecy and precautions the guy takes, and it gets worse when they come face to face. The new boss in town is a guy calling himself Dr. Fang … an apt name, since he wears disposable vampire fangs. But these are no plastic Halloween toy, as Dr. Fang demonstrates when he bites the bartender’s throat, missing the jugular by less than an inch. Dr. Fang says he’ll meet with Bullock, since his monopoly on Gotham’s petty crime might be at stake. In Montreal, Deadshot escapes and takes off in a car, pursued by the cops as well as Alfred and Julia, who’s hoping Deadshot will lead them to Jacques. Batman checks out Larouche’s murder scene and finds another figurine with a note inside. Deadshot heads Alfred saves Juliato his hideout to get his spare weapons and finds Armand and some other henchmen waiting. They have the stolen artwork packed up and plan to escape through the sewers under the house. When the cops show up, they’re too distracted to notice Julia slip into the house, followed closely by Alfred. Julia finds an entrance to the sewers and heads down, finding Armand who she mistakes for Jacques. Armand tells her Jacques really is dead and now she can join him, but Alfred shows up and jumps Armand. The other thugs show up, but Batman comes in and starts pounding them. Julia’s in shock, unable to accept that Jacques is dead, which makes her an easy target for Deadshot. Batman tosses his glass cutter into Deadshot’s gun barrel, causing it to backfire and blind him. Julia turns to Alfred for comfort when she finally realizes Jacques is gone and Alfred thanks Batman for everything he’s done.

Green Arrow and Ozone fall in a crevasseGreen Arrow – “Short Fuse” – Joey Cavalieri/Shawn McManus

Last issue, Green Arrow got the black box (which may have clues on it to the identity of Detonator, who blew up Warren Whelmsley’s private plane) from the bikers with a little help from Ozone. But Detonator showed up to get the black box back, opening a crevasse and trying to bury them alive. Detonator sends shrapnel at Green Arrow, slicing him up a bit, but when he searches Arrow, the black box is nowhere to be found. Detonator assumes Arrow was lying about having it and heads back to look through the bikers’ compound. Turns out Arrow left the box in the crevasse and Ozone brings it to him before calling an ambulance. In the hospital, Rick (aka Hi-Tek) and Ozone are arguing about who fought Green Arrow first until he tells them to shut the hell up. They listen to the black box, but there’s no sound on it at all. Green Arrow says silence can speakGreen Arrow catches killer volumes and decides it’s time to check out of hospital. Green Arrow does the old murder mystery drawing room scene (although this drawing room is an alley) where he calls all the suspects (and Whelmsley, the potential victim) together to reveal the murderer. Arrow figures whoever blew up the plane had to have close access, so he’s narrowed it down to the butler, the cook, the pilot, and the chauffeur. He fingers the pilot, since the black box recording showed the pilot was completely calm through the whole thing, instead of freaking out and calling the tower for help, as an innocent pilot would’ve done. The pilot admits he’s Detonator and pulls out his explosive gloves to take another shot at Whelmsley, but Arrow stops him and hauls him off to the cops.

Batman and Outsiders 8 coverBatman & the Outsiders #8 – “The Hand That Rocks the Cradle” – Mike W. Barr/Jim Aparo

This one starts with a young couple (Ted and Carol Dennison) coming home from their Christmas shopping. They find cops at their neighbour’s place and learn the neighbour (Dee Whitfield) had her baby kidnapped. Lt. Freeeman and Batman are there to investigate and Dee tells them she was getting her son Timmy ready for his bath when someone decked her. She came to and found the nursery wrecked and her baby gone. Ted and Carol invite Dee to stay with them (she’s a widow) and she gratefully accepts. Downtown, Gabrielle (Halo) Doe and Tatsu (Katana) Yamashiro are doing some Christmas shopping too, but Gaby’s bummed out because she still has no memory of who she is. She wonders if she even has a family and Tatsu reminds her that her family iscemetery visits dead. Gaby tries to get Tatsu to talk about her family and the strange connection they have with her sword, but Tatsu refuses to open up. The next day, Batman runs Halo, Katana, Geo-Force, and Metamorpho through a training exercise, giving them shit the whole time. Jefferson (Black Lightning) Pierce is absent because he’s at the cemetery laying flowers on the grave of a girl named Trina Shelton … a girl whose death he feels responsible for. As Pierce leaves, a car pulls up and Mr. and Mrs. Shelton meet with a mohawked chick who claims to be part of something called the Masters of Disaster. The Sheltons give the woman (New Wave) some money and she promises she and her teammates Batman finds a crazy cluewill find Black Lightning and kill him. I guess the Shelton’s blame him for Trina’s death too. Batman is called to the hospital where Freeman shows him a confused old man. The codger was picked up rambling in the streets, but his fingerprints match those from the nursery where Timmy Whitfield was kidnapped. The guy is way too old to have climbed up into the nursery, so how did his prints get there? Batman has a notion, but dismisses it as too improbable. As he’s leaving the hospital, Phantom Stranger shows up out of nowhere and tells Batman his idea isn’t so crazy after all. Batman tests his wild theory and it turns out to be right … the old man’s fingerprints match Timmy Whitfield’s, meaning the old man somehow is Timmy Whitfield. At Outsiders headquarters, Metamorpho and Geo-Force try calling their loved ones (Sapphire Stagg and Prince Gregor, respectively)Geo-Force helps the Dennisons but can’t get through. Batman is called to a nursery school where all the infants have suddenly transformed into senior citizens. Phantom Stranger pops up again and Batman suggests that whatever’s affecting the children might strike at the Gotham Children’s Hospital next, where there are hundreds of potential victims. The next day (which is Christmas) sees the Outsiders (in civilian identities) at the Children’s Hospital donating toys. Geo-Force is patrolling outside when he sees the Dennisons stuck in traffic with Carol about to give birth. Geo-Force gives them a lift to the hospital and Carol’s baby is born, but it starts talking and uses telekinesis to slap the doctor away. The baby grows into adult form immediately and turns out to be the Phantom Stranger fights Tannarakevil sorcerer Tannarak. Phantom Stranger shows up to keep Tannarak from killing Carol. The Outsiders (and Batman, who was disguised as an orderly) rush to help as the hospital is evacuated. Tannarak tells Phantom Stranger how he survived their last encounter (which was in an issue of Swamp Thing) when it looked like Stranger had reversed his life force and de-aged him out of existence. A piece of Tannarak’s essence survived and began taking over the bodies of babies (who are easier to commandeer than adults), using their life essences and leaving them as aged husks. He finally found a form he could change back to his own (the Dennisons’ baby) and points out that to defeat him, Phantom Stranger will have to harm an innocent. The Outsiders show up to help and Tannarak causes the babies in the nearbycorraling babies maternity ward to attack the heroes. They use various non-violent ways to corral the infants, as Tannarak and Phantom Stranger continue their duel. Phantom Stranger decides he has to stop Tannarak, no matter the cost. Carol Dennison pleads for her baby’s life, but Phantom Stranger uses his power to kill Tannarak, changing all the other seniors back into babies. The doctor tells them Carol is pregnant again (or still) and she gives birth to another baby boy, the exact twin of the one Tannarak hijacked, even though the doctor swears she wasn’t carrying twins. Phantom Stranger suggests that some higher power decided to balance the scales as a Christmas miracle. He leaves, saying no one will remember what happened except him and the Outsiders.

Firestorm 21 coverFirestorm #21 – “Cold Snap” – Gerry Conway/Rafael Kayanan/Rodin Rodriguez

This one starts with Killer Frost visiting an old friend from college, Louise Lincoln. Louise is a doctor now and gives Frost some bad news … she’s dying. Having a body made of ice has caused her internal organs to deteriorate and being kept in the absolute zero deep freeze (which we saw her escape last issue) has accelerated her condition. Killer Frost freaks out, taking out her anger on Louise, who she resents for being an inferior mind and garnering the attention of men who always ignored Frost. Killer Frost sets off an alarm and the guards show up. She forgets Louise and wastes the guards, turning them into frozen fish sticks and shattering them. She heads out onto the New Jersey Turnpike,Firestorm talks to the cops venting her anger and causing mayhem as she goes. Across the river, Firestorm notices the disturbance and Professor Stein suggests they check it out, but Ronnie is (ironically) determined to find Killer Frost, so he ignores it and heads to the police station. Firestorm stops a punk who lifts a cop’s gun and talks to Sergeants Mackey and Wilson. Mackey is very uncooperative and Wilson explains that Mackey hates vigilantes like Firestorm. Wilson mentions that Mackey is part black and his grandfather was lynched by the KKK years ago, so he’s not a fan of people taking the law into their own hands. Firestorm points out that he’s no Klansman and asks Wilson for any info he has on Lorraine and her fatherKiller Frost. Wilson finds out about her rampage on the Jersey Turnpike and Firestorm realizes he should’ve listened to Professor Stein and checked it out earlier. In Washington, Lorraine Reilly is trying to help her father defend himself against ethics charges in the Senate. She thinks the fact that her father only sold out to Hewitt to save her life will mitigate things, but Senator Reilly isn’t hopeful, saying that even if he beats the rap he’ll still be a pariah in Washington. He suggests they use his impending free time to reconnect as father and daughter. In New Jersey, Firestorm uses his atomic restructuring powers to clean up some of Killer Frost’s mess. He backtracks her to Louise’s office and learns that Frost is dying and has nothing to lose now, which will make her even more dangerous than usual. A few miles north, Killer Frost ices up a ship in the river and drains the captain of his lifeKiller Frost attacks Firestorm force with one of her warmth-sucking kisses. She’s really losing it now and is physically deteriorating too, looking pretty ravaged. Firestorm shows up and tries to trap her in another freezer, but she breaks loose. As her condition worsens, her mastery over cold increases and she sends deadly shards of ice flying at Firestorm. He dodges and tries to freeze her again, but she’s too strong. Professor Stein blames himself, since much of Frost’s anger comes from her weird unrequited love for him. He urges Ronnie to stop fighting and try to help Frost, but Ronnie thinks that would be suicide. Frost sends more icicle spears at Firestorm and one of them hits home, Firestorm melts Killer Frost for goodpiercing his shoulder. The pain overwhelms him and Firestorm falls to the street. Killer Frost tries to drain his heat energy, thinking it might save her. Professor Stein tells Ronnie to give her what she wants and turn up the heat to maximum. Firestorm ramps up his heat until it’s as hot as the core of a star, though he manages to keep it contained so it doesn’t decimate his surroundings. Killer Frost can’t handle all that energy and she basically melts away—or disincorporates—until there’s nothing left. Firestorm feels guilty for killing her and his shoulder wound is still bothering him, so he makes his way to Lorraine’s townhouse and collapses in the hallway when she opens the door.

Vigilante 4 coverVigilante #4 – “Passion Play” – Marv Wolfman/Don Newton/Pablo Marcos

This one starts with Adrian (Vigilante) Chase, Terry, and J.J. watching an unreleased movie starring America’s favourite screen couple. No, it’s not Brangelina, it’s a couple of made-up stars named Clark Reynolds and Grace Moore. (Possibly a Clark Gable/Grace Kelly reference, although these stars are much younger obviously.) But something went wrong with the perfect couple and Grace is accused of murdering Clark. Terry can’t believe she’s guilty, since Grace is America’s Sweetheart, a symbol of goodness and purity in a world where movies just get more salacious by the year. At the trial, Grace (who’s even more beautiful in real life than on screen) testifies tearfully about what happened to Clark. She came home early from shooting the movie and found Clark banging one of the extras. Apparently their marriage had been rocky for aGrace's testimony about the murder few years at least, so Clark told her to quit whining and started slapping her around. She fell back against the wall where Clark’s gun collection hung and knocked a pistol to the floor. As he continued beating her, she instinctively reached out and ended up shooting him with the gun, although she swears she doesn’t actually remember pulling the trigger. She only remembers the maid (Gretchyn) coming into the room and waking her with her screams. That’s when she saw Clark’s body and realized she must’ve shot him. The court recesses until the next day, when Gretchyn is scheduled to testify. Adrian, Terry, and J.J. discuss Grace’s testimony and Terry certainly believes her, saying Clark was a real dick for cheating on her and slapping Vigilante takes down sniperher around. As they’re leaving the courthouse, a sniper shoots Gretchyn and takes off. I guess she won’t be corroborating Grace’s testimony now. Adrian changes to Vigilante and catches up with the sniper, a guy in a red-and-white costume. The sniper beats the shit out of Adrian, separating his shoulder and almost killing him until Adrian manages to knock him out a window and into the ocean. At the Reynolds house, Grace talks to some reporters and we learn that Gretchyn was actually testifying for the prosecution. Grace suggests that it may have been from loyalty to Clark, or maybe something else, as Clark was quite the sex maniac. At a different mansion, a mysterious dude goes to see an old man whose body is almost completely robotic. He looks like it’s just his head (and maybe some internal organs) left, the rest beingController meets his visitor mechanical in nature, like a crude cyborg. The visitor mentions the killing at the courthouse and reminds the cyborg (who calls himself the Controller) that there are others who will testify against Grace and his assassin is now dead. The Controller brings in another assassin (the Exterminator), identical to the one Vigilante killed, and assures his visitor the next witness (Clark’s agent, Cynthia Grant) will be taken care of. We see Cynthia Grant talking to reporters about her testimony and they ask whether she was having an affair with Clark. She dodges the question, but gets blown to hell in her limo by the Exterminator with a bazooka. Later that day, a guy named Letterman confesses to killing both witnesses because he’s such a huge fan of Grace Cynthia blown upMoore. Vigilante knows it’s not the assassin he fought, so he figures the guy is some nut looking for attention. He decides he’d better keep a close eye on the next witness, a producer named Raymond Levine. Levine is being taken to the courthouse in an armoured truck, but Exterminator attacks from a helicopter, dropping bombs. The truck overturns and Vigilante uses a grapple gun to climb up to the chopper. We learn that whatever physical training Vigilante got has enhanced his strength and stamina, as well as giving him accelerated healing capabilities. He grapples with Exterminator, who’s able to anticipate his moves and is pretty damn strong. Vigilante finally tossesVigilante fights Exterminator in helicopter him out of the chopper, but when the cops check the body, there’s nothing left but a smoking costume. Levine’s testimony blew the case wide open; apparently Clark had been impotent for years and Grace was the one who’d been screwing around throughout their marriage … and not with dudes. A private detective had video of Grace banging another famous actress and Clark was going to use that in the divorce case, which would have shattered her angelic image with the public. Grace freaks out at the trial, ranting and cursing until she’s dragged out of court. So much for America’s sweetheart. We see the Controller getting a call from Grace after she’s convicted asking reflecting on Grace's fall from gracefor help. It seems she’s the one who hired him to off the witnesses against her, but he says there’s nothing he (or his robotic assassins) can do to help her now. Adrian, Terry, and J.J. watch the report on Grace’s tragic fall and reflect on how she killed her husband to maintain an image of herself that was never really true to begin with. The TV reporter wonders who anyone has to look up to anymore if people like Grace can turn out to be so much less than they’re cracked up to be.

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